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78 people on a bus that seats 50 September 6, 2006

Posted by fajita in Grad School Life.
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I was the last one the bus driver allowed on the bus – standing room only. Cripes!!! I stood, yes stood, right next to bus drived and one pace back. This can’t be legal. Before me was a huge windshield with nothing but the card reader between us. 25 miles in stop and go traffic got me to praying.

Now, my experience was not like the picture off to the side. I did actually get to ride in tha bus.

I might be finding me a different bs route. This express bus cna get scary with the 28 extra bodies.

I Apologize For The Price Of This Book September 5, 2006

Posted by fajita in Family Science, Grad School Life.
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Today was the official first day of classes. I had two classes and I heard the apology twice. “I apologize for the price of this book, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Textboks are a scam. I can’t wait until I write one.

Bastard Nation August 31, 2006

Posted by fajita in Adoption, Grad School Life.
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So, as part of my life in doctoral studies I have to learn about the research projects I am joining. One of the projects I am joining studies adoption.

So, in order to become familiar with the project I am reading all kinds of scholarly journal articles. These articles are by nature informative and somewhat dry, full of stats, research methods and discussion of the results. I do not look to these articles for humor – WHATSOEVER.

Also, when I think of adoption advocates and researchers, I think of nice people with good attitudes – sophisticated and educated. So, imagine my surprise as I was reading an adoption journal article as I rode the 465u into town and found the words, “BASTARD NATION,” in the article. I laughed out loud. The picture in my head – geez.

I pictured this ripped jeans band of ruffians with baseball bats in hands with their leader, face full of scars, looking you dead in the eye and saying, “We’re Bastard Nation, got a problem with that?”

I apologize for my imagination, there is no excuse for it.

Bastard Nation (found appropriately at http://www.bastards.org/) is an actual advocacy group fighting for the rights of adoptees to open the adoption records. Their cause is legit.

Day 1 of Public Transit August 28, 2006

Posted by fajita in Grad School Life.
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Feeling a little nervous I might miss the bus, I arrived at the Burnsville Public Transit Station early. I triple checked the number of my route to make sure I didn’t get on the wrong bus. 465u express. The route numbers are lit up in yellow on the front of the bus – can’t miss them. If you know your route number, you’re good to go.

Bus drivers don’t make change. It was good to know this in advance, so I came with my $2.75 counted out. Most people had a pass card that fit into a slot, made a beep, and then they were good to go. On my return trip, I will have one of those cards from the university.

The 7:05 am bus actually departed at 7:09 AM. The bus was about half full, which was nice because I didn’t have to sit next to someone. We entered the freeway at rush hour, so the very beginning of the ride was pretty slow going.


Minneapolis campus by 7:41? We’ll see.

The ride is bumpy and sometimes jerky. Never board a bus while needing to go to the bathroom. Too risky. Don’t think you can just hold it unless you have an iron sphincter. I boarded well refreshed – and empty.

The Metro bus system in the Twin Cities has its main metro busses serving Minneapolis and St. paul and maybe a few of the innder ring suburbs, but then the rest of the suburbs have their own busses that integrate into the Metro bus system. I am riding a Minnesota Valley Transit Authority bus. These busses serve the southern suburbs south of theMinnesota River (Burnsvilee, Apple Valley, Eagan, Lakeville and some others). They all go to the same places so I am not sure why there has to be all these different transit authorities.

The seat is surprisingly comfy. Not like a kid’s yellow school bus with the bouncy seat covered with green vinyl.

We’ve picked up some speed, but we are not in the commuter lane, which busses have a right to use. We just got passed by another MinnesotaValley bus. I wonder why we are not in the “fast” lane. Oh yes, we’re cruising now. Love it. I am typing and not driving. I am being transported, not transporting. This is terrific. I always drive no matter who is in the car with me.

Now we’re passing by my old church where I was a youth minister once upon a time.

The cost for the bus, even at the full rate of $2.75, is a steal. If I drove myself, one way would be at least a gallon of gas (optimistically).

