Monday, August 21, 2006

Mars Hill

Well, we are back from Seattle, where we travelled with Mark's family to attend his cousin Laura's wedding. We really enjoyed the trip...what a cool city. Aside from spending some good time with Mark's family, we were able to visit a number of sites: the market (a fun place featuring tons of street musicians, food, amazing smells and color), the space needle, a boat tour of the harbor (where we saw Bill Gates house and the house from Sleepless in Seattle), and last but not least, on Sunday night a bunch of us hopped in a van and attended a church service at the now infamous Mars Hill Church. Here is a picture of what it looks like on the outside (yes, I'm a dork, I took pictures).

At the moment, I think I'm too tired to type out anything too extensive :), so I'll just share some thoughts and observations in bullet-point form, in case anyone is curious about what a service at Mars Hill is really like...

  • The Location. The main building is located in a district in Seattle called Ballard, which I would describe as a slightly more funky, colorful, and probably more spiritually oppressive version of Uptown in Minneapolis. On one hand, the buildings are all really cool and artsy; on the other hand, there is a statue of Lenin down the street and on our way out of the church, a homeless man on the street shook his fist at us and yelled "You Nazi churches are all the same". You get the picture. Another note about the building is that it is one story and the exterior is painted entirely black.

  • The Atmosphere. The best way I could think of describing the inside of the building is that it is like a giant Starbucks. Seriously. Here is a picture of the lobby to give you an idea:

(Also, if you play "Where's Waldo" with this picture you can find Mark's cousin Tim on the right hand side. I just noticed that. :)). Anyway, as you can see, the interior of the building has a very warm, funky ambience. The "sanctuary" is a refurbished warehouse that seats somewhere between 600-800 (main floor only - there are no balconies or anything), and is also very Starbucky. The walls are painted black, and hanging from the ceiling are larger versions of the same lights you see in the picture of the lobby. There were candles lit on the tables that contained the elements for communion (bread dipped into actual wine), and a large, iron cross hung as the backdrop to the stage.

  • The Music. The music last night was led by a band called "Red Letter". Apparently, the Mars Hill "house band" leads worship sometimes, but there are a few other bands that come in from time to time to do it. The style of the music was sort of heavy and grungy - and not very polished, to be honest -- more than a few painful notes! The first two songs were originals (with scripture-laced lyrics), and the last 3 were rocked out versions of hymns/traditional songs, including a version of "Lamb of God" by Twila Paris that was something else. Apparently, these are the only types of songs they do - originals and hymns. Another interesting thing about the music was that no one clapped in between songs - NO ONE. At first I felt bad because I thought the band just wasn't getting a good response - then I realized that it seemed to be intentional. I thought about it for a minute, and liked it. Think about it - no clapping = no phoney/emotional hype.
  • The Message. As Mark and I have visited churches over the past few months, we've developed this curse - the curse is called "Whenever we visit a church, the main pastor is almost always gone or on sabbatical that weekend", so we were a little worried that Mark Driscoll wouldn't be the one speaking last night. He was, and it was a good message. They are currently on week 29 of a series on 1 Corinthians, and are going through the spiritual gifts. He preached for a LONG time, but it went fast (the service ran 1:40!). I haven't always been a fan of his style or in agreement with all of his approach, but went away last night very impressed with his knowledge of the Bible. This guy doesn't mince words, and he packed as many as he could into his message. One thing that a number of people commented on was that he really didn't move around much as he spoke. His voice is very dynamic - but as he's speaking, he basically stands there in one place and stares straight ahead. Some figured that this was because he was being videotaped; others theorized that he was so "in the zone" - concentrating on what he was saying - that he didn't really engage the crowd. Personally, this didn't bother me one bit.
  • The Resources. Each attender last night received a small "program" called "The Loop". Rather than a bulletin listing the order of the service, however, it contained a rough outline of the sermon, complete with scripture references. Also available in the lobby were a number of different booklets (not pamphlets, BOOKLETS) explaining the churches stance on a number of different Biblical issues. Finally, there was a bookstore in the lobby, full of books by people like Piper, Tozer, Calvin, and the like.
All in all, I was very encouraged by our visit to Mars Hill. It was so encouraging to see a church that has found a way to engage the culture without compromising Biblical truth. If you ever happen to be in the area, it's definitely worth a visit.

And that's my report. Any questions? :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Something GOOD That Came Out of the Mickey Mouse Club...

Does anyone remember the Disney channel back in the early-mid 90's - back when it was still a pay channel? I was a faithful fan of the weekday afternoon lineup, particularly the 4-5:00 time-slots - at 4:00 it was Kids Incorporated, followed by the "New Mickey Mouse Club" at 4:30. As we all know, several infamous "talents" emerged from the new "MMC" (as those close to the show called it) and found successful, and surprisingly lasting careers as pop-stars - Britney, Justin, Christina, even N'Sync's JC. (Well, maybe "lasting" is a bit of a strong word for some of their careers...)

However, there was one lesser known cast member from that show whose talent I much, much, MUCH prefer. No, I'm not talking about The Party. :) Some of you may remember who I'm talking about as fellow MMC star Keri Russell's ("Felicity's") former boyfriend and co-star of the short lived TV drama "Malibu Shores". That's right, folks: Tony Lucca. If you have not heard his music, it is well worth checking out, and I'm actually completely serious! He's a singer/songwriter/guitarist with sort of a folk-meets-blues sound, and boy can he sing. He's based in LA and, as an independent artist, doesn't do a whole lot of touring, but he made a rare appearance in the Twin Cities at the Varsity Theater on Sunday night (a very cool little venue, by the way!). Mark has liked his music for a long time now, so we went to check out the show, and it was well worth it! He is excellent live. So I've been listening to (and liking) lots of his stuff ever since, and we also just got his brand new CD, which is fantastic as well. Great sound. He also stayed on stage and played in the band for the artist playing after him on Sunday, Joe Firstman (also known as Carson Daly's band leader). Unfortunately, while that band was PHENOMENAL and Joe Firstman's got a great voice, he's a sleaze, as reflected in his lyrics and stage demeanor. So we took off. :) HOWEVER - it was lots of fun to finally see Tony Lucca live! Good stuff.

So, yes Virginia, something good can come out of the Mickey Mouse Club after all!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Say it ain't so, Billy...

I was saddened tonight to read this excerpt of an article about Billy Graham from the latest Newsweek magazine :

"A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."

("Pilgrim's Progress", Newsweek, August 14 issue)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Some Pics of the New Place...

Good Article

I really like this's a great article from their latest issue:
You Made Me Sin