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December 2005
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February 2006

A Father's Pain

I took my 19-month old son, Ephraim, to the physician today to have a couple of vaccinations.  Ordinarily my gracious wife would tend to these responsibilities.  But she had a meeting today which prevented her from being able to do so.

Ephraim had just had two needles a about a month ago.  He's a very sensitive boy, so when my wife described the experience to me I was not surprised that Ephraim's tears had made her feel guilty.  Nonetheless, I was not really prepared for what I was about to experience today.

I am currently leading a Purpose Drive Life discussion group.  I had just read day 5 this morning which talks about life being a test.  I had been thinking about what God, our loving Father, must feel as He sees us struggle and endure hardships.  Even though these hardships are meant to refine us they can often be quite painful.

As I sat on the doctor's table with Ephraim in my lap I held down his arms and legs, restraining his squirms for freedom.  The doctor quickly poked the needle into Ephraim's tender forearm flesh and began emptying the syringe into my baby boy's body.  Ephraim's body tensed as he squealed and turned his head back at me with eyes that pleaded for mercy.

Ephraim's 3-year old brother Silas was sitting on the table with us.  Silas was the cocky one affirming Ephraim that he would hold his hand and everything would be ok.  As the needle entered Ephraim's arm, Silas screamed, "Ephraim!" and reached for the doctor's hand to pull the needle back out.

After the second needle I packed the boys up and left the office quickly to find lollipops to make it all better.

As I pondered the empty feeling in my heart for the few moments after the experience it dawned on me that this might be somewhat similar to the pain that God endures when we struggle through those "refining moments."  Life's trials are often sad, painful and unexplainable.  But in the end, if we can endure the needle and let the medicine soak in we will ultimately be better for it.  I must know that God loves me a gazillion times more than I can love my children.  My pain must bring Him immense pain.  That thought gives me comfort.

Visual Worship Tips

A key development in corporate worship over the last few years has been the expanded incorporation of visual media.  More and more churches are moving away from the use of hymnals or song sheets in exchange for video projection units.  Whether your church uses MS Power Point or one of the many up and coming media platforms such as Easy Worship or Sunday Plus there are a few basic guidelines that should be followed when preparing slides or song displays.  I believe that following these guidelines will allow you to effectively incorporate images or videos into your worship time that will greatly enhance it and minimize distractions.

1.  Less is More: Simple images where the text can be displayed in a clear area are preferred to busy pictures where the text has difficulty being prominent. Click the examples below for a larger view.



2.  Consistency:
Use the same image on every slide of a song.  Use the same font on every song in a worship set.  Always use punctuation or always don't (I prefer no punctuation).  Being consistent in the areas allows for congruency in the worship time and prevents the reader (worshiper) from having to make mental adjustments to what they are seeing/reading.

3.  Transitions: For fast/upbeat songs do not use slide transitions.  For slower more reflective songs, use soft transistions such as crossfades or slow wipes. << Just be consistent with whatever you're going to choose (see point #2).

4.  Image Selection: Use images that contribute to the mood you are trying to create with the music.  As a personal preference, I rarely use images that show faces.  Faces tend to draw focus.

Ppsample3x_1This is an image I probably would not use.

Ppsample3_1This one I would use.

5.  Video vs. Still Image Backgrounds:
Unfortuanetly, like many new toys, video backgrounds are too often overplayed.  My rule with regards to the use of video backgrounds is simply this:  Follow the 4 previous rules ESPECIALLY rule number 1.  In a set of 4-6 worship songs I would probably only use video on 2 songs maximum.   Save the video images for the songs that you really expect people to be people movers; the ones that will draw the deepest worship response.

Some Resources:
Media Shout: This is the presentation software we use at GCC.  Pay for an annual membership and get unlimited image downloads.  Pay per download for images.  Excellent library of images that is always growing. Video and still image backgrounds.  Video and still image backgrounds.

One last sample: