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Church services at The Orchard this summer have been good. Usually when summer comes our numbers drop a little because of the college students that attend are home for the summer. Or off working somewhere. Or just traveling and seeing cool stuff. But usually, most of them are not in Oxford.

But this summer our numbers didn’t drop significantly because many of our college students stuck around Oxford taking summer school or getting jobs. So summer was a nice time to get to know them better, and we also saw a few new families start to attend during the summer. Plus often times we had many counselors from Camp Lake Stephens attend too.

But when fall gets near we know to expect an uptick in attendance. But no way to really gage it though. We averaged about 115 from the Sunday after Ole Miss’ exams were done through the last weekend before classes started. I preached on August 15th to about 135 people. The next weekend, the 22nd was “Move In” weekend. Classes for Ole Miss started the next day.

On that morning we saw familiar faces showing up. Then some we’d not seen around the Orchard in a few months. And then new faces. And more new faces. And more and more! We started finding folding chairs in the storage room. We took all the chairs out of the Kids’ Ministry rooms. And we ran out of chairs! We had people sitting on the floor, standing in corners, out in the hallways… There were over 250 people there! I was quite surprised. We practically doubled from the week before.

I joked with myself that my awesome message the week before brought everyone in. But really, I don’t know what the catalyst was. And we start wondering how to prepare for the next week.  Pat is preaching a series on Biblical Friendship and I think it hit home with many people. But so many of the new faces were college students.

This morning I woke up to get ready for church. It was grey and raining outside. I thought, “hmm.” I figured the rain would keep people in bed or just in their homes. So we wouldn’t have to move as many chairs around.

We still set up a few chairs in the overflow room, but didn’t know what to expect. The service at The Orchard starts at 10:30. It stops raining about 10ish. There are a few people there. But then it happens again. A steady trickle becomes a stream. And soon we’re scrambling for chairs again. Taking the chairs from the kids again. And having people sit/stand everywhere. It didn’t seem quite as crazy this time, but there were actually more people there today than last week. The parking lot was an insurance adjuster’s nightmare with all those cars parked so tightly and all those college girls trying to maneuver around!

Now people are suggesting knocking out walls and other major remodeling projects. I’m interested to see how many people coming on Sunday mornings shift to the evening service that will begin on September 12th. But running out of space is a good problem to (temporarily) have.

It’s been an exciting two weekends. Seeing your church attendance double. But we’ve got to continue to seek God in how to connect everyone that’s coming to God and to each other. Provide community both big and small for them. And to create space, whether that means extra services or expanded rooms. So if you’ve read this far (and I’ll admit that I left out a lot of details I wanted to put in. I’m trying to get better at that) I ask that you pray that we, The Orchard, seek God and His wisdom for what our next steps should be.

Next weekend is a holiday weekend. No one has school on Monday and many people are off of work. Will people be traveling? BUT…it’s Ole Miss’ first home game of the season! Will more people be in town and come to church? We’ll see.

I guess that’s part of being in a town centered around a university. But things ebb and flow here. But I have to admin I like the changing of the seasons. And in some ways it’s almost a changing of the cultures. The city has approx 20k folks, but then you have about 16k college students that come in and out of the city it makes a difference. Plus there’s another 50 or so thousand that like to come to football games, it makes Oxford interesting.

But school started back for Ole Miss this week. And that means that parking places on The Square are now at a premium again. Restaurants are crowded. And coffee shops are lively. Right now I’m sitting in High Point Coffee (drinking a Vitamin Water (coffee…blech)) and I see quite a group of varied people.

  • A table with five middle eastern women and their baby.
  • A table with a 60ish year old man in a three piece suit reading the paper.
  • A few tables of college girls looking over notebooks
  • A dad and son have been waiting on their daughter/sis to get here. She just did.
  • Various guys and ladies hunkered over their laptops.
  • People come in with strollers to greet people, grab a cup of something, and then leave again.
  • Books are being read.
  • Scones are being ordered.
  • The grinder is grinding constantly.
  • Someone is wearing a coat and a toboggan on their head even though it is 64 degrees
  • And over the sound system I have heard Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and other poppy songs from about 10 years ago. I don’t know who’s working today, but their style of music is different from what it usually is.

But it’s good to be back, experiencing the busyness. Soon baseball will start up and crowds will return. And the Rebel Baseball team will probably under achieve once again (hope so!) But it feels good. Maybe it just feels good because I can wear short sleeves right now, but it was about 14 degrees less than two weeks ago!

