SWONEKY Family Camp

I had the inexpressible joy and privilege this past weekend of teaching and preaching at The Salvation Army's Camp Swoneky for the annual Family Camp held on the grounds every year around this time. 

Camp Swoneky is a place of great beauty and blessing--truly holy ground to me--and an important place in my spiritual history. It is also the place where the lovely Robin and I first began dating, and the site of our first kiss (they haven't yet erected a historical marker on the spot, but I'm sure that's in the works). 

The theme for the weekend was "Take Time to Be Holy," drawn from my soon-to-be-released one-year devotional based on the writings of Samuel Logan Brengle. On Friday evening, I presented a costumed monologue as the holiness warrior himself (that's me, below, waiting backstage). 
I was also blessed to teach a Saturday morning Bible study on Biblical Holiness, and preached three times over the course of the weekend (the photo below was taken Saturday evening, I think). 

It all could not have gone better in my view. The weather was perfect, the weekend's events--including a Saturday groundbreaking ceremony for a new swimming pool to be completed by next Summer--were perfectly planned, swimmingly executed (see what I did there?), and enthusiastically participated in by nearly 700 attendees, so many of whom are dear friends of many years. The only things that could have been better would have been if the lovely Robin had not come down with a terrible sinus infection that laid her up nearly all weekend...and if copies of Take Time to Be Holy could have been made available to everyone there but, alas, it turned out not to be possible. Still, it will be a joy I will carry with me for a very long time, and which I pray will have a life-changing and enduring impact on many lives. 

A Midsummer Night's Scream

The lovely Robin and I joined a couple hundred of our closest friends for a lovely evening at Vinoklet Winery in Colerain Township (north of Cincinnati) tonight for another Shakespeare in the Park performance.
Vinoklet is a beautiful, scenic venue at any time, but their graceful amphitheater makes it ideal for performances by Cincinnati's excellent Shakespeare company.
Tonight's performance was "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Robin and I have seen this play acted more than any other of Shakespeare's works, but never has it been more entertaining than this performance. Everyone in the six-member cast turned in a stellar, witty performance. We laughed out loud, both at Shakespeare's lines and their delivery, as well as at the glosses the cast added along the way.
The Shakespeare in the Park 2014 schedule continues through the end of August, and I couldn't more highly recommend it.

Dinner with Good Friends at Sultan's

When you go out to eat with a restaurateur friend, let him choose the restaurant. That's what the lovely Robin and I did last night on a double-dinner-date with our friends Pat and Lori Lanni (Pat is an owner of the excellent Paesano's in Oxford, Ohio). We ended up at Sultan's Mediterranean Cuisine in Cincinnati (West Chester Township).

We had not previously eaten there, so it was an added treat to discover a new dining destination.
 I had the Shepherd's Salad, which brought back memories of Israel (to which Robin and I will return in March 2014...you should come. See more here).
 My entree was the Special Beyti (above), a Turkish dish of lamb (hidden under the pita wraps), grilled on a skewer and garnished with pickled cabbage, lettuce, carrots, and tomato.
What a treat. The meal was excellent, the service was efficient but not intrusive, and the company couldn't have been better. Sultan's is located at 7305 Tylers Corners Drive in West Chester Township, off Tylersville Road near I-75.  

Northkill (Site of the Hochstetler Massacre)

Some years ago on a drive across Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to stop near Shartlesville (off I-80) and visit the site of the Sept. 20, 1757, Hochstetler massacre (the historical marker, above, records an incorrect date). On that morning, during the French and Indian War, a small Delaware war party surrounded the home of Jacob Hochstetler, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. The young teenage sons Joseph and Christian reached for their hunting rifles in an attempt to kill or scare off the attackers, but their father, true to their Christian pacifism, did not allow them to kill the attackers even at the risk of their own lives. 
The photo above shows the drive leading to the site of the homestead. The war party killed the mother, an infant daughter, and the youngest son. The father, Jacob, and his sons Joseph and Christian were taken captive and sent to three different clans; all three eventually escaped or were released into white society. 

