Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sevierville! Dollywood! Gatlinburg! Pigeon Forge!

If Sufjan gets to his Tennessee album anytime soon, that has to be the title of the first song.

Knoxville treated us with justice. CHIC 2006: No Ordinary Day was the name of the youth conference which I and seven of the Sr. Highers from Hope attended from July 16-21, along with 5,600 of our closest friends from all over the country. It took place in the Volunteer state, on the Volunteer's campus. The orange began to burn my retinas, but in a good way.
Here's the rundown:

  • We left Indy at noon sharp on Sunday, less than an hour after I had arrived back in the circle city (see previous post).
  • After stops at Arby's, Mobil, and a Kentucky rest area, we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Knoxville around 6:45 pm.
  • By the time we got checked in, etc., it was 7:30, and they had stopped serving dinner at Smokies, which was our dining hall for the week. Smokies treated us with justice throughout the week, but on this evening, we were forced to venture to McDonald's. We had the darndest time figuring out the transportation system, so we walked.
  • After scarfing down our McDonald's, we were left with the task of making it to the evening worship at the Thompson-Boling Arena (a gigantic shrine to the color orange) by 9pm. Once again, we hadn't figured out the transportation system, so we took the long walk. I was in a pissy mood, since I was going on an hour and a half of sleep, and I was more frustrated about the transportation thing than I probably should have.
  • Once we made it to the Arena, they were just starting the worship set. It was powerful. At some point during the service, I realized that I didn't need to be poopy any more, and that God had this trip under control. Sadly, this realization would only come and go throughout the week.
  • The speakers on the first night were Judy Howard Peterson, Efrem Smith and Don Everts. They were excellent all week. The theme for this first night was "No Ordinary Man," in reference to Jesus. The fourth speaker throughout the week was Bart Campolo, but he didn't speak until the next night.
  • We walked back to the hotel again, again inept at figuring out the transportation system. Once again, I got frustrated, and sleep awaited me. I got the students to bed and laid in bed myself. You'd think I'd fall right asleep, right? Well, I was too stressed, so I called Marcie. I poured out my guts to her, she listened and told me to go to bed and that I would be renewed in the morning.
  • Of course she was right. The next morning brought good things. We figured out the transportation system, had a good breakfast at Smokies, went to small groups and focus groups, missed lunch, and went to the Nascar Speedway in Sevierville. And as Tony Stewart says, "If you can't have fun here, you can't have fun anywhere." Thanks, Tony.
  • After Nascar, we went to dinner and hung around awhile before going to the next evening's worship time. The theme for the second night was "No Ordinary Teacher," also referring to Jesus. I believe this was the night that Don and Bart were the speakers. Don's message was basically this, and it was absolutely gripping. Do unto others, indeed. Will, one of the guys from the youth group was really impacted by the message, and has been doing his best to live it since.
  • I won't run through all the details of each day...picking up the pace!
  • Tuesday's highlight was definitely "saving lives one scoop at a time." Scott, one of our youth, came up with that catchy slogan. One scoop at a time, we packaged nutritious dry meals to be sent to Sudan through a ministry called "Feed My Starving Children" out of Minneapolis. All in all, the youth of CHIC packaged almost 600,000 meals, which will literally prolong the lives of thousands of people who are starving each day. It was truly touching to be a part of this. Amazing. Aces. Read more about it here.
  • Tuesday's theme was "No Ordinary Healer," referring to (guess who?) Jesus. The service was a service of healing. There was much confession, confrontation and prayer in the service. There were a lot of tears and a lot of mending of broken relationships through Christ's power.
  • Wednesday we went to Dollywood's Splash Country. What a blast! But honestly, we were in Dollywood! How amazing is that?!? This was truly No Ordinary Day.
  • That evening, the theme was No Ordinary Death. Jesus lived with ordinary people and loved ordinary people, but there was nothing ordinary about his life and death. Students who did not know the saving power of Christ had a great oppportunity to get to know Jesus Wednesday night. The great thing is that the students came with church families, so they will not just accept Christ and go on with their lives exactly as they were. They have the built in daily influence to help them in the process of lifelong discipleship.
  • Thursday, we did all the regular stuff (small groups, focus sessions, evening worship), but we had free time all afternoon. I watched Zach, Seth an Scott do some skating at the skate park, ate some free snow cones, and took a nap on a park bench. It was nice.
  • The final night's theme was "No Ordinary Life," which went right along with the "No Ordinary Death" of the night before, because as many of us know, Jesus' death would have been pointless violence had it not been for the resurrection. We get to live resurrection lives in this world, right now, as we work for the kingdom, and for that which we pray--"thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It's not just old sounding is reality, awaiting final fulfillment.
  • We found out some great news on that last night. We found out that the youth of CHIC donated an incredible sum of money to Covenant World Relief's projects in Bentiu, Sudan. These high school students, 5,600 of them, donated over $100,000 to go towards a medical clinic and school and even more in Bentiu! That's over $17 per student, which I find quite impressive for a bunch of high schoolers who don't have jobs. It excites me to no end to see this generosity coming from the youth of the Covenant Church.
  • We left on Friday morning at 8am. Tim was picked up by his mom, so he didn't get to experience the trip home with us, but it was good. We had some McDonald's breakfast (mmm...McGriddles), and got some Skyline Chili in Cincinnati for lunch (amazing). We made it back to Indy at 3pm. Game over.

