one thing

the continuing saga of a follower of Christ
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11
Feb

rainy morning

My dog got mad at me this morning.

It’s a rainy morning, which is a little unusual for this area, this time of year. Let’s just say it was a surprise to both Jake and Lindy. Each morning, when I come downstairs, the first thing I do is let the dogs out into the backyard. Lindy went relatively willingly, even in the rain, but Jake was really hesitant to go out and get his little paws (and the rest of him) wet. But finally he did, did his business, and came back inside…

…and went straight to his crate.

Normally, right after the dogs come back inside, I feed them. So they are usually pretty excited to be around me first thing in the morning. Lindy was her normal hungry self, so I fed her. But Jake just wouldn’t come out of his crate, even though I called him over and over. And then I realized… he was throwing a fit, because I made him go outside and get wet.

So I went over to his crate, apologized profusely, petted him, rubbed a little water off his back, and sure enough, he started to wag his tail. Soon he got up and came with me to the kitchen to eat his food… slowly.

Poor dog.


09
Feb

weird happenings

Lots of strange things have been happening to me in the past few days… today, especially. Ever have one of those days (or weekends)?

  • I got a flat tire on the way to school today.
  • I got summoned to report for jury duty tomorrow.
  • The previous owner of my house (who sold it to us 2.5 years ago) got a summons, on my front door, that he’s being sued in small claims court.
  • Lindy pooped in the front room of our house sometime between the time I wife got up this morning and the time Tara left for work.
  • The left temple of my glasses suddenly, and without provocation, broke on Saturday. (I had it soldered by a repair shop, but it hasn’t been the same since.)
  • I took our dogs on a walk this evening, and I was asked by no fewer than ten neighborhood children if the dogs bite. (Two kids actually were brave enough to pet them!)

19
Jan

beginnings…and endings

I apologize to my faithful readers who are probably disappointed that I haven’t written anything in two months (and anything of substance in longer than that). My life as it exists right now does not lend itself well to this type of ultra-public reflection, for a number of reasons.

For starters, I am in CPE, which means (for me) that I am spending two days a week at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. There are *lots* of things going on there, and I have seen situations that I never imagined, both good and bad. Mostly involving death, if you’re curious. But suffice it to say that I can’t really write anything on this blog about specific experiences I’ve had in the hospital – that would violate all sorts of laws.

Also, I am finishing my seminary education this semester. Today happens to be my first day of that last semester, and I have to admit that I actually am excited and interested in my final three classes: ethics for ministers, Church of God history, and mission in the urban church. But combined with CPE and ordination (see below), I’m going to be heads-down until May 9, graduation day, so who knows, maybe I’ll find a minute or two to post something interesting about class sometime.

The biggest strain on me right now is the ordination process. But this is not the place for me to describe what’s going on, because far too many people with multiple roles, perspectives, and levels of investment in my ordination are at least occasional visitors to this site. We’re talking about conflict of interests at a nearly maximal level, and that’s not something that I need to subject myself to at this point in the process. (Let the reader understand.)

That parenthetical line comes to mind, incidentally, because of my interest in it as a red-letter sentence in the gospels. Those versions of the Bible that highlight Jesus’s words print that sentence, “Let the reader understand,” in red type as well. And that always fascinates me, because I’m positive that Jesus didn’t actually say those words, because he didn’t actually write those words. Instead, the gospels were written by other people for specific audiences (“reader”s) for specific purposes (which they, we assume, would “understand”). I think it’s a fun task to try to figure out what in the world they understood by such things as “the abomination that causes desolation” (see Matthew 24).

No, “fun” isn’t the right word. “Necessary” is the right word.

Oh well, off to buy the remainder of my books for the semester.


21
Nov

cold

It’s cold outside. The November-in-Indiana type of cold, so yes, I know it’ll get a lot colder in the next couple of months.

But – surprise! – this morning it was cold *inside*, too. Really cold. Like November-in-Indiana-and-your-furnace-is-broken cold. We still have hot water and gas for the stove, but our extremities are pretty chilly. It’s times like these that make me realize how thankful I am for something so “ordinary” as a working furnace.

A local repairman is coming by this afternoon to take a look. On the phone, he had me check some things out for him, and he diagnosed the problem as a faulty igniter. I wonder how much he’ll charge to fix it?


20
Nov

some good news

I got some good news on Tuesday: I am signed up to finish my seminary degree this spring with a total of 93 credit hours!

