Life Update 5/30/11

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The past several weeks have been really exciting for me. I apologize for not posting anything new for two weeks, but so much has happened that I really haven’t had time to do anything.

As you might know from my last post, I graduated from college. I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. I also minored in psychology and political science. I felt like this was my worst semester of college, but it turned out to be my best. I was worried about failing right at the end and I got A’s in both of the classes that worried me, which was a big surprise!

I got a new job. I am a security officer for the university now. It seems silly, as the title is very similar to my title as a student, but the job is a lot different. The biggest part of my job is patrolling the dorms. The people who know my career goals know this isn’t what I actually want to do, but I promise there are very specific reasons why I chose to do this. First, the job market is terrible for people just leaving college. Second, staying with the department makes me a priority candidate when I am ready to make the next transition. Third, a pattern I’ve seen in our department is that the people who make it to the top almost invariably started out with my position now. Fourth, as security I receive a lot of training that officers must have (more to add to my list of qualifications on my resume). I’m really enjoying the job, except the hours. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to working overnight. It’s something I’d have to get used to as a police officer anyway, but it’s really hard to push through. I can’t sleep, but I have a hard time staying awake. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it is what it is. It’s currently 3am, but I’m awake even though I don’t work tomorrow so that I might be able to adjust. It’s tough, but I think it will pay off in the end.

Tim got married! I got to be in the wedding, which was really cool. It was kinda sad that we had to break up the apartment. We are all moving. Obviously, Tim moved in with Chelsy. Daniel is moving in with a couple other Cru interns. I am moving in with a couple guys from Salt. I’m really excited for this to happen. While I’ve really enjoyed living with them, I’m ready for a change.

For several years, I’ve been ready to be done with school. With my new job I’ve had a lot of time to just think to myself. I’m alone most of the time, and no one else is awake to talk to, so I’ve been thinking. I’m really considering going back to school. As much as I love UofI, I don’t think there is any master’s program here for me. I think I’d like to work online to get a master’s from Kaplans school of criminal justice. They have a couple programs that sound interesting, and I just have to figure out which route I want to pursue: general criminal justice, fire, or homeland security.

At the moment I can’t think of anything else, but if I do I’ll make an update or maybe a whole new post in the next couple days.

College in 3,000 words

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As of Saturday, I am officially a college graduate. The people I hang out with all the time know that I am a story teller. It’s pretty funny, because I’m not creative. I don’t know anyone who has gotten quite the collection of weird stories (I’ll admit most of them aren’t really good, but they are weird) that I have, so I’ve decided to tell you 1 story from each semester of school starting with the summer before college that does a good job of describing the semester as a whole. I finish each story with a moral from that semester.

Summer before freshman year:

I did a job shadow with the University Of Iowa Department Of Public Safety through the Upward Bound Project this summer. To do this, I literally had my bags packed at graduation and left for Iowa City at the end of the ceremony. As it turns out, this department hired me to be a student guard upon completing the job shadow. One night, I was riding with an officer during an overnight shift on a Friday. We weren’t finding anything, which was a pretty big disappointment because if there was a night to find something interesting, this was it. Eventually the officer told me that we were just going to look for seat belts, because at least it would mean I got to watch a traffic stop. After a while I spot a driver not wearing his seat belt, so the officer whipped around and pulled him over. As it turns out, the guy blew something like .228 blood alcohol content. He told the officer he had been asleep for several hours, but his girlfriend needed a ride home, so he woke up just to come pick her up. So the guy was under arrest for an OWI with a seat belt ticket attached to show his reason for stopping the guy. As the officer put him in the car, the guy said, “I’m in so much trouble, because my girlfriend has a restraining order against me!” So yes, he got a charge of violation of a restraining order too. The guy was driving completely straight; we would not have had any reason to pull him over if he had been wearing a seatbelt. So at the end of the night he was charged with 2 serious misdemeanors and a petty misdemeanor. Moral of the summer: Buckle Up!

Freshman Year, Fall Semester:

One of the best things that I did freshman year, and all of college for that matter, was meet the Slater 8 girls. They were a group of girls who lived in “temporary housing” in the lounge on the 8th floor of Slater. There was also one girl who just lived on the 8th floor, but not in a lounge who is also amazing. I lived in a different dorm, so meeting these girls was pretty random. They are now some of my best friends and some of the few people that I plan on keeping in close contact with. I have so many stories about these girls, so it was really hard to choose just one to tell, so this one is a recurring joke that continued from this semester until graduation day.

