Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vacation 2010- Day 1

We began our grand adventure to the Russian River of Northern California, outside of the infamous wine country. I was able to take 3 days of vacation, for a several day getaway with my beautiful wife. The summer has been a busy one. On top of the usual hectic youth ministry schedule, family health issues on other states have carried us apart more than usual. This trip could not have been more needed. We NEEDED time together. So we planned a nice anniversary trip---13 years!
Of course it got off to a rough start. Days before the trip began, two of our kids got sick. High fevers, sore throats…etc. We thought all was well until the day before we took off. Our middle got QUITE sick. But…hours before leaving, the fever kicked and we took off.
We drove a few hours before stopping for lunch in Redding at the world famous In N Out Burgers. in n out Pictures, Images and Photos you have never experienced that, I highly recommend it. Best fast food burgers and fries in the world! After clogging our hearts and arteries just a bit, we hit the road.
The soundtrack for the day was a great one. We listened to Mumford & sons, Avett brothers, Amos Lee, and then closed out the drive to Justin Timberlake. As we were “bringing sexy back” we made the final push into the crazy streets of San Francisco. Jessie had booked us a fancy hotel downtown. Omni Hotel Pictures, Images and Photos The roads were insane. It was impossible to tell the lanes with all the cable car tracks. But it was gorgeous. The architecture there is incredible. It is nuts how they built everything on such steep angles and intense hills.
We found a parking lot finally and hauled the luggage to our hotel. It was GORGEOUS! We checked in and rested a few minutes before we got ready for the nights big adventure! We found a Subway across the street to get some food, since we’d heard the musical would run late. Then we grabbed a cab and ran to the famous Orpheum theatre in San Fran’s infamous TENDERLOIN district, to pick up our tickets to see WICKED.
If you have never seen this show, I recommend it with every ounce of my being! It is the most incredible stage spectacle I have ever seen and an incredible story! W LOVED it. At 10:30, we made our way out and tackled the task of hailing a cab. The ride home was an adventure and we crashed into our beds, prepping for the big day to start in the AM

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pickathon 2010

I got to be a part of a great experience called Pickathon recently. It is a music festival outside of Portland that showcases up and coming indie roots music. It was a phenomenal experience. The great thing about it is the fact that they very purposefully make the festival green, earth friendly, and anti-corporate. So the entire festival was plastic free. You purchased a great PICKATHON CUP of stainless steel made my KLEEN KANTEEN when you entered and any drink for the weekend was served to you in your cup. All about the farm there were washing and drying stations for these. There were water trucks all over the place for you to fill up your own water bottles as you wished.

It was very low key....the only sign pointing the way was on a back road and was a hand painted black lettered sign on a white board. You got your tickets in a field, parked and hiked in your camping gear. What a cool experience this was. The front of the grounds was a clearing with all the vendors, stages, etc set up. You walked past there until you reached the edge of the forest. It was very cool looking.....with in trail leading in...Inviting you to the magic forest of fun! As you stepped in you literally, physically felt as if you'd just wandered into a different world. The temperature dropped about 8 degrees. The trees were strung with lights and there were trails tailing off in every direction. Basically, the idea was find any spot in the trees, clear it out as best as you can, and set up camp. HOW COOL! We hiked for about 20 minutes until we found our spot. Already the woods were lighting up with dayglow colored flags and tie-dye blankets marking off camps. Dotting the woods in every direction were all kinds of colored tents and hammocks. It took us about 40 minute to carry everything in and set up. We were very basic. A chair, a tent, a few candles and our backpacks. We were home for 2 days! The woods had a life of their own as hippies, families, kids, yuppies and hipsters all ran around together. It was a very friendly and happy feeling place. We hiked around a little then made our way to the stages to stake out a place for our blanket and see the vendors. It was a beautiful creation, as some very creative visual artists had created the backdrop and "roof" from all kinds of huge diamond shaped silk tarps of blue white and orange. It was quite stunning. The vendors were fantastic, as they chose to have NO major corporate sponsorship at all. The food was ALL local, and about 90% was natural organic. The merch and souvenir tents followed this same suit. I truly felt at home :). I could go on for sentence after sentence about the setup...but instead I'll just tell you of the bands I saw and share some poorly shot videos for your enjoyment.

