Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's all happening so fast

Can't stay for long.
Heading out the door to do an event for Compassion. Then, tomorrow night, I have the Red concert to go to. And this is pretty much the beginning of my summer activities now because next week I have another Compassion event. I've already responded to my invitation to staff the Creation Festival in June. Then there will be Purple Door and Uprise (formerly Vertical Fest). And that doesn't include any other stuff that comes along.
It's gonna be another long, wonderful summer!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Family is everything

The weekend was wonderful!
Mom and I started out around 9:00 AM on Friday when we headed to Denny's for breakfast. I had mentioned to her earlier in the week how I had been craving pancakes, and that got her thinking about them. So we decided to start the weekend off by satisfying that craving.
Our server, whose name was Daniel, was one of the friendliest servers we'd ever met. As we talked to him I felt compelled to ask him what it was that motivated him to be so upbeat, outgoing and pleasant. He began to explain that it just doesn't make sense to him to not have a positive attitude while you're working. It makes the day go faster and it makes the people you wait on seem nicer, too. At this point mom flat-out asked if he knew the Lord, to which Daniel replied, Yes. Somehow, mom and I both knew that about him already. It was something we could sense in our spirit. And that made the conversation that much more enjoyable for all of us. And I couldn't help thinking that if every Christian approached their job with Daniel's attitude how much of a difference would it make for the people we work with?
We managed to get on the road before 10:00 AM. It was a really nice ride. The sun was shining and the weather was nice and warm. Warm enough that I had to put the AC on. We tried letting the windows down, but once you hit 60 mph it's too much wind and noise. And mom and I always enjoy our conversations on these trips.
As usual, mom and I talked about a great many things. The one that kinda took me by surprise was finding out that she watches The Girls Next Door...
Yes, that's right. My mom, who can't make it through saying grace without weeping for joy at God's blessings - or sorrow for those less fotunate than us (and sometimes both) - watches a show that focuses on the hedonistic lives of Hugh Hefner and his live-in girlfriends. I had to laugh at this since she explained it so innocently:
"Those girls are so cute, and they're so ditzy. I just get the biggest kick out of them." Mom continued. "I think he keeps those girls around because they make him feel young. (Uuuuuuh, ya think so?!?) And I always pray for them. I don't think they're bad girls or people, I just think they don't know any better."
Ya know what I think? If the rest of the Church would adopt this view of non-believers, we'd have a much better and effective impact in this world. Maybe a little less naive, but still one without a hint of judgment - just genuine concern.
We conversed some more about other things before mom decided to take some time to read her Bible for a little while. It was at this point I decided to put on some music. I had a few CDs with me, some of them worship music, and the others, not so much. I started out with Kutless. They have a CD called Strong Tower. It's one of the worship CDs, but it's acually pretty solid as a rock CD. And sure enough, mom was really enjoying it. Later, I tossed in Children 18:3, and mom was tapping her fingers to that too. I never suspected my mo would be into punk. I even played some hardcore stuff by Project 86, and mom was cool with that too. I gotta tell ya, that's not bad for a 70-something great-grandma...
Since breakfast was so filling, we had no need to stop for lunch on our way. So we made it to my aunt Kathleen's house by 3:15. That's great timing!
We got ourselves unloaded and I took my obligatory nap. It's not that I have to take a nap every time we make the trip, but after the ride I really need to just sit back and relax for a little while. And when you wake up at 4:30 AM, out of habit, then 3:15 - 3:30 in the afternoon is pretty much nap-time. So I just kinda drift off into la-la-land.
I didn't sleep for long, though. We had to have dinner early since mom and Kathleen wanted to go to the high school to see my cousin Dan's son, Brent, in the Promenade. He was nominated for King of the Prom, but he didn't win. I didn't go. I stayed at the house to read. I figured, since I didn't go to my own prom, and Brent really wouldn't care - one way or the other - if I showed up, I'd be just as well staying at the house. I was right. Even Dan said so.
So once everyone returned, we had dessert and talked and got caught up with everyone. Dan, and his wife Deb stayed til about 9:30. At which point I decided that I really wanted to take a walk to enjoy the nice, warm weather. Besides, it's always so relaxing to take a little walk around the town when nobody else is out. When I got back we all called it a night.