One of the girls, Annette, is from Texas and is Hispanic. In high school I came up with a franchise Mexican restaurant and I promoted it to her one day. The idea is Nacho Daddy. Every time someone would come up, I can say, “Welcome to Nacho Daddy’s I am Not Yo Daddy.” Everyone loved the idea, except her. She is a really good cook (I LOVE her food), so we decided to make her the face of the sister company, Nacho Mama. So for four years, the Slater 8 girls and I (they stayed friends after they all found permanent rooms) referred to Annette as Nacho Mama and we kept telling her our ideas for the chain. At one time there was even a jingle! Annette said she hated it and wouldn’t support it, but I know that secretly she loved it just like the rest of us J Moral of the semester: Meet Random People!

Freshman Year, Spring Semester:

This semester was by far, the worst semester of college. Many of my friends got in bitter fights that never recovered, and it was very much the high school drama I never had. This put a big toll on me and made even classes extremely stressful. I don’t want to risk reviving bitter feelings, so I want to talk about one of my classes.

Matt was my T.A. for one of my classes this semester. I’ve never disliked a teacher so much, not been disliked by a teacher so much before or since Matt. I’m not sure how exactly our feud started, but it was ugly. For this class, our grade was based solely on the 5 papers and 1 final paper arguing for our grade. Matt openly talked about me during class, which was a bit rude, but worse – He failed or gave me a D- on every paper during the class. I wrote quality papers worth good grades, even wrote on one of them that it was a good start to a master’s thesis. There was a time in college that I was outspoken in class, and I think my willingness to call out teachers when I know they are wrong (he was a lot) may have contributed to this. Finally, in the last paper I did not do much defending of my research, grammar, etc. that the professor said to do. Instead, I wrote Matt a letter. In this letter I told him that he was purposefully failing me, and that we both knew that all of my papers were ‘A’ quality. I told him that I had previously had another T.A. for that class who was a strict grader, and even she would have found my papers to be A’s or B’s and that if my final grade did not reflect that I would take all my papers, with his comments to the professor and department head to discuss what a fair grade would be. In the end, despite my grades saying I should have failed the course, I received a B+. Moral of the story: Don’t Let People Walk On Top Of You!

Summer Before Sophomore Year:

You will notice that each of the summers are real growing experiences for me. I think that maybe not having to worry about classes so much gave me a chance to really let myself learn from experience. This summer was the great flood of 2008. It was a record flood and the second 500 year flood in 20 years.

I got assigned to work at the Old Capitol Museum for 12 hour shifts daily for several weeks. This was really good pay for me, I paid for my summer class and first semester entirely off the money I made this summer, which provided the money I needed for next summer (but I didn’t know that yet). I have never been given so much responsibility in my life. There was many millions of dollars of art work that got transported there in the middle of the night before the water reached the art museum’s door. It was all supposed to go to a secure storage facility in Chicagoland, but the water was moving too quickly to make it happen. Suddenly, I became in charge of all this art for half the day in a building with a pretty poor security system. I don’t feel comfortable talking about specifics of it, but when the art first moved in, it wasn’t very good. While the art was in there, the building’s security increased a lot, and today is good enough that I would feel comfortable keeping art in there (so don’t try to rob it). I spent like 8 hours a day working on chemistry homework during that summer and worked really hard to make sure that the building was safe. I felt like that summer I left a lot of immaturity behind and took on the responsibility that I should have already had. Moral of the summer: Take Responsibility!

Sophomore Year, Fall Semester:

I reestablished many friendships that ended off on bad notes last year during this semester. I really started hanging out with one of my best friends this semester. Her name is Kaitlin, and starting with this semester we took like 8 classes together and helped each other get through college. However, we weren’t always good influences on each other. My story is about some of our influences.

Our first class together was Introduction to Animal Biology. It was taught by Ken Mason, the president’s husband. He was a little boring, so we came up with all these rules to determine whether or not we should go to class (I know… this is bad). One of our things was that if the pop machine outside the lecture hall did not have both Vault and Dt. Coke, it was going to be a bad day. So, we’d turn around and leave. We also had this problem where we’d both swear that the professor said the next lecture would be at Teaspoons in the mall. So we’d show up to teaspoons, and somehow we were always the only people to show up for class. This was really bad, but it helped me develop a friendship with Rachel, who I knew from high school, and Emily. They became two of my lunch buddies and together we’ve become mall rats and best friends. So, yes skipping class was bad, but I still graduated AND made some of my best friends in the process. Moral of the semester: Drink Coffee!

