Sorry it’s been quiet

June 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Work 

Hey, folks.

It’s been quiet here because there are decisions being made about my life and work-life direction that unfortunately aren’t really bloggable.  I’m looking at a fork in the road and trying to decide which way to go, or even if I can make some kind of hybrid path down the middle.  Blogging about it could make folks from either fork concerned that I’m not 100% committed to that fork (though if I chose it I would be), and therefore I’m not writing here.  Rest assured that I will be committed to my path once I choose it.

And if that sounds cryptic, it’s the best that I can do.  Friends on Facebook can probably get a better read on what I’m talking about.

Thank you for your patience.

Busy Week

May 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Young Adult, Youth 

This is gonna be a very busy week.  I’m going to be out and about in several communities with lots of activities.  Perhaps I’ll meet you at one of them.

Yesterday the ball started rolling with the God Complex radio show at noon EDT.  That went very well.  Later in the evening I had the Board of Deacons meeting at church which also went very well and very fast.

This morning I’m going to have to mow the lawn due to the impending days of rain (again).

This afternoon I’m going to the Presbytery of New Brunswick meeting, and assisting in the pre-presbytery event on “Working with Facebook”.  Before the meeting I have a networking meeting with someone in New Brunswick.

Tomorrow is relatively quiet.  A networking meeting in the morning, and the DVRA ham radio club meeting in the evening.  I may go get my driver’s license renewed during the day – it’s time again.

Thursday afternoon begins the Princeton Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry Conference on Emerging Adulthood.  That runs Thursday afternoon and evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning.  Friday evening, I’ll miss dinner and the recreation to attend a fundraising dinner “Southern Hospitality on the Lawn” related to my church.

Saturday morning I’ll miss rehearsal for Deacon Sunday.  Saturday evening my church youth group is holding a Cabaret and Silent Auction fundraiser for the summer trips.

Sunday morning is Deacon Sunday (I’m doing the Call to Worship), grocery delivery for Crisis Ministry in Trenton and the end of year party for our customers, and the Worship in a New Key service.

Monday I may get to see Carolyn again.  This is really a nutty week.

40 Prayers of Hope and Gratitude, for Bruce

May 2, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Youth 

Tomorrow is the birthday of Bruce Reyes-Chow, a friend and currently the moderator of the PC(USA).  On his blog, he asks for some very charitable birthday “gifts” to him.  One of them is “a list of prayers for 40 things for which you are grateful, gives you hope or are in need of God’s healing“.  (Besides – he needs a little love.  The first comment on the post attacked him for a position of faith and politics – on a post related to his birthday!)

I can do that.

  1. For my wife, who I am VERY grateful for.
  2. For my family (parents and siblings) and the relationship that we have that didn’t look too likely for a while.
  3. For Barbara, Jill and Kathy – former co-workers who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  4. For the youth group at my church.  I am both grateful for them, and they give me hope.  Some of them need your prayers for healing.
  5. For the horde of Twitterati who follow my every tweeted move, give me music when I need it, give me information when I need it, and entertain me.
  6. For Rich, Jeremiah, Jill, Gooitzen, Elsa, Aaron and others from my church family who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  7. For the many recent and near-future seminary graduates that I interact with, who are both a source of hope and in need of prayers to find their destinations.
  8. For S (who will remain otherwise nameless here but I’m sure is reading this), for being/assisting my sense of call and helping me to explain my Montreat experience.  You know who you are.
  9. For the children in my neighborhood, who remind me of the relative importance of parts of life.
  10. For healing for those on all sides who have been hurt by the whole Amendment B business.
  11. For my cats.  Gratitude for them being there for me and entertaining me.  Hope that they radiate (particularly when it’s snack time).  Healing for both as they age and begin to suffer the effects.
  12. Hope from the members of my church’s confirmation class, who were able to teach parts of the lesson that I was teaching.
  13. Healing for two youth workers waiting for transplants.
  14. Gratitude for those who have let me put my skills to work for them while I’m seeking a job.
  15. Gratitude for my sister whose birthday is today (sharing it with Bruce’s “Middle” child).
  16. Healing for everybody else hurt by the economy.
  17. Healing for everybody else hurt by greed.
  18. Hope and healing for those with obstacles between them and what God is calling them to.
  19. Healing for those affected by swine flu Hamthrax H1N1 and gratitude that it is turning out to be mild for most.
  20. Healing for those suffering from mental illness.
  21. Healing for Mom, who had two teeth pulled yesterday.
  22. Hope for/about Sara, who is taking the first steps in a new direction.
  23. Gratitude for and hope from Rich who is letting me find my place in the youth ministry.
  24. Gratitude for Lorelei.  Everybody needs a Lorelei, some of them the same one.
  25. Gratitude for two places on the entire planet (outside of my relationship with Carolyn) where I have been able to be myself 100%:  Camp Johnsonburg and Montreat.
  26. Healing for the people whose prayer cards come to me each week after worship.  Hope that my prayers are helping.
  27. Healing for the people of Sudan, of Somalia, and other places where oppression and violence reign.
  28. Gratitude for Tim, Jessica, Jessica, Nancy, Carolyn, Andrea, and a few others who have been there during my darkest hours (whether they realize it or not).
  29. Gratitude for the Project Open Door task force – it was great working with all of you, and I look forward to the next steps.
  30. Healing for all of those who feel that fighting about minutia is more important than loving one another.
  31. Hope and healing for all who feel that being somewhere else is what they have to do.
  32. Gratitude and hope for all of those who I’ve networked with during my career transition.
  33. Gratitude for the opportunity to play the drums again for a purpose.
  34. Hope (healing?  help?) for the God Complex radio staff and talent that we’ll be ready by Monday.
  35. Healing for those that I have hurt and have not reconciled with (and for me to do so someday).
  36. Gratitude for polity – specifically that of the PC(USA).
  37. Gratitude for that unexplained good mood that strikes sometimes.
  38. Hope?  Healing?  for my personal discernment in this season of change.
  39. Healing for all of my issues that I’ve chosen not to mention here.
  40. Gratitude, hope for/from, and healing if he needs it for Bruce.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!  Welcome to the over the hill gang.

