Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Full Time Jobs

Wow! We're in the last week of our 40 Days focus imagine. What a challenging, exhausting, wonderful journey this has been. It has been my privilege to have lead the media aspects of this. I have had such intense video work in the last 5 weeks than I have ever had...more than I thought I could possibly handle at some points. In recent weeks, it has felt like I've had two full-time jobs...probably because I pretty much have.

Going into this, I wasn't on a particular "imagine team" but got a call one evening to attend an organizational meeting. Suddenly, I was thrust into an overwhelming number of projects. We wanted a blog-style website to post the prayer journal and let people receive emails and post their thoughts. I needed to film a series of interviews of people describing their vision of our imagine statement to show for a series of four "parties". I needed to film an interview with the pastor emeritus of Parkway Place about their journey to West LR. Then, the faith interviews began. Initially shared through their "cardboard testimonies", the details of these journeys are being shared over the weeks through a more detailed interview.

Above all, these stories have been the biggest source of growth for me. Only myself and Carolyn (the person helping me interview) hear the full story. The congregation gets the edited version. My heart is touched by every testimony I've heard and I look forward to filming more in the weeks ahead. As I prayed for a willing heart during all this, I believe this is what God used to give that to me. While I have experienced my own difficult situation(s), to hear stories that affirm what I know to be true about stepping out in faith gives me courage to do so.

Then my pastor handed me another project. He showed me a music video put to the song "God of this City" by Chris Tomlin. Initially, he just wanted to insert pictures of our people in a few places. But that didn't sit well with me (maybe that was God) and I told him I would recreate the video entirely. What was I thinking??! I'm not sure the task was quite as big as creating "Peace Be Still" because there was no filming involved, but it was no less challenging and ambitious. Any time I do this, I want to create a project that has impact...not just a temporary emotional thing, but a lasting impression that challenges, directs, or calls a person toward Christ. The response was unbelievable. (I actually had two versions: one created for live singing by the choir and one to the actual track.) Never have I received such affirmation or heard stories of the impression it made. I was completely humbled by the thankfulness of the people who saw it. Clearly God was in this project, as I needed him to be it was made. It was tough! I took 3 days off last week to get it done and at one point, I just had to walk away for a while and tell God he had to finish it because I was stuck. I'm glad he did!

So here it is. I hope you are touched by the message God has given me through this project and given Parkway Place, as we become an irresistible church that is fully resourced and eternally focused.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Forwarded Emails

So this morning I had a forwarded email from a former student. I guess I was in her address book and she clicked everyone. Normally I just insta-delete these and then email the person to ask they do not forward. Sometimes I feel compelled to explain the absurdity of believing anything in these emails, much less forwarding them.

Well this particular one was about Obama. So out of curiosity, I scrolled quickly. And I saw the word "Hitler". I stopped. I read. This email started by talking about how Obama has all sorts of charisma that has led him to have celebrity status. Then it said that Hitler had a lot of charisma too and that turned out disastrous. It then listed by bullet-points where Obama supposedly stands on issues and referred to the website Snopes to verify these "facts".

Oh wow. Needless to say I responded.

Anyone who takes emails like this as factual and allows it to influence their decision should really take the time to go the candidates' respective sites and see where they stand on the issues. Snopes is an un-educated person's way of checking facts. Take the time to do real research. Personally, I don't think it is the government's responsibility to push Christian moral beliefs on the people of a free nation by making them unlawful. The church should fill that gap by building relationships with people and having credibility with them to point them to the right choices. So look at the things that mean the most to you. In these times, the economy and foreign policy should rank up there. Just to retort a few of the points below: If you read where he stands, Obama assures a $1000 tax break for the middle class and an increase on high income families. His "universal" healthcare will only be available to those who have no option of healthcare. If a person can get it, but refuses to, they won't be eligible. To pay for it, he plans for a corporation tax. He wants to redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Since announcing this, the Bush administration has begun trickling the idea of this to take away the steam of Obama's proposal. As for the other points, well there's never going to be a perfect candidate. I disagree on some of his points, yes. I even started out a Bush supporter but his policies haven't worked and it is time for a change of perspective. Even Senatory McCain has flip-flopped many "Bush support" statements to separate himself. I'm not trying to sway your opinion; just asking that you make an informed decision. Forwarded emails are never a good source for ANY information.

So far I got two responses. One was "please remove me from your list." I quickly apologized and relayed that I didn't want to be on it either. The second pointed out a typo and that I shouldn't make statements about education when I have typos. I responded jovially and thanked him for catching the typo. He wrote back and agreed that Snopes is horrible. We'll see what else comes in today...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Persistence Pays Off

I went to the AT&T store today to get a comparison of their HD signal vs. mine. It was markedly better. So that told me there HAD to be something going on at my home to get this poor quality of TV. I put in another call to tech support. Asked to be immediately transferred to Tier 2. Enter Dustin. If blessings do indeed come in even small places, Dustin is the prime example of it. He shares my affinity for home theater and offered ideas that no other technician has. Between the two of us, the picture quality was improved VASTLY over what I had been getting. No comparison. And along the way of this 90 minutes support call, we chatted about different TVs and surround sound options and this and that. It was great! Like talking to a friend! I was so impressed by his level of service, I asked for his manager's contact info so that I could commend him. Too often managers only get angry correspondence, but I wanted to make sure he got the accolades he deserved. He made me feel valued as a customer and has most likely saved me from having to be a Comcast customer for a long while. There's still an audio issue...the HDMI firmware is not allowing surround sound to pass. So I'm going through an optical cable, but it has its own issue with sound going in and out. No work around presently, but at least he knew about the issue. No other person has. Three in-home technicians; several phone support calls...and HE was the first and only one to work out a fix.

