Despite the title, this post has nothing do with kidney stones (and no, as of this afternoon the stones have yet to "pass" – such a gentle term for what I hear is a very painful process), but thanks for asking. Rest assured, I'll post a victory announcement of some sort, complete with play-by-play and pictures (er, maybe not so much the pictures), if I survive. But I digress…
Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page
My mom and I had lunch Saturday, as she was in town for a Mary Kay conference at the St. Louis Convention Center. I took her to Tigin, an Irish pub Megan and I had discovered as part of a mystery shop date a few months ago – cool place. I can't remember the last time I had a meal with my mom that didn't include Dad, Megan, or any combination of children, so we had a novel time catching up.
"We expect a bright tomorrow, all will be well
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, all is well
On our Father's love relying, Jesus every need supplying
Yes, in living or in dying, all must be well"
I had a tough discussion with a student this week – tough not because of the student, but because of the student's family situation. Details aren't important for my purposes here, so I'll refrain from sharing any; suffice it to say, I wanted to help a lot more than I could. Leaving school, I prayed for the student, asking God to grant strength and maturity in handling parents who are both behaving badly.
As I was praying, I wondered when the last time the student had ever felt real and extended contentment in life. Was it within the past year? Doubtful – we've been processing the situation together since at least November. Any time during the teenage years? Possibly, but most of what the student is dealing with has been years in the making, and teenagers pick up on that stuff. When my student was in elementary school? I hope not (that would be a while ago). Even before then? Man.
I think about stuff like this a lot – not just with kids, but adults as well. My theory (and I'm just throwing it out here) is that the further a person has to go back to find real and extended contentment, the older they feel and seem to others. Granted, this idea may not be rocket science (and I'll grant that my definitions of "real" and "extended" are more than a bit fuzzy), but I wonder if a math-type could put together an equation to qualitatively test my hypothesis; all I've got is a gut feeling it's true.
As any good teacher asks a student for an answer to his own question, I tried to answer mine. When was the last period of real and extended contentment for me? When was the first? How many have there been in between? Most importantly (I think), how young (or old) does the accumulation or absence of these make me seem to others? I'll be honest: I feel (and have felt) pretty content for much of the past year, but has that been contentment or just happiness? What really marks a difference between the two?
A favorite passage on this topic is Paul's statement in Philippians 4:11-13:
"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be a content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
God's promise in verse 13 is every Christian's favorite – that is, until they discover that being content is what God promises to strengthen us for (instead of just winning sport events or passing tests). For hermeneutical reasons, I stopped applying this verse to non-contentment kinds of things a long time ago, but I'm not sure how recent it's been since I picked it up again to apply it in the right way. I'm not sure I'm that brave.
With regard to my schizophrenic inquiries above, I'm still thinking through my answers; however, I'm as interested in whether the questions are even the right ones as well. What do you think of my equation (try this for starters: PA (perceived age) = AA (actual age) – C (contentment) / T (time))? How accurate does it seem in measuring your own experience? And what does it take for you to feel as well as talk about being content in your own life?
Including this one, I've got seven posts to write before I hit my 500th; after that, I'm going to shut things down here at Second Drafts (or at least take an early sabbatical until fall) so as to focus on getting the ThirtySomewhere book finished by then. Few seem to be reading here anymore, and even fewer comment, so it would seem a good time to embrace the inevitable, at least for now.
- I finished up the third quarter of school at WCA on Wednesday by doing a six-hour grading blitz all day on Thursday, then meeting with dozens of parents Thursday night and Friday morning for parent/teacher conferences. Apart from the hassle of getting ready, I enjoy talking with parents – I get to be pastor, counselor, and friend during the time. Spring Break in one more week!
- The girls and I had a really good bike ride yesterday afternoon, riding from Maplewood all the way to The Hill and back. Though a bit chilly, the girls did great, though I'm probably not going to take them out on a busy Friday afternoon again (too much traffic). I wish we had some trails around here (or a bike rack for one of our vehicles to be able to drive to some).
- I'm working the bookstore all day today (that is, 9:30-2:30) – the first Saturday shift I've worked all year. I'm bringing two administrative assistants (a.k.a. "Frick and Frack") with me, so I'll at least have some entertainment if things are slow.
- Speaking of books, I'm reading too many right now (roughly eight). I'm also having problems staying awake between chapters. I hate when that happens.
- Somehow, I've fallen behind in my online seminary studies again. I just don't have the time/really enjoy sitting and listening to recorded lectures from five years ago, especially on this particular topic. My teaching and learning class is going a little better, but I've got some work (read, write a case study, etc.) to do before class Tuesday night.
