Too much free time

Who complains about too much free time?  Well, with no wife or kids, a dislike for many common social activities- okay let’s just go with the truth here and say no friends I hang out with outside of church, and work that takes less than the normal eight hours plus lunch per standard, I just have too much free time.  What do I do with it?  Get movies from the library, spend time on the internet, and play games mostly- what a life, eh?  In the last few days I have even purchased several games on Steam– did they have to make it so easy?  I didn’t even use steam until they had a $9.99 sale on their Orange Box collection a few months ago.  Now I have the complete Luxor marble game collection, Ghostbusters, GRID, and Osmos.  Anther service called Direct2Drive also successfully tempted me with a $5 sale a short time back.  I added no less than a half-dozen games from them including Neverwinter Nights 2 and Serious Sam Gold.  A waste of time and money really.  Well, I have been playing a lot of Serious Sam and the Luxor games, so just a waste of time in their case.  To be fair, I didn’t pay much for any of the titles, nowhere near full price, but still…

So what can I do instead?  Theatre groups abound in this area, but I know very few of them anymore- I would have to look them up again.  I have also looked a little into compassion ministries, serving those in need.  I still have to look it up on the church website as I was directed to a few weeks ago.  The obvious one in most people’s minds is the friends issue.  I have been to singles group, but it was very uncomfortable for me so I really don’t go anymore.  No friends that way.  Perhaps through the other two potential outlets?  I don’t know.  I know I have needed to schedule a quiet time with God, but I have known that for so long I wonder if I am really capable?

For now though I just sit here on the computer…

Camp: Day 4

Whew- what a scorcher this day was!  I am certain temperatures were in the 90s…  The kids certainly got no breaks at meals with drinks other than plain water.  Normally, they have to drink a glass or two of water at lunch or dinner, and then they can have punch or lemonade but for most of this week it was just water.  Of course they could get pop or Gatorade during canteen time, but for meals it was all water because it was so hot for most of the week.  It was so hot, they moved the normal Wednesday evening game to Thursday!

So today, the teaching was on the ears in the morning.  As for the ears, it is what we choose to hear: (1) What do we listen to, (2) Who do we listen to, and (3) How do we listen.  For (1) a big thing is music.  At their age it hasn’t become such a big deal yet, but we talked a little about it anyway. (2) involves what people they choose to listen to- besides their parents.  We will blissfully assume that they do listen to their parents. 😉 )Mostly this is about other kids or so-called role models who model inappropriate behavior- will they listen to such people or remember what the Bible says instead?  For (3), even if we listen to the right things, what do we do about it?  As the Bible teaches, we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  The evening message was about a crowded heart, one where Christ’s teachings are there, but crowded out by other things in our lives like TV, sports, internet (er- including this blog 😮 ), hanging out with friends, etc.  These things aren’t necessarily bad, but if there isn’t room for God then something has to go.  The memory verse was Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,  but a wise man listens to advice.” Speaking of verses, today we added all the key verses around the room- the five memory verses and Psalm 51:10, an all-encompassing verse for the week (I’ll let you look that one up- you don’t expect me to do all the work for you, do you? 😀 )Incidentally, we won cleanest (boys) cabin for the second time this week!

Of the two game times, I unfortunately have no pictures for you.  In the morning, we played our nemesis team, the Biohazards- nemesis because we were the top two teams all week, dukin’ it out for first place.  The game was the obstacle course.  I really didn’t get any pictures here because I was helping out our team at one of the stations.  The stations included going through a tire, swinging across a hole with water (and a “6-foot leech”), navigating balance beams (logs) and stumps, going across tall monkeybars, a “meat grinder” (old wire/cable reel), going over a couple of walls, and going across steel cables (my station).  The kids had to help one another, and many came back when they were finished to help Diego out.

The evening game was against the same team.  It was another course to navigate, this time in the game field.  I have a video of just the course- I suppose I could upload it to Youtube or something later but it’s really not as exciting as I had hoped.  This time I didn’t help out at a station, but I only took videos with my camera this time around- no pictures.  We won this game, but mostly because we had less people on our team.  I have no idea who won the obstacle course but I suspect the other team got the nod making the two games a wash.

