Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm not here

Perhaps some of you have been wondering about why I haven't posted anything since Monday. Well, I assure you it isn't because I haven't had anything to post about. It's actually a matter of not being able to post anything.
You see, I haven't had a computer since Tuesday. It seems that while my favorite son was home from his mother's last week he downloaded some kind of music program that came with a virus. Oh, joy !!! So I had to take it to a computer shop to to get it cleaned up.
In any event, JT was kind enough to let me use his computer so I could let everyone know why this blog has been strangely silent over the last week. And to also let everyone know that I will probably not be posting anything for another week. While I'm hoping to get my computer back this coming Tuesday, I will probably not have a chance to use it since I will be leaving for Creation 08 on Wednesday, right after work.
That's right folks, I'm going to Creation in my capacity as an advocate for Compassion International. But let's look at the bright side, the next time I post it should be an awesome review of the Creation festival. So, I hope to see yinz then.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend update

OK, I started posting around 6:00 this morning, and I just finished getting all of the pics downloaded and all of my witticisms typed in. It's now somewhere close to 1:30, so I'm going to go take a nap. And after you read about my weekend in the several following posts below, you'll understand why I need this nap. I'm still exhausted from it all, and yet, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.
We should all have such amazing weekends, and we should have them more often than we typically do.

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Summer Slam

My day started with a trip to the laundramat. But, since that is a boring detail of life, I will skip the mundane and get right to the meat-n-potatoes of this post.
JT called to talk ask if I wanted to do lunch with him before we met up with P.Dave and his daughter Carissa, to head out to the Summer Slam in Derry, PA. Of course, we also thought it might be a good idea to ask P.Dave to join us as well. So after a few phone calls we all agreed on Mad Mex in the Miracle Mile shopping center, and we also thought it would be a good idea to take only one vehicle from there.
As we were eating lunch the rains began to fall, and that raised some concerns about the festival. But things had settled to a light rainfall by the time we left.
As we headed out P.Dave asked if I knew where we were going. Well, I had looked up directions on Mapquest and it seemd simple enough; Rt. 22 to Rt. 892 then onto Pittsburgh Street. And since the Mapquest directions showed 892 as a main road that was not too far past the trun to get to Keystone State Park, I figured it'd be easy to find...
Well, by the time we got to Johnstown, we all agreed that there was a missing road sign somewhere along the way. of course, with Rt. 22 being in a perpetual state of construction, road signs are often difficult enough to find.

What? Do you think I'm kidding about Rt. 22 being under perpetual construction? OK, let me just say this; for as long as I've been driving, I cannot remember a time when some section of Rt. 22, between Murrysville and Blairsville, wasn't being worked on. I'm sure Wink can confirm that for me, too.

But, anyways...

As we got closer to Keystone we found a little diner and JT went in with the hope of getting directions. Fortunately, he did get directions. Unfortunately, they were all back roads. So, we were a little concerned that we might miss something else and then be really lost. But the directions worked out and we made it to the festival just as it was getting started.
We took a look around at what was there.

Then we headed over to the registration tables to sign in. Afterwards we walked around some more.

I thought this was a really cool thing. It's like a giant garbage bag and they're using it as a waterslide. I wish I had thought to bring a change of clothes. That would've been so nice for as hot as it was.

This is something I would've liked to try, but I'm over the weight limit. But these guys, well, the one in the green is the bassist for Eowyn, and the guy in the white is her drummer. So it was cool to see them out in the crowd having fun with everyone else.

After walking around a bit, JT and I started to use his mini-recorders to get "on-the-spot" interviews with some of the kids around the festival. Most of them were OK with the idea. We also approached the handful of minsitry booths that were there to talk to them about what they do. That was also very cool.
Shortly after that JT and I were told about the Meet & Greet with Eowyn , and we were invited to be a part of that since that was one of the reasons why JT was even there. So we got to meet her.
She is so tiny! And I'm not saying that just because I'm so big.

Well, OK, my bigness does make her look a lot smaller than she may actually be. But after meeting her, and having our pictures taken with her, the running joke between JT and I all day was that she was like an action figure. Either of us could've easily taken her home and put her on a shelf with any of our other collectibles.
So that went well, and she was very nice to everyone. You could tell it was genuine because she gave everybody the option of a serious or a funny pose with her, and even did a few of them for most of the kids that were there. She remembered some of the kids from the last time she was at the Summer Slam, and even mentioned their myspace pages. How cool is that?
After the Meet & Greet JT and I went back outside to find that a few more of our friends had finally arrived. From left to right, Jen, Adrienne (I hope I spelled her name right) and Katie showed up.

I love Adrienne's hair. It looks kinda blue in this shot, but it's really a magnificent shade of purple. I should do that with my hair.
or not...
But this was only the beginning of the day's festivities. Read on my faithful visitors. I'm still posting about the events of the weekend.

