Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Third Fall Retreat (PART 3)

Sunday, October 18th
Later on after a few more entertaining performances, the talent show was over.
I put my bible, notepad, and camera back in the guy's cabin and went back to the dining hall with my headlamp in hand. Right now we were all heading out to the second field over for the midnight bonfire, so I met with Jenny and turned the headlamp on so we could go together without getting lost in the dark.
The bonfire itself was wide, like the first one I got to help set up two years ago, but it was low like last year's. It was kind of a low dome-like pile of embers and logs, sending sparks and cinders into the air when you poked at it.
After arriving there, Galdo got his guitar out and started playing some campfire songs (meaning SpongeBob songs, including "Sweet Victory" and C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E-S-O-N-G Song." So of course I just had to join in, and after the SpongeBob ones we sang "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" (Eli Young Band) That was one I had picked out before and Galdo really seemed to like playing.
When those few songs were over I pointed out to Jenny where the chocolates and marshmallows were for s'mores. We both got up and grabbed two of these huge marshmallows, much bigger than the kind that I've used for s'mores in the past. I grabbed two crackers with mine and we both put our marshmallows on the ends of skinny sticks.

Here's one little thing you need to know; Roasting a marshmallow only till it's golden brown on the outside is NOT good enough (at least not good enough for me, or Jenny). Nuh-uh. The way to do it is, you hold the marshmallow in the flame till it literally catches fire. Wait a little, then blow it out. Or even better, just wait for the flame to go out on its own. This way you've got a crispy black 'candy shell' on the outside, with a melty-gooey center. I took my marshmallow off the stick by pinching it between the crackers. Jenny, however, stuffed the whole thing in her mouth, right off the stick! (Priceless. Just PRICELESS)

Around 1:30am, I was getting tired and had spent a lot of time out there already. Since there was no one in the guys' cabin yet I figured I'd take the opportunity to try and get some sleep. There was just one other guy in there trying to get the portable heaters going, running extension cords and testing them out to make sure they worked. I wound up moving into a bigger room that Galdo and one other guy shared, since the heater in my bunk room wasn't working. But when the power went out a few hours later and it didn't seem like it would get any warmer, I moved back to where I originally was. Eventually my old friend Brady came in and just easily turned on the heater in there (Electronics isn't my specialty so I'm not sure where the power for which heaters came from. Somehow it worked).

So I had that room to myself again, still cold, still not hearing any snoring... and I woke up around 7:50. Not sure how many hours of sleep I got. Maybe three or four. Still it was in some ways better than the last couple times.

Thinking "Might as well," I got up, made sure my stuff was all packed and my sleeping bag rolled up. I went to the dining hall for breakfast, especially since it was warmer in there anyway. My breakfast was a bowl of fruit loops and a cup of apple juice. And just as I suspected, there weren't a lot of us left. Somewhere between one and two dozen, I think.
Me and two other guys lit the fireplace with thick logs, something I hadn't seen the last two retreats. It was nice to see that thing light up and really feel the warmth of it (not much different than last night's bonfire).
I think the main reason we're whittled down to a smaller amount of people on Sunday is 'cause a lot of them have their own church services that they like to go to. So we just had a couple of people for our worship team today, and it was a bit quieter. Still it was good, and I really liked it.

"Know Your Story" was the focus of this morning's lesson. Now this was a really deep one for me, and probably the most useful.
First, Brian asked volunteers to come up and share the gospel like before. A few more people did than before. And since I figured everyone's was different and it didn't all come down to one or two speakers this time, I decided to take a turn at it. The trick for me was to say it like I would to a young kid, most likely someone who didn't know anything about God (like me when I was seven);

"Look at the sky, the fields, the trees, where do you think all that comes from?" Using analogies like God painting on a canvas made it easier to communicate too. For the New Testament I said, "Next time you feel alone, wonder if anybody cares about you... think about God." "He cares about us, you, me, all of us, so much that He sent His only Son to live with us, to teach us, and die for our sins so we could reconnect and have that relationship with Him. If that doesn't say love,w hat does?" "Some food for thought there."

