If you happen to be a long-time (or even “one time”) member of First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, then the videos I’m going to link here may bring you particular JOY! Even if you’re not, they are pretty awesome and special. (More so if you know our kids, Sarah and Rachel, and/or other kids who grew up in the early 2010s at FPCE!)
The page now includes 16 embedded videos created and/or recorded at FPC Edmond through the years. Here are several of them!
Our Light Has Come (A [Sunday morning] performance from the musical “One Incredible Moment” at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond Oklahoma on December 7, 2014.)
Miracle in the Manager (Children’s choir at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma on December 24, 2012.)
Jesus Joy Of The Highest Heaven (A song by the youth choir at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, on December 24, 2012.) [featuring soloist Sarah Fryer)
Happy Birthday Jesus (This was the rehearsal for “Happy Birthday Jesus,” sung by Rachel Fryer on December 24, 2011, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Rachel shared this at the 5 pm family Christmas Eve service.)
PreSchool Christmas Program 2007 (This Christmas program stars preschoolers at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. This video was filmed and created in December 2007.)
Rolling Green Outreach Ministry (A short video describing the Rolling Green outreach ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Special thanks to Shelly Fryer, Rachel, and Sam Carothers for sharing their perspectives on this opportunity to fellowship, love and serve others in our community.)
When we lived in Oklahoma City, through our church, we had several opportunities to serve in a wonderful prison ministry called, at that time, “Redeeming the Family.” It has since been renamed, “The Oklahoma Messages Project.” (slide 1 image)
We went into Oklahoma prisons to work with moms and dads experiencing incarceration, helping them record messages of love for their children at home during special times like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. (slide 2 image)
This was the first time either of us had ever set foot into a prison. It was a bit scary, but we had some prior volunteer training from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. (slide 3 image)
We helped parents select books for their children, and filmed them reading the books to their kids, along with supportive messages of love and affirmation. (slide 4 image)
These messages were recorded with digital camcorders, and put on DVDs that were mailed to each family and child to watch at home. Many of the kids receiving these video messages from their mom or dad would watch them over and over again. (slide 5 image)
When a mom or dad is missing from their family home, it is natural for children to worry. It is very important for children to know that their parent is safe and OK. It is also very important for children to hear messages of affirmation and love, when they are separated. (slide 6 image)
We both thank God for the opportunity to serve, even just a few times and in some small ways, with the Oklahoma Messages Project. We encourage you to find similar organizations and nonprofits in your community which are serving children, parents and families. (slide 7 image)
Yesterday our “Friday Morning Men’s Group” at our church met for the first time over a Zoom videoconference, which is the first time we’ve ever gathered virtually in the history of our group. Things went well overall. It was great to see and check in with everyone. We had about 30 of us in the conference I think, and everyone’s camera and microphone worked. We used a basic format, after an opening prayer we took turns sharing an update on a “silver lining” or challenge from our current time of “sheltering in place” at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was struck by a few things:
A number of guys are struggling with the lack of social interaction and their empty schedules.
Some men have already started taking advantage of virtual connection opportunities, reading daily from a novel to their grandchildren, for instance.
Many are finding it difficult to have their grandchildren close by, but not being able to be with them / hug them / interact with them “in person.”
Many are finding it difficult to not know how long this situation will go on, and are very eager to get back to “normal schedules.”
During the course of our videoconference and conversations, six things stood out to me as ways we can safely serve each other during COVID-19. There are clearly a LARGE number of needs we have within our group and in our larger communities. Finding tangible ways to serve and help each other during this disruptive time of crisis is important and can be a healthy addition to our schedules and lives.
1. Setup Virtual Family Dinner Connections
At least two of the guys in our group have already setup a “virtual family dinner” meeting via a Zoom videoconference. We did this with a friend and school colleague about a week ago, and it worked well. We connected to him via a Google Hangouts Meet videoconference on my iPad, and then put the iPad at our dinner table at the place where he’d sit if he was with us in person. Tomorrow for Easter Sunday, we’ve scheduled “dinner together” with my parents in Kansas and my sister and family in Missouri This reminds me of the Biblical exhortation we read in Hebrews 10:23-25:
‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ‘
I want to suggest it’s also the SEASON for virtual small group meetings. We have outstanding, free tools to facilitate small group interactions and meetings at a distance. These include FREE (40 minute or less) videoconferencing with Zoom, and Facebook Groups. While Zoom specifically has drawn a lot of recent, negative media attention for conference security problems, these have been addressed swiftly. If you have access to another collaborative videoconferencing platform or are willing to pay for one, by all means go for it. But if not, Zoom is a viable and good option for small group virtual meetings.