What’s this, we’ve taken an exit and this is an “express” bus. This in an off ramp from the highway and here is a bus stop at the bottom of the ramp. Looks like we will go straight and enter right back on. I guess an express bus can make a stop or two. This explains why we were not in the commuter lane. We stopped and no one got on. Waste.

Anyway, the cost is a wash if gas stays at $2.75 a gallon. Oh, but then there is university parking $3.50 per day if I get lucky and $5.25 if I don’t, and then I’m walking 6 blocks. Not too bad unless it’s 20 below zero with wind. Nope, I’ll save the $3.50 a day, get dropped off right where I want to be by riding the bus. Furthermore, I get this sweet deal through the university for bussing and light rail transit. $62.00 a semester  gets me all the transit I can stand to anywhere in the Twin Cities. So, that’s about $15.00 per month making my daily commute round trip about 80 cents. In my car, 80  cents gets me about 10 miles down the road on gas, and that’s not including wear and tear. What a deal.

Lots of people sleeping on the bus. Lots of mp3 players. Not a single person talking. One guy is reading the newspaper. These are all university people in one way or another.

An automated sounding voice just said, “Lake Street.” I don’t know why besides the fact that the Lake Street exit is coming quickly.

We just passed my new church where I have no status and I like it that way.

We’re moving over to the right lane, which I guess means we’ll be at Lake Street soon.

Well, there goes the Lake Street exit and we didn’t leave the freeway. I guess that was my invitation to get off at Lake Street if I wanted to. We’re near downtown Minneapolis as the skyscrapers have come clearly into view.Minneapolis is a beautiful city. Oh look there is Sean Hannity on a billboard. Sorry, Sean, won’t be listening to your ranting today – or ever.

We’ve got 6 minutes to make it on time. Since there are no weather issues or crashes on the freeway, it’ll be close to see if we make it on time.

Just took the exit that gets us to the bridge that crosses the Mississippi to get us to the East Bank of the U of M. I just heard that same voice again, “Anderson hall.” It is the actual bus driver’s voice, but it sounds a little robotic. Someone pressed a button above her head which triggered a large red bar to light up in the front of the bus. That’s why we didn’t stop at Lake Street, no one pressed a button.

“Coffman Union,” says the robotic bus driver voice again. We all press a button.

7:39 AM. 2 minutes early. I guess skipping Lake Street made a difference.

In short, I am a fan of public transit after day 1.

Oriented August 23, 2006

Posted by fajita in Grad School Life.
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I am oriented. Here is what I learned:

“The University of Minnesota is a moral community.” – keynote speaker

“If you walk north on the east bank we’re on the southwest side.” – Poorly given directions by the employment office representative.

“80,000 people show up on campus everyday.”

“The U of M has the 15th largest library in North America with well over 6,000,000 volumes.”

“If you look for a book longer than 10 minutes, stop looking and have a librarian find it. We find resources; you write papers. That’s how it works.” – Librarian 

“We can get you a book from China.” Librarian 

“In our dissertation support group…” University psychologist.

Imagine being handyman walking into Home Depot and the person working there says, “See all this, it’s yours. Use every tool here as much as you want. If you don’t know what a tool does, let me know and I will train you, for free. The reason I am even here is to make you a complete success.”

Yes, this was the feel I got today at the orientation.

Orientation August 23, 2006

Posted by fajita in Grad School Life.
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Today is university orientation day. I will post later and report if I am oriented.

My New Life August 16, 2006

Posted by fajita in Adoption, family, Grad School Life.
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In less than 2 weeks I begin working as a Research Assistant at a major research univeristy. This will be a whole new world for me. Can’t wait to get into it.

I’ll be working with profs who are incredible researchers – an dpretty nice people, too.

———————————————————-

I have been hanging out at a church called Solomon’s Porch. It’s different on the surface and deeply from my Restoration roots, but there are many similarities.

Differences:

Setup in auditorium, instrumental worship, interactive sermon, baptism, decentralized information flow.

Similarities:

Bible based, seeking to be like Jesus, baptism by immersion, weekly communion.

