What? It’s Friday already?

Okay, so I have to admit to you that Friday caught me a little off guard, and there most certainly will not be 1,000 words for you to read today. But, in my defense, I work on the first Thursday of every month, something I forgot to take into account when I decided to post every Friday morning. And because I worked a hard 10 hours today, and drove a tiring three more, I’m tired. I don’t really have anything worthwhile to say because I don’t have the presence of mind to actually write it.

But I would still like for this post to be productive, so I ask a question (which will no doubt reflect the fact that I live in the middle of politics now). What role does government play in our lives? I ask that question because of this article. I’m sure it happens with a lot more than just this one drug, but I am still floored by the fact that millions of people are suffering from a disease that is not only preventable, but actually reversible. Okay, so it’s not an outbreak of bubonic plague, but the point still remains that millions of people are suffering from a perfectly cureable disease. All because some necktie behind a desk decided that the investors would be happier if we sold this drug for $2,000 a dose instead of $200. Or $20. Or whatever. I’m not even sure how this makes sense! Let’s do a little math:

Let’s assume there are 1 million people suffering from macular degeneration. The average American wage is in the low to mid 40,000s, but let’s call it 50k to make it easier. So most of these people can’t afford to spend $24,000 a year on this medication. They just can’t. But of those 1 million, the top 1%, or 1,000 people, can.

$24,000 x 1,000 = $24 million

Now, let’s say the necktie decideds to sell this medice for $200/month. Still $2400 a year, but much more affordable, especially to someone who values their eyesight. At this rate, let’s say now 1/3 of the suffering can pay.

$2400 x 333,000 = $799.2 million

Go to the extreme and propose this medicine costs a mere $80/month ($960/year), and all people suffering either pay or are covered via medicare. Now look at the math.

$960 x 1,000,000 = $960 million

Now, I realize that these numbers are gross profit and don’t reflect the cost of production, but can anyone tell me why 24 million is a better number than 800 million? Or 960 million? If anyone¬†has a good explanation,¬†help me understand why this math is wrong.

Which brings me to my point. What exactly is the purpose of government? I guess the most correct answer would be something about providing and caring for the people of its nation, or something to that extent. So where is our provider? Why hasn’t the government found a way to provide this treatment to the people who deserve it? I mean, at some point you have to stop and ask yourself what the government really does for its people. I’ve always been a supporter of the Iraq war, yet I have to admit there are a lot of better ways to spend the nearly $1 Trillion dollars we’ve spent funding it. It’s great to see the Iraqi people free from a terrible dictator, but while we’re spending millions of dollars to blow up empty buildings, then millions more to rebuild them later, we could be spending that money somewhere else. Say, maybe to support music programs which are being epidemically cut across the country. Or perhaps on nursing homes, or maybe towards medical research, or maybe towards finding familes for orphans, or helping the homeless find jobs and lives again.

I don’t like the fact that I’ve come off very unsupportive of the war, and also of the fact that I’ve just sounded amazingly democratic (I’m still very much not). And I realize that American welfare would never have benefited from that money, even if we hadn’t spent it on the war. But it’s a thought.

I told you it would be here Friday morning.

I told you it would be here Friday morning. I just didn’t specify which one. Okay, I’m gonna get the necessary out of the way quickly, because it’s not really what you want to read from me, but you will be happy to see it. A couple of not long agos, I came to the decision that I have some sort of talent for writing. Now, it is certainly not the amout I would like it to be–I still struggle to not idolize Rich Eisen or Rick Reilly every time I read their writing–but I have accepted the fact that it’s pretty darn good. Keith Drury once told me he thought I was good enough to be a published writer if I wanted to be. That’s a pretty big compliment from a guy who doesn’t make empty ones. Which brings me to one of my favorite parables, the parable of the talents.

Now, there is no question that when Jesus told this story in Aramaic, and as it was subsequently written down in Greek, there was not the double entendre that we read today in the English translation. Had Jesus told the story in English, it would have been the parable of the five dollars. But thanks to a coincidence which seems far from coincidental, we get a little bit extra. If you study the meaning of the parable, it’s quite obvious that Jesus was talking about a lot more than money, so there’s no problem with applying our gifts and abilities here. Which brings me to the point I’ve been meandering towards.

