Remembering Rich Mullins

"It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live." Rich Mullins

You might remember that I mentioned back in April that I announced to the entire Ichthus Christian Music Festival that Christy was not, in fact my girlfriend. Of course, we all know she really was my girlfriend by this point. We just hadn’t admitted it to each other. If you don’t remember that post, or have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, you can go to this post and catch up. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you. It won’t take that long to read.

That was also the last time I heard Rich Mullins perform. I did get to meet him about a year later, but I missed out on hearing him sing. If you don’t remember that story, you really should read it.  It’s OK. I promise I’ll wait for you.

There are a few things I remember about that concert, even though it was twenty years ago. I remember he was barefoot onstage. At least, I’m pretty sure he was barefoot onstage. I also remember he sang a song that he had written that Amy Grant had originally made famous. When he introduced it, he jokingly said that she had screwed it up. Or maybe he wasn’t joking? I guess you can decide for yourself.

I spent some time listening to Rich today. I’m not gonna lie. I wept when I heard some of his songs. In some ways, I think his music speaks to me today more than it did when i first heard him. A few musicians have taken up his mantle, but there will never be another Rich.

Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the crash that took his life. I think it would be great to put together some kind of tribute to him, celebrating the impact he made on countless lives in the past as well as the present. I’m not sure what it will be, but I think it should include some form of audience participation. I don’t know. Maybe some kind of crowdsourced video or something?

We have a few months to think about it. I’m sure we can come up with something. Right? Who’s with me?

 

Nobody said it would be easy

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

Misquoting Pope Francis, Mark Zuckerberg, and Abe Lincoln

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme floating around the Internet. It’s a photo of Pope Francis with a quote that’s attributed to him. The quote says something like this:

It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional. Notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money — for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history do not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name.

It had made the rounds earlier this year, but it was revived in the wake of all American eyes focusing on the Bishop of Rome. Some think this quote is a nice thought. Maybe they think it’s some kind of olive branch to those outside the Catholic church. They readily shared the meme because it showed how enlightened and progressive this pope is.

Others, however, shared it as proof that Pope Francis is the Antichrist himself. Because if this isn’t blasphemy, it’s pretty darn close. So they say it’s evidence that John the Revelator saw the papacy when describing the evil figure who is supposed to rise to power during the End Times. So they shared the meme, too.

One small problem.

Pope Francis didn’t say that. And it’s really easy to find out that he didn’t say it. Google is our friend when it comes to stuff like this. Here. Let me google it for you.

I know, I know. Everyone got caught up in the hype surrounding the papal visit to these United States. So it was easy to just share this (mis)quote of Francis. It just felt right.

But here’s the deal: just because you put a quote next to a guy’s picture, it doesn’t mean the person actually said it. And it doesn’t matter how much you want the person to have said it. If he didn’t say it, he didn’t say it.
Pope Francis Didn't Say That
Then, immediately on the heels of the re-emergence of this pontifical post, people started posting facebook status updates with what sounded like a bunch of legalese gobbledygook, talking about how that status was going to keep the social network from using your pictures, information, etc. Then there was something about how the information you share on facebook is confidential.

Ha.

Haha.

Hahaha.

Confidential information? On facebook? You’re joking. Right?

And the legitimacy of that legal disclaimer? Once again, let me google that for you.  And then people started posting this crazy hoax about how your private stuff was going to become public if you didn’t pay some crazy fee. Since we’re on a roll here, let’s go ahead and google that for you, too.  That would be ridiculous for them to do that. And counter-productive. Facebook has access to something even more valuable than a nominal fee: your data. Facebook is free because they can access your information and use that to get advertisers to pay to promote their wares to you.

So, while it’s free and probably always will be, it really isn’t free. Because you’re paying with information. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, after all.

