Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

On Death and Dying in a Digital Age

In Church, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Internet, Places & Spaces, Technology, Thought on March 1, 2014 at 9:32 am


“While the dead don’t care, the dead matter.
The dead matter to the living.”

Thomas Lynch

My mother-in-law, Moleta King of Owasso, OK, passed away earlier this week after battling ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for the past two years. Hers was the first passing I’d ever been completely present for, from roughly 15 hours before the time of death early Tuesday morning through her burial Friday afternoon. For reasons good and otherwise, it’s been the longest week I can remember – good, in that this kind of loss forces us to slow down and mourn by way of our memorial traditions; otherwise, in that we (or some of us) push back against grief’s delays in ways our modern world has trained us – by way of technology.

Don’t get me wrong: there is comfort in hearing from hundreds of friends who, for various reasons, cannot be present with the living as they mourn their dead. A product of our overly-mobile culture, this distance disconnect can be overcome instantly via phone, email, and text messaging (along with our more traditional – but time-requiring – means of letter writing, card sending, and flower delivering). But what left me wanting this past week was the public display of affection made possible by social media. At the risk of offending those who employed it (all with the best of intentions, I’m sure), let me explain.

I became tired of people proclaiming they were praying for me/us on Facebook, mostly because I doubted they really were. It felt like there was a “crisis reminder” right next to the “birthday reminder” on the screen, so of course folks needed to click it and leave a trite message. “Praying for you!” “You’re in our thoughts and prayers!” And my personal favorite: “Prayers coming your way!” (Let’s be honest: if prayers are coming my way, we’re screwed; we pray to God, not to each other.) Of course, I know some – perhaps many – people did pray when they said they would (I’m not completely jaded), but I confess Facebook often felt too quick and too convenient to take the message to heart.

The other thing that bothered me (and I write this with no condemnation of my family, but as a completely hypocritical member of it) was how we gravitated to our own digital worlds in the midst of our grief. Both my family (wife and four girls, ages 10-15) and Megan’s sister’s family (husband and wife with five kids, ages 9-22) are fairly “wired,” and I counted at least eight smart phones, six laptops, and a desktop among us that received more than their fair share of attention this past week. Granted, some use was to make plans or to communicate them, but I would venture that just as much or more was in pursuit of comfort and general distraction. I kept wondering (again, without judgment of a crime – if it was one – to which I was certainly an accomplice), how much did we miss from each other because of the separation of our screens?

Years ago, I read a fascinating book titled Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch. A writer, poet, and undertaker, Lynch writes from a unique first-person perspective of the generalities and nuances of life, death, and the often-uneasy tension that exists in their co-existence in our world. He has published several books along the theme of death and dying, including The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, and more recently, The Good Funeral: The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care. (PBS’ Frontline actually turned The Undertaking into this documentary by the same name, which I watched with my four daughters a few hours before leaving for the visitation on Thursday as a way of explaining what all had happened since their grandmother’s death.) He writes:

“Grief is the tax we pay on our attachments…the price we pay for being close to one another. If we want to avoid our grief, we simply avoid each other.”

Was our family’s tendency toward technology in some way self-protective against the idea of losing each other as we had already lost Moleta? I’m not sure any of us would have verbalized it as such (nor probably would any of us still), but I do wonder. Was our handling of death and dying in our digital age normal? Was it healthy? Could it have been better without the phones and laptops? Would it have been? I don’t know.

A couple other observations from a tough week:

  • Everyone suddenly becomes a theologian at visitations, memorial services, and funerals. I heard plenty of bad theology from people – some who didn’t know any better, plenty of others who should – that it took all I could muster to keep from putting on sackcloth and ashes and weeping and gnashing my teeth. “Heaven got a new angel today!” “She finally got her wings!” And my personal favorite, spoken without a trace of irony: “I’m sure she’s having a great time, but Heaven sounds boring to me.” And then there came the platitudes: “Nothing can hurt her now.” “We’ll get to see her again one day.” “She’s in a better place.” While this last set may be true, I hate them, and I judgmentally hold in contempt those who use them. I’m not saying I’m right in doing this; I’m just saying I do this.
  • I can’t remember the last time I cried and don’t really care that I rarely do – it fits well with the Spock stereotype people often enjoy at my expense. (Interestingly, when I was not trying to get some work done across the week, I watched the first five Star Trek movies on Netflix just to touch base with my Vulcan counterpart. The more I learn about Spock’s back story, the more I happily embrace the aforementioned comparison. It’s not that Spock didn’t have emotions; on the contrary, as a Vulcan he was fiercely emotional, but was trained and learned to master his feelings to the point where he was confused for and known as being emotion-less.) All that said, I finally cried (“leaked” is probably a better word) at the end of the memorial service, so I really am human in case anyone was wondering.

As always with me, there are plenty more observations, but most are either too personal or too meaningless (or both) to write here. I’ve said before that death is life’s great perspective-bringer, but after experiencing death’s bringing of perspective this week, I’ve had enough, at least for now.

Which brings me back to Lynch and the comfort with which he writes and thinks about death. His is a wonderful analysis neither morbid in tone nor myopic in perspective; rather, he writes in a way that is warm, helpful, and full of insight into the meaning of life as viewed through death’s reality, which is not something to be feared, but to be embraced as another part of the whole of life:

“It was there, in the parlors of the funeral home – my daily stations with the local lately dead – that the darkness would often give way to light. A fellow citizen outstretched in his casket, surrounded by floral tributes, waiting for the homages and obsequies, would speak to me in the silent code of the dead: ‘So, you think you’re having a bad day?’ The gloom would lift inexplicably. Here was one to whom the worst had happened, often in a variety of ways, and yet no word of complaint was heard from out the corpse. Nor did the world end, nor the sky fall, nor his or her people become blighted entirely. Life, it turns out, goes on with or without us. There is at least as much to be thankful for as wary of.”