Our adult Sunday School Class, “Curiosity and Questions: Jesus and Science,” has continued to meet the past month as we’ve started “sheltering in place” as a city and a state. We’re meeting over a videoconference at our “regular time” on Sunday mornings between our church’s virtual worship services. We’re using both a private Facebook group and Google Classroom to share resources and updates. Our church’s recent move to “Realm Software” as a church-wide information system has empowered individual teachers (like me) to directly email and contact our group members. I don’t think our church small group connections should end with Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, however.
In addition to considering JOINING a virtual small group, I want to encourage you to consider STARTING one. Start a book club. You might do this by:
Choosing a new book you want to read, or a book you love and want to share with others.
Deciding on a weekly meeting time for your virtual book club.
Creating a free account with Zoom, and creating a repeating meeting / videoconference at your desired time.
Creating a REPEATING EVENT in your Facebook group, including the Zoom conference JOIN instructions.
Inviting your friends and acquaintances to join your small group / book study.
As we each grow more comfortable and proficient at meeting over videoconferences, the number of available small groups will grow. Your group does not have to have a large number of members to be “successful” and beneficial, to both you and other members. Small groups should be all about connecting, relationships, interacting, as well as learning.
Step out and create your own small group, for a book study or other purpose. The ideas you discuss together with your small group members and the connections you make in upcoming weeks can be IMPORTANT pieces of the wellness / self-care plan we each need to not only survive but also THRIVE in this COVID-19 pandemic season.
3. Utilize Daily Devotion and Bible Reading Apps
We all can benefit from daily “quiet time” to pray, read scripture, meditate, and seek the voice of God. I have been using the free “Pray as You Go” app and website for the last couple years, and highly recommend it. Pray As You Go is a project of the Jesuits of Britain, Each day they post a 15 to 20 minute meditation which focuses on a different Bible verse or series of verses, which are repeated twice during each devotional.
Use a Bible reading app like the YouVersion Bible, which includes a variety of Bible Study reading plans, the ability to connect to others for prayer and encouragement, and videos from amazing Christian theology and evangelist media creators like The Bible Project. The verse of the day feature, the ability to highlight and share scripture verses, and even create Bible Verse InfoPics right within the app are fantastic and powerful ways to focus our minds above “on the things of God” when so many current events “down below on earth” seem chaotic and troubling.
4. Keep a Daily Written Journal
Journaling about your life, your day, your fears, your hopes, your dreams and other aspects of your thought life can be an extremely healthy and healing activity at any season of life. Particularly as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, something no one alive today has previously experienced, journaling can be a constructive and beneficial activity. When I was in college and after college graduation, I was an avid journal writer. Then sometime around 2003, I discovered blogging. “Writing in public” on a blog or via a social media platform can be beneficial in similar ways to keeping a private journal, but there are more complexities to digital, shared, interactive writing. When deciding whether or not you’ll keep a journal during COVID-19, remember the benefits of your writing times may not be limited to you. Your grandchildren and other descendants may read what you write this week! We are literally living through history, so why not document your journey in detail for your benefit and the potential future benefit of others?
Who tells your story? You are the best person to tell it, and there’s no time like the present to get started.
6. Be a Digital Witness for Jesus
As Christians, we are called to not just share the story of OUR lives, but also the story of how GOD has moved and continues to move in our lives. Check out my 2020 book, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ,” for more ideas and project suggestions about how to do this. The full book is available free online. It will be available for sale on Amazon soon.