The first bad we saw Friday was WEINLAND. They were pretty good. They are a 5 piece who could be described as folk pop with a slight Americana twinge. The had a guitar and bass, drums, banjo, keyboards and a fella that rotated between dobro, mandolin, lap steel and accordion. I enjoyed the set, and thought they were a great way to start out the weekend. It was nothing spectacular but solid.

Next up on the same lawn stage setup was MEGAFAUN. I had recently heard these guys were good so was excited. They had been a different band known as DeYarmond Edison earlier, but part of that collaborative had departed to found the critically acclaimed Bob they reformed as Megafaun. They surely did NOT disappoint. They had a bigger sound from the beginning. As a long time lover of vocal harmonies, I loved the vocal stylings of this band. They employed a very nice sound that evoked images of the Byrds, Neil Young or maybe more recently a rougher Fleet Foxes. They were very tight as a band. They played for an hour and I could easily have listened longer. I expect to see them get pretty big in coming years.

After this we hiked back into the trees to see The Punch Brothers. These were some of the guys I was most excited about seeing! It is Chris Thile's (the vocal and mandolin playing wizard of Nickel Creek fame) newest bluegrass band. I was quite eager to see them and the Woods Stage was incredible. They built a canopy for the tiny stage from limbs and branches and put hundreds of hay bales in the little valley in between the huge trees. It was incredible actually. Chris played mandolin and took most lead vocals. There was an excellent banjo player, an unbelievably skilled fiddler, a stand up bass player who both picked and strummed with a bow and a master acoustic guitar player. Each guy was a master at his craft and their harmonies were unmatchable. They had a very fun and witty banter with the crowd and surely delivered a blistering fun set. The highlight for me was when they covered Radiohead's "2+2=5" from "Hail to the Thief". It was SO good, In fact, here is a fuzzy video from it:
Afterwards we made our way back through the dust to the Main Stage area. We caught the end of a country Texas troubadour named Hayes Carll. I liked the show. The band swung just fine. His vocals in all actuality were pretty terrible. He sang with a warbly, haggard, chain smoke damaged throaty nasally tone. But with the entire look and outlaw feel of the band, it somehow worked. The lyrics and self deprecating humor with the crowd were clever enough to keep me engaged.
Next we were excited to see Breathe Owl Breathe. Between the recent rave reviews in PASTE MAGAZINE and the general buzz throughout almost everyone you talked to, I was certain this was going to be fun. They did NOT disappoint! They are a performing arts extravaganza! The visual theatrics and storytelling were every bit as important as the music. They are a Michigan trio of two guys and a girl. The set was a giant story telling session of dragons,caves, magic swim holes and such. Most pieces contained a costume of sorts, usually with a cape. They played keyboards, guitars, horns and all types of percussive instruments. It was weird, jubilant, fascinating and pure bliss! It was truly a sight to behold and their hour long set was over far too soon. Enjoy a snippet of the wild surreal magic:

The night ended for me (as I didn't stay up for the late shows though I now hear I missed out) with an unbelievably rocking set from Dr. Dog. I've been a HUGE fan for about a year now so I was jazzed for this one. If you get the chance to see them live, DO NOT miss out! This Philly outfit will rock your socks off! They played everything with SUCH intensity. I was sure that by the end of the set they might collapse. By the end of their run ALL the other bands had made their way to the side of the stage and were rocking out as starry-eyed as the rest of us mere mortals! It was a wonderful show. Here is a video of one of favorite songs called "FROM", off what I consider their best album "Fate". Enjoy:

And that made up our first evening. We made our way back up the dirty trail in the dark and collapsed in our tent drifting off to sleep with our trusty Ipod setlists singing us lullabies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Miracle Camp

Quite rarely…maybe just a handful of times in a life, one gets to be a part of something magical. Maybe it is a title run in sports, a vacation trip, or grand adventure. Even rarer in life are the times when a person gets to be a part of something supernatural. When those experiences occur, you should hold on to them forever.
Recently….I lived through such an experience. Last week, I got to experience God in a way that is indescribable. We had our annual trek up the Siskiyou Mountains to Southern Oregon Christian Camp. Everything was set in place. Teachers and speakers were lined up. Staffing issues were worked out. And finances were still miraculously rolling in like tumble weeds after a prairie storm. As I pulled up to the staff cabin the night before camp began, it looked like we were in for a great year, but nothing could have prepared us for the quiet storm that was brewing. No one could have explained how the Holy Spirit was about to descend on those volcanic badlands, and sweep through some 75 kids and 30 adults hearts, transforming us into one living, breathing, loving organism.
Sunday was good. We had some great worship, learning some new songs and heard the theme for the week laid out for us to begin pondering. The evening was mellow as we sang around a fire, shared a snack and actually drifted into dreamland at a reasonable time. I remember thinking that something felt good…maybe even better than usual.
Monday morning came like it always does. The sun in the early sky indicated that summer heat was going to hang in the mountains longer than we’d like. Breakfast was divine and the kids seemed eerily cheery…even for the 1st morning. As we made our way to morning devo time, there was a stirring in my soul. I wasn’t sure what it was. I could sense that things were different. The assembly was wonderful. The silly singing was enthusiastic, and the game was a blast. Don Walker brought a word of God that hit like a ton of bricks. EVERYONE was engaged and all in..and it was just the MORNING SPEAKER! Clearly…something was amiss. The day just kept going good. When was the coil going to break? When would the trouble that MUST be out there rear its ugly horned head?
As the evening began, I found myself walking in a peace that is hard to find as camp director. Even when camps go perfectly, there is this silent stress that hovers over your head as director like a wet fog. You are constantly guarded, just in case something should happen. You are always being called in several directions for EVERY decision from the biggest to the most mundane. So, while you may be fully enjoying yourself, you cannot fully commit, always aware that that fog could break into a rain and ruin what you are doing. But, this night, I found myself completely walking in sunshine. There was no fog! A peace that is indescribable had made its’ way into my soul and seemed to have a pretty tight grip. After dinner we witnessed the beauty of two loving and emotional fathers immerse their own kids into the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ. It was beautiful and real. Making our way back for evening worship, we were abuzz. My friend Terry brilliantly fused clips from The Matrix into a lesson about God’s love and dedication to us, and the purpose He provides for each of our lives. He ended with a personal and emotional object lesson that stirred every soul in the place. The stage was now set for EVERY speaker and teacher the week would see. The bar was set, and it was high. Miraculously, no one failed. If anything, they just kept raising it, concluding with Charlie's mind blowing lesson Friday evening that still has my brain shaking.
The rest of the enchanted week never disappointed. Even when trials came, and they did try, the peace never drifted away. Every speaker kept bringing fevered and inspired talks. The teens were opening up there souls, and emptying themselves at the camp fire like canteens spilling into desert sands. They were blowing us away by this point. We’ve always been blessed with ridiculously good kids. But this was different. There was love present amongst this motley crew. Not a teenage hormone laden love, and not just a kumbaya hokey, forced love. This was different. This was real. You could almost touch it. You could almost taste it. There were no cliques. There was no one on the fringes. Kids who fit in NOWHERE ELSE were 100% accepted, loved and made to feel like a best friend. We adults watched it quietly, jaws dropped open wide, with tears in our eyes and pride in our hearts. There was a power in the crowd that one could almost see if you squinted just right.