Saturday morning rolled around and we had no real plans for the day. We had breakfast and then I took another walk. And I took my camera with me because I'm such a sucker for getting some good pics of Ft. Recovery.
This time I started out aith the park, rather than the fort.
The Park



I see the plackard on the left and I get kinda geeked about the fact that nobody (meaning the ACLU) has tried to sue the town to have it removed from public view. But then again, I suspect that the people of this town would burn any ACLU lawyers at the stake - as witches - if they were to ever try.
I'll bring the marshmallows...
Besides, if I'm not mistaken, the money for this park was donated by families within the community, and not community tax dollars. So there!



Won't be long, they'll be having weekly concerts here at the amphitheater. This is such a cool little set-up. Every town should have one of these!

And now for a little history lesson.
I know I've shared pics of this before, but I wanted to share the new ones this year since I have a few new angles of other subjects in this set. So, come, take a little stroll through history with me.







Well, you can see the amphitheater in the background of this shot.
This little bit of landscaping is something special. See the plaque on the rock?



This is what it reads.



I remeber when my cousin Dan first told me about this.
Years ago, before anyone knew any better, the museum had a skeleton on display inside. They were the remains of one of the indian warriors killed in the battle at Ft Recovery.
It just so happened that a family of native americans was travelling through the area one year and they stopped at the museum to see what it was about. When they saw the bones, they immediately contacted the the attendant to express their indignation at the fact that their brother's bones were not at rest in the earth where they belonged. And that started a ball rolling to have an actual ceremony to return the bones to the earth, so the warrior could find his rest and join his people in the after-life.
There was a huge ceremony that lasted over a week and people of various tribes and nations came from all across the country to be a part of it. Dan said that most of them camped out in teepees and they had buffalo roaming about on the park grounds as a part of the whole celebration. I would've loved to have seen it.
But, in any event, since I've known about this for awhile. And since I'm aware that tobacco is sacred to the native americans. And I know that smoking is something that expresses honor - as well as represents prayers - I decided to walk up to the gas station/convinience store and grab a cigar. Then I sat down on the bench beside the stone and smoked the cigar to honor the fallen warrior, and to pray for him and his descendants, and when I had finished the cigar I took the unsmoked tobacco and sprinkled it over the site as a gift to him.
I don't know why I felt that this was so important for me to do. But I really felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to do this. And I have learned not to allow such impressions slip by unheeded. I did this once each day while I was there.



Reading the above plaque makes me think "They must've worked for the government, or a union."

And now for the rest of the history lesson...



















Yeah, I guess it does look like there used to be a river here.







I liked this shot of the fort.



And this one of the water tower.



I don't know why I never saw the tower from this angle before.

The row of cannonn balls with a few missing.



I guess it's not really too hard to believe that somebody would steal one of these things...
But I would've liked to see them trying to run away with it if they had been caught!



Now, this was something different.
In a town where nothing ever seems to change, there's a new addition to the fort site.



This is all the story we have about the woman in carving.



Makes me wonder about how things turned out for her afterwards. Did she survive? Where was her husband? Was he one of the soldiers? Did he survive? What became of her life after this? Hmmmmm...

A few random shots.



I'm still curious how the state of Indiana got this one past the ACLU...



I returned to Kathleen's shortly after this walk and took a nap. I had no choice this time.
You see, my aunt Kathleen has neithe cable TV, nor a computer - let alone internet access. So I had brought my DVD player with me in the hopes of at least being able to watch a few movies, which I also brought along. But for some odd reason, we couldn't get the DVD player to work with Kathleen's set-up. I don't know if it was her TV, the analog-digital converter box she has to have, or something else that we weren't seeing. But Dan had stopped over and neither of us could get it to work. So when we exhausted all of our options, I opted for the nap.
That evening we went out for dinner. There's a little ice cream place around the corner from Kathleen's, called Miller's Drive-In. This place has been there forever, and they have some really good food. So we enjoyed a few burgers and fries and then decided that we should do a little exploring - just to make sure I would know where I'm going for the Anniversary celebration tomorrow.
When we got back to the house, we relaxed some more. I took another walk in the cool of the evening, and just enjopyed the peace and quiet. When I got back, we called it a night.

Sunday morning. The big day. My aunt Ginny and uncle Denny's 50th Wedding Anniversary. We had to be out the door by 8:00 AM.
The service was nice. I liked the priest. He had a good message and really emphasized the need for a personal relationship with Christ. Not something you hear very often from the Catholic church. Maybe there's hope, yet...

