The final episode of The Defenders is here, with the ultimate conclusion of the epic story of teamwork, struggle, and heroics.
Tensions rise in this fourth and penultimate episode of The Defenders!
The third episode of The Defenders is released to the wilds of the internet! Reaching the forest, our heroes set out to find the third clue and hopefully outsmart Martin Smarts.
And with the ultimate reveal of who our villain is at the end of the last episode, the teaser at the beginning of the episode has changed slightly to include Martin Smarts. And so here's that video!
The second episode of The Defenders is released!. With the help of the first clue, the team sets out to the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, looking for the next clue. But our villain awaits in the shadows...
Today is the official internet release of the first episode of The Defenders, the series we created for Kidz Camp 2016! In this episode, we introduce our superhero team and their abilities, the mission, and hints of a mysterious villain.
Hello there, and welcome back to the blog! I've been busy with lots of things, but I'll be getting this website back up and running regularly as soon as I get back from camping. For now, however, I'm going to be releasing the videos that I and the rest of the Kidz Camp drama team had a part in creating for the kids at the beginning of August.
For your enjoyment, I'm starting off releasing the first teaser trailer, which we played on Sunday evening, at the first chapel time at camp. I hope you enjoy it and that you get excited for more to come. These might be the best skits we've made to date!
And here is the last video from our skits for Kidz Camp in 2015. This one may be my favorite, because there's a part near the end where I always tear up. It's so good, and I'm always so blessed to be making these sorts of things with the most wonderful people.
Here's to this year's videos and their completion!
Our penultimate video from last year's Kidz Camp skits! Hope you enjoy.
We're back with the third episode of last year's Kidz Camp skits. This time, we introduce my good friend Anthony Weisensel to the cast. Hope you enjoy!
Oops, I'm late with this video. Which is ironic, because I've been working on video projects all last week--I'm not sure how this one was forgotten. But it is here now, so enjoy the second episode of our videos from last year's Kidz Camp!
As we count down to Kidz Camp 2016, here's something to check out: The first episode of the videos we made for Kidz Camp 2015! It's a bit on the longer side, and to be entirely honest, if I could, I would probably go back and trim it up a bit. But I still love it in its incarnation as it exists, and so I hope you will too.
This episode stars two of my favorite people: my friend Sarah Kaveggia and my grandmother!
Over the next several Fridays, I will be slowly releasing to the public for the first time the full videos that were recorded and edited last year for the summer kid's camp that my church puts on in August. We got great feedback from the kids (and counselors) over the course of the week on how much they liked it, and to this day I think it's the best story we've managed to pull off in video form.
The teaser I'm releasing today is only thirty seconds long, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the silliness that the series is going to have. If you decide to tag along for the ride as I go back through these videos and release them, I hope you enjoy watching the story that we crafted despite its weirdness at times.
Without further ado... the intro.
As I said yesterday, it's been a while since I've posted regularly, and as such, a lot of things have happened since then, like Kidz Camp and the student leader camping trip, two of my favorite things that I do every year. In this blog post, I'll catch you up on what's been up with me, and some of the cool things God has been doing in my life.
The first thing I did after taking a break from this blog was go to Kidz Camp. And by Kidz Camp, I mean I went up to Skylodge Christian Camp in Montello and spent a week with some of my favorite people on Earth, teaching kids about the Gospel. And man, what a week it was.
My adventure began early on Saturday morning, after a stressful, sleepless night tossing and turning over problems I had been facing the week before. I decided to put all of my problems behind me and focus on the here and now--mainly, that the rest of the skit team and I were headed up early to finish the filming for the funny film series that was going to be shown to the kids throughout the week. After an eventful road trip, we made it up there safe and sound and started filming. It was hot, sweaty, fast-paced work, but it was also just what I needed to get my mind off my troubles. And before I knew it, the situation I had been so worried about was worked out too, and I was fully in Kidz Camp mode, everything at home left fully behind me.
That night turned out to be one of the best nights of my life. We did something we have never done before at the counselor meetings prior to the kids arriving on Sunday afternoon--we were the campers again. Some of the kids (children of some of the counselors) were up at Skylodge early, and so in a night of fun and letting go, us counselors became the kids and the kids were in charge of us. It was the greatest thing to just pretend to be a kid again--to laugh, to joke around with the other counselors, to just have fun for a change without any other worries hounding me. Around the campfire that evening, I shared from the deepest part of my heart how much that had really meant to me, and how relieved, recharged, and prepared I know felt for the week of ministry ahead.
