Monday, May 28, 2012

Some plain ol' open honesty: Singleness

Last week I sent the first payments to actors who had done work for Samaritan Casting. Deep sigh of relief. This feels really good. Everything's coming together. I met with my accountant, I've got my QuickBooks all set up, I've got my lawyer; almost all my ducks are quacking happily.

Life has forced me to grow up rather quickly since February; I've had to deal with a lot of major life changes in a short period of time.

And at the end of the day, I am living the American dream: I have my job (three jobs, really), my house, my car, my custom license plates, my home office, my movie projects, truly amazing friends, supportive and loving parents, great prospects for the future, and I finally even have my email syncing properly between the iPhone, iPad, and laptop. I have pretty much everything I could ever want. Except the one thing I pine for more than anything else. Let's just be honest about my life:

My heart longs for a relationship.

This whole "being single" thing, I'm over it.1 Like, years ago, over it. No, I've no idea how I can fit a relationship into my chaotic, overcrowded, bustling life right now. But I guarantee you: I would make it work. I never can remember how to fail.

Let me also clarify: what you hear is the sound of lament, not desperation. Finding myself in a bad relationship, not something I'm anxious to do. The bar is set high.

This has been an episode of "Some plain ol' open honesty." Thanks for listening.

1 Please, if you're talking to me about this rather sensitive issue, avoid any of these clichés, as they do not help:

Who are you and where's Jeremy?

Going into the three-day weekend, I had zero plans. None. (okay, other than taking my roommate to the light rail, and going to church). No production meetings, no appointments, no out-of-town trips, no dinners/coffees/lunches, nothing.

If you know me then you'll know this is, to put it mildly, highly unusual.

When I told this to Ben (coworker at Cray, roommate from college) he demanded, "who are you and where's Jeremy?!"

It was a beautiful weekend. The end.

Pursuing Seminary: Initial Interview

On May 9 I sat down with Pastor Tom Zarth of Oak Grove Lutheran Church for my "initial interview," a conversation focused on me and my feeling of call to seminary. This interview is meant as a stepping stone before meeting with the larger panel of 5-6 people in June. Tom asked a lot of the same questions I've already answered in essays and at my psych eval; we talked about my family history, work history, faith history, and so on. I also asked Tom questions about his experience being a pastor, the rewards and frustrations therein, and his advice for me as someone starting out on my journey. It was a good conversation. By this point I'd already given up assuming I knew what my particular seminary path will look like, so I went into the conversation with a relatively laissez faire attitude. Que sera, sera seems to be my new motto.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cray: A sight he'd never expected

My boss's boss at Minnehaha just emailed me:
Saw a sight I never expected to see this morning - you in your car heading across the Lake Street Bridge at a little after 7:30am. I can recall your not recognizing that there was more than one 7:30 per day, and AM was NOT it!! Welcome to the world!
This made my day :)

Cray: Now I'm the expert?

Let's be honest, my last post about Cray was fairly negative-minded. I'm over myself now.

The new contractor, Brad, is a great guy, and a very fast learner. Yesterday he started sitting in the driver's seat for the morning system upgrades, with supervision, but he was the one doing everything. And yesterday, I was the one "supervising". As in, when Brad had questions, I was sort of able to answer some of them. We still ran into glitches that required help from other admins, but for many questions that came up, I was astonished not only at my ability to answer them, but also how comfortable I've become in the jargon we use. This experience was very heartening for me, realizing how much I've learned, and how much of it is becoming second nature.

Also, though I'd never have thought I'd say it, I almost "like" starting at 6 a.m. Who am I? It's like I'm a grown-up with a real-person job now. Scary.

Clearing my head

I went for a run.

I know, right? Me? Running? I just needed to. I can't explain it.

It was worship-ful. More words would ruin the description.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cray: Buzz Lightyear has arrived

Now that I've finally learned how to do system updates, time to switch things up so I don't know what I'm doing again. They hired another contractor to take over running system updates, he started yesterday, and that means I'm off that particular task and on to other pastures. Not sure if they're greener or not, just different.

Supposedly this means I'm moving toward what I was actually hired to do, though, so I guess that's a good thing? Maybe. Whatever.

Just wish they'd told me before I got here [unnecessarily] at 6 a.m. today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Retired from dirt-biking

I joined a Christian dating site several months ago, then promptly ran out of time to do anything with it. In those months, though, I've let my thoughts percolate on writing a catchy profile; this was inspired by my friend Mike's story of a ridiculous profile he once wrote. Last week I finally took time to put thoughts to paper (er... iPad), and here it is.