- Last night, I watched part of the Mizzou/Oklahoma State game from the Big XII tournament. Mizzou apparently won (I went to bed), and looks to have a pretty easy path to winning the tournament against Baylor as Kansas and Oklahoma were upset earlier on. But don't count on them just yet: historically speaking (and I'm talking decades here), the better Mizzou's chances tend to be, the worst they do. And yes, you can quote me.
- Speaking of sports, there's a great cover story on Albert Pujols in Sports Illustrated this week. Sounds like Albert got my email from a month ago…or not.
- For those who haven't figured it out yet, the new Facebook design is actually Twitter with a blue paint job. I still don't get the fascination.
Last night, Megan sent me to our local Shop 'n
Save Spend to pick up a few basic staples to hold us over until she can do it for real on Friday. I had maybe 7-8 items on my list, all of which took me 45 minutes to find.
Can someone please explain to me the philosophy of grocery store organization? I get why the milk is always in the back and why the cat litter's not in the produce aisle, but I'm not sure anything else made sense.
I remember being sixteen in 1987 and standing in the middle of multiple four-foot-high stacks of black Joshua Tree LPs in a music store in Munich, Germany. People were going absolutely nuts to get their hands on the albums, but as I had not yet made the band's acquaintance, I just stood and watched for a while, wondering who these guys were and why they seemed to mean so much to my European counterparts. Finally touched by the madness, I bought a cassette and brought it back with me to the States.
That was all it took.
As I alluded in my earlier post this week, U2's music has played as a meaningful soundtrack to the second half of my life, especially the last 8-10 years. As is true for many fans, the albums through the 90's were not some of my favorites (though there were still some great songs, particularly on Achtung Baby), but when the band came back with All That You Can't Leave Behind in 2001, I remember feeling the way I did in Munich again. Who were these guys, and why did the music they made mean so much to me?
Much of my affection for U2 then had to do with where I was in life at the time. I'd just transitioned roles with The Navigators and was investigating a possible missionary opportunity in Uganda (the album served as the soundtrack for my first trip to Africa). Bono's lyrics to songs like "Walk On" were particularly motivating, as I wanted nothing more than to do what God wanted me to do long-term, but I just wasn't sure what exactly that was (though I was pretty sure it was along different lines than what I was doing then).
By the time the next album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, came out at the end of 2004, it was again the same feeling, both musically and in terms of ministry. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was right around this time that we decided to make the huge transition from Colorado Springs to St. Louis to begin seminary. Thankfully, Megan had come to love the band as well, and as we were moving to the Midwest in the spring and then to St. Louis that summer, we decided our last fling before I began Greek in June would be to see U2 in May in Chicago on the first leg of the Vertigo tour (which, by the way, got recorded as part of this).
Wow. We said it then and we still say it now: wow. Greatest concert ever.
Like every true U2 fan, we have all the albums and enjoy the "standards" from each, but the last two albums (along with Joshua Tree) hold the most meaning for me. I remember totaling my car in high school swatting at a fly while listening to "Where the Streets Have No Name" (consider the irony); I remember Megan and I deciding, after making up from yet another awful fight, that "With or Without You" was "our song" (in case you're wondering, it still is); I remember semi-seriously planning my funeral in my head in case I didn't make it back from Uganda the first time, wanting "Walk On" played for the benediction (thankfully, I safely returned); I remember standing alone in the middle of our seminary apartment that first summer listening to "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," literally weeping because of all the insecurity I was feeling (there was a lot of it).
The list could go on, but I won't bore you with my reminiscing. The good news is that we've got a new set of songs to play and play again – good songs with actual melodies we can sing and lyrics with real meaning we can take from and add to (in other words, what we've come to expect from and experience with U2 all these years).
The girls know and love U2's music and they all have their favorite tunes. One dream I have is to take them all to a first concert before they fly the coop. Will this album's tour be the one we all make? I don't know, but how cool for them if they could say, "My first concert was U2." Surely that experience would count for something when we're all sitting in family therapy ten years from now.
Well, the recession (when are we going to call it what it is: a depression?) has come to Westminster, but the news could be much worse. Our leadership has called for a salary freeze and put plans on hold regarding the new campus, but that's about it; no salary cuts, no lay-offs, and our enrollment numbers are still (somewhat surprisingly) strong.
I don’t know if you know, but if you don’t, I’m no longer blogging here at WordPress. Check out (and re-bookmark) me at http://dunhams.typepad.com/seconddrafts.
I've not been motivated to write much of late as 1) there's been so little interaction here on the site the past two months; and 2) I'm up to my eyeballs reading and writing. For those anticipating email from me for one reason or another, hang in there – it's coming.