Andy’s life, seasons 30-35

If you missed it, here’s a recap of my life over the past six years.

Background

In the years after I graduated from college (2000) and almost all my friends had left the area, I lived fairly normally, but it was against a backdrop of depression, loneliness, and insecurity. Just before 2007 I decided that would be the year I started taking care of myself. I went back to the doctor for regular checkups, began rebuilding my social life, and talked with people who could help me work through my emotional and spiritual issues. Here are some of the major story arcs that have come from that decision, some of which I posted about on the blog as they were happening.

Ulcerative colitis

My return to the doctor was well timed, because I had just developed symptoms that were diagnosed as ulcerative colitis on Good Friday of 2007. It’s been a moderate case—it hasn’t put me in the hospital—but very stubborn with no real remission. Occasionally it’s depressing and scary, but most of the time I don’t think much about it. And in some ways it’s been helpful, because I can understand other people with chronic conditions better, and it’s taught me about self-control.

Exercise

After a short-lived attempt in July of 2003, in February through September of 2008 I went to the gym. This time I went in the mornings with my friend, who was much more committed to it than I was. I didn’t think I was making much progress, probably because I was inconsistent about going, but I noticed the improvement I had made when I stopped going and got weaker. Someday I’ll get myself back into it.

Stephen Ministry

In September of 2007 I began training as a Stephen Minister and was commissioned as one at the end of the training in April of the next year. I didn’t get my first care receiver till February of 2009, which really isn’t too surprising because fewer men take advantage of Stephen Ministry than women. I began with my latest care receiver in April of last year. Both were visitation type scenarios, with no major crisis but definitely challenges to deal with on a daily basis.

In 2008 I began helping with our Stephen Ministry’s Blue Christmas service, which is a solemn but hopeful service for people who are hurting during the holidays. I helped in a few areas, but my main role was to write the service based on the input of the planning team. The following year the Stephen Leaders asked me to coordinate the service, and I did that through last year, after which I gave up the reins to whoever the leaders find for this year. Each year it’s been rewarding and has helped people, but I’m not really as organized as I come across, and I’d rather let someone else manage things and let me concentrate on the production work.

Prayer ministry

In January of 2009 I attended my first in a series of seminars for learning Theophostic Prayer Ministry, a type of prayer for emotional healing. I had received a session of Theophostic from a local pastor’s wife in around 2000, and it had transformed one of my early painful memories, and I wanted to have this tool in my belt for helping people. In the summer of 2010 our trainer switched to an offshoot of Theophostic called the Immanuel approach, and the next January I had the honor of joining her mentor team, the set of people who lead the small groups in the training workshops. This September, in addition to helping with the latest training, I also began attending Restarting, a course for learning the principles and practices of the Life Model, which is part of the basis for Immanuel, both so I’d be in a better position to recommend this model to people and so I could work on some of my own issues.

Productivity

On June 19, 2010 I emerged from the pervasive procrastination that had imprisoned me for about the past decade or more. Whereas before I was somewhat depressed and mired in a morass of everyday details that felt too burdensome to deal with and made me feel every day like an irresponsible slob, that Saturday I woke up early and did my laundry, and this led to a weekend of general productivity. It was so satisfying and fun that I’ve kept it going more or less ever since, and it has hugely improved my outlook on life. For the boost in energy and mood that allowed this breakthrough, I credit prednisone, which I was taking at the time for my ulcerative colitis and which has as a side effect an inflated sense of well-being.

Worship team

Here and there in 2010 and early 2011 I was getting little nudges from people to get back involved in music, so finally I gave in and decided to use my church as an avenue. Sometime in June or July I asked my music minister about joining one of the worship teams on the keyboard, and despite a messy audition, he gave me a chance and put me on one of the teams. I had a learning curve in front of me, because the musical styles and mode of playing are different from what I’m used to—improvising from lead sheets using lots of syncopation and seventh chords. It’s been both fun and scary, partly because I ended up in a somewhat leading role on the piano rather than the supporting role I was aiming for on the keyboard, but I’ve improved over the past year, and people have appreciated my playing.

Living situation and job

Because I didn’t want to buy my apartment when they converted it to a condominium, in August of 2007 I moved a city over, from a one-bedroom to a studio apartment, into which I very carefully fit almost all my things. Aside from the very steep slope in the parking lot, sometimes unclimbable when it snows, it’s been a good place to live. My job hasn’t changed much since 2007, even after our company was bought last year, except to give me a larger variety of programming tasks, which is fine with me.

Career

For several years after finishing grad school in biblical studies (2003), while working as a programmer, I alternated between the ideas of philosophy and psychology as a career. In 2009 I thought I’d settled on philosophy, but in February of 2010 I learned that there are few academic jobs in the humanities, and to me the risks weren’t worth the huge investment of getting a PhD, so I looked again at my goals in life and my career options, and I concluded that I would be more financially secure and just as vocationally happy working as a programmer and doing philosophy in my spare time. I’m planning to take care of some prerequisites in the next year or two and then enter grad school for computer science with a concentration in artificial intelligence. At some point I still want to do something with psychology, maybe go back to school again and become a counselor, but my psychological interests need more time to incubate before I come up with any definite plans.

Doubts

In 2007 I put my doubts about Christianity on hold in order to see where I could get with my spiritual life (see here, here, and here). In January of 2012, having found a reassuring spiritual basis in Immanuel prayer, I reopened my questions and have been especially reassessing my theology of Scripture, exploring what can be said for critical biblical scholarship. At the same time, I’ve been collecting resources for taking a more empirical approach to my religious beliefs rather than simply accepting the premises of creeds like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, mainly by studying miracles and mysticism but also by keeping an eye on positive assessments of the Bible’s historical reports, especially about Jesus’ resurrection; and I’ve been thinking about how Christians might take a different approach to apologetics. I’ll definitely be writing more about all of that.

Wow. I’ve been really busy!

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