Counting down

It is June already and it looks like warm weather is finally here to stay.  Two weeks ago we somberly said goodbye to the 5th graders, sending them off in a prayer as we laid hands on them.  They finished not only the 4th/5th grade ministry, but moved out of children’s ministry altogether to student ministries where they will spend the next seven years.  This weekend, the third grade room remained dark, as it will for the next two months or so as we welcomed them as the new fourth grade.  At our church 3rd grade and up get bumped in June for camp reasons, but the younger kids have to wait until August.  I guess it is a little strange, the first weekend or so in June, to be called a fourth-grader (for example) when many have not yet finished third grade at school.

We also kicked off our summer series, Transformers.  Yes, we are borrowing off of a popular movie theme (yes it was a cartoon first, but seeing as how many of their parents weren’t even grown up at the time, let alone their own existence…).  However, the name is where similarities begin and end.  Unfortunately our worship band moved up with the old 5th-grade or out (the college-bound ones) so we are working on replacing them.  Hmm.  Actually, it was the Saturday night band that is gone, but we still did the song videos instead of the normal worship at 11:15 even though those band members were still present- I wonder why?

Saturday night I think we need guy leaders now in a big way.  I was the only one there, along with two gal leaders.  I know one will be coming back in a few weeks, but we could use more.  My “small” group was twenty-some boys- ideally, groups should be about six or so.  So anyway, the lesson was one on being rooted in Christ, and not comparing ourselves to one another.  As Paul wrote to the Phillipians, he had much call to call himself better than others as he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” a Pharisee, and zealous for his religion.  Instead, he counted it as loss, rubbish compared with his identity in Christ.  As His, we are equal no matter our station, our jobs, our finances, etc.

Moving on, did I mention camp?  Oh, yes I did.  Less than two weeks, and I am making trip #7 out there with an all new group!  There is much to be excited about, but one thing tops all others.  Every year we get something new.  In the past additions have included  a lodge building, a zipline, pontoon boats, and a waterslide (thankfully I started there the year after they got permanent showers…).  Well, this year apparently we got something a bit different.  Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be a hamster after watching them roll around in their hamster balls.  That’s right, our new addition to camp is in the form of two giant inflatable hamster, err- people balls called Zorbs.  Here is a random video found on youtube:

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and from the inside:

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Now that looks exciting.  I hope they don’t roll it down too steep of a hill though.  Imagine what would happen if one got sick in one of those…  Or, best not to imagine.

Anyway, a new year at church, a new post. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

I really will try to post at least once more before Camp 2011.  I mean it.  That I will try, that is. 😉

4,758

What can happen in just one weekend in the populous metropolitan Chicago area?  Check this photo out:

Harvest Crusade Chicago 2010
Harvest Crusade Chicago 2010

As if that first picture didn’t say enough, the second picture shows that people are still filing down the ramp in the center!  What is this guy on you may ask?  Well, two weekends ago (yeah, I’m a lazy poster…) was the Harvest crusade at the Allstate arena.  Greg Laurie, the pastor from Harvest Christian Fellowship in California (not to be confused with Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel though the two pastors are good friends) came to our area with a message of hope for everyone.  I attended Sunday night, which hosted a standing-room only crowd!  If I am not being clear, I apologize and think of Greg Laurie as today’s Billy Graham, bringing the message of salvation via crusades in various cities when he is not firing up his own congregation in California.  I have to say- well never mind what I have to say except that it was an awesome experience.  Yes, only God is awesome but since this is His work after all…

Why forget what I have to say?  Because they posted videos of all three nights on their website!  And each night is different.  I actually attended on the night he talked about following Christ even through the pain of loss.  A couple of years ago he lost his own adult son due to a tragic car accident so I would say he is well qualified as a follower and as one who has experience.  Two of the musicians that night also suffered loss- Steven Curtis Chapman who lost a young daughter the very same year as pastor Laurie’s loss, and Jeremy Camp who lost a wife due to cancer several years ago.  Their pain is evident in their songs following the deaths, and they show their faithfulness in the face of it like pastor Laurie by continuing to follow Christ and spread His good news.

