Sunday, August 31, 2008

As if to stress my point

I haven't done this in awhile...
I think this article goes hand in hand with what I was getting at with yeserday's post. I hope you'll go read it for yourself and not simply take my word for it.
I really like Doug Giles take on all of it. His recounting of Jesus turning water into wine, however, is slightly off in it's facts - 6 jugs, not the 12 he mentions. And Jesus didn't refill the empties, he used the footwashing water jugs - otherwise, he really nails it. I also like how he reminds us that God instituted feasts and celebrations that included drinking. In fact, here's what my Bible says about it;
"Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship He chooses for His name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you." Deuteronomy 14:24-27 (emphasis mine.)
I think this is just another one of those areas where weak-willed, or weak-minded Christians have decideed that running away from a situation is better than standing firm. I understand that some people really do have a problem with alcohol, and I don't begrudge them when they act in wisdom to avoid putting themselves into a situation where they might be tempted to stumble. But I've actually heard sermons preached, and pastors have proclaimed from the pulpit, that they don't believe that Jesus actually turned water into wine, but something like wine - only better, more holy, or something Heavenly.
Please !!! It's not alcohol that is sinful, it's the abuse of alcohol that's sinful. As with anything else we might enjoy, it's not that we shouldn't be allowed to enjoy such things, but we should do so with a little bit of self-control. Now, if you happen to lack that self-control, then by all means, don't partake. But don't feel as if that gives you any holy imperative to tell me I'm not allowed to. I've got more scriptures to back up my side of this discussion than you do.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Could we please grow up?

OK, so I'm out earlier today and I stop at the Family Christian Store to pick up a couple of new CD's and take advantage of a coupon I have for 25% off. I'd say that's a good deal.
As I'm looking for a couple of CD's that I've been wanting since mine and Bob's Day Trip to Purple Door, I could only find one of the three. So I modified my search and expanded it.
You see, the Family Christian Store has a very small space provided for the kind of hardcore music that I listen to (but has plenty available from their website). It's on a display shelf that's labeled "Rock", but their limited number of selections only take up the top two shelves of the display. I will, however, occasionally find things that will eventually end up on that shelf on the "New Releases" shelves from time to time. So that's where I shifted my gaze to. And low, and behold, I found one of the others. But even then, I didn't recognize it at first because I've seen it at Hot Topic and Best Buy (but I didn't have the 25% off coupon for those stores) and this wasn't the same cover as the ones I saw elsewhere.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, the first CD I found was August Burns Red, Messengers. I liked their live show at Purple Door, and was familiar with one or two of their songs, so I figured they were worth buying. And I'm pretty happy with the CD. The other CD that I found, almost purely by accident, was The Showdown, Back Breaker. Another band that had a great live show at Purple Door, and I enjoyed the music immensely. But the CD had a different cover than it had when I saw it at Hot Topic.
OK, I really need you to go to The Showdown's myspace page and look at the cover art. If you don't like the music just turn your volume down and scroll down till you see the cover.
Are you done? Good.
It seems that at the Family Christian Store, that cover is unacceptable. It's covered over by a black label that simply has the bands logo on it. So you really can't see the artwork (of what is supposed to be Achilles) on the front of the case. Now, I want you to ask yourself, "What's so offensive about that?"
OK, perhaps trying to explain why there's artwork of Achilles on the cover of a Christian band's CD would be uncomfortable. But, still, why should that be a problem? C.S. Lewis constantly used comparitive religious ideas to bring out the universal recognition of the truth of God and Christianity. But I'll come back to that later.
I'm curious about this, if the cover is so offensive, then why sell the CD? Is somebody at Family Christian Stores compromising, or is this a contract thing with the distributor or label? I have to admit that I never really know which questions to ask in these situations because so much of the "Christian Music Industry" is really more about the "Industry" than the "Christian" - and sometimes even the "Music". I don't like that being a "Christian Band" now means you have an immediate niche market and all you have to do is sound a little bit like some band with mainstream popularity. And this is a conversation that I've had with JT many times, especially since he's been doing his podcast and finding the search for good Christian bands to be a bit overwhelming at times. But I still see it this way, if you're a Christian, and you have a talent you are supposed to be using that talent for the sake of God's Kingdom. If you are not using it in such a way, then you are prostituting your gift from God, and not giving it freely as He has given His grace to you.
I'm troubled by the fact that so many of the bands (but not all) that I've been listening to lately really make little, if any, mention of their faith in Christ unless it's at the festivals. I do realize that it's not always their own choice. I got to hang out with some of them this summer at Creation and Purple Door, so I know where their hearts are. And, as the consumate capitalist that I am, I understand it's about good business. The labels still want their CD's being distributed to stores like Hot Topic and Best Buy, they still want them to be among the mainstream arrtists. So they must tone down the Christian aspect to keep them in the overall market and not have them resigned to the "religious" section with all of the old gospel singers and choirs. But still, a little bit more spiritual integrity would be nice.
But now I want to come back to the cover art. Why does somebody feel some need to cover this artwork? Why does somebody feel as if censorship is a good thing? And why are so many Christians so weak in their walk to find this to be offensive?
I want to share some scripture verses with everyone to stress my point.
Isaiah 13:3 "I, the Lord, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted." (emphasis mine)
Romans 8:37 "No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us." (emphasis mine)
Ephesians 6:10 "A final word; Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."

