so. late.

i still am not sure why i'm still up. i'm beyond my ability to do anymore work. i've been spending my time lately doing arrangements for a new worship music resource site a friend is developing. tomorrow i should finish the last of the five songs i was supposed to have completed by last week. and, i'll be going tomorrow to pick up some files to start the next project, which is going to be alot of work in a little bit of time.

this has been a strange few months. i'm more overwhelmed than usual. i'm trying to do too much, but for good reason. nobody pays me anything. i've got a 30 hour job that doesn't support my family, so i've gotta do free-lance stuff "on the side" to make up for it. the only problem is that my "on the side" jobs probably could add up to a full-time job themselves. some of them are simple gigs that make me an easy one or two hundred bucks. some have been much more involved, but have promised nice pay. they just haven't actually paid. half of the stuff i'm working on right now doesn't pay up front, but could actually make some good money on the back end. i'm hoping for that.

i feel like it's a huge ball that i'm trying to get rolling, and there's lots of obstacles and it's really hard, and i'm distracted, and discouraged. but once that ball gets some momentum, i won't have to push so hard. i'm not sure where they come from, but i get brief glances of what my life could look like, and that keeps me working toward my goals. i've never had to work so hard towards something. most of the time i just let life happen and i roll with the punches. but i've set my sights a little higher this time, and realized that there's a bit of a journey to make it where i want to go.

i'm learning how i work best, and what i really love, and even new things that i'm good at. this year has been enlightening like that. my main obstacles are time and money right now. i need to spend money to do the things i want to do to make money. i'm trying hard to find the balance, and i think it's good to have incentive to work hard when it means paying off the bills from those investments. time is hard to control, too. it's really frustrating to have a job that requires so much time spent on meaningless things, when i know i can work a quarter of the time for the same money. but, a salary is steady income. that's important right now.

this blog wasn't really for you, reader. it's 3:45am and i'm just venting. i'll look back on this post in a few months and probably not remember writing it, but i'll remember feeling this way. or i'll read it tomorrow, regret being so open, and erase it.


Merry Christmess

I just read a great blog by Jason Boyett here.

He rants a bit about a large conservative Christian organization that is waging a "war" on the "secularization" of Christmas in retail. They have a place on their website where you can rate a store based on how much they remove Christ from Christmas. The short of it is this: places that don't say "Christmas" are bad, places that do are good. I love the points Boyett makes on this, and agree.

Last year the thought hit me that we tend to spend ALOT of time trying to find the "true meaning" of Christmas. My conclusion was that the true meaning of Christmas has become talking about the true meaning of Christmas.

What frustrates me about the rating system is how far from the "true meaning" of Christmas this truly is. If you really want to get holy, wouldn't buying any gifts at all lean towards the materialism that we should be avoiding? So then why would it matter if a store says "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas?" Retail stores have NO POWER over the true spirit of Christmas. They control sales and marketing. To say that their actions are removing Christ from this holiday is to give them way more power than they have. Could you imagine witches and satanists complaining about churches' Fall Festivals? How dare we take Satan out of Halloween! I'm being sarcastic, but I think the point is there. Why would we expect a world (especially the part of the world focused on buying and selling) to involve religion with their business?

If the Church is removing Christ from Christmas ... then we have a problem. That's what the church exists for. Retail exists to sell things. I think most large churches are shining examples that business and religion can't co-exist. So, stores, sell your things. Sell them well. Market to people and make them want to give gifts to each other. Church, keep Christ in Christmas. Keep telling everyone His story, and about His gifts to us, so that we will have reason to give gifts to each other.


Content ... how about some?

Wow, I left you with a FaceBook survey for my last blog 6 months ago? I'm so sorry. The last 6 months have flown by, of course, but have been pretty good. I'm still working at the church, and Bethany is still part time at her psychiatric hospital (giving, not receiving care). The summer schedule of youth camps was light, but the few we did were really great. The 220 camps were spectacular. God wrestled with our "unbelief" and strengthened our faith in what he can do, and IS STILL DOING here on this earth today.

There were alot of great stories, but one that sticks out in my mind was from Monday evening of camp, in Longview, TX. We were given word of a woman--a friend of one of our leaders--who was diagnosed with cancer and had found out that the cancer had spread to her muscles. I don't know alot about cancer, but I'm sure that's not a good thing. She was going Tuesday morning for a follow-up visit, so we prayed that she would be healed. The report Tuesday evening was that the same doctor that found cancer in her muscles COULD NOT FIND CANCER. Does your God still do miracles?

