Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.

27Aug/09

Passions

Author’s Note: To those of you looking for information regarding the discontinued NBC soap opera, you will be dismayed. Furthermore, this post will not deal with Dictionary.com’s first five definitions for the word “passion,” three of which deal with “sexual desire.” Sorry to disappoint.

Editor’s Note: This post is long. Also, it is a relatively “personal” post, instead of the usual commentary on life in general or specific things in society of interest. If you’re not interested in reading something personal, just move along…

Producer’s Note: Yes, the Author and Editor are one-and-the-same. Or is that two-and-the-same?

Why is it often so hard to figure out what you truly enjoy doing the most? I’ve never been a big fan of the career aptitude tests some high school students take to help guide the college major selection; I’ve always believed that an individual will know what is right for them to pursue, whether as a college major or a career.

I must admit I’m having a little trouble with this myself, though.

Most people know me as a music guy. I play trombone. (Or, if you know me from church, perhaps you know me as that drummer who plays some guitar on the side.) “So where are you teaching now?” I get asked by old friends and acquaintances, those who knew me during my tenure as a music education major at Ball State. Though I appreciate the conversations, I hate having to answer that question, largely because I don’t have one, “perfect” answer.

Brief aside: I don’t think it’s right that we, as a society, put so much importance on our jobs that when we meet someone it seems the only important things to find out are “what’s your name?” and “what do you do?” Nonetheless, this is the world we live in…

I am set to start working on Tuesday, September 8th, as a substitute teacher in Lawrence Township schools. I am thankful for a job (albeit a “full-time” job at “part-time” wages), but it’s not my life’s dream. I don’t take any particular joy or pleasure in teaching, especially middle-school kids (which is where I will be). It’s not my strongest suit. So I find myself daydreaming about, applying for, and occasionally even interviewing for other jobs (especially ones that are actually full-time and salaried!).

The problem is, as I sit there thinking, I cannot seem to settle on one or two main things I enjoy doing, things I am passionate about. Dictionary.com’s sixth definition for “passion” is as follows:

a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.

I have too many things that I have some level of fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for. I’m struggling to “limit” myself by choosing just one as a career and relegating the others to the “hobby” category (and, in reality, doing away with some entirely for lack of time and/or funding). Here I will hash out a few ideas.

Music

Music has always been an important part of my life. I love listening to music of all kinds. I enjoy making music, whether playing trombone, playing drums, playing guitar, playing bass, singing, or even arranging music. I do enjoy teaching music, particularly being in front of an ensemble and making music through the players in front of me (again, why I would enjoy high school/college over middle school).

I’m just not sure that it is something to do professionally, full-time. I have said since finishing high school that if I could get a full-time orchestra gig, playing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, or the Cincinnati Symphony, or Cleveland, etc., I would love that. To get paid to play my trombone is awesome. (I am fortunate enough to be playing with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra “full time” this year, but the MSO’s full-time is still very part-time.) The reality is that it is very unlikely that I will ever win a full-time orchestra audition, so I cannot bank on this.

Computers

Literally as long as I can remember, I have been using computers. 8088, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, PII, PIII, Celeron, Centrino, AMD, Motorola (PowerPC) Mac, and Intel Mac, I’ve had them all and used them all. I installed an internal modem with my dad and my grandpa (his dad) when I was probably 8 years old. And yes, I helped, because I wanted to jump ahead to set the jumpers (yes, those) before my grandpa was ready to move to that step. (I recall this because of his reaction, which taught me a small but important lesson: “One problem at a time.” I don’t always remember this lesson very well…)

But what to do with my computer skills? Many friends and family know me as the go-to guy when it comes to fixing/building computers. And yet, lacking any formal certification or training, I’m not terribly marketable to potential employers who want someone with “proven” computer chops.

I have had some good friends of mine suggest I start my own computer-repair business, starting by just putting fliers on mailboxes and going door-to-door in area neighborhoods. This may in fact be a terrific idea, but I’m terrified of 1) not making it financially, especially as I’m building [and I don’t have enough in savings to truly invest in a start-up project], and 2) the notion that, even in that arena, no one will trust my abilities and knowledge because of my lack of certification: why would they pay me to fix their computers when they could pay someone from the Geek Squad to do it? (And trust me, I have about a million answers to that, but that’s not the point here… and no offense to any Geek Squad employees reading this; I’m sure you’re all lovely people.)

Politics

“What? Michael can’t even read!” Yes, politics. There are times that I get very deep into reading, listening, and learning about current events and issues and historical events and issues, and at these times I feel that I would love to be involved on some level in politics and current events. That might be as intense as actually running for some local office. That might be as far from that as just writing and commenting about issues. As anyone who truly knows me can attest, I am very opinionated. I wish I had the time (the “reason”) to spend truly becoming knowledgeable about issues. If I did, I would love to use that knowledge to help make a difference.

Law Enforcement

Yeah yeah, it’s dangerous. But what kind of a man am I if I am more concerned with my own physical safety than the safety of others? I enjoy a certain level of risk in most things I do, so that wouldn’t bother me. I am respectfully aware of danger, though, not recklessly unsafe. I am also very alert, perceptive, vigilant, aware of my surroundings at all times, and I would love to use these traits to help protect and serve others.

