dogwood

Today is the release day for the new album by Dogwood & Holly. If you have been following my blog for a while, you have seen several videos of their performances.  This group consists of four students (and former students) from Liberty, including two of our young adults from Cornerstone, and their newest album is simply amazing.

I had the privilege of getting a digital copy last week, and I have been listening to this over and over on repeat. It reminds me of the new Nickel Creek album, with a touch of bluegrass, folk, philosophy, and fun. I know all the band members and I have seen them grow in their musicianship and their faith. I’m proud of them, and their second album really showcases their musicianship and their songwriting. The best way for you to get to know the band is for you to listen to one of their songs. This live clip was from a recent convocation service at Liberty.

Now, here’s the good part, you can download the album on iTunes and Amazon. Download it! You won’t be sorry. 

 

dogwood-holly-itunes

 

 

Seven Years

June 18, 2014 — 3 Comments

preachingIt is hard to believe how my life has changed over these past seven years. Today, seven years ago, I started full-time as pastor of Cornerstone. For the 12 years before that, I worked as a mechanical engineer crash testing airplane seats and designing weight lifting equipment. That seems like a distant memory now, and I can honestly say I’m doing what God has called me to do.

Over the past seven years, I have seen my children grow and mature in the Lord, with all three putting their faith and trust in Christ. I have seen our church grow and mature in the Lord, with many people serving in our community and around the world.  And I have seen myself grow and mature. When I started, I was a young 33 years old with my only experience in ministry as a part-time youth minister. Now, after seven years, I am finally starting to see myself as a pastor.

I have learned much about myself and about leadership. It has not been an easy journey. In fact, it has been much harder than I would have ever imagined. I serve an amazing church, and the congregation has been incredibly supportive and caring. But I have also experienced many critics along the way, and they have taught me the importance of having a tender heart and thick skin. I quickly realized that my natural leadership abilities were not enough. I had to learn to depend on God and I even went back to seminary to earn my Master’s Degree in Christian Leadership.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn is to give away ministry. I am naturally a doer, so Ephesians 4:11-12 has been a constant reminder for me to equip and empower others. I have learned that I can’t do everything, and that I need to learn a rhythm of life that can sustain me for a fruitful life of ministry. Before I was hired, the church changed our by-laws to ensure that I would receive a one-month sabbatical every three years.

With the pace of life over these past seven years, I have not taken advantage of that time to replenish and refresh my soul. So this August, after seven years, I will finally be taking a month-long sabbatical to work on my relationship to my God and my family. I am excited to slow down, and I am excited to spend extended time in study and prayer. I am making plans to work on getting back into shape, and I am also making plans to disconnect from all church work during the month. It is already exciting to see people step up, and I am thankful for the opportunity. My goal is to be able to be in ministry for the rest of my life, and the Biblical principle of sabbath and rest cannot be ignored. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next seven years!

On May 24th, four local churches came together for a night of worship. I wanted to share the video of this service here on the blog. It was a powerful night of worship and praise. I love seeing churches work together and break down denominational and geographical barriers.

I'm thrilled to let you know that our friends and partners, Lightstock.com, are giving away 10 free credits to everyone who signs up using, the link below. If you haven’t already heard about Lightstock, they’re the ones who are putting an end to cheesy Christian stock photography.

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If you check out most church bulletins and most church websites, you will find plenty of cheesy photos and clipart. Lightstock is a great resource for your church for cheesy-free photos and videos. I really like the quality on their site. They are one of my partners here on my blog and I wanted to share more about their site. Keep reading to find out how you can receive 10 free credits.

The following article is from Jonathan Bailey. Co-founder @Lightstock. Board member @Renovareusa. Follow him @jonathanrbailey

5 REASONS TO SAY ‘NO’ TO CHEESY PHOTOS

Have a design project around the corner? Let me share 5 quick reasons to say ‘NO’ to cheesy photos.

1. Say no to photos that are void of creativity.

The definition of creative is: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Unleashing the imagination to create something original is what I’m talking about. If you’re not engaging your imagination in a deep and meaningful way then don’t even bother.

2. Say no to photos that look touristy.

Composition is key. Composition means the art of putting things together. Think of yourself as a Culinary artist bringing unique ingredients together to serve up a delicious meal. Your ingredients include the subject, negative space, lighting, focal
length, etc. The quickest way to break the back of crummy-composition is to get on the ground with your camera and start start shooting. Unique vantage points always help eliminate the cheese.

3. Say no to photos that look like they were taken in the 80s.

Avoid hyper trends and fashions in your photography. Especially a really dated wardrobe from your subjects. And if you’re going to shoot something out of Biblical times, make sure the costuming actually matches the time period. You need heavy wools that are ragged and torn. Not just a white table cloth and a piece of twine. Pay attention to wardrobe.