Now, that might not seem like good news to you, but it sure did to me. That’s because I’m only required to have 90 credit hours in order to graduate. Each class at the seminary is 3 credit hours. And as I loved to say to my math students once upon a time, “you can do the math.”

CPE is, as I have said here before, rather time consuming (and rather emotionally consuming). And CPE doesn’t end, much to my chagrin, until the end of March. That’s two and a half months into the spring semester at the seminary, in which I am scheduled to take three classes on campus. Three classes is my normal work load. But if you stack CPE on top of that, it amounts to about five classes’ worth of time commitment (at least). I have often said that anyone taking five seminary classes at once is, for lack of a better term, crazy.

And I was planning to be crazy for a semester. Ah, but now, I don’t have to take all three classes – one of them is an elective, so I think I’m going to elect to audit the class instead of take it for credit. It’s a class in urban ministry, and I think it would be interesting to take given my experiences at Woodruff Place these past three years. So I can sit in on lectures, do the readings, participate in conversations, but I don’t have to do any of the work. Sounds pretty good, huh?

I’m feeling a lot more comfortable about next semester already. It will still be hard – I’ve never taken four classes at once, either – but hopefully it won’t be crazy.


20
Oct

CPE

…is exhausting. This is going to be a busy semester – gone are my hopes of painting the house (perhaps the garage will get done before winter?) and of making significant progress on my ordination papers. I’m taking one seminary class along with CPE right now, and in the spring I will have three classes. (CPE continues until the end of March.) So suffice it to say that I’ll be extremely busy until … um, until I graduate.

(Funny, in my undergraduate degree at Taylor, my senior year was the *easiest* of all! Not so this time.)

There’s lots I would like to write about here, but of course I can’t because of privacy laws. Let me summarize my first several weeks of CPE so far:

  • Lots of orientation. Training, training, training, manuals, manuals, seminars. Fun stuff.
  • Jumping into the pool. My first solo clinical experience was not on my usual floor (on which I’d visit a dozen or so patients, low stress), but was as the (sole) chaplain on duty for the entire hospital. I visited several people under lots of stressful conditions. It actually wasn’t as bad as it might sound… tiring, yes, extremely so, but a good experience.
  • Experiences of death. I’ve witnessed it first-hand now. (Well, not *technically* first-hand, I guess. But I was there.) And I’ve seen a wide variety of ways in which family members and friends react to the death of a loved one.
  • Expressions of hope. Just about all of the patients there don’t want to be there, so there is an underlying current of hope in most of them: they all hope to go home someday. Several of them hope to go home before their doctors told me that they will go home.
  • Reactions to chaplains. Some people warm up to me as a chaplain right away; others act like they couldn’t care less. It’s very interesting to be in a hospital which upholds pastoral care as a meaningful healing profession and yet to witness patients turning down that type of support. (Would a patient turn away a physician?) But “no discernible spiritual needs at this time” is quickly becoming one of my favorite sentences to write in patients’ charts.

More later, I suppose. I’m off to write a weekly reflection paper. (hah! remember those?)


12
Sep

advisor #3

Well, my final fall semester at the seminary has begun, and it feels like I’m not really doing anything. And that is an accurate statement, because I’m actually not doing anything… yet. I begin CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education, like a pastoral practicum in a hospital setting) next Wednesday, and I have one distance class but haven’t received the materials for it yet.

On the other hand, things have gotten interesting again at the seminary. What with new faculty hires and other changes in faculty responsibilities, the seminary has reshuffled all of us students under our academic advisors.

Again.

This is my fifth year at the seminary, and now, with this fall’s reorganization, I am on my third academic advisor. And the amazing thing is that my two previous academic advisors are still full-time faculty members in some sort of advising role!

When I was a student at Taylor, I had a total of two advisors. The only reason I had more than one was because I changed departments – from computer science to mathematics. And when I landed in the math department, my advisor stayed my advisor throughout my college experience. And the neat thing was that he took interest in my life. He wanted to know how I was doing outside the classroom, how my family was doing, how my hopes and dreams for the future were shaping up into realities. He cared about my spiritual health, my physical health, and my academic health – usually in that order. I really appreciated his influence in my life during those few years.