Each night is different, so just because you watched one in no way means you’ve seen it all!  Okay, I will have to put my money where my mouth is and watch the other two nights myself.  Saturday I believe was geared toward young adults and teens.  Friday I am not sure, but if you fall into neither category mentioned then Friday will probably be the best choice to watch if you only watch one.

So what does that number in the title represent?  Well, Allstate Arena (formerly Rosemont Horizon) seats well over that amount- in fact over 47,000 attended all weekend.  No, that number represents decisions for Christ made that weekend.  That was one big party in Heaven, as there is much rejoicing over just ONE soul saved.  Look at those pictures again.  The floor of the arena was mostly empty during the presentation and music.  In those photos people who accepted Christ that night came down to receive Bibles and followup information.  Okay, many of the people were follow-up workers (I could have been one since I went through the training beforehand, but I felt I wasn’t ready- next time!) but still- we were told around 2600 had accepted Christ over the last two nights, which means over 2000 were just on Sunday!

Time for me to shut up and let you click to the website.  To a certain blogger who lost his own wife- PLEASE WATCH SUNDAY’S PRESENTATION.  That is all.  And some videos below. [No, the songs I would link to are contained in the messages on the website, so I will not distract you from them].

http://www.harvest.org/crusades/2010/chicago/

CAST

Thinking of a good title is difficult.  While some of the suggestions were good, I wasn’t in love with any of them and I’m not sure yet how much I love this one.  CAST is an acronym- Christ, Acting, Singing, and Teaching.  I don’t do much of teaching anymore, but I still do once a month or so and am at least a leader for other weekends.  It is conveniently placed last in the acronym while Christ is first.  Not that He really has been first in my life seemingly, but it is a goal.  Christ needs to be before everything, including family (fortunately He places a high value on family, especially children so He usually won’t demand anyone actually give up their family, just put Him first in your family).  So what do you think of this title?  It also has a ring to it as far as the performing words of the acronym.  As in I am currently cast as a singer and actor in Jekyll & Hyde.

The unofficial takeover of the 11:15 service has become official with the couple I mentioned before having been asked to share the role of the “point person,” or head “anchor”.  I am having somewhat of a problem with one of them unfortunately.  I haven’t yet decided if she is just taking the role far more seriously than others in previous years or she is overstepping her authority.  Looking in the guide their role is that of the room leader, but she has taken to threatening to not allow someone to lead a small group for such things as being late or doing something during the teaching time other than sitting with the kids and listening to the message with them.  Productive things I should say, not “I just don’t want to listen” things as kids often do in school.  I believe she is crossing a line here but I have to think on it, maybe ask Lisa- the staff member in charge of 4th/5th grade.  In any event, there is friction here and something needs to happen to remove it.

The show is almost there.  We just had our first rehearsal with the orchestra yesterday, at the actual performance venue.  Okay, the set for the currently running show, Into the Woods, is up meaning we will have to work around it, but aside from one more rehearsal at the retirement home we’ve been at, we are now rehearsing on the actual stage.  It was strange to work with the orchestra two weeks in advance- I am used to the orchestra not being there until a day or two before opening night.  Indeed, we may not see them again until then, but even if so, the one chance was better than none at all.  Less than two weeks until opening- yikes.  But we will be ready. 🙂

More of last week’s news…

When mentioning costumes for the 5th grade class I subbed for last week, I forgot to mention one other costume.  Or two, rather, though only one of them was in my class.  It is strange it slipped my mind because this boy was wearing a video-game-related costume which was very good.  He came as Mario, complete in the right colors with hat, large white cartoon gloves, and of course, mustache (though this piece kept falling off).  I mentioned to him that with his build he might have made a good Luigi too, but his costume did have the extra padding to make him pudgy ala Mario.  During the costume show, who walked across the stage with (I think) a third-grade class but Luigi, which from a distance also looked pretty good.  When our Mario waved to him I figured they were brothers, but when I asked him about it the only fraternal relationship was in the characters, so this just made for a cool coincidence.