So there’s a nice little lesson here, kids. Don’t believe everything you see on social media. If it seems too outrageous to be true, it probably is too outrageous to be true. If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. And if you’re not sure, it usually only takes a quick Google search or a visit to snopes.com to find your answer. And that only takes a few extra seconds. But it’s totally worth it to take that extra step. Wouldn’t you agree?

But wait. That’s not all.

Shortly after that had all come to pass, I received notification that someone had commented on a pin I’d shared on Pinterest. The pin was over two years old, but I’m always happy when someone interacts with something I’ve shared on Pinterest. Here’s what was said:

pinterest commentI…

I can’t…

No.

Just…no…

The Internet is a wild, unpredictable, and sometimes crazy place. Stay vigilant, my friends.

 

 

Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.

Love, Heartbreak, and our Humanity

Senior Year. High School. Creative Writing Class.

I walked hand-in-hand with my girlfriend as I headed for class. My Creative Writing teacher looked on as we said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways, already counting down the minutes until we’d see each other again during the next passing period. The bell rang and I sat down at my desk. There were seven of us in the class. To say we were an eclectic bunch would be an understatement.

Mr. Hughes (of the Great Celebrate the Lord Love Debate) completed his hall monitoring duties and began class.

“Was that your girlfriend?” he asked. At least, I think that was what he said. To be honest, I didn’t really think he was talking to me so I wasn’t really paying much attention because it felt like I was eavesdropping. But he was talking to me.

“She’ll break your heart, you know.” Thanks for the vote of confidence there, I thought. Then he clarified, “Because all relationships end in heartbreak.” And then he went about his business, opening up some kind of discussion about writing or storytelling or something along those lines.

I was really bothered by that statement. It felt so…dark. So…defeatist. Continue reading “Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.”

3 more things my high school band director told me

Yesterday, I shared three things that my high school band director told me that have stuck with me over the years. But I wasn’t done. There are three more things that I need to share…
Low brass awesomeness

“Don’t mess with the Star Spangled Banner.”

You march onto the field, play the song exactly the way the audience expects to hear it. Then you march off. No fluff. Nothing artsy about it.

He was right. He still is. Every time some pop sensation tries to do something cute with the national anthem, that person gets lit up on the social networks. In a different context, it could be considered ground-breaking (see: Jimi Hendrix), but we are a nation of traditions. And if you’re going to perform the national anthem before a game, you’re better off just performing the song the way it was written and getting out of the way. If not, you might find yourself on some Top Ten Worst National Anthem Performances list.

Whenever someone messes with the national anthem, I just shake my head. “Mr. Briel was right,” I say to myself. “They should’ve listened to him.”

Blind fish and a prediction about our offspring

Mr. Briel opened class one day with a story. It wasn’t entirely unusual that he would tell us a story, but this one was a little different. He started talking about fish. But these were just any fish. They were blind fish that are found in caves.

Blind Cavefish

Then he started to discuss the scientific theory behind this phenomenon. Strange, I thought. I must have accidentally walked into biology lab instead of Concert Band. He explained that organisms adapt to their environment over time. Features that an organism needs in its environment continue to be strengthened. Other organs, like the eyes in the cave fish’s case, eventually phase out. Fish in a body of water in the middle of a cave don’t have any need for eyes, after all. There’s no light anyway. So over time, the fish just stopped growing eyes because they weren’t using them anyway.

Then he explained that the things an organism uses tend to be emphasized as their genetic makeup is passed on from generation to generation. At the same time, the things they don’t use tend to be minimized as an organism adapts over time. Sometimes, these features disappear altogether.

After giving us a brief scientific lecture, he paused and looked over the class.

“You know, I was thinking about this effect of passing along traits to our offspring as I was trying to figure out what happened during yesterday’s class. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

“Your kids are going to be born with no ears and really big mouths!”

You know, there are days when I think of this prediction and wonder if Mr. Briel might have had a touch of the gift of prophecy. Because…well…there are some days where it sure feels like he was absolutely right.

As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And I’ve had some pretty large helpings of that dish over the years.

