What’s Your Problem?

When people ask me what I do, I say “civil engineer”. The tyipical response is “What does someone who is a civil engineer do?” Well, I make sure water goes uphill, poop goes downhill, and rain goes somewhere. The conversation usually ends here…

I’m thinking of changing my approach by saying engineers solve problems thus civil engineers solve problems for the community….

When you think about it, aren’t we all problem solvers? The teacher solves the education problem and the preacher salvation. The policeman solves the crime problem while the doctor solves health. The politician – well he doesn’t count…

Matter of fact, our entire economy is based upon solving problems. Every transaction contains a problem and a solution. Need food, buy food. Need money, get job. Need companionship, find woman AND get second job…

Innovation stems from solving problems…

So, “What’s your problem?”

Or better yet, “What’s your solution?”

Videos of the Week

Remember college? All that free time and no way to spend it? Well, apparently the Clemson and Davidson baseball teams found a good use of their free time – by trying to one up each other in skits…

Rain Delay – Part 1

Rain Delay – Part 2

Rain Delay – Golf

Rain Delay – Cage Match

While I think Davidson won the skit battle, Clemson came out on top of the game that went in the record books (19-0)…

Music Tuesday

I was thinking about the state of “Christian” music and how in many ways it cannot compare to mainstream music. But am I really giving it a fair shake? I’m trying to hold Christian music to the standards of some of the greatest bands of all time – like the Beatles, Stones, or U2…

Shouldn’t we also be holding today’s mainstream music to the same standards? Is anyone currently making music that could compete with the all time greats? Do we have any future Hall of Famers in our midst? Which of today’s artists will stand the test of time and which will be the focus of a future VH1 documentary?

While Christian music isn’t great, it is increasingly getting better. On the other hand, mainstream music may be going the opposite direction.

As the audiences of Christian music evolve, meaning less inward focus, the music will get better and more creative. As I mentioned yesterday, there are many artists with Christian influences putting out great music. And they are opening the doors for the next generation…

Wouldn’t it be ironic – speaking of VH1 documentaries – if music made and influenced by Christianity eventually supersedes that of mainstream?

What then would I write about?

Music Monday

Can Christian music compare with mainstream music?

To really answer that question, we need to define Christian music and how it gets labeled as such…

What makes Christian music “Christian”? Is it the lyrics themselves or the artists portraying them – see Christmas music on a Christian based station. Some of it contains no semblance of Christianity, but because popular “Christian” artists sing them, it gets a ton of play. On the other hand, take U2 or Bob Dylan. Their lyrics contain many overtures of Christianity, forgiveness, sin, and longing – as do their lifestyles – but they never get played because they don’t fit the mold…

There must be some test, because Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Daughtry, and a few others have crossed that divide with play on Christian stations…

For quite a while, Christian musicians have been their own worst enemy. Occasionally someone like Rich Mullins will come around, but most of Christian music’s wrath is self-imposed…

Especially with artists producing cheesy songs & videos – see Carman

And others essentially singing covers of other artists under the guise of “worship albums” – see Philips, Craig, & Dean

It seems that either the artists are so focused on being lyrically correct that they were not free to make good music or they were never exposed to good music in the first place…

I’m not saying the music has been bad, it’s just not to the same standards as other music. Here’s an example – some of the best “Christian” music was recorded by non-Christian artists – Elvis Pressley, Van Morrison, Charlie Daniels, U2, Lifehouse, etc…

The good news is the music industry is changing across the board. The way music is being made, marketed, distributed, and listened to is in flux. The idea of genres appears to be going out the window, and I think this is a good thing. This is allowing artists with Christian influences to pursue music in a true way – and the music is infinitely times better…

Here are a few examples of artists or bands that have strong Christian influences and are making great music – and ultimately reaching more people with the Gospel than those solely focused on “Christian” music…

Sufjan Stevens
The Avett Brothers
The Civil Wars
Mumford & Sons
The Decemberists
Need to breathe
Arcade Fire
Rocket Summer

Them’s Good People

Much has been made of our situation – of us taking in two young children in a foster-type setup.  The much of others has encouraged us, provided for us, and reminded us of our purpose…