I’m going to begin writing on a regular basis. And because I feel pretty strongly about this being something God expects of me, I’ve written a set of rules to govern myself and judge my performance by. I won’t be instituting them all ot once, because I think all at once they would make me quit. So for starters, I’ll be posting a thousand word entry Every Friday morning (probably late Thursday night for the fellow night owls). In the future, I’ll be upping to two or even three articles a week, increasing word counts, and eventually adding some guidelines to the content and so on. But for now, it’s anything goes, as long as it makes the word limit. And, to help me get started, I just wrote a whole bunch explaining. Way to go me.

For now, I think it’s appropriate to talk about what exactly is going on in my life. A lot has changed in the past month or so, and certainly a lot has changed since the times when I was blogging about hating my job and searching for new ones. I now work at McLean Bible Church, a church of just over 10,000 in the DC Metro area. McLean Bible Church

McLean Bible Church

I perform a couple of distinct functions as a member of the tech staff at McLean. As far as production goes, I am one of the lighting designers on staff. My responsibilities include designing and running lighting for events in the Smith Center, our smaller auditorium. I’m training with Robby, who’s the #1 LD (lighting designer) in the Smith Center, and I also do some training with Brian, who has experience in Broadway and ballet, and from my understanding has more or less trained every person on lights for the past few years. During the week, I work on the maintenance/install team of technicians. There are countless things which must be done to maintain an operation of this magnitude, and the install team are responsible for getting those things done during the week–everything from equipment repairs to new electrical work to even some construction. We’re not responsible for maintaining the building itself, but we do a lot of work with the building in the name of system maintenance or upgrades.

You are probably wanting to know a little more about the church itself, and I shall oblige you. We have three Sunday morning services upstairs, all of which have a blended worship style and live preaching by Lon Solomon, our senior pastor (whom I’ve never met). There is also a similar Saturday night service. While these blended services happen, we run the Edge, which starts at 10:53 Sunday morning. At the Edge, the music is much more contemporary, like you might find in an IWU chapel. Drums, bass, electric guitars and so on. Likewise, the lighting is very contemporary. We have a handful of intelligent fixtures, do a lot of color and haze, things like that. It’s not rock concert (I’m not allowed to have any visible movement of the fixtures during worship), but it’s still very cool. We start at 10:53, 5 minutes after church starts upstairs, because the sermon is piped in via video. In fact, it’s one of the few places I know where music leaders can go as long as they want, but can’t be short, because we record the sermon upstairs and show it on a delay.

On top of regular church, there’s also Frontline, which is often referred to as ‘a church within a church.’ It’s specifically targeted at the early 20s to 30s young professional community in DC. If I have my numbers right, they run around 3500 between their two services on Sunday evening. Frontline is big, loud, and has lighting similar to the Edge downstairs. I must admit I’ve never stayed in the evening to go to Frontline, but it is a ministry to an age group mostly missing from churches, and once I move closer to church, I would very much like to get involved in the community that is Frontline.

For your visual connections, here are some more pictures. Sorry for the color being so terrible in them, but I was taking most of them in the dark with long exposures, so I was just happy they came out in focus and at least good enough to use. I should mention that in the Smith Center (second panorama) the auditorium looks nice and rectangular, but it’s not. It’s actually shaped like a baseball diamond. From where I’m standing on stage, the two sidewalls move out 90 degrees from each other. So think baseball diamond, with the stage being the infield, the seating being the outfield, and the back wall curved just like the homerun fence.

Main Auditorium

Smith Center

Oh yes, this is what the parking lot looks like:

Parking Structure!

2400 spaces on two levels, and it’s so overcrowded we have to run shuttles to offsite parking. And you wonder why the neighbors love us so much…

Something is coming… I won’t say what, but it may be here Friday morning.

What’s new, version 2.0

First of all, I wanted to thank those of you who commented on my last blog. I would say from the results I’ve got a pretty good feeling of where the website is headed from here.

No no, there’s two “t”s in cutting sarcasm.
I don’t care if it’s my own fault. I don’t want to hear it.