Midweek was the pinnacle. It manifested itself in an event that sounds simple enough on the surface. To the outsider simply reading about it, it will seem like another silly night in a summer camp. But to the priviledged few who experienced it……HEAVEN came to Box R Ranch for a few divine moments. After the campfire I drifted off to my secret sweet AT&T hot spot between a pine and a stump, hidden in the shadows of the cookhouse, for my nightly call to my wife to hear about her day and tell her I loved her before she drifted off in her lonely bed. I could hear singing in the cookhouse. It sounded as if Malcolm had been coaxed into serenading some lucky lady with his operatic vocal cords. After a few playful chords, he began to REALLY belt out and the back noise all quieted down. I made it back up just as his lips pushed out the last syllables of the final note, and the place erupted! For some reason, I got goose bumps. I felt something. I even shook a little. I remember “hearing” something in my heart telling me “watch what is about to take place”.
Suddenly the place began to chant a name…over and over. They wanted THEM to now sing! The individual turned red, blushed and shook their head, but after a few more seconds of coaxing sheepishly stood up. The crowd went wild, cheering and yelling out encouragements. So, feeling the love and support the young person began to belt out, and boy could they sing! When the song was finished the place literally exploded. I thought for one second that the green tin roof may fall off the place. A smile completely invaded the singers face and then spread to each collective face, and a new name was chanted to begin singing. This went on for well over an hour. It was incredibly beautiful. It was so pure and organic. Kids and adults alike were feeling a love and support that is NOT of this world! No one was afraid to sing, because they knew that everyone there loved and supported their efforts. We heard talent that could make American Idol jealous. Others of us just sang something goofy. A few brought tears to our weary eyes. Several had never even hinted they could sing, but broke their enslaving shyness and wowed us with a voice we never knew of. Kids with learning disabilities stood up with total confidence, throwing their hands in the air when finished. It was phenomenal. It was supernatural.
As the last cheers reluctantly gave way to a sleepy chatter, we sent the campers off to bed. A few of us adults stayed behind to try and make sense of what had just happened. We could barely put words to it. Our bodies were still covered in goosebumps (or maybe more accurately, what my friend Jonathan calls “God-bumps”). We mostly just laughed and smiled, because we knew we had just experienced something that very few have the privilege to ever feel. God was fully alive in that dusty old cookhouse. He was real. He was moving. And I got to be a part of it.
The rest of the week never once disappointed. The speakers kept touching our hearts. The games kept uniting. The campfires kept encouraging. The songs kept ringing. By weeks’ end there were 9 new children of God born again! Many more had recommitted and even more had taken a step closer to being the person God called them to be. We all took on the challenge of accepting the reality of Psalm 139 (our theme verse) as GOOD NEWS in order to free ourselves to be who God intends us to be.
I am privileged to have had the chance to lead this group. I had absolutely nothing to do with the miracles that took place. All credit goes to God. I am grateful to have played a bit part, and witnessed the whole thing. God truly is good……ALL THE TIME!

Monday, August 2, 2010

IPod Shuffle

The Ipod just brought me quite an eclectic mix......though I'd share it with my few readers:

Night Bird Flying- Jimi Hendrix
Life is White- Big Star
The Supine- Andrew Bird
Shattered- Rolling Stones
Here I Am- Shawn McDonald
Into the Fire- Bruce Springsteen
Girl Named Tennessee- needtobreathe
Walking After You- Foo Fighters
Foreground- Grizzly Bear
Weird Divide- The Shins
Teenage Labotomy- The Ramones
Strange Condition- Pete Yorn
Sweet Little Lies- Michael Franti & Spearhead
Invention- Pedro the Lion
Curs in the Weeds- Horse Feathers
West Memphis Skyline- Miles Kurosky
All Your Secrets- Yo La Tengo
Margaret vs Pauline- Neko Case
Shed a Little Light- Foy Vance
Santeria- Sublime

enjoy some of those if you have them!