Besides church and home life, I'm venturing out a little. I'm preparing my songlist so I can get out and start playing some music around Cypress. I'm hoping that will be a good outlet for me, and some extra cash. I'm also getting into composing film/TV music. I did a project for a church this summer that was tons of fun and sort of rekindled a passion I once had to compose for visual media. I'm attending a conference in a few months that will give me some guidelines for getting into this business, hopefully giving me a good step towards some fun projects.

I'm going to let my little girl help me update the last few months, so here's some pictures:

We bought our first house! I think it was the 7th or 8th house we looked at with the realtor. It met all our needs, was in great condition, and was in our price range. We LOVE it and excitedly continue to make it more and more look like "ours."

And finally, two weeks ago, my piano arrived, so it's now a "home."

Bella enjoyed her first trip to a beach this summer, as we went to hang out and lead worship for the youth ministry at our church.

She's getting older. Somehow each stage of life gets better than the last.

Two weeks ago, she turned 1! Our little girl is walking all over the place, into EVERYTHING. She is so much fun to play with. She mimics us, and even copies the inflections in our voices. She's saying several syllables, and a few actually mean something. What a joy.


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Kissed any one of your Facebook friends? yes
Been arrested? no
Kissed someone you didn't like? no
Slept in until 5 PM? no
Fallen asleep at work/school? no
Held a snake? yes
Ran a red light? yes
Been suspended from school? no
Totaled your car/motorbike in an accident? no
Been fired from a job? no
Sang karaoke? yes
Done something you told yourself you wouldn't? yes
Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? yes
Caught a snowflake on your tongue? yes
Kissed in the rain? yes
sing the shower? no
Sat on a rooftop? yes
Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes? no
Broken a bone? no
Shaved your head? yes
Blacked out from drinking? no
Played a prank on someone? yes
Felt like killing someone? no
Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? yes
Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? no
Been in a band? yes
Shot a gun? yes
Donated Blood? no
Eaten alligator meat? no
Eaten cheesecake? yes
Still love someone you shouldn't? no
Think about the future? yes
Believe in love? yes
Sleep on a certain side of the bed? yes
Talk in your sleep? no
Laughed until you peed your pants? yes
Spend too much time on Facebook? yes
Play/Played a musical instrument? yes
Lived outside of the country? no
Been skinny dipping? no
Gone sky diving? no
Dated someone longer than you should have? yes
Pierced a body part? no


just a minute of your time?

Hi friends,

This "form letter" is entirely impersonal, but I'd like to enlist your help in something. It doesn't require anything of you except a few clicks of your mouse. We recently submitted a picture of Bella to a "Cutest Kid Contest." We did this because a) we think she's cute, and b) to be honest, I wouldn't mind having the prize money. 

Here's the link, just follow it, fill out the information, and we receive your vote. I think you can vote once a day, and contest runs till the end of the month. I think your vote signs you up for some email ad lists, so use a secondary email, or be prepared to "unsubscribe" from a few things. Sorry about that. Thanks for your help! 

- josh


Church Marketing

This might be one of those "don't get me started" blogs that is, in reality, a "you can't stop me" blog. 

I work in a church. Ask me a year ago if I thought I'd be working in a church. Ask me a year ago if I WANTED to work in a church. .... the answer is no, in case you don't catch sarcasm easily. Ask me 6 months ago when I went to work at a church if I wanted to work in a church. Still, no. Ask me, right now, if I want to work in a church ... you hopefully are catching on, now. 

I went a long time without being in a church regularly. I WENT to churches, mostly for musical reasons, but I wouldn't consider any church a "home" church. Heathenistic, I know, but I have no problem BEING the Church as opposed to GOING TO the church. 

But now I'm back. I'm in the same place every week, and what's more, I'm on staff, and I get to see all the little details that make a church function. This was no mystery to me; I grew up a pastor's kid, so I know that church is more than songs and sermons. But as the Church is changing, it's interesting (and scary, and frustrating, and depressing, and hopeless) to see how churches are fighting to keep relevance in the world. 

Just the other day I was thinking about what it was that frustrated me most. I came up with this: I hate marketing. It occurred to me a few weeks ago in a meeting that I really don't know why people go to church. I know why people should go to church. I know why I would go to church if I wasn't employed by one. 