“If you’ll switch to tuba, I’ll put you in Wind Ensemble.”

In 5th grade, I took up the trumpet. A cornet, to be specific. But that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I was part of the trumpet section, so we’ll just say I was playing the trumpet.

Anyway, I started playing the trumpet in 5th grade. I played it all through middle school and even marched as a trumpet during my Freshman year of marching season. I was decent. But I definitely wasn’t great at trumpet. My trumpet skills were nothing to write home about.

At the end of 9th grade, Mr. Briel came up to me towards the end of class. He had a proposal for me. We didn’t have anyone lined up to play tuba the next year. So he asked me and two of my Freshman trumpet buddies if we’d consider switching from trumpet to tuba. To sweeten the deal, he said that he’d put us in Wind Ensemble – the highest level of band at our school – if we made the switch.

So I switched. And my musical career took off.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I was not enrolled in Wind Ensemble the following semester. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a great thing. Since I was the only tuba playing in Concert Band, I couldn’t hide behind anyone else. I had to quickly learn how to play my new instrument and I had to learn how to play it with power.

So I did.

Not to toot my own horn (no pun intended…or maybe it is intended), but I got to be pretty darn good for a guy who didn’t start playing tuba until the 10th grade. I wound up on the All-City Honors Band for two years. I played in a large brass ensemble at the State Solo & Ensemble contest. I participated in TubaChristmas for several years. I performed in several church orchestras and brass ensembles. I even had a tuba solo in a jazz concert while at Milligan. Turned out it was my final instrumental performance ever.

All City Band
All City Honors Band. Can you find me? I promise I’m in this picture.

I had a much better time playing tuba than I ever had while playing trumpet. And I have Mr. Briel to thank for that. Sure, he might have chosen me to play tuba simply because I was a pretty big guy and could handle carrying a giant brass instrument around. But that’s OK. I have no complaints. Because it still opened all kinds of doors for me.

And now I’m a bass line guy for life.

Mr. Briel impacted me in many ways. But this invitation to play the tuba? It was life-changing. And I cannot thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.

3 things my high school band director told me

Harrison Marching Band

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that participating in the instrumental music program while I was in high school had a profound influence on my life. I’m not a professional musician (and I don’t play one on TV), but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that the music program might have been more influential on me than the English or science classes I took.

Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a slam on my English, math, and science teachers. Those classes were important. You hear me? They’re important! Don’t go dropping out of school, kids – especially if you’re my kids. And I hope none of my teacher friends misread what I’m saying here. I love what you do. Math, science, social studies, English…they’re all critical classes. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

That being said, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my closest friends from high school were in band with me. It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that quotes and stories from Mr. Briel, my band director through most of my high school career, are some of my most fond memories from my days of walking the hallowed halls of Harry High.

As the current school year takes off and we are on the cusp of yet another season of marching band awesomeness in Indiana, the stories that Mr. Briel would tell keep repeating themselves in my mind’s ear. There are some valuable lessons in some of those stories. And they’re worth passing along. Here are a few…

“Practice makes better.”

You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Right?

It’s bunk.

There’s always something you can improve. Always. And this is true even at the highest level. The best of the best are constantly improving. They have not reached perfection in their given field. So they keep working at getting better.

We will never “arrive.” No one has done anything perfectly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep improving and become the best we can be in whatever we do. And that takes practice. Lots of practice.

Because practice makes better.

Practice vs. Rehearsal

Practice is what you do on your own. It’s individual improvement. You practice to become technically proficient. You practice so things become second-nature. You practice to become the best you can be individually. Because, as I just told you, practice makes better.

Rehearsal is where everyone is working together. After hundreds of man-hours of individuals practicing, all the pieces are brought together in a rehearsal. In order to have an effective rehearsal, everyone needs to come prepared. They need to know their stuff so the band can make proper adjustments together. Rehearsal isn’t the time for individual practice. That needs to be done ahead of time. The most effective rehearsals happen when everyone has done the legwork beforehand during their individual practices.

