Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Wake-Up Weekend

My days off from work are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (I work 4 10-hour shifts Sunday through Wednesday evenings), so I try to get things like doctor's appointments, home maintenance, and volunteer work done near the end of the week. This weekend was busy and surprising in several different ways:

The shower in one of our bathrooms has had issues with the tile for several months, so we arranged to have the shower completely replaced this past weekend. The guys at Tile Meister are very easy to work with, and although it took a while to get the job scheduled it finally happened.

What we found out was that the original construction (an addition in 1983) involved the shower tile being placed over regular drywall, not the thicker and reinforced "Dura-Rock" or "Wonderboard" that is common, if not required, for any type of bathroom construction. Fortunately there wasn't any structural compromise behind the drywall.

This is kind of a history lesson, I think. The addition was planned and/or built in the midst of the oil shale boom-into-bust that enveloped the Grand Valley and surrounding areas in the late 70's and early 80's. As a result of the immense demand for housing that accompanied the 'boom' part of that, I think that a lot of corners were cut. If you drive through areas where there are a lot of unimproved homes from that time period, I think you'll get a better idea if you don't have one already. Our shower project is a glimpse into a past that I vaguely remember first-person as a young adult in Pittsburgh in 1979 and 1980, along with quitting school and working in the hotel business, waiting in line for gas, and working as a volunteer for John Anderson's presidential campaign.

Speaking of (nearly) lost causes, I had a doctor's appointment for an annual physical this past Friday. This dovetails with an experience I had as a volunteer at our local community radio station on Friday as well, so bear with me if I go back and forth a bit.

I'm training to help produce a popular program on KAFM called "Words". This program solicits the assistance of local teachers to encourage mostly younger students to look up a word in the dictionary, learn what it means and how to spell it, and then record this along with a short script that is later mixed with topical music and aired on the radio station three times a day.
The 'tagline' for the program is "believing in the youth of the Grand Valley and their power in words". So after observing Jeff Liddle work with 25 second graders to get the raw audio recorded, the next step to learn will be editing and music mixing. This is going to be great fun for a good cause, I think.

About the time I was leaving for the doctor the staff was getting ready to draw the prize winners in the annual fund-raising raffle. They sell 1000 tickets at $25 apiece for prizes donated to them by local businesses. First prize was a trip to Hawaii, tenth was a hundred lottery tickets.
Other prizes included a kayak, a cruiser bike, and a $750 gift certificate from Browns Shoe Fit.

So I get to the doctor and tip the scales at over 300 lbs for the first time ever. I really wasn't that surprised; I work in a largely sit-down job, and my focus over the last year has been on Jan's well-being more than my own. Nevertheless, it was a cause for concern even though I feel good and still move pretty well. I went back later for the usual blood work, which hopefully won't show any additional new abnormalities.

I went to lunch at Nick-N-Willys; pizza, salad and a drink for a good price. I had my favorite, the Aegean, which normally has spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese but was minus spinach for obvious reasons. Still good. While I was there, I got a voice mail from the radio station saying that I had won the cruiser bike in the raffle.

I thought, this is God telling me to get off my butt (and out of the car) and get back on self-propelled transportation. I went to Brown's Cycles yesterday and got a few accessories. Thanks to them for donating the bike to KAFM for the raffle. Now I just need the resolve to ride it to work and back, and wherever else close by that I need to go. That and more fruits and veggies. My wife Jan has been in a "steady-as-she-goes" mode with her cancer treatment and progress. The tumors that were in her brain, lung, and liver have all disappeared or reduced significantly. Her spine remains the area of concern, and while tumor growth has slowed considerably we are hopeful that CT and MRI scans in October will show continued improvement. Time enough for some self-improvement strategies now. I need to remember that I have to be at my best for Jan and Evan in the years ahead.

Last night at the Vineyard we heard from Don Stephens, who heads up Mercy Ships, a group that provides surgical care aboard hospital ships to impoverished peoples in Africa. They also have a fixed facility in Sierra Leone. His talk was in some ways typical of the presentations you see from overseas mission groups, but in some ways not at all like them. He spoke of the poverty in Africa being tied to the continent's percentage of global trade, and that perhaps the best way to address many of Africa's problems is to improve their ability to produce goods and services for export. He cited the Hagar Project in Cambodia as an example of this. He also spoke of laws in the US that prevent the shipment of drugs to many impoverished areas of Africa.
This reminded me of The Constant Gardener, possibly in reverse. Mr. Stephens' message will likely be available to listen to online, along with other Canyon View Vineyard sermons, here.

After the service there were several mission organizations with tables set up in the lobby providing information on mission opportunities. Some of the other notable groups were Youth With A Mission and SpreadTruth, both that have a rather slick web presence as well. I was intrigued by SpreadTruth's one-week mission trips to New York and Chicago. I don't doubt the need, and would be interested in seeing just how much third-world-type conditions actually exist in our most populated cities. Living in Pittsburgh gave me my taste of it to be sure, but the aftermath of Katrina has also opened many eyes.

The best message I received from Mr. Stephens' talk was the reminder of the essential, basic messages of Christ when it comes to dealing with the less fortunate. Central to his message were Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61, both dealing with the essential premise that Jesus' first and last public messages of his ministry focused on the world's forgotten poor.

This revelation gave me pause about the difficult nature of government in times such as we are living in now. How do we balance things such as the war on terror and the rise of extremism and intolerance (regardless of where it comes from) with the admonitions of both Matthew and Luke in these areas?

It seems more and more apparent to me that the current American government has done a less than admirable job of balancing the above, among several other things. There is irony in this, given their base of support in this country, that I will not begin to try to approach now. The 19-year-old who eschewed Jimmy Carter in 1980 has learned quite a bit since then, and what they say about hindsight is certainly true. Hopefully we can make sure future generations remain cognizant of that.

I could only wish that all weekends were as lively, enlightening, and renewing as this one was.
My best wishes to you for good weeks and weekends ahead.

P.S. to Ralph: Thanks for the plug (I think).

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