And then Kidz Camp happened. And I was reminded once again (as I almost constantly am) how much I love children. The week flew by and before I knew it, I was back in Janesville again, but what an amazing experience it was. Loving on kids is one of my absolute favorite things to do, and as I said above, I got to do it with some of my very favorite people.
One thing that stood out to me about the week, in particular, was how great my brother Connor is at being in the moment with kids. He might have been the person with the most consistent energy and focus the entire week, and in a week where a lot of us were tired and dragging, that was a great help. Connor handles kids extraordinarily well, simultaneously loving on them and guiding them towards the behavior that they should portray, and I'd like the world to know how proud I am of him.
After getting home from Skylodge, a week of preparation and daily routine commenced. Though it was often stressful and filled with ups and downs, one of the main things that got me through the week was the fact that the wonderful Anna Jewell was back in town and I got to spend a lot of time with her.
The main event of the week was the wedding of one of my good friends, Amber Cole (now Amber Mileusnich) to her now-husband, Brian. Anna and I got to sing two beautiful hymns and a wonderful wedding song by Matthew West at the wedding, and it was a blast. From practicing the songs, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, and driving there and back from both, every part of the process was great, and it was fantastic to send off one of my old friends into a new chapter of her life. Plus, I got to spend a lot of time with some of my favorite people--my dad, my friends Sarah and Miranda, the ever-lovely Anna, and of course, Amber herself.
It was a great little interlude between Kidz Camp and the student leader camping trip, and I'm glad I got to be there, even if the week was sort of stressful because of all the things having to be packed into it. The next morning, Sunday, bright and early, it was time to go camping in the middle of nowhere.
Student Leader Camping Trip
Every year in August, a group of youth from Faith Community Church who are serious about their faith (we call them student leaders) go on a camping trip into the Nicolet National Forest, five hours north of Janesville. It's one of my favorite things we do all year, and I'm always looking forward to it. This year did not disappoint. We had some of the best student leaders we've ever had, and this trip might be the best ever in terms of overall attitude and stability. I can't remember (or at least didn't hear) a single word of complaint, a single bad attitude, a single unkind word. Everyone got along, everyone loved each other, and everyone was responsible and caring. When the camp needed to be cleaned up, we all got up and did it, and it was done. And I came away from the trip with such a pride and overwhelming feeling of gratitude for these kids.
And yeah, they've kinda become my kids. I've started to make the transition in my head from student to youth leader, and I'm okay with that. As much as I like to romanticize the past and the great memories I've had with people over the years, I've come to the stark realization that I don't want life to go back to being the way it was. I like the direction I'm headed, and I'm excited to see what God does with me as I walk with Him. And being in this youth group as a leader and role-model is a big part of that.
Oh, we rowed a log like a canoe, by the way, across the entire lake. Multiple times. It was kind of the best thing ever.
The Weeks Since Then
I've been trying to make the most of my time since the camping trip ended. I don't know if I've really done the best job of it, but I tried anyway. From working to hanging with friends to getting ready for college to trying to spend as much time as possible with the girl that I love before she heads off back to Missouri, it's been a crazy week and a half. Tomorrow, Anna and Miranda head back off to college, and I start getting the final bits of preparation done for the start of my own college classes. Life returns to a routine, like it always does after the craziness of summer is over. But that's okay. I'm looking forward to the routine, actually. I'm looking forward to learning and growing, not just academically, but artistically, and emotionally, and spiritually. It's going to be an interesting semester, but I've got the God of the universe cheering for me and leading me every step of the way, so I'm ready to take the plunge, no matter how icy cold and shocking the water is.
Thanks for reading everyone, and stay tuned for more posts coming this week.
I'll be honest with you, there's still a lot of work to do on the Kidz Camp skits. I've done a rough edit of the first episode, and gotten lots of the music ready, but as for actual editing? That's gonna be done today, tomorrow, and Sunday (and possibly Monday) with whatever time I have. We're actually going up early tomorrow morning to Skylodge to film the last two episodes' content (yeah, we haven't even finished filming yet). Suffice it to say, it's going to be a crazy week ahead of me.
