Tag Archives: iPhone

“This Changes Everything”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

Have you stopped to think how radically technology has changed in our lifetime? How clunky does a first generation iPhone seem to most of us today? Or a flip-phone? The first iPhone was just ten years ago. Think about your first personal computer. How different was it from what you use today? My first computer was an IBM PS1 and it didn’t even have a hard drive. I had to buy and install a 300 Mb hard drive and I thought that was all I would ever need! Oh my, how the landscape has changed on this life journey.

Yesterday over breakfast Wendy admitted to me that she doesn’t enjoy the book of Hebrews that we’re wading through on this chapter-a-day journey. Her sentiment is shared by many, I’m guessing. I understand it. We tend to love books like Proverbs with its simple wisdom, Psalms with its emotional poetry, or the Gospels with their fascinating take on Jesus’ story. Hebrews, however, rarely gets mentioned as a “favorite,” even by me. Perhaps that’s why it’s been five years since the last time I blogged through it.

One of the reasons I think we struggle with Hebrews is that the letter was written to a very specific audience for a very specific purpose. The author was writing to first century Jews in an effort to unpack the tectonic, theological paradigm shift  they were experiencing. For the original readers, this was life changing stuff. This was a rotary-dial, chorded phone to an iPhone 8 kind of shift in thinking about God. It’s hard for us to appreciate just how radical of a change this was for them.

In Jewish thought, the concept of “covenant” was/is an important one. Covenant means agreement, like an official binding contract. Throughout the Great Story there are a number of important covenants God makes with humanity. The most important of these covenants to the original readers of Hebrews was the covenant God made through Moses that included the ten commandments, the “law” along with an entire system of sacrifices, offerings, and feasts.

Jesus was a Hebrew as were all twelve of his inner circle. The early Christians were known simply as a Hebrew/Jewish sect before the teachings of Jesus spread through the Greco-Roman empire and “turned the world upside down.” Now, the author of Hebrews argues, God fulfilled what was prophetically foretold by Jeremiah 600 years prior. Like emerging technology is to us today, this was emerging theology for first century Hebrew believers. It’s just as the Apple ad for the first iPhone said: “This changes everything!” God is making a new covenant through Jesus that makes the covenant of Moses obsolete.

One of the overarching themes in the Great Story is rebirth, regeneration, renewal, and resurrection. Old things pass away, new things come. Death leads to life. The old covenant has given way to a new covenant. That’s the point the author of Hebrews is getting at.

This morning I’m sitting and pondering the many things that have “passed away” in my life across my own personal journey. I’m thinking about the many new things that I’ve experienced which were unthinkable to me in my earlier years. This is part of the fabric of creation. It’s part of any good story line. Few of us would read a book or watch a movie in which nothing happens.

In the quiet I find myself expressing to God my openness to embracing wherever it is this journey is leading. This includes being open to things that may need to pass away, and new things that may emerge unexpectedly…whatever those things may be.

Btw, I’m not talking about the iPhone 8 😉


Happiest Place on Earth


Last Sunday afternoon Wendy and I had the opportunity of visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. We visited the McNay for the first time on our honeymoon  ten years ago. It’s come to hold a special, sentimental place in my heart. I posted to Facebook:

You can have Disneyland. Ever since Wendy and I visited the McNay on our honeymoon 10 years ago, this has been, for me, one of “the happiest places on Earth.”

The courtyard at the McNay is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever been and I could sit there for hours, especially with Wendy. On our visit last Sunday I couldn’t help but take this photo with my iPhone. There’s nothing extraordinary about the photo and I know it can’t possibly capture the true beauty of the place. Sometimes the power of shot has nothing to do with being great photography,  rather the ability of a shot to transport us back to a powerful time or place is what makes photography great.

Snow on the Oak

Snow on the Oak TreeToday is what we in the midwest refer to as “the dog days of summer.” August can be a killer when it comes to heat. One of my favorite quotes is from Garrison Keillor who said that living in the midwest is like, “spending your winters in the arctic and your summers in Death Valley.” ‘Tis true.

I thought for Photo Friday I would post a photograph I snapped with my iPhone on a whim this past February after a heavy, wet snow fall created a blanket of white across the landscape. It was a sunny, cloudless day after the storm and I loved the way the monochrome black and white of the snow on the limbs contrasted with the gorgeous blue of the sky.

If you’re feeling hot today, thought this might give you a reminder of what’s coming in just a few months 😉


Preparing for a Role: Keeping Focus When Siri Joins You on Stage

One of the things that I love about live theatre is the fact that it is, in fact, “live.” Movies and television spend countless hours honing and perfecting exactly what they want you to see how they want you to see it. Actors get to deliver their line over and over and over again for a camera. The cinematographer gets to make them look good, the sound editor makes them sound good, and the editor gets to choose the perfect take or use computer wizardry to alter it so that it’s the perfect performance for the audience in the movie theater to see. Stage actors, on the other hand, are out there on their own live and in person. While the lighting and costume crew have done an admirable job to make the actors look good, the truth is that the actor is out there on their own in front of a live audience. Despite weeks of rehearsal to ensure that everything goes as planned, the possibility exists that almost anything can go horribly wrong in the moment.

Talk to stage veterans and they will have plenty of stories about the crazy, unexpected things that happen on stage for which you have no control and must find a way to improvise and carry on as best you can. In my post 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success, the number one thing on my list was the way that being an actor and a theatre major taught me to keep focus and improvise in any number of difficult and unexpected situations:

The great thing about the stage is that when it’s live and you’re up in front of that audience anything can, and does, happen. Dropped lines, missed entrances, or malfunctioning props require you to improvise while maintaining your cool. Theatre taught me how to focus, think quickly and make do while giving the impression that you’ve got it all under control. It’s served me well when clients, airlines, coworkers, or technology wreak unexpected havoc at the worst possible moment.

