Friday, January 23, 2015

When God "Sneaks Up" on You

The day began like any other. I got up and awakened my daughter to get ready for the day. She went to her school and I went to mine. After a long day working as secretary to one of the assistant principals at the local high school, I went home and did a little house cleaning.

At 7:00, Rachel and I were to meet with one of the family selection committee members for our local Habitat for Humanity. This woman had not been able to attend our earlier group interview back in September. She wanted to meet us and ask a few questions before she gave her input to the decision-making process.

Image found here
We arrived at the Habitat Re-Store right on time, and found the parking lot was full. I didn't think too much of it. My thought was that the Re-Store was really hopping on a Friday night. Little did I know that God was sneaking up on me with a wonderful surprise.

I was met at the office door and invited in. I was told that the lady we were to meet was shopping in the Re-Store, and we would go find her there. Rachel and I followed her into the Re-Store, where Habitat for Humanity sells good-condition used items.A lot of people were looking around the store, and my thought was that Friday night must be a good night for shopping. I still didn't realize God was sneaking up on me.

Then, I saw a gentleman who had been involved in our first interview. He was holding a camera. "That's John over there, isn't it?" I asked, wanting to confirm that I remembered his name. The fact that he was holding a camera didn't stir the slightest suspicion that God was sneaking up ever closer.

Someone came up to my escort and said something about making an announcement, I honestly thought she meant to get on the intercom system and call for the woman we were supposed to meet. But that wasn't what she meant.

Derrick the Oiler,
the University of Findlay mascot.
I heard something like this, "We are happy to welcome you as our newest Habitat for Humanity Homeowners". I looked around and realized everyone in the crowd of about 50 people, many of whom had fresh, young faces, were looking at us. Everyone...including Derrick, the tall and brawny mascot of the University of Findlay. It took a few seconds for the surprise to sink in. After well over a year and a half of not being certain where Rachel and I would live long term, God has finally given direction.

Of course, I obviously knew that they were considering us to become Habitat Homeowners, but I had been preparing myself for them to choose someone else. I had accepted the fact that whichever way the decision went, that was the way we were to go. I was certainly not at all expecting the answer to come tonight. God had snuck up on me so very quietly with this delightful surprise.

So, what comes next? I will have close contact and support from a committee that will walk us through the next several months. Construction of the walls will begin in the spring. The sections will then be stored over the summer. In September, after the students return to college, they will build the house. As I understand it, the basic framework goes up pretty much in one day - much like an Amish barn-raising. After that the whole process will be done in a couple of months. We should be in our new home by November.

I look forward to getting to know the students from the University of Findlay who will actually be building our house. These students are just a few years older than the teens I worked with in Indonesia. It will be good to spend time with them. I hope that in some way, I can touch their lives as much as they will certainly touch ours.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Million, Million Doors

Image found here
I enjoy listening to the music on the Christian radio station in my car. Once in a while, a particular song, or even a line in a song, speaks volumes to me.

One such song is entitled "With Every Act of Love" by Jason Gray. This is the part of the song that particularly resounded in my own heart.
"God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you."

The verses in the song describe two different scenarios where someone is hurting in some way, and someone else reaches out with God's love and brings hope..."as heaven touches earth".

As we move into the Advent season, we remember how God Himself walked into this world to bring His love to us. Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again so we could know God's love. He has placed us, His children, in this world to extend the love we have received to others. 

Yes, it is true.
God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you.
The question is this. Is the door of my heart open?  Is yours?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Where's Your ID?

A couple hours ago, Rachel and I got back home from Bakery BINGO, a school event sponsored by the PTO. I had left work at about 4 o'clock and gone to my parents' house to pick Rachel up. Once in the house, I realized I was still wearing my staff ID. We chatted awhile and then left for Bakery BINGO. Once again, I forgot to take off my lanyard. Consequently, I was probably the only person at the after-school event wearing their work ID.

School ID's are a new thing this year at Findlay High School. Some of the students are having a very hard time adjusting to remembering to wear their IDs every day. Unlike me, who sometimes forgets to take it off, many students leave theirs at home, or in their book bag, or out of sight in their pockets...which of course defeats the purpose of having the ID in the first place.

So, what is the purpose of the ID, anyway? It is a security measure to help differentiate who belongs in the school and who does not. The ID is intended to be the sign of a student, faculty, or staff member at the school.