Is the picture quality BETTER than what I have with Comcast? It's debatable now. But one thing is for certain, all the people I badmouthed this service too, I'm going to have to go back and tell them that AT&T stuck with me to the end. Be patient with the new service/technology and eventually a livable quality will be reached. For the money, this will do.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Watch This

The Beginning of the End

Today marks the beginning of the last month of my 20's. What a remarkable decade it has been. No call to reminisce now. I've got 30 more days to enjoy it!

Monday, September 15, 2008


It is not for the government to enforce our Christian beliefs, convictions, and doctrines on the people of America. Making Biblical sins against the law is not how we fulfill the Great Commission. That is the responsibility of the church, not a politician. Vote for the change we need in our economy and foreign policies. What we've had the last eight years is not working. I started out supporting the current regime, but not anymore. We need a different, aggressive viewpoint.

I support Obama/Biden.

Marvelous Monday

Okay, so I geek out a bit too much on the blog. Sorry about that. Here's just a fun little story about my Monday morning.

I get to work and find an email from a concerned student who disagrees with the reading assignment she was given for her English class. Apparently it depicts explicit lesbian encounters in it, and she felt uncomfortable reading, much less discussing the book given her "religious beliefs."

Then I get an email from a student who wants to re-submit an assignment that she admitted to cheating on. A short time later, another student comes to my office and asks to borrow my textbook so she can do her assignment. By the way, it was due an hour previous.

Another email comes in, this time from a student who is protesting her PTC bill and the way she has been treated by Student Services. She's placing blame entirely on the school, and while admittedly she was misinformed, she did not accept responsibility for what I have documented she said.

Then a student comes by when she "suddenly" saw a D on her transcript when last she checked it was a C. This would jeopardize her standing in the nursing program because she must have this class completed at this point.

Now it is lunch. Later is chemistry lab, when I meet the 4 or 5 students who cheated on their homework. I don't like confrontation. I hope they accept responsibility for their actions.

Tonight I have community group at the same time as the last Imagine Party at the same time as a Celebration Event team meeting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology Can Be a Headache Sometimes

Been a teensy weensy bit busy lately, so I haven't posted in a while, but I think it is finally time to share my extraordinary story about AT&T. Gonna geek out a little, so bear with me.

I'm about as patient as they come when it comes to new technology. And AT&T's U-Verse service is new here, so of course there are going to be hangups. Well two technicians, calls all the way up to Tier 4 support, and four days of them basically living with me...and I finally got up and running on Monday. They had to do some serious work down at the fiber optic hub at the end of my street. Then someone at their division forgot to match the work done in the computer systems. Yadda yadda yadda. It's working. Sorta...

I'm thrilled with the internet connection. Despite having signed up for the mid-grade service, I'm getting premium speed. 9.4 mbps down, 1.4 mbps up, with about a 90 ms ping. That ping is actually a little high; not sure how it will affect online gaming. (For the noobs: ping is the term to describe how long it takes a command to be sent to a server after you command it.)

But the high definition TV is another story. In short: it is poor. It is hard to describe in words what is happening on these channels. I can liken it to this: when I make a video, I can choose to render it in high, medium, or low quality. The HD channels look like a video that has been rendered on low quality. Motion turns into little fuzzy blocks, an artifact called macroblocking. Solid colors appear to jitter a little or pulse when it should be, well, a solid color. You can make out the gradations of brightness and it doesn't change smoothly as a sharp picture should. These abnormalities are a result of the TV signal being too compressed on their lines. This is something I read about from other users in advance and was worried would happen. With as critical an eye as I have for this, I don't think I'll be able to keep the TV service.

Further there is a firmware issue with the box that AT&T "may or may not know about". Simply, it is not passing audio codecs correctly through the HDMI cable to my receiver. Shows sounded like mush, comparatively to my Comcast signal. I tested this with an optical cable and it worked correctly--a nice, crisp sound. So something is definitely wrong with the HDMI firmware.

I was so looking forward to this. No more Comcast; gain the ability to set a recording from anywhere with internet; no more Comcast; and no more Comcast. As much as I hate being their customer, their picture quality is (it's hard for me to write this) far superior to AT&T's. The third technician that came out saw what I was talking about. I feel like he knew what he was saying and he told me "I'm sorry to say that this may be the best quality that we offer." If that's the case, no thanks. I'll just stick with the internet.

This has been a long hard battle with many retreats going back to canceling Dish Network. Dish would have been ideal, because of the (now) four providers to choose from, they have the most superior system. But not having local HDs is a deal-breaker. DirectTV just added them two months ahead of schedule, so hopefully Dish won't be long. Unless AT&T cranks up their bandwidth over their lines, then their service is going nowhere. Well maybe they will...the average consumer buys into the fact that they are getting "high definition" but as each provider scrambles to provide the most HDs, it forces them to put more information on the same amount of pipe flow. The only way to do that is to reduce the information sent per channel, which means poorer quality. And at that point, it is no longer HD by definition. I see past that, but it's all we got...