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    Back in the days before playlists and Spotify, we had mixtapes. For those not from the 80’s and 90’s, a mixtape was simply a unique collection of songs from various artists copied onto one cassette tape. You could listen to ONLY your favorite songs, right in a row! You could even take them with you, and listen on your Walkman! It was amazing!

    Mixtapes fell into a few categories. First, if you were short on funds and could not buy all the latest releases, you could cue up a blank cassette, turn on the radio and wait. And wait. Then pounce on the “record” button as soon as your heard your favorite song. Do this 10 or 11 more times, and you could get a cassette of your favorite songs (generally missing the first 3 seconds of each because you couldn't react quick enough or having a song cut off because the tape on that side ran out). The more sophisticated among us acquired double cassette decks, which allowed us to record from the original tape straight to our mix, making for better audio quality and hardly any songs getting chopped too early or late.

    Second, all good dating relationships involved at least one mixtape—it was our contribution to the “things are getting serious” historical timeline between composing sonnets and “chatting online" for, like, two hours every day. You could use a mixtape to initiate a relationship, to memorialize the soundtrack of your current relationship, or if things went sideways you might have to go full on "Lloyd Dobbler" to woo her back. (SPOILER ALERT: It worked!)

    One of the cassette companies had a marketing slogan that the Walkman generation probably remembers: “Is it live? Or is it Memorex?” While trying to hype the high audio quality of their cassettes, they tangentially raised the question: “If the recording is that good, why bother going to the concert?”

    As technology has advanced and efficiencies are improved, the question is amplified. Why bother going to the game or the theater, when you have HD screen and surround in your living room? Why go to a meeting in person, when you can Go To Meeting™ online? Why talk to two people when you can tweet to two hundred million?

    And, of course, I have had to wrestle with this question for Sandy Cove. For over 70 years people have been coming to this property to enjoy God’s creation, hear solid Bible teaching, and eat delicious food (and plenty of it!), but it's terribly inefficient to drive all that way to get here—not to mention waiting around between meetings. Are retreats, conferences, and camps at Sandy Cove obsolete? Are they going the way of floppy disks and telephone books?

    I’m going to say “no” for a few reasons. Thinking through this question has helped us to be intentional as we stir the secret sauce at Sandy Cove so that the answer remains “no.”

    Get Away

    Even a cursory scan of Scripture shows us that God does a lot of work when people are “away” from their normal context. We have already talked about how creation can help us connect with God. Yes, it is terribly inefficient to have to show up somewhere to experience the benefit, but that's OK.

    I gave one of these Instant Inflatable Windows to Stephen, our President/CEO, a few years ago, because our offices had no windows (and I'm a funny guy). But even though it showed a lovely beach, we can all agree it is a poor substitute for toes in the sand. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then being there is worth a million words. Or maybe no words at all.


    FaceTime is great if your grandkids live 3,000 miles away, but it can’t replace actual face-to-face interaction. Sorry Apple, it just can’t. There’s no substitute for sitting around a table full of food to build relationships and find community.

    Bible teaching

    In this time and place, there's not a scarcity of content. If you have a smartphone, it's easy to find good Bible teaching. We don’t believe the church is lacking in Bible teaching, but more in the processing and application of it—like the seed that gets snatched away by the birds. We will always have Bible teaching at Sandy Cove, but we are not shooting for a “content dump.” Our goal is not to have people trying to drink from a fire hose, just to go home wet and thirsty. So we build in time after teaching for reflection. We call it Spaghetti Time—when you “throw it against the wall and see what sticks!”

    White Space

    This is the part of the program where there are no words. It's white space—a time when there's nothing on the schedule. It is amazing how many valuable things happen in white space. Like naps! Conversations over coffee. Taking a walk. Just sitting and staring at the water. It's so inefficient but so good for us.

    These 4 things are on our mixtape. And maybe we are analog while everyone is going digital. But as people encounter the limitations of the digital experience, the pendulum is swinging back to old school.

    It is not Memorex—but it is live! So come on over. We’ll cue up the boombox!

    Nate Ransil
    Nate joined the Program department at Sandy Cove in 2003, and transitioned to director of that team in 2014. Nate graduated from Houghton College with a double major in Communication and Outdoor Recreation (yes, it is a thing) and got to know his wife Evelyn while co-leading backpacking trips for at-risk youth. Hopefully not as at-risk are their two sons, Caleb and TJ, who have spent all their summers at Sandy Cove, Camp Sandy Cove, and The MARSH! Nate enjoys being outside, being inside, being handy, the beach, snowboarding, roller coasters, training aardvarks, bodybuilding, contributing to quantum theory, and making up fanciful, if not entirely accurate, biographical details.
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