And because of that crazy week, I don't have the time to write much more on this post than I already have. I was going to try and get the other posts ready to go, but some of them just aren't going to be able to happen, due to an absolute crazy week. And there's not much else to say, either. Wish me luck, my friends!
Well, I've decided to take a break from video games. Probably until we get back from the Student Leader Camping Trip in mid-August. I've definitely been indulging myself much more than I should, and not being very productive as a result. I've very much enjoyed the games I've gotten to play this summer, namely The Last of Us, Lords of Magic, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, and Rocket League (all of which I'll probably talk about in more detail before the summer is over), it's time to take a break again. Focus on more important things, like getting the Kidz Camp skits finished, making sure I'll be caught up on this blog before heading out for Kidz Camp, and getting back into To Look Skyward before all of the time left to me is gone.
Over the years, I've had long cycles of being obsessed with different games and then not playing video games at all. I think that's been mostly beneficial to me, in that I had periods of rest where I just get to enjoy myself a little bit, kick back, and experience a story, and then periods where I try to stay as focused as possible to get things that are important done. My free time becomes work time (luckily, most of the things I work on are quite enjoyable for me to do, such as writing), and that's okay.
I wish I could find a better balance between play and work, talking much more of an "all things in moderation" approach, but that's just not how my brain is wired, as I've discovered over my childhood. I always tend to get obsessed with one thing for a few weeks or months, and then the passion fades and I get obsessed with something else. I can definitely renew passion for a project by just being involved with it, and that's something that I've taken advantage of many times when I'm feeling particularly inspired, but it always helps when my passion and what I should be getting done align.
I tend to just try to use my obsessive tendencies to my benefit. I commit to working on the thing I'm obsessed with all-out, and if that thing is writing a book, then yay! If it's a video game, I just try to take as much out of that game as I can, whether that be worldbuilding ideas, ideas for stories, advice for storytelling, or simply an idea for a game I myself might be able to work on someday. As I've said before, I like to stick my finger into as many pies as possible and then see what tastes good, what sticks.
Right now, I'm gonna focus on being productive with my time, from the beginning of my day to its end. I told my brother to punch me in the face if I played a video game (and he enthusiastically promised that he would), and so that should give me some motivation as well. Now I just need to work on conquering my compulsive habit of scrolling down Facebook for an hour at a time. But hey, at least I'm writing this blog post right now. That's something productive, right? Talking about how I need to be more productive? Hmm. I'm not actually sure now.
Anyway, I'm gonna work on that, and hopefully that should start to get me producing more content. more consistently for y'all to enjoy. And I challenge you to do the same thing I'm doing--take a break from consuming media all the time and start making some of your own. You'd be surprised how much that can fulfill you. Thanks, as always, for reading.
The work has begun on the videos for Kidz Camp! I'm pretty excited about them this year, and I hope the kids will enjoy watching them as much as we'll enjoy putting them together. We have a total of ten videos to film, edit, and produce by the time the camp rolls around (Saturday, the 25th), five of those being the main story of the week, the other five being shorter, funny videos designed to grab the kids' attentions just before signing up for Third Activity (and I don't have time to explain the entire schedule, so believe me when I say the kids get extremely rowdy right around then).
The story for the main videos revolves around the character of Timothy Trips-A-Lot, who is hopelessly clumsy and hopes that getting his name legally changed will mark the beginning of a new life without as much tripping over himself. Along the way he meets many characters, all with weird legally changed names that have their own stories to tell. There's not really much of a moral to the story, but it's going to be fun, and that's really all that matters for the skits. The kids get plenty of good Bible-learnin' during the lesson times, anyway.
We (and by we, I mean Connor, my friend AJ and I) have already filmed two of the five short, funny videos, though I have yet to edit them, and we're really excited to show those to people. They should be hilarious after the proper post-production work is done on them. The first of these videos is also the first of a little series that my brother Connor and I have been dreaming of making for years now... Stupid Random Funny Clips. They are collections of short little clips that are supposed to be extremely random and not make much sense. Think non-repeating Vines or ASDF videos (except Connor and I thought of this idea long before either of those were around). The second of these is a little video I like to call "The Janitor Games", in which Connor and AJ play janitors (er, custodians) trying to clean the fastest, the coolest, and the bestest they can.
