Fresh Coat Cleveland

Fresh Coat Cleveland
June 21 – June 27, 2008
Cleveland, OH
24-7 HFC Student Ministry
Parkway Place Baptist Church

I had the awesome opportunity to go along with our student ministry to Ohio. Our mission: to share the love of Christ in a tangible way, no strings attached. What an amazing group of teens we have! This was without a doubt the best mission trip I have been on.

We took our time getting to Cleveland over two days. I helped drive one of the vans that carried the 28 of us. The first day was a good 10 hour drive or so; the second was only 4 hours. We met with our coordinator, Laura, at the hotel. She had to give a spiel about lead paint and all that. The houses we were to work on were very old. One was built back in 1880! We split into two groups. Here’s what the houses looked like when we arrived:

I was on the team that worked on the house built in 1880. A previous team had started painting, doing much of the lower portions. The whole first day, myself, Zak, and Joel perched on a steeply inclined roof to work on some high parts. The house had wood tiles for siding. We donned masked and started scraping away the old paint. This was followed by primer, then a coat of cream-yellow paint. We were up there for a good 5 hours. Our day was cut short by a rain shower in the early afternoon.

The next day we did some touch-ups up there. Zak was called off to help at a new job site. He, Allan, and Josh built a new stair case at a different house. Meanwhile, Joel and I climbed up on another section of roof–steeper than before–and continued the task of scraping, priming, and painting. I did some trim work as well. I only saw the owner of the house once. He bought us pizza on the 2nd day. He was an elderly, Hispanic gentleman. The whole process slowed down significantly as the lower portions of the house became finished. With only one extension ladder, most of the team ran out of area to paint. So by mid-afternoon our coordinator left three people to continue working on the high parts while the rest of us went to a new job site.

We moved to a one-story brick home. For the most part, nothing had been done here. This family was wonderful! They were so friendly! We were treated to an authentic Puerto Rican meal for lunch on our 2nd day there. Chicken, rice, beans, and flan. It was pretty much amazing…my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Anyway, back to the painting. My job was pretty much trim work. I painted the windows and doorways. While I was working on the front of the house with the interns, Sarah was moving the extension ladder when she called out to me to grab the ladder. So I picked it up, but her hand went with it. Turned out she only picked up part of the ladder and the rungs slid down, smashing her hand between them. I performed a little field first-aid, splinting her hand. I couldn’t even touch it without her coming out of her skin. It was completely immobile. She refused to get an x-ray, so I had Greg get a finger splint and medical tape. We iced it a couple times and she continued to work.

We almost got that house done, but ran out of time. It was actually sad to leave there because that family was so nice. They welcomed us to come back and stay with them any time we were in the area. 🙂 Zak, Allan, and Josh were building a 2nd staircase on the third day. We picked up them and the other painting team from their site. Here’s how far they got. What a difference!

So that was about the work stuff. We also did some fun stuff, too. Monday night, we went to dinner and a movie. Impressively–and by God’s great blessing–the owner of the restaurant we ate at paid for our entire meal. That was 28 people, mind you! We saw “The Incredible Hulk” at this rinky-dink theater. Entertaining movie, but I’m pretty sure my home theater is better than what they had. LOL.

Tuesday night we went to Progressive Stadium to watch the Cleveland Indians play the Giants. I like to keep score so I did that for the game. Many of the teens weren’t too interested in watching…they were up and down out of their seats the whole game. It was a very quick, low-scoring game. It got pretty exciting toward the end, but the Indians lost. Parking was an experience. No one could take the van with the U-haul trailer. Finally we found a garage by a Catholic church. Took a while to actually park and they charge SO MUCH for it. Oh yeah, God blessed us again at dinner that night. A nun was at the restaurant and asked about our group. When told what we were doing she bought a gift card for us that covered part of our meal expense.

Driving straight from the job sites on Wednesday, we left for Sandusky, OH where the world-famous Cedar Point amusement park is located on a peninsula on Lake Erie. Driving into the park led to some pretty awed expressions and this picture:

The tall coaster on the left is their signature “Millenium Force.” It is a little over 300 ft high. I ended up riding it three times. It was pretty amazing. They also had a newer coaster called “The Maverick” which boasted a 95 degree drop (more than vertical) and many unexpected corkscrews and turns. In the middle of the picture is a yellow, narrow horse-shoe shaped coaster called “Top Thrill Dragster.” It accelerates you to 120 mph in a little under 3 seconds to a height of about 400 ft! I was pretty much scared out of my mind waiting for the light to turn green. And what a force it is when you go!