I recently retired from a career in professional dirt-biking, in order to lead a quieter life herding prairie dogs. In many ways it's similar to cat herding, but carries more respect amongst the animal community. Last year I came in fourth place of all the NAPPERS (North American Prairie Puppy Everyday Racing Shepherds).

This may come as a shock, but I feel obligated to tell you: none of the above is actually true. In truth I'm just Jeremy; a Minneapolis native, filmmaker, musician, computer nerd, and aspiring pastor. My friends on Facebook described me as: loyal, good-hearted, "weirdly awesome", geeky, competent, and genuine.

I am terrified of worms. Also dogs and small children. I'm trying to overcome that last one, because someday I'd like kids, whether they're biological or adopted. And if life works out such that I become a stay-at-home-Dad, I would consider that a fulfilling career. Much moreso than dirt-biking.

Sports aren't my thing. I mean, I'll watch a game with you, sure, I just won't be the one yelling at the referee, or generally having a clue. I'd rather have a conversation about life and God and stuff. But, if somehow we do end up watching a sporting event, none of this beer ickiness; I'd like something pink, fruity, and alcoholic, please. (full disclaimer: I do actually watch at least one sports game each year: they usually play in January, the players run and collide with each other, then try to throw a pointy brown ball from one end of the grass to the other. I only watch because of the great commercials).

Let's talk about movies, shall we? Yes, let's. If you ever find your mouth forming the words "Have you ever seen...?", sadly, the answer is almost always: no, I haven't. "But wait," you ask, "didn't you say you're a filmmaker?" Why yes, yes I did. I produce movies, but I don't really watch them. Netflix slowly is helping me culture myself with the classics, but I wouldn't object to outside help, too.

Speaking of "outside," I regret that I'm not much of an out-doorsy person. No, it's not because I sparkle in the sunlight. Partly we can blame my borderline-worm-phobia. So camping, not something I remember enjoying. Especially when it rained. *Shudder* (if you promise to protect me from the worms, I might consider camping again... maybe) Mostly my interior lifestyle comes because all my work has to be done on a computer, and as awesome as Mother Nature is, she hasn't [yet] installed those electrical outlets I've been asking for. However. With all that being said, I do enjoy taking walks, especially down by Minnehaha Falls. It's beautiful.

What exactly do I do with my computer-laden, cave-dwelling life? I do web development, server management, and software testing. Exciting, I know. I think it is. Most days. I also run a film/TV/commercial casting and extras casting company, because my life wasn't busy enough and I needed something else to do with all my free time. One of these days I hope to get back to recording my music, too.

Okay that's really enough about me (if you want to know more, Google me, I'm about the easiest person to find on the Internet; or you could message me on this site, but that seems way too easy).

Who are you? How about laying some ground rules. Here's what *doesn't* matter: it doesn't matter if you're divorced, a single parent, always been single, whatever. It doesn't matter if you're rock solid on your faith or struggling through a lot of questions. It doesn't matter if you're shy or outgoing. And it doesn't matter if you do or don't know where God's calling you in your life. We can walk that journey together, if you're willing.

It *does* matter if you have a negative attitude toward life. It matters if you don't communicate and assume other people can read your mind. It matters if the status quo is "good enough" and not worth changing. And it matters if you think you're perfect, because I'm not and I'd feel very intimidated around someone who is.

Think we have something in common? Think we're total opposites but wanna hang out anyway? Great! Let's do it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cray: I broke all the things

Not actually all the things, but I did hose one system.

The OS update this morning ran out of disk space. Not to worry, I was just trained how to safely delete some old update files that are no longer needed. I ran the special program, and it worked. I ran it again, this time giving it several sets of files to prune, but it took a long time to run, and there was already enough free space by then, so I stopped it halfway through (I was told this was safe).

Somehow, either because I stopped the program, or who knows why, the system got corrupted and had to be restored from backup. It's still not working yet.