Last year I saw Kem Meyer’s video of her running a 5K in South Bend, IN. I was impressed at the video making capabilities. And the genius of her actually shooting video while running.

Well two weeks ago was the Double Decker 10K race here in Oxford, MS. I was grossly unprepared too. The hills would be my nemesis. And since I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any personal records I decided to make a video of it as well. Here it is.

Double Decker Run 09 from Blake Thompson on Vimeo.

Three Free Books

03/08/2009

So this week I got three free books. Looking forward to each of them.

The first one is Mad Church Disease. It was written by Anne Jackson. She grew up in the home of a pastor and has worked as a staff member of a church for quite a while. And she’s witnessed and experienced first hand the dangers of burnout related to ministry jobs. And in Mad Church Disease she explored those dangers and pitfalls closely. I was able to get this for free because I won the contest on the books Facebook page. I won it back in the fall of ’07. Seemed that it would take forever to get my prize. But it’s here now.

The next two were because of a gift card I’d received for my birthday. But I got Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll and Crazy Love by Frances Chan. Both came highly recommended.

Mark Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Interesting city. Interesting church. And it’s quite a conservative church when compared to the local culture of the Northwest. Mark Driscoll says somethings sometimes that really have rubbed some people the wrong way. But I usually appreciate the heart from which he communicates from. He can make you crack up now and then too. Vintage Church is his look at the Biblical model for church, how it is structured and effectively in action.

Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, is about what a life that is truly and passionately in love with Jesus would look like. How would that love affect the person and the way they lived their life. Francis is pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. Great communicator with a heart for the scriptures. I’ve heard him speak a time or two and get his podcast sometimes too. Check him out.

So..those are my new free books. Hopefully I’ll spend some time reading them soon. When I do I’ll give a quick review!

My wife is always wanting to be helpful. She wants me to be “successful” too. So sometimes she realizes I need a little bit of a boost to get rolling. So we talked about different ideas for a video to make for the church about small groups. But she went ahead and and started calling people setting up interviews to get feedback about why people at The Orchard here in Oxford, MS enjoy small groups.

She kept telling me she was “helping me” when really she was nudging me to help myself. But I appreciate her a ton for it. It turned out to be fun and makes me ready to do the next one…what ever it happens to be. But with a few interview appointments spread out over a few days and some friends in town over the weekend too, I pushed back the editing of the video til last night. Like really got started at about 11:30pm. And then the re-edits and tweaks that no one else would probably notice kept me going back over it. So I finished around 3am [aided by the fact this was my first time to use iMovie08] so we could show it in church today. But I’m all good.

Anyhow, here it is. It’s not perfect. But it was fun and a learning experience. I hope for more to come soon. Tell me what you think in the comment.

Small Groups (@ The Orchard) Promo from Blake Thompson on Vimeo.

So after a tumultuous season of Fantasy Football things are now over. And I would congratulate whoever won, but I can’t do it now. Because how self centered would it be if I were to congratulate MYSELF for winning the the whole thing? I mean, I won the Orchard Oxford 2008 Fantasy Football League.

And it would be like tooting my own horn or something if I were to say, “Congratulations, Blake!” Plus it would also seem weird if I started talking to myself in 3rd person. My wife would give me a sideways glance but the people I work with might start questioning my sanity. And how lame would it be on top of all that? I mean, it’s just fantasy football, right?

So, since I am not able to congratulate the winner of the 2008 Fantasy Football season here with The Orchard, I’ll just post a small screen cap of the winners.

orchard-oxford-fantasy-football-final-results

So I’m sitting in my living room listening to the carrots boil on the stove. Everything else in here is quiet. But I can hear the pandemonium that is coming from the back of the house. My brave wife decided to take all three kids to try to get cleaned off at once. Even she got a bath out of the time back there. But it’s been loud and crazy. I’m sure there’s a lot of water on the floor too. And the carrots continue to roll around in the boiling water (we’re going to mash them up to feed to Rowan… not eat our selves).

Last night was Art With Santa for our church. It’s our 2nd annual event that happens right before the Oxford Christmas parade. Kids come in and make Christmas art projects and get to sit on Santa’s lap if they’d like to. I don’t know exactly how many showed up. But it was pretty full in The Powerhouse for about two hours. And Pat said it was at least three or four times as many people who came last year. [a few pice below].