We rode every single coaster that was open (“Magnum” was not). I’d have to say that in order, my favorites were: Maverick, Millenium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and The Raptor. The latter was one of those where your feet dangle as you loop and twist around. There were a few other good ones like “Wicked Twister” which spirals straight up as you go backward and forward. “The Mantis” is one where you stand, but the worker pushed the restraints so far up that I really felt like I was sitting on a bicycle. The wooden coasters were okay but incredibly jerky. I rode most coasters in the back for the extra pull.

The hotel we stayed at was “Hotel Breakers Resort,” which is actually a part of the park, is located on the beach, and is about 100 years old. We got to go in before the park opened to the public, but that didn’t prove to be anything special. The park was still testing most of the coasters. We averaged about one ride an hour for the first three hours, but then we started hopping. We could not have asked for a better day–the crowd was lower, the rides had small lines, and the afternoon clouded up to provide some relief from the unseasonable heat. I believe God really blessed our day for our hard work that week. It was an unforgettable day.

A little side note I almost forgot. Greg wanted us to wear 24-7 shirts so we could identify each other and provide an opportunity to witness in case someone should ask about our shirt. I will admit, I was extremely skeptical about this. I didn’t think anyone would care about our shirts. I was completely wrong! I’ve never seen so many people interested or curious about our shirts. I wore our summer-themed shirt which just says “It’s a Scream” and “24-7 HFC”. People asked what HFC stood for quite regularly. Other teens wore the DiscipleNow shirt, with the theme “Fearless” and a Bible verse. It was interesting to see the reactions to those shirts, too. A couple times, strangers’ friends who were scared of a ride would point to our shirts and say “be fearless like that shirt says.” I felt completely put in my place by God, as if He was saying, don’t doubt what I can do with even a simple-messaged shirt.

I got about 6 hours of toss-and-turn sleep a night. Each morning was harder to wake up. I pretty much had to jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rang by sheer force of will. I’d get dressed and find the nearest coffee pot. That third day of work, I was really dragging, especially after that amazing lunch. Cedar Point day was different because I was awake with anticipation.

Well, the return trip was something I completely dreaded. Greg decided he wanted to come back in one day. After spending all day at an amusement park, I didn’t know how I would maintain consciousness to help drive. When I woke up, I was almost completely unable to lift my feet. LOL. Everyone’s shins and feet hurt so bad from walking all day on the concrete. I was planning to sleep first thing while Greg drove first, but he needed me to keep him awake. Then it was my turn to drive. I napped after lunch, then drove us in to Little Rock. It was a 15 hour, 26 minute trip. Not to say it was fast, but it was faster than I thought it would be. And we made it without any problem.

I tell you, our church has the best group of teens there can be. There was no conflict, they worked hard from start of finish, and they completely remembered who they were representing at hotels and in public. I’m reminded of the verse that tells us that our love for each other will show the world we belong to Christ. If ever there was a model of this verse, it was on the trip. It reinforces in my mind again of why I am here in Little Rock, and that is to be a part of their lives as they grow and mature into Christ-centered adults. It’s a privilege and a blessing that I can do this.

We truly do have a student ministry and not a youth group. I’m in complete agreement with Greg on this–youth groups are places where parents can drop off teens, where crazy and gross games are played, and the church helps keep them out of trouble. People sometimes hesitate to get involved because of the rap the words “youth group” have gotten. And yes, we do crazy and sometimes gross things, but a student ministry is a place where teens are learning to worship, serve, connect, grow, and share their love. That is what I am a part of in every sense.

If you want to see more pictures, head to my Flickr feed. I’ll be posting more pictures as I get them from some others. I’d like to know who has read this and what you thought….please leave a comment.

Fresh Coat Cleveland

A Rant About Advertising

It’s bad enough that you can’t watch TV, read a magazine, or drive down the road without being bombarded by advertisement, but do I really have to put up with it at home? I mean it is everywhere! Heck, even go to a baseball game and you’ll hear something to the tune of “this 3-2 pitch brought to you by [insert business]” or “that stolen base was sponsored by [another business].” Everywhere you turn in the stadium is a sign for something to buy. Now I know that many companies exist for the sole purpose of creating profit from advertisers. Network television is an example. They create content that we want to watch so they can charge money for ad slots. (Albiet, I haven’t watched a commercial in a while, thanks to DVR technology. Even if I’m home I wait to watch the show so I can fast forward.) The same is true of many internet companies. Google is a search engine, but it also generates ad revenue. And I agree to see the ads–maybe even click on one or two–in exchange for their free services.