Cat Health Update

April 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

The cats went to the vet for their annual visit yesterday.

Albert lost a pound, and is otherwise healthy.

Isaac found the missing pound, but is still not too heavy.  He is also apparently suffering from some arthritis.  We’ve been treating that by giving both of them Cosequin with their food.  Now we’re going to try a very low dose of anti-inflammatory for Isaac to see if it helps with his stiffness.  He still runs around like a maniac, but I can see him clearly thinking about whether or not to jump up on to my lap, the bed, etc.

Both had urine and blood drawn and we’ll hear in a few days about that.  Not expecting anything, but both have occasionally shown kidney numbers that are slightly elevated at times.

Rabies shots for all, which has made them sleepy (not that we can tell).

Staying Busy

Recently I have been thinking about what I do with my “non-work” time.  With my career transition, I’m able to use time for “non-work” activities during the day, hopefully to the benefit of others.  Someday I hope that I can combine my vocation and avocations.

This led me to thinking about listing all of the various things that I do.  Some people put them on their resumes, but mine is already too long and I’m not sure what it would add.  So I’ll list my “sideline” things here for your interest/amusement.  I know that once I find a job I may have to cut back on some of these (indeed – several of them have been started since my career transition started with the caveat that I may have to stop at some point).


Recently I’ve been providing computer services to others as a sideline.  Mostly this consists of PC maintenance, including some hardware work, installing software updates, and a lot of fixes to things like “my computer does X when I do Y – can you fix that?”.  This is done for various forms of renumeration including lunch and good will.

I’m also going to be helping another church do some brainstorming of what they want on their church’s website.  And yet another church has asked for help with their website, but I don’t know the specifics yet.

Local Church

I have a lot of roles at church:

  • Deacon – currently serving on the Board of Deacons, assigned to the Prayer Team and enjoying serving Communion on occasion.  I’m also the designated “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the people assigned to jobs each Sunday.
  • Open Door – recently completed a stint as co-chair of a task force studying issues of hospitality to visitors and the community.  I’m likely to serve as a member of the new Session committee being created to continue this work.
  • Webmaster – of the church website and the weekly e-mail that goes to almost 400 people.  This role also has me serving as the social networking expert surrounding our presence on Facebook and such.
  • Youth Advisor and member of Youth and Young Adult Council – nothing that I do at church brings me more joy than my work with the Senior High youth group.  I’ve also been involved in supporting the youth director with strategic planning for the youth council lately.
  • Percussion – most members of the church have been surprised to learn that I was classically trained as  a percussionist in high school.  I’ve been using those skills on snare and cymbal, djembe, congas, and other instruments in both the alternative and regular service.  Apparently I’m not as rusty as I think that I am.