Here's what I learned:

- It's important to log all your activity (which I did), so the debugging folk have a better chance of finding what went wrong
- It's important to do frequent backups of your dev systems (last backup on this system was over a month old)
- My Cray coworkers are super smart when it comes to problem-solving. I described the problem, and this sparked a very lively (and intelligent) conversation of how to solve it. I'm used to having to solve most things on my own, so this is a nice change.
- At the end of the day, whether it was my fault or a bug in the program I ran, these things happen. People aren't perfect, code's not perfect, and that's why we have jobs.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Candidacy Application

It's done! My application for candidacy in the ELCA Minneapolis Synod is finally in! I was hoping to have finished a couple months ago, but in the midst of those hopes, life happens.

I [usually] work well under a deadline, though, so with the May 7th cutoff looming in order to get a June 7th panel interview (or wait until August), a week or two ago I forced myself to sit down and write a first draft of my application essay. Special thanks to Marissa for giving me feedback. I submitted the final version earlier this week, along with the application itself (7 pages of questions, mostly demographic, the remainder related to personal theology and lifestyle)

I made a mistake of waiting until now to send the $500 application fee. I mis-remembered the checklist and thought I was done after that. Turns out after they receive payment, there's also an online background check I need to approve, and a one-on-one interview with a panel member, before my application is considered complete. The synod office was kind, and sent me that info once I promised the check was in the mail; background check is processing, and my interview is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Whew.

This is a huge accomplishment off my never-ending todo list. One less thing to worry about now. Which is awesome, and exactly what I needed. Again, who knows where the seminary road will lead, but for right now, I'm one more step along the way.

Just for fun, I decided I'm going to publish my application essay. It's long (6 pages), so no one ought feel obligated to read it. But maybe you'll find it interesting. Or maybe you're a future candidacy applicant wondering exactly how you'll answer all the questions the ELCA asks within a 4-6 page paper, and want to see an example of how someone else did it. (a future blog post after June 7th will let everyone know how successful my essay was :)

The Prompt:
The entrance essay is an autobiographical reflection which should contain insights and understandings gained during the period of discernment leading to your decision to apply for candidacy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is not expected that your process of discernment is completed. You are asked only to provide an honest assessment of your current self understanding.

The essay is to be four to six pages in length, approximately 2500 words, double-spaced.
  1. Discuss the events, circumstances and persons in your life that have affected your faith and sense of call. Describe how others have encouraged you to explore theological study and / or the possibility of a church vocation.
  2. Describe your family of origin and how it has shaped who you are.
  3. Describe your current life situation. Include your marriage and family situation; physical, spiritual, and emotional health; financial status; and geographical restrictions. Describe your understanding of being open to the needs of the whole church as well as your readiness for ministry preparation.
  4. Reflect on your personal journey of faith, specifically focusing on your involvement with persons, places, and organizations within the ELCA.
  5. Reflect on your current understanding of the particular ministry to which you feel called (ordained pastor, commissioned associate in ministry, consecrated deaconess, consecrated diaconal minister). Assess your strengths and weaknesses, gifts, convictions and concerns related to this ministry

My Essay:

Joan of Arcadia changed my life. More specifically, the Catholic priest from this early 2000s television show. In the pilot episode, Joan’s mother corners the Father, grilling him with questions of human suffering, asking him the question with which all humans struggle: “Why do bad things happen?” Caught off guard, he had no answers.

In that moment, I said to myself, “If I ever go to seminary, it will be because of this scene, because I want to have better answers to that question if anyone ever asks me.” In the years since, I’ve learned I don’t, and won’t, have any great answers, either. At the same time, a passion for ministering to those who are suffering has grown in my heart.

I grew up attending Christ Church Lutheran, a traditional ELCA congregation in South Minneapolis. From a young age I was an acolyte, I went to Sunday School every week, and, unlike most of the other children, actually enjoyed the church services.

When I started at North High School in 9th grade, church became even more important; I started taking on my faith as my own, wondering about theology, what I believed, at least a little bit. Because North HS was terrible. In a somewhat literal sense, being in school there drove me toward God and toward church – I needed a refuge from the weekdays. Also in 9th grade, one of my most treasured memories: on the bus ride home, my friend Dorothy commented to me how she was glad “someone cool still goes to church.” Though I’m sure there have been other moments when I realized my faith mattered externally, that’s the one I remember as eye-opening.

The next year I transferred to Minnehaha Academy. I dreaded taking the required religion class each year, but as it turned out that class, and that teacher, ended up being my favorite. I continued my journey of discovering my faith, rather than accepting my status quo.

