Vast

Consider a bird.

No, no. Not like that. I mean, act as if you never saw one at all. As if a bird hasn’t ever existed before.

No references.

No memories.

Just pure imagination. All its systems working together to create flight. And self-awareness. And self-reliance. And it’s flock mentality. Maybe a little homing sense thrown in for good measure.

Only now, you’re charged with actually making one.

Right now.

For the very first time.

What tools would you use? Which technologies and materials would you employ? Today, 2014.

Where would you even begin?

Considering your prototype works, you’re now charged with mass producing them. But here’s the catch. They need to self-replicate. So your factory only needs to produce one. But every other subsequent bird needs to grow inside a self-contained (ie, all food inside), geometrically perfect oblong sphere able to withstand immense pressure and the elements, yet thin enough that the offspring can break through once they’ve outgrown the module. And your design material needs to be semi porous for breathability. You know, just because.

If you master that, let’s really make it interesting. Your new goal is coming up with 10,000 different models; you can even combine models mid-stream to produce new ones if you want. I want variations in wing size, body shape, color, eating habits, behavioral patterns and more. I want some that talk, some that swim, and some that bang their beaks against trees like an impact drill. I want fluffy ones, fat ones, and others that stand on one leg. Shoot, give me a few that can hover or fly backwards and I’ll give you bonus points—cause, man, that’s fly.

Thanks, God.

ch:

Life Office

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How Tech Has Created A New Kind of Work Space

Much like Starbucks purported itself to be the new Third Space, attempting to replace “home, office, church” with “home, office, Starbucks,” (finding it at least a little ironic that now some churches serve Starbucks), and that storytellers try and hide the Fourth Plane, that of being the metaphorical wall that hides the author’s hand from the eye of the beholder (whether camera or written plot device), I am joining many before me in shedding some light on my Second Office, or what I tend to think of as my Life Office.

Work spaces are important. They need to have certain qualities that help promote focus, efficiency and productivity. These include comfort, a level of seclusion, and services, all of which depend greatly on the nature of the work and the individual worker.

While I’m busy redesigning New Life’s office wing, including our front office and conference room, I’m also aware that in 2013, devices–not just spaces–help decide where an office can be.

“Taking the office with you” has been the axiom and pursuit of the Mobile Office since the invention of the laptop, furthered by the PDA in the 90’s. But there remained a barrier between the rest of the world and the Mobile Office user, a barrier that was blown apart with the creation of the iPhone.

Unlike a Mobile Office that merely permits me to work while “on the go,” a Life Office permits me to engage and respond to the various environments that I find myself in. So my life has the capacity of informing my work, regardless of vocation.

My Life Office is interactive, as the devices I carry don’t seclude me from my environment–if I discipline myself correctly–but actually involve me in my surroundings in new ways, ones I previously under-appreciated. They do this in numerous ways, the most powerful of which is the recognition that I have and am aware of an audience.

Now, no one should live on stage indefinitely. It’s exhausting. And does strange things to the ego. But living life in such a way as to believe others are always watching, and to “perform” with their concern in mind might not be as secular as you may think.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

– Author Unknown
Hebrews 12:1

In fact, there are untold hundreds of scriptures that talk about living rightly, that God is watching, that our deeds are being recorded, and that we’re setting precedent for the generations who follow.

I dare say that living with an audience in mind is one of the healthiest and most Biblical behaviors we can engage in as people. And digital devices have actually had a role in not only shaping what I see and how I see it, but in how I remember and how I invest.

iPhone: Connect, Capture, Consume

My iPhone has been a constant companion. Interestingly enough, one of its least-used functions in my world is as a phone. I use it to text (as these “mini notes” are far more efficient, with my minimum “short” phone call being eleven minutes), and send voice snippets in Voxer–a glorified, recording walker-talkie. If I only had three or four important issues to attend to in a day, I’d love them all to be around face-to-face encounters, or as personable phone calls, but I don’t have such a luxury.

The iPhone’s two other most powerful features are its camera–which constantly challenge me to see normal settings with new perspectives, thus making me appreciate them more fully–and its note-taking functionality, either in text or audio form. I make quick notes on the fly in Evernote, marking down ideas for a book I’m working on, a meeting coming up, or a new song I’m crafting a melody to. Instagram is my primary method of sharing the images of my life, something that’s become more of a discipline than a need. This populates Twitter automatically, and these images are used in my blog (which is finally linked from Facebook).

While my iPad is my preferred reading device, my iPhone still holds the record for the most amount of non-dedicated reading: web references, emails, articles, scripture references. I’m not really savoring material on my iPhone, I’m consuming and processing at a high rate. Unlike the comfort associated with my iPad (which I’ll get to in a second), here on the iPhone, it’s all business.

