In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Friday, April 27, 2007

Internet Stalking

It's a Friday night, and I have no desire to do anything productive. For a while, I tried to take a nap. When I got a phone call, I figured that was my hint that the nap should be over (but it didn't even start!).

So, I started surfing the web. Now, web surfing is not something I do very often. I usually just have a set number of sites that I visit. Over the course of an evening or even a weekend, I can get rather bored with the internet, because none of the sites that I look at have updated at all.

Tonight, I'm not sure what got into me, but I decided that I would like to try to find some people from my past. There are some folks who I met a long time ago, that I think about the every once-in-a-great-while. I wonder who they are and what they've become.

There were some folks that I met while I was a student in the Community College who were really fun and interesting people. Back in 1997, I was invited to participate in an honors institute in Germany. About 45 people from around the US were invited to participate, so we became a pretty tight-knit group. We kept in touch for a while, but the bonds of friendship eventually frayed from the scraping of time (just flexing my literary muscle).

There are a few folks who I still keep in touch with from my Germany days. In fact, my Other Half was one of the Germany participants. Apparently, he kept in touch so well that we now live together!

Anyway, I suddenly got curious about a couple of other folks. So I did what any self-respecting stalker would do: I typed a name into Google. This resulted in a bunch of false leads. So eventually I tried a different name. This was was more fruitful in the short term. It turns out that this guy is running a blog and a podcast about life in Germany. Score one!

I returned to the first guy...the guy with the pretty common name (apparently, a common name among doctors!). I decided that I could try to narrow the search by typing his home town in (or at least the town that was listed on the address I had from 1997). Then I struck gold! It turns out he is a chiropractor in Florida.

So what do I do with my new information? I have not contacted either of these guys. I'm not quite sure what I would say. "Hi. Remember me? It's Ross. Yup, I stalked you and found you on line. What's up? I mean, beside the information I found out about you from Google."

I don't want to freak them out by contacting them. I also don't want to make any awkward non-conversation between folks who really don't have much in common. I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any advice is appreciated.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just Like Summer!

A realization hit me yesterday...

Summer is almost here!

I happen to think that summer is the best season of the year. The days are warm. The sun stays out past 8:00 at night (later, depending on where you are). My work schedule is much quieter. I am able to travel quite a bit without feeling rushed every time I come home. I think that my stress diminishes in the summertime.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we got a few inches of snow, so I feel like winter still has its grip on us. However, our classes are almost out for the year, so my schedule is about to open up quite a bit. Yea! People may argue that summer doesn't begin until the end of June. However, for many of us, the seasons are determined by the academic year. When school is out, then summer is here. Next week, school is letting out, so summer has come to me!

I have to celebrate now, because I tend to get down in the fall. I want to enjoy the increasing light. I like that I am now walking my dog in full daylight instead of darkness. I like that I don't have to take the hallways to walk around campus. I can cut through the quad. I haven't yet started wearing a lot of short-sleeved shirts, but I don't wear a jacket either.

Yes, summer is well on its way! That lifts my spirits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mourning with Others

I've been joining several other people in thought and prayer for the community at Virginia Tech. Our college held an additional worship yesterday with some taizé and readings. This extra service was specifically for the community at Virginia Tech, as well as some losses on our own campus.

School shootings are some of the most difficult situations for me to hear about. I have such a hard time understanding what would make someone approach their classmates...their peers, and open fire. I can't understand it. Was this person ostracized by the community? Was he persecuted? What motivates him to act in a certain way.

We've asked this question before. In Red Lake, in Columbine, in Nickel Mines. Every time this happens we wonder how we as a community or a society is driving people to want to kill us. These are not terrorists from the outside. These are terrorists from within. They are us...but they are somehow not us.

Should we be reaching out to the loners? Should we be keeping an extra eye on them? If someone is a loner, does that mean that he/she is a bomb of rage, just waiting for the right moment to explode?

I wonder if tragedies like these brings diverse groups closer together, or if it builds distrust among a community. Will we learn from these tragedies? Or are we doomed to create new situations in the future? What can we do to heal? And, more importantly, do we want to do what it takes to heal?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Choosing Our Words Carefully

Recently, I was on a panel at the college where I work. We are going to talk about our impressions of how GLBT life is at our college. As we introduced ourselves, one of the questions was, "How are you feeling right now?" I responded that I was a bit apprehensive. I'm not scared to talk in front of people, but I understood that I would be giving some evaluative comments about our college. What I said could really be taken seriously. I told people that I wanted to choose my words carefully, since I was speaking in such a public role.

I realized this morning how important it is to be using our public voice as carefully as possible. I am loosely following the reaction to Don Imus, the shock-jock, who made racially and sexually offensive comments about the Rutger's womens basketball team. His radio show seems to be in jeopardy, as it has lost sponsors and a television broadcast. His troubles seem a bit justified.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know who Don Imus was until this story broke. However, Don is just the latest example of people using their public voices without any regard of what they are saying. It's not just the shock-jock folks who are doing it. Michael Richards had a racial tyrade that landed him in a heap of trouble. Isaiah Washington has had to apologize for introducing us to the new "F" word. The list goes on and on.