I’ll update you on my job search. I guess just for the heck of it. I went back to McLean on Saturday, knowing I was going to actual get some board time in. That excited me. What I wasn’t expecting was for that time to be running Front of House (sound) for the band while the normal FOH guy played bass with the band. As soon as they told me I was running sound, I knew right away that the next couple of hours would play a large role in how this job opportunity would shape up. Most likely it would solidify whether or not they were interested in hiring me, and it probably had a lot to do with how much I would end up getting paid, as well. So the nerves hit all at once when I realized this was big–but that didn’t last long. Instead of worrying about it, I just told myself to have fun. I had one of those Independence Day speeches. You know, the one where the President rallies the troops against staggering odds and the possible loss of life, and convinces the civilians to get in the planes and fight for independence. It went something like this:

“Okay, now you’ve got a choice to make. You can either be nervous the whole time and screw up, or you can do this with the confidence you’re good at what you do and that you can do a great job. I mean, you’ve done this hundreds of times before. So if nothing else, have fun. Even if you never speak to the church again after today, at least have fun getting to run sound in a new place and with really cool equipment. Hey, you should put that on the website when this is all done.”

I think things went pretty well. After the rehearsal, I talked with Dave, the Tech Director (he would be my boss) about what was next and where exactly we were in the process. I found out I need to have one more interview, with Don (Dave’s boss), and then after that it would be time for them to offer me a job or not. Needless to say, I’m excited. I think things have gone really well, and I think there’s a very good possibility I’ll be spending the next few years of my life working at McLean Bible Church. When I say next few years, I’m thinking probably 3-5, unless God has other plans. Then after that I think I’d like to go to seminary and get some more schooling under my belt. But that’s all a long way off and a lot can happen between now and then. It’s just my thinking right now.

Anyways, you should look for the weekly columns to start in probably a month or so. I think I might opt for a second website for them, that way I can still write randomly about my life on this one. We’ll keep it a big secret, so all the masses can go to the second website, which will have a wicked-sweet name, and then the special people will know to come here and keep it real.

What lies ahead

What lies ahead in my near future seems to be about all I think about these days. Obviously the biggie is what’s going on with McLean Bible Church, and what it will mean should I get a job there (or for that matter, what it will mean should I not get a job there). But that’s not the only issue I’ve been dealing with. Another is the future of joshmorton.com. About 10 months ago, I had finally started to build a following. There were people reading from all parts of the country, and I even had readers I had never met, who had never met me. Finally I was beginning to realize the vision I’d had when I bought my own domain some 5 years ago. Now I’m in a great battle, testing whether that domain or any domain so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

My future probably doesn't involve this place.

But seriously. It’s time for the website to head one of three ways. Number one is for it to remain exactly what it is, eating away $7/month to provide me email, host my backup files, and see the occasional random, meaningless post. TWO, it can be like every other blog out there, where I write about things people don’t really care about, and I consider myself web-savvy. Or THREE, it can actually become the home of my well-conceived, purposeful writing where ideas abound, creativity is unleashed, and I say lots of things that aren’t socially acceptable and make people I’ve never met very angry. I’d really like to opt for the third, which probably means a cleaner, more visitor-friendly look and absolutely means writing deadlines for my posts.

So here’s where you, the faithful few, come in. I want to know what you like to see me write about. What topics of mine most intrigue you, and which ones do you like to hear my opinions on? For now, my goal is to pick two topics and begin writing about each once a week, thus rendering joshmorton.com a bi-weekly, you-know-on-Tuesday-and-Friday-there-will-be-a-post website. I’m not going to limit what the options are, but i will give you a few of the things I’m considering right now:

One day will probably be related to my career or profession. Not so much the KOA Snack Shop, but the one I studied in college and intend to go into. As such, it could be strictly technical in nature. Maybe you’d like to hear me write my theories about proper gain staging, or why light fixture sockets sometimes corrode, or why a Big Gulp and a $500,000 sound board don’t belong together. As a less boring option, maybe you’d like to hear me talk about some Biblical principles and philosophies about technology and worship together. I must warn you that option sounds like I’d actually have to do some homework to write about. I’m not really sure what you want to read, but in the time it took to write this last paragraph I have already decided one of the days will definitely be this category. I do want this to be a resource site for people doing the things I’m doing.