But when I get home, I don’t want to deal with it. Which is why I usually don’t even answer the door when I see a salesman. I liken it to not picking up the phone when the caller ID tells me it is a telemarketer. What got me off on this rant was a couple of lawn treatment guys that came to my door. In my usual fashion, I didn’t answer. They left a note on my door that I have “mold dust” on my bushes and they could treat it. One, those bushes were just planted, and done so by my mother. So don’t tell me they have mold dust on them; I get a little defensive. Two, what in the HECK were they doing all up in my yard looking at my bushes to see the alleged dust?

Another time there was a note on my door that some air conditioning company had repaired my neighbor’s unit and asked if I’d like them to stop by my place, too. Apparently AC unit problems can be contagious because my fairly new one could use a little tune-up, according to them. It’s just fine thanks.

The Democrat-Gazette has graced my doorstep a time or two. Once, when the Sunday paper–which I never subscribed too by the way–was still sitting on my doorstep.

Tired of those credit card offers? Mark out your address and write RETURN TO SENDER on them and stick ’em back in the mail. Costs the company for the return trip. Get lots of spam email? Watch what you sign up for. I use a separate account for creating internet accounts and even then, I always make sure to uncheck “send me stuff” options, which are often checked by default.

Well, I’m off to Ohio tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll have some good things to say. Keep an eye on Twitter for updates throughout the day. The feed is also below my profile here on my blog.

A Rant About Advertising

Advanced Notice of Change

Oh no, I used the “c” word.  Well, in my tireless effort to become a Mac purist (actually it is just turning out that way more than anything) I am taking the plunge into the dreading change of email.  You’re probably like, wait that’s not so bad.  I need to refer you to the post about things in life in which I am a snob.  Email and productivity tools are a big one.  I’ve had Gmail and GCal for a loooooong time.  But it’s a little annoying to have to sync them to my computer, then to my iPhone.  To eliminate this step–and to have instantaneous syncing on all my devices (home, work, iphone)–I plan on subscribing to Apple’s new MobileMe.  This is currently known as .Mac.  I went ahead and signed up for a free trial of .Mac in order to claim a more respectable email, rather than a silly email.  (I’m sure people have claimed such addresses as and such.)

Well in my over-analyzing, OCD way, I’m trying to figure the best way to make the jump from Gmail to Mail without, namely, losing what I’ve got in Gmail.  I figure the best way is to make Gmail my new “sign up for stuff” email (like my Comcast account is for now) and stop using Comcast altogether.  It makes sense…web-based mail for web-based correspondence.  My new Mail will be my personal one.

As far as the calendering issue, the ability to add, edit, or otherwise change it from any device and have it apply to all instances of the calendar is GOLDEN to me.  The new service will also have photo sharing, but I’m pretty happy with Flickr.  It also has online storage, which I’ll find useful when I want to make documents on my Mac for work.  I’ve been emailing them to myself thus far.

Another thing that kind of stresses me is my home page.  Okay, so at this point you are laughing at me.  But Google has been my tried-and-true home page for a long time.  I’m still debating about this one.  It’s my favorite avenue of keeping up with RSS feeds from news sites and such.  Though my new Mail service will have that, I’m not a fan of reading articles that way.  We’ll just have to see on this one, but we don’t want to go changing too much too fast.  /big grin  Pretty sure I just talked myself into keeping it.

If you are still reading, I wrote all this to say, if you know me and you’re in my contacts, you’ll be needing to update my information soon.  Be on the lookout for my new address coming to an email near you.  (Obviously I’m not saying what it is on a public blog.)  And don’t forget….no spam allowed.  Ha ha…..  (I put the ha ha on there to lighten the mood, but I’m serious about that.  Okay, I’m done now.)

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Advanced Notice of Change

I am an admitted snob

There are some things in life that I’m just a snob about. Here’s a few of them.

1. Starbucks. Once I bought my one cup maker and began buying their roasts, the “store brands” (Folgers and the like) are just nasty. Plus, Starbucks is Fair Trade. I particularly enjoy beans from Africa. Yes, there is a difference that is palatable once you start drinking different roasts. I’m currently on one that has some African, some Latin American, and 10% Hawaiian. It is delicious.