The other night in dress rehearsal for Ah, Wilderness! I had one of my most humbling and unnerving experiences on stage in 35 years. First of all, I must start with a confession that I committed a cardinal sin of the stage by having my iPhone in my suit coat pocket. If you’ve followed my blog or Facebook feed you’ll know that I love to capture pictures of the hidden world of the theatre backstage and moments that the audience never sees. So, during the rehearsal process I’ve kept my iPhone close so as to snap a few of these pictures back stage.

On Tuesday night my iPhone was in my breast coat pocket, but I had also slipped my reading glasses in that pocket without giving it a thought. As we got into the first scene of Act II the reading glasses, which must have been resting against the phone in just the right way, pushed the button on my iPhone kicking in the familiar tone for Siri, the iPhone’s talking digital assistant.


I will not print the words which entered my brain at the moment I heard those tones coming from my coat. Panic struck, but I realized that I had to ignore the sounds coming from my suit jacket as I calmly played out this family scene set in 1906 as if nothing happened out of the ordinary.


I fumbled my line as my brain raced, trying to figure out a way to inconspicuously get my phone out of my pocket and off stage or turned off or anything that might keep Siri from making her unwanted stage debut in the Eugene O’Neill classic.


#$&@! It kept happening! I told myself to ignore the phone and to try to keep from moving in such a way that it would go off again. “Just focus!” I told myself, “and play out the scene as if nothing happened.”


At this point in the scene my character was trying to convince his son, Arthur, to sing a song for the family. Continuing to muster all the concentration I could, I calmly delivered my line center stage:

…Why not give us a song or two now? You can play for him, can’t you, Mildred?


It was right about that time I heard Siri’s robotic female voice answering from my breast pocket:

I’m very sorry, Tom. I can’t play any music for you right now.

Fortunately, the exceptional young actors from Central College admirably maintained their composure and carried on as if nothing happened. Humiliated, I got through the scene and put my iPhone in my backpack where it should have been all along. Leave it to the old veteran to get caught making a rookie mistake. Mea culpa. Mea culpa.

Once again, however, it illustrates the exciting nature of live theatre. When you’re watching  fallible human beings playing out a story on stage live and in the moment, you never know what what you might happen to witness.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 5

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

“If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request and do what I ask, please come with Haman tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for you. Then I will explain what this is all about.” Esther 5:8 (NLT)

Yesterday morning as I was sitting and waiting in the airport, something reminded me of an old Chuck Mangione jazz tune I’d not heard since I played the vinyl record of it on my turntable back in high school. I suddenly had the desire to hear that song again. I pulled up my iPhone, quickly found she song on my iTunes app and with a flick of my thumb I spent 99 cents to download it to my phone. From random thought to actually listening to the the song was probably little more than a minute. Amazing.

I can hardly describe for young people how much life has changed in the 30 years since I was their age. We live in an era of such instant gratification. Anything you want you can arrange to get almost instantly. No waiting. No patience required. If you have a smart phone and a cellular data connection you have the world and all of its goods literally at your fingertips.

I often wonder what affect this has on our souls and on our culture.

I smirked to myself this morning when I read of Esther refusing to tell the King and Haman what it was she really wanted. “Come back for another feast tomorrow, and I’ll tell you.” Brilliant. She builds dramatic tension. Gratification is delayed which only serves to heighten curiosity and a desire to know.

I love using that same device as a writer. Throw the question out there and then leave your reader or your audience hanging to find the answer. Last spring a group of actors showcased a few scenes of a play I wrote at an artist’s night. The scenes provided enough of the story to tease the audience with the dramatic question presented in the script, but did not reveal the answer. A couple of weeks ago a man came up to me and introduced himself, telling me that seeing those scenes drove him crazy that night. He immediately went home, pulled up the script on-line and read the whole thing. “I couldn’t stand it!,” he said to me with a laugh, “I just had to KNOW!”

There is something mundane in always getting what you want whenever you want it. It deadens the senses and chokes the soul. Delayed gratification is not a bad thing. It develops patience in us. It quickens the senses. It introduces hope, increases desire, and may even force us to exercise self-control. It makes the moment of gratification even sweeter. It teaches us to appreciate the ultimate reward.

So what is Esther going to ask the king? How is she going to save her people?  What is going to happen with Haman? You’ll just have to wait until next week. I only blog a chapter-a-day every weekday ;-).

Have a nice weekend!

Calling in an Air Strike

So the other night at rehearsal my friend Doug told me about an iPhone app called Action Movie FX that allows you to make movies with your phone and insert Hollywood special effects into them. In the show we’re in, I play a gangster and the woman I love is being charged with murder. Doug is the prosecutor trying to put her away, so I only thought it natural that I would call in a “hit” on him. Enjoy 🙂

Almost Human

Most of us have seen commercials for Siri, the digital assistant that comes with the new Apple iPhone 4s. Since getting our new iPhones a month or so ago, Wendy and I are still trying to get a handle on Siri being a part of our organizational lives. Yesterday, while arranging herself in the car, Wendy accidentally activated Siri on her phone. Realizing that she’d inadvertently triggered the robotic female voice and still frustrated with getting herself situated, Wendy lashed out and prompted the following conversation:

Wendy: Shut up, Siri!

Siri: That’s not very nice.

Wendy: (after controlling her laughter) I’m sorry.

Siri: No need to apologize.

Honest and gracious. Not bad for a phone.