We are trying to nurture and love and lead two kids that have dealt with and are dealing with more than they should. We are trying to explain to our two girls the meaning of sacrifice and sharing and patience…

There are days when I think this could literally be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are days when I long for the perceived simpler times of just two kids…

But then as I begin to tell people our story, I stop and listen, and hear their stories. I realize that our sacrifice is not all that unique. I realize there are a lot of good people out there – people giving of their time and resources so that someone else gets a chance…

I think about friends of ours who spent 2-3 years of their adult lives living and serving at a boys’ home. They’ve shown numerous boys that there is hope and they can be anything they want to be…

I think about friends who’ve adopted not one or two or three or even four, but five kids…

I think about friends who gave up their retirement to help the poor and helpless in Belize, Jamaica, and Guatemala…

I think about the friend who spent 18 months in South America or the friends living in Moscow or the friends living in Belize…

I think about the new wife that had dreams of family and vacations and a regular life, but instead takes care of her husband as he battles sickness after sickness after sickness. Neither one asked for this, but they both wake up each day and fight with all they have…

I think about the friend who is trying to take the Gospel to what can be the most difficult place in the world – his hometown, so that his family and friends hears about Jesus…

These stories may not be book worthy, or even sermon illustration worthy, but they are examples of people putting the Gospel in action…

Next time you question whether or not God is real or alive, ask around your community. You’ll be surprised at the stories of people, normal everyday people, who are giving of themselves so someone else gets a chance…

Then smile and think – Them’s Good People…

Music Monday

What is the purpose of music? Why is it made and why do we listen to it? Why are our music choices so unique. I mean why don’t we all like the same kind of music?

These are questions I cannot answer other than to say that music is personal. Matter of fact, it may even be too personal…

I know I have always felt a connection with the song I’m listening to. It should either make me think, make me smile, or tell a story I can relate to. If it doesn’t do one of these things, then that song typically can’t hold my attention…

This is probably why I have never had much of a taste for R&B or rap and have a diminishing taste for country. Same could probably be said for hard rock or heavy metal. In general, these types of music don’t offer much return on the time investment…

With this thought in mind, I thought I would play a quick game of buy, sell, or hold.  We’ll treat these artists like stocks…

I only chose artists currently residing in my library…

Buy:

  • Shawn McDonald – solid music, solid lyrics, honest
  • Jimmy Needham – great music, great personal story
  • The Avett Brothers – unique music, great song stories, thought provoking

Sell:

  • Jimmy Buffett – the more I listen, the less I connect
  • Corey Smith – seems to be a disconnect from the artist to the songs, not keen on the live stuff
  • Entire library from early high school – was fun while it lasted, but doesn’t do anything for me anymore

Hold:

  • Zac Brown Band – sophomore album did not do much for me, but I love the music and am willing to give another shot
  • Derek Webb – I think he’s trying too hard to be a contrarian.  Original stuff was fantastic
  • Country music – it’s just such a mixed bag.  Some is great and some is terrible.  Even when I try to listen on the radio, I end up flipping stations every other song…

Quote of the Week (with ramblings)

I just started reading Decision Points by George W. Bush because I am fascinated by what goes in to making decisions. I love secrecy, intel, power, and knowledge and the president has these in full supply…

When I go to the White House, I don’t want the standard nickel tour. No, I want the behind the scenes look. I want to see if there really is a red phone. I want to see the true “Presidential Suite”. I want to see secret entrances and rooms. I want to see if there’s ESPN on any of the TV’s or Sports Illustrated in the bathroom…

Anyway – all that aside, I cam across this quote in the book as President Bush was talking about his childhood:

“When you know you have unconditional love, there is no point in rebellion and no need to fear failure.”

That is the ultimate goal of a parent. We shall establish a level of unconditional love so that our children are free to be themselves, pursue their heart, and smile along the way.

Unconditional love is not brought about by pure freedom or pure discipline. It is the desire to see your child be who they are, understand who they are not, and recognize the same in others…

My prayer for this season of life is that I will foster a sense of unconditional love in our children and those we are taking care of so that regardless of what happens in life, they know they will always have someone that has their back. Someone who is their biggest fan and most helpful critic. Someone with a shoulder to cry on or a foot to kick in gear.

Someone who they can be themselves with…