isaac james :: the greatest nine-year-old of all time

•September 17, 2009 • 2 Comments

Isaac Climber

Today my second-born lad is nine years old.  Wowza.  So my blog post today is a tribute to the greatness that is Isaac Jamie Baby Dudes, as Amy likes to call him.  Nine years of a better world ’cause he’s in it.  So here are nine of my favorite memories that make the case for Isaac James as the greatest nine-year-old of all time… at least since his older brother was nine… and until my other boys catch up, but let’s keep it simple…

(1)  The screen door.  On the day we left for the hospital, Amy was feeling it.  Big time contractions, 4 minutes apart.  Time to head to North Memorial!  I was in charge of the “stuff.”  Amy’s clothes bag. Check.  My clothes bag. Check.  Diaper bag.  Check.  Baby clothes bag.  Check.  Amy’s “labor bag” with kooshy socks and washcloths and a robe and momly stuff. Check.  CD player for the delivery room.  Check.  Video Camera.  Check.  35mm camera.  Check.  Digital Camera.  Check.  Kitchen sink.  Check…

“Josh!  Joshua!  We HAVE to GO!”  Amy was in no mood to wait around as I gathered up the bags, bits and pieces, slung them over my shoulder (all at the same time) and headed through the door.

And when I say “through the door,” that’s exactly what I mean.  We’d been in our new house for two weeks.  In perfect Bill Cosby-esque “husband-of-the-mom-in-labor” style, I charged right into the closed screen door with all our stuff, and it blew off the frame, flew several yards through the air and landed in a cracked, crumpled heap.

That’s how excited I was to welcome my wee lad into the world.

(2)  Joy-Boy.  When Isaac was a baby, all you had to do was LOOK at him and he’d burst out laughing.  Isaac came into our world in a time when we were going through tremendous stress.  Both my job and Amy’s were uncertain, finances were scary, and we had just gone through losing our rental housing and buying our first home.  We were physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  And then came our sunshine.  Isaac, you earned that nick-name a thousand times over.  Turned our world around.  “Joy-Boy” still fits.

(3) “All done sleepin’!”  Right!  When Isaac was old enough to talk, too old for a crib, but not old enough to turn the doorknob in his bedroom, we’d put him to bed at night, tuck him in, say prayers, and close the door.  Wait 12 minutes, and then…  “ALL DONE SLEEPIN’!”  He thought his night of rest was over.  Time to play!  We’d see his little fingers peeking out under the door of his bedroom.  Wiggle wiggle.  “Aaaaaaall done SLEEPIN’!”

Cutest thing ever, but we didn’t open the door.  No sir.  Tough love.  Got to the point we had to put a blanket on the hardwood floor inside the door because he would fall asleep there for the night.  Guess he wasn’t all done sleepin’ after all.  Good times, until…

(4)  Wal-Mart.  One day he figured out how to turn the doorknob.  Bad times.  Now he could escape.  Bad, bad times.  Cute or not, you don’t mess with Dad’s sleepy time.  No sir.  I remember my frantic, but purpose-driven 1AM trip to Wal-Mart vividly.  Pretty sure I broke some laws getting there.  I bought three things:  A baby gate.  Rope.  Earplugs. 

Got home… Clean diaper?  Check.  Drink of water?  Check.  No monsters under the bed?  Check.  Blanket on floor?  Check.

Closed the door, put up baby gate, tied the door to the gate, put in earplugs, and commenced sleeping.  Ahhhh…

(5) Faces.  Since he was very little, Isaac James has displayed an aptitude for expression that he must have inherited from his momma.  Behold:

Isaac Faces

(6) Hot Stuff.  Girls like Isaac.  Much to his chagrin.  His teachers have all noticed this phenomenon.  Isaac hasn’t.  Flocks of female admirers.  It’s that killer combination of charm, wit, and crazy good looks…  He must have inherited that from his dad.