I'm tired of Christians who are so easily offended by whatever it is that they have deemed to be "sinful", or "offensive". We live in a sinful world, DEAL WITH IT !!! I'm not telling anyone they have to accept sin as good, or right, but if you make a big deal out of it, you'll just draw more attention to that which you're resisting. When I look at the above verses, I don't get the feeling we're suposed to take such offense over things. I see the words "soldiers" and "warriors", and ask if they indicate some sort of squeamishness in the face of the ugliness of evil that exists in this world? I don't think so. In fact, I know better.
Think about what a soldier must face in war. He will see the hatred of his enemies. He will see his friends die in gruesome ways. He will experience senses of rage and terror that you and I can't imagine. And he will do these things of his own freewill, because that's what a soldier does.
Are we being soldiers for our faith when we are so easliy offended by something? How can we reach out to those who are so far away from God if we're afraid to walk into their world and find them? How do we ever expect to reach out to the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the bikers, the freaks and outcasts of this world when we're so offened by what they see as normal, real life?
The more we cringe from such things, the weaker we become. We will never be effective among the truly lost as long as we're afraid of the ugliness of their sin. But we are not called to be weak or timid (1 Timothy 1:7), and if you think trying to hide something from view is the right thing to do, or that it will make the ugliness go away, then you're not trusting God to keep His word. And you're not living in the real world.
It's time for the church to walk in the power of the living God and not act as if the world has some great power over us. What do we have to be afraid of, or offended by? He has made us the conquerors, He has made us kings and priests of His kingdom. So why do so many of us act like pawns?

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Quote for 8/29/08

"We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we
forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is
what it's all about."
Joseph Campbell

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Steeler Nation

Oh, yeah! Tonight was amazing!
P.Dave and I had a blast at the game. But we didn't just go to the game. Today also began the Coors Light Kick-off and Rib-Fest at Heinz Field. So we arrived early enough to sample some ribs and enjoy the various sights and sounds around the outside of Heinz Field.
Going inside was even better. I finally got to see the Great Hall; the place where all of the Vince Lombardi Trophies are enshrined. And there's so much other Steeler memorabilia to admire as well.
It's an incredible stadium. Even the peanut-heaven seats were great seats. We could see everything, even if it did seem kinda small. But I also noticed that everything seems smaller than when you're watching the game on TV.
The Steelers won, which is always a good thing. Another great bonus to tonight's game was that P.Dave has a cousin (Patrick Bailey) who was drafted by the Steelers and it's looking pretty good for him to make the Special Teams Unit, especially after his performance tonight.
This was all so cool. It was my first time to see the Steelers play at Hienz Field, and only my second time ever being at a game. And I'm really glad that P.Dave joined me for it. We don't get to hang out as often as we'd like, and this was just a great opportunity for us to do something really cool together.
This is all just more proof that Jesus really loves me...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Way !?!?!

Yes, Way !!!
I'm going to see the Steelers play tomorrow night!
It seems my brother is now a season ticket holder, which is somewhat miraculous since there's a waiting list to get on the waiting list for season tickets. But my brother has 'em. And it just so happens that he can't make it to tomorrow night's game. So he asked me if I'd like them.
Are you kidding ?!?!?
And the really cool part is I'm taking P.Dave with me, since JT couldn't care less about sports, and Bob has school on Friday. But P.Dave is a fan of football - he has season tickets for the Pitt Panthers - and it's always better to go to a football game, let alone the Steelers, with someone who at least appreciates the game.
I also have a vacation day scheduled for Friday. Makes the holiday weekend that much longer, and I won't have to worry about how late I'm out.
This is gonna be sooooo much fun!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quote for 8/26/08

"Good means not merely not to do wrong, but rather not to desire to do wrong."
Democritus

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Quote for 8/25/08

"Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of need."
Gaston Bachelard

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ren-Fest, Part 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, yesterday was our journey back in time to the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. We had a blast !!!
And by "we" I mean myself, Bob, JT, Bob's friend Matt, and Trudy - one of our sisters from church.
Of course, also mentioned in my previous post was the fact that I didn't have my camera, so there will be no pics with this post. But fret not! There is still a wonderous tale to be told, and since this was the opening weekend, there were coupons to be found at Wendy's for BOGO admissions to the Festival. So, JT and I bought extra tickets so we can go back in a week or so to get the pics you're not getting to see here this time around (hence, the "Part 1" in the title).
However, if you feel something is lacking in this presentation, feel free to visit my September 2007 archives for pics from last year's visit. Or even September 2005 for those ones.