Greater Church

  • The God Complex – serving as Webmaster for the new weekly Internet radio show that is hosted by Bruce Reyes-Chow and Carol Howard Merritt.  This involves blogs, web hosting, e-mail and other stuff that I don’t even know about yet.
  • I will be assisting my local Youth Director with the Small Group manual for the next Youth Triennium.  Not in a major way – just reading and editing.  I hope to turn that into a trip next summer, but that would require some creative planning (anybody need someone to man a booth or serve as a chaperone?).
  • This blog seems to provide value to some.  I’m also on Twitter and most of my friends there are church-related

Other Stuff

  • I’m a member of the Delaware Valley Ham Radio club.  I’m a general-class ham – KC2SMS.
  • I’m one of the keyholders for the ham radio emergency equipment for the local Red Cross office.  The Princeton Red Cross chapter is the “center” for ham radio for the state’s Red Cross groups, mainly because we are centrally located.  Monday night will be the monthly equipment test for the Red Cross and the NJ State RACES/ARES folks.

So, I’m keeping busy.  If I were being paid for all of that at a reasonable salary I’d have a full-time job.  As it is, it’s more like 1/2 to 2/3 of my days and some of my non-work hours.  I like to help people, and I usually don’t care whether I get paid or not (though getting paid is important for other reasons).  My hope is that someday I can use these skills for a paying position with some meaning to the world.

Jessicas and Jills

March 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

I recently wrote about the interesting parallel between my current rough period of life (being out of work) and a previous rough period of life (the high school/college period).  There’s another interesting parallel.

I’ve noticed that when my life is going the worst there are angels who enter my life and help me through the rough patch.  What’s interesting is that a number of them tend to be women of about my age with the same first name.

In high school, the rough patch involved trouble with my parents (that continued until age 21) and trouble socially at school.  I won’t go into the problems with parents, but assume that they were worse-than-average oldest-child teenage stuff.  The social stuff at school stemmed from the fact that I was fairly geeky and therefore not in the in crowd, plus the usual teenage hormone/dating/angst stuff.

In high school, a bunch of the angels were named Jessica.

Jessica Sunshine was two years older.  She was a bit of a mentor to me.  She taught me most of what I know about stage lighting, but at the same time taught me much about life.  She was a sympathetic ear at times, and a role model.

Jessica Bernstein was someone who took me seriously when those around me did not.  We shared a number of classes, and I even tried to help her get through calculus during senior year.  She was someone who could brighten my day and see the good side of me when others didn’t (or I couldn’t).

Jessica Meyerson was the closest of all of these to me.  She was someone who entered my life in a significant way at a time when I had made the choice to exit a group that had been a very large part of my life.  We kept in touch after high school and during the summer after freshman year, we spent a lot of time hanging out in NYC.  It would not be hyperbole to say that she kept me sane that summer at a time when my relationship with my parents was about as bad as it could get.

And then there’s another Jessica.  She entered my life through my very early involvement in the greater Presbyterian church.  I believe that if she had not been taken from us tragically, my life might have been very different.  I still remember her every January 22.

There were others who helped me at that difficult time in my life.  There was a Tim, 2 Walters, a Linda, and many others.  It is just interesting that there were so many Jessicas.

Today, it seems that Jill is the name of some of the angels.

Jill van den Heuvel is responsible for helping me find my current church congregation.  She has also taught me courage in the dark times of life through her own example.  If I didn’t have my church in my life right now things would be much harder, if not impossible.

Jill Cifelli has been a mentor, friend, and fellow traveler on life’s path.  I first met her in her role as Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry at my church, when I was looking for a church.  She and I just completed co-chairing a church committee, something that may be repeated in some fashion as we move into the future.  And she has walked with me in the darkness of the current economy.  She brightens my day just by saying Hi, talking about life, or just waving like a maniac across the Fellowship Center.  She is such a spiritual person that one can’t help being nourished by her spiritual overflow.

Jill Kahlenberg is a fellow Lenox survivor, a friend, and another bright spot in my life these days.  She and I are traveling on the same road through the economy at the moment – though she is doing it with a more positive outlook.  Although we only speak every month or so, every encounter helps heal my soul for much longer than the actual interaction.  It’s good to have another person in my life who is so intelligent, organized, and driven to work for good.

I am lucky to have these Jills in my life at the moment.  There are others who are helping as much:  a Carolyn, a Barbara, a Sara, a Lorelei, a Rich and a Grier, an Axel, a Gooitzen and an Elsa.  But the common name seems to have shown up again.

Thanks for all of them.

A quick life update

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.

Job Search – I’ve been putting most of my effort into gaining Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the PMI.  My application has been approved and I’m scheduled to take the test next Thursday.  I’ve been spending the majority of my time during the day preparing for the application, taking an online class, or studying.  As a result, my job search has been more or less temporarily stopped.  This certification will open up many job openings that I do not qualify for today – not because I can’t do the job, but because the company chooses to require this certification.

