– Ben Martens


Online Church Services

For the last 65 weeks, I’ve been working with Pastor and our organists to put together online services for YouTube and Facebook. This past week, I finished up editing my final one, at least for now. Our pastor has taken a call to Colorado and while we call for a new pastor, we’ll have a vacancy pastor from Beautiful Savior in Everett. They already have an online worship option via Zoom so that means no more video editing for me! (Members, watch your email and our Facebook page for more info.)

There are so many things that went right with these online services.

  • On March 4, 2020, I had just finished a new PC build specifically intended to be a more powerful video editor. Less than THREE WEEKS LATER, we had our first online service. The timing of that was truly a blessing because not only was I doing all that video editing every week, but this became my main machine for working from home. The new PC, dual 4k monitors and standing desk were all March purchases and I’m so glad that I dove in and did them all.
  • As the lockdown started, I was just starting to learn Davinci Resolve. My first full service edited with Resolve was March 29 and it seemed to take forever. I had taken an online course via which helped a lot, but I still spent a lot of time looking for very basic commands in a foreign interface. It was trial by fire and that first service took me 8-10 hours to complete. But producing a video every week was a great way to learn and by the end, I had it down to 3-4 hours.
  • Early on, I’d watch the video on Sunday morning with trepidation wondering if I had left any big mistakes in there, but as the videos started coming earlier in the week and I got better at editing, my family was able to watch the services on Saturday morning. I watched with a notebook handy to mark down anything that needed to be changed. My Saturday night sleep improved dramatically!
  • I had set up Backblaze for cloud backup of the church computers years ago, but we really got our value from that service. When we started these recordings, Pastor was trying to upload gigabytes of video to me from his home connection. Since that was mostly wifi based on laptops that would power down automatically, etc, it was unreliable. Then we hit on the idea of just putting the files onto the main church computer and letting Backblaze transfer them to the cloud for us. Our internet at church is very slow (about 1GB/hour upload) but it was reliable and that was the most important thing. Once it was uploaded, I could log onto Backblaze from home and download the specific files that I needed.

The final tally was ~150 videos! In addition to the main service videos, I also posted the children’s sermon and sermon separately. All three videos got uploaded to both Facebook and YouTube so I guess that’s more like 300 videos. In addition to the Sunday content, We had some midweek services and special videos as well like the group hymn. If you’re looking back through the list, I’ve unlisted some of the full services on our YouTube channel because I’m tired of fighting bad copyright claims on public domain music, but all of the sermons are still there and I’ll leave a few of the services as well.

I’m looking forward to having a bit of extra time in my schedule and being a participant in the online services, but I’m thankful for all of the skills I picked up along the way. Learning new things is fun but learning new things to enable others to worship during lockdown was even better!

500th Reformation Anniversary

Today is a church holiday called Reformation. It commemorates the work of the reformers, specifically Martin Luther, to try and bring the Catholic church back to a sound doctrinal position. He was a strong supporter of the church but did not support the places where they were deviating from scripture. His work to repair the problems in the Catholic church were ultimately unsuccessful, but the “protestants” did break off from the Catholic church to try and form churches that held to the teachings of the Bible.

As with all things human and sinful, some of those protestant groups also succumbed to falsehoods and inaccuracies over the years. It takes constant vigilance to keep the devil from eroding the basic truths of the Bible. That vigilance is what the church (or at least our church?) is really celebrating at Reformation. We’re not worshiping Martin Luther. We’re reminding ourselves to continue to test everything we are taught against the unerring Bible. We can sum it up in three phrases (often heard in Latin): sola scriptura, sola fide and sola gratia. Scripture alone reveals the saving work in Christ. Faith in that saving work of Christ is the only path to heaven. And grace, God’s undeserved love for us, is the only way we receive that saving work. If we hear teaching that involves non-Biblical “revelations from God”, requiring good works to get to heaven, or any part of the plan of salvation that requires our own input, those teachings are contrary to what God wrote for us in the Bible.

1 John 4:1-6

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Want to learn more? Our church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has a lot of resources available.

Camp 4 Star Visit

Our area churches run a week long summer camp called Camp 4 Star. It has been around for a very long time. I met one alumni who was there in the 60s! Tyla and her siblings were campers in the 90s. It’s going on this week and Tim and Chelsea are heavily involved in keeping the whole thing going. They’ve been inviting us to come visit for years and this year we finally made it happen.

The camp operates out of rented space at Millersylvania State Park in their Environmental Learning Center. Driving up, I was struck by how much the whole setup reminded me of every summer camp you’ve seen in the movies. It’s awesome! They have 4 areas that each have 4 cabins and then a big main building with a full kitchen and some other nearby cabins. The camp holds 128 campers (plus staff) when it’s full, and it is full pretty much every year. If you want your kid to attend, register early!

Elijah had a blast watching all the big kids running around and playing with some other mini-campers (children of staff.) He got to ride around with Tim on the utility vehicle, swim in the lake and ride around in the canoe with Tyla and me. I think he’s counting the days until he turns 10 and can head down there for a full week of camping!

Thanks to Tim, Chelsea and the other counselors for letting us visit!

Christmas Music

Christmas is always a special time for music at our church so I try to record as much of it as I can. This year I ended up posting TWELVE videos from the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. It as a lot of editing! This was the first time that I’ve done the AV work for a big holiday service using our new amplifier and speakers. It was awesome to be able to mic up the singers and actually balance them individually so that they could both be clearly heard. I want to find out a way to add some more mics but our setup is pretty simple/limited.

I’ll embed a couple of the videos below, but you can view them all on our YouTube page: I created a few playlists to help organize the content (Sermons, Music, and the school kids.) From Christmas there is 1 sermon video and 11 music videos.

Praying For Adversity

calmonbenchThere was a quote at church a few weeks back that keeps popping up in my thoughts. I’m probably butchering its original eloquence but it was something to the effect of “If you knew what God knows, you would have requested the all the adversity in your life.”

The Bible is full of verses explaining that God is omniscient, has a perfect plan for each of us and everything he does is what is best for us.

  • Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love, who have been called according to his purpose.”
  • Romans 5:3-4: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
  • James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

The list goes on and on, but it follows that if we had all that same knowledge as God, the logical best course of action would be whatever “terrible” thing that is bothering us right now. Of course we don’t have that omniscience so we can’t see the logic and intention behind it, but we trust that it’s there.

As Christians, we know all that, but I love how easily it is summed up as: “If you knew what God knows, you’d be praying for this.”

Church Shirts

I’ve been at my current church for over 10 years and for most of those 10 years I’ve heard people talk about how nice it would be to have custom shirts. The preschool and kindergarten kids could wear them on field trips, volunteers could wear them during events, and we could use them as jerseys at the softball tournament.

This year it finally happened. I ordered from a local company called Image Source. Beth came up with the idea for the design and I got it all cleaned up for the printers. It’s loosely based on our “official” church logo.


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 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.