Indeed, but only because Jesus says so (and not because someone tells me on Facebook).


The Way We “Wrestle” Is to Pray

In Calling, Church, Educators, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Parents, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on February 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Wrist Prayer

Jesus was never one to over-spiritualize, but he did talk frankly of the Devil and his demons being at work in the world.

Following Jesus’ lead, I don’t want to over-spiritualize, either; yet multiple conversations with many of you in recent weeks have combined with my own acute sense of need to compel me to remind friends that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:2).

The way we “wrestle” is to pray.

Because God is at work in the world, Satan wants to be as well. Depression, doubt, insecurity, fear – these are all evils from the pit of Hell, and multiple families are experiencing these attacks in various manifestations in the midst of physical sickness and mental weariness of late. Recently, we’ve had students and staff members who have been in the hospital for a variety of (odd) reasons, moms and dads who are struggling through hard life decisions, and just about all of us (my own family included) who are dealing with situations that are unfamiliar and out of our control.

To top it all off, we just finished a 12-day streak of some of the worst winter weather Oklahoma City has seen in a while, which can play havoc with our emotions as much as anything else.

Of course, not all of these trials are in and of themselves evil, but the discouragement that can accompany them (along with the often self-inflicted feeling of faithlessness in our handling them) can easily be used against us. Trust – in God, in each other – can erode, and Satan would like nothing more than to wash away all we have worked so hard to achieve.

With all this on hearts and minds, most of us are aware of at least one person or scenario in need of help. Would you ask the Lord to act in accordance with his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) in providing it? As Jesus does in his prayer in Matthew 6, let me also encourage you to ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan does not need more of a foothold in anyone’s life.

I’m not asking anyone to make lists or track answers; I’m just asking us – you and me – to take some time this weekend to pray, that God may meet us in our need, do what he wants through it, reassure us of his love in it, and be glorified as a result of it.

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

From The (Online) Book of Common Prayer

(The pictured wrist above belongs to my friend, Jerome Loughridge, who wrote out the names of several of our school staff on his arm to remind himself to pray over the weekend. I was privileged to make the wrist…er, list.)

Let the Learning Continue

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Health, Holidays, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on January 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm


My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Proverbs 3:1-2

Megan already shared a 2013 summary of sorts in our online Christmas letter, so I’ll save you a rehash here. But I did want to offer a few thoughts I’ve been thinking between Christmas and New Year’s (possibly my favorite week of the year).

Put simply, I’m really glad 2013 is out of here. It was a very hard year, one that I don’t regret, but at the same time one I do not wish to relive again. Foster care, school merging, church planting, another round of husbanding and parenting – all good things that were all hard. Really hard.

It was a lonely year. Despite spending the majority of my days with great people at The Academy, we were always at work on something (and trying to be present on three different campuses every week sometimes felt like being present at none). I enjoy the folks in our Wednesday night City Pres group, but seeing them once a week for an hour or two only goes so far.

Even with Megan and the girls, the “project” of foster care took its toll on our family dynamics and relationships, and while it built new things in, I would say that we all functioned more as partners than as family at times, doing what needed to get done at the expense of deepening our relationships. This kind of sacrifice is not always bad – we grew in other ways as a result – but I don’t want to repeat it to the same degree in 2014.

Things I’m continuing to learn/re-learn (feel free to apply palm to forehead on my behalf if any of these seem obvious):

  • The “why” behind decisions matters, and even when it should be crystal clear, it still bears repeating.
  • Competence is exhausting if it’s all you’re depending on or leading by.
  • The intellectual vacuum I feel having read so little and consistently this past year is scary. Am I really so out of thoughts without those of others? It would seem so.
  • The forties can be a very dangerous time of coasting on past experiences and successes and relying too much on oneself.
  • Another forties temptation: to claim identity in what I do and not in who I am (and Whose I am). Unfortunately, others are too quick to enable this by labeling and pigeon-holing.
  • Technology continues to both accelerate and rob me of time (and I continue to let it).
  • I barely have an idea of what moderation is (and suffer as a result – diet, overworking, time online, vegging, etc.).
  • Being acknowledged is not the same as being known.
  • I am not particularly healthy, but seem to benefit from hardy genes that don’t require a whole lot to function…for now.
  • Regular periods of quiet are scarce and their absence is scarring my soul.
  • All of a sudden I’m older than many of the parents enrolling at our school and therefore viewed as someone who should know (or know better, depending on the complaint).
  • I do not write enough thank you notes (but not because I do not have reasons to do so – God is so good to me, as are His people).
  • The older I get, the harder it becomes to acknowledge how much I still have to learn (humility ages so much better than does pride).

I don’t want to lose sight of all that, by God’s grace, was accomplished last year:

  • Megan and I are still (somehow) married after 17 years.
  • Our kids still seem to love and enjoy us (and we them).
  • Our family is still caring about caring for people.
  • We successfully merged two schools into one.
  • City Pres is growing and purchased a great building in downtown Oklahoma City.
  • We are still seeking to believe and care about God (though we fail by the minute).

But that was last year, and this is this year. And today is the first day of 2014, and tomorrow will be the second. One would think I would have learned more than I have by now, yet I feel the weight of all that I still have not (or at least what I imagine I have not).

So, let the learning continue. And to those whom God will use to teach/re-teach me in 2014, thanks for having God’s best interests for me in mind.

And sorry I can be stubborn. I’m still learning.

(As I finish this post, I’m reminded of Charlie Peacock‘s brilliant song, “Insult Like the Truth,” the lyrics of which Chuck graciously gave permission to use in TwentySomeone. Take a listen here for his treatise on the dangers of a lack of teachability.)