Most of the faculty and staff have accepted this requirement. Many students are struggling. Some put on their ID when a teacher tells them they have to, and remove it as soon as the teacher isn't looking. They stash it in their pocket or their purse. Anyplace other than clearly visible as the rules state. I can almost guarantee that 99% of even the most compliant students take it off the instant they leave the building. The trouble is, when the ID is not worn regularly and properly, it is often lost or forgotten.

The ID of the Believer

What about the ID God wants His children to wear? What is it that He intends to be the identifying mark of a believer? The Apostle Paul writes:

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

The fruit of the Spirit. THAT is the ID of the Christian. Do we wear our IDs all the time? Or only when we have to? 
  • Are we allowing God to grow patience in our hearts, or do we feel perfectly justified in letting patience fly out the window when someone cuts us off on the road?
  • Are our lives characterized by peace in the midst of difficult circumstances, or is peace nowhere to be found as soon as something goes wrong?
  • Are we consistently gentle with others? Not weak, mind you, but gentle. Or does gentleness get hidden away when it is not convenient?
  • Are we careful to display the fruit of the Spirit at church, and then stash it away when we get home to our families where fruit like patience, kindness, and peace is suddenly nowhere to be found.
I understand that we are all works in progress. No one has perfectly developed fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Growing fruit is the ID of the Christian. In some believers, the fruit is more mature than in others. But we all should have fruit at some stage of maturity growing in our lives. 

As long as we are listening to the Holy Spirit, His fruit will grow in us. When we ignore Him because it is not convenient to listen, the fruit withers away. Then, when we see that we need it...oops! isn't where we thought it was. 

Let's be sure to always wear our ID. Listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him grow His fruit in us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Don't Like Parking Tickets, Either

Now what was I just saying in my last post? Something about how discipline is intended to work something good in our lives. Something about how it would be better to receive the discipline rather than try to throw blame on anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Well, I had to put my money where my mouth is this past Friday night. Rachel and I went to the final home football game of the season. We parked a block or two from the stadium and walked in. When we came back out, I found this little yellow envelope under my windshield wiper. 

At age 52, I received my very first parking ticket. (No, I don't consider this a desirable rite of passage.) I was ticketed for parking on the curb. "What?!?" I thought. "How could I have parked on the curb and not known it?"

I walked over to the passenger side to have a look. Sure enough, my back tire was about one inch onto the curb...which was only about one inch higher than the street at that point. I hadn't even felt the tire bump up onto the curb when I parked.

I must admit that my first thought was that this was a pretty silly ticket for a police officer to give. Much like the student who tries to blame their detention troubles on anyone other than himself or herself, I tried to do some mental gymnastics that would prove me right and the police officer unreasonable.

That stage lasted all of about fifteen seconds. You see, I really do believe what I wrote in the post last week. If I really do believe it, I must live by it. Whether the curb was one inch high or six inches high doesn't matter. It makes no difference whether my tire was a half inch onto the cub or five inches onto the cub. 

I was, in fact, wrong. I deserved the ticket. So I will drop that little yellow envelope in a ticket box somewhere on Main Street tomorrow, and I will be very thankful to be out only $10. I will also be sure to pay it within 120 hours. Otherwise, another consequence - a higher fine - will be applied.

I DON'T want to deserve that one.

And I will most certainly be more aware of curbs, especially in those areas where curbs are low. Once again, discipline achieves its intended goal.

At the time, discipline isn’t much fun.
It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
Later, of course, it pays off handsomely,
for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature
in their relationship with God.
(Hebrews 12:11 The Message)

Monday, October 13, 2014

But I Don't LIKE Detentions!

In my job as a high school secretary, many students come in and out of the office every day.

Sometimes they come for routine reasons - buying a parking pass, looking for a lost item, getting permission to do this or that. Some come just to say hello...and to get a pice of candy from then secretaries. Those are enjoyable interactions.

Other students come for reasons that are far from fun - like those who are in trouble for getting into a fight or swearing at a teacher. The principals deal with those situations, and I handle the paperwork.

Image found here.
I guess "Detention" actually was
a short-lived cartoon series some time ago.
Then there are those in-between situations in which a student is in trouble for a minor infraction. The secretaries themselves handle those. I had one of those situations today. Our school, for the first year, is requiring students and staff alike to wear ID badges at school. We have temporary sticker IDs if they forget the badge. When a student has forgotten his or her ID three times, I have to issue a detention.

A girl today had reached that point, and I called her to the office to give her a detention. Now this girl has received detentions before fore skipping classes...and has yet to serve even one of them. I told her that she really did need to serve the detention. Her response, "But I don't like detentions."