Once, while his grandpa was giving a presentation to Isaac’s class about his travels to India, a cutie patootie in Isaac’s class held up a little note for only Grandpa Bob to see.  “I *heart* Isaac.”  We saved it – you know, just in case they get married some day.  Isaac, we’ll never tell who…

(7) Dance Dance 2000.  Isaac has always been one to get his groove on.  One of our favorite parts of family movie night has been the inevitable dance fest that occurs during the closing credits.  Isaac is the master of all things funky.  Case in point…

 

(8) Ronald Arstenschvagen.  Good times.  If you missed it before, go here to read the story…

(9) Certified Genuine.  I thank God everyday for our boys.  They are amazing kids.  All of them unique.  And one of the things we value most is that they are REAL.  Isaac looks us in the eye.  Unselfconsciously giving and receiving affection.  Quick to obey.  Quick to express gratitude.  Quick to laugh.  Quick to help out.  Isaac is just plain wonderful.  And I don’t take it for granted for a day.

God, thank you for this great boy.  How do I rate getting to be HIS dad?

Isaac, I love you buddy.  Congrats on making it nine years so far.  I’ve got you for another nine or so before you head off to school somewhere, fall in love (ew!) and break out on your own.  But I’m so glad you’re my boy – and THAT will NEVER change.

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kanye west, jay leno, and taylorgate :: a rare moment

•September 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

sorry closed sign

I’m quiet.  Thinking.  I don’t think I’ve seen that in a long, long time.  In fact, I’m trying to remember the last time…  from a public figure… ?  Nope.  Can’t remember the last time I saw one.

A real apology.

If you don’t pay much attention to celebrity gossip, pop culture, etc., it’s possible you missed out on “Taylorgate”:  Kanye West’s disrespectful rant during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for her MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Music Video on Sunday evening.  Bottom line:  he was a jerk, and the crowd ate him for dinner.  You can read about it here, or, if you want to watch it, here you go…

Note:  Viacom has been pulling down any posted video footage they can find of this incident due to copyright infringement.  Therefore, I’ve pulled my video link, as well.

I’m not a Taylor swift fan.  Don’t know any of her music.  I’m not a Kanye fan.  I’m pretty sure he wrote and performed “Jesus Walks.”  And I only know that because I’m a fan of Jesus.  Otherwise, I can’t name one Kanye West song.  I don’t have a horse in this race.  So dedicating a blog post to Kanye has nothing to do with his celebrity or my respect for him as an artist.  From the snippets of pop culture media I’ve seen over the last couple of years regarding Kanye, my knowledge base on the subject can be summed up in two bullet points:  (1)  He seems to be a pretty talented artist, and (2) he seems to have a pretty healthy ego.

His taking the stage (and the mic) Sunday night did not seem completely out of character for Kanye West, in my limited view.

What has me quiet and a little stunned tonight is actually Kanye’s apology, delivered interview style on Jay Leno’s new show that premiered last night.  If you haven’t seen it, please go now and watch.  My blog will wait…  Go ahead… < click here >

(no really… go watch it…  or the rest of this won’t have the same impact.  OK.  Go…)

The apology to Taylor on Leno’s show was truly was remarkable.  I’m trying to figure out why it moved me so much.

First of all, I just came out of a meeting a few hours ago with a group of people I hold in HIGH regard: the combined staff and leadership teams of Living Hope Church.  During the meeting, one of our teammates said, “Humble people inspire me.  Praise God for humble people.”  And I guess that’s really part of it.  Being in a room full of deeply humble people all evening puts a person in a “no baloney” kind of mood.  Real, authentic, deep relationships shorten my tolerance for superficiality, celebrity, and ego trips.

My take:  Kanye West reflected real, authentic humility.  And he is an international superstar.  THAT is a rare moment worth analyzing:

(1)  He showed up.  As Woody Allen famously said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Kanye could have avoided responsibility, laid low, waited for the dust to settle.  I respect him for showing up.  Took some guts.

(2)  He affirmed Taylor as a talented artist and he acknowledged that he hurt her.