The Condition of My Sole/Soul

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Oklahoma City, Places, The Academy on September 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm

DSC_0002 As I’ve done before, I took a picture of my shoes tonight. My daughters wondered if I was going to try to sell them online. I’m actually thinking of making a display box for them to remind myself that shoes are no more good without an intact sole than I am without mine (intact soul, that is).

I noticed these shoes breaking down at the beginning of summer (the heel on the the right shoe had already begun to decompose), but I hit August and never seemed to have or take the time to buy a new pair once the hole developed.

To compensate, I spent more mental energy than I had making sure I didn’t cross my legs with my foot up in the air, advertising the color of my socks that day. I was careful on rainy days (and we had several of them this summer) as to where I stepped, as I was vulnerable not just to the biggest of puddles, but to the dewiest of grass as well.

Having made the aforementioned adjustments, I thought I could just keep going, which I did…until the remains of the inner liner gave way and all that was left between my foot and the pavement was my sock, which didn’t last more than a day during car line of the opening week of school. Concrete and cotton are not friends, and my foot paid the price for their dysfunctional relationship.

Two weeks ago, I finally went to the shoe store. I proudly announced to the staff there that I thought it was time I bought a new pair of dress shoes. I showed them the bottoms of my old shoes. They were amazed. They took pictures. They said they had never seen a pair of dress shoes that beat up. I beamed with pride even as my feet hurt. My sole-abuse was (or seemed) justified.

Just like my sole, my soul – the essence of who I am – has worn through some as a result of the past two-and-a-half years in Oklahoma. Sure, the shoe still fits and functions, but that doesn’t mean I should keep wearing it as it is.

I took time this weekend to sort some of this out. I spent a lot of time thinking, writing, editing, praying, and resting. I consolidated a majority of my digital life and re-read and re-evaluated what – good and not so much – had brought me to this time and space. While my work and call are far from fulfilled (God asks for and is doing so much!), for the first time in a very long time, I caught a glimpse of a few adjustments I need to make so as to avoid burnout in fulfilling them. They won’t be immediate and will be more of a months-long process than a weekend project, but I liked being able to identify the need and the difference. It felt good.

To be clear, I’m not even close to fizzling or frying; hardly. I still love God, my wife, my kids (biological and foster), what we’re doing at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies and City Presbyterian, and with whom and why we’re doing it. I’m also looking forward to heading to Merrimack, NH, this weekend as we start up the third leg of the Biblical Imagination conferences, which are always personally edifying.

The fact is that I’m encouraged most days, Oklahoma continues to grow on me, and we’re paying our bills and eating. God has just shown me a few important things in the midst of all the good things, and I felt led to share them with you, ask you to pray, and encourage you to glean from my experiences what God might show you concerning yours.

No need to worry; no need to call.

It’s just time to get some new shoes.

What I’ve Yet to Learn on Summer Vacation

In Family, Friends, Health, Holidays, Places, Thought, Vacation on June 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm


We're set to go on "vacation" in another week, which only means we're seeing a few friends and family in a few places we've already lived. When it comes to "vacation", we stopped using the "v" word a long time ago; we're always taking "trips" instead. (For the antithesis of our experience, Google "Vacation".)

Our initial plans for a break were to start this week and go through the Fourth of July week for a total of 12-14 days away, but that schedule got thrown out months ago because of a board meeting this Friday, as well as that, summer or not, we've got a limited amount of time to launch a new school two months from today. And that's okay…or at least reality.

I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but reality is where I tend to live and move and have my being, often at the expense of my many idealist dreams. I wanted to take Megan to London for a week for our honeymoon; we ended up renting a cabin in Arkansas for three days because we had neither time nor money to do otherwise. I went to Africa and planned for our family to spend six months in Uganda in the fall of 2001 (with an eye to possibly staying years as missionaries); Megan, however, became pregnant with our third that summer and 9/11 happened in September, so those plans changed.

After a nice "trip" back to Colorado Springs (where we lived for 12 years) last summer, we hoped to return this summer so the girls could finally go to Eagle Lake together (the last year it would be possible because of their ages) and we could get some time alone as well as part of a major staff reunion; however, school merger necessities made that trip impossible, especially if we wanted to also get back to the family farm in Illinois, which we haven't been to since Christmas (another "trip").

Our plan next week? We just finalized it this weekend (which gives you some indication of how little it actually entails): see a few friends in St. Louis, spend 4-5 days on the farm, catch Megan's parents in Tulsa on the way back. That's it…and usually what it always is.

I feel like a failure when it comes to the Great American Vacation, largely because I'm not sure I have the courage (among other things – time, money, people-quotient) to actually take one. We've made noble attempts – the aforementioned trip to Colorado, for instance, or an actual "vacation" in the summer of 2009 to Florida so we could take a few pictures and prove to the girls that they, indeed, had once stood on a beach and seen an actual ocean – but in 16 years, that's about it.

I remember one year before we had kids, Megan and I got a phone call from a timeshare company inviting us to make a trip from Colorado Springs to Pagosa Springs for a free weekend getaway if we sat through their presentation. We went, but the only thing I remember from the time was the company representative asking me how "committed" we were to "vacation." Committed to vacation? As a farm kid, I had never heard those words used in the same sentence before. We didn't buy a timeshare.

I get that people need breaks (and maybe it's my pride that wrestles with that fact that I do as well), but taking time off (especially when I love what I do as much as I do) is a very unnatural experience for me. Even when we leave on "vacation" next week, it's going to be a working trip: we're unveiling new uniforms for The Academy that Monday and if there's anything people have opinions about more than what their students are learning, it's what their kids are wearing while they're learning. It's too early in our school's one-month-old existence to make this kind of announcement and not be available (at least by phone, email, or online) should there be any questions.