2. Coca-cola. If I had it my way, it would always be out of an icy bottle. But as I rarely have that, I like to have my Cokes in a glass, never out of the can. And you must put ice on the Coke, not Coke in the ice. Again, there is a palatable difference in the two.

3. Cracked pepper. OMG, I love it! It is just so much different than a regular pepper shaker. I want it on everything–salad, pasta, vegetables. Wonderful!

4. Macs. This might be the biggest. Anyone who has known me for a few years knows that I used to be adamantly against Macs. Couldn’t get over the whole quit vs. close, one button mouse, and layout of the OS. How things can change. I’m now an admitted Mac Fan Boy. I have almost every new product, from my laptop to my Apple TV to my iPhone. Unfortunately, I won’t be getting the iPhone 3G since I just spent a ton of money on a root canal, but maybe some day. The firmware updates will suffice for now. But yeah, I’m slowly but surely trying to leave Microsoft behind forever.

5. E-mail. I am very passionate about this one. Don’t you dare send me a forward of any kind–cute, funny, religious, news (true or not)…it doesn’t matter. Don’t do it. Hackers know this is what people like so that’s how they spread malware. I will be on your butt and I don’t mince words about it (as you can probably tell). The lack of knowledge when it comes to malware, viruses, keyloggers, and such is astonishing. Yet people forward this crap and wonder why their computer messes up, or worse, how they got identity thieved. This is something I simply don’t tolerate.

Maybe more later as I think of them. What are some of your snobby tendencies?

I am an admitted snob

And Then There Was Two….

This is by no means going to be an insightful or well-written post about politics.  In fact, I’m such a noob at this sort of conversation, I’m a little embarrassed to post it.  But I’m gathering an increasing interest in political matters, so why not.  Okay, so now it is down to Obama and McCain.  Well I voted in my first primary this year and I think I’m going to see him through to the end.  I am, of course, speaking of Senator Barack Obama.  And here’s my reason, at the risk of oversimplifying the matter.

The economy is doing terrible.  Look no further than the corner street to see gas prices or re-visit the many stories about the housing market and job loss increase.  The fact is (and again, in my noobness, I’m probably oversimplifying the situation) the last time we had a growing economy was when a Democratic president was in office.  Which, by the way has only happened 3 times in the last 10 elections.  President Clinton, despite his moral choices, was a good president.  And I am willing to submit to the Democratic way of thinking to boost this economy again.  That means no stimulus checks and in the very least no more tax cuts, with the possibility of some increase.

Gas is obviously ridiculous.  About 75% of the problem is supply.  President Bush assured the people that oil would come flowing, paying for his war on terrorism.  Hasn’t happened.  Gotten worse, in fact.  Now I know the President cannot control supply, but he does have a measure of control over the other 25% of the problem, which is the value of the American dollar.  Back to the economy.

I admit I voted for President Bush both times.  Probably more on his moral issues than anything else.  But he lost sight of things and tried to spin one too many decisions in a light that just wasn’t true.  (Simplifying again, I mean come on, Osama Bin Laden, the known leader of 9/11 is in Afghanistan, so we attack Iraq.  What?)  His stimulus checks are not working because people are scared and are putting them in savings accounts.  I did my “patriotic” duty and spent it by the way.

We need a change in thinking when it comes to where we are overseas.  We need a new direction in the economy.  John McCain is Bush Jr. or the Third or whatever.  If you agree with the terrible state our country is in, let me ask you how you can justify voting for four more years of the same McBush philosophy? Want to see some stunning interviews of McCain? Watch this:

Now check this link out for Obama’s speech about his economic plan. It’s long but read it. Here’s a summary statement if you are just against reading it:

“This is the choice you will face in November. You can vote for John McCain, and see a continuation of Bush economic policies – more tax cuts to the wealthy, more corporate tax breaks [McCain voted for $1.2 billion tax cut to Exxon Mobile], more mountains of debt, and little to no relief for families struggling with the rising costs of everything from health care to a college education.”

Don’t give me any crap about Obama’s fact-or-fiction religious past or if this country is ready for an African American in the Oval Office.  (Though I’ll just say what everyone is thinking:  from time to time I don’t wonder about these bigot extremists and what they may try if he is elected.)  Look, there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, so align yourself with who you get along with the most. For example, I’m not sure how keen I am on Dem’s views of gay marriage and stuff like that, but I also think that the government should not legislate our Christian morals. Anyway, there it is and that’s my opinion.  Comment or flame away.