(3)  He flat out OWNED his error.  “I hurt someone…  it was wrong…  it was actually someone’s emotions that I stepped on, it was very… it was just… it was  rude.  Period.”  What?  This doesn’t fit the mold.  There seems to be a “public figure apology/non-apology” model that goes something like this… “If you were offended, I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt.”  Drives my authenticity meter through the roof.  Basically, I’m not admitting any wrongdoing here, but if YOU have a problem with what I did, it’s too bad that you feel that way.  Holy Hannah.  Makes me want to throw things at my television.  But Kanye OWNED it.  He actually said the “w” word.  WRONG.  As if there may be a moral standard that exists OUTSIDE of Kanye West.  Wow.

(4)  He didn’t make a single excuse.  In the one moment that may have sounded like a justification for his actions, Kanye was quick to assert, “I don’t try to justify it, because I was just in the wrong… that’s just, period.”  The minute an apology is followed by a “but,” the apology ceases to be an apology.

(5)  He modeled a Biblical concept here:  Repentance.  It’s a churchy word that just means, “to turn around and go the other way.”  It’s more than lip service.  More than just, “Yep.  Sinned again.  Sorry.”  It’s an acknowledgement that “I have been on a wrong path, and I need to turn around and go the other way.”  When Kanye talked about taking some time off, doing some self-analysis, and trying to figure out how to improve – to live better…  That sounded an awful lot like repentance to me.  I’ve been on the wrong path.  Time to turn around.

(6)  He offered to make it right.  “If there’s anything I could do to… help Taylor…”  That sealed the deal for me.  He came full circle.  Kanye showed up.  Acknowledged her hurt.  Apologized verbally.  Took responsibility.  Made no excuse.  Repented.  And then offered to make it right.

You know what?  I’m not in the habit of asking my kids to pay attention to pop icons.  As a general rule, we discourage them from looking up to celebrities.  But this is one celebrity video clip that we’re going to watch together.

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september 11 :: remembering

•September 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

NY_Lights_Memorial_2

 

I was home that morning.  Amy and I were watching a bunch of kids.  I turned on the radio to do dishes.  Heard about a plane crash.  World Trade Center.  NYC.  Went to turn on the television.

I remember seeing the second tower get hit in real time.  I remember the way Katie Couric went silent.  The pit in my stomach.  Kids outside, playing on the swingset.  Safe at home.

I remember when the Pentagon got hit.  Experienced physical, tangible fear.  I remember learning that passenger planes were missing.  Experiencing physical, tangible anger.  Sadness.  Weeping quietly so the kids couldn’t see.  Maintaining a forced normal for the kids.

Praying for protection.  Praying for comfort for the lost people and families who were separated.  Praying for divine protection for the firemen and police.  Praying for George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, all our leaders.  Praying for my wife and kids.

 

I remember thinking about how many people were slammed face to face with Jesus.  In an instant.  I remember the sick pit in my stomach thinking about all the souls slammed into eternity separated from God.  In one moment they lost their hope.  No more opportunity to reach out to Jesus.  Forever lost.

Everybody dies.  But you’re breathing now.  Still thinking.  Making choices…

 

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band of brothers :: my team of levites

•September 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Levites_effects

It’s a mystery.  How do I get to do this?

I don’t deserve to love my work this deeply.  It’s a God-gift that keeps rewrapping itself.  I love leading Living Hope Church’s staff and arts teams.  I love designing the “look and feel” of a local church.  I eat up music-making, arranging, drumming, rehearsals…  But what I am most grateful for beyond my redemption in Jesus is my brothers.

My team of Levites.  Called to handle the Holy things, and assist the church family in coming before the throne room of the King.  Musicians, yes.  But mostly facilitators – in deep relationship with God and with each other.

Worship Leaders, Pastors, Executive Pastors hear this:  It takes TIME and ENERGY to build your teams DEEP (not just wide), but the payoff for your Team and for your Church is incalculable.

