So, got back from connect 09 a few days ago, that's a "Christian teen conference" if you wanna be all official about it, but in layman's terms it's a place for a whole crapload of teenagers to get together to worship, learn more about God, and have fun. This camp was quite fun, I will tell you that! There was a disco, professional christian hip hop dancers, and friends to have a good time with. I will get the negative out of the way early, so I can just get it out of my system early.
It was very fun, but not very challenging. At the end of the camp, we were asked in our discussion groups "What made you feel challenged?" And I answered "I don't know, really." Later on, I thought about it, and I have a revision of that answer. "To be more connected with God." And that is a fine challenge, that has actually pushed me back into spending seperate time from the rest of my life to read my bible, and then actually pray about it. But, I just don't know. At the beggining of the camp, they did a short promo video, which mentioned the word "Addiction" as a few short words describing what the camp would comprise and adress. Addiction was not mentioned once. Throughout the entire camp. There was time for hip-hop dancers and a rave, but there was not time to adress issues like self harm, eating disorders, or global poverty. I understand that this is in interest of the secular attraction side of the camp, to keep people interested in coming even without the faith aspect of it, but, it just felt all so false, so superficial. When people talk about what made them to decide to put their trust in Jesus, I'm pretty sure "Hip hop dancers" Usually doesn't top the list. Unfortunately, "Shhh" time was also shortened to 15 minutes to fill out a question sheet rather than a half an hour to try and listen to what God had to say to you. This cheesed me off to no end. But that said, I would not have any experience in these things, so they could well be neccissary attractions to keep us all from getting bored and leaving. Perhaps this camp was more geared toward attracting people to Jesus rather than encouraging people allready connected to take their faith more seriously, but I felt like as a christian, a deeper connection with Jesus was offered as a safe, gentle kind of decision, when I suppose to a certain extent I needed a swift kick in the behind. Which probably says more about where my faith was at that time.
Wow, that was a lot of negative. Anyway! Onto the positive!
The camp was very, very hilarious. The main method of camp announcements was a few short videos of Andrew Gill and Tim Evens in HEAVILY overdone english accents telling us all about "The rooles a regulatiouns that wee would be following at camp connect. Yes. Spiffing." This may sound absolutely retarded, but I guarantee you, it was hilarious! The short skits and other things they did at the begginning of every meeting were good too, I guess I was just hoping for something deeper. Should've gone to "Deeper" I guess, if it was what it says on the tin! :P It was very, very funny. It was wonderful to see old friends and talk, hang out, and spend some time together. They had a lovely option to go to a disscussion group during free time, which included topics such as "How to live as a christian in a sex-mad world" and "How to live as a christian in an apathetic world." I attended both, but attended the latter because I was secretly hoping someone would tell us the secret to how not to be apathetic. I struggle with apathy, and to me, it can be one of the deadlier sins. When the call comes to change the world, to live for it's creator and love the poor, the lonely, and to genuinely make the world a more wonderful place to live, I find it shamefully easy to go ".....ehh.......Meh." And walk away. I'd like to think I'm getting better though. One of the final readings they had was of Colossians 6-7 from the message, and to be honest, this was the swift kick I needed, I suppose I just wanted more of them.
6-7"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving."
I really felt like God was speaking to me here. I can sit around and quibble about what scriptures mean, and try to bend and ignore the parts I don't want, when they're the parts that will give life purpose and meaning. I was looking for a way to procrastinate my faith, mumbling that I didn't know enough yet, or that it was too complex. But God said these words to me, I don't know it all, but God has given me to strength and endurance to run this race, and I have been sitting on it on the sidelines still waiting for something I've had all along. Faith.
Anyway, personal excursions aside, and back to the camp. One of the most exiting parts of camp was Andrew Gill's (We call him Fishy) talk, and the 2nd night in general. During worship, as one of the songs was ending, all the lights went out, just for a moment, and the band froze in place. Then the lights came back on, it was actually pretty cool! During Fishy's talk, he talked briefly about getting closer to God, and then asked Ruben (Another leader) to come up on stage. Halfway through Ruben's trek to the stage, the lights went out again. This time, they didn't come back on. We all thought what a neato little trick it was, and wondered what it had to do with the talk. Then Fishy came up on stage and told us that there had been a power cut, to remain in the room, and to await further instruction. Part of me was worried there'd be some sort of craziness or something, like a riot or a stampede, but everyone kept their cool quite well! And then, something wonderful happened. Fishy couldn't talk without a microphone, as yelling over a whole gymnasium full of teens will wrench your vocal cords out, so the worship band got out 2 accoustic guitars, the only things that could make music, and we had "Throne Room", an extended time of worship through song, right there, in the dark. It lasted for about half an hour, and it was an incredible experience. Because there were no working amps, everyone had to crowd near to the stage, and we all just sang and sang, songs of praise and wonder. We were close to each other, and I that time was my closest time to God throughout the whole camp, a time when all the coolness and interesting bits were stripped away, and all that was left was the option to worship God, or to wait in the dark. And I sang and sang, it was so beautiful. We were all in the dark, unsure if the lights would come back on in the next minute, next hour, or next week, but we were in the dark together, united in our purpose to thank God for all he had done in our lives, even if we couldn't see. It was really wonderful, and I think God spoke powerfully to us by the power cut. Eventually they brought out glowsticks and it almost turned a little hippie-ish, I would not have been opposed to a "Kum-bay-ah", to be honest! They then organized a few little games for us, and we eventually went down to the Hub, which was on backup power, and had a big dance fest! Looking back, I didn't go to the prayer room once, which is pretty sad. Not that I didn't pray, I just didn't take seperate time to connect with God. I think I expected to show up, have God connect with me, and then just kick back. I am desperately afraid of work, so I was afraid of working to maintain a relationship with God. But it really is the only way to truly live, and though it is hard sometimes, living for God , he loves us and does so much for us, and wants to let us help him heal the world so much, that deciding to take upon the good yoke, the light yoke, really is the best way of living.
And on a closing note, I did end up doing those two book reviews, albiet finishing them up the night before, I'm sad to say. I'm waiting for the video to load now, and the tension is just underneath unbearable. I am quite afraid I made an arse of myself up on stage, and everyone was too polite and kind to let me know I looked a fool. You can find a link of it here, I come in at about 16:10, my review lasts about 2 minutes, and if you sniff deeply, you can even smell the fear. I was absolutely terrified beforehand, every part of my body was screaming "Get out! Get out while you still can! Flee! They'll be understanding of your fear! RUN! RUN! RUN!" But God helped me keep my cool, assuring me that it was all ok, even if I messed up and forgot all the words. Upon looking at it, I think I did allright! I mean, I stumbled over my words a little, my eenunceeaashun was a little lacking, and I used my notes, but all in all, I think I did pretty darn good for my first time!