Sophomore Year, Spring Semester:

All of sophomore year seems to have been a year of making new friendships. This semester is when I really go to know a guy named Michael. I met him during first semester at the Campus Crusade for Christ fall retreat. I could tell that spiritually as well as in life, he and I were at about the same level and had several of the same strengths and weaknesses. First semester we met, and then never talked again. Second semester, I decided to randomly send him a message and see if he wanted to start doing lunch one day a week. Because of our common religious beliefs, we took the time to really encourage each other and strengthen each other. In the 5 semesters since then, our group of two has grown to 5 with several “fringe lunch buddies.” My Thursday lunches with these guys have become a highlight of my week every week. We’ve argued everything from religion to politics to music to whether or not kids should watch Disney. Moral of the semester: Invite People Out To Lunch!

Summer Before Junior Year:

This summer I went to a program called Training Ground. This was a great decision in retrospect, but it was pretty foolish prior to the experience. I found this SMALL discipleship program in Colorado over a facebook advertisement. After accepting me, I had to send them $5,000 and show up, but no one had ever heard of this. In fact, I was the only person to have ever been involved from Iowa. My mom had a lot of legitimate concerns about me going, and though I usually listen to my mom, I felt like God was telling me I had to be there so I ignored all the warnings. In the end, the program took me from a place of insecurity and taught me to be confident in my strengths and perseverant in my weaknesses.

One story from this summer is the time that I fought a bear. I know it seems unbelievable, for the longest time the other guys at the house didn’t believe me, but I took on a bear that was digging through our garbage. I woke up to find our 3 dogs all barking outside our house and went to investigate the problem. I found the bear and grabbed a shovel and went after the bear… It was 6 am and we were up late the day before, so I wasn’t mentally with it. I started screaming and banging this shovel and I chased the bear off our property. I ended up doing this 4 times before anyone else ever saw the bear. They didn’t believe me, but finally I got two other guys to see it at the same time, and they acknowledged that I really had chased the bear off the property. Moral of the summer: Take Risks!

Junior Year, Fall Semester:

I’ve got another T.A. story. This time I was in Biological Psychology. The T.A. was one of the best I’ve had, and he and I had a mutual distaste for the professor. This made us in an unofficial alliance. He made the agreement with the class at the beginning of the semester that we would get extra credit if he liked the title of our paper, because psychologists are boring too often and they make a painful paper that much worse to read. We came to an assignment and I had to write about homosexuality in sheep. Yes, I’m being serious. So, I wrote on my topic and titled the paper: “He’s Just Not That Into Ewe.” The T.A. loved it. I did get the extra credit, but when he assigned these papers, he did not mention that after he had time to look them over, we would have to present them in front of the class. 1. Awkward. 2. I started to talk and as soon as he realized it was my paper, he made me tell the class my title. It was really embarrassing, but everyone died laughing and couldn’t believe that I actually turned in a paper like that. Moral of the semester: Be Creative!

Junior Year, Spring Semester:

Every sociology major has a big project they are supposed to work on. This semester is when I did my project. I did a research topic discussing perceived morality and fundamentalism. There isn’t much of a story, but I’m very proud of this paper. I took data, analyzed it, etc. and really made it like you would see from a professional researcher. I gave it to several of my references so that when possible employers would call, and received many amazing compliments back. One of the men I respect most, the senior pastor at my parent’s church, told my dad that it looked like a master’s thesis. I was honored by the response to my paper. Moral of the semester: Do Something Big!

Summer Before Senior Year:

I stayed in Iowa City, but did not take classes this summer. I mostly worked, but I still had lots of time to hang out with friends. My friend Chelsea led me to my summer highlights. She taught me about the show Big Bang Theory, and we took advantage of every thunderstorm. We built a tradition of going out for ice cream at Dairy Queen every time there was a thunderstorm, and there were a lot of them. We also developed an agreed upon ice cream for when we were just hanging out at my place: Raspberry Dark Chocolate. The entire summer was filled with just enjoying friends and the last time that I would have “summer vacation.” Moral of the summer: Enjoy Hanging Out!