So, allow me to bore you with pics of my family.
Uncle Denny and Aunt Ginny.



The entire Schwieterman clan. Don't even think about asking me to name them all!



With mom and Ginny's brothers and sisters.



With Denny's brothers and sisters.



Ginny's wedding dress and some of the gifts the kids and grandkids gave them for the event.



It was great to see my mom's family again.
There are times when I feel awkward referring to them as "mom's family". They're my family, too. But I gues it's just because i do't see them very often. And when I do, it's more about everybody getting to visit with mom and mom getting to visit with everyone else. I just stay in the background and eat.
Oh, and the food was really good too. The luncheon began at 12:30, and ended around 1:30. But by the time everyone had gone and it was only Ginny and Denny's kids and grandkids left, it was close to 5:00. So they broke out the leftovers and we all ate some more.
There was plenty of drinking going on too. Captain Morgan seemed to have a lot of friends here! And Judy, my cousin Jeff's wife, had a little more than a little of the captin in her. She had brought out her ipod and it's dock so they could play some music while they cleaned up, and she just couldn't resist dancing.
I just kinda stood around and chuckled at everything. Then one of my cousins sked me if I knew any of the songs that were playing and I said "Ya know, I live in a totally different world than everyone else. If I can't mosh to it, it doesn't exist."
"Mosh?" she asked. So I explained it as a type of "dancing" that allows kids to let out a little bit of there aggression by bumping, bouncng and slamming into one another. She just smiled and said "Oh", then walked away after that.
Oh, well, like I said, a totally different world.
We wrapped things up around 6:30 and headed back to Kathleen's. After I changed, I took another walk through town. My last one for this visit, but mom is rethinking her position on us coming back for Thanksgiving. Her original plan was to not make the trip, but now that she's been here, and she sees that two of her brothers aren't doing as well as they had been doing for so long, she's thinking it might be a good idea to make the effort to see them again before it's too late - I think you all know what I'm talking about here, and it's not the most pleasant thought, but we do have to be realistic.
Called it a night early since we had the long ride ahead of us in the morning.
Woke up and had breakfast and left by 9:00 AM. Made it home by 3:15 and that included a stop for lunch.

I spent a sleepless night at home last night, knowing I had work in the morning, but just couldn't get to sleep. There are times when home doesn't feel like home to me. Coming back from Ft Recovery is always one of those time. I've even talked to mom about the fact that when we leave for Ft Recovery, it always feels more like going home than when we leave to come back.
It's not that I don't like living here. Pittsburgh is a great place to live. But I don't always feel like I belong here. It's like the pictures I always take of the fort. There's something about it that draws me to it. Not like it did when I was a kid and it held that fascination of being something new and different. I've seen it every year, sometimes a few times each year, for nearly a decade now. Yet I'm still drawn to it everytime I go there. Maybe God is trying to tell me something...
Or, maybe, it's something else. My friend Merry would say "It's tribal", meaning, because I have family there (my tribe) I feel connected to it. That could be it. I don't really know for sure. All I know is I wish I could be there more often.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Before I go

Just wanted to let everyone know that I won't be around for the weekend. I'm taking mom to visit our family in Ohio. We have a 50th wedding anniversary to go to. Mom's sister, Ginny. It should be a nice little trip. I'll post about it when I get home.

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Quote for 4/23/09

"What worries you, masters you."
John Locke

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strange but true

I have to admit, the last few days have been kinda fun for me. Allow me to share a few of the incidents that have put a smile on my face, and sometimes on those of the people around me.

Monday afternoon I had a class at work to discuss some upcoming projects that my work-group will be taking part in. Several of my co-workers were there with me, as well as my supervisors manager.
The instructor introduced herself and shared a brief synopsis of the class. Then she asked all of us to introduce ourselves since she has seen all of us at some time or another, and she wanted to be able to put names to faces.
I was asked to go first. So I introduced myself as Michael Cross. So she called me Mike, but paused for a second to ask whether I preferred Mike or Michael. To which I replied that I do prefer Michael (which I do).
At that point there was a collective "Oh, really?" moment from all of my co-workers. Since none of them ever asked me which I prefer to be called, they've all simply called me Mike. Then my supervisors manager said "Meanwhile, for the last three years I've been calling you Mike, and you never said anything!"
So I responded with "You never asked, and I'm not gonna be the pretentious jerk who tells you "My name is Michael, not Mike."."
But I made sure to tell everyone that whatever they call me is fine since they never asked, and that's what they're used to.
But it was even better when the introductions came around to one of my co-workers who said that since the instructor was asking what we preferred to be called, he was to be addressed as King Ed...
See what I started!