Hmmmm. Many thoughts flew through my head that I did not allow to fly out of my mouth. I kept a smile on my face and replied that no one LIKES to serve detentions. Of course not.

Basically, no one LIKES discipline of any kind. It's not supposed to be enjoyable.
  • No one LIKES to pay parking tickets...or speeding tickets.
  • No one LIKES to pay library fines.
  • No one LIKES to have their paycheck docked for being late to work.
  • And the list goes on...
All these things fall in the category of discipline designed to cause people to make good choices and be responsible, so they don't have to suffer the consequences of doing wrong. When the discipline is applied, a person, hopefully, thinks twice before once again speeding down the highway, parking illegally, being careless with due dates, or oversleeping.

My young friend today, realistically, will probably not serve this detention either, and a more severe discipline will await her in the future. For now, she seems to think that any discipline she is given is really the fault of the secretary or the principal. Rules don't apply to her, so neither does discipline.

She has not yet learned the lesson that discipline is actually meant for her good, and that it is something from which she can learn a valuable lesson. I hope one day soon, she will come to realize this truth.

But to be honest, am I any better? Are you?

Image found here
I remember years ago when I got a speeding ticket for going 45 in a 25 MPH zone. It was a four-lane, wide, straight road that didn't look like it should have been 45 MPH. In my heart of hearts, I tried to blame it on the situation, and the "unreasonable" speed limit. It was the fault of someone or something else. Not really my fault.

Of course, it WAS my fault. I broke the law, and I deserved the consequence. I paid the ticket, though, and you'd better believe I slowed down on that stretch of road in the future. The discipline did its intended work.

I think that we all tend to blame others rather than take responsibility for our actions. This holds true not only for traffic tickets and library fines, but also for the natural consequences that occur in our relationships when we neglect, misuse, or abuse those around us. Those natural consequences are another form of discipline God uses to bring us back where we need to be...if we let it do so.

Unfortunately, when relationships get messed up because we did or said something hurtful, our first instinct often is to push the blame onto the other person rather than take responsibility for our part of the problem.

It is easy to look at the high school girl who complains about "not liking detentions" and feel somewhat superior to her. The fact is that even though the discipline God uses with me takes a different form than detentions, I don't like discipline any more than she does.

After all, God's Word tells us this.
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. (Hebrews 12:11a The Message)
That is not the end of the story, though. The same verse goes on to say this.
Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. (Hebrews 12:11 The Message)
The question is this. Will I receive God's discipline - whatever form it takes - with a humble heart? Will I learn from it, grow from it, and be better for it? Or will I try to shift the blame somewhere else, refuse the lesson, and fail to grow.

The choice is mine. The choice is yours. So what will it be.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Something I Learned from a Bee Sting

Tuesday morning - Poor girl
Rachel has had a bit of an adventure this week. On Monday on the playground at school, a bee stung her on the side of the face near her eye. They took care of her at school, of course, and gave her a cold pack to put on the site of the sting. It didn't look too bad when she went to bed, although she did complain of her face feeling strange.

Something happened overnight, though. When she woke up, her right eye was swollen completely shut. I gave her a cool compress to put on her eye. I was so thankful that my parents are nearby. Mom took care of her while I went to work, and took her to the doctor. Benadryl and ice was the prescription.

Wednesday night - looking better.
At home later that night, I got online and read up on what could have been done for a bee sting. I learned a few things, both from the research and from the doctor.
  1. Her eye became so swollen because in that location, there is not much flesh to absorb the venom. A sting on the leg would not swell nearly as much.
  2. It is important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible, The longer the stinger remains in the victim's body, the more venom is released.
  3. Early treatment with antihistamines and ice can help prevent some of the swelling.
If you've read my blog very much, you know that I often look for parallels between everyday life and spiritual truth. I see a few parallels here between bee stings and attacks of the enemy..
  1. This photo, although taken some time ago,
     is more what her eye looks like now.
    I forgot to get a photo tonight.

    Satan will always attack us at our most vulnerable point. If he were to attack at a point of strength, the effect would be minimal. But an attack at a point of vulnerability can have a much more severe result. This is why beekeepers wear protective clothing. This is why we need our spiritual armor to protect our vulnerable spots.
  2. When we are "stung" by Satan and give in to temptation, it is important to quickly remove the "stinger". This is confession. When we quickly confess our wrong, the "stinger" of sin is removed. If we refuse to confess the wrong, the "stinger" remains, allowing the poison to spread and cause greater damage.
  3. Once the "stinger" is removed, we need to take active steps to right the wrong that was done. Restoration, restitution, refocusing. All these things and more act as spiritual "antihistamines". They may come into play to reduce the damage and return us to health.
I am happy to say that Rachel's eye is pretty much back to normal now. I am also thankful for the little lesson I learned from a bee sting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Praise in the Midst of Problems

I was just browsing through some of my old newsletters from my years in Indonesia. I was actually looking for one where I described the theft of my laptop...along with many other items...when Rachel and I visited Surabaya to get her first tourist visa. I haven't found that story yet, but I did run across this one.