It hasn’t been that way here at the seminary, strictly speaking. Each of my previous advisors have cared about me in all of my dimensions, to be sure. But something has been different during this degree program. The relationships I have with these men and women are built not on our advisor-advisee relations but rather on our classroom and chapel experiences. In fact, from my perspective, the advising process at the seminary is simply about getting the class registration form signed so I can take my classes. I remember one semester my advisor (#1) was out of the country on vacation, so my dad signed my form instead.

And now that I have a third academic advisor, I honestly don’t care. I have already signed up for next spring, my final semester of classes. There is no need for me to ever have an advising conversation with my new advisor. And I don’t anticipate my relationship with her – which, again, has been built around classroom and chapel (and other) experiences – changing, growing, or developing in any way because of this new organizational structure.

So here’s the question: What are academic advisors all about, anyway? And here’s the other question: How do we prevent students from being dropped through the advising cracks as they get shifted from one advisor to another (to another)? Or, stated differently, how can we help students maintain strong advising relationships (like I experienced at Taylor) when personnel changes necessitate advisor changes?


24
Jul

CHOG registration

Today in the mail I received a packet of information regarding my re-registration with the Church of God for its 2009 yearbook. This is something I’ve needed to do for a few months, but haven’t gotten around to it … essentially, the Church of God does its best to keep track of its active and retired ministers, for the sake of congregations seeking pastors and for the sake of pastors seeking contact information for other pastors. And for lots of other reasons, too, I suppose, but those two come to mind first.

Anyway, somehow I magically appeared in the 2008 yearbook. I believe that was due to my ordination process, which began last summer. When the yearbook was published this spring, it was kind of cool to walk into my dad’s office, open up the yearbook with him, and see our names next to each other in the alphabetical listings.

But even then I noticed a problem – they had listed my e-mail address incorrectly in the 2008 yearbook. No big deal, I thought. Who would e-mail me, anyway (who didn’t already have it handy)? I figured I’d correct it when it came time to register for the 2009 yearbook.

So this packet of papers arrives today, and, in a word, I’m flabbergasted. (What a great word, by the way.) There are three pages, printed front and back, with all sorts of different fonts, font sizes, boxes, lines… and I can barely make heads or tails of it at first glance. I begin by reading what looks like the first page – it just had that kind of look to it – but finally at the top of that page I see the subheading “Page 6 of 6.” So I flip the whole packet over and start again.

Page 1 of 6 contains all of my current information, as recorded in the 2008 yearbook. So does page 2 of 6. Page 3 of 6 finally includes some sort of instructions as to what to do with these pieces of paper. Page 4 of 6 lists all possible ministerial codes (two or three letters), in a font that’s almost legible. Page 5 of 6 is the payment sheet, and page 6 of 6 is a “no changes” page which contains a box I can check if everything is correct from last year. Whew … I managed to decipher the packet.

Ok, so I have to review my information and make any changes that are necessary. I’m already looking for the e-mail address … but here’s a list of the changes I had to make:

  • e-mail address: not @hotmail.com, but @gmail.com
  • phone number: change one digit from 2 to 3
  • marital status: change from “Single” to “Married”

This last one is particularly interesting to me, since my wife’s name is clearly listed in the next section, “Spouse Information.” Who entered my information last year, anyway? They were none too careful.

Finally, all the information is correct. But then I see that I can save five dollars if I register online. I’m always happy to save a few bucks (and a stamp), so I wander over to the computer and fire up the old browser. It only takes me a few minutes to finish the registration process, but I’m 28 years old and I know what I’m doing with a computer. At several points along the way, I have to make some intelligent guesses about what the system wants me to do. Lemme ‘splain.

On the data entry webpage, I enter all the corrected information (thankfully, the page looks a lot like Page 1 of 6… which is to say, it looks totally inappropriate and inefficient in print *and* online), and I click the “save information” button. The page reloads … and looks exactly as it did before, with the exception of a new button at the bottom entitled “submit registration.”

So I click that new button. Next comes this frighteningly complicated page giving me a list of five or six instructions I will have to follow – on the five or six following pages – in order to complete my registration payment by credit card. Thankfully, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I figure I can feel my way through this process pretty painlessly. (I do check to make sure the following pages are secure, though… I have my doubts.)