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And Then There Was Two….

Looking on the Bright Side

So this week I had a root canal…my second.  Although I have dental insurance now, by the time this is all done, I’ll still be out of pocket around $1200-1500.  So much for the next home plans I had.  But oh well.  But as I noted on Twitter, this wasn’t a normal root canal (if they can be described as normal anyway).  I got home and threw up.  I couldn’t sit up for about six hours.  I eventually got up, ate a little, and sat outside to get some fresh air.  Then I went in to take a shower and noticed red patches all over my back.  So by this point I’m guessing I reacted to something, which is crazy because I’m not allergic to anything that I know of.  Fast forward next morning and I wake up with my throat a little tender.  Go to Walgreens and by spray.  Now it’s Thursday and I woke up with my left ear completely clogged.  As I also Twittered, I have super hearing for what’s going on inside my head.  Wow, this really sucks!  I’m so tired of not feeling well.  Between my tooth and now this, it’s been WEEKS!  At least my new mattress is already making an improvement on my back aches.  Holy crap, I’m getting old!  But God is good and He has given us remarkable knowledge and insight into the human body, giving us the ability to learn and treat problems.  So with a little Tylenol Cold, cough drops, ear drops, Ibuprofen, throat spray, orange juice, and a little TLC from my Creator….I am going to feel better, dang it!

P.S.  For the whole one or two people that read this, if you wouldn’t mind taking a second to click the “This Week in Photography” link on the right.  It goes to a blog for a podcast I listen to.  They are giving a way a super nice backup system called a Drobo.  I know, I know, fat chance of winning.  I don’t ever do this kind of thing, but that Drobo sure is nice.  Worth a shot; can’t win by not trying.  I promise the link is not malicious.  Thanks!

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Looking on the Bright Side

The Kings of Judah were not so different from us

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament lately.  Okay, sorry.  I’ve been trying to read through the Old Testament lately.  I’ve had a couple long dry spells.  Not because it’s the OT, don’t get me wrong.  The dry spells have more to do with my own undisciplined nature when it comes to daily reading.  Anyway, I skipped the law books and started with the more historical books, in almost-chronological-order.  (Anyone else with me when I say I think I’ve probably read Genesis and Exodus more than any other book….based on the well-intentioned New Year’s resolution?)

Okay, we’re back from my rat hole.  I have now completed Kings and Chronicles.  Albiet I skimmed the long lists of names and focused on the historical parts.  What struck me were the personalities of the Kings that we got a glimpse of…some more than others.  Some kings ruled for decades and we can read a lot about them.  Others ruled for a couple months.  Just about all of them ended with the verse “for the rest of their story, see the [book about the kings of Israel and Judah].  Incidentally, anyone ever heard or seen this text the Bible refers to?  /shrug

I don’t necessarily like to focus on negative things, but really, we can learn from others’ mistakes.  The others in this case being some of the kings.  And what I find is that, their personality quirks aren’t so different than mine.  And I’m referring to those “human nature” parts of us that tend to cause us to stray.  Here’s one that stuck out to me:  King Asa (2 Chron. 14).  He was a good king and enjoyed a time of prosperity, but this drew him into a sense of complacency.  RED FLAG!  When his country was attacked, instead of turning to God, he turned to a neighbor for help.  The prophet told him “God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.”  Anyone else find themselves in a peaceful time, become complacent and think you can handle it?

There’s King Jehoshaphat.  (2 Chron. 17)  Again, a good king who helped clear out idols from the country.  One day, he was asked to help fight against an enemy.  He went through the motions of seeking God RED FLAG! but had pretty much made up his mind what he was going to do anyway.

King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26) was “well trained by his pastor and teacher.”  His victories and wealth made him arrogant.  RED FLAG!  He pretty much decided he didn’t need anyone else to do the temple rituals for him so he stormed in and did them himself.  He left with a skin disease and lived the rest of his life in isolation.  King Jotham (2 Chron. 27) was a good king but turned the other cheek when it came to his people living lives of corruption.  We have biblically established guidelines that require us to humbly, but firmly, rebuke our brothers and sisters in Christ if they are living in sin.  But do we?

I could go on.  Maybe this would make an interesting full study to do.  Wonder if there’s anything like that out there.  I guess the point is, even though we aren’t bound by the OT law, there is still much we can learn from it.  I look forward to continuing into the minor prophets as they warn Israel of their coming destruction and how God restored them when they returned to Him.

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The Kings of Judah were not so different from us