I said I would mention Friday night, so I am finally getting around to it.  Friday night was our second annual movie night for 4th and 5th grade.  Last year we saw the excellent Meet the Robinsons.  This year was Bolt.  Having never seen this movie before I was looking forward to it even if I wouldn’t really get to see if I had to keep too much of a watchful eye on the kids (as it happily turns out, my fears here were unfounded and I was able to watch the whole thing).  Before the movie, however, there was game and pizza time.  This year they separated the boys and the girls so one group was playing games while the other ate.  We started out in the gym.  There was a fun game set up called “the gauntlet” but before we did that we warmed up with another game, link tag.  No, this has nothing to do with:

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though that’s a hilarious Family Guy-esque video (click to see it in a larger size).  It is a game with one (or a few) runner(s) and one (or a few) tagger(s) with the rest spread out, standing linked in pairs.  At any time the runner can link up with one pair and the person on the opposite side would become a new runner so the pair doesn’t become a trio.  If the tagger tags the runner, the runner becomes the tagger and the former tagger links up with a pair and a new person becomes the runner.  I think we had played this before a couple of years ago, calling it squirrel tag.  After this game came- The Gauntlet.  This is just as insidious as it sounds.  The kids have to run through a course, going over or under as the course dictates, while trying to avoid getting hit by balls thrown by us leaders (heh, heh…).  If hit, they would have to go back to the beginning.  For those of you crying “aww, no fair for the kids,” don’t worry- they got their turn getting back at us.  I didn’t make it very far…

So for food time, we had pizza.  I was expecting the variety made in our church’s kitchen, but it turned out they ordered from Little Caesars.  The parents had to pay for this event, so why not?  This was the time where we leaders got to hang out with a few boys sitting together, thereby selecting our small groups for the end of the night.  After the boys grabbed their dinner, I waited a minute or so before grabbing my own and sitting down with four boys.  There were almost a dozen guy leaders, so the small groups were quite small.  There were more girls and fewer girl leaders present, so their groups I understand were a bit larger.  Did I mention this was an outreach event?  The kids were encouraged to invite friends who didn’t normally come to our church, so it turned out that two of these boys were such invitees.  In fact, both were invited by one of the other boys, but all four actually knew each other from school.  After a brief time in conversation with them, it was time for the movie.  We cleaned up and headed to the learning center where the movie was shown on two screens.  We were supposed to sit with our groups, but the boys kind of crowded together, so I sat in the row right in front of them instead.  Don’t worry, the seating was tiered and the screens high up besides so I didn’t block their view. 🙂

As I wrote, we were able to enjoy the whole movie with no more distraction than some kids going to the bathroom now and again.  They even provided popcorn for the whole movie experience.  Now, I typically say I don’t like popcorn all that much, but it is strange that I typically find myself eating it anyway, and this night was no exception.  While not in the same class as Meet the Robinsons IMHO, I still enjoyed this movie about a dog raised thinking his “human” was a spy constantly threatened by the evil Dr. Calico (with his evil cats of course) and that he was a superhero- managing to escape from his trailer, he heads out on a mission to save his human whom he thought was captured (they ended the day’s shooting on this cliffhanger) but in fact headed home as this was after all just a TV show no matter what Bolt was raised to believe.

Finally, Pastor Steve came out and talked a little, focusing on superheroes and how God is the only superhero.  It was just a bit more exciting than what I just wrote, but you get the idea.  We then broke into our small groups and talked some more about it, ending with handing out Gospel tracts that folds in several ways to reveal the message.  I actually picked up a fifth boy who hadn’t been selected already by another leader so I may have ended up with the largest boy’s group of the night.  I felt the discussion went very well.  The two visitors actually attended different churches, so they weren’t as green as expected in an outreach event, but that was okay as I’m sure everyone still picked up something from the small group, especially on sharing Christ with others if they had already had a relationship with Him.

It was a great night- I can’t wait for Winterblast in a few months- the overnighter at the church.  The only disappointing time was seeing another fifth-grade boy at the church with his mom for a single-parents meeting who chose to not attend movie night because the ones he wanted to invite were not in 4th or 5th grade, which I learned was sort of a limit in this event though not strictly enforced.

Happy Easter!, continued

I just wanted to get that Godtube video up before continuing writing.  I can’t believe it’s been three days since my last post (not counting the first Easter post of course!).  Well, yesterday was a busy day.  Friday was, well, Good Friday.  Like a Good Friday should be, it was a very dreary day outside- snowing for most of the day.  After shoveling (for the last time until next winter I hope!) I headed out to the church.