What is it I've yet to learn on summer vacation? I suppose it's just how and why (not to mention where and when) to actually take one. For those who have figured it out, I welcome your rationales.

And if you're on vacation, well, I guess, enjoy it (somebody has to).

Losing the Fight Over Love

In Calling, Church, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Politics, Science, Theologians, Thought on March 27, 2013 at 8:00 am

My heart is heavy with all that is taking place right now concerning the debate over gay marriage. Apart from the issue itself, I lament the hostile rhetoric of it all and the way sides are being taken with so little nuance (see Facebook's pink equal signs and their "Christian" cross variations), not so much for a position but against someone else taking the opposite one.

With this in mind, I appreciate N.T. Wright's perspective on framing the discussion and would encourage you to give thought to it in terms of how Christians should engage:

As to the issue itself, I wrote about it here on the blog five years ago and you're welcome to agree or disagree. For a more recent treatise that I think worthy of your time, Voddie Baucham's article, "Gay Is Not the New Black," is an important piece that does a good job addressing the issues at hand in the context of the current rhetoric.

All that said, pray for our country, that regardless of whatever differences people have, we can show love to one another in our discussions of them.

Why “Priorities” Are Not Always Helpful

In Calling, Family, Health, Thought on July 30, 2012 at 7:28 am
Prosser Clock
Earlier last week, Megan and I were sitting at the dinner table talking about our family's fall schedule. One of the things we try to do before each school year is formulate what we call our "default schedule" – that elusive weekly calendar which, if not otherwise interrupted by life, represents our ideal "normal" state of existence. Perhaps you do a similar thing…or perhaps not.

All of us are called to be good stewards of the time God has given us, but when we get down to it, our struggle tends to be not as much a matter of time management as it is of priority management. This sounds simple enough, but our culture does us a disservice by pluralizing the word “priority,” confusing us as to what our “priorities” are. When we talk about our “priorities,” we’re talking about something that doesn’t make sense—the nature of priority is singular. We are only able to have one priority.

Is it really true what the commercials say, that we can have it all? Unfortunately, no, we can't; we have to choose. Theologian J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “We are as close to God as we choose to be, not as we want to be." How to choose wisely? The first step may be as simple as taking the time to ask the question (I'm currently considering this in a 2-part series, "Beating Busyness," at Docendo Discimus if you'd like to read more).

Megan and I end up having the time/priority management discussion multiple times a year…a quarter…a month…a week. Probably like you, we've wrestled with what we do (or should do) for 15 years now, but we've hardly perfected the process – life is just so complicated and messy. Still, we know it's an important discussion to have, so we try to give each other grace (again) in the midst of it; thankfully, God does as well.

As you think about the coming fall and your family's schedule, let me encourage you to consider your family's priority (singular) and how that influences your weekly calendar. Cull through your agendas, your expectations, and your guilt-trips and figure out what's really driving what you and your family do. You might be surprised by who's in charge…or Who isn't.

(Clock photo courtesy of Matthew Prosser; used by permission.)

So I’m Having a Little Surgery Tomorrow…

In Family, Health, Science on January 8, 2012 at 8:36 am

I had a bit of a scare earlier this week by way of a doctor's appointment in which the word "cancer" randomly found its way into the list of possible pain diagnoses. Thankfully, I actually have two "significant" kidney stones (9 millimeters and 7 millimeters; one in each kidney) and am scheduled for an outpatient procedure early Monday morning to have them lasered. (All prayers appreciated for this procedure tomorrow; for the menfolk out there, this is where you cross your legs in empathy).

With the exception of one day, I haven't been in any kind of major pain; however, the doctor was concerned when I described to him the pain I had felt being in both sides of my back. He said it was rare to have "synced" kidney stones in each kidney and thought the odds were a little against that. When I asked him what else might account for the dispersed pain, that was when the briefest of cancer discussions began.

In general, I'm not one to freak out at things like this, and I didn't; odds or not, the pain was similar to the only other time I've had kidney stones, so I was pretty sure that's what I was dealing with here. But the doctor had me get a CT scan later that day so we would know what the problem was, and in the 36-hour period of waiting for the results, I experienced a few emotions at the possibility of having cancer that I'm not sure I had felt up to this point in my life.

My first emotion – starting in the doctor's office – had to do with the challenge of the prospect: I felt myself hoping it was cancer so I could take my best shot at beating it. Perhaps a form of denial or just prideful presumption, I remember thinking through how I could "use" this to inspire others through my battle and come out on top in the end. I know: sick. But that was my first emotion, self-serving and naive as it was.

My second emotion – once I moved past the idiotic hope of wanting cancer – had everything to do with Megan and the girls. I began thinking through all the details I needed to figure out (and fast) so as to make whatever time I had left with them the best that I could. I also spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure out when and how to break the news, as their disassociative abilities are not as fully developed (read: non-existent) as mine are in terms of dealing with bad news and not immediately personalizing it.

My final emotion – and the one that was strangest to deal with – was my first real visceral sense that, in my humanity, I am indeed mortal and vulnerable to death. Though I've made peace with this reality from the philosophical and theological perspectives, this was the first true emotional consideration of the fact that I am not always going to be a living, breathing person. I felt fear, sadness, and disappointment creep in at the possibility that I might be dead prematurely (at least by my watch), and I emotionally winced at the Bible's teaching that, "…you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14) I prefer not to be a poster child for this truth (though I – and all of us – are).

Thankfully, I DON'T have cancer, the kidney stones will be taken care of in an outpatient surgery tomorrow, and I fully intend on making a quick and complete recovery and getting back to what God has called me to do. In fact, as I processed all of the above this week, one thing that did encourage me was that, if indeed I had limited time to live, I had no desire to do anything other than what I'm doing – no end-of-life trips or job-quitting plans required. This is reassuring and has brought new focus to the tasks at hand this week.