From a theological perspective, there seems to be a lot more flexibility at Solomon’s Porch than at any of the churches I have attended in the past. Since SP is not part of a denomination and is not a church with a lot of years behind it, the flexibility does make some sense. The challenge for SP will be over the years. will it settle into an inflexible way of being. Time will tell.

————————————————-

Public transit. I will ride the bus 4 days a week from the burbs to the city. I wanted to live in the city, but that just didn’t work out.

Me, Myself & I August 9, 2006

Posted by fajita in Grad School Life.
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Me: I can’t wait to meet everyone in this cool new doctoral program I am entering into. I get so excited meeting new people. The more people I meet the more energized I get.

Myself: Are you crazy? The last thing you need to do is meet a bunch people who are 10 times smarter than you and make a fool of yourself.

Me: Nah, you’re just scared.

Myself: Scared? Duh! I just left a good job doing what I know how to do best for something I don’t even think I can do. Sure, I wasn’t raking in the dough, but now I am taking out student loans to make ends meet.

Me: And a wise investment it is my friend.

I: Where did I put that…?

Me: Hey I, what are you doing?

I: I lost my daytimer again, have you seen it?

Myself: You see, dad was right, you couldn’t find your butt with both hands. What makes you think you could get a PhD?

I: I’m going to go look in the freezer, I haven’t checked there yet.

Me: If you will remember, Mr. Self-Defeatist, you never thought you could get a masters degree and you got it. You never thought you would get married and you scored a terrific wife. You thought you’d be a lousy father and you’re doing pretty good. What’s your deal, man?

Myself: This is different.

Me: How?

I:Oh look, “I Love Lucy” reruns on TVLand, the freezer can wait.

Myself: How can I know I can do something I’ve never done? I mean, it is possible that whatever good I have done was just luck.

Me: How have you done it in the past?

Myself: I told you, it was luck.

Me: Look, no one is that lucky. You dove in there and you figured it out. You learned the landscape and then walked it.

Myself: But what if I’ve hit my wall? You know, I’ve already gone as far as I can go?

I: Oh, you guys have got to see this. Lucy is on an assembly line and can’t keep up. This one is hilarious.

Myself: As I was saying, I might have maxed out on my ability.

Me: Maybe, but probably not. Look, you’re talking like you’re old or something. This is not the twilight of your days.

Myself: What if I fail?

Me: Now we’re getting somewhere.

Myself: Huh?

I: Laughing hysterically and holding his belly.

Me: Fear is your enemy, not inability. You believe failure is not something you can recover from. You think that if you fail it means the end. Failure and termination have nothing to do with each other. How will you even know what you can do unless you accomplish failure?

Myself: Accomplish failure? That’s a good one. Nice rah rah rah speech. You’re full of it.

Me: Oh so you don’t see any good in failure?

Myself: No, I most certainly do not.

Me: You’re a thief!

Myself: What the Hell are you talking about?

I: (Walking over to and opening the freezer) Now, what was it I was looking for – oh look, ice cream.

Me: You fear failure, so you avoid it at all costs.

Myself: And your point is…

Me: My point is that you don’t even know what you can do.

Myself: Wrongo! I know what I can do. I just spent 5 years doing it and now I’m launching into the unknown.

Me:Aha! You just said it. The “unknown.” You made my point. You seem to equate the unknown with failure while I equate it with opportunity.

Myself:Yeah, yeah, the glass is half empty or half full, I get it.

Me: You don’t get it, not in the least. If only you could get it.

Myself: No need to get all worked up.

Me: I’m just getting started!

Myself: Rolls eyes.

Me: Let’s get back to the “you are a thief” part. Since you are afraid of failure, you avoid it. And since you avoid failure, you have yet to learn the limits of your ability. Look at your track record. You have had success in just about everything you have ever done.

Myself: You’re right. Looks like my system works, doesn’t it?

Me: Not in the least. Success is an awful teacher. You’re like the guy who has ten million dollars in the bank and doesn’t know it because he’s afraid to check his balance for fear that it might be small. So, he lives on crumbs and never accesses his resources.