Church – As I wrote below, Project Open Door has completed its work.  We’re going to have a bit of a social celebration soon to close out.  Deacon stuff is keeping me busy – I had coffee duty last week, Shrove Tuesday dinner this week, and next Sunday I’m serving communion at the morning service and perhaps again at the Worship in a New Key service.  I may also play drums at the WINK service in some fashion, and we have youth group afterwards.  Tonight I’m going to the Pennington School with our youth director to see the production of Wizard of Oz that at least one of our youth is in.

Home – It’s been a busy week – Carolyn or I have been out each night this week with something.  Monday was the monthly ham radio emergency test, Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday, last night was her yoga and Ash Wednesday, and tonight I have the school production.  The weekend is hockey-free and will be quieter.  House is fine, wife is fine, cats are fine.

Faith and Discomfort

February 11, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion 

As my readers know, I’m going through a tough time right now.  Being out of work for 6 months (tomorrow) is very difficult.

I have often heard people make statements about people going through difficult times (unemployment, death in the family, personal health problems) along the lines of “he/she has his/her faith to comfort him/her”.  Or people speak about how their faith has been a comfort to them, creating a feeling of peace.

I don’t get that.  I can’t think of a single experience when my life was difficult where my faith was a comfort to me.  I can think of several happy times where I’ve felt something akin to “God in the room” and once akin to “God in my heart”.  But those have never been difficult times.  When life gets tough for me, it seems like God is absent.

For me, faith has always been more of a discomfort.  I’m Presbyterian, and like all Reformed people I believe that we are not as good as we can be and must always strive to better ourselves.  For me, faith is part of what pushes me to be a better person.  Faith is a Discomfort.  Faith is a way to push me off of my comfortable pattern of behavior in order to better myself or help others more.  I’ll never be perfect.  Faith pushes me to be better.

My pastor did a sermon on this that clearly stuck with me as I remember it over 2 years later:  The Discomforter

That’s great while things are good.  When things are bad, faith is still pushing me to improve.  At that point I’m in a more fragile state – needing to be reminded that I am good.  And my faith is telling me otherwise – that I can be better.  The conclusion that is easy to draw is that my lack of perfection (or distance from perfection) is the reason for what happened to me.  This is particularly true in work-related trouble – it’s easier to take a pass on personal reponsibility with a bad situation in a family member or a health situation.

I’ll also note a previous post that mentions the situation (coincidence?) that the worst parts of my life have been preceded by heavy church involvement.  I’m not sure what the cause-effect relationship is there.

So for me, faith is more of a discomfort.

There is one exception.  When life gets me down, the people who help me the most (aside from Carolyn) are church people.  They do their best to understand what is happening with me, and to try to keep up with my life even though that might involve hearing unwanted bad news.  Church people will pray for you, and even if God is not hearing those prayers you know that someone out there cares for you – and usually not someone who wants something from you.  I’ll admit it – I’m not an easy person to deal with when experiencing heavy negative emotions, but they keep trying.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re saying to yourself, “Hey, Mark!  Those people ARE God’s presence for you.”  And you’re probably right.  And I do realize that and appreciate it (though that appreciation may not make it through the emotions that I’m feeling to the surface).

I just don’t get faith as comfort.

So God – thank you for your people who you have sent to help me.  There are too many of them to list here, but know that I see their efforts and appreciate them.  Amen.

Prayer Requests

January 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

I’ve got a few prayer requests.

  1. For the van der Wal family, on the death of Gooitzen’s father (who is also Elsa’s grandfather)
  2. For my church, facing budget difficulties in this economy (mainly caused by individual difficulties)
  3. For reconciliation and the ability to debate without insult – the church at large (national mostly) is failing at this.
  4. For everybody who has the flu – either the head or stomach variety.  It’s a nasty year.


Found Money – Savings Bonds

January 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

If you are of a certain age, you probably received a gift of a US Savings Bond at some point in your childhood.

These paper bonds were sold at 1/2 or 3/4 of their face value, matured to their face value in about 5 years, and continued to mature until they were 30 years old.

Today I went through my bonds and discovered that I had 3 bonds older than 30 years.  They were all $25 bonds.  They’re now worth almost $350 now that they’ve stopped earning interest.  The next time I go near the bank I’ll cash them.

Check your old files and sock drawers.  You might have some bonds that have stopped earning interest.

An easy way to check the value of the bonds is at Treasury Direct Savings Bond Calculator.

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