Well, I should really get started on editing those, so I will sign off. Next week, the day before we head off to Kidz Camp, I'll release some sort of teaser of some of the videos I'll have been working on over that time. And after they're all finished and we're back from Kidz Camp, I'll release them all on here for y'all to enjoy. Thanks for reading!
We have less than two weeks until Kidz Camp begins. Everyone is getting ready--worship team just finished our final main practice before getting to Skylodge today, and the filming for the skits begins tomorrow. I thought it might be pertinent, since it's a topic that's going to be on a lot of people's minds in the next several days, to share some of my thoughts from a previous year--Kidz Camp 2013, one of my favorite years of all time (not only for Kidz Camp, but the year in general). Enjoy :)
I used to be scared of the future, and to an extent I still am. But something significant has changed in my life.
I use to think to myself, "Wow, the world is so messed up. No one is following God, and even those who say they do are compromising on very important issues. America is going downhill." I would get depressed thinking about trying to be a Christian in a future America, let alone trying to raise a godly family in that sort of environment.
This past year, my outlook has begun to change. This week in particular has really made me reevaluate my thinking.
All throughout history there have been ups and downs--periods where the majority of people in a given country have followed God and have been blessed for it, and then periods where darkness has become the status quo, and the church compromises and gets to a low point.
But it always returns--there is always a rejuvenation in the culture, and life is breathed into the world again. No matter how dark it may get, the light of a single candle is all it takes to pierce it. And through it all, God never leaves us. His promises are true in the dark times and the times of joy.
Statistics say that only 10% of the people in a society have to believe passionately about something for the culture to begin to shift. If all of us, as Christians, stood up for Christ and DID something about the state of our country, it could change overnight. But we sit on our butts and let the 10% in charge of society right now dictate where we are headed.
This past week I’ve been at a Christian camp in Montello, Wisconsin, pouring out myself and being poured into at the same time. I’ve been humbled,strengthened, and blessed beyond anything I thought possible.
This year’s camp theme was God’s creation. Our culture has been indoctrinated with atheism and evolution for years and years, slowly being pulled away from the truth of Earth’s history and being brainwashed with revisionist history and what many would call, “scientific fact” but what is really just a bunch of assumptions believed through blind faith. The truth about the special design of the universe and how everything points to it has been all but erased from popular culture.
I have heard this topic dozens of times—my dad has taught the subject at youth group often, as well as at camp seven years ago, and we as a family are always reading about it and learning more about what the Bible has to say about the beginning of history. But this time, I came away with something new.
The world is messed up right now, it’s true. But that doesn't mean it can’t change, it doesn't mean we can’t be the ones to do something about it, and it DOES NOT mean that God is any less true or any less good. We, as Christians, have a responsibility to the world to show it the truth, to be salt and light—preserving and illuminating—for a depraved generation. And the time to do this is not in twenty years, or in one year—it’s now.
“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
We, as teenagers, and yes, even those that are younger, like the kids I worked with at Kidz Camp this past week, are not the generation of tomorrow—we are the generation of TODAY. If we start today, if we have the courage to stop nodding our heads at the things we know are wrong, if we have the humility to give ourselves fully to Christ and live a life pleasing to him, if we have the faith to go boldly into the future with God at our side—nothing can stop us.
I admit, that scares me. Even as I write this, I am challenging myself with the same concept. I said I was ALL IN at a youth conference in Chicago this April, but did I mean it, and am I willing to actually live it?
Yes. Yes, I am. I have struggled with many things throughout my young life—sins, attitudes, procrastination—but as I sit here in my house after being gone for a week, being filled with the Holy Spirit countless times, and really FEELING God’s presence throughout that week, I really am ready to take that step.
I look down—my shoes are red. A reminder to myself that it will be a hard road. Blood will be on this road, dirt will be on this road, pain, heartache, weakness, and despair will be on this road. But my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is on this road. And so shall I be as well.