The problem I have is that the reason we should "go to church" (which, preferably, should read "be a part of a church") comes from our spirit, while Church Marketing tends to appeal to our flesh. The spirit is selfless, and so should be our reasons for being in the church. Then why do we spend so much time trying to attract church-goers' flesh? 

Instead of attracting people to a weekly service where their spirit can be refueled (assuming that spirit has been accessed during the week), why do we advertise great music and good speaking? When an event has actual spiritual girth to it, why is the marketed geared towards the food or prizes involved? 

This post is, as usual for me, to ask more questions than give answers. But, I wonder often if we would just let the Holy Spirit be Lord over our churches, and not our marketing team (or pastors who need to be teaching and leading, rather than marketing), how would that affect today's Church? Less people would show up, that's the first thing. While most would see that as the first sign of failure, I honestly see it as the first sign of success, because the people left over would be there for the content, not the context. THEN, those that have come for the right reasons will invite for the right reasons, and will share for the right reasons, and will evangelize for the right reasons, and "make disciples" for the right reasons. THAT'S a Church I want to be a part of. I'm tired of thinking of ways to convince people to join a club, to attend a meeting, to go on missions. We need to stop appealing to flesh and being disappointed when the Spirit doesn't get involved (or worse yet, shocked when He does get involved). Start teaching how to live in the spirit and I think Church Marketing will redeem itself. And it will stop sucking. 

Blog.Erase.Blog.Erase.Blog about erased blog.

There's been maybe three blogs in the last month that I've started and erased. This is mostly because I would start writing something that seemed like a good idea, but then I realized there ended up being no real conclusion to what I was trying to say. I think in pictures sometimes, and I can catch a glimpse of an idea all at once, and it makes sense, but if I try to pick it apart and write about it, step by step, it's a little inconclusive. 

For example, I realized I don't like maintenance. Oh! The blog on that topic was going to be monumental in its content and relevance. I had all these examples lined up, like how I wish you could just buy a car and it worked perfectly until you got a new one. I don't like having to get the oil changed and spending money on other maintenance. 

I was going to talk about how I don't like making the bed, because you're just going to mess it up that night and have to make it again in the morning. I don't like having to squeegee the water off the glass shower. I don't like that software and hardware get old and need replacing (usually all at the same time). 

These things have alot to do with how my personality works, I guess. I don't like mundane repeated tasks. 

The point at which I erased this blog was where I started to realize that these "mundane" things went deeper, and I realized that's why relationships can be difficult for me sometimes. I enjoy relationships (and I realize their importance), but sometimes the "maintenance" of relationships gets in my way so that I can't enjoy the beauty of my humanity relating to another's. I tend to look at things from a "task" perspective, so that even relationships can feel like work. One of the scariest things about marriage to me is the constant maintenance it has required, and will require. I know it's worth it, and I accept the challenge because I know it's been given by God. He wouldn't have given me a wife (or child, for that matter) if he knew I couldn't handle it.  

That's where I'm growing, and I guess I worried that sharing an area of growth, instead of an area of victory, would be too honest for a blog. ... And now I've blogged it.




One topic. One blog. Short sentences. That aren't really sentences, but phrases or words with a period at the end to imply a pause and give weight to those phrases or words. 

I'm tired of working on Mondays. The weekends beat me up, and I have to get up on Mondays and start it all again. I used to take Mondays off, especially when I was playing three or four gigs per weekend. I rarely even answered my phone on Mondays. It was nice. But, life dictates that I must work on Mondays now. 

Today was a little better though, because I decided to stop at McDonald's for "breakfast." It was 11:30am, but the first meal of the day is breakfast no matter when it happens. I got two Snack Wrap Macs, which I really like (more than I should, probably). It was one of those meal experiences where the last bite was the best bite. I like for the last bite to leave a good mouth memory. 

I also ordered a large iced coffee. I realized why I like McDonald's iced coffee. It's really not that good, but it reminds me of the coffee I used to make when I first started drinking coffee. I was probably 10 or 11 and my dad would let me get some coffee at church. Back then, I think, the coffee was just an excuse to drink sugar packets and powdered creamer. Mix that with percolated church blend, and you have yourself a memory. McD's coffee tastes like an iced version of the coffee of my youth. Of course, it would take 7 or 8 to actually add up to the amount of caffeine I require now. 

