Mona Lisa and the Art of the Important Walkers.

If you head out to any school gym, on any given night, and sit up in the bleachers you’ll see them. They’re trying to make it to their friends, their seats, or just out from the obvious attention they’re getting by walking in front of ‘literally everyone’. They move in increasingly rapid strides as they near the center of the action, desperately trying to move out of the way quickly, but not too quickly, because that’ll draw too much attention.

They’re important walkers.

It’s a phenomenon we’ve all seen, but can easily be overlooked. The other day I was at a basketball game and I noticed them again. They moved in a closely huddled group back from the snack bar to the comfort of their seats, which were near-their-parents, but not too near. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well, kids cutting across the gym floor, or the stands at a football game, the stage at rehearsal, no place is exempt.

As we grow older its easy to forget this phenomenon. Being equally thrilled and mortified at the rush of trying to get to your friends, or your seat as quickly as possible. With age comes perspective, and a desire to camp out, and to skip the snack bar. But to those kids mid jaunt- there’s something significant going on. Wether it’s getting out of the center of attention (there’s a great basketball game going on that everyone is here to watch but, oh no!everyoneisstaringatmeibettergettomyseatquickthisissoembarassingwhatkindofweirdotakesthslongtowalkinfrontofmypeoplewasthatmycrushlookingatmeibettersitdownlikerightnowgoodimherefinally) or simply being excited to see someone, the important walk serves as a clear reminder that perspective changes with age, maturity and perspective. For example, those important walkers hustling across the court today may be the important walkers in a few years taking a carefully calculated stroll to make sure that certain someone knows they are cool enough to walk to the snack bar with their own money.

Meanwhile over at the Louvre in Paris, thousands of people line up daily to see the Mona Lisa. If you haven’t seen the Mona Lisa, it’s a 30” x 17” painting of a lady who may or may not be smiling. Or, if you’re an art lover, It also happens to be considered a masterpiece painted by one of the greatest minds in history.

I’ve got friends who don’t ‘get’ the Mona Lisa. They know it exists, but they have no idea why it’s a big deal. They know it’s attached to an important part of history, and it’s image is used in a lot of places, but if you ask them to break down why it’s important, they struggle. On the other hand, you can sit down with many artists, or art aficionado’s and comb through volumes of thoughts how every slight gesture or change in hue secures the Mona Lisa’s status of masterpiece.

One of the things that I’ve learned from working with teens, is that there is an art form to understanding what is a big deal to others. We may see a teen crush that’ll blow over in a few weeks, but they may not be able to see anything but that crush. We may see the latest gadget that’ll be obsolete this time next year, but they see the item that consumes seemingly every conversation.

Recognizing what is a big deal in the life of others doesn’t stop at youth ministry though. Operating with perspective when dealing with others was one of the masterful strokes of Jesus’ ministry. If you’re the woman at the well, having a Rabbi acknowledge your presence with grace means the world. If you’re a leper who’s used to having others required to avoid you, being touched by a Rabbi is a life changing moment.

A few years ago my friend asked me why I like the Mona Lisa. She said she had tried to understand why that painting was such a big deal. I talked to her about composition, lighting, juxtaposition, the history of da Vinci and that mysterious look on the Mona Lisa’s face. We had a long discussion about art and she asked a ton of questions, letting me geek out on art along the way. The important thing is, she understood that it was a big deal to me. Even when she didn’t ‘get it’, there was never an attitude of dismissal, derogative language, or placating comfort. There was an authentic desire to understand something she knew others saw as important.

May we all seek Jesus’ perspective when it comes to recognizing what is a big deal in the lives of others. May we seek His grace when it comes to dealing with situations that are difficult for those who don’t have the life experience that comes with age. May we ask questions when we don’t understand, and listen well when someone struggles with an answer. And may we all chuckle a little bit and remember that we all have been an important walker at some point in time.

One love, one heart.

From the YM: Tips and Thoughts on Kids and Social Media

Lately I’ve had a few parents ask me for tips on helping their kids navigate the world of social media. I’ve talked with a few of the NVC teens about this as well to get their thoughts and here are a few tips/reminders that I’d like to share.