God breathed life into me, and it’s time I gave him that breath back—all of it. I owe him that much, at the very least. After all the pain and suffering He went through to save me from an eternity of separation from Him, the holy God of the universe stepping into his creation and dying for it—I have to realize that fact. I belong to God, and if I don’t live my life for Him, then what else is there?
Nothing. Without God, there is no purpose—and that’s why this makes so much sense. The world is too beautifully created to be an accident. Everything points to that fact. And though some would willingly ignore and reject God, I won’t be among their ranks.
You know that fence we all hang on at one point or another, the one that divides the followers of God from those who reject him? I just kicked it down. Yes, it hurts. Yes, giving up things I know are not godly is going to make me bleed, but it is so worth it. The blood on my shoes is a reminder to me.
A reminder that Jesus bled for me. I can do the same for Him. It will never measure up to His sacrifice, but I owe him too much to not try.
The last night of camp I prayed. Prayed more diligently and purposefully then I think I ever have in my life. And I promised God and myself that I would take the first step. That if I was the only one in this generation who would follow Him, I would do it.
But that’s what’s amazing—I’m not the only one. I have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding me, my friends, my family, my church. And together, we can change the world. This generation can change EVERYTHING.
We can be the candle in the dark room. We can be the fire that burns pure. We can be the hope that this broken, fallen world desperately needs. But we can’t do it without God.
And so we are stepping out. I take a step forward, and I look around. Who will join me? Am I alone in a crowd of people that don’t care about the truth? But then I see it. Their feet—they have the same shoes. Red shoes, like mine. They have bled. They have trusted. They will fight.
An army steps forward.
I’m not saying we won’t stumble. I’m not saying we won’t be angry at God sometimes, or be hurting so much we want to give up. But I am saying we will keep each other accountable. I am saying that we will lift each other up, and strengthen each other, and love each other. I am saying that we will give everything we have. For we have seen the light at the end of this broken road we walk, and it is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen.
And so there we shall go.
“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” –Proverbs 4:25
That is my prayer for all of us. That we focus our eyes on Jesus and never look back. The army takes another step. And then they begin to sing.
“Hosanna, we are found after all. You are holy.”
Today begins the first phase of preparation for Kidz Camp, the week-long summer camp put on by my church, Faith Community Church in Janesville, and People's Church in Beloit. We go up to Skylodge Christian Camp and proceed to have an absolute blast. I've been at every single camp, mainly because my mother runs it, first as a small child running around causing mischief, then as an official camper, then as an unofficial helper/counselor, and finally as an official counselor for the past several years.
Kidz Camp has forever been a defining week in every year of my life since it began. It was always incredibly special for me as a kid, and now it fills my heart with joy getting to facilitate the same kind of special fun for others kid that were just like me. And now I get to be a large part of the preparation for that week of fun. This year, I'm part of the worship team lead by the amazing Audra Dobson, as I have been for most of my years as a counselor, as well as one of the main brains in charge of the series of skits that we do for the kids.
The times of worship and praise via songs at Kidz Camp have famously been one of everyone's favorite times during the week, both as a camper and a counselor. It's the time you get to let loose, be crazy, scream and shout about how awesome God is, and also the time you get to be serious about realizing that same fact--God is amazing and we have the honor and privilege of worshipping Him, and that is something we can't take for granted.
Undoubtedly, many of the most poignant moments for me have been playing a guitar and singing before a group of kids and seeing them really connect with God through the songs. And even though sometimes we as a Christian culture put too much emphasis on the "worship experience", it is still a very real way that people can honor God and communicate with Him, and it is always really cool to see that happening with so many kids.
It's been interesting to be able to see every step of Kidz Camp's evolution over the years. The way the format has changed (and stayed the same), and the way the music and drama and games have shifted based on what is available and what connects with the kids. We've had a worship team consisting of the classic electric guitars, bass, drums, all the loud crazy instruments, and the past few years we've had a much more laid back acoustic, minimalistic set-up that has an entirely different feel to it.
I'm excited to see what this year has in store, both for us as counselors and leaders and the campers experiencing the wonder and fun of camp, some for the first time. I'm excited to be able to sing once again with some of my favorite people in a setting that I love and miss so very much. I'm excited to step out of the church van onto Skylodge soil and feel like I've never left.
And I cannot wait to see what God has in store for this year. Kidz Camp 2015.