This weekend, following a wonderful 3 day vacation together on the nearby Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country, my family joined me at Mo-Ranch for the annual Men’s Conference Planning Retreat. This is the third year I’ve served on the Men’s Council. Normally we meet over a weekend in September, but because of a conflict we met in October this year. The weather was spectacular! It’s been a dream of mine for many years to bring my family to Mo-Ranch. Last Thanksgiving, we had reservations to spend the holiday at Mo-Ranch with our family and my wife’s parents, but illness prevented us from going. It was awesome to have them with me and for them to be able to experience the joy which is Mo-Ranch!
During our planning day yesterday and following this morning’s church service, I recorded several video interviews with other members of our men’s council to create two videos. The first one is 4.5 minutes long, and is a promotional video for the men’s conference which takes place the first weekend in May each year.
I have wanted to create “quick edit videos” like these the past two years at Mo-Ranch, but hadn’t had the courage to take the initiative and volunteer to do so. This year I did, and I think they turned out well. Hopefully they will be used to help more men become aware of the wonderful annual Mo-Ranch Men’s Conference, as well as the opportunity to serve on the council.
I shot these with my iPhone 6S and edited them with iMovie on my iPhone this afternoon, during a leg of our return car trip when my wife drove. I really like this quick-edit video format, which includes multiple people sharing related thoughts in different short clips.
A conversation and workshop
For artists and creatives
Telling the story
Of gospel collision
With human lives
I’m not sure exactly how many people attended, but I’d guess around 75. The morning started off with musician and worship leader, Charlie Hall, explaining the background and vision for the Story Workshop.
I hadn’t pre-planned doing this, but I realized shortly after the workshop started it might be good to broadcast and archive some of the event via Periscope. Last week I learned about and registered with Katch, which is a free cloud service that archives Periscope video broadcasts so they remain online and archived longer than 24 hours. I didn’t Periscope Charlie’s initial comments, so I’ll attempt to paraphrase.
Basically, some of the leaders within Frontline Church have been planning this Story Workshop as a way to encourage networking and collaboration among artistic creatives within their community as well as the larger Oklahoma City metro area. We all have different gifts from God, and I liked what Charlie had to say about how the things we make with our gifts do NOT define who we are… yet that is a tendency we all have as human beings. Charlie encouraged us to lay our gifts at the feet of Christ, and seek to find ways to collaborate together to creatively share SNAPSHOTS of life as followers of Christ to a world in need of the hope which God offers. I love Frontline’s core mission: “To love God, to love others, and to push back darkness.” The Story Workshop is a way to invite and empower a diverse group of creative individuals to intentionally focus on telling God’s story in our community through a variety of voices and mediums.
I hope they will post that video online at some point, and if they do I’ll definitely update this post and insert it. It was powerful. Kori is an amazing “spoken word” poet and performer, and the video featured prose she wrote and shared.
After the introductory session, we each selected a different breakout session. The choices were Film, Visual Art, Performance Art, Writing, Photography, and Music. I was going to attend Film, but Shelly asked if I was going to writing… she was planning to stay for film. She’s helped her 3rd and 4th graders at Positive Tomorrows the past two years create and share some wonderful videos on their classroom YouTube channel, and wanted to get some ideas for elevating their digital storytelling projects. Since I’m continuing to help organize the local “Write Well, Sell Well Conference” for writers in Oklahoma City, it did make sense for me to join the writer’s breakout… and I’m very glad I did.
We had a great turnout of over twenty people for the writing group, and we started (similar to a WordPress OKC Meetup) by having everyone briefly share about themselves and their current writing project(s) or interests.
During Saturday’s Story Workshop, I was struck (again) by how important it is for writers to have both catalysts for writing and accountability partners. I often create because of deadlines: Conferences at which I present or deadlines which are related to upcoming professional development events.
At times I need both a catalyst & accountability partner to encourage me to write & create. The #StoryWorkshop at #FrontlineOK is doing that
Four years ago when I was teaching one day per week at the University of North Texas and writing the first three chapters of my dissertation, I thought of the “3 Minutes About Jesus” project and registered a corresponding domain. In the succeeding years, I recorded and shared several videos on the site… but it wasn’t something that “took off” or I spent lots of time trying to develop.