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The first show of the afternoon started around 4:00. This is Alakrity. They're a bunch of guys from Wisconsin. They put on a pretty good show, too. Their style is kinda old-school, influenced punk with an alternative edge.

Then there was this guy. He's the MC and a youth pastor at a church in Greensburg. He never stopped jumping around during Alakrity's set...

And that's why I was able to get this shot when they finished.

Shortly after their set, JT and I got to spend some time with these guys. JT scored the interview for his podcast and I took some pics. Here they are together. It was really great getting to hang out with these guys.

JT and I both picked-up their CD. I really like it, and can't wait for their offical debut to come out in July.

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For as tiny as she is, Eowyn has an incredible stage presence. There is so much energy in her performance. She came out with Crashing and just kept things going from there.

Her vocals are absolutely amazing. Her voice flows through each song with waves of emotion and intensity. And she moves the entire time that she's on stage without missing a note.

Josh on guitars kept everybody pumped. He's actually kinda low-profile for a guitarist, but he pulls it off well. There's s sense of mystery about him since he moves a lot, but rarely engages the crowd. I think that draws their attention even more.

Charlie, on the other hand, seems to love the audience and knows how to work them. Also something unusual since most bassists tend to stay in the background. Not Charlie, though. But you'll see what I mean by that later.

Craig on drums kept excellent time. The percussion hit hard and nailed everything down. And having Steve on keys solidified the goth/industrial sound of Eowyn's music.

You can practically feel the energy in these next few pics.

Again, Eowyn has such a profound presence on the stage, you can't resist being drawn to her and her message.

Yes, she preached a little, and you could tell her heart was in what she had to share with the audience. You could also tell that the audience had a connection with her. Amazing to see and experience.

And during the last song, Charlie had to jump out into the crowd. And, yes, the crowd loved it.

One amazing show, and I can't wait for the next opportunity to see Eowyn live.

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After the show

The show actually had to be cut short because of approaching thunder and lightning. But the storm never really manifested. Although it was fantastic to see the flashes of light in the clouds and hear the thunder rolling in the distance.

We stayed in the stage area until the crowd dispersed. Besides, I had to get this picture taken with Charlie. We almost look like father and son - I am old enough. Maybe I should be wearing warpaint, too.
No, I am not envious of his spiked and colored mohawk. I'm quite happy with my own, thank you very much.

Josh was just incredible, so I had to get a shot with him.

And thank you JT for getting this one of my ponytail. I'm really loving my haircut right now.

After the show everybody headed up to the merchandise area to get autographs from Eowyn. You can really tell that she loves her fans. This was not a quick, sign it and send 'em away thing. She actually took the time to talk to each of the kids who asked her to sign anything. Of course, I realize that in a larger venue something so personal is not possible. But I get the feeling she would still try to meet everyone of her fans.
Now, I do have to say, Eowyn did unintentionally insult us at one point. As one young man approached her to tell her "I love you! I want to marry you!" and she responded by telling him "But I'm old."...
So what does that make me, JT and P.Dave?
We politely joked with her about it. She's in her early thirties and she asked each of us our ages. And I have to say that her reaction to me telling her my age was quite flattering. When I told her I was 42 she actually looked taken back by it and said "Really?... Wow!". I suppose it's the mohawk. Not many 40-somethings are wearing them these days.
We lingered on for awhile as JT was still hoping to get his interview with her. But as it was getting late, she still had a lot of things to take care of and we still had an hour drive before us. So, they decided that they would work something out over the phone.
Getting back was much easier than the ride in. All we had to do was stay on the road we pulled onto until we came to 22. From there we were home free.
The end of a glorious day.

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Compassion at Moraine Park Summer Fest

This was the day I was waiting for. I was getting to do another event for Compassion, and I was going to be working with the lady who put me through my Advocate training, Lisa. I was psyched.
I arrived around 1:00 and Lisa immediately recognized me - how many other Compassion Advocates have mohawks (I don't know if there are any others)? We hugged and started to talk right away. It was great to meet her in person, and we had so many stories to share while we were there.
I have to say, the festival wasn't quite what it could've been. The weather, which is beyond the control of the festival coordinators, was lousy. It rained off-n-on for the most part of the afternoon. And not just rain, but really hard rain. So, there weren't many people out-n-about to walk past our tent. And our location among the vendors meant that even when people were walking around, it was more like browsing and nobody really wanted to approach the table to see what we were "selling".
We also saw our fair share of skeptics and people who wanted to "make a point" to us by asking scripted questions (follow up questions while you're still answering their first question) and then asking if we didn't see a need here in the U.S.. And I always want to ask these people why they feel some need to "condemn" what we're doing as if whatever charities they support (if they support any at all) are more noble in their efforts than what we're doing. As if God doesn't want all of us to follow our own heart to support whatever ministries He has called us to care about.