Last night’s rehearsal was electric.  Leading a rehearsal is always work, but often I leave them energized rather than drained.  Last night left me buzzing.  Jeremy’s Keyboard licks (and that TASTY organ patch for the intro on our opener) kept popping into the mix – making me smile big.  Jordan? The Edge.  Edge?  Jordan.  Zen picks up and owns bass licks like… as fast as I can THINK them, let alone sing them.  Andy somehow channels every mood shift, every chord change, every touch.  Just give him the key and he seems to intuitively know the music.  Nate and Lucus chatter patiently while the band works out the details, and then they soar when we run the music.

So – musically fulfilling.  Check.

What makes all the difference in the depth of the experience is our back story.  The relational bonds.

I’ve wept with Jeremy through his cancer diagnosis and treatment.  He knows he can call me @ 3AM asking for prayer (actually, that has happened…), and I can call him.  And we’ve been on mountaintops together.  Figuratively and literally.  A true brother, fellow thinker, artist, heart.

Jason (@churchrd) started playing bass with me early in my first church music job.  The drummer-bass brotherhood is no small thing.  He used to record every rehearsal on a cassette tape player, and go through his music with a pencil to write in the note names.  Committment and discipline leads to skill that leads to art.  And he’s gone through viral cardiomyopathy that severely weakened his heart.  So have I.  Miraculously, God healed him.  Miraculously, me too.

Jordan (@jordan_cd) has that rare mix of outstanding technical skill -and- the humble confidence that marks a mature Christ follower.  He and Andy working together are magic.  Humble, dependable, exceptional.  It’s a joy to play and lead with him every time.

Nate (@n8anderson) and Lucus (@luanders) both have been prayer partners, consistent encouragers, my sounding boards when I have had doubts and worries.  On multiple occasions, these two guys have been my “let’s have lunch and talk about it” friends when I needed my church to be my church.  They know stuff about me that no one else does.  I would take a bullet for these guys.

Andy (@andy_guitar_guy) thinks with my mind.  I have never met anyone with as parallel a ministry philosophy as Andy shares with me.  His heroes are my heroes.  The art that moves him moves me.  He is musical, visual, sensitive to moments and repelled (as I am) by pretense and the sacharine, mind-numbing “Christian art” that represents our faith poorly.  We have the same heart.

I have similar stories and bonds with several others who weren’t scheduled for this week – weren’t at last night’s epic rehearsal.  My team of Levites.  It takes TIME.  It takes contact beyond rehearsal.  It takes investment of energy, resources, intentionality.  But the effort leads to deeper relationships.  Deeper relationships lead to deeper shared experience.  And when we go before the throne of Heaven and invite our church family to come with us, we truly go TOGETHER.  Deeply together.  One heart and one mind, with one shared purpose. (ala Philippians 2:2)

Worship Leaders, Team builders… make the effort.  Invest the time.  View team building as a “long-haul” process.  Deep and wide.  With an emphasis on DEEP.  As Nancy Beach wrote in “An Hour on Sunday…”

“When it’s all said and done, I want to cross the finish line knowing that I was a part of a Team who loved one another outrageously and did ministry side by side until the end.”

Amen and amen.  Have YOU experienced “TEAM” ministry like this?

 

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my new musical romance :: imogen heap

•September 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

imogen_heap_stripe

I’ve fallen for a new sound.  Not new so much to the world, but new to me.  It’s rare that I find an artist that makes me this happy.  So I wanted to share with you.  Behold…

Yep. That just happened.

When Imogen’s last album (Ellipse) came out recently, I saw the chatter on Twitter, but I gotta give a huge thanks to Paul Turner @ JesusNeedsNewPR.blogspot.com for originally posting this video.  He introduced us, so to speak, via Twitter… 

@jskogerboe > Go download the song “Hide and Seek” right now. It will change your life, or at least, your day.

It did both.  Want at least your day changed for the better?  Download Imogen Heap.  Today.  Sooo gooooood…

time with my boy :: savor is a verb

•September 7, 2009 • 1 Comment

Isaac_08_09_crop

Yesterday I took a ride with my boy Isaac.  He’s eight.