And so begins our illustrious adventure amid the folk of Morelandshire.
We entered the gates and began to wander about among the merchants whose wares were displayed all about the grounds. Bob and Matt immediatelt set out for their own adventure and before we could make it very far we ran into the Washing Well Wenches. We loved their act last year and couldn't wait to see them again this year. They play their part so well and never step out of character. It's great to have the day begin with this kind of fun.
Our first visit was to a candle maker whose specialty was candles made of lotion. They had the most remarkable aromas, but the best part was the fair young maiden who demonstrated the use of the melted candles lotion to soften skin. She took my hand in her own and began to gently rub the melted candle into my skin. It was quite exhilarating, for so many reasons...
Next we entered into a weapons shop. He had a large selection of magnificant, and rather unique, weapons. Unlike most of the other dealers of weaponry, his items had a more barbaric flair to them. A spiked skull mace, a 5' maul/war hammer, scimitars and roughly edged blades of many shapes and designs. I was in my glory. JT even made a rather wise purchase as he has been experiencing some pain in his right knee of late. He found a cane with an ornate handle that hides a sword in the shaft. Bravo!
We ambled about peering into the various markets at the assortment of goods. The pewter shop, the glass trinkets, flower garlands, more weapons, jewelry of both plain and magical design, and so much more. Until we stopped to listen to Temujin the Storyteller. And such stories he did tell. A tale of love, of Jasmine and Sulliman, that evoked the emotions in those of us who have experienced the passion of true love, while teaching the younger audience that romance comes at a price ("Without finance, there can be no romance." - Temujin). He also told tales of creativity and it's usefulness in real life. After all, this has been his job since 1968 - as long as JT has been alive...
We then moved on to the shaded grove below the main festival ground. It was a hot day and the shade made things so much more enjoyable. We looked about at the wares of more vendors, and stopped to look at some fine leather. The gentleman whose shop it was spoke to me of how impressed he was with my hair and the markings on my shoulder. We exchanged pleasntries and and asked questions of one another. He explained to me that one of his favorite parts about being on the Ren-Faire Circuit is that he gets to me an assortment of unique individuals, and he truly appreciated my uniqueness. He complimented me by telling me that he could tell I was an independent thinker and a man of integrity - since I seem to care little for the opinions of what others might think of me (and this compliment would be reitterated to me later on by someone else). I thanked him and told him that I appreciated his words and enjoyed the conversation we had and looked forward to seeing him again.
We headed back up toward the main festival grounds to prepare to go to the Jousting Tournament. BUt we had planty of time before having to be there. So JT tried his hand at some of the tests of skill and strength that were on hand. He was quite proficient with the throwing knives and axes, as well as the shuriken. he also rang the bell witht the sledge hammer. I merely came close to ringing the bell. As for my skills with tthe knives and whatnot. I didn't try this year. I do OK with the axes, and the shuriken, but when it comes to the knives I'm more likely to bludgeon my enemy to death with the handle of the knife, from 20 paces no less, than stick the blade in his heart.
Thus we moved on to other places before making our way to the Jousting Arena.
Upon our arrival at the arena we immediately sought shade at the top of the hillside next to the arena. It was the Test of Skills challenge that we were about to see. Skills, indeed! The knights were all quite accomplished with the horse and lance and determined that a Test of Combat would be necessary to decide which of them was the best. But that would happen in two more hours. And that was just fine with us since we wanted to see the Washing Wenches.
JT and I were able to participate in last years Washing Wenches show since they love to use audience particpation. This year, however, they had new victims. It just happened to be a friend of ours named Becca. We had met up with her last year at the Fest, and had bumped into her again this year with her boyfriend (not the same one from last year - in case you've looked at the pics). The Washing Wenches chose him to be their latest victim and Becca was happy to play along. The show was funny and the crowd responded well.
From there we moved along to the watch The German Brothers perform. They are white european rappers - I don't get it...
The show had it's funny points, but I would've been OK missing it. Still, as these two roamed about the festival grounds, we had a lot of fun with them. We joked with any and every performer that we ran into. It was great.
We decided to move on to the Naughty Bawdy Babes show. "Saucy" does not begin to describe these two ladies. Several of the shows begin with disclaimers that no one under the age of 18 is permitted without an adult, and anyone who is easily offedned should leave as well. This was one of those shows. It's also one of those shows where the performers will look at the audience and say "If your kids get thses jokes; it's not our fault!". At one point in the show the Babes used JT, and then later myself, as "props" for the tales their music tells. So now we know what it feels like to be used as a sexual object - yeah, we're OK with that...
I have to admit, the really great part about this show is how they collect their "gratuities". All of the other actors pass around a hat or a basket, these ladies ask that you place your money into their cleavage. I gave Loosey, the redheaded sister 3 dollars. One for the show, one for the cheap thrill of using me during the show, and one just because I liked putting money between her breasts...
Please, no complaints! This was all harmless, if less than innocent, fun.
Anyways, we strolled around in the lower grove some more. We enjoyed our turkey drumsticks at the beginning of the Naughty Bawdy Babes show. So we could move on away from the Pirates Pub. I found the artist who makes the bronze roses, and bought one. I don't know who I'll be giving it to, but I at least want to have it for when I do need it. I also got to speak to her about other designs she does. She gave me her card and asked me to call her so we could talk about some of those since I'm really interested in what she does. I also have a rather unique idea that she may be able to work with. But I'm not saying anything more about that.
After this we went back up to the main grounds so JT and Trudy could watch the Belly Dancers. I just wasn't in the mood to do that so I wandered about some more and bumped into Bob and Matt in their adventures. Matt had purchased a Spartan helmet (yes, made of steel!) and a black cavaliers hat with a large blue feather. Matt wore the helmet, Bob was wearing the hat. Bob was also wearing his Poppin Fresh T-shirt, which you may have seen in the pics from Purple Door, and it was getting hijm a great deal of attention. Young, maidens fair were all but too anxious to give him a little squeeze. After all, the T-shirt does encourage that. And Bob, being Bob, would always ask if they were going to take him home now. So far no takers...
I think I can live with that.
We had one last show to watch after I hooked up with JT and Trudy again; Cast In Bronze. This was the Carillon that I posted about with last years Ren-Fest posts about the various performers and shows. Always an amazing show. 37 bronze bells of varying sizes and tones weighing 4 tons. You'd have to see it and hear it to believe it, and the beauty of it all is that you can hear this thing echo through the grove through the entire performance. So, even if you aren't sitting there to see it, you get to enjoy the ethereal sound that it makes.
When the show was doen, JT asked the performer if he could use some of his music on his podcast, and the performer was happy to give JT permission. So I'll be looking forward to that episode.
Shortly there after we left, but this was not the end to our day. We had a combination Wedding Reception/Baby Shower to attend for one of our friends. They were married in June, but never had a reception and now with Baby on the way they decided to kill two birds with one stone. It was vaguely uncomfortable as a guy to be at what I knew was also a baby shower. But there was food there so I wasn't complaining. the games kinda freaked me out, but I really didn't have to particpate in any since they were geared more towards couples. Fortunately, I'm not a couple - and any attempts to try to compare my close friendship with JT to being a "couple" would've ended in bloodshed, so nobody really tried.
It was nice to be able to celebrate with them. And when it was time for us to go we were all exhausted enough to make sleeping tonight peaceful and undisturbed.

Now I can't wait to go back to the Ren-Fest to take pictures. I think you'll love it too.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

D'oh !!!

Renaissance Festival tomorrow.
Ya know, I'd like to tell everyone to expect pics later on, but I can't. Idiot me left my camera at work so a friend could download some of my pictures from Creation and Purple Door. So now I don't have it for the Ren Fest.
This kinda sucks.
Maybe I'll just have to make a second trip later on this season.

