Part II

Okay, long commercial break over. We are on Saturday now I believe:

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7AM:  Lights turned on outside in the hallway, I wake up for the last time with a little headache but much less exhausted since going to bed.  I was exhausted because for three out of the four days prior I was up before 6AM looking for subbing jobs.  I found them, but the toll it took was severe.  So another sub-8 hour night, but I figured I would survive.  So everyone got up and I let some kids head to the bathroom to change out of their night clothes (they were too modest to change in front of others even if we were all guys- just wait until middle school boys, when you’ll be changing in the locker room in front of even more people).  Myself, I just wore my day clothes to bed- I had showered and put on some fresh clothes just before coming to the retreat so I would be able to do this.  20 minutes later, we were in line for breakfast.  The end of the line.  Oh, well.  Eggs, sausage, french toast sticks, fruit, and OJ.  Well, I think they were sausages- didn’t taste much like breakfast sausage.

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8AM: Eyes are really bugging me.  The clothes weren’t the only things I left on overnight.  The contacts I have are extended wear, so I figured at least once I could wear them overnight.  I had successfully worn them during naps before so I figured I could get away with overnight just once.  My eyes disagreed.  I put drops in when I woke up and several times since, but no go.  Eventually I just gave up and went back to my room to take them out and put on my glasses.  Unfortunately the damage had been done and my eyes would be bugging me for most of the day.  So, time for session 2 now.  Each session started with a video that was just pure entertainment.  I came back at the end of this video to sit with my guys (the high school leader in my room was keeping watch while I changed into my glasses).  Up front game again- this time it involved two from each team, a boy and a girl, one from my own cabin (you can figure out which one…).  The boys had to wear shaving cream on their faces and the girls threw cheese puffs on them.  Hilarious.  At the end of the time the one with the most cheese puffs stuck to them would win.  In the end I think one other team had more than us, but their boy made the mistake of moving before they could be counted, losing half a dozen puffs.  We won.  Come to think about it, I think we won Friday night too.  Worship followed with another four songs like last night.

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9AM:  Worship continued, and then Dr. Brian came on the scene and taught from Jonah 3, when the story started over with a better response from Jonah and this time and the Ninevites took the warning God gave them through Jonah seriously.  According to the Bible, they all repented of their wicked ways and came to God, and He spared them.  This has a fairly obvious (I hope) correlation to coming to Christ.  We even ended the time with a prayer giving the kids an opportunity to repent themselves and accept Jesus.  One of my guys raised his hand.  Unfortunately for me I had to let my high school leader- did I mention he was my high school leader at camp just two summers ago?- take the pleasure in talking to him about it during small group time since we decided to split the group for today’s small group times so we would each take five, and the boy who just accepted Christ was one of his five.  Since my cabin was being used for piano lessons, we had to use the room across from us.  We could have had both groups in there, but Eric decided to take his group elsewhere.  We talked about listening to God and accepting Christ for the next half hour.  My church being what it is, by fourth grade it seems that 90% say they have already accepted Jesus at some point, so I decided to lead the discussion in who Jesus is to them to let them see if they truly understand what it means to accept Him.

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10AM:  At this time we were supposed to start cleaning up the cabin.  Of course with piano lessons we had to wait so I let them exchange phone numbers with each other instead before we finally had to sneak in and grab our coats for game time downstairs.  The game time was split in two this time with two teams playing each other in a game outside and in the gym.  We were outside first.  Has anyone ever played a game where a balloon is tied to your ankle and you have to try to pop everyone else’s balloon before someone pops yours?  This game was similar.  A popsicle (still in its plastic!) was taped to the kids’ arms and they had to try to rip them off of the other team.  Once a child’s popsicle was lost, he or she was out.  Last one standing won.  Well, at the end of the time the team with the most standing won, which was the other team.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all.  No, the kids couldn’t eat the popsicles during the game but they could at the end.

