’tis the season for change…

This weekend is Labor Day in the US, which typically signals the end of “cultural summer” (as opposed to astronomical or climatological summers, which still have several weeks left around here). It’s also the end of one season of my life and the beginning of another.

For the last five years, I’ve been on the IT staff at Resurrection, and seen a tremendous amount of change, and learned an awful lot about an industry that I didn’t even realize existed five years ago. It’s now time for me to move on. Today at staff chapel, I announced that I will be leaving my current position on October 6, and venturing off to start my own consulting business where I can apply much of what I learned at Resurrection and share that knowledge with smaller churches and businesses who don’t have an IT staff. It is a calling I’ve been feeling for some time now, and it’s time to make the terrifying leap.

The next several weeks will be a whirlwind of winding down at Resurrection, and winding up a new business. I’m gonna get a crash course in accounting, business law, trademarks, and whatnot.

I still plan on being active in CITRT (you all are like extended family!), and showing up to as many events as time and money permit.If you know of a church or small business in and around Kansas and Missouri that has IT needs, please pass the word that I’m happy to help. I’ll post further details in this space as the website comes online.

(oh, and Resurrection is going to be needing another network administrator. Let me know if you know someone who might fit the bill)

Looking back…

It was nine years ago.

A routine Monday at the office, slaving for my corporate overlords. Five o’clock rolls around and I can finally quit slacking and go home. I pack up, leave my cube. I get about 10 steps away and my phone rings. Probably a server emergency or something. Why I went back and answered it, I have NO earthly idea, but doing so changed my life.

On the other end was the cute intern from another department. She said, “Why don’t you take my roommate out for dinner? She’s nice, and I need the apartment to myself tonight.” It being a Monday night, I had nothing else to do, and getting a real, live date was a hard thing to pass up. I said I’d do it, and then made my way from Broomfield down to Park Meadows in record time (especially at rush hour, pre-TREX!).

Andrea met me at the mall, and we went over to PF Chang’s where my nervous self talked her poor ears off, and then we went to see Shrek. It was totally awkward, but I apparently didn’t completely creep her out, because we met again the following night. And the night after that. Then we did an afternoon doubleheader date, with the Rockies, followed by Aida.

Six weeks later, I was moving to Kansas City to take a job with a new corporate overlord, and she followed me out here (obviously, she was insane!). We’ve now been married almost 8 years and have two (usually) adorable daughters.

Vacation Update!

I’ve been on vacation up in the great frozen cool north, in Calgary to visit my mom. My brother cashed in some of his frequent flier points to come visit as well. The story so far:

Thursday, 6/26: Arrived in Canada. Finished a novel. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Friday, 6/27 : Went to the University to get some books for the girls and see my mom’s office. Took the girls to the wading pool. Bought some new hiking/work shoes. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Saturday, 6/28 : Went hiking in Kananaskis Country, up Ribbon Creek. about 9km round trip, Faith walked the whole way. Went with a group of seniors from my mom’s church. Got left in the dust. These people go hiking nearly every week. Finished another novel. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Sunday, 6/29 : Went to church with my mom. Met some of the hikers again. Finished another novel. Picked up my brother at the airport. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Monday, 6/30: Made pilgrimage to IKEA. Lunch with my mom’s friends. Music night at my mom’s house. Finished another novel. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Tuesday, 7/1 : Canada Day! Went downtown to the festivities on Prince’s Island. Went to see fireworks afterwards. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Wednesday, 7/2 : Exhausted. Down day. Went to the city library to get some videos for the girls. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Thursday, 7/3 : Went to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. Went out for dinner and drinks with Andrea and my brother. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Friday, 7/4 : Rested at home. Took the girls to the wading pool. Got eaten by mosquitoes. Introduced Andrea to Canadian Tire.

Saturday, 7/5: Spent the day at the Calgary Zoo Introduced Andrea to poutine. Caught evening service at Centre Street Church. Introduced girls to Tim Horton’s. Got eaten by mosquitoes.

Sunday, 7/6 plans: Stampede Breakfast at my mom’s church. Maybe get together with my godmother, as I haven’t seen her in years. Probably will get eaten by mosquitoes.

Monday, 7/7 plans: Meeting with Gregg, the IT Director at CSC to extend the hospitable hand of CITRT. Going to stampede events. Probably will get eaten by mosquitoes.

Tuesday, 7/8: Fly home. No mosquitoes, I hope.

Wednesday, 7/9: Back to the daily grind to try and fix everything that broke the second I stepped on the plane to Calgary. Rejoice in the lack of mosquitoes.

Canadian things to do:

  • Tim Horton’s
  • Poutine
  • Canadian Tire
  • Canada Day
  • IKEA (OK, not really Canadian, but we don’t have IKEA in KC)
  • Hockey (wrong season ๐Ÿ™ )
  • Mountains
  • Curling (wrong season ๐Ÿ™ )

Happy Birthday to Me!

Had a wonderful 35th birthday today, thanks to my family and a bunch of friends, mostly from the department, with a few others thrown in for good measure.