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Quote for 8/22/08

"There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well."
Walter Reuther

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just to let everyone know

Well, today was my darling daughter Aliesha's 20th birthday.
We went out to the Olive Garden for dinner. And, in case you've missed the commercials, they have the Endless Pasta Bowl thing going on now. So, needless to say, we had much pasta.
I suppose now is also as good a time as any to share a little bit more info with everyone.

I'm going to be a grandfather...

Yeah, that's right, my darling daughter is pregnant. She told me this a month or two ago, and I've been "digesting" it for awhile. So, now I'm finally sharing it with all of you, my faithful friends and readers.
I can't say I'm excited about the situation, her not being married and all. But she's my little girl, and I love her with all my heart, so I'm not really angry or upset with her for what happened.
When she told me, I kinda knew it was coming. Anytime your unmarried daughter starts a conversation with "I'm not sure how to tell you this...", you kinda know what's coming next. We told my mom a few weeks ago. Aliesha needed to work up her courage for that. But I don't see why. Mom is getting to be an old pro at hearing this news. I'm not going to explain that, but some of you have known me and my family long enough to know what I'm talking about.
I did make a point to tell her that I'm not ashamed or disappointed with her. I made sure to tell her that I love her no matter what, and there's always room for her here at home if she needs it.

I think that's all I'm going to say about this right now. It's not that I'm reluctant to share anything else. I'm just not sure I need to. In any event, please keep her and the baby in your prayers, for good health.

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Quote for 8/21/08

"Every calling is great when greatly pursued."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Purple Door

I have to admit, I really didn't know what we were getting into with the Purple Door Festival, but I knew I wanted to be there. It's a Friday night and an all-day Saturday festival of hard rock and hardcore, screaming metal bands. And while there are speakers at the festival, as well, I just didn't sense any kind of solid impact from them - and I'm speaking from a personal experience, but I'll explain that later.
So, anyways, Bob and I left home around 6:00 in the morning. Filled up the gas tank, grabbed some road food and liquid caffine - I had Dew, Bob chose Turners iced tea - and off to the PA Turnpike we went. There was such a heavy fog that we really didn't start to see anything til we started closing in on Breezewood. And that was nearly 8:00. We stopped once at Sidling Hill to use the restrooms and grab more road food and liquid caffine and then completed are journey.
We arrived at Ski Roundtop Resort, where the festival is held, shortly after 9:00. Not bad for a nearly 200 mile trip. We parked and headed down to the festival. Of course, there was only a little bit of apprehension about this. You see, for our trip to Creation our passes to the entire event were Fed Ex-ed to me with a complete schedule of who was working which booths at what times with instructions for our proper attire and behavior, etc. For Purple Door, it was pretty much show up and ask for Randy - the Event Facilitator for the festival. So that's what we did.
The people who were staffing the gate for Purple Door allowed us in so we could find Randy, and pointed us in the general direction of the Compassion booth. So that's where we headed. Of course, being the Event Facilitator means having a great deal of responsibility, so Randy was nowhere to be found. However, Bob and I did get to meet two more advocates from the advocates network and we talked for a few moments before deciding that we could go walk around the grounds and look for Randy.
We checked out both stage areas and the food vendors, as well as the lodge which was hosting the merchandise area for the various performers and ministries which were there. And that's where we found Randy. He had left the booth nearly a half an hour earlier in search of paper towels, and kept getting side tracked. He still didn't have them when Bob and I ran into him. So we let him know we were there and asked if there was anything we could do to help and he just said to go to the booth so he could get our wrist bands for us. We got there before him and when Randy did show up, he finally had paper towels.
We discussed briefly what had been happening so far through the festival. The turnout was somewhere between 8000 - 10,000, which is down from previous years. And the response to Compassion was also down. There had been only 11 sponsorships at this time. And to make things a little less encouraging, the main speaker from Friday night - Bob Lenz, who is a huge supporter of Compassion's ministry - didn't do the Child Packet Pass that he usually does at these festivals. Usually he can tell if a particular audience is going to respond to something like that, but he didn't get that feeling from Friday night's crowd. So he didn't try. And that's OK. We firmly believe that God works things out the way He wants them to. But I also have to say that when I consider the type of crowd - mostly teens - I wouldn't expect a great response anyways.
As we talked I asked Randy what time he needed me to be at the booth for my shift. He informed me that he had me scheduled for the close of the festival, which meant 8:00 PM until the festival was over. And I was cool with that since it freed me and Bob up to hit the mosh pit and check out all of the other stuff going on. But Randy also had a request of me. He wanted to know if I was willing to do a brief 2 or 3 minute presentation for Compassion at the HM Stage at 1:27 in the afternoon, after the lunch break. I figured this would be a great thing since I was expecting to get into the mosh pit and make some new friends and maybe that would be all the influence that some of the kids there would need to sponsor a child. So I agreed. And then off Bob and I went to seek out the mosh pit.
We arrived at the HM Stage - named so for HM Magazine, a magazine dedicated to Christian hardcore rock and metal - in time to hear the beginning riffs of Neocracy.





They're a pretty decent speed metal band with some serious screaming metal vocals.
This, however, was the mosh pit.



It was 4 or 5 kids thrashing and flailing around. Not the kind of pit Bob and I were expecting, nor did we want anything to do with. To me it just seems too much like a fight wanting to happen. And believe me, I was almost one wanting to start it myself.
I watched a few other kids who were slam and push moshing who tried to get into this pit - actually, since there was such a clear ring for anyone who wanted to mosh, the security team made them move to the pit - but the thrashers and flailers literally kicked and punched them until they stopped trying. To me that's just wrong. I was halfway tempted to get into the pit with Bob and just keep putting our shoulders down into any one of the thrashers who left any part of their body open while they thrashed around. You see, I had several inches of reach on any of them, and outweighed any of them by the amount of their own body weight. So I had nothing to fear from them. But I really didn't want to start any trouble. So I didn't. Instead, after Neocracy finished their set, Bob and I headed over to the Main Stage to see what was going on there.
This was the Main Stage.