(a few of my notes during the lesson)
- Why is this [Christianity] important to YOU? What does it do FOR YOU?
- Your story will connect with other peoples' stories (they will find Jesus meaningful for the same reasons you do

After the lecture part of it, the majority of the lesson was having us think and write down our own stories. Not to hand in or anything, just to get the gears in our heads turning. So we got into little groups for this. I sat with Galdo by the fireplace and we talked back and forth about little details in our stories while writing them down; about how I wasn't interested in church growing up, how I came across the Thrive group at school and was kindly invited, how I enjoyed the meetings and it all helped me grow in faith... it was nice to talk about with a friend, especially since this was really a "Nothing Else Matters" kind of weekend.

About quarter after noon, the retreat was pretty much over.
While those select few remaining cleaned up the dining hall, stacking chairs, folding tables etc., I picked up my stuff and went out to the car where mom and dad were waiting for me... with Dunkin Donuts coffee! YES! After spending both nights freezing, I earned that hot cup of dark coffee! Ya hear me? I EARNED it! (of course, it's always been worth it).

My Third Fall Retreat (PART 2)

Saturday, October 17th
By now it was about midnight. I was originally interested in tagging along with some of them (roughly half of them I think) to play their version of Capture the Flag, so I joined their meeting in the big church pavilion. But after going over the rules and such, how far out into the fields it would be, and remembering how late it was, I figured it best for me to get some sleep. Speaking from experience here; if I didn't find a good 'early' opportunity and take it, my chances of getting enough sleep (if any) were low.
So I slipped away quietly from the pavilion and went into the guys' cabin. It was empty except this Korean guy Chris who was here for his first time. We basically hung out in that small bunk room and talked for a while, him sitting on one of the bunks and me (more or less) pacing the floor. We exchanged some background stories, I told him a few things about how last years' retreats went, how we were taught the lessons we learned, I told him some things that came into my mind whenever I thought about sharing the gospel with someone too...
I laughed, surprised how much I wound up saying. I didn't see it coming mere minute before, but I wound up sharing flat-out the gospel in my own words, to this one guy the same way I'd say anything else. Without other people looking up at me it was much easier to do, but I think that's the key; to just relax and do it like you're talking to any other friend.

The first night was tricky, since it was colder than I expected it to be. I was layered in pajamas and my fleece sleeping bag. Plus the door was latched, but that didn't do much to keep warm air in. One of my friends came in to unlatch the door since other guys had knocked on it several times, and lent me an extra pillow and comforter (guess I didn't look very warm to him either). That helped a lot. I was still pretty chilly, but I did manage to get some sleep out of it. It felt like very off-and-on dozing, so to this day I still don't know how much sleep I actually got. Doesn't matter though.
I was surprised that I didn't hear a single snore. It seemed like there was barely anyone in the cabin. I was happy and relieved about that, but still it had me curious...

The day itself was really good, and always my favorite day of these retreats since the most stuff happened on the Saturdays. I mean, it's a whole day (as opposed to our Friday night and Sunday morning). So obviously there's going to be some agenda.
Breakfast was around eight. I had a bowl of honey nut cheerios and made a cup of coffee (with honey stirred into it) to warm myself up again.

After breakfast we went out to the church pavilion for a game of Dragon Tail, which I enjoyed very much since it was funny, and then after that some of us did some version of Musical Chairs (involving towels; every time someone wen out they'd have to fold it some of the way). Not all of us did that one either but it was fun to watch.

Our lesson this morning was about knowing your audience. Here's some of the stuff I wrote down for notes:
- God's goal isn't to make bad people good. It's to make dead people alive.
- When we share the gospel, we're (hopefully) moving someone forward; emotionally and intellectually. Emotionally engaged.
- We're not called to act lovingly. We're called to love (there is a difference)

After the lesson came lunchtime (in my case, another cup of coffee). A close friend, Jenny, had texted me a while ago saying she was on her way. And now, right after I finished making the coffee, she had arrived. So I went outside and showed her where the girls' cabin was so she could get settled.
We had lunch, and I showed her around the park while a bunch of the others were (by my guess) off on some scavenger hunt, or playing bubble soccer, or throwing a football in the second field over. This time of day was the "free time" where the rest of us would just do whatever. I didn't care much for sports anyway, so I took that opportunity to spend some quality relaxing time with Jenny.