Senior year of high school I began exploring other churches, as my parents’ church no longer satisfied my worship needs. And I had a crush on a girl who went to another church. Thus began a rather long list of times that God has used a crush to draw me where I needed to be, even though each relationship I tried to pursue, wasn’t going to happen. Visiting other churches, I experienced God in new ways, perhaps most importantly learning that there is more than one style of worship, and growing hope that I’d find a church where I felt at home again.

College brought challenges to my faith, to which I stuck my head in the sand. Eventually I grew less afraid of the questions and, by the end of college, had accepted that I’ll never have all the answers. And that’s okay. At the time I graduated, I knew I believed in God, I believed Jesus was a real man, but I struggled with Easter morning. Even so, I had faith I’d get there eventually, and the questions didn’t stop me from serving on leadership for Selah (Sunday night worship team), FCA, and Thursday Night Bible Study, as well as helping out with Sunday morning services at the college. The questioning also didn’t stop me from helping lead the worship team at a local church for 5 months after graduation.

Along my journey, I spent considerable time chatting about theology one-on-one with Pastor Benson from the college; a small group of close friends at our Wednesday evening “Pub Church”; Dave, another local pastor and college outreach person; and my friend Kathryn, among many others. One of St. Olaf’s unique attributes is the ability of students to turn mundane conversations into something theological. Many a dinner in the Caf became a discussion about God. And this was normal.

I’ve been a believer my whole life, but if I needed to point at one singular moment when everything “clicked”, there was one Sunday the summer of 2008, driving home from worship leading in Northfield, when I found my answer: “I believe in God. I believe God loves me. And Jesus is the epitome of that love, the earthly expression, by which I’m to model my life. I understand how much I can love other humans, and I’m in awe at how much more God must love Creation.” At this point, the questions became meaningless. They didn’t disappear, I just realized that my faith isn’t going to be based on questions and answers, it’s based on feeling, on relationship, on an understanding that I don’t have to understand. And it’s rather hard to put into words. But there it is.

Post-college, I experienced a miracle of healing. The story is too long to include in this essay, but ask me about it.1

In 2008 I joined a touring mime drama ministry based in Des Moines, IA, called AWAKEN.2 In an hour-long performance, we retell the Gospel story with no words. I’ve served with the ministry for three years, and it has become a very, very important part of my life. Ask me about that, too.

In fall of 2010 I joined a small group from Jacob’s Well, and it happened to be populated almost entirely by Luther seminarians. “Destiny,” I like to call this. Seminary was first planted in my head by retired Pastor Kretzmann at my church growing up. I was never opposed to the idea. Especially as a passion for ministry grew from college orgs, then AWAKEN, spending time hanging out with Luther students cemented the desire. (this, on top of the abnormally large number of friends I have who are pastors3).

I myself, however, have no desire to be a parish minister. At least not right now. (God might have different plans, in which case, we’ll [me and God] talk about it and figure things out.) What I truly desire is chaplaincy: the chance to minister where people are hurting. I don’t have all the answers, and that’s what makes me a good listener: I don’t use trite quips like, “I know what you’re going through”, or, “It’s all going to be okay”, or “God’s got a plan.”4 When I’ve mourned friends’ deaths, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, those were the worst kind of “help” anyone could give me. Instead, I learned from Job’s friends – for all the things they do wrong in the rest of the book, in chapter 2 Job’s friends did one thing right: they sat in silence with Job for seven days and wept with him. That’s where I try to draw my inspiration. And the reality is, I know I can minister to anyone, anywhere: on a movie set, in a car, to a stranger in the hospital where I’m a patient myself, to the public safety officer who’s having an awful day.5 That is my calling: to embody Jesus’ love in the world as it is.

My parents are supportive of my decision to pursue seminary. They have always supported me in everything I do. In my teenage years I appreciated that less; now, I’m humbled by how proud they are of me. I know that their love for me is unconditional, and they will do anything in their power to help me succeed. When they were younger, their parents helped them get their feet on the ground; in adulthood, Mom and Dad have been blessed to be able to help me substantially, as well. Most importantly, they have modeled for me a loving and caring home, leading me to become the person I am. Today I live only a mile away from them, so we see each other and talk often. My father’s brother and his family also live in the area, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them now as an adult. My other aunts, uncles, and cousins live out of state; while we don’t get to see each other often, I would consider us a close family when we are together.