I realize that this distinction might not be universal. But it certainly stuck with me. You practice in preparation to rehearse. You rehearse the way you perform. Because you only perform the way you rehearse. Things don’t magically change when you step onto the field or when you walk onstage. All of the hours of preparation through practice and rehearsal show their fruit when you perform.

“We’ll add that section when we get to Regionals.”

My Freshman year of high school, our band won just one trophy during marching season. It was a third place trophy. There were only three bands in our class. We were a doormat that year. And we weren’t much better the following year, either.

Winning hardware was fun, but all of these competitions during marching season were in preparation for the Indiana State School Music Association’s (ISSMA) organizational marching contests. They were kind of like a postseason tournament for Indiana marching bands. The system has changed since then, but in my day, there were three rounds to the ISSMA statewide contest: District, Regionals, and State. To move on from District to Regionals, you had to earn a Division I rating by earning a particular score or better. I think the minimum score was 60 out of 100, but I could be wrong. Everyone with a Division I rating advanced to the Regionals round. So your band was really competing against itself. It was entirely possible that all bands at the District level could advance to Regionals. If I remember correctly, we always went to Jasper, IN, for District.

There were two Regionals for each class in the State. The competition at Regionals was twofold. You were trying to earn a Division I, similar to the  District competition (requiring a higher score to earn a Division I rating). Your band was also competing against other high school bands for the right to move on to State. After all the bands performed, the judges ranked the bands, announcing the top five bands at each Regional. Those bands would then advance to the State Finals. Yes, it was entirely possible for a band to earn a Division II rating and still advance to State. But that was highly unlikely.

The ISSMA State Finals was made up of 40 of the top bands in the state (10 from each class). State was an all-day event where bands from each class took the field at the Hoosier Dome (it wasn’t called the RCA Dome yet) in competition. After each class performed, the bands were ranked from 1 to 10, with four bands being crowned state champions of their classes.

During my Freshman and Sophomore years, we didn’t even come close to earning a Division I at District.

Things started to click during my Junior year. The pieces started to come together. We marched to selections from the City of Angels soundtrack and it was a fun show. We knew something special was happening.

The Reitz Invitational might have been the first contest of the season (my memory’s getting a little hazy. Don’t you dare tell me that I’m getting old). We performed half of our show at that contest. That wasn’t too uncommon that early in the season. We were shocked when we heard the announcement over the PA during the awards ceremony that we, the perpetual doormat of Southwestern Indiana marching contests over the past two years, had won first place in our class.

We were on cloud nine. We had made our mark. And the region knew it. The Warriors were here and we were here to stay.

Very rarely did Mr. Briel talk about looking ahead to the end of marching season. We were pretty focused on the immediate future. We had to build upon our success with each subsequent contest. We had to get better. So we usually only needed to look ahead to the contest ahead of us.

During one of our rehearsals after the Reitz Invitational, Mr. Briel was sharing with us how much we were going to add to our show with each subsequent competition. As he charted things out, he told us how we were going to complete our show at District.

Then he paused and said, “Now, if you’re paying attention, you realize that there’s still part of the show that we haven’t added yet. We’re going to add that section when we get to Regionals.”

The place erupted.

It was a bold prediction. A confident prediction. It took some guts to say that to us. But we were ready. We were up for the challenge. And we did add that final piece to our show for our performance at Regionals. We ended the season with a Division II rating at Regionals. But we didn’t care. We were ecstatic to be there. And we had a lot of fun along the way.

Of my four high school marching seasons, I think I look back on the City of Angels show with the most fondness. We had more success my Senior year, and even earned a Division I at Regionals, but there was something kind of magical about that Junior year. Some of it might be because we were given a challenge and we rose to accept that challenge.

Just like Mr. Briel knew we would.

