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).

Work-related

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.

Welcome to the New Site

January 21, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Admin 

As of today, I have moved this blog from the old TypePad address to this new WordPress installation on my own hosted server.

The new URL is:  http://marktime.org/

Please update any blogrolls or links within your sites.  I will be using Google to find links to the old site and I will contact you if I find an old link to ask you to update it.

Thanks, and welcome to the new home!

2008: My personal year in review

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

Good riddance.

It’s not that the year was all bad.  Some of it was really very good.  It’s just that the bad outweighed the good.  Most of this was due to one very bad thing.

Work
This was a particularly bad year.  I’m not going to go into details, but you should assume that life at my former employer wasn’t particularly fun before August.  In August, I was laid off from a job that I’d held for 13 1/2 of the last 15 years.  It only helps slightly that this employer ultimately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.

And if that wasn’t enough – the economy tanked at the same time.  The cause of the company’s failure wasn’t solely the economy, but it was a big part of it.  Jobs just plain dried up from September through early December.  There are signs that things are easing now.

If it weren’t for positive things and positive people in the rest of my life, I don’t know how I would have handled this.

Church
The good:
I LOVE my youth group.  The young men and women that I work with more or less every week are all wonderful, and I learned a lot about myself, them, life and God over the last year.  Sunday afternoon/evening is the high point of my week.

The summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference was one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  I truly feel that God spoke to me that week in some fashion.  I know that my faith deepened, and that the same happened to most if not all of the group from our church that went on the trip.  I also feel that I grew outside of the religious aspects.  (Of course, this high leaves me wondering where God is in my life now, when things are not so good.)  The biggest thing that I learned this year – while I care a lot about our youth, they care about me too.

Putting together the Moderator Meet and Greet event in April was a lot of fun as well as being a lot of work.  I met a lot of new and wonderful people.  The event was well attended, and I hear that it helped commissioners make a decision at General Assembly.

Meeting in person and working online with other church leaders has been mostly positive.  I’m amazed at how strong the online Presbyterian-and-beyond religious community is.  I’ve felt support when I needed it and given and watched it flow the other way when others needed it.

Serving as a deacon has been rewarding.  This is work that I know that I can do and do well, and that is relatively easy, and that aids the church.  That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I just have to be careful not to schedule myself too heavily (like the Sunday that I had coffee service AND served communion AND agreed to set up tables for a later event).

My committee studying hospitality, visitor and community issues for the church has nearly completed its work.  We have identified 19 issues and more than 19 suggestions for how to change/fix/handle those issues.  We present to the Session in February.  The team has worked hard and learned a lot.

Serving as the new webmaster for the church’s website and weekly e-mailed newsletter has been a growth experience for me.  It has forced me to learn new technical skills and also to generate a little content independently.

The bad:
The worst has to have been the controversy over my blog in March/April/May/June of this year.  I don’t know if people realize it, but the church was about 12 hours from losing me in April – the only things keeping me were the facts that Youth Sunday and the Moderator Meet and Greet were imminent responsibilities of mine.  This event only took 2nd to the loss of my job in how poorly I felt while in the middle of it.

I am also continually dismayed by the negative tones in some conversations/fights/battle-royales in the church community over the hot button issues of today.  Those of us within the church fight harder and with less love than we do with our colleagues in other denominations or religions, even though the points of disagreement are far smaller and unimportant.

Home
Home life continues to be solid.  Carolyn and I have ridden out the very rough patches of the 2nd half of the year with no negative effect on our relationship.  Most of this is due to Carolyn’s very conservative nature when it comes to money, and the strong planning ability that both of us have.  She continues to be supportive at a very difficult time in my life and it has brought us if anything closer together.

The cats are still fine.  They turn 13 tomorrow.  Isaac is still suffering from a bit of arthritis in his hips, but the daily Cosequin is helping.  Both of them still have a fair amount of kitten left and still go running around like crazy animals occasionally.  Albert has had no recurrence of his kidney issues.

The house is fine.  We have had to put off a bit of home repair work (mainly fixing the fireplace chimney that failed a while back) for economic reasons.  Nothing important is wrong, and we continue to love living here.  It’s a great neighborhood – not too noisy, not too quiet, and plenty of kids running around.
My car has had a rough year.  I was rear-ended in July and minor damage was done to my rear bumper.  It was fixed pretty quickly, but it took about 4-5 months before the insurance companies paid my deductible.  Here’s a tip – no matter how late you are, don’t pass on the right on a one-lane on-ramp.

Health

No major changes.  On the Montreat trip I lost a number of pounds due to the stairmaster-like qualities of the village of Montreat (to get anywhere you have to walk down a big hill and up a big hill).  The emotional strain of being out of work took off some more.  I’ve managed to end the year a net 10 pounds down.  Otherwise, my health remains the same.

I’m hoping that 2009 will be a combination of the continuance of good things, and an end to the bad things that are happening now.  I see new hope in the elections of both our PC(USA) Moderator and the new President of the USA.  It remains to be seen if that hope turns into a better reality for the country, church, and me.