Not too bad. And the band playing at the time we arrived was Wavorly.



Also not too bad. They had a nice rock feel with a little of keyboard to keep things interesting.
This was the beginning of the mosh pit for the Main Stage.



Dontcha just love Bob's T-shirt? In case you can't make it out, it has a picture of Poppin Fresh (the Pillsbury Doughboy) on it and a caption that says "Love me, squeeze me, take me home". Maybe it makes him seem less intimidating in the pit, because this kid immediately challenged him head to head.



And when Bob just kept tossing him around like a rag-doll, he conspired with his friend to double team Bob.



Of course, Bob has ninja-like reflexes and as soon as he moshed the first one out of the pit, he turned his attention to the other. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into with Bob. But he showed them pretty quick.
After Wavorly finished their set we decided to try the HM Stage again. We caught the tail end of Oh Sleeper (yeah, no myspace page to link to - what's up with that?). I didn't get any pics either. But we did start to run into people we knew, or had met at Creation.
I can't remember his name, but eventually he'll find my myspace page and then I'll have his name again.



But this is one of our buddies from the mosh pit at Creation. It was great to see him again, and I expect to see him again at our next festival (more about that later).

It was kinda funny that we also saw all kinds of "strangers" in the crowd, too. And they don't get much "stranger" than Clone Troopers...



But, anyways, the next band up was Gwen Stacy.





Another screaming hardcore band, but they have a more melodic sound than most of the screamiong metal bands. I enjoyed their set and evn though the mosh pit situation didn't change, there was a lot of headbanging going on in the crowd, and I can get into that.
Now came the predicament. According to the schedule, I was supposed to speak some time after Gwen Stacy, but it was only 11:30. And the lead singer kept telling the crowd to stick around for the next band - who weren't actually going to play until 1:30. So I was a little confused. Fortunately, I had a couple of names as contacts for the stage. So I made my way forward to find out what was going on and ran into my favorite new friends from Creation - my twins, Jess and Maddy.



For those of you who remember from my Creation posts, I have a really huge crush on the twins. And I still don't know which one I have the bigger crush on.
But anyways...
It was really great for me because I barely got to know them at Creation, and suspected that if I saw them here I might get an acknowledging nod - you know the kind that says "Yeah, I remember meeting you." - from them. Instead, as soon as Jess saw me, a big smile came to her face and she waved as she started to walk over to me. And we immediately started to ask how each other was. Then Maddy showed up and gave me a big hug. I nearly melted. Then I presented them with my predicament, and they took me backstage to talk to Big Don.



We found the person I was supposed to be looking for, and he explained that there was a lunch break until 1:30, so I would go on at 1:27 as planned.
I also ran into this guy backstage.



Still Love the hat.
I have to tell you, there is no greater feeling than to be accepted into a group of people that you spent very little time getting to know, but you're welcomed back like a long lost friend. And that was what it felt like to be backstage with the security people here. Since so many of them were also at Creation, they remembered me from the brief time I spent with them there. I was getting hugs from everybody. And it really made me feel good about how much I wanted to get to know these people.
Well, eventually, the lunch break came to an end, and it was nearly time for me to take the stage for my brief presentation. I wasn't really nervous. I've done public speaking before. I occsionally speak at meetings at work. And most of you know that I will substitute for my pastor from time to time. But this was different. I had no preparation, no time to gather any info or facts. All I had to go with was my passion for the ministry of Compassion and a rough idea as to where to start.
This was the crowd that I was about to address.



And more people were filtering in as the time drew closer. But I wasn't nervous.
I was trusting God to put the right words into my mouth. And He did. I spoke about all of the food choices that everybody had at the festival, and reminded everyone that there were children all around the world who were wondering about when they would have their next meal. I spoke to them about how they probably spend more on coffee at Starbucks in a week than it would cost to sponsor a child. I challenged everybody to go to the Compassion booth and look at the Child Packets. And then I walked off the stage.
That's when I started to shake. But my new friends were there to help me calm down. And that's when I took this pic of the guys from Inhale/Exhale praying before they started to play.



And then they started to rock the crowd.



They also instigated the mosh pit. The lead vocalist had the crowd part down the middle, from where he was standing, and then, on the count of three, he wanted both sides to charge into each other. This is what it looked like.



And when things got back to some kind of normal, the vocalist dived into the crowd.



This was an excellent show. I loved seeing them here, and can't wait to see them again.
Next up was a band called The Showdown.



Southern speed screaming metal. Very cool.





I think this pic shows the "southern" part quite effectively.



I also couldn't resist this shot.



Talk about a multi-generational crowd.
It was at this point, after The Showdown finished, that I decided that I needed some food. I had been hanging out backstage and with the security team and never stopped to eat, so I was pretty hungry. I heaed over to the food vendors and grabbed some chicken fingers and waffle cut fries and washed it down with more Dew. I knew I was going to need the caffine later.
By the time I had finished eating I had missed most of Haste The Day. I caught the last song of their set, but didn't get any pics.
The last band to play the HM Stage for the festival was August Burns Red.