Tuesday evening I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the Tuesday Evening Family Service. As I was preparing the sandwiches JT noticed soemthing unusual about the wrappers. After glancing over the ingredients he asked me if I had noticed that the "singles" I had purchased don't mention being cheese...
Huh?
That's right folks! The generic "sandwich slices" that I had picked up cannot be legally called "cheese". So, we didn't really have "grilled cheese and tomato soup" last night. Instead, we had grilled sandwich slices and tomato soup. And to be completely honest, they still weren't that bad.
I got to share that story with my co-worlers today when they asked me what I had for lunch.
"Well, I can't, legally, call it grilled cheese..."

OK, that's about it for now.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Quote for 4/17/09

"In prayerful silence you must look into your own heart. No one can tell you better than yourself what comes between you and God. Ask yourself. Then listen!"
Johannes Tauler

Ooooo, I really like this one!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

I feel like I should say something

I've been looking at my blog, reading through some of my older posts and archives, and I realize how different my blog is nowadays.
For one, I have been trying to avoid political rants. I just can't bring myself to spend so much time getting worked up about things that I won't change by ranting about them here. I'll do what I can when I go to the ballot box, but other than that I have come to realize that I'm not going to change anybody's mind about the issues. And if someone already agrees with me, then I'm just getting them worked up too. And I just don't find that to be a very constructive use of my time.
I also write much less about the goings on at work. In part, because my current co-workers don't stimulate the "weirdness" out of me that some of my former co-workers used to. That may be a good thing, or not.
I have noticed a huge difference in the amount of entertainment I'm able to enjoy. I suppose not having to worry about what my Ex wants to do - or spend my money on - has left me with significantly more disposable income to work with for my own personal enjoyment. I've also managed to stretch it far enough to have a lot of fun with Bob over the last couple of years, too. And I've got the pics to prove it, too. Something else that wasn't so prevelant in my earlier blogging.
But I think the biggest difference I can see is in my faith. When I started writing my blog I was still recovering from a somewhat toxic faith. What I mean by that is simply that my faith was based upon the rules & regulations and traditions of organized religion, not completely on the grace of Christ. And God was just starting to break me out of that when I started blogging.
Now, while I believe that having the rules and the traditions are important for passing on our faith to others, at some point those things can take the place of God's love and mercy. Not to mention that they can displace the work of the Holy Spirit. And that can lead us to a self-righteous inactivity and apathy.
Somewhere along the way, I came to realize that being a good Christian isn't about being obedient to the rules, but being obedient to the Holy Spirit. We can tell ourselves that we're being obedient to God when we follow the rules that we've been taught, but what do we call it when we casually ignore the urging of the Holy Spirit to do the things Jesus would have us do? After all, being a Christian means being Christ in the world. And that's the direction I'm heading in these days.
I see more action in my faith these days. I'm not just trying to keep the rules so I can say I'm a "good" person. I'm doing the kinds of things that other people can look at and say "Hey, that's a good thing you're doing." I'm not just going to church, I'm involved with my church, helping it to become something that church should be. And, of course, I'm seriously involved with Compassion International in the hopes of changing the world for children living in poverty around the world. And I think these are the kinds of things Jesus would be doing.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quote for 4/12/09

"Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
Martin Luther

My Easter Wish for all of you is posted below...

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Arise

As the above Quote... implies, I do believe - with every fiber of my being, and to the very depths of my soul - in the bodily resurrection of the lord Jesus Christ.

I doubt - very much - that any of you, my regular visitors and friends, didn't already know that about me. But I still have the desire to share that with everyone because of it's importance to the world.
As I've said before, it is the resurrection of Jesus that is the pivotal moment of all human history. While we may celebrate Christmas with much more flair and excitement, Easter is the Holiday by which Christmas has any real meaning. Christmas exists because Easter had to happen. Christ was born so He could die - and then be raised back to life. For without the resurrection there is no Hope for any of us.
Likewise, without the resurrection, the words of Jesus are hardly anything more than sentimental tripe. They may encourage us to be better people, or to do good things for others, but outside of that they offer us no real hope for the world. Yet that is what the resurrestion is all about - Hope.
We have Hope today because of what happened 2000 years ago. And not a hope like so many people in the world says "I hope" - as if what they hope for is highly unlikely, barring any miracles - our Hope is steadfast and true. Because of the miraculous!
So, my wish for all of you this Easter, and everyday, is that you live your life in the miraculous Hope of the resurrection and that you would allow God's miraculous power to flow into every area of your life. For if God can raise a dead man from the grave, what might He "raise" in our daily lives?