Some may know that I already have gone as far through the application process at Fishers PD as they would let me (about halfway, I finished 37 of 68 when they took the top 34 to the next level). I am just about to start the same process with Indianapolis Metro PD. Fully aware that IMPD is statistically a more dangerous jurisdiction than FPD, I still want a foot in the door to the world of law enforcement. (And let’s be honest, despite the increased crime rate in Indy versus Fishers, only six IPD/IMPD officers have died in the line of duty since I was born over 23 years ago; with all due respect to the deceased, that’s not that terrible.)

Summary

These are just the main four areas that come to mind as I am writing this. If I had to pick just one of even those four to focus on, it would be very difficult – a near-tie between law enforcement and computers. Computers I have more experience and direct knowledge about, but I feel that I have a great aptitude toward both; I probably would receive more direct pleasure from law enforcement. See my quandary?

I enjoy serving people. I think that is apparent in what I’ve already written as well as in what I didn’t write about: my recent history, college experience, and full-time employment with a church last year. I’m just trying to find the best way to use the gifts God has given me to serve Him by serving His people. This should be a happy experience, and it mostly is, I’m just struggling to find the best fit for me. The job market isn’t helping much, to be sure, but ultimately it is up to me to make an opportunity for employment.

2Mar/08

Sitting in a Live Concert

So this is cool. I'm sitting in the Student Center at Ball State University, watching Jon Hainstock perform live for a Late Nite event. I've had the opportunity to see Jon at least three other times, all of them in Muncie. In fact, the Christian Campus House has had him in to play twice as a part of our Stone House Stage series. He's a great guy, a Godly man, and a terrific singer/songwriter. And the band he has with him tonight sounds especially good (I suppose it's his new touring band?).

This concert is just another instance of the great partnership with UPB and Late Nite that we have had this year. We have had the opportunity to bring some of what we do to the campus, rather than doing what we can do bring the campus to us. Though that certainly has its merits (after all, the hope, even here, is that we would be able to be a place that students can come to in order to get plugged in), this is a much more effective way to meet and talk with people. Even if we never see them show up at the Campus House, we can hopefully at least have a few minutes' impact on them for Christ. And while these events are not explicitly a "Christian" show, they are nonetheless co-sponsored by us, and we are available at these events to talk with anyone who wants to talk.

On a side note, I'm doing my best to take mental notes as I will be in charge of activities like this next year. Yikes!

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10Oct/06

PFR and Unceasing Worship

Okay, first, who among you have heard of PFR? Yeah, okay, not many... stands for Pray For Rain. Awesome Christian band of the 1990s, produced a best of-type album in 1997 (The Late Great PFR), still performs a few times a years and has recorded two albums since '97. Fantastic stuff; you should check it out. Anyway, I've been listening to them all evening long... Here are the lyrics to one of their tunes, a powerful song titled, appropriately enough, "Pray For Rain."

Born in a dry season
Wind and sand have blown through me
Haven't found shade anywhere
Only moments of relief
But sometimes I think I hear the thunder
Somewhere on the horizon line
If I could just find a way to get under
The rain that can reach this soul of mine

(chorus)
I pray for rain to come
And wash away what's made me numb
I pray for a raging storm
To drown what's in me
And the rain comes in the nick of time
I swallow hard cause my throat's been dry
The rain comes beating on my skin
Till I'm washed away - nothing left within
When the rain comes
Your rain comes

Seasons have passed so quickly
Since I felt that first big storm
Still there have been times of drought
When i've prayed for the clouds to form
And I often hear the thunder
And I know of its coming rain
Many times in my life I'll kneel under
The moving showers that brought this change

Also, I just finished reading the second chapter of Unceasing Worship. This books attempts to clearly define worship, more specifically Christian worship, and authentic worship. In doing so, many areas are explored. At the end of Chapter 2 ("What is authentic worship?"), Best writes:

These words of Christ ["It was said of old, but now I say unto you..."] are of such magnitude that the entire shape of the New Testament depends on them. And it is only because of this that the Old Testament can be quoted with such force and probity throughout the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. To put it negatively, the Old Testament is quoted because it is not finished until Christ reaches it. In this sense the Old Testament reaches ahead of itself longingly and hopefully to its finality. To put it positively, Christ is established in the Old Testament so efficiently as to make the Incarnation an inevitable reality.

So what does this mean exactly? Well, interestingly enough, it is actually related to a portion of the material I covered in my sermon a little over a month ago. In that sermon I talked about how Jesus established a new covanent; the Jewish Sabbath was Saturday, but after Christ's resurrection Christian's celebrated the Lord's Day - Sunday. His death and resurrection superceded Old Testament Law (observance of the Sabbath). Anyway, Best's interpretation of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is very good.

It seems to be quite simple, really. If we realize that God, in his omniscience, inspired the writers of the Old Testament with his plan for his Son in mind, then the Old Testament is not as separate from the New Testament as we often make it out to be. We completely segregate the Old from the New, as if they are two separate and different works. In reality, I believe Best would argue (and I would tend to agree), the Bible as a whole is unilaterally the divine Word of God; sure, we divide it into two parts, due in large part to historical and chronological reasons, but the Old Testament directly provides for the arrival of the New Testament and Christ Himself. His arrival, death, and resurrection, allow for the "completion" of the Old Testament and the full understanding of the New Testament.

So I'm not sure if any of that makes any sense. Perhaps I just muddied the waters even more. I said it was "simple" and then expounded on it for another enormous paragraph. Anyway, those are my thoughts. I haven't posted a real post in over a month, and I thought I'd give it a try again.

Thank you Lord for all your blessings, You are truly amazing!

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