I'm sure you can tell that it was pretty dusty at the Purple Door. From all of the moshing and movement in general, I'm sure that everybody had to have inhaled or ingested several pounds of dust over the course of the entire day.
This is all I have in the way of pictures. There wasn't anything going on at the Main Stage, so I wandered about the festival checking out the vendors and merchandise. And that's when I ran into a couple of kids who really wanted to talk to me.
They were pretty close to the stage when I did my presentation for Compassion. So they got a good look at my shoulder and wanted to know about my branding. So I talked to them about it, told them about Z Spot and my artiste, Z. They were interested and wanted to know how they might get one, but they had a problem since they live in York, PA. So I gave them my blog address and told them to check out the videos. I told them that if they still wanted to get a branding, they could find the contact info for Z at the end of the video. And I told them that if they wanted to get branded still, that they could find my e-mail address in my profile and if they sent me an e-mail to tell me when they would be doing it, I would come to watch them get their brandings.
After a while of wandering about I headed to the Compassion booth to rest and do my shift. There wasn't much activity. So it left time for me to talk to the other advocates. Eventually Randy came back to the booth and he and I waited out the rest of the evening with only a few people stopping by from time to time. But Randy had a presentation to do at the Main Stage right after the speaker. So he did his thing and shared the information from one of the Child Packets with the crowd. he mentioned that the average monthly income for the childs family was $5. Can you imagine living on only $5 a month? Can you imagine the impact that $32 could make for a family like that. A very impressive point.
After Randy came back to the booth he made another request of me. He had forgotten that we needed to make one more presentation that evening from the Main Stage, and he wanted to know if I felt comfortable giving it. I almost hesitated, but I couldn't help but feel that this was one of those things that God has been preparing me for. So I said I could. Of course, I didn't realize that it was going to be between headliners. I was going to be following Disciple and preceeding Emery, both of whom are pretty big names in Christian rock. But, again, I wasn't nervous, I just wanted to be sure I didn't fumble over any of my words. But more than that, I wanted to know that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words to say.
So, when Disciple took the stage, Randy handed me a backstage pass so I could go talk to the people that I needed to talk to and get ready. I waited impatiently, but got to enjoy the show from backstage. Very cool.
Then my time came. The MC had asked my name prior to us going on, then he asked again to make sure. He told me that he was just going to introduce me and then hand the mic to me. And when we got on stage that's exactly what happened.
Believe it or not, I remember most of what I said, even though I really didn't give much thought to it. I simply walked up to the front of the stage and said;
"Doesn't Disciple rock?!"
The crowd screamed and applauded.
"Speaking of disciples, how many of you consider yourselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ?"
Again, the crowd screamed and applauded.
"I'm so glad you answered that way, because I'm going to give you all a chance to put your faith into action."
I held up the Child Packet that I was carrying with me as I began to walk back and forth on the stage.
"What I have here is a Child Packet from Compassion International, and we have a lot more on our tables in the back."
"You know, Jesus taught us that we are to care for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the very least among us. And in any given society, the children are always the very least, and always the ones who suffer most. But this is your chance to change that. You can sponsor a child."
"For $32 a month you can help to meet the needs of a child and give them opportunities that they could never imagine otherwise. Go back and look at the Child Packets we have. Whether you go now, before Emery comes on, or after doesn't matter. Just go, look into the eyes of these little ones, and see their need."
"This is your chance to truly help the poor and the needy. This is your chance to show that you really are a disciple to your Master. $32 a month really isn't a lot when you consider the way you're going to change the world for one child. And it will change the world for you by knowing that you've done your part to help."
With that I handed the mic back to the MC and walked off the stage. And as I walked off the stage I walked right into the lead singer for Disciple. Our eyes met and I just stuck out my hand and said "Excellent show. I love you guys."
He shook my hand and pulled me in for a hug and said "Thanks, man, I appreciate that." and then I walked back to the security area where all my new friends were hanging around between sets. That's when I started to shake again. I had a moment to think about what I had just done - speaking in front of nearly 10,000 people.
One of the guys asked me if I was OK. I told him I'd be fine now that it was done. And he asked what was done. So I told him that I had just given my presentation for Compassion. He asked me "Was that you?" I just nodded, and he said "I heard somebody talking about it, but I didn't know it was you. That was great, You really did good." But I was still kinda shaking. Jess was there and she just patted me on the shoulder, but then Maddy came over and told me she heard it and we started to talk about our Compassion children, and that's when I found my calm again.

Did I metion that I have a huge crush on the twins?

But after I was ready I left the backstage area to go back to the booth. There still wasn't much happening, but that's OK. It's all a part of God's plan.
Bob had been at the booth for awhile and he heard my presentation and told me I did good. Meanwhile, Randy had gotten most of everything from the display put away. It was now just a matter of leaving the Child Packets out until the end. And once it was over those were cleared up in a matter of minutes. We ended up with 20 sponsorshipd for the fetsival. It's not a great number, but it's 20 more than we would've had if we hadn't been here.
When we were done Randy told us to go ahead since we had the long ride ahead of us. Everything was pretty much taken care of by now, so we said our goodbyes and got ready to go.
I did, however, go back to the backstage area to say my last godbyes to Big Don and anyone else I could find. Of course, Big Don had to tell me about one last festival this year, The Vertical Festival and he still wants me to help with security. So I told him I'd talk to Randy about it, but I didn't want to bother him with it right now.
Bob and I headed out for home sometime after 11:30. We stopped at Sidling Hill to grab a bite to eat and then hit the road again. We had to stop somewhere between Bedford and Ligonier because I was just not staying awake, and Bob wasn't either. So I took about a 45 minute nap and then finished our ride home.
It was a little easier to say goodbye to everyone this time. In a sense, knowing that I'll see them again in another month or so makes it easier. But how much will I miss them when I know that it's going to be another 9 months before Creation 09?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Day trip

Just wanted to stop by and let everyone know that I'll be away for a little bit.
Bob and I are heading to The Purple Door Festival tomorrow. Yes, as Compassion advocates. It's not as big or well known as Creation, but we are hoping to get quite a few children sponsored. And it still promises to be a lot of fun. The bands are more hardcore than those at Creation - which is cool by me. We expect to enjoy the mosh pit thoroughly. We'll only be there for the day, since there's no camping onsite and we'll be leaving at the end of it all.
Then on Sunday afternoon we have the Thunder Mountain Lenape Nation Native American Festival in Saltsburg that we're going to check out. I've known about it for years, but just never had a reason to make the trip. Now that Bob is living out that way with his mother I have a reason to make the trip. So that's what we're going to do after we wake up from our late night drive home from Purple Door.
Expect posts and pics from both events later.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quote for 8/14/08

"So long as we imagine it is we who must look for God, we must lose heart. But it is the other way about - He is looking for us."
Simon Tugwell

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Maybe it's just me

Has anybody else noticed how incredible the clouds have looked lately?