Interestingly enough, 90% of all my blog posts–including this one–are composed, edited and published through WordPress’ iOS app with my right thumb.

iPad: Impart and Savor

My iPad has completely transformed the way I communicate to professional and religious audiences. I don’t have a three-ring binder full of songs anymore; I have OnSong with all of my music lead sheets. And I prepare in and speak my messages–whether sermons and teachings for church settings or lectures on business at a school–directly out of Evernote.

My iPad is also my primary reading device for material I want to savor, like books, including the Bible. I use Kindle for novels and non-fiction, and OliveTree for studying and annotating scripture. I say “savor” specifically because I like using the iPad on the couch, on my boat, or somewhere where what I’m reading has my undivided attention.

MacBook Pro: Create

My Mac is my main workhorse. My product creator. Its operating the entire Adobe CS6 Suite, as well as Logic, ProTools and GarageBand, and cranks out unprecedented amounts of text, audio and video. When it starts to buckle, I move to a MacPro tower in our production hall at New Life, but that’s for big stuff–and definitely not a part of my Life Office platform.

My MBP always has at least a dozen tabs open in Chrome at any given time, and is my main processor of the hundreds of emails I receive every 24 hours.

And unlike blog posts which are created on my iPhone, all my novels are written on my Mac in Scrivener (which I’ve been a huge fan of for years).

Technovergence

The key with incorporating any man-made tool into our daily lives, whether a trowel or an iPhone, is managing it. If our tools manage us, we lose an appreciation for the very life we’re meant to be living. If, however, we can set boundaries and form good habits (a post for another day), these tools can actually amplify the quality of life-living we’re engaged in, and then inspire others to see the Creator’s world around us with new eyes.

Life, after all, is meant to be lived voraciously.

ch:

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Creating Transcendent Art

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I heard the kids stirring downstairs early this morning.

Why don’t they sleep in on Saturdays? Jennifer says it’s because they’re my children. Meaning, they have my inescapable wake-up-early-despite-what-time-I-went-to-bed gene. It’s a blessing. And a curse.

After finishing a book on my iPad, I came downstairs to feed the tribe. I found them hunkered around Mommy’s iMac watching Star Wars Episode VI for the trillionth time. That’s when it dawned on me.

I’ve created monsters.

Wookies, to be more precise.

But it’s proof George Lucas created transcendent films. Forging art that’s not only applicable to the present generation but captures the hearts of generations to come is evidence of genius. It’s also pretty amazing to think what kind of special effects kids today are exposed to, yet they never seem to question the plausibility of those late 1970’s – early 1980’s films. (Ironic that the special effects additions from the films’ recent revitalizations in the last decade seem grossly out of place).

Regardless of technology – or the tools of the day – art can become transcendent if the creator is true to the art itself. Staying true to the story, the mission and the values – regardless of what technology or tools are on hand – is essential to building believability and sustainability.

A simple example is the human race.

We’re pretty old technology if you think about it: our first models came out of production about 6,000 years ago. Yet we’re still enamored with each other, enough to love, marry, reproduce and die for one another. But that’s because the Creator stayed true to form. He had any creative means at his disposal – unlimited technology. Yet he chose only to create what the model was asking for as his design emerged.

I once heard a great music producer use that very line. “Don’t add the track you want to the song, add only the tracks the song is asking for.” Thanks Dad. Because if done properly, every song, every piece of art, and every film has a soul of sorts. Just like people do. Figuring out what fits the piece’s soul is the key to making it transcendent – making it stay true to form. To itself. And to its creator.

And ensuring Wookies are born in future generations.

ch:

Northern Lights

My iPhone went crazy. Text messages, voice mails.

“Look up at the sky!”

Not sure what others saw along our latitude, but northern NY had a brilliant display of the aurora borealis. And I only caught the last 5 minutes.

This is the original, unaffected shot I took on my Nikon D7000, 3.5f, 800, 15-second exposure.

Just one more reason I cherish living in the middle of nowhere, because it’s God’s somewhere. ch:

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Vintage was Advanced

I love seeing vintage creations through the eyes of how forward-thinking its designers thought they were.

Cutting edge.

The height of technology.

The latest processes, materials, and style-lines.

We think it’s valuable because it’s oldschool, they thought it was valuable because it was ahead of its time.

What 2011 creations will our children’s children look back on with such classic admiration?

ch:

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It’s In The Details

There are any number of common-speak expressions that all personify value being held in the amount of detail something has. “Good leadership,” even, “is in the details.”

And how interesting that in our fast-paced, bulk-discount lifestyle, we often miss the things that we say have the most value.

I’m not sure that it takes God more time, energy, and expense to craft the micro-refractive mirrors that give a hummingbird feather its color, but I know it would for any fortune-50 company; yet how often have I thought about that amazing God-technology in my day? And further, valued it?