I also have to mention that it was great seeing so many people I hadn't seen in a long time. North Park friends, Libertyville friends...I love you all and miss you tons. It was great to see all of you. I'm glad I got to experience this event with so many close friends from all different stages of my life. There was much joy and love in just running into so many familiar faces throughout the week. And to everyone...

May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you His peace.

Rock on.

Never Did No Wanderin' After All

I think I have too much to update to trust myself with paragraphs. I think bullet points will be much more efficient and far less prone to meandering.
  • The flight up to the UP was pretty good. We ate at Fuddrucker's in the Detroit airport and got Marcie a Tigers t-shirt.
  • When we got to the airport, we found that we had been upgraded (for free) to a 2006 Jeep Liberty. That's what I'm talking about.
  • The drive to Houghton Beach/Hancock Beach from the airport was a bit confusing, but we made it.
  • When we walked up to magnificent Lake Gerald, we were greeted as the Prodigal Children. Nate dove off the edge of the speedboat, and ran down the dock to embrace me. It was a wonderful inauguration to a great weekend.
  • We got into said speedboat with my lovely wife, the Guises, the Vis, and the stars of the show, Grabs and Rochitaka. We swam, talked, laughed, floated, farted and embraced the environment.
  • We ate a great meal, sauuuuuuuunaed, and were joined mid sauuuuuuna by Josh and Ginny. We were getting closer to fullness. We had reached a quarum, if you will.
    It continued to get better. We settled into the cabins, waxed existential, talked film and absurdity, and retired for the evening. Sevierville! Dollywood! Gatlinburg! Pigeon Forge! We had much goodness (and danger) ahead of us.
  • Friday morning was the arrival of the Britch to much rejoicing and embracing and our first attempt at golf. This attempt was thwarted by God himself in the form of some hard core rain. It was just. God is always just.
  • In lieu of golf, we headed to Hancock Beach/Houghton Beach. We had to try on our tuxes (far too much clothing for the weather conditions), but before we could do that, we had to visit the Steph the Britch, Steph the Moss, and my favorite Brit, Ush.
  • Many ladies went to help decorate the reception hall during this process, which basically amounted to the spouses of the groomsmen doing way more work than the groomsmen themselves. But they were troopers, and had some great bonding time of their own (or so I tell myself).
  • After trying on our smart tuxes and buying mercantile/mercenary socks, we moved onto loitering in downtown Hancock. We purchased the world's most good-natured pipe for Gustine. Man, that pipe handled itself with grace.
  • Then it was off to Joe's Pizza for chili (cup or bowl?) and spudsters.
  • By then it was high time to head back to the cabins to get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Cherry coke was consumed in mass quantities.
  • Afterwards, we piled into the ole Liberty and headed back to Hancock Beach/Houghton Beach to meet Bob-O and RyJo. Joshua rode with my 9 iron in his backside and I unleashed a thousand graves from mine.
  • We purchased the Angry Bulldog (see picture) care kit for the bride-to-be.
  • We met everyone back at the cabins for the bachelor's party. It was a great time, watching the stars, hearing and telling stories, consuming moderate amounts of libation and smoking cigars and pipes and celebrating Nate. I got to know Ushwin, Ric, Joel and Patrick, all while being able to continue to hang with some of my best friends. We retired late.
  • The next morning was the attempt to play 9 holes. Some completed said task, others didn't. Here's a picture of Ushwin, the alleged novice to the sport of golf. He took us Yanks to school.
  • While we golfed, once again, our spouses committed themselves to the task of work. They got the cabin all cleaned up so that we could just load it into the vehicles after we were done.
  • We dropped the food and beverage, so generously donated to us by the Berger's, off at the cabin on Lake Gerald.
  • From there, we went to the wedding. We got to see Znack and Bre and their lil' guy, Trevor, Fowler and Ridell and a bunch of wonderful people. Sweet. It was about a million degrees, but it was a beautiful ceremony that symbolized an infinitely more beautiful union of two of my favorite individuals. Amazing.
  • After the wedding, there was eating, dancing, decorating, oddsmaking and celebrating at the Best Western of Houghton. The reception hall was air-conditioned. All praises to God for the provision of air-conditioning for us weary, tuxedoed souls.
  • Josh's toast was very apropos, spot on.
  • We continued to dance and enjoy. Eventually the party ended, and we got to see the happy couple off on their journey of life together. It was an honor and a joy. Aces.
    Marcie and I slept from 1am to 2:30 pm (THANK YOU, Guistines!), and then we headed back to the airport. Marcie drove so that I could get some shuteye. It wasn't very restful, as I was trying to stay awake so that Marcie wouldn't hit a deer. Thanks, Marcie. I love you.
  • We made it to the airport after a few crazy twists, and flew back to Indy.
  • I showered, loaded into a van with my youth group, and left for Knoxville, TN.