Today the kids got to do the all-time favorite instructional- the zipline.  Now, you may be thinking, “what kind of crazy camp allows children to use a zipline?”  Well, aside from the obvious answer that our camp does, let me explain that this zipline is not the sort where you hold on to some sort of handles while sliding down the cable, letting go when near the bottom onto a net or something soft.  No, these kids are strapped in and attached to the cable- there is no way they can fall, short of the cable breaking, and I am sure by law the camp has to make regular checks of the zipline to prevent that from happening.  At the bottom they are stopped by two burly staff members- one slows them down, the other stops them entirely and unclips them from the cable.  There are two lines, so two kids can go at once.  They had time to go down about a dozen times each even though three cabins were there (normally there are only two cabins at an instructional- I’m not sure why they did it this way).  The other instructional was biking, though this year I think they got less instruction than previous years.  The biking, by the way, was at the top of that hill I talked about in a previous post.  I think it is only 40-45°, but it feels more like 60-70° when climbing it!  By the way, it’s named after a student who went down this hill on a bike when she was in junior high.  She got to the bottom, flipped, and broke multiple bones.  Needless to say, bicycling down the hill is no longer allowed…

Well, I think that covers all the main stuff.  The afternoon canteen was at the swim front as it was every day, but hot as the day was, would you believe that only one of my kids hit the water?  Unbelievable.  I even joined him for a short time- the first time in all my years I have gone in the water- I have always been paranoid about wearing contacts in the lake.  Even this year when I did go in I made sure to wear goggles to protect my eyes, which worked for the most part.  I’m thinking of combining the last two days into one post to get it over with- what do you think?

Camp: day 3

Work was a bit long this week, then add in the travel times since all but one of the jobs I have been doing has been at least a half-hour away.  Today, in fact, coming home took over an hour for what should have been a half hour before traffic.  Sigh.  So without further interruption, here is installment number three of camp 2009.

Some of you may recall that the week I was away was the first week of summer, in more than one way.  That is, starting Tuesday it was h-o-t.  This would have been a far better day for us to have all the water games!  The start of the day went pretty much like Monday, so I won’t bore you with that.  The first highlight was the up-front game before the morning teaching session.  The lesson was going to be on the eyes (see the picture below of Pastor John and his special glasses… 😀 )The “game” therefore involved an eye chart which the kids read as if they were in an optometrist’s room.  Did you notice I put the word game in quotes?  That’s because there was no winner.  As soon as one of the four read the lower lines, “if you can read this you are about to be pied,”  WHAP!  All four of them.  But don’t take my word for it- look below for the picture of one of my guys. :mrgreen:

So lesson, then small group- the memory verse for this day was from the book of Psalms: Ps 119:37 “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” See?  Eyes.  Pun intended.  Okay then.  This time, after the session for the big game, we had the same two games as yesterday but switched.  While the other two teams played the wipe-out wiffleball game, we played the same team as yesterday morning in human foosball.  I am sure to have mentioned this game before as it is a standard for camp and winter retreat.  It is a life-size foosball game where each team is divided into lines, holding hands, like on a foosball table.  Multiple giant balls are thrown in (more added throughout the game) and the kids have to kick them over the other team’s heads into the goal.  The lines can bend, but not break.  This game was so close in the end 70-something to eighty-something.  Sweating from the direct beating of the sun, we had a break from action with crafts.  The kids worked on pouches the first had to stamp with leather tools before tying two pieces together with a needle and plastic thread.  Among the different bevel, letter, and picture stamps were a couple of crosses- you can see one below.

We continued to maintain a fairly clean cabin and added open bibles on pillows, key verse highlighted to the mix.  Unfortunately another cabin thought of this too (or was a spy listening in at the right time (!) ) so they won the award.  Cabin S, the dirtiest cabin of yesterday with proof on video was much improved, but they still weren’t the winner- that went to the team that would be our nemesis all week- the Biohazards.  Well, tomorrow we would add something new.  While they were inspecting our cabins, we were at our afternoon instructional- tennis.  To get there we would have to travel over a huge mountain in the woods (well, it was a hill with a stairway, but it seemed like a huge mountain at the time!).   The weather continued to be brutal with a hot, sunny sky so I spent much time in the few shaded areas while the kids went through their instructional.  When it was done, we hiked back over the mountain hill  and went right to the swimming front for afternoon canteen time.  I had given kids the option of getting in swim gear before we headed to tennis to save time since tennis was almost on the way to swimming, but only one heeded the advice so most would not be going in the water.  None in fact, as the only one who prepared still didn’t go in.  One who didn’t prepare ended up looking longingly at the water as the heat continued.  He was sure to get his trunks on next time.

