Friday, September 30, 2011

A Week of Joy and Laughter

     Last Thursday Josh, Joel and I went to the Centre in the Square to see "Whose Live Anyway?" (David & Rachel were also there with friends). It was kind of expensive but definitely hilarious. These 4 guys are great improv artists and it was pretty much non-stop laughing. We had great seats too, except we couldn't see the pianist.
     On Friday I left for the Westheights Men's Retreat which was held at Camp Edgewood (in Eden Mills, just west of Guelph), a place I've been to quite a few times in my life (youth events in the 80's, Evangel retreats in the 2000's). It was a wonderful weekend - 15 guys in one cabin meant lots of fun, and we had some great discussions as well. The weather was supposed to be wet but (as is often the case) the reports were way off and we had sunshine and warmth - what a blessing! Ten of us even played some touch football on Saturday afternoon. I led a bit of singing - I tuned my guitar down a half-step and pitched most songs lower than usual - it's kind of powerful to hear only men's voices raised in worship. It was great to get to know a number of the men of the church better, and there were a couple guys that I didn't know very well at all. They're a great group and we hope we can build on what began on the weekend. Tom, our youth pastor, based some of our discussions on the movie "We Are Marshall," which is a moving true story of a small U.S. community who lost their entire college football team in a plane crash in the 70's. I thought it was a very interesting study of grief, coming to grips with loss, and moving on in life - topics which are near and dear to me because of what I've experienced myself. Tom also quoted from a Don Miller book - an author I realized really should have been on the list I made last week, as I have read everything he's written. We had a couple of campfires, and my friend Matt led some excellent group-building activities, including a reading of the classic kids book "Everything Poops"! The weekend was also just a really nice relaxing break - had time for some reading ("The Next Christians"), listened to Jason Gray's new release, played some games (Wizard, Cribbage, Monopoly Deal - the Hong Kong version!). However I did go to school for over 2 hours when I got back on Sunday, to catch up on some marking.
     And then on Tuesday I saw an update on musician Randy Stonehill's Facebook page that he was hanging out in Toronto wondering if there might be any opportunities to play before a tour begins later in the week. I decided to see if he was open to do a house concert and when he responded that it was a possibility I emailed as many people I know (and have listed on my hotmail account) to see if there would be enough interest. Within 24 hours there were over 20 people who said they'd come for the next night (Thursday), so we moved the furniture around in the living room, added some chairs and found that we could comfortably seat 30 people in there.
     I rushed home on Thursday to help Beth put the finishing touches on setting up and helped my friend Dan to get the sound system ready to go. Around 6:00 Randy showed up with his wife Leslie and their friend/driver Steve Burchell, who I recognized right away as he has done lots of concert promotion over the last 30 years. They got settled in and folks started arriving shortly thereafter. In all, I think there were about 29 people in our living room and it was neat that I pretty much knew everybody (just a few people I met for the first time). Randy was a wonderful performer - honest, funny, and musically gifted (great guitar work, awesome voice, excellent songwriting). I just sat right up front and soaked it in. And of course it was a special treat just to get to hang out a bit with him and get to know him as a person. Everyone I talked to afterwards (Beth had baked cookies and offered drinks so it was a great time of visiting) was so positive and thankful for the chance to participate in an intimate setting for such a great concert. Our friend Mimi wrote an amazing review for our church blog (check it out at: Stonehill Review). I think I was still in some sort of shock by the time it was all over - all I could do was keep repeating how awesome and fun and amazing it was to see this come off so well in just 48 hours. I've been listening to Randy's records/cassettes/CDs since 1978(!!) and he's created a lot of fantastic music over the years. To have him play in my living room was certainly a special treat. And now that I realize how many people we can hold, who knows, maybe we might try it again sometime.

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