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11AM: The teams switched.  The second game was ice block relay.  Only, one of the ice blocks broke so it became scooter relay instead, at least for the boys.  I think next year they need to create extra blocks,  several extras.  Yes, this was the indoor game.  One camper sitting on the block of ice, another camper had to push the other to the other end of the gym where they would switch places and come back.  With one block broken, the boys were on scooters (the square variety that you sit on, not the sort that is long with a handlebar) the entire time while the girls got to play the game with the ice blocks.  At this time I felt like I was coming down with something.  I sat down most of the time against they gym wall.  At the end of this time we had won three games out of four, but since they had won the popsicle game it looked like they won overall.  We went back to our cabins to take off our coats and head down for lunch.  We weren’t last this time. 🙂

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12 noon:  I have to say I was very disappointed in this lunch.  It was chicken nuggets and mac & cheese.  Only, there was nothing to dip the nuggets in and the other dish was more macaroni than cheese.  In fact, I couldn’t taste any cheese at all.  The economy is affecting everyone, and it certainly took a tool on the food here.  One leader commented that he had eaten more junk over the last three meals than he had over the last six months.  Hmm.  Dessert was- not for me.  I am one who doesn’t like yogurt unless it’s the frozen variety and this is what they served.  Well, the lemonade was good.  At the end of this meal I finally had to pull the pastor aside and inform him that I was running a fever and my eyes were still bugging me.  Since I wasn’t feeling nauseous he suggested I just stay and rest during the next session which followed lunch and see if I improved.  After a short lunch, session 3 began.  The game this time had something to do with singing familiar tunes, but I don’t know exactly, nor who won.  I was in the back of the room with my eyes shut trying to rest.  The game leader I mentioned from Friday who stayed in our room because it was the one his boy was in kind of took over for me.

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1PM: Session 3 continued.  Worship, then the message by Dr. Steve on Jonah chapter 4 which I didn’t hear, and then small groups.  We had our small group time in our cabin (piano lessons were over) while Eric took his group back where they were earlier.  Again, I didn’t lead but sat while my stand-in took over.  In the end he had everyone take turns praying, which I was willing to do at least, but he chimed in immediately after the last boy.  No big deal.  We got ready for the final game.

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2PM:  Outside first again, the game this time was shooting popsicle sticks onto the church roof with really big slingshots.  You read that right.  They would have to pass a popsicle stick from camper to camper with their arms only and then the last one would run with the popsicle to the slingshot, set it in place, pull it back, and hope the popsicle made it to the upper roof for the greater point bonus.  Then (s)he would run to the end of the line and start passing a popsicle all over again.  Once all had the opportunity to shoot the popsicles, the game was over.  Our team finished first if I recall correctly for both the boys and the girls (who were in separate lines), but I don’t know who won for sure, only suspect from what place we finally came in for the entire day.  The second game was inside the gym again, where we played human foosball.  If you don’t remember this game from the other times I’ve written about it, it’s a game where the students are in four lines, hands held together, trying to kick really big balls into the other team’s goal.  The number of balls, and even the goals, changed over the course of the game.  The other team toasted us, but that was only because of one leader they had at the end of the offensive line who kicked in a good 60+% of their goals.  We had a leader at the end of our offensive line too, but he was smaller (a high-school freshman vs a leader in his 20s) and didn’t score nearly as much.  About this time I was on the upswing, feeling better overall.

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3PM: Time for the group picture.  Donning our coats once again, we headed back outside for the final time.  The children’s pastor, Steve, stood on the roof with someone else whose name escapes me and took a few pictures with his, I believe, video camera.  Meaning in the retreat video there may be more than just a couple of still pictures of this event.  Afterward, they both grabbed all the popsicles from the slingshot game and tossed them onto the ground.  A few of the more competitive kids grabbed the and… threw them back up!  It was wild out there for a bit.  After the popsicles were gone from the roof, they started throwing snowballs down at us.  This was more acceptable to be thrown back as snow doesn’t make as good a tasty treat as popsicles, so more joined in returning fire.  Eventually this all ended and we headed back in to clean our cabin and bring everything down to the gym.  After all, they would need the classrooms for church at 5:00.  I made sure everything was picked up, and even had to look for the owner of a pair of socks.  I found out when I got home that of course I left my own pair of socks from the night before (one article of clothing I did change).  Hopefully whoever found them wasn’t too disgusted as I had worn them for only a few hours.