Senior Year, Fall Semester:

This semester was all about the medical problems. It’s almost funny how many medical type things I got involved with. I’ll call it trying to be healthier, because I also started working out and eating better at the same time. But, some of my medical things had nothing to do with health. I started a pretty long chain of dental appointments, that is almost coming to a close now 9 months later. I also started donating plasma, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

The story though, comes from the first time I went to a doctor in years. I had been having really severe allergies this semester, and I resorted to doing whatever it takes to keep my sinuses clear. One such thing was cooking with Serrano peppers. These peppers are about 5x hotter than jalapenos, for a reference point. I got some of the residue on my hands, and I didn’t wash it off well enough. When I went to work that night I rubbed my eyes and instantly felt the terrible burn. Because of what I was doing, I couldn’t get to a water source for a couple hours and just had to sit there with this juice burning in my eye.

I woke up the next morning in extreme pain and not able to open either eye. While I did neutralize the acidity in my eye eventually, a lot of damage was already done. I had severe eye infections in both eyes. I tried explaining it to the nurse at Quick Care, but among her laughing she kept thinking I had been maced either by a girl or a cop and that caused the problem. I’ll admit, it was funny, but it took a long time to heal and it wasn’t much fun. Moral of the semester: Use Real Medicine!

Senior Year, Spring Semester:

I tried to take it easy on myself for my final semester of college. I finished my major, I finished a minor, and finishing off a second minor still left me with several extra hours that needed to be filled. I decided to take gym class. I was never much of a fan of gym class in grade school, but I figured these classes would be easy and would help get me prepared to take the physical fitness test for the police. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these classes. It really helped start the day off getting a good workout or swim in before the tough stuff. I don’t really have a story about any of the classes, but it was well worth taking even if I originally only signed up so I wouldn’t have to take other classes. Moral of the semester: Try Something New!

Dream Update

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Remember a couple weeks ago I talked about a dream I had? Here’s a reminder! I talked to several people, and everyone could tell me the first part of the dream — it’s pretty straight forward.

There is an idol that has taken me away from what I am supposed to be doing, and I’ve been so focused on destroying that idol that destroying the idol has become an idol in and of itself.

From there, everyone got stuck… as many people as I talked to, none of them could tell me what the meaning of the rest of the dream is.

Finally, I talked to a guy that I was nervous about talking to. He is pretty well known within Salt as a prophet, and several more people have decided that they are prophets too under under his guidance. The whole thing sounds fishy to me. I’m not sure how much I believe in things like prophesy, but I was looking for someone to interpret dreams — so who am I judge? I recounted my dream to him and this is his thoughts.

Beyond the fact that I’ve been captured by the enemy because of this idol, the story doesn’t end there. He told me that the man from my dreams is a real person. He is not like the jailer (Satan). He’s dressed nicely, he’s friendly, he makes sure I’m okay. It’s like he’s my personal salvation — but he is still an agent of my enemy. What this prophet told me was that this guy is going to come along side me and tell me that he’s going to help me through this. He’s going to say and do all the right things and he’s going to try to make me trust him and follow him. He is, as scripture says, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

He’s going to put me on a train. The prophet said this reminded of the trains that moved Jews during WW2. They were told they were going to be deported or taken to safety, but death was at the other end of the train. He said that’s exactly where the man is going to try to take me. As we’re on the train I see all these doctors, all these people who heal people, and the prophet told me that’s what I need; someone to heal me. He said that if I follow that man, I will realize what he’s doing too late. I can’t just get off the train to reach the doctors.

At the end of the train ride, when I reach the place of death, the man went one direction, but I walked the other. This means that he will lead me to the brink of death, but at the point I’ll stop obeying. But by then it’s too late. In the dream my teeth fall out as soon as I start to walk the other day. This means that it’s too late. The guy said that teeth are your ability to talk in dreams. They mean authority. So, in following this man, I will be silenced. I will have no place to stand; and only then will I search for the doctor who can heal me.

…Not the most pleasant dream I’ve ever had. The dream was not so much a prophesy, I hope, as it was a warning. The guy and I talked for quite a while after he interpreted my dream. We talked about the idol and how powerful of an impact it’s had on my life — so much that wanting it gone distracts me from God. What it is isn’t important for my readers, but this guy was more concerned about how I will react to the interpretation. He told me that I already don’t trust people; which is pretty true, but I have a bad habit of choosing to trust the wrong people.

After the fact, I am surprised that I was not able to interpret the dream myself. It’s happened to me before, coincidentally as I started college. I used to talk with a pastor in Texas who promised to help me defeat an idol. He said all the right things and I very quickly trusted him with a lot of very personal information. At the last possible moment he made the one mistake that let me see him for who he was and get away. I guess this means that I’m not as mature in my faith as I thought I was. I wasn’t able to recognize history repeating itself, and maybe this dream was a trial run so that I would figure it out sooner when it starts to play out in the future. Maybe.