And this is the reason why so many churches and Christians are ineffective in their faith. We have no sense of unity. We let our differences get in our way. We refuse to acknowledge that everybody is different, with different gifts and talents to be used for different ministries and callings. And until we're willing to allow different people to follow different callings, we will not be effective.

In any event, we didn't get many sponsorships while I was at the booth. We did get some serious inquiries, beyond the skeptics. I did learn even more about Compassion while talking to Lisa. I encouraged a sponsor who was helping at the table to become an Advocate like myself. And some of the people involved with organizing this festival have expressed their desire to be in partnership with Compassion, in spite of the set-backs that happened. So we'll see what happens next year.
Something really cool that happened though was the guys from Alakrity showed up. So I got to talk and hang out with them again, for a little while. They were supposed to play a 20 minute set, but the weather threw a monkey wrench to everything. They didn't get to play, and after driving 2 hours to get to the festival, they didn't get paid either. I felt really bad for them, but at least they got to stay to see Manic Drive and Pillar.

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Manic Drive

I never heard these guys before, but Manic Drive was good. And I'm not just saying that because they were our neighbors in the vendor's area.

The vocalist worked up the crowd and managed to get everyone moving. No mosh-pit, but there was a lot of bouncing. A few guys started to mosh, but nobody else wanted to get into it, and I was too far away from them...

It was kinda funny how their guitarist played. He was actually doing The Robot as he played during some of the songs. He was good at it, and it looked so unusual for a guitaist who wasn't just running and jumping around. Actually, kinda cool.

I also love the way these guys get dressed up to play. A tux? OK...

I wish I had gotten a pic of the drummer before he took off the red-coat he was wearing in the first pic. I just thought it was a nice touch.

At one point, they slowed things down with their music. As they played they let the music flow and transition into Heart of Worship. It was incredible to see hundreds of teens and young adults with their hands lifted in praise to God, singing along.
Afterwards, the turned up the volume again and ended the show with a few more high energy songs. The crowd loved it, and still came away with a positive message.

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Pillar kicked things off with a brief video of vocalist, Rob Beckley, explaining why they chose For the Love of the Game as the title to their latest CD. Of course, they reference the number of times that Paul uses athletic training as an a example of how Christians ought to prepare themselves for their lives. Life is a game to be won so live it like you want to win it.
And then they came out on stage.

Oh, yes! They came out rockin'!

I gotta tell ya, I love the action that Noah gets out of his dreads while he's jammin' on his guitar.

Rob's vocals were completely on target. He worked the crowd, getting everyone to scream out nearly every chorus to every song. He also did a great job of sharing the gospel with the audience. It wasn't the type of hardcore preaching that some bands do, but he laid out a simple message of love and forgiveness for any who wish to accept it.
Rob also threw in a brief plug for Compassion as he introduced State of Emergency, a song about Christians taking action to help those in need.

Noah had his side of the stage worked-up pretty good. Guitarists have to be good at that since they're one of the main focus points of any show. He did a great job of it.

Kalel (yeah, I have no idea what the deal is with his name, but it is kinda cool - even if he did steal it from Superman), laid down some wicked basslines. I was truly impressed by his versatility, which isn't really saying much since I'm only a mediocre bassist.

Ya know, it's kinda hard to get a good picture of any drummer because they're usually set so far back on the stage. But this is Lester. He was a thunder-god during the entire show.

They even had audience participation. They pulled Jared up onto the stage to get him to shout out the "Woa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Yea-ay-ay-ay-ay-eah!" part of Turn It Up, from their CD, The Reckoning.

All in all, a fantastic show. And a great end to a great day.