I'm glad for that 36-hour period in which I didn't know for sure what the future held; if anything, it was a good and practical opportunity to hold on tight with open hands to my life and check how much I do or don't trust God with it. In not knowing, I felt relief that, by His grace, I seemed able to trust Him for whatever would come, as several times Job's words were my own: "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." (Job 13:15 ESV)

Not doing much arguing of ways these days…just grateful to God to get to have one more.

Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

In Health, Holidays on November 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Doctors-scalesNow that we're on the backside of Thanksgiving but still have Christmas and New Year's up ahead, I'm toying with an idea/practice that I hope will stick. It's new, fresh, and possibly life-changing.

Yes, though I hate it, I'm thinking of exercising…in the evening…at home…a couple times a month…maybe even a few times a week.

I first took notice of my weight (at least enough to write about it) around my mid-thirties when I began to toe the (gasp) 200-pound line. Now twenty pounds beyond that, it's probably time to revisit the topic.

Actually, I need to do more than revisit it; I need to do something about it. So, I'm starting a month earlier than the normal New Year's resolution crowd by exercising three times a week on a treadmill at night.

Why at night? 1) To keep me from falling asleep at 9 p.m. and get more than a page of a book read before bed, and 2) because the morning and afternoon have never worked for me in the past. In other words, this is my last shot. After this, I'm out of ideas.

Exercise always goes better with better eating habits, but I'll let the former lead me into the latter if it so chooses. Regardless, getting the blood pumping (and a few pounds dropping) would be a good thing going into 2012.

As the beer commercials say, "Here we go!"

Humble Thyself (or God/Others Will Do It for You)

In Health on June 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm

So today I got a letter in the mail from St. Louis University. Wondering if perhaps they bought an address list of recent graduates from Covenant, I began opening the envelope with the thought that perhaps they wanted me to consider doing a doctorate at SLU.

Pulling the folded letter out of the envelope, I then wondered if perhaps they were writing to invite me to do a doctorate at their expense. Maybe, I told myself, they had somehow heard of me (that is, something of me – I don't know) and were sending a formal letter to set up a meeting to discuss my future (and free!) Ph.D. education at their fine institution.

Opening the letter, I saw the SLU logo and my name personalized in the greeting (yes! this was it!). Only then did I discover it was from my doctor, who happens to be part of the SLUCare medical network. Along with several sets of numbers, she wrote:

"The results of your recent laboratory test are as follows. As you can see, your triglycerides are high and your HDL (good cholesterol) is low. Please make an appointment so we can discuss the results."

Talk about your lesson in humility…


In Family, Health, Places & Spaces, Science, Seminary, Young Ones on April 17, 2010 at 6:55 am

In the past week, I've coached five baseball games, the last of which counts almost for two as it went 12 innings (high school games are seven innings). The good news: we won every game (even the 12-inning one); the other news: by the end of the week (or really by Wednesday) I was completely exhausted.

When I got home Friday night after school, a seminary class, and a reunion dinner with my family to reintroduce myself as husband/father, I was so tired that I was in bed and asleep by 7:30…that is, until Megan came to bed at 11:30, which is when I woke up and couldn't go back to bed. I knew I was still wiped out, but I could not for the life of me fall back asleep. And now it's early morning. Nuts.

I remember taking a psychology class my sophomore year in college and reading about sleep deprivation experiments done on mice. Somehow, before taking that class, I had honestly believed that one's need for sleep was simply mind over matter; we didn't really need to sleep, but it was a good idea to do so anyway. I'm not kidding: I honestly thought this (in the words of Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon.")

Then I read about experiments in which researchers filled an aquarium with four inches of water and placed a long triangle-shaped column the length of the aquarium floor. The edge of the triangle jutted up out of the water by an inch or so, and the mice would perch themselves on the edge so as not to fall in and get wet. However, when the mice fell asleep, their grip on the edge relaxed, they fell off, woke up, and scrambled back onto the edge, newly awakened but increasingly sleep-deprived. This went on for days and weeks until they finally died from sheer exhaustion.

Maybe it's my farm background, but I've never been a real night owl; even in college, I was usually in bed by 9:30 and up before everyone else in the dorm. This all changed 8-10 years ago in Colorado, as I started getting up in the middle of the night multiple times – sometimes because of crying kids, but often because I just kept waking up and couldn't go back to sleep. I began to notice that I didn't dream anymore, and I needed naps more than I used to because I was just so tired all the time. I also snored, which along with my constant getting in and out of bed,
kept Megan up at night.

This sleep pattern continued when we moved to St. Louis five years ago, but it didn't make sense because we were through the crying-kids-at-night stage, yet I was still waking (and getting) up. Studying in seminary became especially difficult as I couldn't read anything even early in the evening without falling asleep 20 minutes later. Then, when I started teaching full-time in addition to everything else, I would come home from school and have to lay down for a good hour, as I was so wiped out from the day.

At Megan's request, I finally did a sleep study at St. Luke's Sleep Medicine and Research Center and found out that I woke myself up approximately 100 times a night due to sleep apnea. Apparently, I have very narrow nasal passages that hinder my breathing and keep my brain from dropping into REM sleep because it's too busy making sure I don't stop breathing altogether by causing me to gasp for more air. Yet because I had been kind of asleep, I never really noticed (though Megan did, especially the gasping part).

For the past couple of years now, I have been sleeping with a mask that's connected to a ventilator of sorts and pushes air through my nasal passages to keep them from collapsing during the night. The mask took some getting used to (I'm a tummy sleeper, so I've had to learn to sleep more on my side), but the change has been remarkable: I sleep harder, I rarely wake up enough to get up in the middle of the night, and best of all, the dreams are back and that really makes me happy (I have cool dreams).