Operation Anaconda: Cutting off the Snake’s head

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UPDATE: I originally meant to link to two of my friends and future roommates’ blogs who updated it with their opinions earlier today. So check them out: James Laugerman and Justan Spaid
In 2002, the United States engaged in a series of battles in Afghanistan termed Operation Anaconda, that ended with mediocre success. The goal of the mission was to destroy Al Qaeda and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. At the end of the mission, the United States ran the Taliban out of Afghanistan and severely crippled Al Qaeda, but they did not find Osama Bin Laden.

As if the world didn’t already know, on Sunday evening U.S. Navy SEALS raided an urban compound and came out with the Snake’s head, Osama Bin Laden. When President Obama made the announcement that Bin Laden was confirmed dead and his body was in U.S. custody, the nation went crazy — celebrating the end of a tyrant.

I did not know about the President’s announcement until just after he ended his address to the nation. I was playing a game with my brother online, and when I got on Facebook, my news feed with covered updates exclaiming the death of the most notorious mass murderer of my generation. At first I was elated; the man who created more fear in my country than any other man in history was dead. In fact, I changed my status:

Achmed the dead terrorist regrets to inform Osama who the 72 virgins are…

Nearly everyone in my generation knows this reference, it is from a skit by Jeff Dunham. Here’s a link to the video, just skip ahead to about 4:18 to here the length of the joke. It certainly wasn’t the most cordial comment I could have made, it certainly wasn’t to the extent of celebrating that I watched around the nation. Huge crowds gathered outside the White House, 1 World Trade Center, and even Iowa City’s own Pentacrest to chant and cheer because of the death of Bin Laden.

I watched video footage and followed the Huffington Post’s news feed as the story developed and had MSNBC’s live broadcast late into the night as I began to really develop my opinion on the whole topic. Here’s some of the conclusions that I reached:

  1. While it definitely is a good thing to know that one of history’s most notorious mass murderers can never hurt another person, is it a good thing to celebrate a man’s death?
  2. While it is good to know that the man who signed the death warrants of thousands of unbelievers has now stood before God in judgment himself, is it a good thing to celebrate a soul presumably being cast away from God for eternity?
  3. While it is good that our government fulfilled it’s God given role to pursue justice for it’s people who were killed, is it a good thing that wars in multiple countries, causing the sometimes purposeful killings of thousands of non-hostile civilians in pursuit of justice were started?
Does this mean that I am happy that Bin Laden is dead or not? I do not like the prospect of anyone going to Hell, but I do not remorse at the fact that he cannot harm anyone ever again. Justice has found him on this earth. His crimes, worldwide, justify the use of the death penalty if he had been taken alive. Now that his earthly punishment has been executed, he stood before God, in perfect judgment, to decide his eternal fate. This is fair, because 2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
I’ve heard people argue that we should not be happy that he is dead, because Proverbs 24:17-18:
17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them
I’ve heard other people argue that we should rejoice, because our government fulfilled Romans 13, because the U.S. was an agent of God’s to bring wrath and punishment on wrongdoers.
Still, I’ve heard others say that not even God rejoices at the death of the wicked. Ezekiel 18:20-23

20The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

21But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

22All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

23Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

I find the last passage to be the most convincing for me. Earlier in the chapter, the Lord says that every man is responsible for his own sins. Later on he goes to say that a righteous man who turns away suffers the same fate as one who never believed. But, as the Lord says in verse 21, if a wicked man would turn from his sins, he will live. And because of that, the Lord does not take pleasure in their deaths.  If God doesn’t take pleasure in his death, why should I?
Still, The chapter goes on to say that God is fair. His ways are equal for all people, so everyone who has ever lived is held to this standard. I think if there is anything to rejoice about, it’s that we can be assured that we will face judgment, what standard we need to meet, and that it is the same for everyone regardless.
So what’s next? Osama Bin Laden hasn’t held much power in Al Qaeda since 2001. He’s been more of a figure of inspiration than a tactical leader. While his death is a moral defeat for the members of his organization, it doesn’t do much else except enrage thousands of worldwide sleeper cells. It is quite possible that plans are already in the works to take revenge for the death of their leader, and that is scary. The war against terrorism is not over, not by a long shot.