The question I get asked most often is, “When is my kid old enough to be allowed on social media?” My usual answer is every family needs to make that call on on their own, based on the individual child. Much like rated R movies, dating, driving, and curfew, how ready a kid is to navigate social media ultimately comes down to the parents belief in their maturity, and their willingness to walk alongside their kid as their world expands. The keys are an open and honest talk beforehand, clear expectations and guidelines, and a willingness for kids and parents to revisit the issue on a frequent basis.

There are a three areas I recommend talking about before allowing your child on social media:

Setup.

  • Parents should register social media accounts to a shared (or parent) email so notifications of changes in security are sent immediately.
  • Parents should have password access to the account for an agreed upon time. My recommendation would be until High School. Obviously, that timeframe should be based upon trust that has accrued.
  • Especially when it comes to younger kids, parents should be on every social media platform that their kids are, and connected to their account.

Safety.

  • All social media accounts should be set to private, meaning anyone that views the posts or profile have to request permission beforehand.
  • All friends requests/followers/subscribers should be approved by parents for an agreed upon amount of time.
  • Turn off all location settings for posts until an agreed upon time. Almost every social media app has a setting allowing your location to be displayed. A quick internet search can help you turn that off.
  • Report all bullying immediately to the social media outlet.

Posting guidelines.

  • For the first several weeks/months kids should get verbal approval from parents before posting anything to social media. This allows kids and parents to establish a mutual understanding of what the family does/does not want public. It also allows parents to speak to the kids about potential dangers of social media in a non-threatening way.

A few other ideas to consider:

Social media is well past mainstream acceptance, and is a viable means of communication, but like any other means of communication there are social cues to be learned. Talk with your kids about what they see on their feed, and how they feel, or want to respond.

One of the dangers of social media is the temptation to use it as a means of self-worth. Unless you are getting paid for posting (a growing, viable demographic we’ll talk about at another time) how many likes, followers, reposts etc… does not determine your self worth.

Like I mentioned before, social media is an increasingly valid form of communication. Encourage your kids to think about what they want to communicate. Do they want to share extraordinary events? Daily life? Encouragement? Connecting with others? Creating an intentional plan for how to use social media encourages your kids to use social media to be a blessing to others. For example, instead of posting selfies, maybe there is a friend they can build up instead.

Respond to what your kids post in person. If your kid posts a great picture of the sunset, let them know you enjoy their photography, or the way they see the world. If they post a picture of their group of friends, compliment them on their decision making, and ask how one of the friends is doing. If you’re struggling with a conversation topic, your kids social media account may provide a great lightning rod for conversation, and insight into their personality.

I’d love to hear your tips and advice for helping kids navigate social media as well. Feel free to share in the comments below.

One love, One heart.

Maximalism and the art of the New Year’s Resolution.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about new year’s resolutions. While the beginning of the calendar year seems like a great excuse to embark on something new, or create a new discipline to follow, I’ve often fallen into the trap of feeling burdened by new resolutions. Looking back on previous years’ resolutions, especially the ones that were not fulfilled, it seems like one of the common threads was this idea that I had to add something to my life.

Back in the 1970’s a new style of art was birthed out of a response to the minimalism movement. Maximalism artists started to operate under the axiom of ‘more is more’, trying to jam pack every square inch of canvas, fabric, space with as much visual eye candy as possible. Simple gave way to complex for the sake of complexity. Layers begat layers, and soon a whole movement was born trying to fill up space with as much design as possible. This movement wan’t about filling space with patterns, but micro images that created a macro work that visually overwhelmed the eye.

I feel like many of the new years resolutions I’ve declared in past years have focused on adding something to my life, wether it’s working out, daily study, or spending more time (fill in the blank). This year I decided to mix things up and approach this opportunity of seasonal based change from a different perspective and remove things from life. I don’t have a set list of things to remove, but am focusing more on the principle of ‘does this need to be here’ when it comes to my time, thoughts, and usage of energy.

My inspiration for this approach comes from a Bible study I started a while back, comparing the numerous laws of the Old Testament to the teaching of Jesus. While many of the ancient laws work congruously within the framework of Christ’s teachings, I find that the words of Jesus tend to simplify the intent of the law into a much more meaningful way of life. Instead of focusing on the minutia of the law, focusing on a way of life seems to affect change from within.