We are behind the times a bit and had not yet ventured into the fantastical world of muggles and trolls and magic that is Harry Potter.  Until a few days ago.  We caved.  We dipped our conservative Christian toes into Hogwart’s realm… and we liked it.

So now the fam was hooked, after the first flick, and everyone’s clamoring for the second one, and I set off on a quest.  Bouncing from Blockbuster to Blockbuster, looking for the ellusive “Chamber of Secrets,” with Isaac as my copilot.  He had chased me down the alley as I rolled away from the house, huge smile on his face, mock pleading in his voice, arms in the air with dramatic flourish… a perfect (tongue in cheek) picture of desperation.  I conceded, opened the door, and I had a travel companion for the afternoon.

These are moments to savor.  One-on-one time with my boys.  I can laugh hard at their silly jokes, and grab their knees to make them yelp, and sometimes be caught by surprise at their insight.

Light banter.  Isaac revelling in his victorious plea to join me on the quest.  A shared Diet Mt. Dew.  And then… VICTORY! After three failed attempts, we rolled away from our fourth Blockbuster parking lot of the afternoon with our quarry in our mitts!

I don’t remember what led to my first-rate delivery of a Brittish accent, but it doesn’t take much when Harry Potter is the subject matter.  Whatever I said, Isaac mistook my flawlessly executed Brit accent for Austrian and asked, “Is that Ronald Artsenschvagen?”

Yes.  Yes it is.  The great Austrian weightlifting champion turned body builder turned actor and now governor of the great state of California… Ronald Artsenschvagen.

I laughed and laughed.  Until I cried.  I couldn’t stop saying it, now in my flawlessly executed Austrian accent… “Raaanold Aaahtsenschvaaagen!”

Then Isaac, listening intently to my Austrian delivery, followed up with… “Oh, he’s IRISH?”

Mirth overload.

Several minutes later, I was still shaking my head and muttering quietly to myself. “Ronald Artsenschvagen… good times.”  I looked over at Isaac, who smiled back and said, “Savoring the moment, dad?  You do that a lot.”

BAM.  Profundity from a boy.  Yes, Isaac.  I’m savoring the moment.  And I sure hope you’re right. I hope I do that a lot.

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words that prove you’re in deep :: aka “pagan repellent”

•August 31, 2009 • 3 Comments

 

loudspeakers

Can you correctly identify the difference between a Sacristy, a Vestibule, and a Narthex?  If so, I hate to tell you, but you’re in deep…

I’m a huge Andy Stanley fan.  He’s a Pastor at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.  I love the guy because he talks like a real person.  No “church-babble.”  He cuts to the chase and speaks clearly, somehow avoiding the trap of the crazy Christian-eze so many “churchy people” resort to.

And I do mean “resort to.”  Because I think it is easier to repeat familiar (“churchy”) words, phrases, etc. than to consistently (and without cliche) string coherent thoughts together to express your faith.

So Andy has written a great book for church leaders called “Seven Practices of Effecive Ministry.”  And one of his main points was this:  “Listen to OUTSIDERS.”

Andy explains that there is a gravitational pull in any organization toward becoming “insider-focused,” and churches are no exception.  In other words, over time, the concerns and criticisms and needs of the insiders gradually begin to overshadow the concerns criticisms and needs of the outsiders – even when the PURPOSE of the organization was driven by outsiders from the beginning.  And has there ever been a more “outsider-focused” purpose than the calling of the CHURCH?

Remember these nuggets from Jesus: “Go, and make disciples…”  “Consider others better than yourselves.”  “Whatever you do for the least of these…”  “Love your neighbor as yourself…”

Over time, a local church can shift.  From reaching out to love and serve people outside the church – to serving each other (inside the church) in a kind of self-sustaining commune.  What was once a training ground and sending station for the congregation to receive a unified call to action and resources to accomplish the mission has now become… a family camp.  For your own family.  And other people are welcome join, if they can figure out how to find you and they can fit into the family camp routine.