I have a window at work. No big deal for some of you. But it's a rare commodity for those of us who work in production at Respironics. Especially since there is only a single row of windows running the length of the northern side of our production floor. So I see my window as a wonderful gift from God. And believe me, with a window directly in front of me, I do spend a great deal of time looking through it.
I admire the beauty of what is on the other side of the window. While it is certainly no magnificent, picturesque landscape that I have to look at - actually, it's a parking lot in front of a stand of trees with a few rolling hills behind them - but I do enjoy seeing what is out there.
I've always loved watching the sunrise from my window. And as the seasons change, and the days grow longer and shorter with those changes, the sunrises always seem to take on different characteristics. Each season seems to have it's own particular hues. In the summer, the colors seem a bit more subdued than those of fall or spring. However, I've been seeing a lot more of the vibrant hues of reds and violets since sometime in July, and I've been loving it. Especially the way those colors seem to make the clouds themselves flow with a life of their very own. That's part of why I asked the question I did at the beginning of this post. I'm kinda curious about whether or not anyone else has noticed this.
Even more than that, I've just been on something of a cloud watching kick, just because I can, and because I've really felt lead by the Spirit to. And I'm sure that might sound strange to some of you. So I'll explain.

Recently, I've felt a need to seek solitude. Since there isn't a whole lot of conversation that happens around me while I'm at work, and my job doesn't require every ounce of my concentration, I typically spend my less-engaged time immersed in my music. I also spend some of my time praying, and this is where I keep hearing God telling me to spend even more time with Him. But He wants me to spend my time in a more contemplative prayer, one that consists of me not asking Him for anything, not telling Him about any of my joys or woes, not even thanking Him for the beauty of the sunrise, or anything else, but just sitting quietly and listening - and not to my music. So I have been, and that's when I started to really notice the clouds.
One morning in particular, as I sat in my contemplative prayers, I watched the clouds moving after the sunrise. The clouds in the forefront were dark and flat, seemingly smeared across the horizon, while there was a bank of clouds behind them that were swollen and white. It almost looked like a snow covered mountain range rising behind a murky lake. And I couldn't take my eyes off of it all. Especially the way they seemed to move together. That was when I heard the Spirit tell me "I just wanted to share that with you. I thought you might appreciate seeing it."

It's taken me a long time to come to grips with the idea that God actually wants to spend time with me. It isn't that I never believed that He loved me, I just never really understood how, or how much. I finished reading a book last week called The Sacred Romance - there will be a review available at JT's Podcast page in the next week or so - which pretty much put everything into perspective for me. Without giving away too much of the book, or spoiling the review, I will say that this book really changed my perceptions of what it means to love and be loved by God.
God wants to be intimate with us. He wants to share beauty with us the way we want to share a sunrise, or a sunset, with those we truly love. He wants to share what's on His heart with us. He wants us to know His heart the way He knows ours, and He wants for us to open our hearts to Him. Not because He doesn't already know what's in them, but because He wants us to share with Him in the same way we would with those we love here on earth.

Since that morning, I've watched the clouds outside of my window nearly everyday. And I've struggled with how to describe what I've seen, but I'll try because I really want to share this with all of you, the way God wanted to share all of it with me.
I've been able to see the hints of pink that linger in the yellow shaded billowy clouds that float through the dawn sky after it has faded from fiery red to a cool blue. I've seen the massive, white banks with their darkened bellies crawling through the afternoon sky, rolling like the stormclouds from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. I've admired the way the dusky clouds of evening seem to hold more gold and orange in them than their morning counterparts. Even the rainclouds have looked more ominous, dark and flowing like lava, since that morning.
So that's why I asked if anyone else had noticed the clouds lately, or is it just me?

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Quote for 8/10/08

"Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them."
A. W. Tozer

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Friday, August 08, 2008

That was fun

I must say, today was a great day!
It was Respironics' annual Summerfest. I know I've posted about it before. Food and games and all on company time. I won't go into too much detail about the goings on, but I will let everyone know that I had the chance to participate in a few events this year that I didn't get to last year. And that means more chances to win a prize. I'm praying for one of the vacation days. But I'll be happy with the Wii, or even one of the Giant Eagle gift cards. Came in second place in the Game Show Mania trivia game and the Water-Balloon Toss. Which is cool.
I was also instrumental in getting a chairty added to our list of charities (formerly "charity") that would benefit from the proceeds of the games. Along with the American Heart Association, part of the money raised today will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (sorry Kenn, some of the Summerfest Committee members were under the impression that Aspen was being assisted by the foundation). My original proposal was to send a portion to The Aspen Fund, but the Summerfest Committee didn't feel comfortable donating to a private charity since everyone at Respironics probably knows someone who needs help with medical bills and whatnot. So they went with their next best option. I have to admit that I even though the CFF isn't helping Aspen in her struggles, I'm kinda proud to have gotten Respironics involved in this. I have to hope that somebody somewhere is going to benefit from what we donate. I know that God will honor my/our intentions.
Well, I'm kinda wiped out now, but in a really good way. Much food was eaten, many desserts were tasted, much fun was had. What a way to kick off the weekend!

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

There oughta be a law !!!

I find it hard to believe that those words actually came out of my mouth today, but they did.
Most of you already know that I'm not a big fan of government. The less government we have to deal with, the better we all are. And, yet, I find at least one instance where I wouldn't be opposed to a little bit of governmental intrusion.
In a discussion with some of my co-workers today, including a few smokers, we pondered over something that troubles us all - including the smokers.
Have you ever driven behind a smoker who just tosses their butts out the window? I gotta tell ya, I hate when people do that! It's as if these people think the whole world is their personal ashtray. It's one of the most ignorant, selfish and rude behaviors that someone can engage in, and there ought to be a law against it.
Oh, but I'm not talking about the litter laws (which aren't being enforced, anyways). Nooooo. I'm talking about a special law just to nail these self-important morons to the wall!
I say we come up with a law that allows those of us who drive behind these ignoramuses to turn them in when we witness them throwing their cigarrette butts out the window. Give us a toll-free number to call so we can report their license plate number, as well as a vehicle description, like the color, make and model of the vehicle - as a means of confirmation, and then let the appropraite agencies mail them their ticket. I suggest a $100 fine with the additional $300 littering fine, as well.