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

A good time was had by all

It was a good day yesterday. Not much happened during the day, unless you want me to bore you with the details of me doing my laundry. But once JT and I got together, things started to shape up.
We started with a visit to the Golden Corral. Where else can you get steak and seafood without paying an arm and a leg for it?
When we left we decided to stop at my house real quick to make sure we had enough batteries to get our cameras through the night. And since Bob and his buddies had decided not to join us, we wanted to at least give them one more chance to change their minds. They didn't. So JT and I were on our way.
It took us a little more than an hour to get to the venue. A rather interesting place called The Net Outreach. It's a three story building that houses a coffee shop/cafe on the first floor - with a very nice dinning area that includes a coffee bar - classrooms on the second floor and the concert auditorium on the top floor. We hung out until it was time for the bands to get started and then headed to the top floor.
The first band up was Third From First. They were good!









They had a solid hard/alternative rock sound. And the vocalist, could belt it out.



Both guitarists tore it up.





Yeah, JT and I really liked these guys. They had a lot of presence on the stage and put on a good high-energy show for the six songs they played. Next up was a band we had seen the last time we were here; Breakaway - who are now called HillCity Lights. Still a good power-pop band with a lot of energy.









These kids (and one grown-up) have a lot of fun, and it's kinda infectious. They play their own songs with a few covers. And their vocalist has a great voice and some pipes - not to mention she's very pretty.
There was almost a mosh pit during their set. A few of the kids at the front of the stage area were pogoing and they just started to bounce into each other as they did. Nothing too intense.

The main act of the evening was Manic Drive. Their set started with a lot of fog...



And a rather ridiculous, but absolutely incredible introduction that made these guys sound like superheroes. It was actually pretty cool.







The last time I saw these guys play, I commented about thier guitarist doing the robot as he played his guitar. He still does...

video

video

They came to a break in their set, and were about to play a few softer songs when something strange happened...



Unbeknownst to any of us, the fog machines had set off the fire alarms in the building. Nobody could hear the alarms over the music. And the flashing stobes just kinda blended into the rest of the stage lighting. So they talked a bit as the fog cleared and the alarms could be reset. Then they started to rock on!





These guys also had a lot of fun on stage. In fact, they had a modified leaf-blower with a rather unconventional attachment...



Yeah, it was fun! They even had a point where they all joined in on the percussion. "I got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell."



I am really impressed by Manic Drive's versatility. They put out a lot of music for only being a threesome. And their vocalist seems to fill in the gaps left by missings members.



They pulled out their "toy" again later.



And the vocalist aimed it at their guitarist.



But he never missed a chord.



They wrapped things up and came out for an encore.



It was a fantastic show.

Afterwards, we hung out and talked to the bands. Which we also did between band sets. But after the show was when JT and I got our traditional "obligatory pics" with the bands.



The vocalist for First From Third saw my Ink-n-Fire and immediately said "Dude! I saw that picture today on Myspace. I sent you a message." So we all talked about the branding for a few minutes. It was very cool.
Of course, JT made his connections with these guys. And they were happy to be connected. After all, JT does offer small time bands worldwide exposure with his podcast.
I also talked to them about their involvement with Compassion and asked if they'd be interested in being a part of the special Compassion Episode of JT's podcast whenever we're ready to record it. They said they'd love to be involved. So we have that to look forward to.

I got to talk to the guys from Manic Drive too.



I told them that I was their neighbor at the Moraine St. Park Festival last summer, in the Compassion booth. The guitarist looked at me and asked if my hair was different then. I told him I had the 13" mohawk at the time but had shaved it off in January to donate it to Locks of Love. They thought that was cool - that some poor cancer patient kid now has a cool 13" mohawk...

Anyways, they're gonna be at Uprise Festival (formerly known as Vertical Fest) this year. So I told them I'll be looking forward to seeing them again. I also picked-up one fo their CD's and had them sign it. Very cool.
Ended the night with the ride home. Dropped JT off, came home and hit the sack.

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