Andy pleads with us as church leaders:  LISTEN to OUTSIDERS!  Don’t allow your decisions, your directions, your teaching, your language to be dictated solely (or even primarily) by the inner circle in your church!  In other words, always be aware that outsiders are among us – and if you read this and have to wonder if that’s true, then it may be time to reassess your ministry strategy!  Speak the language of the outsiders.  No reason to throw up roadblocks with your choice of words.  Jesus is a big enough stumbling block (oops – I did it already…)  I mean, Jesus is a big enough HURDLE for the unconnected already.  Guard against “church babble…”

So with that weighty introduction, I offer up some suggestions for the ash heap.  Here are a few choice words and phrases that scream to the unchurched crowd, “I’m an insider, and I have been for so long that I don’t even talk like a normal dude anymore!”

(1)  “Fellowship.”  Yeah… not very manly.  Except in a dwarf-meets-elf-meets-wizard-meets-hobbit, “let’s go slaughter some orcs” kind of way.  Be honest, now…  If you were not a church person, and you were invited to an event that was advertised as an opportunity for “fellowship,” would you be the first one on the bus?  I should say not.  Sounds like back rubs.  Creepy.

(2) “Lost…” or “Unbeliever.”  I can almost hear your inner dialogue… “Well we have to call these pagans that we’re trying to save something.”  Yeah, we do.  I try to call them Chuck.  Or Linda.  Because Chuck and Linda most likely don’t think they’re “lost.”  They very likely do, in their own way, sort of “believe in God.”  And they just LOVE being labeled incorrectly by us churchy people.  Good times.  So at Living Hope church, we tried to find a way to categorize people that aren’t living in a personal relationship with Jesus – to categorize them using language that even they would agree with.  We’ll keep working on it until we close the doors, if we need to, but for now, we use “People not connected to God.”  It states the facts without the negative baggage of “lost” or “unbeliever” (or “pagan,” for that matter…)

(3)  “Sanctification” / “Dispensationalism” / “Hermeneutic” / “Propitiation”/ etc., etc…  Big, weighty, substantial, loaded church words.  Am I saying we can’t use these words in church?  No.  But I AM saying, pay attention to your “target market.”  Pay attention to the crowd you are speaking to.  If you are digging deep with a room full of saved, mature, growing saints – let “pneumatology” fly, unapologetically.  But if you have people attending your Sunday morning services who are not regular church attenders, can it really hurt to at least briefly explain what some of those terms mean as you hurl them out into the crowd?  That’s all I’m saying.

(4) “Open your Bible to…”  Yeah.  That just happened.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  We want everyoneto bring their Bible weekly and to know at the drop of a hat (what does that even mean?) that 2 Thesolupians comes right after 1 Thesolupians and before Paul’s letter to the saints in Phylodonica.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) there are pagans among us.  At Living Hope, Pastor Bob might say something like, “If you have your Bibles, open up to Romans in the New Testament.  It’s about 3/4 of the way through.  If you hit Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, take a right.  If you don’t have your Bible with you today, we’ve got it up on the screen for you…”  The point?  Outsiders don’t have to be made to FEEL like outsiders. 

(5)  My personal problem of choice…  “In Jesus’ name.”  As a worship leader who’s been a Christian for… (how many years old am I?) about 37 years now, I believe in the power of the name of Jesus.  When we do things “in His name,” we are acknowledging that they are for Him and His glory.  So one day my Pastor looks at me across the table and says, “You know, you’ve gotta stop with the whole ‘in Jesus’ name’ thing.”  I blinked twice.  “I mean, do you think people know what you are saying when you ask them to sing this next song ‘in Jesus name?'”  Or when you say, ‘let’s stand up together in Jesus’ name…’  What?  How?  What does it MEAN?”  Yeah.  Busted.  If I wasn’t such an insider, I’d have been more aware of my speech patterns.  I contracted a case of Christian-eze.  Repenting.

I could go on an on.  Sadly.  I don’t even WANT to know the difference between a vestibule and a narthex (even though I do).  I bet you have a few personal favorites of your own.  Share them with the masses, and let’s at least try to speak the language of the culture we are trying to reach.

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