Following dinner, a few games in the pavilion a few hours later, and the band rehearsing inside, then came worship and our next lesson.
The main focus of this one was about worldview, meaning how others see the things that we share and talk to them about;
- How we say things can greatly influence what people hear (Is what they HEAR the same as what WE SAY?)
- Adapt/communicate it without changing the gospel itself

After the lesson we had a few minutes to prepare for whatever we were doing for the No Talent Talent Show (if we signed up).
First up went my buddy Ryan Galdo and his friend Calla (this was apparently her first time with Thrive too),  singing "Barton Hollow." THRIVE Fall Retreat 2015- Ryan and Calla "Barton Hollow"
There was a variety of other acts too like card tricks for example. This guy Jon gave a brief intro for each one, which made it pretty interesting. So before I went up to do my act, he said something about "...exotic parts of India..." Then it was my turn, performing a Baloo-Bagheera scene from The Jungle Book.
(I don't have the video of my act unfortunately, due to technical difficulties. But this is the scene I did, or at least most of it )
Here's a fun fact for ya; I was worried that when I did the last few lines of the scene (starting where Baloo says "but I love that kid. I love him like he was my own cub") I was gonna just start crying right up there. Well, if I had then I could probably harness it to get that emotional core of the performance/character out. But the worry was that I might end up blubbering and not getting the words out right. I guess it's a good thing I didn't, but I did try a little to make it sound like I could tear up any minute.

Later on, the intro for Jenny said something like, "taking a little trip to Europe..." and "...on the Irish side." She did some of her Irish dancing, which was pretty cool to see. The girl can prance like a deer!
 My friend Toria with this girl Elissa did another VERY messy sketch where Elissa posed at Toria's arms. They did this the last couple retreats; "Making Pancakes" was last year's, and this year's "How to be Fabulous" was just as hilarious if not more. They had a lot of makeup/mess to clean up off themselves and the table when it was over, but everyone was just cracking up the whole time.

My Third Fall Retreat (PART 1)

For the last couple years with Thrive, the Christian fellowship club at school, I've gone to the last three annual Fall Retreats. The way it works is, we go to Highland Park on a certain Friday evening, and it lasts till Sunday at noon. Not everyone stays the whole weekend but a lot of us do. I just happen to be one of them. Nights are pretty tough sometimes, but it's always worth it in my opinion.

I've never done an entry on the retreats before (mainly 'cause there's so much stuff to talk about that it's hard to pin down), but I figure maybe it's time I did.

Friday, October 16th
I made sure I got to the park early, so I'd have plenty of time to run into the guys' cabin and put my stuff down in a small bunk room. I always thought 'The less roommates the better' because then I had less chance of being kept awake by guys' snoring. Still, either way I had little spongy earplugs and my iPod.
I signed in at a table that had been set up outside, at the big church-like pavilion, and saw that there were also big pretzels and hot chocolate mix being served there. Plus, more people were coming, one by one, in pairs, groups, and it just kept going for I-lost-track-of-how-long.

(I rarely checked the time on my phone at all over this weekend, for maybe-obvious reasons. It felt better to just live in the moment with these people)

A nice cup of hot cocoa felt really good, especially after having grown fond of it over watching Once Upon a Time every week (it's a reference to the show, my sister and I do it all the time). But of course it didn't fill my stomach all the way, and I'd been dumb enough not to eat before leaving home. So I went back into the cabin and filled a couple of Pita pockets, that I'd stuffed in my backpack, with peanut butter. After eating a couple of those, my stomachache felt much better.

After being outside and sitting around a small kindling fire, we all went inside the dining hall for a game (teams making the tallest structure we could out of newspapers, asking yes/no questions to figure out the names taped to our backs), and then worship.
I've always been impressed by the contemporary Christian music and our talented musicians who perform it. Mainly 'cause I can actually understand the words! Always handy when the song lyrics pop up our the overhead screen so we can all follow along.

Around 10:00 was our first lesson with our speaker, Brian Musser, about knowing the gospel. The interesting twist he put on it was that it wouldn't just be a sermon. He wanted it to be interactive and have us do something with it. First, he asked us to write down what we could think of "What is the gospel?" And a few times he would invite someone to come up and share the gospel in their own words!
I stayed in my seat for that, but it was interesting seeing someone my age do it.

Brian delved into important aspects like "repent, trust, confess, believe," "Eternity in heaven, restored to God" and others. He put emphasis on knowing your audience, and gave us some good verses that you can really delve into the story with (like Romans 10:9, John 3:16, Romans 3:23-24 and a few others).