Myself: You’re making me mad.

Me: Only because I am right.

I: Guys, (yawn and stretch) I’m going to take a nap.  

Me: Look, there is so much potential in you that not risking failure is to rob yourself and frankly the world of something potentially great.

Myself: Or perhaps saving myself and the world from something disastrous.

Me: If you are so diluted to think that the world can’t recover from your failures, then fear of failure is not your greatest problem.

Myself: What’s that supposed to mean?    

Me: It means that you are narcissistic negative.

Myself: Huh?

Me: It means you think you have vast powers for the negative and no power for the positive. You’re exaggerated both ways.

Myself: But it keeps me safe.

Me: It keeps you blind and withholds the good that could be done for others. Do you really want to be held accountable for that?

Myself: Well…that’s not how I think about it.

Me: Well, wold you consider thinking about it more realistically?

Myself: (sigh) I guess.

I: (bursting out of a dead sleep)Guys! I just had this weird dream that I was schizophrenic. I have got to tell you all about it.

Finding Our Way July 30, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grad School Life.
4 comments

Well, the week in Northern Minnesota was very much like a July week in Abilene, except for the desert, the lake, the forest, and the great fishing. OK, only the heat was like Abilene, but many is it hot up here. 102 is expected on Monday.

It was healing indeed. I am grateful for the beuty of Northern Minnesota and want to tak e full advantage of it every single season of the year including Winter.

We’re up to our ears in boxes at my sister’s suburban home here in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul). We’ll be living at my sister’s for a while since we lost our shirts let our house go for a great price. She’s fine with it and doesn’t mind a little rental income. Most importantly, my wife is OK and finding ways to adjust. The kids get to see their Auntie Amy daily, so this is dream come true for them. And me, well, what can I say but, “Where’s the bus station?”

I’ll be riding public transit for the first time in my life. Not a bad deal in the Twin Cities via the University special. $62 per month to ride as much as I want – even the light rail train that goes here and there. I don’t even have to be trying to get to the university to get the deal. We’ll see how the ride is before I start falling in love with public transit.

Peace, more blogging coming up. Thanks for all the well-wishing. It means a lot to me.

For God So Loved The World… July 2, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Grad School Life, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
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This is long post where I go on and on about a Bible verse because I can’t sleep and I don’t know what else to do.  

The very famous Bible verse (John 3:16) begins, “For God so loved the world…” This is a very important verse for many Christians today and throughout the ages. For many Christians this verse is the crux of their faith. Some Christians believe it is THE STORY of the entire Christian religion. 

What I want to focus on here in this post is the part of the verse that says, “the world.”

Growing up a conservative evangelical, I learned to avoid “the world.” The world was evil and I was not to become like the world. The world was that which God condemned and would eternally condemn one day – the Last Day. The world was contaminated with all kinds of evil, wickedness, and unholiness. The world was so hopelessly bad that it needed to be avoided and condemned, for my own good of course.

All people who were not of my denomination were of “the world.” It didn’t matter if they wore the name Christian, if they were not of my tribe, they were of the world. The world had somehow infiltrated their ranks and deceived them into believing that they were truly Christian when they were not. So, not only were non-Christians suspect, the wrong kind of Christians were suspect as well.

I went to a high school of 2,200 students. Only three people from my denomination (including myself) attended that high school. You know what that meant? 2,197 students were of the world. I had my work cut out for me from an evangelistic point of view. But more than that, there were 2,197 agents of the world out there from which I needed to keep my distance, who I needed to condemn, who I needed to inform that they were wrong and their only sensible move was to be like me – right.

The mental association in my mind for “the world” was negative.

Now, there are certain repsonses a person can have when “the world” is defined like it was for me in my formative years (do those years ever end?). Let’s explore some of those potential responses to “the world.”

One option is to completely insulate yourself from the world. Go Amish and make sure that contamination is held to an absolute minimum. All people and things “not us” are the Devil’s handywork. Make specific distinctions between “us” and “them” and hold to them without fail. Build spiritual, relational, and social hedges such that the world cannot creep in.

