Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sunday Transformation

I will post a final Higher Things post soon, maybe tomorrow. For today, just wanted to show you our sanctuary from this morning. The Adventists from whom we rent space for church have their Vacation Bible School this week, starting tonight. They always decorate quite heavily for this, as many churches do. But for them it includes the sanctuary, which is the space we also need. So, each year there is one Sunday (at least) where we have lots of less-than-worshipful-and-sacred things in the church. This year, it is Mt. Kilimanjaro! Here are the before and after pictures:


Here is the chancel when I arrived.


Here is the "Lutheranized" chancel!

We hung curtains in front of all their decorations and placed our altar, pulpit, and candles in from of the curtains. Nothing we could do about the things on the side walls, but at least our view forward wasn't bad. :-)

The Adventists are usually pretty good at taking their stuff down after their VBS is over, so hopefully next Sunday it will all be back to normal. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Higher Things Day 5

Last day of the conference! :-(  This is always both a sad and joyful day as we rejoice in all we've done and received, and yet leaving friends old and new and re-acquaintances. So this morning, Matins and the final plenary, lots of thank yous and packing, lunch, and then the closing service. The closing service is always great, as we have the choir and instrumentalists who have been practicing all week, a sermon that wraps everything up, and get to sing the conference hymn one more time. (We also got to sing For All the Saints, one of my all-time favorites!).

Here are the stats from the conference:


Right after the closing service we checked out and headed for Ohio. Spending the night in North Lima. That will get us roughly halfway home, maybe a little more, so not too much driving for Saturday. The hotel here is basic but clean, so both hotels this year were definitely better than last year's debacle!

Just a few more odds and ends . . .

Yes, the Mike and Ike's made an appearance driving last night! In case you don't know, they are the official candy of Higher Things road trips. (And the red ones are still nasty!)

"Flat Jesus!"


There was some kind of challenge going on for one youth group to get a picture of all the pastors there with "flat Jesus." (Think of "Flat Stanley" and this will make more sense. And if you don't know who Flat Stanley is, ask the Google, who knows everything.) Though I think he looks more like Flat Moses. Anyway.


Kitty and a new friend at lunch.


Another picture of Bumper Ball - you can see how crowded and bumpy it is!

So home later today, early afternoon probably. As usual, all want to come back next year! That will probably be in Nashville, TN for us, at Vanderbilt University. Theme: Bread of Life. Can't wait!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Higher Things Day 4

Thursday is the last full day of the conference and it is always packed with stuff. I taught my breakout session for the second time - better than the first time, of course! I ran out of time, though, and had to rush a bit at the end. But it was good. Good questions and comments from the kids.

The preaching all week has, as usual, been outstanding. It is a pleasure for me to be able to sit and be fed. And so often! A couple more pictures of the chapel:




And then, being our last night here, there's lots to do during free time. One of the fun things was called "Bumper Ball." What's that? It's this:


You put on a giant inflatable ball and run around crashing into other people while trying to play soccer and score goals. What happens is not so much soccer, but trying to crash into people and knock them over!


Yes, that's me tumbling to the ground!

Each game was to either three goals or seven minutes, whichever came first. I thought to myself, "Seven minutes? That's not very long." But when you're inside one of those bubbles, it is! I was really tired at the end of the time.

Then I was encouraged by the girls to jump into the pick-up basketball game next door. 


Yeah, that was a good idea . . . trying to go with a bunch of kids a THIRD my age! But it was fun. Even though I'm going to be sore for the next few days, I'm sure.

I also got to meet a fellow SELC Pastor from the Chicago area and talk to him a bit. I was also stopped in the hall way by a man who wanted me to know that he logs onto our Morning Prayer on the web every once in a while, when he can. Wow! That's kind of cool.

So today we have Matins, the final plenary session, lunch, and then the closing Divine Service. And you what the best part of that will be? Me not assisting, but getting to sit between my kids for the service. That doesn't happen often enough. Then the long trek home . . .

Higher Things Day 3

(Sorry this post is late, but the internet on campus was out this morning and I couldn't get anything done.)

Wednesday is the longest day at Higher Things. Three of the breakout sessions (half) are today, along with the plenary. However, the day was enjoyable for me as I did not have to teach or lead anything, so I got to wear comfy clothes and enjoy listening. :-)

The first breakout I went to had the bishops of the Lutheran Church in Thailand and Ukraine talk to us via Skype. After hearing about their churches, challenges, and joys, the kids had a chance to ask questions. I think their situations were pretty eye opening for them. Here is a picture of the bishop from Thailand speaking with us:


I wish we had a little longer for this session. These guys were very interesting.

After that I went to see the art work in the Lutheran Church close to the campus here. A man in the congregation, a very gifted artist, depicted the Te Deum on the walls all around the sanctuary. It is very impressive. When I have more time, I'll post all the pictures with some explanation, but for now, here is glimpse:


Here you can see the panels wrapping around
the sanctuary.


Here is the prophets panel.

For the evening breakout I went with my daughter to listen to a campus ministry pastor talk to the kids about surviving your first year at college. He made many good points, and maybe can help me get something kick started at George Mason again, where we've been struggling a bit.

For the evening free time, I went to see a local improv group perform - very funny. And a couple more pictures:


Sarah and I waiting for the plenary to begin.
You can see how full this large auditorium is!


This year's official group photo.

Finally, the weather has been fabulous. The food . . . meh.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Higher Things Day 2

We arrived in Grand Rapids with no flat tires this year! Yea! The opening service was a 2 pm - every seat in the chapel was taken and then some. I think the numbers are 900 youth plus adults here, but not sure. So when the pipe organ cranks and everyone starts to sing, it makes quote a sound! The kids were impressed.


The chapel has seating "in the round" as you can see. 
Hard to get a great feel for the space in this picture, 
but you can see how full it is.

After the opening service, off to the first plenary session:



Not a great picture. :-(  Waiting for the session to begin.

Next was dinner, then Evening Prayer and the first Breakout Sessions. I taught during that time. Then free time until bed. Lots to do - but one popular one was the foam pit . . .



No, I did not go in! I haven't had much chance to sit down and ask the kids their impressions of the first day - I'll do so at breakfast and post for you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Higher Things Day 1

We made it to the end of the first leg of our journey, the Red Roof Inn in West Lansing, MI. We got a little bit of a late start in the morning, due to traffic, but the rest of the drive was pretty easy. We arrived around 6:30 pm. Thankfully, the hotel is nicer and cleaner than the ones I picked last year!

I'll let the kids sleep in a little this morning: breakfast at 8:30, then we'll leave for Grand Rapids - only an hour or so left to go! Check-in, find our rooms, and get ready for the conference to begin. Here are some pictures from the drive. (I also have a video, but it's too big to e-mail myself from my phone, so I'll have to figure out how to get it to my computer to post here!)


Kitty, acting like a doggie while cruising on I-76.



After lunch in Ohio, not really too excited to get back in the cars . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Confirmation

Had the confirmation of four of our youth today. They were a good group. Here are a couple of pictures:


The official photo after church.


The selfie.  :-)

Now onto to Higher Things Te Deum in Grand Rapids, Michigan! Leaving at 6:30 am!