The second day is pretty much wide open, though. I’m up for talking theology, baseball, mass transportation, the space program, Einstein’s theory of relativity, C.S. Lewis books, Arthur Miller plays, television, movie reviews, or even classic Nintendo games. More than likely the category will switch periodically (I know myself well enough to expect that). But at least your input will give me some direction.

I’ve been told that you can’t write for other people, you have to write for yourself. I think that’s partially true, but I’ve also never heard of a second book deal with a writer who only sold 7 copies of their first.

My website is broken.

I hope it’s just my computer, but I know it’s not. My website is broken. There should be a white background behind all of this text, and there’s not. Which probably means this is a lot harder to read than you want it to be. Just a helpful hint, if you hold CTRL and scroll down with your mouse wheel, the text will get bigger. That may help. Just don’t forget to put it back where it was, or everything will look funny. I have no idea why this all happened… I created a password-protected directory on my server (in a spot completely unrelated to this source code), and since then things have been screwy. Let me know if you figure it out, because it kind of defies logic.

Anyways, you’re probably all anxious to hear about my little trip down to McLean Bible Church today, so I’ll give you the short story and you can call me for the longer one. I spent a fair deal of time with the technical folks today (4pm-11pm), and got to jump right in with them, helping them with some audio setup. After that, I just kind of shadowed and gleaned as much as I could about what goes on at MBC. The answer is a lot. McLean is a church of about 11,000 I believe, and their production truly rivals any I’ve ever seen. The only church I can even draw comparisons with is Willow Creek, MBC is just that massive. What I saw tonight looked phenomenal, and I’m interested to go back Sunday and see their services in action.

So the position they’re filling is one of the many technical people they have on staff; and although we didn’t talk a whole lot about specifics, it sounds like I would just kind of be available to do whatever needs to be done in whichever venue needs the doing. Certainly I wouldn’t be stepping right into the big house and running things (Eric, whom I shadowed at the soundboard tonight, has been doing live audio & studio recording his entire professional life–not exactly territory for a college grad with a paltry two years of experience, even if they were a good 2 years). I think they also were specifically interested in someone who can do lighting effectively. Not just turning them on and off, but doing programming and design, all as part of a coordinated effort with the music and graphics teams. I had to admit that my experience in lighting has been less than first class (read: IWU was too cheap to spend the money on things my fellow techies and I needed for a real world education). However, I do know the basics, I have some experience, and I learn fast enough that I’m confident I can be an asset to MBC in lighting.

Tonight ended with an ‘interview’ over milkshakes in a diner, and to put it in Dave’s words, “we’re on to the second date.” I think I will know a lot more about what’s happening after Sunday. But what has become very evident to me is that I haven’t spent enough time seeking God’s will for my life. I feel like the exit to my future is rushing up on me and I don’t even know whether to take the highway north or south. I know McLean could be a great experience for me, but is it the right one? What about Harvester Christian Church in St. Louis, who just this afternoon sent me an email asking for my references (which means I’m still in consideration there!)?

I truly appreciate all of your prayers over today’s interview, but I need them even more that I will be able to discern God’s will and calling on my life. So as you keep praying for me, pray for that. More updates as they become available!

Life, updated.

I’ve heard there are a few of you who are starting to believe I may actually keep writing, and are thus reading my website again. For you, I write this.

Tomorrow I’m driving down to the west side of the DC metro area. Not just for the fun of it, but because I’m going at the request of a church there who saw my resume and is interested in getting to know me better. Needless to say, I’m excited. I’ll be going down and meeting with them while they’re setting up for their weekend services, so it will be a good chance for me to see exactly what goes on behind the scenes, and see what exactly the church’s needs are. I’m confident that I will be a good match for the position, based on what I know about it so far. According to their website, the position deals mostly with staging setup & teardown, and lighting. One thing I’ve already decided is that I don’t want to get cornered into a strictly technical role within a church, so hopefully there is some involvement in the creative and planning processes, but quite frankly I’ll take anything where I can gain great experience and fulfill a calling while I’m at it. But what I want is truly immaterial–because all I really want is to follow God’s leading in my life. If this is his next step for me, then I want to be there, and if it’s not, then I will wait for his plans.