What do you think? Would it curb anyone's behavior? Would you turn anyone in?

I just had to vent a litle bit over this. I've been seeing it happen two or three times a day on my way home from work, and I think it really sucks!

OK, I'm gonna take my brown shirt off now...

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Quote for 8/5/08

"Without solitude, we remain acolytes of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusion of the false self."
Henri Nouwen

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Quotes from 7/2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

On the road

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of staffing the Compassion table for another event. The event was the Church Basement Roadshow at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community Church. It was a truly remarkable experience.
I have to admit, I wasn't sure what this particular event was going to be about, but that doesn't usually matter to me. As an advocate for Compassion, I trust that any event or organization that invites Compassion to be involved is well worth my time and efforts to be there. And I was not disappointed by the Roadshow.
It's a traveling theatrical show that is making it's way across the country in an RV that has been converted to use bio-diesel fuel. Which is really cool when you think about it. As much as I doubt a lot of the eco-zealot's and their notions of Global Warming and fear-mongering about depleting our natural resouces, I do still believe that conservation and recycling are good ideas - just because they are. But I also believe that, as a Christian, they're proper stewardship over the earth that God has blessed us with.
But back to the show...
The three performers present themselves as a revival troop from 1908, and also as the great grandsons of that same revival troop in 2008. They dressed in the vintage clothing of the early 1900's and performed "skits" (for lack of a better term) to set things up for the messages that they wanted to share. It was great how they drew certain comparisons between the way both cultures were/are experiencing rapid changes. Between the the "skits" one of the three would disappear briefly, only to return in his everyday clothing so he could share his message from his own heart.
The first one up was Doug. A tall man, even to me, who shared his story of not being raised in a church of any kind. He explained how he had never been exposed to Christianity through his youth, and how his concept of God was somewhat distorted because of that. Until one day when a Christian friend invited him to see the Passion Play. He went, and as he watched the story of Christ unfold he began to realize that this was something he had been searching for all of his life, but never realized it. And he fell in love with this story of God coming to earth to take up the causes of the poor and oppressed and the weak and the sick. This was a God he could really believe in. But after the play, when the players invited people back stage to hear more about this incredible story of God, he was disappointed by the way they made everything seem so stifled by a formulaic system of belief. And this continued with other well-intentioned Christian leaders that he encounted as he was growing in his faith. He began to question why it was that we can believe in a Jesus who never told two people the same thing, yet we have one-size fits all guides to living a Christian life. It lead Doug into a different direction, one that would take God out of the box that religion has placed Him in, and allow Jesus the freedom to be Himself as the Passion story tells us He is.
Next up was Tony. He had a video clip of time he spent with a trucker named Frank - or Trucker Frank as he has come to be known. And Trucker Frank tells a tale of lost faith and faith re-born, and not because of church, but because God met him where he was - in the cab of his truck, rolling across the country. Tony's own story was one of seeking God in his education. He went to college and immersed himself in theological courses. He got his Masters and is working on his Doctorate, but he also realized that what he knew was only a bunch of "isms" and "ologies", not real faith. Real faith he found while working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as he sat in a little coffee shop talking to anyone who came in to see him. And he has come to discover that God is wherever we need Him to be, but only if we're taking Him with us wherever we go.
After Tony spoke, they paused from their "skits" to do a presentation on Compassion. It was a video of the trip that the performers had taken to visit a Compassion project in El Salvador. It was a powerful presentation, and when it was done we (the other advocate and myself) handed out child packets to everyone there - including the photog/reporter for The Trib. There were about 40 people present, so it didn't take too long.
Finally, Mark told his tale. He spoke of what it means to be a Christian by just putting yourself out there and caring for people wherever they are. He told the story of being a part of a community of believers who wanted to make an impact in their neighborhood by cleaning up the garbage on the streets and sidewalks in their area. It was met with some thanks, and even offers of cold beer or snacks. And at times it was met with some disdain. But as the community of believers grew they tried other ways of impacting their neighborhood. One day, while riding on the bus, Mark and one of his friends met an elderly man who was obviously not completely sane, and tried to befriend him because he seemed so sad and lonely. They took some time to get to know the man a little bit. They came with him to his "home", which was an abandoned school bus that was on blocks in a vacant lot. It took months for this man to open up to Mark and his friends within the community of believers where he lived, but eventually he did open up to them. And they eventually ended up saving his life. And I suppose the story is still continuing for everyone involved. But Mark also ended his segment by doing a bit of Slam Poetry. A poem called Reimagine;

.

As the show ended everyone was reminded to either fill out the form to sponsor a child or return the packets to us. We ended up with 4 sponsorships last night, which is about 10 percent of the crowd - and that's pretty good. I even had the opportunity to invite a young lady to join the Advocate's network. I really hope she will, because she seemed so enthusiastic about helping these kids, even though she can only afford to sponsor one - and that's pretty much my own story.
When it was all said and done I got to talk to Doug briefly and Tony as well. I shared with them both about the way their messages were things I've been hearing and reading about in my own devotional time. It seems that God is getting all of His people on the same page these days, and I'm just glad to be a part of it all.
I also asked Tony about his involvement with the Pine Ridge Reservation, since I've always had a heart for the native american people, and how I might be able to help or get involved. He told me to send him an e-mail and he'd send me the info. So who knows what God might have in store for me in the future.
All in all, a great night for me. If these guys do this again next year - or something similar - I might recommend to P.Dave that we bring them in to Revolution.

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