When I thought of the dw4jc.com domain earlier this month, I also thought it would be good to use the October 23-24, Write Well, Sell Well Conference as a deadline to get an initial version of the book finished to share in printed form. This may seem like an unrealistic deadline, but it’s similar to timelines I’ve followed previously for other books I’ve self-published. I’m not positive if I’ll make that deadline, but the Story Workshop certainly served as a catalyst for me to take significant steps in this writing project.
YouTube and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter offer incredible opportunities for Christian mission outreach ministries to “tell their story” and share with communities both local and international about the work God is doing through their volunteers. For several years I’ve felt God is calling me to use my knowledge and skills with digital media technologies to further the gospel and support the ends of His church on earthâ€¦ and tonight I had another long awaited opportunity to answer that call in a small way.
Upendo Kids International is a mission outreach non-profit based in Edmond, Oklahoma, which sends teams each summer to Kenya to show God’s love and kindness through a variety of activities. This evening, I had an opportunity to show the nineteen members of the June 2012 Upendo Kids mission team how to use the iPad application “Explain Everything” to briefly narrate five photos from their trip. All together, mission team members brought home thousands of digital photos. Until this evening, however, I don’t think any of them had recorded their voices alongside selected photos and published them as videos on YouTube. Here are the two narrated slideshows we created at the end of their meeting tonight.
I challenged each of the mission team members present at the meeting tonight, who are mostly high school students, to create a narrated slideshow like these before school starts for them on August 19th. I told them “the devil would do a happy dance” if they stop talking about their mission trip experiences and the ways they saw God at work in Kenya after school starts in August. I dearly hope each one of them will accept my challenge and create a short narrated slideshow about their experiences in Kenya this summer, and publish it on YouTube. Some of the students and parents reported they were providing their trip sponsors / supporters with CDs including hundreds of photos from their trip. I really think a two or three minute narrated slideshow with five key photos from the mission trip would be worth MUCH more to a person or family who donated to make their trip possible.
I applaud both Kelly and Carly for their courage in sharing part of their stories and experiences in Kenya this year. To check out more Kenya Mission Trip stories from June 2012 and Upendo Kids International, subscribe to UpendoKids on YouTube.
Today at the 61st annual Men’s Conference at Mo-Ranch near Hunt, Texas, I shared a presentation titled, “Be A Digital Witness for Jesus.” I audio recorded the second session, and added that audio to my presentation slides on SlideRocket. You an hear the entire 60 minute presentation by pressing “play” on the embedded version below, but you’ll have to manually advance the slides because it doesn’t appear that SlideRocket lets me set the synchronization/advance timings.
Please access all referenced resources on this Google Site, including all videos except the profane one I discussed briefly. I don’t have the presentation slide I used for it or the video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” included on SlideRocket, I added those slides after I’d already uploaded my presentation.
If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please share this idea with your own church members and encourage them (especially your youth) to get involved documenting the stories of faith in your community. We all can be digital witnesses for Jesus.
Today was the fourth time this semester I’ve prepared a full lesson for our sixth grade Sunday school class and not been able to teach. I’m quite frustrated and mystified at the fact that I’ve been a co-teacher in our class all semester (since we started at the end of August) and have not been able to teach a single lesson yet. Our schedule is changeable and chaotic and communication has left much to be desired. Through it all, whatever my personal experiences and perceptions, I pray our students are gaining a deeper understanding and living a deeper relationship with Jesus as a result of their experiences in Sunday School.
I used ReelDirector on my iPad to create a short (6 min, 40 sec) narrated slideshow tonight highlighting the main ideas I’d planned to share with our sixth graders today. I originally created this slideshow in Keynote on my iPad, primarily using photos from Flickr I took this Friday and Saturday in New York City. There’s no way (at last that I could find) to convert an iPad Keynote presentation on the iPad (without syncing) to images which can be used in another program. So, I created screenshots of my Keynote slides and then imported them into ReelDirector. I used my iRig microphone to record the voiceover in ReelDirector, and set each photo to display in the video for the maximum (20 seconds) permitted by the program. The last few seconds of my recording got cut off, but at this point I’m just going to go with “my first take!”
Hopefully next week I’ll actually be able to teach our kids. It’s exceptionally frustrating to work hard and prepare lessons for multiple weeks and then not be able to teach.