It’s a hard place for me to be, because I would very much like to feel like I am in control of my future. But I won’t be anyways, regardless of how much I feel like I am. None of my worrying is going to add a single second to my life. So I will make the daily choice to follow God’s will and put my own desires aside. Even if that means working in a snack shop for a little while longer.

Anyways, I’m going to bed. But I thought I’d clue you in on what’s happening in my life.

Oh by the way, I watched Crash tonight. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Incredible.

I’ve finally accepted the fact I’m not photogenic.

Okay, after seeing enough pictures of myself posted on Facebook, people’s blogs, milk carton backs or the bulletin boards in Walmart foyers, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am not photogenic. The dictionary.com definition of “photogenic” doesn’t help, either: “attractive as a subject for photography.” (I don’t like the use of the word “attractive” in there. I don’t care for the inferences all that much.) All you really have to do is flip through a few pictures you have with me in them, and you will very quickly come to the same conclusion. Every picture I’m in I just look retarded. If I’m in a group picture, everyone in the group is smiling except for me. Typically while everyone else is smiling, I’m looking like I hate the world, or like I’ve never seen a camera before and have no idea what’s about to happen, or like that one piece of furniture that always stays in the back room where you never invite your guests. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I see a camera pointed at me, smiling is about the last thing on my mind. I think I should have been Amish.

A great example.
But there’s a second definition of photogenic that has been on my mind a lot lately: “producing or emitting light.” The Holy Spirit has been reminding me quite often that I should be emitting light by the way I live. I’ve been in the secular environment before, whether it was back when I went to public school, or my job at Steak n’ Shake during high school, but I’ve never been completely submersed in the secular culture until I moved out to WV. Add to that the fact that my work schedule has kept me out of church for almost a month now, and I’m feeling very alone all of the sudden. Yes, I know that Nate, Maria, and Jocelyn are all working at the campground and all very devoted Christians. That’s not the point. The point is I’m not associated as being a Christian anymore like I have been my whole life. I grew up living my parents’ faith, or my church’s faith, or my school’s faith. Now I’m quickly realizing that it’s completely my own. My coworkers don’t look at me and see those organizations. They look at me and they see my actions.One of my all-time favorite quotes is from St. Francis of Assisi:

“Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

I had that quote pasted to the inside of my checkbook way back when I actually used the thing. It’s been years since I’ve seen it (hooray for debit cards), but I can still picture that piece of paper stuck in there, reminding me to live and love like Christ.

So, I’m charting new waters now. I absolutely despise my job, which in itself is new territory for me. I’ve always enjoyed all the previous jobs I’ve had, even if I got tired of them or fed up with them eventually. This is the first time I’ve truly loathed the job I’m working. But I don’t believe Jesus would go in to work every day and whine and complain, so I shouldn’t either. That’s the easy way out. My calling as a Christ-follower is to be thankful for the fact that I have a job, and that it’s really not the worst thing ever, and to still love the people I work with regardless of how I’m feeling. The big question I keep asking myself is, am I being a photogenic Christian? Am I emitting the light of Christ through my words and actions? Or am I looking like I do in the above picture?

Don’t worry, I’ve already apologized to myself for writing one of those quaint devotionals I just slammed a week ago.

Sending out the resume

Yesterday I renewed the job search in a big way. I’ve decided that I will without question be leaving Harpers Ferry in the near future. When exactly that point in time is, is yet to be determined, but it will happen. So, with renewed interest in leaving the Blue Ridge, I sent my resume all over the country. Literally, all over the country. Let me see if I can remember the entire list:

North LA, South Bay Area (San Fransisco), Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City, Fort Smith AR, Birmingham, Charleston SC, DC, New York City, Dayton, St. Louis, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

I’ve also renewed my search for grad schools/seminaries. Fuller is still very much at the top of the list, and of course Asbury will always be an option. But I’m not necessarily limiting myself to those schools, or even staying in the US. Granted, my grades aren’t spectacular enough for me to get into a place like Oxford, but I think it could be a great life experience to study overseas. So I’m looking into those options as well.