Above is the Northkill Creek, for which the area and the Amish settlement--the first organized congregation in North America--were named.
The clearing above, west of the massacre site, may have been traversed by the raiding party as they led the Hochstetlers into captivity.
The European-born children, Barbara and John, were already married in 1757, living on farms nearby, and were unharmed. The rise on which the farmhouse above sits may be the approximate site of John's home at the time.

Though I was not able on that visit to see the actual massacre site (the current owners were not at home), I hope someday to return. Even without standing on the exact spot, it was a "pinch me" place for me.

The Hochstetler family website contains more information about the massacre here.

Tragedy in Eden Park

The lovely Robin and I carried our Panera salads to Seasongood Pavilion in Cincinnati's Eden Park for a Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet. A good crowd assembled to see the Bard's most famous play.
The cast of six actors did a marvelous job, as always. Robin and I tried to recall how long we've been enjoying the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's offerings, and couldn't be sure. More than a dozen years, we're pretty sure. And we've taken in the free Summer offerings in the park for three or four years, we think.
This production is the first time the actors were mic'd, at least as well as we recall, and that seemed to add nicely to the crowd's enjoyment. 
This balcony scene was ably played by the leads, Charlie Cromer and Maggie Lou Rader.
 The children in the crowd seemed to be engaged throughout (but then, I was, too, so maybe I just wasn't distracted by them).
The shows continue all month in locations throughout the Cincinnati area, alternating venues and productions of Romeo and Juliet with A Midsummer Night's Dream. We hope to catch the latter at the Vinoklet Winery in Colerain Township in a couple weeks. Even if you're not a Shakespeare fan, I highly recommend these free showings; they're accessible, very ably produced, directed, staged, and acted, and make a great date night or even family night. 

The Makoto Fujimura Exhibit

 Upon arrival on the campus of Cairn University this week, I was surprised--and inexpressibly delighted--to find on display in the Connie Eastburn Gallery of the Biblical Learning Center (where my classes and conferences are taking place) an exhibit by internationally-renowned artist Makoto Fujimura.
Above is the full-size canvas of the frontispiece, "Consider the Lilies," which appears opposite the first page of Matthew's Gospel in the book. It is one of three (see also below) canvases on the walls of the exhibit.
"Prodigal God," above, appears opposite the opening of Luke's Gospel.
And "In the Beginning," above, is reproduced in the book facing the first words of John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word." 

I'm thrilled to have gotten to see these full-size paintings and the illuminated book in which they are reproduced. As beautiful as they appear in these photos, it is impossible to fully capture the breathtaking beauty of the real thing. Stunning. 

Thank you, Connie Eastburn Gallery and Cairn University, for the joy of seeing these works--a wholly unexpected blessing in my travels. 

Cairn University, Langhorne PA

I arrived last night (with my friends Chris and Quentin) at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, held on the campus of Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. 
It is my first time ever on this lovely campus, and it happens to be Cairn University's hundredth anniversary this year. Its history dates to 1913, though in a different location, under different names, and as two separate institutions which merged in 1951 to form Philadelphia Bible Institute, a school which offered only three-year diplomas and focused primarily on the training of lay people. In 1958, PBI became Philadelphia College of Bible and began to offer a four-year program leading to the Bachelor of Science in Bible degree. In 1979, the College relocated from Center City Philadelphia to the Bucks County suburb of Langhorne, Pennsylvania and in 2000 it became Philadelphia Biblical University. In 2012, the university’s Board of Trustees changed the name to Cairn University, in an effort to overcome the perception that the University’s educational offerings were limited and had a narrow vocational focus (according to the school's website).

The conference here, which started Wednesday and runs through Saturday afternoon, offers numerous workshops, plenary sessions (usually in the chapel, above), appointments with editors and agents, and more. It is a whirlwind of teaching and activity designed to equip and encourage Christians to "write His answer," as the conference's website says. 
Most of the classes, workshops, and appointments take place in the Biblical Learning Center on campus.
 And the sprawling campus offers puhlenty of opportunity to walk. And walk. And walk. But though it rained heavily through this morning and into the afternoon, the setting is thoroughly enjoyable and worth the walk.