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Solutions and Problems

The fact that someone, somewhere has a solution doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a problem.  It may simply mean that someone, somewhere needs to sell you a solution so that he or she can feed his or her family.

They’re not bad people.  They’re just salesmen.  Selling us is their job.

Common Core is a fantastic solution.  Really.  It’s nice and shiny and elaborate and from the future!  But embracing a solution without understanding the problem is a formula for confusion and multiplying problems.

And the fact is, it’s a lot easier to throw a solution into the soup than it is to stop, analyze, debate, and come to a consensus as to what exactly the problem is.


Our National Anthem

It’s ours.  It belongs to all of us.  It’s our heritage, our birthright, our privilege to sing and our privilege to feel all warm and fuzzy when we do.

It’s not yours.  It’s not mine.  It’s ours.  If you are chosen to sing the national anthem before a crowd anywhere, keep in mind that you have only been given a microphone.

You have not been given the national anthem.  That is still ours.

The only reason you have a microphone in your hand is because someone, somehow thought that it would be nice to follow your leadership in singing the song.  Your job is to sing it in such a way that the people in the crowd can sing with you.

We already presume that you’re a good singer by virtue of the fact that you’re holding the microphone.  You don’t have to prove it.  In fact, the harder you work to prove it, the more I suspect that something’s amiss.

The question is, are you a good leader?  Can you sing a song in such a way that makes me want to sing with you?

Performance is one thing.  Leading people to sing a song is another thing altogether.

We Disagree

I disagree with you.  Is that ok?

I like you, I respect you.  I enjoy your company and I enjoy laughing with you when something funny happens.

I neither fear you nor do I hate you.

We just disagree.


I don’t know why we disagree, and I don’t need you to agree with me.

But I don’t like it when you say that we disagree because I’m bad.  Or motivated by hate.  Or fear.

It may just be that I think my position has more merit than yours.

Someday we will probably agree.  Both of us will change our minds and grow.

But while we disagree, I will respect you.  I will like you.  I will be your neighbor, colleague, and friend.

If you will let me.

A Day Without Volunteers

Great video from Warsaw Community Church: A Day Without Volunteers

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The Gorilla Parable

Yesterday in a breakout session titled “Music Learning = Life Learning” Tim Lautzenheiser told this great story about our learned aversion to change:

A scientist did an experiment involving 5 gorillas in a cage.  The cage had a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling and a ladder sitting right under the bananas so the gorillas could get them.  Simple enough, but here’s the catch:  every time one of the gorillas approached the ladder, the scientist would spray all of the gorillas with cold water.

Gorillas hate being wet, and cold water is particularly uncomfortable for them.  So it didn’t take long before no gorilla would approach the ladder under any circumstance for fear of being sprayed.

Once the gorillas had given up on the bananas, the scientist exchanged one of the “trained” gorillas with one who had never been sprayed.  Predictably, when the new gorilla approached the ladder to get the bananas he was attacked by the other 4.  No water was used this time, but it didn’t take long for the newbie to learn that approaching the ladder would result in a beating.

The scientist then replaced another “trained” gorilla with another newbie, who took a similiar pounding when he approached the ladder.  The kicker this time was this:  the first newbie happily took part in the beating of the second newbie, even though he personally had never been sprayed with water.

The scientist continued to replace “trained” gorillas with newbies until the cage contained none of the original 5.  None of the current gorillas had ever been sprayed with water, and none of them ever approached the ladder for the bananas.  

And none of them knew why.

On Conferences and Jubilees

I’m in Nashville for the rest of the week, attending the Tennessee Music Educator’s Association annual conference in conjunction with the All-State band and chorus clinics.  Ostensibly I’m “chaperoning” 3 of my kids who made All-State choir this year, but that’s akin to holding my yard accountable for growing grass.  They get a cursory check-in from me just so I can confirm they’re still alive and the lawn’s not on fire.

Last year this conference saved my sanity–I was in the throes of my first semester teaching high school chorus and not certain I’d survive the experience.  Getting away from the choir room and hanging out with fellow chorus teachers (many of whom were my classmates at UT back in the day) was so helpful and so refreshing.  It refilled my hope-bucket!

It reminds me of many, many Arts Conferences at Willow Creek that kept me in the game during my worship pastor days, so much so that I have to wonder if the main value of these conferences isn’t the content so much as the environment.  Being away from what’s “normal,” whether it’s schedule- or duty-wise or simply being in a different city, may be all it takes to reset the system back to hopeful joy in the “normal” flow of life.  

It’s a sabbath, a jubilee for people who don’t normally do sabbaths or jubilees.

I miss my normal, but am still so glad to be here.  Let some other people do the teaching for two days.  Let someone else lead the worship at Powell Church on Sunday.

I will simply rest and receive.

Until Monday….

Interesting milestone for Vaguely Familiar

It’s been one of those irritating little stats that I haven’t been able to do anything about:  for as long as I’ve been keeping stats on this blog, the most popular entry is the one titled “How to Insult People.”   And it wasn’t even good.  Seth Godin had written something about how stupid Dunkin Donuts is (apparently a recurring theme for him), and I picked up the story and did a little blurb on top of his.  Nothing profound or even funny, and it shouldn’t really have done anything or gone anywhere.  Geez, it wasn’t even my idea!

Enter google.

It turned out that the trackback to Seth’s page generated enough traffic for this particular post to start scoring pretty high on google searches about “how to insult people,” and that phrase is unfourtunately searched a lot.  So this blog which I intended to be about church and leadership and incarnation and other profound things has as it’s number one post a knockoff dud with a catchy title.

Until yesterday.

The news:  yesterday the “How to Insult People” post had to bow to the new number 1:  The Smartboard.  Still not exactly what I want to be remembered for, but if the comments are any indication of value, it’s been one of the more useful online things I’ve ever done.  

Long live the king.

Tweet, tweet….

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