My current life situation is stress-filled and overcrowded. I run a casting/extras casting company for TV/Film/Commercials.6 I write and produce my own short movies. I just started a new job at Cray Inc (the supercomputer company) in April. I sometimes mix sound or play guitar at church. I was in AWAKEN again this year (the season ended in April). I spend a significant amount of time with friends. And I decided it’s finally time to pursue a seminarian education; where that road leads, is in God’s hands.

Physically I’m usually well and don’t get sick often. I have a chronic disease called Crohn’s, but it’s treated and, for the most part, doesn’t affect my life. Spiritually I need to step up my game: I haven’t devoted the time to prayer that I should.7 Emotionally I’m healthy. I know myself well. Financially I’m doing well. I have a monthly house payment, but my student loans are paid, as are my credit cards, and I have something stashed in savings. I treat myself to nice toys, but I live within my means.

I want to serve God in non-traditional ways; rarely do I do anything “normally,” so why start now? Earlier I mentioned not seeing myself in parish ministry. I believe I could do it, but that isn’t my passion; there are so many others pursuing those roles, I’d rather leave the spots open for them. Whether I find myself as a hospital, prison, or school chaplain, as a worship leader, or even “just” a Christian working on secular film sets, I know God will use me and I’m excited to see where my Calling leads. Geographically, my life is here in Minneapolis; I’m open to relocating to Ames/Des Moines or Los Angeles areas, but Minnesota will always be home. And again, who knows what God has in store. If you’d asked me three months ago what my life would look like today, my prediction would have landed far away from reality. I’m not scared of the future.

You’ve asked me to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, my gifts and convictions, and any concerns I have related to my ministry: My strengths are that I’m a good listener, I don’t give pat answers, I know when and how to play devil’s advocate, and when to keep silent, and, despite a lot of life change, my life overall is stable and I have a very strong support network. My weaknesses are that I can be arrogant, I can be too empathetic and become too emotionally invested, I tend to overcommit (this is my main focus area for improvement right now), and I’m concerned that I have too much going on in my life already to add “one more thing”. My gifts are that I’m a quick learner, I love worship and music ministry, and I’m not an in-your-face religious person. More than a few secular friends have told me, to my face, how they appreciate my non-Bible-banging approach to God and theology. My convictions are to be true to myself, be true to who I know God to be, be God’s love as best as I can, not become a Pharisee, and at the end of the day, remember that I’m human: I have and will continue to make mistakes, and that’s when I have to trust in God’s Grace.

1 Or cf my blog posts: and


3 A list of most of them is mentioned here:

4 I’ve more than once been thanked or complimented for the fact that I don’t give these kind of “answers”.

5 Every one of these has happened.


7 “Should” not as in an obligation, but “should” as in I truly desire to spend more time in that relationship.

Pursuing Seminary: Shrinking my head

On March 14 I visited the North Central Ministry Development Center in New Brighton and met with psychologist Dr. Mary Honstead.

When I arrived, before meeting with her, I was given two short (10-minute) multiple choice tests. The first was vocabulary: finding synonyms, and it started out deceptively easily. A made-up example: find the best synonym for "baker": 1) chef, 2) stoplight, 3) bookcase, 4) keyboard. I say deceptively, because by question 35 of 40, the words had gone from grade-level-easy to ginormous words I'd never even heard of before. This made educated guesses more or less impossible. I had pretty much nailed the first 35, but those last 5, killer.

Second test was pattern recognition. So, for example, fill in the blank: 1, 3, 5, __, 9. Or: big / little, high / low, cold / ___ (hot). Again, it started deceptively easy, growing progressively more complex. My brain is totally wired for these kinds of questions. To be quite humble, I aced it; only 1 of 25 Qs completely befuddled me, and I finally figured it out on the drive home. Apparently most people don't even finish the tests; my ego felt pretty good about itself.

Once I finished testing, the receptionist collected and quickly scored them. A few minutes later, Dr. Mary greeted me, and we went into her office.

I've never been to a psychologist's office (at least, that I can remember). Cliché-icly, there was a couch, but we sat in comfy chairs instead. She gave me an overview of her background and the ministry center's history, explained how, at the end of our conversation, she'd write a report about me, I'd sign a release, and that report would be furnished to the ELCA (I'd have a chance to review for factual accuracy first). Then we dove in.

Mary's voice was very soothing. Her's would be a great bedtime story-telling voice.