Yes, it does feel kind of dumb to move out to West Virginia for all of maybe a summer, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been out here. Managing a snack shop staffed by high school girls, working way outside the bubble, living in an area where there’s so little to do I can almost understand all the graffiti and theft by teenagers. Almost. But I’ve also learned how strong my calling really is. I’d like to believe there are a lot of jobs I could do and be happy doing them. But the honest truth is my heart won’t let me. There’s a huge temptation for me to go into aviation… which by the way, over 10,000 air traffic controllers will resign by the end of 2007, and the job security’s great, as long as you don’t ever screw up, ever. Just a thought. But I just don’t know that I can do that. I need to be working in the church. So now it’s a waiting game to see what God has in store for me. I know which of the positions I think would be the best fit for me, but I honestly have no idea what will happen. As if I need to say that. So pray for me, that I can discern God’s will for my life, and for the fifteen churches out there, that they will follow God’s will in their selection of candidates.

The next few weeks should be interesting.

Cooking Pasta

You shouldn’t overcook your pasta. It’s a common mistake that many people make. Often they cook it until all the water is gone, or until Wheel of Fortune is over, or whatever; but actually a well-cooked pasta takes a precise amount of time and a cook with the patience to watch carefully over the stove. See, pasta is best when it’s al dente, which means the pasta is not completely soft. It should still be firm, with a tiny amount of chewiness to it. According to the pastaologists that’s the ideal texture for consumption.

Sometimes I feel like God is cooking me too long. The logical part of my brain knows he in actuality is carefully tending to the stove, waiting for just the right moment, but the emotional side of me feels overcooked. Let me start with some background info. I started reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller today at work. I’m about three years behind everyone else, and I finally decided to see what all the hype was about. Right now I’m about half way through, and I can hardly put it down. It’s exactly what everyone says about it–it’s a fresh, different perspective that just makes you feel good about God and life. What I love so much about his writing is the way he finds God in the ordinary. It’s not a book on systematic theology. It’s not an exegetical study of a Pauline epistle. It’s just the way God has revealed himself in the things of life. Miller contemplates the ordinary and finds extraordinary glimpses of who God is and how he relates to us.

Typically people who do that well end up writing quaint devotionals, which get printed in books and make you go “hmm,” but never really do anything outside of that. So I’ve been thinking today about how the ordinary things of life can teach extraordinary lessons, and what exactly that extra is that makes the difference, and how it can become more than short devotions. I’ve always been deeply moved by God’s general revelation (nature, more or less), but I think up to this point I’ve been missing a lot of that. At the risk of sounding pantheistic, maybe God does reveal himself in the overcooked pasta. Not that he is that pasta, but I think there’s more to al dente than meets the eye. Call it new-age, transcendental, or whatever else. I call it taking time to ponder the smell of the roses. So over the next however long I feel like, I want to explore the extra in life. I’m not sure what I will find, where I will find it, or what I’ll learn from it; but I’m going to do it anyway. Maybe it will challenge you to do the same.

So I feel like overcooked pasta. That’s because right now things are hard. If you don’t believe me, check out Nate and Maria’s blog, specifically Maria’s June 23 entry. She gives a pretty good overview of how life at the KOA is. Now, work weighs a lot more heavily on them than it does on me, them being managers and all, but her entry will give you a feel for how spectacular working at the kampground really is. For me, it’s not the burden of managing a campground that’s got me down, it’s the burden of being in an unfulfilling job and not seeing the future. It’s waking up every day and being fatigued because I’m not being active like I was back at school; the lack of a best friend coming to the room at night and talking about whatever we needed to; it’s missing the random movie nights, card playing, and coffee drinking with my group of friends. I want the intellectual stimulation of the classroom. I want to strive for excellence with 80 other people in my choir. I want to manage the logistics of staging a thematic chapel tomorrow in the PAC. I want to work with Josh Cash again and have complete confidence and trust in my coworker that I can’t even dream of with my current ones (save Nate and Maria).

YES, I’m learning a lot about life. I’ve expanded beyond the IWU bubble that is so despised by those inside. It’s funny, because I’m feeling some of the pressures of life and being ‘overcooked,’ yet I think in reality it’s the opposite. At IWU, as great as it was and as much as I miss a lot of school, I was soft there. It’s easy to be overcooked at a small Christian school. And now I think God is uncooking me. It’s going to take some hard times to get there, but the end result will be worth it. I look forward to being al dente. But I know that the best things in life sometimes means lots of sucky things to get to them.