Except last night, when there were no dreams because there was no sleep. I was afraid this might happen going to bed so early, but I had little choice – my body just wouldn't stay up any longer. So, I'm a little tired this morning, but as this is my last clear Saturday to work on my seminary capstone project, I need to resist the urge to try to go back to bed. Thankfully, I have four alarm clocks with legs who will do the trick when they get up pretty soon, but for now, I'm glad a night like last night is the exception and not the rule anymore.

(Note: I'm not paid to endorse sleep studies, but if you're constantly tired, give some thought to whether it could be because of poor sleep. As was true in my case, you may not know what you don't know.)

Having the Appearance of Godliness, But Denying Its Power

In Books, Calling, Church, Health, Seminary, Westminster, Writers on November 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

LeadersJourney “In his classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster reminds us that the spiritual disciplines are uniquely designed by God to allow us to receive his grace by allowing ‘us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us…We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only puts us in the place where the change can occur.’”
The Leader’s Journey, p. 136

I’m trying to recall when in my life I’ve felt most spiritually disciplined. It hasn’t been often.
My first thought goes back to my sophomore year of college, when I embraced (via The Navigators) the concept of Scripture memory and the Quiet Time (or “Q.T.,” as we affectionately called it then). I would rise every morning at 6 a.m. (after a 9:30 p.m. bedtime – unheard of for dorm life), make my way down the hall to the student lounge (which was always empty that early in the morning), and read, pray, write, memorize, and review verses for an hour. Over the next couple of years of doing this, I read through the Bible a few times, memorized (and retained) 2-3 verses a week, and filled 6 journals with my thoughts. I learned and grew a lot those three years, which was good. I was hungry to do so.

My second memory consists of a collage of my first three summers at Eagle Lake – first as a counselor responsible for the physical and spiritual care of a tee-pee of seven teenage kids each week, then as one of four program directors responsible for the whole camp (about 2,000 souls each summer). The sense of responsibility I felt was enormous, and my prayer life reflected it through multiple prayer walks (often in the same day) around the lake, across camp, and on a particular flat rock in the path leading to the A-frame. I prayed a lot those first three summers – sometimes out of gratitude, but mostly out of desperation – as the challenges felt immense and my ability to meet them seemed so small. These were hugely developmental times in terms of spiritual growth and leadership, and much of this had to do with those times spent in prayer, voicing my dependence to God.

If spiritual hunger and voicing my dependence to God are criteria for engaging in the spiritual disciplines, one might think there would be plenty more examples of having done so in my life. After all, since my days in college and at camp, I’ve gotten married, had four children, bought three different houses, written a book, traveled and spoken many times, experienced significant ministry transition, graduated from seminary, and now teach 100 high schoolers a day in my New Testament and Biblical Ethics classes. It would seem I have/have had reasons to exercise my dependence on God through spiritual disciplines.

Unfortunately, I haven’t felt spiritually disciplined for a long time, for in addition to the spiritual disciplines producing fruit in me in the past, they have also made me more competent at handling life and ministry in the here and now. Maturity, of course, is by God’s design, but competence is not meant to be an end in itself but a means to the end of continuing spiritual transformation and formation. This is what Foster means when he writes, “the path does not produce the change; it only puts us in the place where the change can occur.” Thus, when I have been most desperate, it has been when I have been most spiritually disciplined – not because I had to be, but because I needed to be.

In considering all this (and I do often), I think of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:2-5:

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Sadly, I recognize myself too much in these verses – not in every way mentioned, but in more ways than I care to admit. The appearance of godliness – so often mistaken as competence – too easily hides my desperation for God. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency – values affirmed in our culture – too often numb my felt need to practice the spiritual disciplines as they numb my real need to experience God. Spiritual disciplines can help me realize what’s going on in my life, but only God has power to transform my heart.

Now Practicing in Maplewood

In Books, Family, Health, Seminary, Young Ones on November 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm

“Systems theory focuses on what man does
and not
on his verbal explanations about why he does it.”
Murray Bowen in Family Therapy in Clinical Practice

I love Murray Bowen and systems theory. I remember first formally encountering Bowen’s work in my Marriage and Family class at Covenant and thinking, “Not only does this make complete sense in explaining the dynamics of human relationships, it also appeals to how systematic/systemic thinkers (like me) think.” From that point forward, I was hooked.

Having grown up on a farm, I was raised and led to believe that the world was basically secure rather than basically threatening, and that as long as I did my homework, finished my chores, and got to (and out of) bed at a decent hour, things would generally work out for the best. Mine was a fairly consistent existence with little drama involved.

As a result of my background, I sometimes struggle with others whose commotion tends to trump logic. In the past, I have resorted to more emotional outbursts myself in order to "out-emote the over-emotional," beating them at their own game, and (foolishly) trying to illustrate how ridiculous the drama can be. This, of course, is rarely effective (though somewhat disturbingly enjoyable), and I recognize that I assume this position when I fail to consider the systems (family, organizational, etc.) at play in the various situations.

Thankfully, after years of learning things the hard way, I'm finally on the brink of a major break-through by being able to give up my attempts to "out-emote the over-emotional"; indeed, my days of "trying to illustrate how ridiculous the drama can be" may be at an end.