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4PM: All packs brought down and the room cleaned up, we started free time.  This time wasn’t really very free, but the kids were free to be in one of four places for the next hour and a half.  In the gym they could play nuke ’em, another game returning from summer camp played on a volleyball court.  They could watch a movie in another room- they showed Up!, a movie I recently watched in Blu-ray.  In a third room they could play board games or, eventually, watch some of Wall-E.  In the last room they could do crafts or play other games.  I floated around this entire time, keeping track as best I could of my cabin.  Most of my kids spent their time in the gym, so I did as well.

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5PM: Free time continued until 5:30, afterwhich we had dinner.  Dinner was better than lunch and consisted primarily of spaghetti.  Not much to say here really.

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6PM: Dinner wrapped up and we moved into the worship/lesson area and watched videos until church ended and the parents started coming in.  Once everyone was there, the final up front game commenced.  A father-son team was called up from the leaders who were there the entire time with their sons and they played the frozen t-shirt game, where wet t-shirts were folded up and frozen.  The dads had to try to get them apart and on their sons.  Our team won again, giving us at least three of the four up front games.  After this, we sang one worship song, Steve talked about the retreat to the parents, and jokingly as an afterthought the winner was announced.  Since we came in third place, I suspect we won none of the big games.  Remember, while I was able to see who won some of the games, I did not know who won Friday night nor who won the popsicle slingshot game.

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7PM: Parents were permitted to take their kids home and the gym rapidly emptied of parents, kids and their packs.  I got to go home and enjoy my fever which, while I was feeling better Saturday afternoon, still persisted through the weekend and made a return Tuesday, keeping me home from work.

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Well, that’s it.  I hope you enjoyed the read.  I just spent the last hour and a half writing this second part, so please excuse me for not going back and proofreading it. 😉

24

Best winter retreat ever!  I had so much fun that nothing could possibly compare.  I wish I could say that was this weekend but that wouldn’t be honest of me.  For sure, many can say that and completely mean it as it really was a good retreat.  The reason will become clear, and you may even find it foreshadowed before I come out with it.  From the beginning:

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Friday

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6PM: Arrived shortly before this time, late for the 5:45 call time.  I thought I was ready, but of course remembered a few more things before I left.  At least I did remember everything.  In the past I have been left with no pillow, no deodorant, or similar mishaps.  Was given a gift bag at the meeting containing essentials- sugar, water, t-shirt, hand-warmers…  The latter was most likely due to last year’s bitter cold retreat- something that was blessedly not repeated this year, at least for this group (high school suffered just a couple of weekends ago).  Oh, anyone for some gum?  I got a box, but I don’t chew it.  Just send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I will ship it off. 😉 )Meeting ended, we took our posts for check-in which began at 6:15.  I was a greeter by the boy’s area.  For awhile I was a little nervous as I only had two arrivals for my “cabin” (room) while others had four or five, but I needn’t have worried- in the end every camper (retreater?) of mine showed up- others weren’t so lucky.  I think about ten boys failed to show up- the fairer section fared about the same.

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7PM:  Check-in starts to die down.  Did I mention all of my campers showed up?  Actually, I did lose one.  There are two mentally disabled 4th-graders at my church and their dads (who stayed with them) wanted to be in the same cabin.  While changing cabin assignments was generally not allowed, we made an exception for them.  In fact, neither of them wound up in their original cabin as ours were pretty full, but in one that had lost two boys who didn’t make it.  Anyway, throughout this time, after letting them drop off their things, we sent them down to watch Jonah until the arrivals trickled down.  Jonah would be the theme of the retreat.  At about 7:25, the last of us headed to the movie area where the intro was made and we were sent off to start the first big game of the weekend.