There are three more things that Mr. Briel told me that have stuck with me over the years. I’ll be sharing those tomorrow. Be sure to come back and read some more wisdom from a band director who probably had more of an impact on my life than he realizes.

O is for Outstanding!

A to Z Challenge 2013 O is for Outstanding

A to Z Challenge 2013 O is for Outstanding

Words can bring death or life!

Proverbs 18:21a

You know the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I get the point behind the phrase. But it’s dead wrong. The words I speak as a husband, dad, friend, son, brother, uncle, co-worker, neighbor…they carry immense power.

Today, I’m choosing to speak words of life over death. Words like:

outstanding

amazing

wonderful

awesome

stupendous

fabulous

fantastic

lovely

beautiful

awe-inspiring

well done

good job

I’m proud of you

I love you

Care to join me? What words are you adding to your vocabulary today?

I think we’ll find our own attitudes a little brighter if we choose to allow life to pour out of our mouths instead of words that hurt, mock, and destroy. Let’s choose to be life-givers with the words we say today.

We just might find the world a little bit brighter, a little bit more joyful, a little more full of life.

 

Introverts, extroverts, and being fake online

Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

I don’t really have any big revelations in regards to the bizarre case of Manti and Lennay. When I read this quote today, it stuck out like a sore thumb considering all of the discussion about how likely (or unlikely) it was that a person could have this kind of relationship with someone the person had never met in the physical realm. There’s a power in online space. It can feel like you’re truly connecting with someone in a safe environment.

I’m also reminded of this quote:

It can start to seem, sometimes, like we’re all fake humans online, like there’s no real place to grab a foothold and remember who we actually are. People who write online are often thought of as not real humans with lives and families and feelings, especially not feelings, but as characters. Bloggers are considered less “real” than reporters or journalists. And people who write about each other online sometimes treat one another as characters, too, just another archetype or a symbol of what a writer wants to get across; just a thing to plug into this story, or this one, and to get more page views, the faux coinage of our online lives. But people who are not journalists do it too: Fake personas, fake online profiles, bravado in the form of a status update created to cover up something real. Fake emotions and reactions, fake horror and outrage.

Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire

I’m not sure what these two paragraphs have to do with each other. Maybe they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Maybe I’m going down a rabbit hole that is nothing more than a simple drain pipe.

But I do know this. You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Abraham Lincoln posted that.

Listening to Einstein?

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination embraces the entire world." - Albert Einstein
How much am I encouraging imagination in my kids? How much am I strengthening my own creativity and imagination muscles? All the knowledge in the world doesn’t do any good if  you don’t have the imagination and creativity to do something with that knowledge. Einstein’s right. Knowledge has its limits. Imagination and creativity are unbound!

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that doesn’t really value imagination. Yeah, there’s glimpses of it here and there. But even the things we call “creative” really display a lack of imagination. We’ve become lazy, willing to re-hash what has already been created because it “works” instead of taking the risk to imagine new territory.

It was imagination that led to some great discoveries and inventions. It was imagination that has pushed us to explore. And I don’t really see that being encouraged today. Instead of creativity, I see recycled ideas. Instead of pushing to the edge, I see satisfaction with the status quo. Instead of exploring other worlds, we’re settling for hitching rides on other countries’ rockets. Instead of stretching ourselves to find ways to be the Light in a dying world, the momentum pushes us to keep things the way they’ve always been.

Has imagination died? I don’t think so. But if we’re not careful, we’re going to have our God-given creativity sucked out of us like the flourescent lights in Joe vs. the Volcano*. I don’t want that. I don’t think you want that either.

So what are we going to do about it?

The above photo was taken at
the Air Zoo of Kalamazoo

*The language in this clip does include a few instances of words that are not kid-appropriate. You’ve been warned.

What do you think?

I overheard this statement in a conversation today:

“A good leader inspires you to believe in the leader. A great leader inspires you to believe in yourself.”

It made me think. Is that really the mark of a great leader? What do you think?

No – this isn’t a rhetorical question.