What's my secret? I'm the father of four daughters. Here's my team of therapists:


It's good to be on the road to recovery…

(Photo by Kelly Park Photography)

A Few Things on Friday

In Education, Health, Pop Culture, Seminary on August 28, 2009 at 11:49 am

I haven't done a random Friday post for a good while, so I thought I'd throw out a couple things here:

  • I am way behind on email and it's driving me nuts – I'm usually a "zero inbox" kind of guy. The worst part is it's not even "good" email – somebody either wants me to know something or wants something from me. Remember the early days when we actually used email to write personal letters? Sigh.
  • We're officially two weeks into school already and it feels good. I'm really enjoying the kids in each of my classes, and I think the feeling seems mutual. Still, here's the semi-depressing thought of the week (as overheard in the teacher's lounge on Monday): "We'll have three weeks of school under our belts by Labor Day weekend." Just doesn't seem right.
  • Speaking of school, my final year of seminary officially begins on Monday. After earning an MA in Theology last May, I'm trying to finish up my MA in Educational Ministries in 2010. Classes this semester: Educational Leadership (Mondays) and God's World Mission (online). Next semester is the Capstone class, which serves to summarize and systematize everything we've learned on the education track.
  • I'm going to be one of two "co-coaches" for Westminster's JV baseball team next spring. Pretty stoked about that. Pitchers and catchers (and everyone else) report March 1.
  • Haven't had too many offers (or really much sympathy in general) in
    response to my previous post on the book status, so I'll suck it up and
    stop talking about it here (for those trying to make a point, I got it).
  • I've lost ten pounds in the past two weeks, due largely to a change in diet and a slight increase in activity. Been eating a lot of cottage cheese and nuts while avoiding bread and carbs like the plague. Also laying off anything that would cause my body to produce sugar (read about the South Beach Diet for more).
  • Glad for the weekend and the beautiful weather coming our way. This has definitely been the mildest summer in the MIdwest that I can remember, though I'm guessing we'll get a hot day or two in September just to keep us honest.

Hope everyone has a nice, productive yet restful weekend.

Squirrel Nam

In Family, Health, Pop Culture on July 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm


It was dark…so dark. You could hear the squirrels chattering in the trees, calling to one another and plotting…always plotting. The bugs – the awful, biting bugs – were everywhere, as was the humidity and heat – baking us and causing sweat to roll off our noses like rain off a roof.

The Jungle

We were trying to protect the plants – not so much their leaves, but their fruit – from the four-legged Communist predators. We'd naively tried goodwill; we'd desperately tried negotiation. Now we were left with no choice – no choice, that is, except to build the DMZ (Dunham Menu Zone) as a frontier and boundary between our two competing powers and passions to stay alive.


This is our life now – forced to deal with metal and mesh in order to desperately cling to our hope for home-grown veggies. This is our struggle – to withstand the guerrilla attacks of various varmints in an effort to lower our food budget.

This is our conflict. This is Squirrel Nam.

The Big Push

In Books, Education, Health, Holidays, Internet on March 29, 2009 at 6:56 pm

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…

No, this week begins the last big push – 8+ weeks – before school's out for summer. Four of these days are for final exams, so we're essentially talking 40 days in the educational wilderness before vacation. At this point, it seems doable, but we'll see how the kids feel coming back tomorrow from spring break.

I've appreciated the comments and emails from several of you in response to my plan to shut things down here come April. While I've appreciated the sentiments of support and explanations of your personal blog-reading habits, I'm still planning to take a blogging sabbatical for an indefinite amount of time soon. Again, I don't feel the blog has quite yet jumped the shark, but I do feel it necessary to focus my efforts on book writing now so as to gear up for the most productive of writing summers starting in June.

I also am realizing that it's going to take all I can give in the next month to finish well my seminary classes this semester. Unlike my teaching at Westminster, which ends at the end of May, my studies at Covenant are done May 9th, with graduation being May 14th – not a lot of time to finish what I need to finish, especially in light of all that didn't happen academically the past ten days. It's going to be tight, but it can be done if I make proper adjustments now.

All that to say, faithful readers, my remaining few posts this spring may not come to the grandest of finales, but that's okay. Keep me on your subscription list or check in periodically to pick up some Fresh Linkage (I'll probably keep that going regardless), and we'll talk again soon. In the meantime, I'd appreciate your prayers on my behalf (especially for these next 40 days), and am glad to hear from you for need of the same.

PS: For some actual content this past week, Megan has been writing a series of posts on our church experience(s) of the past twelve years. It's been interesting reliving things through her eyes, so check out her posts if you haven't already: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

This, Too, Shall Pass (Lord God, I Hope So)

In Family, Health on March 27, 2009 at 9:00 am
In the future, I'm thinking about boycotting the last week of March. Let's review:
  • End of March 2007: My bout with gout (ouch).
  • End of March 2008: The Fall of the House of Half-Pints (a sad day).
  • End of March 2009: A hybrid of the world's worst ceiling renovation/indoor dust storm combined with two (count 'em: two) kidney stones soon to make their big (Lord, I hope not) entrance.
Spring Break week started off innocently enough: Megan and the girls headed to Oklahoma to visit her folks and I got some time to relax over the weekend before starting on the big living room project. I worked a full day at the bookstore on Monday, and then began demolition late Tuesday morning:

Things went smoothly (I'm much better at demolition than construction), and I got to this point in the progress by mid-afternoon:

From here, I finished pulling down the rest of the ceiling and put the finishing touches on an unbelievable house-permeating layer of lathe, plaster, and dry wall dust despite my best (but apparently inadequate) tape and plastic job. Coated in this same filth and muck and longing for a shower, I decided to call it a day, saving the clean-up for the next morning before my friend and general contractor, Dave, showed up to start hanging the new stuff. Besides, I was beat and was ready for an early bedtime.

That plan worked until about 1 a.m., when I woke up with a terribly acute ache in my lower left back. Embarrassed by how much a simple day's worth of physical labor seemed to affect me, I fought it for about an hour before finally getting up and applying some ointment to deal with what I assumed must be a pulled muscle. Two hours, three Tylenol, a hot bath, and 60 unsuccessful sleeping positions later, I determined that something else must be wrong and called my doctor. It was 4:30 a.m.