But it’s not just God-in-nature.

One reason I love Apple so much as a company is because of the value they place on details. While everyone, including myself, is salivating over the next iPhone 5 rumors, did anyone ever notice the Apple imprint on the white charging cable? It took me laying in bed this morning, researching something online, to truly appreciate it.

The thoughtful.

The unassuming.

The unexpected.

The they-didn’t-need-to-go-to-the-trouble-because-almost-no-one-would-ever-notice-but-they-did-anyway.

Because you noticed. And you’re the most valuable thing a company could market for, and that God could create after his own likeness.

What’s a detail that you’ve noticed recently, today even, on a person, place, or thing that made you stop, smirk, and say, “How cool”? ch:

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Art & Business

Success within the artistic world of expression and communication is often elusive, even to those creating and speaking in it.

Create something so abstract that people don’t know what you’re trying to say, and you’ve missed the point of that art form; create something so generic for the sake of making a buck, and life gets–well–boring.

But creating something that speaks to a collective heartbeat, while still making individuals feel uniquely awed, is one of the greatest successes a creator can have.

I’ve seen paintings so terribly abstract that I’m convinced not even the artist knows what he was trying to paint (mostly likely because he was on some bad hippie lettuce). I’ve also seen song writers throw out their classical training and write the most predictably pathetic worship sings simply because they knew the mass-market would buy it and everybody could sing it.

The earlier drug reference aside, both scenarios are faulted.

For one, artists need to be thoughtfully specific. They need to have an audience in mind. “I’m creating for __________.” And secondly they must have a motive. A destination in mind. “Before he or she experienced my piece, the person was at point A, but after my offering, he or she should at least be on their way to point B.”

This is the business side. Art must connect with people if it is to be sellable, if it is going to reach a wider audience than just someone’s grandma or college roommates. It needs to have a certain packability that can be simply expressed and communicated in such a way that the public wants more.

But too obvious, and art risks its greatest foe: being cliché.

All artists I know, whether audio or visual, want to be original. They want to be ahead of the curve, authentic, and pushing boundaries.

This is the artistic side.

Art displays life as it could be, in a more perfect sense. A well written and executed worship song elevates our perception of and experience with God (arguably all good art does this); a powerful painting depicts a brighter sky than the one we are presently under; a moving dance stirs the core of a person’s soul to love their spouse more deeply; a drama convicts us of error and endorses a more steadfast line of integrity.

The problem? Art was never meant for your sketch book. Such a terminally ill condition is the lifelong lot of some humanity’s great creative ideas. In short, your art has to sell. Whether it’s your lack of motivation or your unrelenting pursuit of the obscure, you’ve get to bend to the fact that your gift needs to be shared if it is to ultimately glorify its Creator.

We all know our fair share of “broke artists.” But more often that’s the case of an artist that doesn’t know how to “market” themselves than a public who’s unwilling to purchase. Or it’s the case of an artist who has never fully embraced the confidence that God has in them to create meaningful works of art.

He should know. He put it there.

Because God made us to create life-symphonies that impact the whole world just like His have. ch:

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Day 2 at Creation Fest NE 2011

Thanks to all those who came out to Creation fest NE this year! It was so great meeting you, and such an honor to help push you into the plans and purposes of God for your life. If we aren’t connected on Facebook yet, please open up a new tab here and “like.” Likewise, you can get daily bald craziness from me by following my twitter feed here.

As Joseph and I made out way back to the Woods 3 stage on the hill overlooking the rest of Creation [ha!], we noticed even more people than yesterday were filling in early. Harry Thomas [pictured below] noted that all the teaching stages were packed out this year. “I think teens are really hungry for the Word, not just great music,” he said in a meeting at the Admin Office. In light of so many negative statements by disgruntled complainers, what a great commentary on our generation’s youth!

I’m not sure how you can “pack out the woods,” but we did! My message for Friday was on the role of the Arts within the Church. I really felt like I delivered the message well and was able to connect people with the inspiring heart of the Lord to use their gifts to promote Him.

I’ve made the PDFs of my notes for both messages available below, as well as the promised “Crickets Soundtrack” recording I used during Friday’s message. The audio recordings of the message’s themselves will be available on Creation Fest’s website later on this month.

Of course my favorite part about any event is meeting people, and Creation is no exception. Hearing their stories, praying together, and celebrating victories are some of my joys. One dad, Charlie, said he was so touched by “a conference that was loving on his daughter.” When I asked him to elaborate, he went on to explain that the only 1 of his 6 children to want to attend Creation with him was also the only unsaved one. With tears in his eyes he said, “My 18-year-old daughter is being loved on by the people here. She bumps into someone accidentally and they apologize profusely; she drops something and they pick it up for her. She can’t understand why everyone is so kind. She’s actually seeing a manifestation of Jesus’ love in them.” We prayed for her salvation together and then hugged.

