Our family is currently enjoying a relaxing week of vacation at Hilton Head Island. Emily, Sammie, and I hit the road early Saturday and took a nice an easy drive to Knoxville, TN. Along the way, we stopped for a picnic and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. Saturday evening, we stayed in a lovely hotel and enjoyed the indoor pool and a meal at everyone’s favorite…the Cracker Barrel. Sunday morning, we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road. We stopped for another picnic in North Carolina (around Asheville). We stopped again in Columbia, SC for some ice cream and then floored it the rest of the way to the condo.
Hilton Head has been absolutely wonderful. We have made daily trips to the beach (which is maybe two blocks from our condo) to play in the sand (Sammie put her fit in and said “I don’t want to go in the ocean anymore”). Emily and I have taken long walks each morning along the beach (it’s been nice being able to leave Sammie with my family so we can hit the beach alone. it’s almost like we’re one of those wealthy families who take their nannies on vacation!). Around 8am, we have spotted a good number of dolphins fairly close to the shoreline. And, when we arrived, my dad told me to look in the fridge. He said, “Since you always complain that I never have any thing you like in my fridge, I bought you something at the store!” A nice six-pack from a local microbrewery!
Last night, we walked down to a nice little seafood joint. We consumed mass quantities of fresh fish and bottom-feeders while sitting outside. And, to make the deal even sweeter, my sister picked up the tab!
Today, we went to a stable and Papaw Bob and Mamaw Jan purchased some pony rides for Sammie. The pony ride went around a small animal farm (llamas, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits, etc). Sammie was loving it! As she got more and more comfortable, she began to only hold onto the saddle with one hand! She was thrilled. After the pony ride, we went to a playground near a “harbor”. I walked around and admired the large yachts! After spending time on our friends boat this summer, I truly understand the desire to be “boat people.” It’s peaceful, relaxing, and fun! So, I have a couple of boats picked out down here!
Right now, everyone is napping. I went for a bike ride around the island. It was beautiful. I saw a few alligators in small ponds along the bike trail.
Overall, this has been a very relaxing and peaceful vacation. We have been blessed in being able to come to Hilton Head. We needed some time away. I have a tendency to get fairly apathetic about Muncie and need to get away from time to time. It brings about a certain type of refreshing and regeneration that gives me the drive and energy I need to keep on keepin’ on! In other words, time away from Muncie, the church, etc., makes me a better person!
So, I hope to continue enjoying some much needed rest and time away. My cell phone is off (I check my voicemail once a day). I’m not responding to e-mails (I check it, but I figure it all can wait). I’m taking some time here and there to work on my sermon for Sunday (I did a lot of work before we left so I could just do some minor studying and tweaking after everyone else goes to bed).
Right now, I plan to shut down the computer, pour a nice pint of my favorite beverage, and try to decide if I’m going to have cannoli, tiramisu, or German chocolate brownies for dessert!
Pictures will be coming soon!
While I’m on “vacation”, I’ll be “working” on my message for March 29th. I have the basics together and just need to start putting it all together. We’ll be focusing on discovering who we are. The journey will begin by discovering what we believe about ourselves. We’ll explore questions that focus on how we define ourselves. Then, we’ll begin to discover how God defines us. When we discover who God says we are (or are supposed to be) it just might radically change our outlook on life and our daily priorities.
So, if you were asked the question, “who are you” how would you respond?
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. For those of you who know me well, you are fully aware that this is my favorite holiday. Of course, I prefer the secular-style celebrations that focus on great food (Irish stew, bangers and mash, etc) and wonderful beverages (a pint of Guinness). However, the true celebration is to honor St. Patrick (a former slave in Ireland, turned missionary in Ireland…taking the message of the Cross to the very people who had enslaved him…pretty incredible stuff). I do believe we can honor St. Patrick while enjoying our food and drink! So, today let us honor St. Patrick and celebrate with great joy with friends and family!
I thought it would be fitting to end this post with a prayer that has been credited to St. Patrick:
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.
Lately, I’ve been reminded of the importance of knowing one’s audience. When speaking, performing, or creating art, one needs to be aware and have a decent working knowledge of the target audience.
I have had a couple of moments recently where I have noticed that I wasn’t as in tune with my audience as I had thought. In both situations, I let out some sarcastic comments that helped make a point. However, rather than picking up on the sarcasm, some in the audience were offended…Not that offending one’s audience is an awful thing (sometimes we need to offend people in order to spur them on), but if that’s not one’s intended result it can cause some serious damage. I thought I knew my audience. So, I went out on a limb and, in the end, found myself realizing that I didn’t connect with the audience as well as I had hoped.
I remember visiting a church where the pastor was really trying to connect with his audience. He had obviously spent some time researching the culture of this target audience. But, he wasn’t living in the culture…he was an outsider looking in. When he tried to connect with the audience with pop culture references, he failed. He referred to Bono, which goes over well with a crowd of 20-somethings. But, he pronounced the name as you would Sonny Bono’s last name, and not the name of the lead singer of one of the world’s greatest bands. He then referred to Flea of the Red Hot Peppers. Sure, these are simple slips. But, I remember thinking the guy seemed rather goofy…trying to be someone he wasn’t. This was an audience looking for some honesty, some authenticity, and all they received was a guy trying to be someone he was not.
This transfers to the art and music worlds as well. You have to know your audience. Sure, it’s totally appropriate to bring people along, to challenge them. But, if you want to accomplish a greater goal of connecting with the audience, you have to know what they are looking for. As a painter, you probably wouldn’t do some nudes for James Dobson. Generally, the ultra-conservative Christian folks aren’t into nudity. As a musician, you have to know that the audience has come in great hopes that you will play their favorite songs. I remember seeing R.E.M. years ago when they basically refused to play anything pre-Green album (which leaves out some of their best work). I found myself longing to hear certain songs, only to leave disappointed.
Yesterday, I was at a gathering where a praise team was asked to lead a time of worship. It was kind of cheesy for my taste, but for what they were doing they did a decent job. But, I really felt like they had no clue who their audience was. They did a bunch of slow and medium paced tunes (about 25 minutes worth). The “fast” songs they performed, the ones meant to energize the crowd, were at least 20 bpm too slow. However, it wasn’t the tempo’s that made me realize they were out-of-touch with the audience. It was the song selection. In a gathering of United Methodists, one has to realize that the average age is probably going to be over 65. One has to realize that the average person is going to be a huge fan of hymns, especially those composed by Charles Wesley. So, it would have been appropriate to throw in at least one familiar hymn. Instead, what I witnessed was a room full of older adults awkwardly singing along with unfamiliar songs. A few verses of some Wesley tune (like “And Can It Be” or “O For A Thousand Tongues”) would have had the audience going crazy!
What I’ve truly been reminded of is that there has to be a healthy balance of challenging people, giving them what they want, and giving them what they need. As a pastor, this is a great challenge. In a typical congregation, one encounters people at various stages in their spiritual development…all desiring different things. Finding a healthy balance is extremely difficult. It’s really easy to set the bar way too high or way too low. There is a great art to meeting people where they are at and bringing them to where God desires us to be.