4. Say no to photos that mix lighting.

Don’t mix! When it comes to photography there are two basic types of light: natural light (sunlight) and artificial light (flashes/studio lights). Make sure that if you’re inside you turn the lights off and take the shot next to some big windows. Or if you want artificial lights then black out the windows. This will give you a consistent look. And lastly and most important…

5. Say no to photos that show little thoughtfulness or care.

Simply put, they’re lazy. They don’t take into consideration the intelligence of the audience. Jony Ive, creative mastermind at Apple, described this principle when talking about the Apple products he designs. “We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects”, says Ive. “It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made.” Thoughtfulness and care take time and energy. When you sit down to shoot or design, think about your end-user. How does your creation add value to their life?

 

Free Stuff Alert: Here’s 10 Free Credits to Lightstock

I’m thrilled to let you know that our friends and partners, Lightstock.com, are giving away 10 free credits to everyone who signs up using, the link below. If you haven’t already heard about Lightstock, they’re the ones who are putting an end to cheesy Christian stock photography.

Click Here to Signup and Get the 10 Free Credits

If you use stock photos in your designs or blog posts then Lightstock is something you should definitely check out.

logo_wordlensWith the recent news that Google has acquired the parent company behind the app Word Lens, I finally decided to try it out. Especially now that the app is free on the app store for Android and iOS for a limited time!

Word Lens is a cool app that translates text in real time from one language to another. What makes it extremely useful is that it works without a data connection. So if you are traveling in a foreign country without cell service, you can still use the app to translate signs and menus. It’s perfect for mission trips! The best way to see how it works is by watching the video below.

I love that the app even keeps the fonts and colors the same as it translates the text. It really is amazing to use. I have this installed on my phone and I’m sure I will be annoying everyone next month on our mission trip to Nicaragua. You can search the app stores for Word Lens, or you can find the links on Quest Visual’s website.  The dictionaries must be downloaded from within the app, but currently they are free. Check it out and let me know what you think.

From their website – so pick it up for free while you can!

As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we’ve made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google.

Amazon-Smile

I recently started using Amazon Smile to support one of my favorite charities, Because We Care Ministries. I do a lot of shopping at Amazon since I have a Prime account with free 2-day shipping on most items. It’s an easy way to help support mission work in Nicaragua.  Here is how Amazon Describes it

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

When you go to smile.amazon.com and login with your Amazon account, you can choose from almost one million different charities. I chose Because We Care Ministries in Roanoke, Virginia, a great missions organization that we partner with to do mission work in Nicaragua.  They receive 0.5% of the purchase price from every eligible AmazonSmile purchase I make.  That may not sound like a lot, but if many people set it up, it can make a huge difference in the mission field.

After you set everything up, you do need to remember to shop at smile.amazon.com instead of the normal www.amazon.com. I installed a Google Chrome browser extension called SmileAlways that automatically redirects me to the smile page. Try it out! I love finding ways to support more mission work.

 

I have cut back on the number of posts here on the blog over the past year. It has been an intentional decision based on the time I have available after pastoring a church and spending time with my family. God has been teaching me about the importance and power of relationships in our lives. I think we are at an important crossroads in our culture today. We can hide behind our mobile devices and forget we have been blessed to truly live life to the fullest.

We must find a balance between virtual and real life. Let’s put down our devices and look up. Let’s make time to strengthen and build relationships. And let’s not forget that God has placed us here to live in community with others, encouraging each other as we worship and learn together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We just finished our latest sermon series called Foundations at Cornerstone. Our goal was to focus on basic foundational truths that every believer should know and understand. Sometimes, it’s good to just focus on the basics. I have been surprised throughout the series at the positive response from our mature believers. I think pastors tend to forget that many people struggle with doubt and confusion about what they believe.

We focused this series on questions that people have about their faith. 

  • Can I trust the Bible?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Why is the resurrection important? (Easter Message)
  • What is our responsibility?

I created the graphics for this series using simple stock graphics and iMovie. It was quick, but I hope it shows what you can do with simple tools and a limited budget. Here is the opening video for the series.

I love hearing stories of growth and life change, and God moved throughout this series.

  • One person shared how much our church has helped him overcome his addiction. His comment was that he has never experienced people who truly care about him
  • One person shared how they were fearful of messing up and losing their salvation. When they understood what it truly means to have faith in Christ, they were set free from worry and fear of messing up
  • Multiple people trusted Christ for salvation
  • Two people who had a previous conflict reconciled and asked forgiveness

Each week I hear stories like these. It never gets old seeing God work miracles in our church!

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