We moved our usual end-of-the-month game night up a week to have a birthday party at the same time, which was the third event of the week at our house, and the fourth gathering I’d been to this week…

Monday: Small Group at our house.
Tuesday: Arena Survival Party at Brian’s place. Perfect day for it. Got some great pics of the girls.
Wednesday: night off.
Thursday: Aprรจs-Party for Jeremy’s wife following dinner at Llywelyn’s (a nice celtic pub within walking distance of our place, with good food, good beer, and good music.)
Tonight: Game Night/Birthday.

Janelle and Brandon (who looks like he could be Terry Storch‘s little brother) joined us. Janelle is our staff Adminstrel/mercenary and goes around filling in for folks on vacation. This week, she’s in HR. Brandon is a web designer for a local advertising agency. Janelle said she loved to play Settlers of Catan, so I invited her and her hubby along (since he’s a geek too). There were enough of us (11 plus the kids) to play two boards of Settlers, which amazingly finished up within minutes of each other. Brian and my wife were the victors.

Before gaming, there was munching. A ridiculous amount of dessert and munchies materialized, in addition to the “official” birthday cake from 3 women and an oven (which is dangerously within walking distance of our house):

(in the background is one of my rapidly-becoming-legendary margaritas, and a bit of Janelle in her KU swag)

Matt was duly impressed by the candle arrangement. This was after all a party attended by geeks. The carrot cake was heavenly. It was the first time we’d outsourced birthday cake production due to Andrea starting full-time work at the church this week and our busy social calendar.

Wait, what? I have a social life? How did that happen? OK, so it’s mostly with other geeks. Demented and sad, but social.

The night was capped off by Brandon, Matt, and Philip playing on Matt’s Wii. Thanks to all my peeps and homies for making it such a fun birthday.

Recovering from CITRT…

Wow. What an experience that was. I want to make my own take on Clif’s commentary.

I’ve been at Resurrection for a hair shy of a year and a half (I started just after Easter 2006). Before, I was working for a company that installed voice and data cabling for all kinds of different IT departments. It was on one of our projects that I met Jason Wilson at Indian Creek Community Church, where I got to set up my temporary project office in his space at the church. The ICCC job was a nice relief from the usual work environment, since I got to get paid to do church work (there’s a whole saga that ended up happening with that job, but that’s another story for another time). What’s funny is that Jason and I had a number of conversations about a local roundtable gathering he had on a semi-regular basis for church geeks and geeks in the church (Little did I know what was going to transpire two years later…)

God works in strange and amusing ways, and about 6 months later, I found myself working with Clif and the gang getting my feet wet in IT again (and it was a relief to be doing geeky stuff). While I found that I was really good at data cabling, it was still little more than specialized construction work that was frequently hot, dirty, and underappreciated. By early 2006, I was looking to bail after 3 years on the job. I was burned out, my family was starting to wonder who I was after the long hours I was pulling, and it was taking its toll on me.

I’m currently studying Ortberg’s If you want to walk on water, you need to get out of the boat as part of our Tuesday morning Men’s Fellowship (added bonus: it’s down the hall from my office!) One of the first things we’re asked to look at is the boats in our lives that we need to step out of. While I was fed up with my current job, it was pretty much a sure thing. There was no shortage of work. And along comes this opportunity at Resurrection. More or less out of the blue, the result of some seemingly random and tenuous connections that I’d made. I needed to get out of my boat and start walking on the water. The money Resurrection was offering me was not really much more than I was making as a cable monkey, and we were already running pretty lean on the budget, since my wife was at home with a toddler and an infant. I felt God calling me to take that leap into the water and to trust him, that things would be OK. It was utterly terrifying. I told my wife that we could try it for a few months and if it didn’t work, it was time to look at other options.

Adam mentioned something in his brief Q&A talk that he called “discernment by nausea” which he said has served him very well over the years. When presented with two options, the one that makes you queasy and want to throw up is almost invariably the choice God wants you to make. It certainly was for Peter when Jesus called him out of the boat (and he was probably already contemplating syndicated reruns of dinner by that point). Making the leap to Resurrection was terrifying, and made both of us queasy. Every budget calculation we came up with was about 10% over what we had available. “We could make it if only we could skip the tithing! Doesn’t working for a church count instead?”. Spiritual warfare was afoot, and it was making me ill.

I got out of the boat. We continued to tithe what little income we had. And it worked out. My wife saw my work stress evaporate practically overnight. It’s taken me the last 18 months to get into a groove, when my track record usually finds me looking for the lifeboat so I can jump ship by now. That’s not to say that I didn’t contemplate it – early this year, our financial straits were still tight (although my wife had just gotten a part-time contract gig at Resurrection), and I was looking for options back in the for-profit world. I ended up with a hot lead at a large advertising and search company (starts with a G and ends with an oogle!), and they were interested enough to fly me down to Phoenix for a day of interviews (for a position in Denver, close to my wife’s family).