So this year in an attempt not to be overwhelmed by laws and systems that govern my time and energy, and tend to create frustration when measured against the calendar, I’m looking to remove the unnecessary things that add complexity to my life. Discarding new goals in exchange for classic principles, finding comfort in the minimal, and avoiding the maximal.

One love, one heart.

The Best of 2015 (Non-Wedding Edition)

Hola blogworld. It’s that time to look back and reflect on the year that was, and pick out some highlights, and best-ofs. Obviously, the clear highlight of 2015 goes to our wedding back in May, and all things wedding related. But, there were a few other favorite things/moments/highlights that made 2015 great, so here we go:

Favorite Albums I Picked Up:

Prawn – Kingfisher

American Football – Self Titled

Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi

Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth

H2O – Use Your Voice

 

Favorite Books:

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

Bringing Heaven To Earth – Jonathan Storment

American Sniper – Chris Kyle

Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels

Paddle Your Own Canoe – Nick Offerman

 

Favorite Photos (of mine):

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Favorite Movies:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mad Max: Fury Road

American Sniper

Creed

The Martian

 

Other non-(our)wedding related things that were awesome in 2015:

Visited Detroit / Spoke at Illuminate Conference

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Directed SoCal Teen Camp

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Foo Fighters / Death Cab For Cutie weekend

Performed two weddings

Mi Hermana won Wheel of Fortune

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Recorded a couple of 7” singles at Third Man Records

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Organized the argest Merry Christmas Madness ever

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Best of TV:

Parks and Recreation

Gotham

Vikings

Walking Dead

Mr Robot

 

Best Burrito:

Carne Asada

California

Breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Cheese)

Chile Relleno

Rice, Beans, Cheese, Enchilada Sauce

 

Favorite Places We Visited On Our Honeymoon

Blue Lagoon – Iceland

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Skogfoss – Iceland

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Yankee Stadium – NYC

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Lion King – NYC

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U2 Concert – The Inglewood Forum

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Things that need to stay in 2015:

‘Bae’

’Squadgoals’

‘Fleek’

Man Buns

“Hacks’ when referring to anything not involving computer programming.

 

Instagram Accounts to Follow:

Sarah Attar

NASA Station Commander Scott Kelly

Daily Overview

Alex Kuznetsov

Chris Burkard

 

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back soon. One love, one heart.

The Reception.

The older I get the more I believe that heaven is not just some far off place, but also a state where things are as God intended them to be. We see glimpses of this state here on this imperfect earth, and we use the term ‘blessed’ to try and express how we feel when heaven invades our lives.

Two months have passed since Stacy and I got married. To say that married life is a blessing is an understatement, while I wouldn’t use perfection to describe our marriage so far, I would definitely use the term blessed to describe how we feel. I’m sure there’ll be more to come on the joys of marriage (since I’m obviously qualified as an expert now), but for now I want to talk about a few of the things I learned from our wedding reception.

The amount of joy in our lives is in direct correlation with our willingness to follow God’s plan.

Everyone warned us that wedding planning is stressful, and everyone was right. Despite all of the stress and chaos that comes from planning, having an underlying commitment to God as a foundation to all of those plans gave us the ability to find joy in the midst of the chaos. And so, in the midst of even the most chaotic of days, we found ourselves laughing, and enjoying the moment.

Waiting for each other is worth it.

This works on several levels. Without going into too much detail, one of the main reasons we could celebrate with our friends like we did, was because of our willingness to work according to God’s timing. That’s not always easy, and I don’t want to sound harsh to those that aren’t able, but offer up encouragement to those who are trying to follow the same path. Wait for the right person. Marry the right person. Trust God’s plan along the way, no matter how difficult. It’s worth it.

There is no party like a party that is rooted in God.

I’ve been to a lot of weddings. The weddings that are the most fun are the ones where people can completely let loose, because God’s presence is obvious. The drama subsides, the selfishness has no foothold, and things are right in the world. This is where we dance. This is where we throw our hands up in the air. This is where we can’t help but smile. This is where we celebrate with all of our soul, spirit and body. This is our glimpse of heaven.

I thank God every day for Stacy, and am thankful for the way her life has brought me closer to God. And I’m grateful that so many of our friends and family are able to celebrate our lives together. And I’m thankful for a great wedding reception, where it was so easy to see heaven crashing into earth.

One love, one heart.