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Father's day

Sunday was Father's Day, and after church (which went really well, but I'll post about that some other day as more things manifest around what was happening) my darling daughter, Aliesha, and my favorite son, Rob Cross (as he has come to refer to himself in the third person these days) decided to take me out for dinner.
We went to a newly renovated and under new ownership chinese buffet in Trafford, near Pitcairn. It's called the Moon Buffet, and it's got a really new concept going on. Not only does it also have a sushi bar, as do so many other chinese buffets, it has what is called a Mongolian Barbeque.
Now, I'm sure some of you are asking "What's a Mongolian Barbeque?". Well, so did I. They explained it by showing me what it is. Basically, you have a cold salad bar with a variety of vegetables, both oriental and western, and you also have meats such as shrimp, crab, chicken, beef and pork. What you do is put the items you want onto a plate and choose a sauce, or sauces, to go with your choices and then they stir-fry it on a hibachi for you. It's kinda like the tableside cooking that they do at the expensive japanese steakhouses, but since it's a buffet, they don't do it at your table, or with the fancy juggling knife-work. They do it behind a counter beside the sushi bar. But it's still pretty cool since they use two long wooden sticks instead of the knives and spatula. And it was delicious. I will have to go there again, soon.
After we had dinner, the three of us headed over to my brother's house for desert. They had invited Mom over for dinner, and since we typically would go over to Mom's for dinner, it only seemed appropriate that we go. And while there was plenty of food, we just couldn't eat anymore, such is the curse of chinese buffets. But it was still nice to visit with everyone again.
My grand nephew is still afraid of me. But I figure by the time he graduates from high school, he won't be running away from me anymore.
We returned home and relaxed, but I was so wiped out from the rest of the weekend, I just crashed. That's why I took today off to recover, and to post about the weekend. and now that I've finished with my posting, I'm going to go take a nap.
I'll get caught up with everyone else's blogs and my e-mails when I wake up.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quote for 6/12/08

"Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world."
Francis Schaeffer

I don't know why, but this one just seemed to jump out at me today.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And even more proof that Jesus loves me

Life is good!
So this is what the other buds on my rose bush were looking like this morning.

But that's not the only reason why my life is good. Another reason is because of the scent of honeysuckle that I was also able to enjoy this morning. Now that it's in full bloom everywhere, I get to smell it almost all the way to work - as long as I have my windows open for the ride.

Ya know, anybody who may have just started reading my blog over the last week is probably thinking I'm gay right now. What, with all of the pictures of roses and whatnot this week. And then there were those flowers in my post about my first bike ride of the season. But what can I say? I like flowers.

In addition to these things, starting with last night, we've changed the "format" of our Tuesday Evening Family Service at church. Previously the focus of the service was on our youth group, but since so few of the youth show up on a regular basis anymore, we're trying something different. And one of the things I wanted to try was to make a dinner the focus of the evening, to promote a sense of community in our church the way the first centruy church did. So, I made dinner for everyone who wanted to join us. Chicken fajitas. They were delicious, as usual!

Next up, I have one very busy weekend to prepare for. It will begin on Friday afternoon as JT, P.Dave, probably Bob, and a few others head out to Derry, PA for a small local festival called the Summer Slam Fest. There's going to be food, music, fun & games, and all sorts of other stuff to do. But more important than all of that is the fact that JT will be pimpin' his Indie Podcast by conducting interviews and making connections with the people who organize the event. He's even lined up an interview with at least one of the performers. Her name is Eowyn (yes, as in the character from LOTR), and she rocks. And I get to be his technician, so I get to hang out with everyone he meets, too. I'm also going to use whatever contacts we make to try to promote Compassion and see about setting up a table at the festival next year.
Oh, and things get even better as the weekend goes on because on Saturday I get to go to Moraine State Park for the Moraine Park Summer Festival as a Compassion Advocate. I'll actually be working the table with my trainer, Lisa - who I mentioned in my advocacy post. It's gonna be so cool to meet her in person since I really enjoyed all of the conversations we had during my training. And then, when my "shift" is over, I get to stick around and see Pillar. Another band that really rocks!
But wait! Things get even more intense.
I may actually get to go to the Creation Festival this year. For free no less, and I may be able to take Bob with me, too. Also for free. And can you guess how this might be possible?
That's right, as a Compassion Advocate!
As Lisa has been touching base with me about Saturday's upcoming event we also discussed other things, one of which being how I haven't been able to afford to go to a good festival in nearly 20 years. So she, in turn, contacted the Event Volunteer Specialist for the festival and asked if it would be possible for me to get a few shifts with Bob helping me out. As long as we both work at least one shift each day of the festival, we get our admission for free. Of course, I'm waiting to see what Bob decides. He's hoping to invite a friend so that he'll have someone to hang out with when I'm doing other stuff. And he is trying to get a job, and doesn't want to just get started at work and then have to ask for time off. But we'll see what happens.
And this is only the beginning of summer. I can't wait to see what else God has in store for me!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Quote for 6/9/08

"A man can do only what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day."
Albert Schweitzer


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mother Nature is a liar!

For those of you who remember me sharing this photo earlier in the week...

... and my excitement that it seemed as if this rosebud was going to blossom into a lovely rose with a deep, shade of red.
Guess what.
Didn't happen!
Instead, I find this rose in full bloom this morning.

Barely even a hint of red, let alone the deeper color I was expecting.
It actually looks kinda peachy in coloration.

Ya know, it almost looks like one of those silk flowers you'd find in a craft store.
Oh well, I'm not complaining, it's still a beautiful rose. Just thought I'd share the pics with everyone. And do my part to let yinz know that Mother Nature is not to be trusted...

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