The Knoxville stuff is coming soon. For now, I'll say that CHIC was powerful, and a beautiful experience, both for myself and the youth.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Are You Fatigued?

Do you need this support group? I think I have at one time or another. Thanks to LarkNews for the link.


Last summer, Marcie and I went to Michigan for our vacation. It may not sound all that exciting to many, but it was the best vacation we've ever had. One of the best parts of it was spending a couple days up in Houghton-Hancock with Nate and Rochelle (Grabher and Rochi-taka).

Here we are, nearly a year later, and Grabher and Rochi-taka are to become the Grabhers. On Saturday, they will be united in holy matrimony. I am so excited for them. I can't recall being as exciting for a wedding. Why?

Well, for one, Nate and Rochelle started dating on April 1, 2001. Marcie and I started dating on March 24, 2001, exactly one week prior. Marcie and I have been married for almost three years now, but Nate and Rochelle are just getting into this great journey known as marriage. We've been on the journey together, and I'm greatly excited for my friends to be fully united. They deserve each other. I love them and am excited beyond words to celebrate their union this weekend. They're such dear friends. Hep!

And the fun doesn't end there. Marcie and I are hopping on a plane at 6am Sunday to head back to Indy. As soon as we get back, we'll drive back home, I'll switch suitcases (prepacked, of course), get into a minivan with my Sr. High youth group, and head to Knoxville, TN for CHIC 2006.

CHIC is a youth conference put on by the Evangelical Covenant Church (my denomination of upbringing and choice) every three years. It is a week of intense worship, service, fun, and hopefully spiritual growth. It's funny, because I've been in the Covenant Church my whole life, but I've never been to CHIC. I think I'm kind of a black sheep in the Covenant (salvation pending: non-CHIC attendee).

Well, that's all about to change. I'm gonna get me some CHIC, and so are 7 youth from our church. They're stoked, I'm stoked, everybody's stoked-stoked. I am praying that I don't get too physically exhausted from all the travel and celebration. Sickness would be the last thing I would need. So you won't be hearing from me until I return on July 21st. I would appreciate your prayers.

Over and out.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Indie Blockedappella

This is Indie Blockedappella. They have done something amazing. They have taken many of my favorite songs [Seven Nation Army, Hanasakajijii (A Great Wind, More Ash), Rebellion (Lies), Come On! Feel the Illinoise!, Jesus, Etc. and Animals Are Cut in Two] and translated them into something altogether crazy/fun/impressive.

They have vocally interpreted a slew of hip indie rock songs in a way that you have to hear to believe. Now, if you are not familiar with many of the original versions of the songs, you may not fully appreciate them, but listen anyway. They are streaming a ton of songs from their website.

I don't know yet if this stuff will hold up under repeated listens. Only time will tell, but it is impressive that they have even done this. Some of these songs have very complicated arrangements, but they haven't missed anything. And the Rez Band shirt is off the hook.

God bless you, Indie Blockedappella.

Check them out: