Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not Dead Yet

Sorry for the lull in updates. We´ve made it to Sarospatak and internet is no so plentiful as it is in the States. They´ve always kept us terribly busy. The festival officially began today (well, two days ago.) It is great to have so manz people here now. Not everyone is here yet, but many are. Almost all the Hal íEnsemble is here (for this leg). Christian comes on Thursday. I feel strange and disrespectful here because everyone speaks English and yet the Americans speak no other language. ... More to come soon. Epic fail. Time has run out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

People Are Crazy

"God is great. Beer is good. People are crazy."
Thank you, country music.
No beer quite yet, but the other two are definitely pertinent.

Laura, Jenna and I have arrived (finally) in Finland and are sitting in Pauliina's parent's home smelling a wonderful dinner cooking. They are so kind and wonderful.
After that marvelous drive to Philadelphia area, the adventures have only escalated.
We (Laura, Bobby and I) missed our first train yesterday morning, so my uncle raced across town and got us to another train station in plenty of time to catch our original train. Brilliant!
We got to Philadelphia and caught a train to Trenton where we had to switch to a train to New York. No worries, plenty of time. A few stops from Trenton, Bobby realized he had his passport in his computer bag ... which was back in Doylestown with my uncle. A quick phone call to my uncle and he is on his way to meet us in Trenton to deliver the passport. A saint! Truly, a brother IS born for adversity, and rescue. Praise the Lord he works at home. We catch the next train to New York, which thankfully is early and doesn't put us too far behind schedule.
Laura and I make it to Newark to meet Jenna, Bobby finds his way to JFK and calls us to say he was at his gate and in time for the plane. Victory! (in Jesus ...)
The flight was long, but fine, entertaining, but not restful at all. Then the descent happened ... We descended in a storm cloud with lightning all around and wicked mad turbulence. The lightning was the second thing on my mind. The first was my lurching stomach. Which did end up turning over and giving my breakfast of orange juice, ham and cheese and yogurt an encore performance. How disgusting. In the airport I changed into my pajamas and bought a sarong to cover myself up. The next flight from Copenhagen to Helsinki was uneventful and much more smooth. I haven't prayed so hard in a long time. But praise the LORD we have arrived in Helsinki with all our luggage and all our limbs!
Tomorrow afternoon we fly to Amsterdam and then on to Budapest to sleep and then get up in the morning and take a four-hour train ride to Sarospatak.
Dinnertime! Thanks for your prayers. We covet them very much and will keep you updated!

Be well!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Riding Along in My Automobile

Short post.
Lots of traffic. Lots of stops. Little cruise control.
Almost rear-ended a semi who stopped in the left lane on 70 in OH for no reason.
Almost hit a Mexican who decided to stand in the middle of 276 in PA for no reason.
Didn't do these things.
All are in whole pieces. (oxymoron?)
Staying with uncle and aunt and family and loving it!
Last night of sleep and bathrooms in America. Mixed emotions. Mostly excited.
Full stop.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great is Thy Faithfulness

First let me thank everyone for their interest and support! I'm so pleased and honored and floored to have such a fantastic group of friends! Truly!

The adventures have officially begun. The LORD answered every prayer today ... every one ... even the silly ones ... like "where are the power cords in Wal-Mart, Jesus?"

Somehow ... miraculously ... today we fit three people, three people's stuff for a month and a cello in a giant travel case into a new Honda accord! Unheard of! Laura, Bobby and I got in there, fairly comfortably I might add, and drove a couple hours down to my place in Muncie. It was great!

We ran some errands, replaced my little camera, picked up some grapes, cherries, pizza, etc. and are now thoroughly enjoying "Muppets Take Manhattan" while doing some laundry.

Tomorrow we pack up the car again (hopefully with a little less stuff) and head off to Philadelphia where we'll stay with my Uncle Dan's family and leave the car for the month we're gone. Wednesday we hop on a train to Newark to catch the first of many flights!

Time to rest up!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hide and Seek

Hello again!

First thing is first. This touring Halo Ensemble I'm in has a website! I'm so silly and don't think I've posted it, yet, so here it is!

Check it out! We'll have a blog on there as well ... and since more people are going to be involved in it, hopefully it will get updated more often than mine ... then again maybe it will be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Let's hope 1) I can be more disciplined and diligent and 2) that too many cooks thing doesn't happen/plague the ensemble.

Good news! We've given our first official concert. It was on Tuesday evening. It was pretty "thrown together" and as a group, it was a pretty big wake-up call that God will hold up His end of the deal, but we have to do some work as well. It's a joint project of ours. Nevertheless, it was pretty well received and we're raised some money from it! Hooray! We've also been able to get the word out and have some new people sign up for the email list, which is fantastic!

Laura has been working hard and gotten the fundraising letter together for us ... which was a big task for her. Since our trip is coming up so soon, we're having to do a lot of retroactive fundraising, but we know the LORD is faithful and we're investing trusting in Him and His vision for the group. His abundance knows no limits! Praise Him!

We've had confirmation from a good friend of ours, Christian, that he is for sure coming to Hungary to be a part of Crescendo. It's been pretty up in the air, but he is coming to play with us and be part of the festival and we're so excited for that! It's truly an answer to prayer in a huge way! But also the beginning of more prayer, that the festival will be a wonderful time of renewing and preparation for him.

On a personal note, I just returned early this morning (3 am) from a good friend's wedding in Michigan. Personally, internally, it was a difficult two days and I'm exhausted in many ways! But it was also wonderful to be there for Erin and her family. It was such an honor to be a part of the wedding and be able to rejoice with the rejoicers in a more intimate way. She was (and still is) a beautiful bride and the complete opposite of a bridezilla! She was so calm the whole time, even if she was faking it, it was incredible. Regardless of anything that happened that day (and with the exception of the harpist, the groom stepping on the bride's dress not ten minutes into their new marriage, and my camera taking a little tumble, everything went swimmingly!), by the end of it, they're married!!! AMAZING!

MasterWorks unofficially ended today. Almost all of the students have gone home, a few are just lingering, extending their departure and trying to avoid the unavoidable. All that are left are a few suckers (like me), counselors and staff members. The campus has turned into a little bit of a ghost town now, but it's okay. Very shortly the withdrawal and sadness will set it, if it hasn't already. But there will always be next summer ... or if not, then eternity.

I'm not very good with goodbyes, myself. Good thing there's Eternity! Honestly, I'd be a constant mess if it weren't for that Hope.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can't Go Back Now

Alright, here's the skinny on the traveling this summer ... the extended version. Prepare. Grab a cup of hot chocolate. Put on your pajamas and slippers. Grab that favorite pillow that you love to nestle under your forearms. Ready? I'll give you a few more minutes. No hurry. Really.

*cue flashback music*
Last summer during the MasterWorks Festival (Christian performing arts festival) a guest faculty member spoke about a similar festival taking place in Hungary which was called the Crescendo Summer Institute and was in need of horn players, violinists and Christians in general. Several of my friends went and although it seemed like a great idea to me, they didn't need any oboists, I had already been to Ireland that summer and funds were low ... plus I wanted to go because my friends were going, not really because the Lord was calling me, blah blah blah. Several of my American friends met some European friends at this festival. They stayed in touch.
In Decemberish, one of those American friends traveled to Finland to join a couple of the European friends. Together they wound up doing some impromptu living room concerts (like the old school salons for those music nerds reading this) and times of sharing their faith and their music and the blending of those two worlds. It was greatly received and very affective. The Spirit was definitely in those times.
These friends then shared a common vision of making that happen more often and with great purpose.
I saw the pictures and thought Finland was a place I now really needed to go. I told my friend Laura this. [She plays flute and currently lives in Boston attending the Longy school.] Laura told me about the vision and plans of theirs. I was sold.
*end flashback sequence*

Now here is what that plan is ... more or less.
In one week, I will travel with a cast of characters across the ocean to Helsinki and then on to Budapest, Hungary. My little crew in planning on arriving in Budapest on July 24. We will then go through some training and organizational days in Budapest at the headquarters of the Summer Institute with the people in charge of the festival (Fruszina). July 27th we will travel by train for a few hours northeast to Sárospatak which is the location of the Summer Institute. (I really hope I spelled that right.) We will be apparently living on the castle grounds and volunteering with the festival (ie. dorm parents, Bible study leaders, prayer group leaders, working with children, working in the office, organizing schedules,etc.) The Institute is two weeks long, culminating in a weekend of concerts (one of which our particular ensemble - the Halo Ensemble - will be featured performers). The Institute has top performers giving lessons and masterclasses to the students, chamber music, and orchestral rehearsals. In addition there are optional Bible studies for the students. But unlike the American "counterpart" of MasterWorks, the Bible studies are required.

[A little about the Summer Institute. It is sponsored by Crescendo, which is essentially the European performing arts arm of Campus Crusade for Christ. Crescendo is (I think) based in Switzerland.]

Following the Institute, the Halo Ensemble will travel to Helsinki (picking up a few new members and saying tearful "until we meet agains" to others) where we will give a few more concerts (in churches and coffee shops) before heading to northern Finland to the cottage of one of our group members for a little debriefing and R&R. We will be in Finland about 10 days. Part of our mission in Finland is called "Night of Faith." As I understand it, it's a weekend retreat-type for Christian performing artists in the area. A chance to fellowship, encourage, discuss and grow. The essential purpose of Night of Faith is to eventually establish a Crescendo branch in Finland -- this is the vision of Pauliina, one of our members. And our ensemble supports her in this!

After Helsinki, I and a couple of the other Americans will fly back to the States and head immediately to Baltimore for the wedding of two of our beloved MasterWorks-ers. Nothing like a MasterWorks wedding! Dr. Kavanaugh is so proud!

Now: To meet this cast of characters. These are the people coveting your prayers.

The Halo Ensemble presents:

Pauliina -- cellist, staff member with Crescendo, Finnish, heart for the Gospel and seekers

Laura -- flautist, one of the original three, American, wound up with the burden of organizing all this people into some coherent formation (bless her)

Caroline -- violinist, Canadian, unbelievable player, incredibly strong spirit - so gentle, and unyielding in the Truth, I'm not sure she sins. (I kid!)

Chiara -- violinist, Swiss, brilliant and bright Spirit, in Germany for the Hungary portion but joining us in Finland

Jenna -- violinist, teacher, American, faithful and excited

Bobby -- cellist, American, living in Cleveland, thoughtful, hilarious and a ladies' man

Carl -- bassoonist, American, living in Chicago, attending Wheaton, faithful, likes to climb trees

Jennifer -- pianist, American, living in D.C., beautiful in every way

Joy -- soprano, American, living in Indiana, works for CPAF (the MasterWorks people), true to her name

Michael -- violinist, violist, bagpiper, accordianist, American, comic relief with a sincere heart, has been living on a boat for the past six months

Christian -- violist, American, living in Austria, doing a chamber music thing with the Vienna Philharmonic this summer, joining us for only Hungary

Lara -- violist, American, joining us for Finland only

Bekah -- violist, American, Lara's sister, joining us for Finland only

Anna -- violinist, American, attended Crescendo last summer (pioneer), helping with rehearsals in America, getting married

Andrew -- saxophonist, Scottish fantasy, our prayer warrior, with us in Spirit and perhaps joining us somewhere along the way ...

Jacob -- French horn, American, attended Crescendo last summer, has a great heart to return this summer, attending Colburn in the fall, needs money

Jake -- violist and composer, MasterWorks kid, not traveling, but composing a piece for us to perform overseas ... his name travels with us, his beautiful wife is pregnant, pray for her and rejoice with them

Our personnel is changing daily, to be completely honest. But this is the most complete list I can think of. If you've made it this far, buy yourself a candy bar and don't even feel bad about it. Then pray for us all. We certainly need it! There are a lot of people and plans to coordinate; there are finances to be obtained; there's music to find; there are hearts to be awakened; there is love to be shared; there is Gospel to tell. There is so much to do! And we cannot do it without your prayer and support. There will also be so much more to come. Please join us!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Be Still My Soul

Alright, so. I'm going to put forth a real effort to update this blog more frequently during the course of the next month and a half. The reason being I have a really exciting opportunity placed before me to travel to a few different parts of the world, and people I know have asked if I have a blog so they can keep updated. So here it is. A blog with a purpose ... maybe I will now be more motivated and disciplined. Speaking of motivation and discipline; those are two words the LORD had really been putting heavy on my heart this past week while at MasterWorks. And yet I still haven't done anything about it. Seeing as how today is basically over, tomorrow is the next best time to put a little change into effect. But clearly I cannot make it on my own, I must have strength from the LORD because I fail at being motivated and disciplined by myself ... as evidenced by my last 25 years of life; and more recently the past 2 years of music festival.

We had a great sermon at MasterWorks this morning from Beat Rink. Beat is an important head-guy for Crescendo, which is basically the arts branch of Campus Crusade for Christ in Europe (mostly). He also works with the Summer Institute in Hungary which is part of my exciting adventures this summer. I will try to post an update containing the details of said adventures tomorrow. Anyway, Beat spoke today about Ezekial 30 and the call of the artists in the creation of the Temple. And he spoke about the Old Testament giving a view of art, a concept of art and what that looks like. And that it holds true for us today as Christian artists. He said art is/needs three things: 1) artistic skill; 2) wisdom; 3) the Spirit of God. He did not go so in depth into the artistic skill, that is fairly obvious and accepted. He spoke of wisdom also as three things: 1) relationship; 2) reality; 3) fear of God. The word "relationship" has been such an important word in the development of my faith and in my life. I cannot really explain the significance it carries with me, but to know that this Christian life I lead, and then beyond that, this musical life I lead, to know it is about relationships is what most gives it meaning and significance for me -- that gives it purpose. That wisdom is reality combats the ideas of many Eastern religions which say reality is an illusion and something to be overcome. That wisdom handles the facts of this life is greatly empowering I think, for lack of a better word. And that wisdom is the fear of God is readily stated in the Proverbs, but still something to trip over frequently.

Melissa and I were discussing this tonight on the hill outside Westminster. What does it mean to fear God? I joked with one of our conductors earlier, Miriam Burns, that I have learned a little more about the fear of God from sitting second to my current principal. I have learned a healthy and righteous fear which makes me practice. (Don't get me wrong, my principal is marvelous and very caring, but there is still a little intimidation that happens.) But I think it is also more than this. I think that fear of God is seeing oneself rightly in relation to God (there's that word again). It is to see onself as finite and small, but also infinitely beloved. It is humility. I think this is what fear of God is, and consequently the beginning of wisdom. One is wise who sees himself as having no intrinsic value, and yet being incredibly valued by the Creator.

In terms of prayer requests and praises (I've got to find a new way to phrase that). Most immediately, today I have been physically and spiritually under the weather. My spirit has been very much at unrest and my throat has been getting more and more sore (which seems to be going around the festival). On top of that, this evening I began to get a little dizzy and am indeed still a little dizzy sitting here in my bed. I'm not sure if this is part of my progressive heart disease, or just part of this sickness which is going around, but I cannot really handle much more of it. Motivation and discipline as aforementioned continue to be constant battles these days and also a slump I could really use getting pushed out of. But the LORD is good and many prayers have been answered here -- physical healing has occurred, emotional wounds have begun being patched, etc. etc. amongst my friends and it is refreshing to see.