On one of the following pages, I see the receipt. Or bill. Or the table that shows how much you owe, whatever that’s called. And here I am confused again. The total price is blank! But, once again, being a reasonably intelligent twenty-something, I do the only reasonable thing: I play with the stuff on the page. And here’s the kicker: the *ONLY* thing I can modify on the page is an unlabeled drop-down menu. It currently displays a zero, and I can change it to display a one. Pretty fancy, huh? There is no hint whatsoever as to what this menu is supposed to do. So quite naturally, I change it to one, and then the receipt/bill/table fills in the appropriate amounts, and I am ready to go. Perfectly obvious solution.

To move on from that page, I have to click the button labeled “process credit card.” This makes me think twice, because that text usually appears after you’ve entered your credit card information. But of course this system hasn’t received that info from me yet. So I reflect briefly on my experiences with this system so far and proceed to click the button, fearless that the train will be derailed at this point.

Sure enough, I get to enter my credit card info on the next page. This page contains one very prominent warning: that I must enter the credit card’s expiration date as mm/yyyy, not mm/yy. I think to myself that if the receipt/bill/table page could update itself, I bet this page could have a snazzy line of javascript to insert “20” into the middle of a string of text. But whatever… I finalize the deal, pay thirteen dollars, and hopefully will have a correct ministerial listing in next year’s yearbook.

I should have taken screenshots to show you all what this looked like. The technology that Church of God Ministries is using for this registration process looks like it was produced in 2000 or 2001, not 2008. User-friendliness is definitely not one of the strengths of this process, and that bugs me. This system should be much, much better. I suppose I should be thankful that it works at all …

… but no, that’s not enough. There is no reason that any organization should have to function with such a low level of technological sophistication. The tools are out there, people. Make it easier for us commoners!


23
Jul

bronchitis

So this cold that I’ve been nursing for the past week has developed into a pretty serious cough, which just hasn’t gone away, all Dayquil and bags of cough drops notwithstanding. So I went to the doc-in-a-box and got diagnosed with bronchitis. Let’s hear it for the z-pack! Plus they gave me a prescription for some thick, yellow cough syrup that I’m only supposed to take at bedtime. Don’t expect me to be awake before noon tomorrow. 🙂


17
Jul

summertime

It’s that time again, when nothing happens in my life. 🙂 The Sunday school presentation went really well, I think, even though half of the audience was related to me. I guess that wasn’t so bad, anyway… I wasn’t expecting big things from that presentation, but apparently the paper is getting some pretty broad circulation. So that’s kind of cool.

Lately I’ve been doing the summer thing, which this summer consists of doing lots of reading for my ordination process. Remember, my seminary degree, for which I’ve worked four years (so far) and for which we’ve spent thousands of dollars, counts for absolutely nothing when it comes to being ordained in the Church of God in the state of Indiana. So I’ve been working through my reading list, and I think I’m about halfway done with the part I have to read before my next interview (which is at a date yet to be determined).

Let me tell you, I’m starting to think more about this movement concept. Remember, the Church of God is a reformation movement, not a denomination. But as I read the history of the Church of God, there’s a definite swing through the twentieth century toward the denomination side… so much so that the author of one of these books asks, in a discussion question at the end of a chapter, if we should fear losing our distinctiveness if denominational walls somehow fell down and Christians around the world began thinking, functioning, and worshiping as one church. I have a hunch that many Church of God people would hesitate greatly at the thought of losing our distinctiveness, of losing our campmeetings, of losing our general assembly, of losing our heritage. But if that part of the mission gets accomplished, we had better be ready to jump ship and join everybody else.

In this century, I foresee people paying less and less attention to denominational differences. Many churches already have taken their denominational brandings off of their names, letterheads, and road signs. (And many have subsequently forgotten what they believe, which is unfortunate.) Even in our own Baptist congregation, we can only count four or five “true” Baptists. The rest of us are there for missional purposes, because of the outreach of the congregation.

So the time may be getting right for the Church of God’s message of unity in Christ to take full effect, to come into full swing, only 125 years after it began to be proclaimed here.

But are we ready to be a movement? Or are we stuck being a denomination?

I don’t know how you can be a Church of God person in today’s world without being an ecumenist. Come out of denominationalism. Be part of God’s church. Draw people together; don’t divide. And in so doing, show the world through our unity that God the Father really has sent Jesus to the world because of his love for humankind (John 17).

(Oh yeah, and since last Friday, I’ve been battling a stomach bug, a sore throat, head congestion, sinus drainage, and pink eye, generally in that order but not all at the same time. I’d like to feel well again soon.)

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