As I read it, it made me think about how much practice we can get learning to praise God even in the midst of the problems and trials of life. Even when those trials keep pouring in one after the other, seemingly without end. In this true-life account, God taught me a few lessons about praise in the midst of problems. What did He use to tech the lesson? He used a couple temperamental cars.. Here is the story as it was told in May 2007.

Image found here
Have you ever had one of those days?  Well, I have.  It would more accurate to say that I have had one of those weeks…nearly two to be precise.  There is nothing overtly spiritual about things I want to share with you, but God has been using the mundane, frustrating events surrounding the problems of an old car to teach me a thing or two about praising Him in the midst of problems.  I hope you will indulge me as I share the story.
For starters, two weekends ago, my car would not start when I tried to leave for church both Sunday morning and evening (problem).  Kind neighbors push-started it (praise).  The same thing happened three times on Monday, the final time happening as I was on my way to take the car in for repairs (problem).  The service station sent someone out to help me on the side of the road and got the car running enough to make it to the station (praise).  Rachel, at age 19 months, was with me through all this, and she handled a couple hours of waiting with great patience and humor (PRAISE!!!) 
On Wednesday morning, I still had problems with the electrical system (problem). I took it in to a local service station.  They fixed the immediate problem and even dropped my car off at my house for me (praise).  It became obvious Thursday morning that something else was wrong, this time not with the electrical system (problem).  The service station went to work again and replaced a worn-out oil pump (praise). 
Sunday morning, the car started beautifully.  I headed into the city for church.  A police officer held up traffic on a main road to let me enter from a side road.  Unfortunately, a young man on a motorbike didn’t see the officer’s signal to stop.  He ran into my front bumper (Problem). Thankfully, neither my car nor his bike were damaged and no one was injured (Praise!)  Before church, I stopped at an ATM machine.  When I turned the key, the car wouldn’t start…again (Problem).  Thankfully, it was only a short distance to church, and taxis were plentiful (Praise). 
After the service, Rachel and I ate some lunch, and I got some help to try and push-start the car.  It was no use.  The car simply wouldn’t start (Problem).  One man called a company that provides emergency roadside assistance (Praise). Help came and the mechanic got the car going again (Praise).  I decided I ought to take the car to a service station yet again that specialized in my model of car.  Unfortunately, that place was all the way across town and I was running very low on gas (Problem).  I didn’t have the nerve to risk shutting off the engine to fill up the tank, so I just headed straight to the service station to drop off the car.  We made it without running out of gas (Praise)! We took a taxi back to where we were spending the night.  We were halfway there when I realized that the key for the house was still on the key ring I left with the car (Problem).  Thankfully, we were only halfway to the house instead of right at the gate (Praise). 
Monday afternoon, I was told that the needed repairs would take a few days.  I rented a car on Tuesday.  On Thursday, I ran some errands in the rental car and had already made a couple stops.  When I turned the key for what was supposed to be the final time that day…you guessed it…the rental car wouldn’t start.  Dead battery, of course…what else would it be? (PROBLEM).  I called the rental company, and they agreed to send someone out to help me (Praise).  I told them I would try to get the
Image found here
car push-started so I could at least get it home and wait there.  Thankfully, this all happened near the children’s home. Several of the older boys and a man on staff push-started the car (Praise).  It ran just until the end of the street when it died again (Problem).  Several men I didn’t even know pushed it around the corner and I parked at the side of the road.  One young man saw me walking tiredly back toward the children’s home…a long uphill walk.  He offered to give me a ride home on his motorbike (Praise). 
Finally, about noon on Friday, the mechanic from the city drove my newly repaired car to my town, got the rental running, and took it back to the city.  He even went to bat for me with the rental company and insisted that I only be charged for two days rental of the car, not three (PRAISE!).   
All-in-all, it has been an “educational” couple weeks…not so much in terms of “kingdom work”, but in terms of seeing God’s hand at work and learning to praise Him when the natural tendency would be to grumble and complain. Hmmmmm. You know, I guess that actually IS a part of kingdom work, after all.

In everything give thanks…  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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