Happy New Year!

Blogging will resume shortly

August 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin 

The Montreat Youth Conference was simply amazing.  I have LOTS to blog about.

As soon as I get all the pieces together I’ll start posting.  Please stand by.

What’s going on

July 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion, Youth 

My blog has been quiet, and light on what’s going on in my life.  Most of that is due to the Sword of Damocles question about what I should write here.  (By the way, more input is desired in the Bible Study on blogging.)

Here’s a short roundup of what’s been happening and what is going to be happening.

  • Car Accident – This happened back on June 20.  As I said before – minor damage and no injuries.  My car has been repaired.  I’m apparently at the beginning of the subrogation process – my insurance company has decided that I’m not at fault and has submitted a claim to the other driver’s company.  The other driver got a ticket for Careless Driving, so it should be an easy decision in my favor.
  • DirecTV – I have two DirecTV DVRs.  One of them developed hard drive problems and was randomly rebooting.  That has since been replaced for what amounts to Free.  It was just a pain, but much less of a pain than expected.
  • Deacon – I perform my first deacon duty this weekend.  I’ll be putting juice and iced tea on the table in Fellowship Hall after the service.  As one other blogger said, “They also serve who stir and pour.”  I’ll be greeting in August, and Officer Training and Installation will be in September.
  • Camp Johnsonburg – I’ve assisted twice with Sunday check-in.  Once I was a medical check person for the “no medication” line, and the other time I managed the medical form paperwork process (an all-paper process that is a bit labor-intensive for 200+ campers).  I was pleasantly surprised to run into one of my youth group members checking into the camp’s Leadership Training Program (a 3-week program that is essentially Counselor training).  I’ll be back again in August for one more Sunday.
  • Youth Group – I drove the youth mission trip to and from Philadelphia where they stayed at and worked with Broad Street Ministries.  By all reports a good time was had by all and several report transformational experiences.  I’ll be going with the youth group trip to Montreat for the Youth Conference (week VI) starting next weekend.  I’m a smidge nervous about that – the last time I did a week road trip with a bunch of youth was my trip to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1986, when I was a youth.  I’m hoping that a mostly out of shape 40-year-old can keep up.
  • Birthday – it was quiet, which is the desired result.  I didn’t ask for much, and the presents that I received were thoughtful.  I got a lot of cards with old people on them for some reason …
  • Ham Radio – I participated in the national Field Day at the end of June.  I was only able to help set up in the morning and operate for a few hours in the afternoon.  This event is when amateur radio clubs and individuals all over the country set up their equipment in the field (we were at Mercer County Park) and demonstrate their ability to operate in an emergency.
  • Home, Wife, Cats – all about as good as usual.

Blogging will be non-existent between July 25 and August 3 or so due to the youth trip.  It may be light until then, unless I think of something compelling to say.

Bible Study on Blogs

July 7, 2008 by · 14 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Weblogs 

This post and its comments are the online home for this Bible Study on blogging.  I hope that each of you will contribute.  If you wish to contribute anonymously, just e-mail your words to me and I’ll post them under whatever identification you want (or none).

The basic question that we’re covering is “what does the Bible say about blogging?”  This was prompted by a bit of a dustup that I’ve had with some members and staff of my congregation over things written by me on this blog.  So a sub-question is “Can you or should you ever post negative thoughts or facts about your local church on a blog?”

So far we’ve got two sides to the question (hey, most of us are Presbyterian!):

Post only what builds up the body of Christ – Coming from 1 Corinthians 13, but also from most of Paul’s letters and strong support from the Gospels is the concept that we should blog in love for our fellow humans.  That we should blog only what builds up the body, and avoid that which would cause disruption.

Criticism that is intended to promote right action is valid
– In this case, Galatians 2 is the key, particularly the narratives of the discourse between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders, and Paul’s rebuke of Peter.  Here, it’s clear that speaking truth to power (church leadership) and then writing about it to a larger group of 3rd parties has happened in Scripture.

Overlaying all of this is the injunction in Matthew 18:15-17 – if you have a disagreement, take it to the other party.  If that doesn’t work, take a few friends to the other party.  If that doesn’t work, tell it to the church.  If that doesn’t work, write the other person off.  One question here – in terms of blogs, what is the definition of “the church”?  The local congregation?  The denomination?  The entirety of the Christian blogosphere?  Or all believers in Christ?

Another question is whether or not the rules are different when speaking of people that you see weekly in church vs. the greater church (the denomination).  Can you speak more harshly about those who you disagree with simply because they don’t sit in the same sanctuary with you on Sunday?

I welcome your continued thoughts.  I plan for this post to be the home of this discussion.  Please put your thoughts in comments, or e-mail them to me to be added.  This is a Bible study, so let’s focus on Scripture.

Just talk to me

July 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Sara, commenting in another thread, tells me that there are members of the congregation that I belong to who read my blog solely to make sure that they aren’t mentioned.  So far, only one person has talked to me about this – at the prompting of the pastor.

