Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the road again...

Yesterday, I made the 7-hour trek from Columbia, MO back to Franklin, TN. About halfway home, after finishing up A Thousand Splended Suns on CD, memorizing my sermon text for Sunday, and talking through the sermon, I decided to fire up the ipod and listen to some albums straight through, without the shuffle feature. I mean, how often do we do that anymore with ipods? Here are some of the "albums" I listened to, the people they made me think of and the memories they reminded me of:

James Taylor Greatest Hits: Annual trips to Montreat in that First Presbyterian Church 15 passenger van, John Weicher-he loves James Taylor, driving around town in Columbia, MO as a high school student with this tape playing loudly in my car. While this CD brought back many happy memories of friends and travels and love being showered on me, it also caused a certain yearning in my heart...a yearning for that friend I can call and a yearning to escape to the peaceful mountains of North Carolina. This is one of those CDs I can truly listen to from start to finish and enjoy every moment.

Caedmon's Call/Caedmon's Call: This CD makes me think of seminary, as I listened to it a good bit my first couple of years at Columbia. Anna and I listened to it on our way back to Atlanta after Christmas break that first year. I particularly appreciate Cademon's Call ability to find beauty and meaning in everyday things, like cups of coffee and bus drivers.

Long Island Shores/Mindy Smith: The sweet girl who gave me this CD was on my mind the entire time I was listening to it last night. Those opening notes always take me back to that parking lot where that sweet girl handed me the CD, and our eyes met for a brief moment, and I knew we were headed into "more than two people who hang out sometimes" territory. I was struck by how poignant the first song that sweet girl eventually expressed those sentiments to me as she expressed her own need to change a few things. Such beautiful music, but tinged with sadness.

Red Light, Blue Light/Harry Connick Jr.: Ryan Brown, Molly Nahm, Renee Wenger, and Colleen Reid. These were the people I hung out with most of my freshman year of college when I listened to this CD almost daily. For some reason, it also made me think of a fun snowy day of sledding in St. Louis when I visited some of those college friends over Christmas break. Ryan was there with his brothers, as were Molly and Colleen. It's a cherished memory for me. I remember sitting in my parents' basement during Christmas break that year and listening to this CD while thinking about all of my new friends.

While I do love setting up playlists or simly allowing the shuffle feature to run rampant on my ipod, there's something great about simply allowing an album to play in its the order in which its creators meant for it to be listened. I enjoyed the trip through memory lane for that chunk of highway between CoMo and Franktown.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marathon Accomplished

Well, folks, I can now officially put "Marathoner" in my list of adjectives to describe myself. That's right, on Sunday, November 16th, 2008, I ran 26.2 miles in an official marathon race. Here's a rundown of the day:

  • Awoke early to eat breakfast and drink water and gatorade.
  • Got in the car to make the trek to downtown San Antonio.
  • Found myself in heavy traffic on my way to the shuttle site.
  • 40 degrees outside when I got out of my car
  • Got on the shuttle bus at 7:40
  • Race time was 7:30.
  • Arrived at the start village around 8:00
  • Jumped in with corral 16 to begin race around 8:15
  • My corral was supposed to be 6
  • For the first 6 miles, I found myself in the midst of people running a much slower pace than I was hoping to run
  • Mile 8: the crowd thinned out a bit and I was able to find a stride I liked
  • Mile 11: The half marathoner's peeled off. I was feeling good
  • Mile 13.1: Crossed the marker at 2 hours 1 minute, only a couple of minutes off the pace I wanted to run and had been training for
  • Mile 16: Begin to feel tired in the legs...a half mile after passing up free goo packets.
  • Mile 18: OH MY GOSH!! Why won't my legs keep moving? Am I overheated or chilly? Beginning to lose more time as my pace lessens.
  • Mile 19: Use the goo packet I have in my pocket. Drink plenty of water with it. Feel good for about a mile.
  • Right before mile 20: Took a break to, um, powder my nose. :)
  • Right after mile 20: Is it getting dark out here? Does anybody else feel really chilly? I sat down and then laid down on the cool, shaded sidewalk to allow the "I'm gonna pass out" feeling to subside
  • Miles 21-25: A great mixture of running and walking. I couldn't ever quite get back to a comfortable pace.
  • Mile 25-26: I decided to kick it into gear and run the rest of the way, however slow that running might be. As I came into the final stretch, I cued up the music from the battle scene in The Gladiator.
  • Mile 26-26.2: No lie, the final .2 miles were a steep hill the finish line. I mean, seriously? :) At that point I was cruising along to the music from Gladiator, hearing the crowd cheer, and holding back the weeping that I was doing as I thought about accomplishing the marathon.
  • Finish Line: As I crossed the final checkpoint and finish line, I put my arms in the air and thanked God for seeing me through.
Final time (according to my Garmin Forerunner that auto paused during the time on my back): 4:54:05.

Official Time (according the chip strip on my foot): 5:04:41

Yes, for all you math whizzes out there, it took me almost 3 hours to finish the second half of the marathon as opposed to the 2 hours it took me to finish the first half. Kind of a bummer, but, as one person said, at least I didn't end up with a gash in my face because I kept running to the point of passing out.

Around mile 22, I was cursing myself for attempting such a feat, but as I came up on mile 24, I realized that I was going to finish, and that while it didn't go exactly as I had planned, I was still going to attain the status of marathoner.

Will I ever run another one? At mile 22, I would have said, "HELL NO! NOT IF YOU PAID ME!" Now, after a couple of days of recovery and reflection, I think I might. Not anytime soon, mind you, but maybe in a couple of years. My goal would be to do it with more success.

