A New Year

Stability is not a given, and when we have it, it's usually not a blessing. That might sound crazy to you, but I've come to believe it firmly in the last year.

When I looked forward to 2014 a year ago, I was fairly certain that I knew what our year would look like. Turns out, I was a fool for being so certain. 2014 was, on the whole, a great year. But it wasn't stable, and it wasn't predictable.

Creatively, this past year was mixed. Personally, it was a year of dreams but not much action. I did not finish any of my major writing projects. My goal to blog more fell flat. I did launch a tech blog, but its following is not large—which is commiserate with the amount of writing I put into it.

But all was not lost. Story Team had an amazing year, and it's still getting better. I'm proud of the team and the work we've done. I love our writers and I' to lead them. The wins we've had as a team definitely overshadow my personal failures, but I still want 2015 to be different.

Professionally, 2014 seemed to hold a lot of promise, and there were a lot of accomplishments. I had an amazing team that I love working with. Last year I got to work with some of the smartest colleagues in my career so far. However, not all things work out as they should, but that's another story for another time.

Personally, 2014 was a good year. Our marriage is great, the best it's ever been. Other than professional and creative struggles outlined above, my life was pretty dang good this year. But there have been lots of internal changes: I'm more organized about my work and my responsibilities. I overturned how I do many, basic, things. I've grown and matured spiritually. I'm also more unsatisfied with my creative failures. I grew unsatisfied with my professional goals. I reworked my priorities across my entire life. I intentionally refocused my vision and goals around the glory of God and a desire to see Christ exalted.

That's a lot of turnover, and it's not done yet. 2015 will be unstable. There will be ups and downs and surprises all along the way. But, I know it's good for me. I know that's what God will do to keep growing me.

We all need instability. We need change and uncertainty to force us to rethink our beliefs and actions. We need to be tested and tried. We need to learn to lean on God in our struggles, and not ourselves. None of this happens in a soft cushy life. We won't grow if we know what every day will bring, and if we know we can handle it. We need to be pushed. We need to be tempted.

We need to be unstable. Across the board stability is not a good thing for a believer. It's an obstacle to sanctification. I'm glad that obstacle was removed in 2014. I pray that 2015 will be just as unpredictable.


Perfect for writing

I don't know if it makes me shallow or not a real writer or something, but my writing often depends on being in a specific mood. Right now, it's 50-something degrees outside, and there's a light rain. The window is open, and I have a mug of hot tea in hand. On the screen in front of me is a project that I'm excited about.

This is the perfect setting for me. I love it.


‘Serial’

The 'This American Life' podcast might be the best showcase of storytelling on the internet, and it's definitely the best of public radio. I love their work and recommend the show to anyone interested in telling or consuming stories.

A few weeks ago, they upped their game. They launched a new podcast, 'Serial.' From the summary of the first episode:

It's Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he's innocent - though he can't exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.

The first three episodes have been released, and they are great. Truly great. Please subscribe, both for your benefit and in hopes that this projects success will lead to more efforts like it.


‘This is where I make my stand’

The thought of writing a novel has always scared me. It seems so big, so daunting. I can hardly imagine finishing the first draft, much less the multiple edits and rewrites a novel goes through before publication. It just seems like too much. Plays, short stories, screenplays and blog posts always seemed more manageable. Less ambitious, smaller chunks of work. Yeah, that's what I preferred.

But then I had a conversation with my friend Jared. I told him about the first time I took my wife to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I told home about how much I love that museum, and how I introduced her to the place, the art, and even the ideas that underpin the modern art world. He watched me relay the story with passion, as I often do with those things that I love, and he looked me dead in the eye and said, "That's your book."

I realized he was right. Then the next thing that came to mind was a string of curse words. We talked more about that day and the visit to the museum, and a structure started to take form. A young couple popped into my mind. They began to take shape. We talked about pieces of artwork that I loved, and those I hated. I relayed some of the conversations I could remember, and some new ones started to fill in the blanks.

I knew this was something I needed to write. So I started the next day.

I have a few chapters in the bag, and I am still figuring out the structure and the plan, but this is a book I will write.

I'm scared to post this. Hell, I'm scared to write this, because announcing it to the Internet is akin to planting a battle flag atop a hill and telling the world, 'This is where I make my stand'. That's some really scary stuff.

But, I've gone and done it. Now I guess I have to do the work.


Find rest in other mediums

Last week was one of those weeks we all have occasionally, where the schedule is full, your mind is engaged all week, and yet somehow you're not dead at the end of it. Through a long hard week, I came out of it encouraged and satisfied. It was good, and I think there is a lesson in it for all of us creative types.

This weekend Lindsey and I were able to spend plenty of time together, and spend it immersed in the arts. Thursday night drove down to the historic Greune Hall to see local songwriter David Ramierez open up for Patty Griffin. It was a great night. David is one of the best songwriters out there. Period. If you've never heard him, you really should give him a listen. Patty Griffin was amazing, but that's more Lindsey's jam than mine. But it was a beautiful night. The weather was great, the venue classic, and both performances were outstanding.

Saturday morning we had our quarterly training session for the Austin Stone Story Team, and it was just as filling as it always is. To spend time with our artists, to sit under teaching about the gospel and creativity, and to consider where God has called me to use my talents was such a good, good thing.

Then, Saturday night we went to the Austin Symphony and saw our good friend Joseph play. Joseph is a great violinist and a dear friend. The program was outstanding, with a great variety. With a beautiful contemporary piece, Mozart and Strauss, it was really fun. We finished the night with burgers at Hopdoddy's with Joseph, as has become our tradition.

Spending time with Lindsey and great music was exactly what I needed. After a week of writing and editing for work, technical work and discussions there, I needed to immerse myself in art, specifically a form that I don't deal with every day. Sure, I am always listening to music, especially when I work, but it's not the same as live music. Live music is something special.

So, next time you need to refill, go find a medium that speaks to you, and isn't your own. Go experience new art. Hang out with other creatives. Talk about the things that inspire you. Dream a bit.