The service that day was like a tour.  The first stop of this “tour” was worship time.  They basically played a loop of songs.  From the bulletin we were given, it looked like they played the same five or six songs over and over for the five hours (with periodic breaks of just instrumental music).  I hope they switched off bands throughout the night- playing the same songs for five hours straight would be kind of grueling.

Anyway, the songs would prepare our hearts for the next part of the “tour”, which we could skip to at any time.  This part had signs and card packets all around telling us why Christ had to die.  There was even a projected image of this on the wall.  There were many, many reasons along with Bible verses supporting each reason.  I think I read maybe half of them as I walked through.

Next was a meditation area where we would see constant changing images of Christ’s “trial” and execution.  This actually wasn’t working for some reason when I arrived, but they finally got the projectors going before I moved on.  Step four of the our had us write our own sins and nail them to a large wooden cross.  There was a long wait for this as there were I think only two or three hammers.  We could also leave the cards in a basket at the foot of the cross.

The final stage was communion.  We would go in the room, grab our own bread (small cracker) and wine (grape juice) and take some time to reflect, pray, and take in the two elements all on our own time.  All in all it was a very somber mood throughout the evening, befitting of a day like Good Friday.

Saturday I was at the church after 1:30 (supposed to be at 1:30, but as usual I was late) for choir rehearsal.  The worship music the day before had been somber, but the Easter music we had been practicing was anything but.  Where Good Friday was a time of reflection, Easter is a celebration!  We actually did very well according to several people.  It was a lot of singing- not just the four special songs we were doing as a choir, but five worship songs as well.  It was near constant singing from almost the time I got there on Saturday until after 5:30, and again today.  The well-wishers’ critiques must have been spot on as our time to be there this morning was pushed from 7AM to 7:25, but it was still a bit grueling with so much singing- two services plus the rehearsal (similar to what felt like two rehearsals last night plus the service).  I was actually supposed to sing at the end Saturday night (about 6:25ish) but I felt I was needed in the children’s ministry as there was only one leader besides another choir member and myself there, and the other choir member went back down to sing the final song.  I was able to sing this song the two Sunday services however.

So here we are, voice resting for now.  I really should practice singing more often.  My voice held out this time, but there have been times in the past where my endurance didn’t last through all the services.  I remember particularly from when there were four services at one time before the second campus opened and many people went there instead.  That one extra performance turned out to be a killer of my voice.  But I don’t sing in the choir all for me.  It’s about giving back to God.  He gave me this talent, so it’s only right to use it to give some back to Him.

Once again, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!!!

Resurrection Day is coming!

I say Resurrection Day because the word Easter is used in reference to the spring celebration with eggs and easter bunnies.  Resurrection Day rather refers to the holiday we Christians celebrate at the same time, the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He was murdered on a cross by a reluctant Pilate at the insistence of the Jewish leaders who were blinded and could not see that He really was the Messiah they were waiting for as He came in humility rather than in power, to teach rather than to conquer.  There will come a day of course when He does finally come to destroy the ones who reject him and build a new Heaven and Earth for Him and His people, but for now we wait and celebrate what He has done so far in offering a way out of the darkness we call sin.  That He was resurrected shows all that He has victory even over death, what many think of as the final conclusion to ourselves.

First of course we must remember His death- His unfair trial, His suffering, and his being nailed to a cross in the most brutal form of execution know in those days.  Good Friday, as it is known except by school districts that now refer to it as a “non-attendance” day, is the day we remember this horrible death.  I of course have the bonus of it being a day-without-pay so I can really feel the suffering. 😛  Kidding of course, but it is a serious day.  Our church is actually doing something a little bit different this year.  We are still called to attend wearing black, but instead of a drama (I was in it 7 out of the last 8 years!) and a message it is apparently an open-ended service where we can come at any time within a 5-hour window.  More on this after Friday as I really don’t know anything more about it.

We are preparing for Easter with the choir and it is coming along nicely.  Of course tonight we will probably have a train wreck as we’re told to sing from memory- no sheet music for us when we’re up there!  Of course the train wreck will be followed by further improvements as we improve in our confidence of the music and, just as important, will actually be looking at the choir director instead of the music! 😀  And once it’s over, a week of (unpaid) rest follows…