We talked about my feeling of Call, what that journey has looked like, what gifts/talents I feel I would bring to ministry, and what I saw as areas for growth and improvement; pretty much all the stuff I'd already written about in the psych evals (though in-person I could expatiate significantly more than in writing). Mary also asked specific questions based on what I'd written, in several cases reminding me of more stories to share. None felt prying. Even if they were, several pastor friends had encouraged me to go into this being completely open and honest, because there's no point in lying. Easy for me: I'm open and honest to a fault. More on that later.

We talked about the results from my Strong Interest Inventory. There was nothing very surprising in it, though I've never thought of myself as a librarian, so that kinda came out of the blue. Here are a few excerpts:
  • My highest themes were Artistic, Social, and Enterprising.
  • My highest interest areas were Religion & Spirituality, Writing & Mass Communications, Programming & Information Systems, Mathematics, and Entrepreneurship.
  • My top ten Strong occupations were:
    1. Investments Manager
    2. Translator
    3. Librarian
    4. Marketing Manager
    5. Musician
    6. College Instructor
    7. Attorney
    8. Broadcast Journalist
    9. Reporter
    10. Technical Writer
  • My "occupations of dissimilar interest" were:
    1. Physical Education Teacher
    2. Athletic Trainer
    3. Physical Therapist
    4. Firefighter
    5. Art Teacher
I guess that means my dreams of being a high school PE teacher are off the table now.

After Strong's we took a break, then went on to discuss the PEPQ, the PsychEval Personality Questionnaire. Of notable mention was my low score on the "Impression Management" scale, more or less a scale of how truthful / forthcoming the test-taker is being. Whereas many people going through the Center will score high (because they are trying to present themselves favorably, in an "overly-positive" way), I scored a 4, which is in the bottom 5th percentile of the population. In other words, I was "willing to describe not-positive aspects" of myself, "probably more open and more honest than a lot of people would be going through this kind of process," but also probably too self-deprecating and too hard on myself. It's great for the psychologist evaluating me, though, because it means I'm not hiding anything from her.

Overall, I took it as a compliment, and affirmation that someone else thinks I'm as honest as I think I am.

Other points of interest:
  • In the "normal personality scales", compared to a "normal" population I scored higher toward abstract over concrete; apprehensive over self-assured; tense over relaxed; and serious, expedient, and shy over lively, rule-conscious, and socially bold.
  • In the "pathology-oriented scales", my only outliers were "obsessional thinking" and "threat-sensitive."
I've been thinking about that non-stop since I found out.

(That was a joke. Get it? Obsessive?)

As Mary explained it, that index just means I tend to worry about stuff. Which is true. For that, as well as the tense-ness / anxiety I feel, Mary recommended I seek out a counselor to meet with on a regular basis. Which is actually something I've wanted to do for a long time; I don't recall if Mary put it in these terms or not, but I feel I'm the type of person who could really benefit from that outward reflection (counselor reflecting my own ideas back at me). I know this to be true because many of my friends have served a similar role in the past - listening to my ideas, asking probing questions, and in the end that has helped me figure out the answer on my own.

Now I just need to follow through on contacting the guy Mary recommended.

After PEPQ we went on to talk about my parents and family, my youth, my friends and interactions with others, schooling history, health history, spiritual history, and so on.

Eventually we got to discuss my MMPI-2 results (the 567 question test), and once again Mary affirmed how I was "being remarkably open and honest." Apparently, "for this kind of setting [my score is] unusual." On the plus side, because of that, she said it means they can trust the result to be "quite accurate."

On the hilarious flip-side, MMPI-2 indicated I'm shy and introverted, apparently so much so that Mary said, "I look at this and I sort of expected you to come in and go stand in the corner. And obviously that's not the case, you're obviously a very engaging person, you have a nice social presence, you can converse with me easily..." That first line was very funny to me; I laughed quite hard.

MMPI-2 also confirmed my self-awareness (about any issues I'm facing, any emotional struggles, etc). I've long thought I know myself well, and apparently that's objectively true, at least compared to a "normal" population. For Mary this also reaffirmed how I could make good use of a counselor, because I'm already willing to admit my faults and work on them.

In closing, Mary said she's "intrigued by what this can mean for you.... I don't see just a completely typical path for ministry.... You're not walking through the door looking like... the case example for a typical pastor."

One more step on the adventurous road.