Another repsonse is to attack the world. Bring them loads of righteous condemnation. Be a “prophetic voice” and rail against every sinful thing the world does. Threaten the world with Hell and use lots of carefully selected Bible verses to accomplish this task. And when the world does not respond and change its ways, shake the dust off your feet and find another part of the world to condemn.

Still another repsonse is the give up hope. The world is a hopeless place with hopeless people who are never going to change, so what is the point in trying to convince the world of anything? This is still condemnation, but more of a passive condemnation that does not involve at lot of verbalization of the condemning, but it resides in the heart nonetheless.

OK, let’s swing back around to John 3:16.    

For God so loved that world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  

God seems to take a different approach to the world in this very important verse. Rather than insulate himself from the world, God engages the world. Rather then heap condemnation onthe world, he offers a way of rescue. Rather than give up on the world, he invests the absolute most important asset he has in order to accomplish this rescue.

Engage. Rescue. Invest.

God does not seem to delight in the destruction of the world here. In fact, God seems to be so troubled by the fact that something has gone so wrong that he will do whatever it takes, no matter the risk, in order to provide a way out of the mess.

God loves the world. For some reason, as a child, I completely missed the point. I learned to do the opposite. Avoid, condemn, and give up hope. That’s not love. Yes, I know that there is evil in the world (and other places), I know that there are dangers that can ruin a child, I know that there is cause for discernment and wisdom. But there is a difference between a discerning heart and a condemning one. I learned a protectionist reponse to the world. What I see in John 3:16 is an engaging response. What I see God doing is recognizing that the world has got a problem, but also that world is so important, so valuable, so worthy of his love, that he holds absolutely nothing back from the world. God does not throw up his hands at the abuse, the murder, the oppression, and the litany of incivilities that occur in the world. Rather, God wants to redeem this world from these horrific things.

I am sad to say that such a response is foreign to my religious and spiritual upbringing. How could I go to church and learn to be and do the opposite of what has been right there in the Bible the whole time?   

What I am having to learn as an adult is a way to engage the world, share a story of rescue with the world, and invest in the world. I have to come to believe that “the world” is worth it. I have to enter the world and the specific worlds of individuals with the full intnetion of blessing them in their world. What I mean by that is I am going to have to conduct my life such that when I enter someone’s world, they are genuinely glad they ever met me.

This Fall I am entering doctoral studies at a major state university in the Midwest. This will be my first step into “the world” with the hopes of actually blessing it rather than condmening it. I place the “the world” in quotes here because I anticipate quite a diverse collection of students and professors, many who will have such different backgrounds and experiences from my own that they would have been labeled, “the world” by the criteria issued me in my youth.

What I want is for every student, every professor, every staff member I meet over the next 4 years to experience my presence in their life as a blessing. To the extent that I enter their world, I want that little part of their world to be better because I was there. I do not want to avoid, condemn, or get hopeless. I want to engage, invest, and if rescue is in order, be a part of that rescue.

This will be new ground for me. Take a look at my history and you’ll see that this is new gorund for me: After high school, when I avoided the 2,197 agents of the world, I went to a private Christian college – insulated from “the world”. After that I was a youth minister – again, insulated from “the world.” I spent 2 years as a public school teacher in Houston – I must have driven the other teachers nuts with my religious blather. Then I went to another Christian university and was again surrounded by Christians. Then I was a youth minister and now I am a counselor at a Christian counseling center.

I am going to be given the opportunity this Fall to see if I really have love in my heart, the kind of love God has for the world. If I avoid, condemn, or get hopeless about the people I meet, I have failed. No more of that. I have spent so much effort trying to unlearn the contaminated portions of my faith and replace them with a healthier faith that this Fall has just got to be a great experience.

Oh God, I have always tried my best to do what is right. On many counts I have failed. I have learned that your love runs deeper than simplistic measures of right and wrong. I want to learn how to love with the generosity, the passion, and the mission you have. Please, take my moldy bread and little fish and make something of value from it.