Well, there really isn’t much more to add.  The rest of the day was pretty much like yesterday.  I don’t think I mentioned that the evening session started with some youtube-esqe video with a puppet voiced by a falsetto voice talked about movies.  I could only understand maybe half of what was being said and don’t know the name of the video, but it ended up Friday with revealing the number one hit movie of all time.  If someone could help here I am curious.  Anyway, these shorts “introduced” our video of the day- a five-minute-or-so video of all of us throughout the day.  The next heart talked about in the lesson was the shallow heart, the heart that receives the Word of God, but not deeply so that when things go sour one turns from, instead of to, God.  Now that really is it- tune in next time.  All pictures in this thread by the way have once again been selected, or in some cases edited, to help keep from revealing identifiable faces.  I shouldn’t have to say it again, but click for larger pictures. 😉

EDIT:  I skipped over the evening game!  Of course, after most of the hot day was over, only then did we get a game involving swimming trunks and getting wet.  So the kids changed into their trunks once again and headed to the game field after dinner.  Smack in the middle was a large inflatable pool filled with objects in water that the kids had to find.  This was a summer-ized version of the classic “steal the bacon,” the version where the kids are told what to find and bring back.  They were told such things as, “three chickens, two pics, and one noodle,” which of course they had to bring back one at a time.  Several kids were called at any one time so that made it less work, but more chaotic.  The boys and girls each had their own game going- gee, I wonder why? 😀 )We won this game despite the odds-evening attempt against us (we were doing too well by this time) by giving us less numbers so when #10 or 11 were called we couldn’t go.  Well, at first we did pick someone to go for those numbers as normal for when one team has more than another, but were “corrected” when caught and accused of cheating.  Well, we really did what was normal so we weren’t cheating, but in the director’s mind the number we had was it, no extras to be given.  I think he should have explained this better.  Well, it was still all good fun and the kids enjoyed it.

Camp: day 2

I guess if I am to not forget important details about camp, I will have to post a little more often.  I have been working more lately (for less, may I remind you, during training) and when I have been off I have not felt like posting much.  Anyway, on to day two.  My alarm was set for 7:15, but I woke up at 6:45 due to my junior counselor who wanted to take a morning shower.  Personally, I’m an evening shower person when at camp- taking my shower after lights out.  It is good to get out of the clothes I have sweated in all day and wash the day’s residue off.  So David got up at 6:45 for his shower and I tried to get back to sleep, which I think I did ten minutes before my alarm.  Okay then, everybody up, I finished getting shaved and dressed and headed off to the senior morning staff meeting.  The kids got dressed, teeth brushed, and headed to the flagpole raising with David.  Jim went with his boy Diego to the flagpole.  Not much to say about the meeting- we talked a little, prayed, and the kids came in for breakfast.  We sat down in our spot from dinner last night (which by the way would be our spot for the entire week, for the first time in five years) and chowed down on our hot breakfast, eggs and sausage I believe.

Bleah.  If I keep writing in this sort of detail I will never finish the post.  Here, let me post the daily schedule and try to focus on the highlights:

7:30 AM Wake Up
7:50-8:00 AM Flag Raising
8:05-8:40 AM Breakfast
8:45-9:45 AM Spiritual Check-Up (Teaching)
10:00-10:45 AM Physical Therapy (Game)

11:00-12:00 noon Instructionals
12:15-12:50 PM Lunch and Mail Call
1:00-2:00 PM Bed Rest
2:15-3:15 PM Instructionals
3:30-5:00 PM Canteen and Free time
5:15-5:25 PM Flag Lowering
5:30-6:15 PM Dinner
6:30-7:15 PM Physical Therapy (Game)
7:30-8:30 PM Spiritual Check-Up (Teaching)
9:00-9:40 PM Canteen and Campfire
9:40-9:55 PM Cabin time
10:00 PM Lights Out!

Right after breakfast, as you can see, was the teaching time.  Well, as you probably learned from last time, this starts off with worship.  Actually, it starts off with an up front game where someone from each team comes up and plays a crazy game such as eating strange food or toilet-paper wrapping.  I don’t remember what the game was but overall this week they weren’t as exciting as in the past.  Did I mention that this whole time was outside?  They built a sort of amphitheater a few years ago with tiered bench-seating and step-logs.  Aside from the stage, it fit rather nicely with the woods around it.  One of the worship songs was a song that would become the theme song for the week, sung at every worship time- ten times over the week.  I don’t recall the title, but it’s about sharing our faith and in the chorus they yell “we won’t be quiet” (about our faith) and “we won’t deny it.”  I don’t much care for the music, but the lyrics were sound.  As for the teaching time, the first memory verse was given, Romans 12:2- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In fact, this is our theme verse for this summer given the release of the second Transformers movie.  We were back in Luke 14 and talked about the brain.  Well, the mind, but “brain” fit better under the medical theme.