I decided to try these new cinnamon melts they have now. They were fantastic but oozed of "not good for me."  

Well, I just found all of those things on The Daily Plate ... Ugh, I just wasted 1300 calories on breakfast. Looks like I'll be eating lettuce for the rest of the day. Why are there so many things that are not healthy? 

I just wrote all that about breakfast. I really wish I had something more important to say. Maybe next time. 


Overdue Baby Pics

I'm so sorry! It's been forever since I've posted pictures of Bella! I know some of you have probably surfed my way several times and been disappointed by my theological and philosophical rants, wondering how that little girl was growing up. I'm going to stop talking now, except to walk you through the last few months of pictures:

We have started practicing on oatmeal. Bella is usually Ok for a few bites, but then decides that a bottle is way faster, so why are you making me eat from this tiny spoon?

A valentine's visit from Granna and Papa (the Smith grandparents).

Booyah ... that's my daughter sitting playing piano by herself. Why did I just say "Booyah"? 1995 called, they want their slang term back.

We took a short walk to the park last week for some Spring pictures. Bella was going for the "thoughtful, serious" look in this one.

Having fun with Mommy.

"Daddy! Did you see those ducks?!?" ... That's what she would say if she could.

She took some silly pictures with Daddy.

This is usually what happens after a few spoonfuls.

We're sitting up now! She can sit up by herself for a few minutes, and is trying very hard to start crawling. 

These next few were taken just today while she was playing. She was smiling at me alot, so I grabbed the camera and got these framable gems.


March 1, 2009

I was thinking of getting into sports, like a real man. I might join this club. They have a president and everything.



This is really great.



I had a thought today. Of course, I can't remember what it was now...... 

Oh yes, let's see where this goes: 

How often do you say, "I can't wait until..."? I think that way too often. It always seems like the next chapter of life will be so much clearer and better. When I was in high school, I couldn't wait until college. In college I couldn't wait to be out of college. Then I couldn't wait to date someone, then I couldn't wait to be engaged, to be married. Once I was married, my next "can't wait" happened before I could really wish for it. I could have waited a little longer for a kid :-). But this is what we've been given. Now I can't wait for her to crawl or talk, then it'll be walking, school, bikes, .... I always think the next step will bring less stress, less confusion, more opportunity. I guess every chapter in life has to have its conflict, right? 

I know the churchy answers, that we're supposed to find contentment now, that tomorrow isn't promised, etc. But how? How do I make life work NOW when I think next year will be easier? I know full well that next year will be even harder, and I'll think "next year" will be easier. But something keeps me positive thinking that things will "smooth out" or we'll find some kind of "groove" to settle in. 

I'm not sure I'm making a lot of sense right now, and I definitely know I'm not concluding with any sure answer here. Actually, I'm not even quite sure of what my question is. Things really are great right now; I don't want to miss that by wishing it was later, because the concept of "later" is going to get smaller and smaller, and I'll start wishing it was "then." 


Does "outreach" mean getting people in the doors of the church, or in the gate of heaven? ... Discuss.


That Was Moving Day

I give you "That Was Moving Day."

I would LOVE to sit and make all sorts of excuses about how I didn't take enough pictures, how they are edited poorly, how I forgot my camera was set to "manual focus" instead of "auto focus," so most of them are blurry ... but I'm not going to do that. Here's my very first attempt at anything resembling stop motion video. More importantly, here's what our moving day looked like:


Entertain Me. now.

Sometimes I read blogs and it seems like the writers do absolutely nothing but sit on their computers trying to find interesting things to share. It's a strange culture, this internet. I don't really do that too often, but today I found two videos that I thought were kinda funny. The first is a home-made commercial for the store Trader Joe's. I don't think I've ever been to Trader Joe's, but that doesn't prevent me from finding this really funny and well-written. 

The next is a video of a girl doing voice-over captions to pictures of kittens. most of them are what you'd expect from a 6 year old, but a few are super funny. I laughed.

Today, I also learned that Mr. Rogers (of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood) was a huge supporter of making VCR's legal in the U.S., so that people could be more active in the control of their lives. He found it important that people could program their own lives and schedules, and not be programmed by others. I can't help but think of how this has evolved to DVR's and TiVO and U-Verse and all of these technologies. I LOVE that I rarely watch any of my favorite shows when they actually come on. It's so much healthier, and lets the technology serve ME instead of me serving the technology. Mmkay, that's all I have today.


iMa Nerd.

