Archive for March, 2009

Maintenance outside and in: Don’t just do something – sit there.

Last week I was a little down in my facetime in front of my computer.  On Friday, I spent my normal routine in reading the NY Times, and then opened my Microsoft Outlook, and for some strange reason it wouldn’t open.

I tried my other MS Office applications, and the same thing happened.  Other than Windows, Microsoft went on strike. 


It started a week of maintenance on lots of things – my car, my computer, myself – “that time of the month” when I go to the chemo ward for my phelobotomy, going to the dentist, surgeon for a couple of rechecks (all fine, thanks) and setting up a couple other appointments.

I hate working on my computer. I know I graduated from an Institute of Technology and all, but really, computers aren’t my specialty.  Sure, I was the IT back-up at my previous company – but I really didn’t know what I was doing. I sure didn’t want my number called – all I had a little document that I wrote down whatever I thought I was supposed to do and never ended up using it.  Besides, most of the time I would tell people to turn their computer off and then on again, and presto! – it worked.

But as I was waiting getting my car fixed (costing way more than I had hoped), working on my computer (which would later crash), getting blood drawn in the chemo ward, sitting under a knife, my mind drifted to the role of maintenance in other unseen things.

One of my favorite improv comedy shows in Chicago is called, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”   

Too Much Activity Makes the Andy Go Crazy.

Believe me, I can work a lot.  I’ve worked a few too many 100 hour weeks and even more than 24 hours straight a couple times. I used to be proud of that – kind of a Bilhorn thing.

But it does take its toll.

At the end of this week, I’m headed out to the country in Wisconsin to have my regular two days of silence. It’s a long road trip where I drive out to clear my lungs, my mind, and often my heart gets soft once again.  

My soul needs maintenance.  As I get older, I need it more. Ministry isn’t a detached, impersonal activity. My friends lovingly make fun of me because of my capacity to create spreadsheets and look at data.  I think it’s an escape for me – data is often impersonal and doesn’t cause me to be emotionally drained.  

If you do ministry right, you enter in – and that is dangerous. If I don’t take care of my soul, I begin to die, and ministry dies with it.

Americans are known internationally for our capacity for produce – to be productive. Sitting and doing nothing is considered a waste of time.  We’ve often heard it said, “don’t just sit there – do something!”

An old Filipino proverb takes the reverse idea, saying, “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” It’s not something we Americans in our hyperactive lives do (nor I), but I need it more with age.

In a culture that values me for what I produce, write, say, speak, act, make, create, it’s time for me to cease and be still, and let my soul rest and be valued not for what it produces.

At the end of the week, as it goes against every activistic bone in my body, I won’t just do something.  I’ll sit there, and let God under the hood of my life and do some maintenance.


Sigh, it’s Monday.


I’m a Marvel, and I’m a DC

I cracked up when I saw last summer’s YouTube superhero promo series, but this one is just as funny.

So is this one

Man Dates Gone Mainstream: “I Love You, Man”

The second Thursday of the month is when I try to get together with my fraternity brothers (not as successful as I’d like to be) and eat at a great Chicago restaurant.  Most of the time, we laugh so hard that we can become “that annoying group of guys” where we try to leave a nicer tip because we know we could easily be seen as “those guys.” And thanks to better than average interpersonal skills, we are typically able to talk to the waitress and leave on good terms.

As I’ve interacted with a lot of circles of young men over the years, I still love my gatherings of fraternity brothers the most.  Just Thursday, we went from trying to solve the country’s economic crisis, to religion, to buffoonery and how to travel with a hangover, to farting, to the subtlties of Irish stouts, to understanding how to be a professional gambler, to education and community development.  My abdominals get a better workout than I get at the gym from laughing so hard.

But it’s interesting observation – when I go out, try to look at the gender dynamics around me.  More often than not I see larger groups of women than men, and men typically rarely congregate together without the company of women.

Anyone experience anything differently?

I’ve talked about this before, and ask any of my students I’ve mentored, but it looks like America is going to be talking a lot more about “man dates.”

(I still resolve that I did not hear either the terms “Man-Date” or “Dude-Date” before I started using this years ago – but that doesn’t matter anymore.  Totally should have copyrighted it or somethin’.)

Best quote of the preview:

“Society tells us to act civilized, but the truth is were animals, and sometimes you gotta let it out”


“Respect the process”


“Yeah, you feel better?


“You wanna get a corndog?”


(Oh, and BTW, I have played Rush on Rock Band in similar fashion…T, I know you are smiling now for some reason and you don’t know why. And the fart conversation? Totally had that one too…)

I’m curious what America’s response will be. In college and post college, many men have a real hard time finding authentic friendship. I feel blessed to have some great male friends over the years – both in Christian communities as well as those outside of the church. I’m trying to get in a football league again where I can revisit the gridiron in all of it’s glory.

But I know my experience is the exception rather than the norm. Why is that?

As women have rightly gained more opportunities and are making the most of them, men often don’t know what to do with themselves. When men expected certain opportunities to be handed to them, they aren’t in the same way – which is a good thing.  But at the same time, I would argue that we haven’t advanced our understanding of male identity that can thrive in an age of feminism.  

I mean, Homer Simpson is America’s most recognizable international male figure other than the president.  Does that rub anyone else the wrong way?

I’m curious as to what conversations about genuine male friendship will happen over the course of the upcoming weeks.

President Obama, can I ask a question?


Is it just me who finds this funny?

Is it just me who finds this funny?

Photo courtesy of


I left for a few days of vacation Saturday to Florida – thankfully, I have a set of team meetings where our director has chosen for us to meet in Orlando for a few days.  Many of us Northerners jump at the chance to come a few days early to enjoy the sun so lacking this time of year.

As I was checking through the airport, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone on me.  I went back to the check station and asked if they found a phone, and the answer was no.  So I called my roommate and it turns out I left it on the table at home.  

For about 10 minutes, I was panicked.  But then, this overwhelming sense of relief came over me.  I don’t have to worry about taking calls this week. I don’t have to have my information immediately accessible to me. No checking email. No texts. No calls. No voicemail.  

A colleague of mine says, “Andy, I’d have that thing shipped to me next day air if I were you.” 

I don’t need that.  No way. I’m free.

I got video fowarded to me, “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” and it got me thinking a lot about the instant accessibility we demand.  I couldn’t help but think of my friends and my students with this video.

Not having my phone was great for a week. I didn’t need it. I felt more fully present in the moment.  I’m reading a book, “Coming Home to Your True Self” and one of the things that struck me was how we don’t live in the moment. We are often reliving past mistakes or anxious about what the future holds. One of the beautiful things about children is that they so often live in the moment.

I thought of this as I led a small group after our sermon at church today, and one of the women had her 8 month old son who missed his morning nap.  So he hung with his mom and slept while we all talked. When he woke up, he was fully present in the moment with his mom, enjoying making eye contact with me and playing games.  

(Since I’m the small group leader, I’m sure I should be doing more important things…like listening intently to what everyone is saying. But put a baby in front of me and that’s one welcome distraction.)

But he’s fully present in every moment, trusting that his Mom will take care of him.  And it’s beautiful.

Maybe my attachment to my phone detaches me from being in the moment, being fully present to experience the present rather than dwelling in the past or the future.  Maybe everything would be amazing, and I’d be happy.

March 2009
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