For now, I'm just recovering and drinking plenty of water.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me, texted me, called me, e-mailed me, facebooked me, and generally sent well wishes my way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ATT's plan change policy sucks

So, about a year ago, I added more monthly minutes to my cell phone plan. I was using somewhere in between the 450 minutes plan and the 900 minutes plan, but was tired of paying those "nasty overages." Well, in the course of the year, I've accumulated about 4,000 roll over minutes. I looked at some recent bills, did some basic math and decided that I could drop back to the 450 minutes plan and live off roll over minutes for at least year, maybe more. Ah, but when I went to push that Select Plan button for 450 minutes a month, this message appeared:

NOTE: By requesting a new rate plan with rollover, your accumulated Rollover Minutes in excess of the new plan's number of monthly anytime minutes will expire at the beginning of your next bill cycle.
Example: If you currently have 1,000 Rollover Minutes and you change to the Nation 900 with Rollover plan, you can only carry over 900 of your Rollover Minutes to your new rate plan.
Do you want to continue with your rate plan change?

What a crock!!! I mean, seriously? Doesn't that fly in the face of flexibility and all that noise? I certainly plan to call AT&T tomorrow and see if I can't get a managerial type to make an exception or at least explain the reasoning. Oh, I get it that they don't want people like me racking up a bunch of rollover minutes and then spending time whittling them down on a cheaper plan, but I think that's lame. I could always threaten to leave, but who am I kidding? I want an iphone. :)

For now, I'm using my readership of 10 people to complain about a business doing its best to make money...oh wait, that's what they're supposed to do.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It's official...

Yes, folks, I have entered the world of being a slum lord. OK, so my place isn't really a slum, and I don't wear polyester pants, sport an unruly mustache, or anything like that. But, I do now have a roommate. After taking a look at the finances so far in 2008, I realized I was leaking money onto the credit card each month at a less than desirable rate. I placed an ad on Craigslist and found a cool guy who was looking for a room. He moved in yesterday, Wednesday. When I got home last night, I walked into the wonderful smell of bacon. "I eat a lot of bacon sandwiches," he said as I walked upstairs to greet him. When I opened the fridge this morning, I noticed that the only thing he added to the mix was beer. I think this is gonna work out quite nicely. :)

It's also official that BARACK OBAMA has been elected President of the United States of America. I'm really psyched. I came home on Tuesday evening and watched all of the coverage. I felt like both John McCain's concession speech and Barack Obama's acceptance speech were well written and well articulated. I particularly like the part where Obama called on people to join in conversation with him, particularly those with whom he disagrees. What a shift in Presidential demeanor. Awesome! I woke up Wednesday morning chanting O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA.

All of that being said, I hope that we followers of Jesus Christ remember that ultimately, our faith, hope, and trust are placed in God's redemption of the world, and not in the policies of any politician. I refuse to acknowledge as legitimate some of the messiah rhetoric surrounding Obama. I do think he will be a President who calls on us to come together and to care for some of the least of these, but, in the end, we people of faith are called to be lights to the world and should continue to show compassion and fight for justice, and never abdicate the call of discipleship to any government. Just to be clear: Barack Obama will not bring about a new heaven and a new earth or usher in the kingdom of God on earth. God will do that in God's time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Wish I were a song writer

Among all of the stuff I've been doing lately, last week I stood in line for 40 minutes to cast my vote for Barack Obama. No matter how many times I go to vote, I still get a rush from stepping behind the screen and seeing the ballot. While my anxiety has gone down with the use of electronic ballots (no chance of punching the wrong hole and having to ask for a new ballot), I still have a moment of fear/anxiety/something when I hit the CAST YOUR VOTE button. What if I accidently voted for some random person? Anyway, I was glad to cast my vote and hope that everybody else gets out there to make their voice heard.

Yesterday, Sunday, I wished I were someone who wrote music that would inspire others.

10:30 worship service at Harpeth: On the first Sunday of each month, our congregation usually celebrates the Lord's Supper, and as a part of that ritual, we sing the classic vocal arrangement of The Lord's Prayer. This is always a meaningful experience for me, but yesterday I was transported to another place. You see, instead of communion, we had a candle lighting ritual to celebrate All Saint's Day. People were invited to come and light a candle in memory of someone who showed them what it means to be a person of faith. At that service I lit a candle in memory of Duke Walthall, an elderly man in my congregation back home who took an interest in me as a young boy. For some reason, I was drawn to this man, and he always took time to talk to me, listen to me, and encourage me in matters of faith and life in general. He was a retired pastor and was one of those people who, as the old children's sermon story goes, "the light shines through." As we were singing The Lord's Prayer, I watched the dance of the hundred or so lit candles on the table, and meditated on the generations of folks who had been saying those words through the centuries. As the voices of the congregation swelled to sing the final For thine is the kingdom, and the power and glory forever I could swear those little flames swelled as well, reaching as high as they could to offer praise to God. Maybe it was just the rush of oxygen as people sang louder in that direction, but I don't think so. I felt as if the Spirit was present, drawing praise even from those candles, just as the Spirit had drawn praise from the people those flames represented. It was a moment when I was acutely aware of the power of music to transform words into something more...that our souls were indeed praying not only the words, but also the melody to God. As I walked down the aisle toward the back door where I would greet people on their way out into "the real world," I wished I were someone who was able to compose music that inspired people to worship in grace and truth.