So with that done, our team along with another team were told to get on swimming gear for the game and meet on the game field for a game of wipe-out wiffleball.  This is a game where the kids get wet.  Really wet.  They had a hose connected though a filter to the nearby pond affectionately known as leech lake.  Lots of leeches- and some water moccasins.  No swimming in that pond.  So with the hose they would wet down the slip-n-slide between home and first base (a giant inner tube that was safe to slide into.  All other bases were toddlers’ wading pools filled with water.  The hose was also used to douse the batter between pitches, and sometimes the kids waiting to bat- no mercy.  We won the game in the end after taking an initial beating, and lucky for us our two instructionals were at the swim front so the boys wore their swimming trunks until free-time in the afternoon. This year the camp received two pontoon boats, at least one of which was for free.  God has blessed our church many times over with such gifts, including the camp itself.  So John, one of the camp directors and family pastor at my church met us at the swim front (the boys had to check in with their numbers and “boat in”) with one of them.  The ride was beautiful what with the sunny day and things to see.  There were some swans, a dam, a couple of islands, and more.  All this in the giant pond.  Yes, pond- apparently it is man-made and referred to as pond rather than lake.  Hmm.

Well, the afternoon brought us the first bed rest time.  This is a Michigan law that every camp has to follow- an hour of bed rest each day to keep campers from heat exhaustion and the like.  During this time kids were required to stay in their beds in the cabin.  They were allowed to read, play a quiet game with someone in the next bed, or sleep.  David and Diego chose to sleep.  I cleaned a bit which would become a daily ritual.  We actually won cleanest boy’s cabin for this day.  They jokingly (I hope!) called it least disastrous when they informed us.  Following bed rest we hiked back to the swim front for canoeing.  Not much to say here.  They learned how to get in a canoe and how to paddle.  We were out for a good twenty minutes or so following instruction.  I got in a canoe with two of my red-banders (non-swimmers) as required for them to go out in a canoe.  It was a nice time.  Then it was free time.  Guess where they spent free time?  The swim front!  Since we were already there and already in swim gear it was easy.  We had to “boat out” then “swim in” since boating was done.  Besides swimming, kids got to play “nuke-em,” baggo, or tetherball; lounge around on the many chairs, or get a snack at the canteen.

After dinner it was time for the final group game and lesson.  The game involved a giant basket and a lot of balls.  The object was to get as many balls in the opposing basket more points for the big balls!) as they could.  I have no idea who won that game.  The lesson pretty much went as day one.  The focus was on Mark 4 with the parable of the soils, with the focus on the hard soil, or hard heart which those who have not come to Christ have.  Those who hadn’t accepted Christ yet were encouraged to talk to their leaders.  Small group again (yes we had it in the morning too even if I didn’t mention it) and it was time for the evening free time on the big court.  I know the schedule mentions a campfire, but that was only for two of the evenings- one for the girls, one for the boys.  Monday was time for neither.  Tonight most would leave a little early to hit the showers, though one of my cabin decided he would go for morning instead.

This is a long post, so pics to follow in another post.

What a blast!

Winter Blast 2009 that is.  Meh- this post is two days late I know. I just didn’t feel like doing a second post on Sunday, and I did start this yesterday but I really didn’t have the time I needed to write the whole thing between work and small group.  Anyway, back to the post.  Friday night through Saturday night had a mini-camp known also known as a winter retreat, titled Winter Blast.  While older kids will be going to a bonafide camp for two days instead of just one in the coming weeks, we packed that time into just 24 hours right at the church.  It helped that we didn’t need to burn eight hours getting them there and back.  It also helped the parents’ budgets since those buses cost money, and so do the extra meals.

Friday evening:  I arrived at about 5:30 and headed into a pre-retreat meeting for the leaders.  We were provided with a small meal and information on the weekend including check-in instructions and the entire schedule for the retreat.  As you can see below the schedule was quite packed and the kids were kept busy:

Daily Schedule
Game Schedule

Once check-in started I took my post handing out T-shirts.  From the beginning there was a problem- the actual sizes, and what the parents based their pick on, were the real sizes of youth medium, youth large, and youth extra large.  As it turned out, youth xl wasn’t available so they went with adult medium instead.  So the sizes we had were M, L, and um- M.  Adding to the confusion were the tickets they gave the parents to pick up the shirts.  They said simply small, medium, and large.  I’m not sure why this ended up being confusing for me as all I had to do was take the tickets at face value and hand out the three sizes according to what was on the tickets.  Probably many of the parents who told me that no, this wasn’t the right size.  I know because of their confusion the tickets were eventually dropped and I was told to go with the sizes printed on their name tags which were the actual sizes.  It was a breeze from there, except we ran out of some of the sizes, and ended up with a bunch of extra youth medium shirts.  In my opinion these shirts, at least the child sizes were smaller than they said but not being a parent I don’t know that for sure.