Another great personality was a surfer from south Florida named Tom [pictured below]. His heart is to reach the beach community through the use of visual communications. And boy is he! Between his inflatable screens promoting the Gospel and his conversation starting t-shirts, Tom’s heart for evangelism through unorthodox methods made me a believer. I loved his t-shirt so much he even went back to his campsite and gave me one! Email him if you’d like to order one.

Thanks to everyone that came out! Go and be everything God has called you to! ch:

MESSAGE PDF: The Purpose and Power of Music

MESSAGE PDF: The Role of the Arts within the Church

Crickets MP3:

DOWNLOAD: Crickets Soundtrack

“We love you, Jennifer!” from Creation to @jenniferlhopper VIDEO

Day 1 at Creation Fest NE 2011

Whereas last year was sensory overload, returning to Creation this year was much like coming home. Familiar faces, memorized layout, and internal expectations of how things flow.

But with new messages and a fresh crowd, exactly how an audience will take to something remains a mystery.

People started gathering at 2:30pm on the hillside for my first session. In fact, they were there before I was! That made me smile. I made my way up into the crowd to get to know them, asking their names, where they’re from, and what their loves in life are. Soon, my assistant Joseph had to come grab me. “It’s starting, bro. Gotta’ get down there.” Thank God for him!

Creation Founder & President Harry Thomas was waiting down by the tiny wooden stage (that I think I used once for 30 seconds) and gathered some of the staff for prayer. If you’ve never met him, you can’t help but love him: he’s the perfect cross between Jesus and Santa Clause. Yeah. For real.

Then it was go time. For 45 minutes I spoke on the purposes and power of music as an instrument (pun!) of connection, used to conquer, and of our three responsibilities as Christians: 1.) To Create 2.) To Endorse 3.) To Intercede.

The session finished with over 2,000 teens & adults praying as one for the music artist of their choice. Both secular and sacred alike – from Bruce Hornsby to Matt Redman to Usher to Will I Am to 3rd Day – we prayed for wisdom, strength, guidance, some for salvation, and for all encouragement.

So many people came up afterward to share about how they’d never thought of themselves as having a role in praying for musicians. It was definitely an “ah-ha!” moment.

The day also included reconnecting with Chris Tomlin, and giving a CD to Jonah Sorrentino (KJ-52) as Jennifer (aka “J-Ho” a la her rapper name) adores him.

My fun moment of the day was leaving Joseph Gilchrist – my “body guard” for the trip – in the car for 5 minutes. When I returned I found him as pictured below.

Today I’ll be speaking on the role of the arts within the church. Looking forward to seeing more eyes opened to the immense creativity of God! ch:

Expelled: Ben Stein and the Crazy Right Wing Christians

ch-ichat-logo.png Here we go again.

Ben Stein’s new documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” hits select cities nationwide tomorrow. You can watch the trailer below.

But come on now…

When will they stop trying to force feed us their brand of religion? How long do we have to put up with this? Don’t they know that we’re trying to live our own lives here? That we’re sick and tired of their invasion into our privacy? Telling us what to believe and and how to believe it? Trying to comprise our public schools and universities with their doctrines? With things that can not be proven? That require faith to believe in? Give me a break. I believe those are called theories–not facts as they would say.

How can they be so close minded?

How can they can they be so narrow?

This is downright offensive. It shouldn’t be allowed to even be entertained.

But then again, this is their religion, after all. I’ve got to cut them some slack. I’m not just attacking their scientific opinions on the cause and purpose of life–if it can even be considered science–I’m actually attacking their belief system. Their religion. Their faith on why things are the way they are. And that’s deep rooted stuff.

So no wonder this subject stirs such a debate. It’s no longer scientific; it’s a clash of belief systems. Last I knew, this sort of cataclysmic collision pitted nations and families against one another for centuries. And apparently, it still does.

“Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer that died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”

G. Richard Bozarth , “The Meaning of Evolution”, American Atheist, 20 Sept. 1979, p. 30

So true, Mr. Bozarth. But if this could be true, then the converse could also true. If evolution is wrong, than it proves God is real, Jesus’ sacrifice is the only means for salvation, and consequently, makes all of mankind accountable for their own sin.

No wonder mankind doesn’t want Intelligent Design to be real: It would prove that not only God is real, but as Mr. Bozarth implied, that we are in need of His mercy through Jesus Christ.

My comments at the top were not about Jesus Believers, they were about Evolutionary Believers. Because we’re all believers in something.

To some, Science is god; to me, the God of science is. It’s just so much more logical and requires a whole lot less, well, faith.

Thanks for reading.

CH