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Easter Service Videos

Easter Sunday usually entails a special service with a bunch of extra music which means I generally try to do some video recordings for our YouTube channel. I’m trickling them out one at a time on our Facebook page, but you can see them all right now if you’re interested. We have some very talented musicians in our church! If you’re into organ music, our organist, Wyatt, is giving a free concert at the church on Friday night at 7:30pm. This concert is part of his organ PhD requirements at UW.

Calvary Web Page

SquarespaceIf you went to our church’s web page in the past, you probably shook your head and chuckled about the ancient design. It looked like something from the 90s… probably because it was.

I tracked down all our domain, email and web hosting information and got everything migrated to a combination of eNom (domain and email hosting) and SquareSpace (web hosting.) I threw up a quick site and then turned it over BethH who really made some awesome changes. She gets all the credit for the current beautiful site! I don’t get paid for saying this, but if you need a site, make sure you consider SquareSpace. I don’t think Beth has any coding experience but she was able to design an awesome site. And if you are a coder, you can still customize it to your heart’s content. It’s a pretty impressive package for a low price.

Along this journey, we’ve also stepped up our social media presence. I started an Instagram account and we’re also giving our Facebook page some more love. Beth has a good plan for four of us at church to start posting to Facebook and Instagram on a more regular basis.

I used to be embarrassed to point people to our website but now it’s fun! Go check it out at http://www.calvarylutheranbellevue.org. Maybe my next project should be finding a shorter domain name…

What Is Lent?

season-of-lentThis is the next installment of my “What does that religious celebration mean?” series. The first was Advent. We made it through Christmas. I forgot to write about Epiphany and now we’re onto Lent. So what is Lent?

Lent covers the six weeks before Easter and kicks off with Ash Wednesday. Many churches will have extra Wednesday night services so you end up going to church twice each week. The extra services are there to giive you even more time to reflect on the meaning of Lent. The whole point is to show us our need for a Savior and what’s about to happen at the end of Lent (Jesus’s death and His resurrection at Easter.) Lent reminds us WHY Jesus had to come to suffer, die and rise again. He did all that because we are sinners. The law that God sets forth in the Bible is very clear. He demands 100% aboslute perfection. If you can pull that off, you get into heaven. But as you probably guessed, that’s impossible .From the moment we are conceived, we’re sinful. If that’s all we covered in Lent services, it would be extremely depressing because we’d leave knowing that we’re heading straight to hell when we die. But the story doesn’t end there. After each reminder of our failures, we are presented with the reminder that Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin in our place. Through him, we are guaranteed spots in heaven and all that’s required is faith.

You may have heard people talk about Lent in terms of giving something up for the season. The idea has lost a lot of its good intentions. Many people now do it because they think they’re going to gain points with God if they choose to not eat Skittles or drink coffee during Lent. Nope. But giving up something for Lent can be a good thing if you use it as a constant daily reminder of the meaning behind the season for Lent.

So if you step into a Lent service, it might seem like a somber occasion. There’s black on the altar and there’s a lot of talk about all the suffering that Jesus had to endure because we are screwups. But stay for the end and you’ll hear the wonderful message of what that Jesus’s death and resurrection mean for us if we believe. We get eternal life in heaven. It’s the ultimate gift.

What is Advent?

AdventReligions have a lot of seasons and celebrations. I readily admit that I don’t know most of the non-Christian ones and even some of the lesser known Christian ones are hard to remember. I won’t do this for every single Church season or special day, but I thought that for some of them I would do a little write up about what it means for Christians and why I celebrate it. It just so happens that the Christian “liturgical year” starts in December.

The church year starts with the season of Advent. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and runs up to Christmas. So for most years it starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving. These four Sundays are sometimes represented by four candles. One more candle gets lit each week. Some Advent wreaths have a fifth candle in the middle and that one gets lit on Christmas Day.

Advent is a season of waiting. We’re not just staring at our watches, waiting for Christmas to come. We are joyfully anticipating Christmas and reflecting on why we need Him and what His birth meant for us. Believers in the Old Testament waited thousands of years of Jesus to come. We only wait a few weeks and we get to celebrate it each year. But in addition to preparing and focusing on the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we also expectantly wait for his return at the end of the world when those who believe that Jesus died for their sins will be taken to heaven.

Want to know more? Check out this article about Advent from our church body.

I’ve already written a post about why I celebrate Christmas so it will be a little while before there’s another post in this series.

Microphone Light

arduinomiclightA few months ago, I bought new wireless microphones for church. They’re simple but they work well. The old ones were dying so it’s nice to have some that work well. The only downside is that the old ones had a nice flip switch on the top so you could tell by feeling the box whether the mic was on or off. These new mics have a button that you press once to turn on and another to turn off. Pastor turns his mic on and off throughout the service and it’s really easy to get mixed around with the on/off state.

After thinking about this for quite a while, I decided I could turn this into a project. There is a light on the mic receiver up in the balcony that goes on when his mic is on. I taped a light sensor on top of that and ran that to one of the analog input pins on an Arduino. If the light is off (meaning his mic is off), the Arduino sends a signal to a relay to let power flow to a light bulb. The bulb is red so if Pastor sees a red light, he knows his mic is off. I’ve only been testing it for a couple Sundays but so far, it works great!

This was the first time that I’ve ordered from AdaFruit.com but I was really impressed. Each product page has lots of examples and documentation to get you going. I also really liked their “Power Tail 2” product. It has all the relay stuff built into a short extension cord so you can skip all of those pieces. It’s way more expensive than doing it yourself, but “it just works.” And obviously I didn’t need an Arduino to do this simple logic, but again, it was easier.

This was a fun project to research and build. I love these Arduino projects, but I don’t have a lot projects on my list that require one.