Enough with the T-shirts.  That just went way too long.  So after that, the retreat was officially underway.  After a brief introduction we went outside to play the first games.  This was Friday night- anyone remember the weather report for Chicago/Midwest?  An arctic front was moving in.  The temperature hadn’t dropped much yet, but that wind was just biting.  Not enough to keep us from having fun, but cold just the same.  After my team lost both games (we switched halfway through- everyone played both games) we went in for pizza.  There was a lot of it.  I think they had at least three or four pizzas left over, and when I say pizzas I don’t mean some dinky 14-inch- I mean a large tray about 16×32 or bigger.  We certainly got our fill.

Next up was the lesson, which started with some up-front games.  This is how each session started.  These games required one or two kids from each team come up to the front and participate in some quick contest.  Over the three sessions we had games including fast-eating contests with gelatin, whipped cream, and baby food; a singing game; and a mummy game (wrap the contestant with toilet paper).  My team won a couple of them, but the results were generally spread out.  I don’t think any team dominated.  Following the up front games were worship (three or four songs), a short drama involving Private Prepared and Private Slacker (guess which one was the positive model? 🙂 ), a lesson from Ephesians chapter 6 (armor of God- hence the military theme you saw on the game schedule), and a small group time.  We went up to our “cabins” for small group time (classrooms really).  The first one we spent together, three of us leaders and nine kids in my room.  For Saturday’s small groups we split into three groups with three kids each.  In these groups we tried to solidify the lesson in their minds and talk about how they could apply it in their own lives.  We also talked to each of them about where they were in their spiritual walks.

With the Friday session over, it was time to go to bed.  We were running late so the optional video was canceled.  One of the boys went behind something to change into his PJs.  A couple others saw this and walked over to him.  Big mistake on their parts.  We learned from this that he doesn’t wear underwear under his PJs to bed.  I really didn’t need to know this fact.  At least I don’t need to pour bleach into my eyes or anything like that to destroy the image like those other two kids.  😯   The interesting thing is I had that boy in my cabin over the summer and either I never discovered this about him, or it is something that changed since then.  Hmm.    Well, it was time for lights out.  As usual when more than one or two kids are put in a room together, it took some time to get them to be quiet and go to sleep.  At least there were only nine of them- last year we had a larger room with about 30 kids.

So next day, after about 3-4 hours of sleep, I woke up to a couple of the kids talking about a half-hour before wake-up call.  That was it for me- no going back to sleep so I got up.  Bathroom and teeth-brushing aside, it was time for breakfast.  Why do they brush their teeth before breakfast anyway?  Eating will just dirty them up again.  Personally, I choose to take care of my teeth after breakfast so they are fresh until midmorning snack or lunch.  For the most part breakfast wasn’t bad, though the sausage patties left something to be desired.  The head of the kitchen studied under a world-famous chef, but when the source isn’t good no chef can do anything about it.  Following breakfast was another session and another set of games.  This time I thought my team won one of the games, but I found out later I was wrong.  A pair of leaders had been playing on our side and apparently we got penalized for it as they were too good.  Oh, well.  Fair is fair.  Lunch consisted of hot dogs, fries, and peas & corn.  Then they brought in ice cream bars much to the delight of the kids.  Afternoon was much the same as the morning, and I know we won at least one of the games.  The temperature, by the way, I think was lower than the night before for our games, but without the icy wind so it actually felt a lot better.  After the games was free time.  Sort of free anyway.  Since there was a 5:00 service at the church the kids were confined to only a few areas: the gym for dodge-ball and beachball volley ball, the cafe area for board games and crafts, and the junior high room for things like 4-square, air hockey, and carpetball.  They had another area briefly to watch a video, but that was done shortly after the start of the service as the younger kids needed it.

Dinner time with linguini and meatballs followed, with a wrap-up ceremony with the parents to end the time.  That’s where, to my changine, I found out our team came in fourth place.  Well, my teams had first place last year and second place for the last two summers, so I could accept this though it left me wondering as I thought the Saturday games went well for us.  When I asked, that’s when I found out about the penalties for the one game.  Better luck next time, eh?  So all in all, I had a good time with this and will continue to do it as long as I’m working with this ministry.  Well, time to wrap this post up I guess.  I know I skipped over some things like unpacking and packing and the group photo (taken from the roof!), but this post is long enough, don’t you think? 😛