Today was the first day of Catalyst and I must say I have heard for years how awesome this conference is, but now that I am here I am still blown away! This is the most amazing (and over-the-top) conference I have ever been to!
The day started out benignly (is that a word) enough. I had to dig by sleepy teenage son out of his lump of blankets and pillows where he was totally hidden like a big Chinese hamster.
Even though he was only half awake, my son was still so nice to me. He let me photograph him making waffles because I wanted to demonstrate the waffle machine.
First you use a waffle batter dispenser to put some batter in a cup.
They you pour the waffle into the iron.
Iron Chef Daniel makes waffles.
Then you close the iron and flip it over and it has a timer that counts down. Except part of the numbers are missing so it kinda looks like alien hieroglyphics.
But then, beep beep beep — it’s done! Looks like we can use more batter next time, but they turned out golden and crisp outside and chewy inside — perfect!
Then it was off to Catalyst. It was pretty bad traffic. We better leave earlier next time. I thought we would get there 30 minutes early but we only got there 10 minutes early. It was amazing all the pre-show stuff they had outside. We did this for the Thrive Conference and in a lot of ways, Catalyst feels like Thrive, except on a way larger scale. I’ll show pictures on the outside stuff later.
We went inside… I think I heard this place is sold out and has like 12,000 people here. I didn’t have time to count them all but we had 9,000 adults at the Arco Arena event we did and this place is a lot larger.
Here’s a panoramic view.
There were so many things that happened at this conference. I can’t possibly cover them all. But here’s a sampling!
I was trying to capture the countdown clock right at zero. Could I do it? Could I do it? Ready… ready… ready… click — I got it!
Then, a big light show to start out with! It was so awesome. I was mesmerized by color lights. But not mezmerized enough to forget to take a picture. Too bad the still pictures just don’t capture the energy, the syncing of the lights with the music, and the power of the musical arrangement. It was just downright cool.
The music was so totally awesome. Started with a guy beboxing and a violinist playing. The beboxing totally sounded like a real drum kit (there was a drummer playing the bass, but everything else was done from the guy’s mouth!)
It just built… more and more and more people…
And dozens of guitar players came marching down the aisle playing guitars and all got on the stage! There’s a group in front… and a group facing the other side in the back of the picture.
I thought they did an excellent job utilizing the round (er, rectangular) stage. They switched up which way people faced so you could see a person’s face many times through the day.
The worship set was very interesting to me. The first song had some really interesting word graphics that were programmed like synced video. They were animated and changed with every phrase. But the rest of the songs were normal.
The theme of the conference is “The Tension is Good,” talking about how every leader faces tension and can use it for good instead of being defeated by it.
To illustrate, they had everyone blow up balloons.
It was quite a sight with the whole arena full of balloons.
I won’t go into the whole illustration, but Daniel’s wouldn’t pop. He later used it to experiment by blowing air on himself at different rates. My son would make his engineer father proud.
Andy Stanley started off the conference with a totally amazing talk. My takeaway: “Don’t sell your future for a bowl of stew.” We all have our bowl of stew, like Esau, who flippantly gave away his future.
Scott Harrison spoke about Charity Water, an organization dedicated to bringing clean water around the world. He founded the organization. It is such an amazing story and totally inspiring.
Break time! Time to go take some pictures!
The outdoor exhibitor’s tent reminded me of a futuristic sci-fi set.
There were mini trampolines for people to bounce along. I saw someone actually doing this. With my luck, I’d probably hurt myself. (After traveling from California to Atlanta, I discovered a very large bruise on my leg. No idea how I got it.)
I stayed away.
The hammock lawn, always full every time I passed it. (Many more than in this picture) Hmm… I should have told Daniel to lie down there. He has been sick and very tired and fell asleep on my arm this afternoon. It would probably have been more restful for him outside!
A Euro-bungy! I remember this thing… we used it a lot when I did events. This thing was sitting outside all morning. People were bouncing up and down in it as we arrived this morning and walked toward the building. Also this morning were volunteers serving fresh biscuits and gravy to people! Too bad we already ate breakfast…
Inside the lobby—many, many, many people. Lots of exhibitors too. I’ll need to go check them out tomorrow.
Back to our regular programming. Catalyst has such creative and over-the-top entertainment! Like a knife-throwing pastor. The girl below was holding two balloons. This guy has won awards around the world for the speed and accuracy of his throwing. It was truly amazing. But I was also impressed by the woman working with him. And I thought my job was stressful. Ha! I’ll sleep like a baby tonight!