You are among my favorite people if you understand this joke....

C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "sorry, but we don't serve minors." So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes in and heads for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me. I'll just be a second." Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor.  Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, "Get out! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight." E-Flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, "you're looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development. " Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural. Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.


The Return

Hi Reader(s),

If there's one thing you haven't seen in the last few weeks, it's an update from me. So, buckle up. You're about to hear new things, see new pictures, and experience feelings unexplained ... or you will just read me ramble about my life and leave wondering why you wasted your time. 

In order for me to have one of those blogs that everyone keeps returning to, I need to do two things. A) I need to update more often. Sorry about that. B) I need to include links to interesting, thought-provoking sites that influence your life. And C), I need pictures of my cute daughter:

Ok, let's talk about thought-provocation. I really like Larknews.com. I would love to just leave you with that link and let you visit the site and wonder if all of the stories are true. That would entertain me. But, I'll let you in on a secret: the stories are fabricated. But they're pretty funny. 

Here's another picture of my cute daughter:

 We're about to move into a house! Our lease was up in November at the apartment, which is slowly shrinking with a growing baby and her paraphernalia. We've been doing month to month rent since then, with the intention of either buying, or renting for a year before we buy. In December we put in our 2 month notice, and must be out by Feb 15. Financially, we aren't ready to buy yet, and renting for a year is looking a little disappointing. A family in our church found out about our situation, and offered to let us stay in their house while they are living in Russia for the next year. We can stay as long as we need, or as short as we'd like. They are returning for a 3-4 week trip at the end of July, so our goal is to be in our own place by the time they come back. The best part is that we will only have to pay for utilities. So, this should be a great chance for us to save and really make some good decisions about buying a home this summer. 

Hey! Here's Bella:

The worship leading job is going alright. It's not without its share of frustrations, but I'm learning alot. If nothing else, I'm learning about who I am and what I really want out of life and career. 

Way back in, oh, September maybe, I re-read part of a book I started back in college. I don't think I was quite ready for it then, but the part I read in September, I believe, is for me now. It spoke of missions, and going into other cultures. Basically, the most effective missionaries are not those who go in and try to change the culture of the people they are reaching. The most effective missionaries are those that enter a culture, and help to redeem that culture to Christ. 

For example, imagine if someone went to an African tribe and said, "You can't play your tribal drums or do your tribal dances. The drums have been used to summon evil spirits, so they are evil; your dances use your bodies in inappropriate ways, so they are evil, too. You must, basically, be western in your culture, because that's what I know, and so that's what is best." 

All that does is strip the people of their identity, force them into western thought and practice, and turn them off to the gospel message. Mission failed. 

How much more effective would a missionary be if they were to go into a country and help the natives to use their culture to worship God? What if, now, when they played the drums, they were summoning the Holy Spirit? What if their dances were now used to show the tribe the change that God is doing in their lives, and express their gratitude for how He is changing them? 
I think our own "Christian Culture" is so focused on changing the world, we forget that God is doing work to redeem the world! That's why our contemporary music used to be forbidden in churches. Why is it Ok now? It's because the Church has slowly allowed God to redeem music, rather than try to change the culture. 

Why am I saying all that? Well, first, just in case you hadn't thought of that before. I had to get out and take a walk after I read those things for the first time, to let it all soak in. It's HUGE. What would happen if we stopped trying to change people and start letting God redeem people? 

Secondly, I think that's where my purpose in leading worship at this specific location is found. I'm in an unusual situation where we are moving from more contemporary to more traditional. I had no intentions of doing a traditional worship service when I came on board, but I don't have any say in the situation. I feel that God has me here, though, to help to redeem the traditional elements. I feel like I'm supposed to help teach true, spiritual, worship through traditional songs--to redeem a culture. 

Wanna see my cute daughter, Bella?

Welp, I wrote more than I thought. I don't want to bore you. That's rule number 4 about blogging. Don't bore your reader. If you've got a little time and want to see what I've been doing instead of blogging, look here. And if you are interested in seeing an article with a super cool picture at the top, look no further than here. If you want to hear something I've recorded on lately, check out this album: Patrick Alan Brown - Where You Can Just Be You I played strings on "Shoes Untied." 

Since I haven't really blogged since then, Merry Christmas from my family: