Archive for July, 2009

steph goes to the art store

My wife likes to paint things. She’s a much better artist than I’ll ever be, and I like that the walls of our house get free custom artwork. Every once in a while artists have to go to art stores to get supplies, such as canvases and paints and brushes. We have a great art store about 5 miles from our house that offers crazy good deals on canvases and a selection of paint colors that would make the snobby little kid from your 4th grade class, who was so proud of his box of 96 Crayola crayons, speechless. This weekend was cause for one of those trips to Jerry’s Art Store.

Now, when Steph goes to the art store I usually go with her. My self-appointed job on these trips is to manage expectations. I have but one goal when we go to Jerry’s: To get in, and get out, as fast as humanly possible… otherwise, I will get a call from my bank the next day asking why I have charged $14,000 in paints and brushes to my account.

So we went to the art store Saturday. I did a quick scan of the store – there was a children’s painting class taking up one whole corner of the building, blocking the Easel display. Good, one less area to worry about. I felt comfortable leaving the Papers section unattended – Steph was on a painting trip and trying to finish a project for some friends… drawing was not top of mind. I knew she needed a couple paint based markers, so I escorted her in that direction for a quick drop off while I headed to the Acrylics Paint section. I knew if I could somehow coral five or six shoppers into Acrylics, that would be enough commotion to make Steph want to skip that area.

I quietly pushed a shopping cart over to block one end of the Acrylics aisle and then spread a rumor amongst other shoppers of a “5-for-1 acrylics paint sale”. That seemed to cause the desired result and I ran back to find Steph, who by now had long ago left the paint markers. I raced down to Brushes And Knives to find her holding a 4-inch wide albino Qinling Panda-hair paint brush in her hand, eying it like Gollum at Mount Doom, with a $75.99 price tag dangling daintily from the handle. Frantic, I grabbed her arm and gently turned her towards some modestly priced palette knives while easing the Panda-haired brush from her grip. In disbelief I glanced down at a shopping basket she had acquired sometime in the last five minutes, half full of items not on our shopping list.

I can sense I am beginning to lose control. I plant an idea in Steph’s mind that we “should go look at the art books” over in the Books And Manuals section. This is always a safe bet, because while books tend to be more expensive items, she will rarely buy one and instead thumb through the pictures looking for future ideas. She gives in and I escort her away from Brushes, while suggesting to her that I go scout out vacancy at the checkout counter. I cannot deal with a line at this point. If we have to stand in line at checkout, she’s likely to wander back into Acrylics, and then there will be no hope. We have to walk right up to the cashier, lay down the cash, and get out of there before she has a chance to take in the counter displays.

The checkout line looks good. A beret capped 40-something is just finishing up his purchase, so now is the time to move in. I give the “I’ll be 1 second” gesture to the cashier, who acknowledges me from across the store. I head back to Books to find Steph… who is not there…. Oh good moogly googly, where could she possibly have gone? A feeling of dread overwhelms me as the truth begins to sink in…


Canvases is the black hole of Jerry’s Art Store. It’s seven solid aisles of nothing but stretched white linen. Sheets of canvas as large as pool tables. The walls are made of canvas in Canvases. It’s a maze designed to trap you in, and never let you go, until you have convinced yourself that, “Why yes, certainly I can take home this 7-foot x 13-foot monstrosity of wood and double-primed acid-free linen and conceive upon it a work worthy of Michelangelo’s praise and adulation!” No one ever returns from Canvases.

I hear rustling. “What do you think about this one?” a familiar voice calls out. “What one?” I respond, “Where are you?” I see movement in the far back corner. “I’m right here… I think this one would look good on our living room wall!” A canvas starts to move towards me – yes, move towards me – as though self propelled. Suddenly Steph pops out from behind the 9-foot tall ‘potential of art’, peering up at a canvas which is twice as tall as her. “Maybe it would go better in the stairway where the ceilings are taller,” she counters to herself.

I sigh, and select a more unassuming 2-foot by 2-foot canvas and suggest, “You know, I’ve always wanted something to go on that blank wall in the kitchen. Perhaps you could do something with this?”

I hand it to over, which distracts her long enough for me to guide her out of Canvases and towards the front of the store, where a line has developed at the cash register. Great. We stand there while Patricia and her four kids stock up on enough water colors to keep them busy for the rest of the summer. “You know, I’ve been wanting one of these,” says Steph grabbing an Artist’s Color Wheel from the counter display. “It will help me match colors.” The name of the game is now called appeasement. “Fine,” I say as I hand the cashier my check card and start emptying items out onto the counter.

Of course a trip to the art store with Steph is really nothing like that. The Canvas section is only five aisles wide.

so one day we went to greece

So we went to Greece! Steph and I decided in January that we were going to go on an international mission trip this year, and it happened! You’re thinking, “Right, Greece… some mission trip.” To which we say, Paul’s mission trips were to Greece, so if it was good for Paul it’s good for us.

Every year the international missionaries of the Southern Baptist church attend an annual conference in their region called an Annual General Meeting. This is a chance for them to get away from their local ministry with their families and take part in training, interact with other missionaries, and relax. The week is full with worship services, classes, VBS for the kids, and all sort of other activities. Steph and I were part of a team from our church in Nashville that led the worship music at the conference for the week. It was an incredible experience, and we met so many great people who have dedicated their lives to serving overseas.

Leading worship for the missionaries was an incredibly unique experience. In America we take for granted our opportunity to go to church without fear, and worship in peace and freedom. We’ve all been told that we take this for granted countless times. But this freedom was cast in a different light when we witnessed 900 missionaries worshiping who DO NOT have this freedom in the countries they serve in. We met a number of individuals who serve in high security countries where the political or military environment prevents them from being open about their faith, and demands that their work as missionaries be kept a secret (some of them couldn’t even tell us exactly what city they served in and what their job function is). As you might imagine, song lyrics that talk about “trials” and “burdens” that may seem intangible to us take on an entirely personal meeting for these folks. We have never seen a group of people worship and sing with such passion, and the wall of sound of singing voices that greeted us every morning when we began to play was inspiring.

We were grateful to have the opportunity to spend a day in Athens on our return trip. Among the highlights from touring the ancient city was the ability to visit the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, walk on top of Mars Hill (where Paul gave his famous speech to the Athenians), and eat some really fantastic Greek food.

For us, a band of 8 traveling from Tennessee, playing music at a conference center was not what we would consider a great personal sacrifice. After all this is something we love to do, and whether we do it at home in Nashville or halfway around the world, we try to bring the same spirit and energy to prompt people to worship God wherever we are.

But to 900 missionaries who live in a culture that is not their own, who struggle daily with a language that is not their own, and are presented with daily challenges that would make many of us throw up our hands in defeat… being able to worship in English was a rare treasure. I think we all left Greece, not with a feeling of personal pride at having “performed” well, but with the confidence that God had used us to meet a specific and important need. It was a fantastic trip, and we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to go.

To see some photos from our trip, check out this album on Facebook.