To preface the next speaker, they also had some volunteers come up and demonstrated how it was possible to motivate an unwilling volunteer to stand there blindly holding balloons for this guy to throw knives at. Too long to get into, but hats off to the brave volunteer!
The next speaker was Dan Pink, who spoke about motivation. I find all this stuff that makes people tick fascinating. God truly created us to be complex beings!
(I also must say I am pretty impressed with the 200mm lens, that can pick up such details from where I was sitting… all the way at the top of the rows under the balcony!)
Christine Caine from Australia talked about her story and the fight against human trafficking.
After that Rani Hong talked about being a survivor child slavery and her new foundation to fight against it, the Tronie Foundation.
These stories are extremely powerful. It is overwhelming about all the needs and evils in the world and feeling like I’m just one little person. But each of these people is “one little person” and God has used them to make amazing impact. It was a reminder to live out the passions and callings God has given in each of us to make a difference in the world.
During each session, a painter would stand on the side and create a painting. When we were leaving in the evening, I saw them all on the side of a tent outside for display. I’ll have to go check it out again tomorrow.
Lunch time! It is interesting how the outside entertainment changes too. This ping pong table was not out there in the morning. I noticed a basketball hoop had been added too. The Euro-bungy was gone.
Unfortunately, lunch was a bit stressful for me. I couldn’t find my keys. I took everything out of my backpack. Nothing. The last I remembered was they were in my pocket. Daniel ran back into the arena to look. Then I did too. I went to the lost and found. No keys.
I took everything out of my backpack again. There they were! Fallen down a pocket that I never use. I don’t even know how they got there!
However, it was enough time for Daniel and I to run to Starbucks. After all that I discovered Starbucks was only across the street and we could’ve walked!
Got in late… couldn’t find seats. Ended up in top balcony, 2nd row from the top!
In progress… a Chinese acrobat on a very tall unicycle! Throwing bowls on her head! With her feet!
I really don’t know how she did that because a bowl would be right side up, stacked on an upside down bowl, stacked on a right side up bowl, etc. (That’s why they look like balls on her feet.) She kicked them up on her head and they all stacked correctly! I’m sure my husband would know the physics behind that, but it is baffling to me.
Seth Godin was up. I never heard him speak before. He is hilarious, insightful, and quite fascinating. He talked about moving from the factory culture of compliance to a connected culture. I find it interesting how much this conference utilizes technology… podcasts, twitter, texting, and even the speakers talk about its impact.
Speaking of technology, Daniel, who is one of the tech guys at church, was quite interested when one of the screens blanked out for a while. (After a while it started scrolling the word “link” all across.) He said, “It’s nice to know that even a huge place like Catalyst can’t get their technology to work 100% of the time.” Quite interesting because later he and I had a very good conversation about failure and its implications. My son is 16 but he thinks like an adult!
Beth Moore talked about insecurity. This brought great peace to me because during break I had some conversations with some people that caused me to feel some questions about what God was up to. But God is always in control, as He reminded me during Beth Moore’s talk. It brought me much comfort and peace.
Daniel and I walked to dinner, where there were like 50 people in line at Wendy’s. It took us like an hour to get through the line. Hmm… maybe it was 45 minutes. It was quite long though! But excellent conversations with my son!
Then back for the evening. We missed the music but Francis Chan spoke. It was so amazing. In two Saturdays his family is picking up and moving to Asia by faith. Besides reminding us of our call to help the poor and needy, something he said really encouraged me — when you follow and obey God, that He will take care of your children. What a step of faith! What a great reminder to me of trusting God in what is the most important thing he has entrusted to me on this earth — my family.
These thoughts I have written are such a small sample of the many things that God has used to encourage, challenge and inspire me in my faith. There is very much an emphasis on the plight of the under-served, forgotten and exploited, which I greatly appreciate.
Daniel and I have had an awesome time. He’s really enjoying the conference and we have had wonderful conversations. Even though we came on our own dime, and it has been a huge cost time-wise and health wise, it has all been worth it.
The only bummer is that now I lost my jacket. I went back to the lost and found. The same man was there. I said, “Well, the good news is I found my car keys. The bad news is I lost my jacket.”
He said, “What are you, four? Can’t you keep track of your own stuff?”
He was joking of course. It was quite funny the way he said it. He said, “Good thing you are at a Christian conference. You’d be wiped clean!”
So true… if he only knew this is my normal modus operandi…such is the life of a scatterbrained person.