Then afterward we walked the parade route handing out signs for kids to hold up that said “SANTA, I’VE BEEN GOOD THIS YEAR!!!” The cool thing was that on the back side was our church name and info. So hopefully we’ll have a few more people hearing of us and maybe coming by.

We’re about to eat a little supper, and then decorate the tree. We were afraid it might not fit in our house because the house in Clinton had higher ceilings. The tree is a 9 footer. But it made it barely.

Now for some ART WITH SANTA PICS:
Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Oxford Gas Prices

10/30/2008

I live in Oxford, Mississippi. And there are lots of things to be proud of if you live here. Especially if you are an Ole Miss fan. But even if you’re not (cough cough) it’s still a pretty cool place. But no place is perfect.

But one of the things I can’t understand is the gas prices here. They are ALWAYS more expensive than the towns nearby. Some say it’s because of the university here, but Hattiesburg (where USM is) always has gas cheaper than Oxford. Cheapest gas right now in Oxford is about $2.35, while in Hattiesburg you can find it for $1.99. But I can drive about 30 minutes to New Albany or Pontotoc and get gas for about 30 cents less?

Why is this? Who sets the prices? Is it the store? Is there a secret union of conveinence store owners in each zipcode that sets prices? Is it worth it to drove 25 miles for a full tank of gas and save 0.30 a gallon?

And why doesn’t some store owner just drop his price 10 or 15 cents to catch those people driving out of town and undercut the local stores a little? Seems like it’d make smart business sense? Or is real estate so high in Oxford that they have to charge that much to cover their own property expenses?

I don’t really know. But it’s crazy.

I’m sitting in High Point Coffee for a quick pit stop after paying my speeding ticket. I almost got driving school except for I was driving with a Commercial Drivers License. Nevermind that I was in a regular vehicle and the CDL was needed for my old job. I can’t wait to drop it.

But I’m uploading some pictures to print. So I came to one of the local watering holes. And it’s interesting today. Here’s what I see around me.

  • Halloween decorations: to the tune of cotton stretched to look like spiderwebs, orange lights, and big black spiders.
  • A girl with a stack of books a foot high. Most of them had Thoreau on the spine. Surely she won’t need all 9 of them while sitting here.
  • About four macbooks. One is black. Looks sweet.
  • Two guys in black suits wearing their shades inside. They didn’t’ realize that look went out when the debate left Oxford.
  • Sarah Palin is on the tv. But the sound is down so I can listen to something I can’t really pick out on XM radio.
  • About 6 junior high kids. I tried to take them for young looking high school kids, but then they got up and started moving around and removed any doubt. They they cozy up in the big chairs together and stroke each others face.
  • The above should be outlawed in some fashion.
  • New photos on the wall. They each have a little card at the bottom corner. So they’re for sale. I’ll check them out before I leave.
  • Now CNN has a story on “Atheist Business Campaigns” in London.
  • Older folk with their younger children sitting and reading at tables.
  • The junior highers finally left. Now it feels comfortable in here.
  • Tow friends talking animatedly over a magazine or something.
  • And some readers.

That’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods. What’s happening right where you are RIGHT NOW?

 

Last night The Orchard was a host for a screening of the new Invisible Children Video, GO. You probably remember me talking a bit about it last week.

Suffice to say it was pretty amazing. The turnout was less than we expected and hoped for, but the event itself was a blast. The roadies from the IC were great. Very helpful, knowledgeable, and genuine. The movie was inspiring. It told the stories of three out of 15 high school students who were allowed to go to Africa and see the effects of the money they raised. 

In turn it inspired some of them to make an even deeper commitment to helping the cause of children in northern Uganda.

And The Lyric Theater….it’s freaking amazing [or freakhog amazing]. It’s a great venue for a movie for sure. And I look forward to seeing some bands in there soon. But even the Roadies said that normally while the movie is showing they hang out at the merch table because they’ve seen/heard it so many times. But they said that The Lyric Theater in Oxford was by far the best venue they’ve been to in terms of video quality and sound quality. They said it was like watching the movie almost for the first time again.

All in all it was great night. Hope to have a better attended event next time. I think we learned a few things about getting the word out too.

Lastly, here is an older video from Invisible Children. It shows a bit about their Displace Me Campaign from a couple of years back. The more I see from these guys, the more I’m amazed with their video production skills. Plus, this video has one of my favorite songs in it too.