There’s a simple remedy for this that is already being used by the one person who spoke to me.

TALK TO ME

Just tell me that you would prefer not to be mentioned on this blog.  I will promise that I will avoid mentioning you or events involving you, and if I am unable to do so I will at least clue you into the fact that I’m writing about X (whatever it may be).

If I am called to follow Matthew 18:15-17 on this matter, then others are called to do the same.

Support – does it have to be for everything?

July 1, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

In an off-blog discussion about churchy things and blogs, the following question came up.

Can you support the church, but not support absolutely everything the church believes or does?  Can you be critical of the church on a specific issue while still supporting it in general?

This has implications at all levels.

The concept is central to my personal blogging dilemma – can you criticize the local congregation on a blog?  Are you being unsupportive by being critical on one issue, or do you have to evaluate the entirety of your reactions/words/writings about the congregation?

It also has implications about unity, purity and peace within the church.  Can you disagree with what another church member or congregation or presbytery is doing, but still be a supporter of the church?  Does your support of one or many facets of the church require the support of ALL facets?

Or are we stuck with absolutes:  Never criticize your congregation in public.  Never criticize the denomination.  If the church or even one member does or says something that you disagree with, you have to either leave or force the member or church to stop.

This reminds me of an old story.  A woman was talking about her husband to their children.  This man, living in the St. Louis area, was subscribing by mail to the Mountain Mail newspaper of Socorro, New Mexico.  When she was asked why, she explained that he used to subscribe to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, but then they printed something he didn’t like in an editorial and he canceled his subscription.  He tried the New York Times, the Chicago Times, the Washington Post, but canceled them all when he read something he didn’t like.  He was now forced to get his news from this tiny newspaper many states away.  And she wasn’t even sure how long this paper would survive with him.

What do you think?  Is forbearance required?  Do we have to put up with hearing a certain amount of criticism of ourselves and our institutions?  Or are we supposed to unquestioningly support our church?

The New PC(USA) Moderator on blogging

June 23, 2008 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Web/Tech 

Bruce Reyes-Chow, the brand-new Moderator of the PC(USA), spoke about blogging in his post-election interview.  He spoke about the Internet and blogging in particular.

Reyes-Chow, a 39-year-old San Francisco pastor, husband and the father of three daughters between the ages of four and 11, said that blogging and using Facebook and other social networking sites “is part of my  way of being, how we naturally engage with people.”

He believes being transparent and prolific will “help people  feel invited to participate in the church in new way.”

He also recognizes people have “concerns about why we share so openly,” especially on the occasion when he places his political views online.

“I see something and I think, ‘That’ll blog,’ and I put it  on,” he said.

During his campaign for moderator, someone asked Reyes-Chow if he could tell the person something about himself that could not already be found on his blog. “Not really,” Reyes-Chow said. “I am an open book, pretty much. I am excited about connecting with folks and using my spiritual practice of blogging.”

It sounds like Bruce has more or less the same view of blogging that I do.  Compare this to what I wrote a while back (after a very different emotional experience than Bruce’s):

As I have written, some of my most important core values are honesty, openness and authenticity.  When my pastor asked me, “Is there anybody that you run your blog posts by before you post them?” it hit me hard.  Most of you agree that I may have a been a little too open and have said one thing
out of frustration that you wouldn’t have said, but that it’s my blog and that I’m being careful enough by leaving out names.  …  One of the things that I love most about Camp Johnsonburg is that you truly can be yourself – warts and all – and you will be accepted (and even loved).  Some folks have rougher edges than others, and it IS possible to get too far outside of the bounds of acceptable behavior for camp, but for the most part it’s a place where 90% of the folks who come there feel at home.  I expect that from the local congregation too – after all, isn’t that what we’re called to do?  I realize that this may be an unrealistic expectation, even if it is a valid expectation.

I’m glad to see that someone else sees the usefulness of transparency in our community.  (Note – other commenters here have said the same thing – this is just the first time I’ve seen it in a press article.)

Blogging and the local congregation – part 3

June 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Outside of this blog my pastor and I have started a bible study on the subject of blogging the local congregation.  He’s about to go to General Assembly so we’re putting it on the back burner until he gets back.

In the meantime, I’d like to ask you for help with this project.  What scripture do you think applies to the subject of blogging non-anonymously about your local congregation?

My pastor has suggested 1 Corinthians as a starting point – particularly the parts that call for us to build up the body of Christ rather than tearing it down.  Others have suggested Matthew 18:15-17, which seems like a good fit for conflict and the use of the blog.  I have also looked into the confessions and found the Confession of 1967, 9.38 to 9.40.

Do you have any ideas?

While this study is going on I am suspending my blogging about my local congregation, with the exception that I may mention briefly what I am involved with as I complete activities or take on new roles or assignments.  As a result I will not be blogging about the all-church retreat, the congregational meeting, details about my installation, and likely will not be blogging about the youth trip to Montreat (depending on when this study is finished).

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