It seems that there is too much abuse of our public voice. Instead of analyzing issues, and presenting arguments, we have been reduced to insulting anyone who happens to disagree with us. There is very little critical thought put into the words that we hear on the airwaves. The talk just gets meaner and meaner until we have hit a breaking point.

Have we hit that braking point? I'm not sure, but I hope so.

We need to choose our words more carefully. Can we get back to civil discourse? Can we look at the issues and problems that our country faces and really try to present the best argument without insulting our opponent? Can we stop using our public voices to say the most offensive thing possible?

Some of these folks, like Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington have made public apology and attempted to educate themselves about the people they insulted. However, it's not worth anything unless it changes what we hear.

Paul writes, "All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial." This is also true of free speech. Just because we can say something means that we should say something. This is also Luther's understanding of the commandment against bearing false witness. We are to interpret our neighbor's words and actions in the best possible way.

Let's make our media voices understand this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In the Between

Sorry for my absence in the blogosphere. There has been a lot happening in the past few weeks, and I've been too busy living life to be able to write about it.

I spent Easter weekend in New York City. Those of you who are longer-term readers of my blog will recall that I have a growing obsession with the city. It was like another fantasy come true.

First, you may ask yourself why I would be in New York for Easter. It has long been a family tradition that my father has an annual convention, and it is always scheduled the week of Easter. It begins on Tuesday of Holy Week and ends on Saturday morning. When I was growing up, this was our family vacation. The really fun aspect was that we would celebrate Easter worship with some different congregation.

I haven't done this family trip for quite a few years, but the siren call of NYC beckoned. My other half and I decided that we could revert to my high school days and crash in my parent's hotel room. My sister and her husband also did the same (although they got their own room - newlyweds). We enjoyed some great shows together and had some nice meals. We even separated for an evening to follow our own pursuits.

For Easter, we worshiped Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The pastor is a friend of mine, and I happen to also know the congregational president and one of the seminarians. Not too shabby! After worship, we went the Easter "Parade". I'm using the term "Parade" loosely because there really is no parade. When you think of the Thanksgiving Day Parade you see on TV, think of the opposite of it. First, it was freezing! There was snow blowing onto 5th Ave. Second, about 15% of the people there were wearing funny hats or costumes of some sort. And we were all just milling around. There was no marching/walking in one direction. It was more of a very informal street party.

Our family Easter festivities also included a nice dinner all together. That was the perfect cap to the day.

This trip simply feeds the fantasy of living in NYC. We'll see.

Of course, I'm between travels again. This weekend, I'm gearing up to go to a convention in Nashville. It is the convention of an organization I was a part of in college. I wasn't going to go, but then I saw that Al Gore was going to be a keynote speaker. My reception happens to follow his presentation, so I'm hoping that he'll drop by to say hi. Then I can meet the "supposed to be" president of the United States - and an Academy Award winner!

There is a lot of cool stuff going on. My last post was about me being at the exhaustion point, but I am feeling quite good by now. It's like I have a new Eastery!

I'll leave with my Easter greeting from my camp days:

He is a raisin!

He is a raisin with knees!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Exhaustion Point

This has been an incredibly full week. I was bumped from my flight from Chicago on Sunday night (OK - I volunteered to be bumped), so I didn't get a flight until Monday morning. That meant another morning of getting up very early to get to the airport. I barely made it on the first flight of the morning (others who were bumped weren't on the plane with me). It also got into Minneapolis late enough that I just came from the airport directly to work. Fortunately, my other half brought me clean clothes to wear.

The week just progressed from there. The week was full of 20-minute interviews with students who want to get stipends to work at summer camps. It was also the final days before being able to withdraw from a class, so there were several students in a panic. I hadn't prepared very well for my class on Monday, so I was trying to catch up the rest of the week. I had a dinner on Thursday evening. By Friday, I was ready for a restful weekend.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Friday night, we went to bed at a reasonable hour (10:00). The rain had been falling all day by this point, and it was starting to seep into our basement. At about 1:30, our water alarm went off. I was so deep in sleep, that I didn't hear the alarm. All I heard was my other half swearing and jumping out of bed. We dealt with it for about 30 minutes. Actually, I dealt with it for 30 minutes, while my other half stayed up longer to get our shop-vac, dehumidifier, and move some stuff out of the way.

Yesterday, we made a point of sleeping in. However, after that point, we need to finish our taxes, so we spent most of yesterday working on those. Hopefully, today will be our tax completion day. We made sure we slept in well today, just to make sure we go into next week without a lot of exhaustion from the weekend. We still have a busy day ahead of us, but I think we are back on the track of health.

Of course, next week is full as well. Holy Week doesn't affect my job very much, but we will be traveling to New York (my obsession city) for the Easter weekend. I guess I'll be getting ready for that this week!