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8PM:  My assignment- auditor.  I stood by an opposing team’s drop-off bin, where the kids would drop off all their treasures.  Oh?  I never mentioned the teams?  Well, there are four teams, following the theme from summer camp which was a medical theme this year.  I was a Mr. Yuk over the summer but this time was a Red Cross.  The cabins were actually given names.  Do you remember when Sly mouthed “You’re the disease- I’m the cure” (paraphrased) in a movie 20ish years ago?  Well, the boys were the diseases with cabin names like H1N1, TB, and Mad Cow Disease and the girls were the cures (Neosporin, Aspirin, etc.).  My cabin was SARS.  So back to the game, auditors made sure the kids were following the rules.  This may be church, but you know some kids- suddenly forgetful of the rules when it could gain an advantage if you know what I mean.  Here’s what the game was- in pairs, the kids would link up (hold hands or arms) and search for little plastic ducks and reflectors strewn all over the church.  When they found one, they had to get to their team bin.  Throughout this, there were over a dozen leaders going after the kids with dodge-balls in hand trying to “infect” them.  That may sound like a lot of leaders, but we’re talking about 150 kids!  If infected, they had to drop whatever they might have been holding and hightail it to the medic to be “cured.”  There were a few hundred of these things strewn about so the game lasted for awhile.

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9PM: Pizza!  Well, maybe I should have left that exclamation point off- we’re talking Papa John’s here.  If you’re not familiar with them, think mass pizza chains in the style of Pizza Hut or Domino’s and you will know what I’m talking about.  We chugged down pizza and pop and got ready for the first session, which started shortly after 9:45 with an upfront game followed by worship.  What is an upfront game?  Well, one camper (sometimes two) from each team was called up to play a silly or disgusting game- pure fun, though not always for the contestants…  Tonight was licking names off of a tray.  The catch?  Part of what was used in the writing was sardines- eww.  That’s apparently what the contestants thought too as none of them accomplished much in the allotted time.  Then worship began with singing.

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10PM:  The session continued.  Four worship songs later, Dr. John came out to teach (medical theme remember).  You know how busy doctors get, so Drs. Brian and Steve would round out the retreat the next day.  Starting in Jonah, we traversed chapters one and two alongside Jonah, teaching the kids about consequences of trying to ignore God and how God always pursues His children.  After the lesson we broke off into our cabins.  We were running late, so we kept the large group of ten kids and two leaders together and discussed the lesson, including a reading from Psalm 139:

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

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11PM:  Set up beds, get ready, and lights out.  Another leader, the game leader of the week joined us- his son was in our cabin.  He and I, the “old guys,” naturally brought air mattresses to go with our sleeping bags…  A little chaotic as expected, but by 20 minutes after lights-out time we finally got the boys laying in bed if not asleep yet.  Someone came in with a ladder to unscrew the emergency light bulbs- you know, one of those lights that stays on 24/7 even if the room switches are turned off.  This still left a flashing blue light from the router mounted in the ceiling unfortunately.  I hope it didn’t keep anyone awake.  I got this bright idea that I would just leave my contacts in all night since they are extended wear after all.  Up to this point I had done naps safely, so I figured why not?  I had drops to put in my eyes in the morning.

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Midnight: Finally asleep, or at least sometime before the next hour.

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Saturday

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Midnight-7AM: Z-z-z-z-wake up-z-z-z-z-wake up-z-z-z-z-you get the picture-z-z-z-z

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(to be continued)

Still alive…

…I think. Haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Tired, somewhat overworked from my car job. Last week I subbed for the first time in over a month (español), but still did cars four of the five days. Subbed today (7th LA), still hoping for tomorrow. Sorry I haven’t been reading all of your blogs lately either- kinda’ goes with the no blogging feeling. Some friend, huh? 🙁

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Less than three days to the winter retreat!

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Oh, turned off the ads, something I had been considering for awhile.  Didn’t earn me anything so I figured why not make a cleaner look for everyone? 😉

[edited to make last paragraph a little less negative]

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