After taking four ibuprofen and getting in a few hours of sleep, I emailed Megan and told her I was probably in need of her returning from Tulsa, then called Dave to tell him that I probably wouldn't be available until the afternoon. Once the doctor's office opened, I made an appointment and went in, first seeing the doctor, who then me on for some lab work and a CT scan. Sure enough, I was the proud owner of not one but two kidney stones – the smaller one measuring 2×2 millimeters and still in the kidney; the larger one measuring 2×7 millimeters and making its way to my urinary tract.

Yeah, that's what I thought/said, too.

Coming home, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my prescribed pain medication, called Dave and cancelled for the day, and then called Megan, who had gotten my email and was already heading back to St. Louis with the ladies. I slept the afternoon and rejoiced at my wife and children walking in the door. By that time I was feeling a little better, so because the dust-covered house looked like something out of an archaeological dig, we grabbed some sandwiches at Jimmy John's and went to the park for a picnic before coming home, watched a movie (all six of us) in our bedroom, and finally turned in for the night.

Both Megan and I slept great and I was feeling pretty good Thursday morning, so we picked up the work site just in time for Dave to show up to start hanging 2x4s from which to hang the drywall. As he didn't need my help, I went back upstairs to lay down and ended up spending the rest of the morning there, as I had thrown up while trying to "push fluids" and felt weak again. Megan took the girls to the library so I could rest. By the time Dave was ready for me in the early afternoon, I was ready to work, and we made good progress all afternoon, getting to this point:


And then to this point: 


The good news: the worst (and messiest) part of the ceiling renovation is over; the other news: because of my illness and the fact that the ceiling needs a few more rounds of tape and mud before it's officially "done," it's doubtful we're going to get anything painted before school starts on Monday. This unfortunate reality mimics life in many ways: sometimes it takes so much effort just to maintain things that the time and energy required to actually improve them seems out of reach, and that's not even counting all the filth – dust in our house; sin in real life – that accumulates along the way (I won't even try to metaphorically figure out where kidney stones fit in…).

So, that's been my week – some progress, some pain, but little really to show for it (though if I successfully give birth to the stones before school starts, that will be a real accomplishment, especially if I live to tell about it). The encouraging thing for me in all this is I haven't really lost my temper, nor played the "woe is me" card (though one could argue I've been saving it up for this blog post), nor felt tempted to "curse God and die" as Job's wife suggested in the midst of his pain.

No, if anything (believe it or not), I've prayed more and tried to make the best of some unfortunate circumstances. In the midst of my struggles (minimal as they are in the larger scope of the world's problems), I've somehow been almost grateful for them and for what God has taught me through them. I've felt like I've learned some things about praying through pain and dealing with physical suffering – things I haven't really had to do much of in my life, but will probably have to do more of as I and others around me get older – and that encourages me.

In the words of my mother, "This, too, shall pass." With regard to my kidney stones, Lord God, I hope so.

Bring on April.

The Contentment Equation

In Friends, Health, Humanity, Science, Westminster on March 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

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?

Bike Buddies

In Family, Health, Places & Spaces, Technology, Young Ones on March 8, 2009 at 5:34 pm
It's been a beautiful weekend here in St. Louis – blue skies, temps in the 70s. Despite all the grading I needed to get done (and still have to do), the girls and I spent a fair amount of time (translation: hours) riding bikes all around Maplewood and enjoying the weather. The ladies are all pretty good riders, so it was a fun thing to do together.

Bike Buddies

Last summer, a student gave us this Trail-A-Bike her family had outgrown, so I finally got it out and hooked it up. Once my five-year-old and I both got used to it (the pic above is our first attempt), I put on my helmet and some better footwear and we had a great time. She's quite the taskmaster ("Come on, Dad! Pedal!"), and has assumed the role of my own personal trainer/entertainer, breaking into a rousing chorus of "B-I-N-G-O" while flying down hills (which, of course, is supposed to be motivation for me to climb them).

Good times, good times.

Saturday Smatterings

In Health, Movies, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture on February 7, 2009 at 11:29 am
A few things:
  • It's 70 degrees today. I'm thinking about getting the bike out and going for a ride. My kids think spring is here already, and I don't have the heart to tell them that the Midwest enjoys playing games with one's weather expectations. They'll find out soon enough, I suppose.
  • Our younger daughters had a birthday party to attend at the seminary's log cabin this morning, so I volunteered to bring them so I could spend an hour-and-a-half studying at the library. Of all the things I miss most about being a full-time student, studying daily at the library has to be at the top of the list.
  • Several of my ethics students are coming over for our Sabbath dinner tonight, and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with them. I love everything about these high schoolers – their good-natured senses of humor; the way they get so easily embarrassed; their zeal in engaging with and trying to figure out life. I'm blessed to call them friends as well as students.
  • Speaking of ethics, as this past week was Spirit Week (may it rest in peace), I treated my kids to a week-long viewing of Pope John Paul II. The film – 180 minutes long – is a really well-done treatment of the former Pope's life, his heart for young people, and his commitment to biblical ethics on a variety of fronts. My students really liked it, and if you've not seen it, it's worth watching.
  • I lost five whole pounds last week, almost exclusively from changing my diet (i.e. no exercise). I'm avoiding carbs and eating a lot more fruit and fiber, which all seems to be working. On Thursday, we went out to Red Robin for a birthday dinner and I ordered a burger wrapped in nothing more than lettuce (yes, I'm that serious). Encouraged, but I still have twenty-five pounds I'd like to drop.
Have a nice weekend, everybody.