Earlier this week I received Mary's written report about me. Here are some interesting excerpts:

Personality Characteristics and Leadership Style

The personality profile on the PsychEval Personality Questionnaire (PEPQ) is
broken down into five themes that incorporate sixteen aspects of personality, and another section that takes a more clinical look at psychological functioning.   Although Jeremy’s clinical profile suggests that he is not experiencing any major psychological difficulties in the areas of depression or risk-taking behaviors, he does report worrying and ruminating (Jeremy agrees that he can “get obsessed” about a problem, but this sometimes also helps him solve the problem). The personality portion of his profile describes the following characteristics:
  1. He tends to be anxious and tense in his emotional temperament, becoming impatient and frustrated at times, and often doubting himself or blaming himself when things go wrong;
  2. He is somewhat introverted in his orientation, bringing a quiet, shy manner and preferring to tackle problems on his own rather than in a group;
  3. He is balanced between adapting to others’ wishes versus directing events in an independent fashion (although he is hesitant in social situations, he may sometimes question others’ motivations);
  4. Although he may be cautious in his demeanor, he also is flexible, bending the rules and thinking “outside the box;”
  5. He is balanced between being sensitive to emotional and aesthetic dimensions versus being pragmatic and task-oriented.


Jeremy appears to bring gifts of intelligence, creativity and integrity to his sense of call to ordained ministry within the ELCA tradition.  He also brings organizational leadership skills, and he has taken initiative in trying out new endeavors in his life.  He describes a supportive family background, and he seems quite self-aware, making good use of his naturally introspective nature to deepen his own self-understanding.  Although there does not appear to be any symptoms of major depression or anxiety, Jeremy readily admits that he worries and often is self-critical, holding himself to high standards that can easily turn into perfectionism.  The following recommendations are made in the spirit of enhancing his growth and development as he continues on in the next phase of his discernment process:
  1. That he seek out a wise counselor (perhaps one who makes use of a cognitive behavioral approach) who can help him moderate his performance anxiety through understanding and changing his high standards of perfection (this will help him in all aspects of ministry and he will likely be able to make good use of such a process given his resourcefulness and reflective nature);
  2. That he develop more comfort with social situations through mentoring relationships, small groups, and CPE (he seemed at ease in a one on one context);
  3. That he continue to actively discern how to best use his particular gifts in a ministry context, trying out various roles and settings to help him with this (including CPE to try out his current sense of call toward chaplaincy);
  4. That he seek out a mentoring relationship with a clergy person who can model a style of leadership that Jeremy could emulate, including insight about how to delegate effectively, set healthy boundaries on time and energy, and let go of perfectionism.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Weeks 2 and 3 at Cray

It's the end of week 3, time for an update: Life is better.

Far from being an expert in all things Cray [yet], my comfort level continues to grow daily, as does my "technical prowess", for lack of better terms. I've run the software update process now several times on my own (where "on my own" means sitting at my own desk, but with a mentor nearby for my frequent questions). Each time goes smoother and smoother, fewer questions, more problem solving (read: intelligent guessing) on my own, and I feel like I'm getting the hang of this.

Last week Carl delivered an unsolicited compliment that the devadmin folks were impressed how quickly I was picking up on things. That made my day. This whole experience has been a tremendous lesson in humility and non-perfectionism, so hearing an outsider's perspective that I'm actually doing well, made me feel very good about myself.

Ben has jokingly said since the beginning, "enjoy this time when no one expects you to know anything, when they're not hounding your desk asking questions." Well, as of yesterday, I seem to be "there" - someone stopped by Wendy's desk (I'm living in Wendy's cubicle while she's out of town) to ask questions about one of our test/development systems. I told him I'd try to help if I could, but no promises. Well, lo and behold, when he asked his questions, I knew how to find the answers! It took me probably 20 times longer than it would have taken anyone else in our group (they would have known off the top of their heads), but I looked up the documentation, knew which commands to run, and got him [most of] the information he needed! I was so proud of myself. And if you know me, you know that feeling is an accomplishment.

Let's also talk about how I'm getting here at 6 a.m. two or three days a week. That's right. Me. Who used to stumble in the door at MA no earlier than 10 o'clock, now I'm willingly subjecting myself to 6 a.m. mornings in order to run these software updates and learn. It's like I'm a real person or something. Best reaction: yesterday evening I stopped by MA to do some web work, and bumped into MK, one of the office people. I told her about my 6 a.m. mornings; she was absolutely taken aback with surprise. It was hilarious. I mean, I guess I never would have believed it, either.

So, in summary, life is going much better. The learning curve is still steep, but, I'm getting there.