It was very good for my ego to have such a superstar seriously interested in hiring me. But as the time following the interview went on, I found myself on one hand excited about a potential offer in the works, but on the other, knowing that if I did get an offer, I was actually going to have to make the decision on whether or not to leave. And the more it went, the more I realized that I didn’t want to have to make that decision. At the time, we had a number of cool projects in the works and coming up, and I’d already told them that if an offer was forthcoming, I was going to need a fair bit of lead time to wrap things up before leaving (I haven’t told Clif about this until now because at the time, I didn’t want him to start panicking that he might lose his shiny new server/network admin in the middle of crunch time, and afterwards, it was moot anyway… Guess this just turned into Blogboard Confessional time!)

I spent a lot of time asking God to make the decision and His will for me blindingly clear, because I’m a geek and I Don’t Do Subtle. I needed God to use the clue-by-four on me. While working for “The Big G” would have been incredibly cool on many, many levels, I was tremendously relieved when they told me a few weeks later that they appreciated my time, but that it wasn’t going to be a good fit for their current needs (but to please apply again in the future, so the door wasn’t slammed shut on my nose!)

Looking back, it’s become quite clear that the process was God’s way of telling me “yes, you can hang with the superstars, but I’ve got a team of superstars right here that I need you working for.” The Round Table event that we just concluded drove that home even harder – we’ve got a great bunch of geeks right here in our own church IT community. Sure, we don’t have a semi full of cash like G does, but we do pretty well, and we’re doing it for the Kingdom (no, not yours, JP!) The benefits of working with you guys more than make up for the difference in pay. As long as my family is fed (they are), I’m happy as a clam, right here.

Wow, this ended up being way longer than I expected.

The whole wrangling with tithing that I went through reminds me of this video, which was shown at one of the pre-Institute workshops today (which reminds me of something Watson would have made for RezLife, but it actually comes from the folks at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas):


On the road again…

I’m spending Labor Day weekend at Andrea’s dad’s place in Valparaiso, IN. Much needed grandkid time for him, mini-vacation for us.

We’re such church nerds. On Friday afternoon, we went up to Willow Creek Church for an informal tour of their facility with Mark Stanger, one of their techie guys. Andrea is a theatre nerd (she even has a degree in theatre!) and was duly impressed by what they had at WC. We also got a brief tour afterwards of the IT facilities from Brett (I missed his last name), one of my counterparts there. Technically cool, and professionally informative. It’s nice to see that they face many of the same challenges we do.

Today, we got a chance to go worship at Granger Community Church and break bread (and noodles!) afterwards with Jason Powell and his family. A good time was had by all, and the worship experience was phenomenal. They’re doing some really awesome stuff at GCC that we could definitely learn from. (I found it amusing that today’s message was about work/life balance, right after having had my vacation interrupted last night by our VMWare datastore filling up and causing the database server VM to go on strike due to lack of swap space)

One of the coolest things they have at GCC is the check-in/drop-off process for the kids. If you’re a regular, you check in, get your kids stickered, and then take them to the “launch area”, which is a big tube slide where the kids slide down and pop right into their classroom (unfortunately, Clara wasn’t quite old enough for those classrooms, so we had to cart her down the stairs (where there is a really cool fish tank). Faith went down her slide and popped out the mouth of a giant whale. They have cameras at the top and bottom so you can see them popping out the end and into the classroom. Faith was duly impressed. My immediate thought was that it’s a great way to deal with separation anxiety problems – the kids get a rush of fun, and immediately forget that they’ve just been taken away from mom and dad… and there’s no turning back. I think there’s a metaphor in there for the Christian life too ๐Ÿ™‚

The worship experience was, in a word, WOW. They’ve done an incredible job at GCC to make the entire experience immersive and seamless. There’s smooth and logical integration of music, drama, and multimedia that all blend into the message. There’s some really cool technical wizardry going on behind the scenes, but you really don’t have a chance to focus on that, because the experience is so engaging.

On the way back, the kids snoozed, and we passed two things of note…

Valpo has a ski resort. OK, not really a resort, more of a lump in the terrain with a chairlift. To wit:

Where I come from, that would barely be worth bothering with as a sledding hill. Note the snowboarding halfpipe in the second picture.

The other thing that we saw was another Living Water(s) church, that is even smaller than the one Clif‘s wife planted:

And, while I’m posting nerdy pics from my phone, I finally got our rack in something close to its final configuration:

From top to bottom:

  • Sony LIB-81A Tape library (8 slots, 1 AIT-3 drive)
  • Galilee (DR Server) – Dell PE2650
  • Buffalo TeraStation and TeraStation Pro (archival storage)
  • Jericho (ESX Node) – Dell PE2950, 2xIntel 5160, 12GB
  • Jerusalem (ESX Node) – Dell PE2950 2xIntel 5150, 12GB
  • 8-port KVM Console
  • Dell/EMC AX150i iSCSI SAN (1.5TB)
  • UPS for the SAN
  • Dell PowerVault 220 (12x73GB SCSI) (attached to Galilee for DDT backup staging)
  • APC Smart-UPS 2200 (x2)
  • Whitebox security controller PC (in the bottom of the rack)

This makes up almost our entire infrastructure except for telecom and networking.