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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Urgent vs. the Important

One of the things I have found most challenging about my new job as a high school secretary is the sheer busy-ness of the job. I admit that it is more challenging right now at the beginning of the year when I am new and several hundred students are purchasing parking passes so they can park on campus. This particular season will pass, only to be followed by other major projects, but the parking pass procession is particularly difficult.

image found here
You see, at various times of the day, I will have a couple dozen students lined up in front of my desk, all wanting to get their parking pass before security starts issuing parking fines. Plenty of urgent business.

Yet at the same time, I need to keep up with the more weighty issues of student discipline that the assistant principal for whom I work needs to deal with. She sends me emails to let me know what tasks I need to do next. Today, I missed noticing several of these important emails until too late. It is so easy to get focused on the urgent, and miss the important.

This focus on the urgent - the tyranny of the urgent as Charles E. Hummel puts it - tends to plague the best of us. We allow the things that are right in front of us to take our full attention. In the meantime, we allow more important things to slip past our attention simply because they don't clamor as loudly for our attention.

I can take steps to fix the problem of not seeing my boss's important emails until much later by setting an alert whenever a message from her comes into my mailbox. It is much more difficult to ensure that the "tyranny of the urgent" does not crowd out the truly important things in our lives.

What will I do to make sure THAT doesn't happen? What about you?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Has It Already Been a Year?

Last year, on August 12th, Rachel and I boarded a plane in Bali, Indonesia, and began our long flight back to the United States. So much has been jam-packed into this last twelve months.

Time certainly flies, doesn't it?  Image found here.
Some of it has been difficult...
  • a long and bitterly cold winter
  • months of work that, although enjoyable, was unstable
  • re-adjusting to new dynamics of life back in the States
Some of it has been a blessing...
  • reconnecting with people who I rarely saw while living overseas
  • seeing Rachel bond with a larger family than just me
  • seeing her thrive at school
  • being blessed finally with a full-time job
I have learned much about trusting God when I don't see clearly what lies ahead. I am still and always learning that no matter how much I think I know, I can do nothing apart from Him.

I look forward to the adventure of this next year. What will God have in store?
Blessings?
Challenges?
 Sorrow?
Whatever lies in store, I can be certain of this one rock-solid truth.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 
Phillipians 4:13

Friday, August 1, 2014

Learning Through Life's Loops


This picture of Cedar Point's Corkscrew is found here.
Tomorrow is a day I have been looking forward to for over a year. It has been at least ten years, I think, since I have visited Cedar Point, one of the very best amusement parks in the world. Seven members of my family are going. I am looking forward to spending time with them.

I am also very much looking forward to the roller coasters. Of all the roller coasters I have ever ridden in my life, I think there is only one I haven't liked. (I won't mention the name of that one here, though.) 

Cedar Point's Mantis - image found here
I thoroughly enjoy the excitement of being taken to the top of a hill and then plunged at high speed down the other side. You say goodbye to your stomach at the top of the hill, and it catches up to you at then platform at the end of the ride. Once you're strapped into the car and it starts to move, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Scary? Yes. 
Exhilarating? Definitely!

There are other rides at the amusement park.
  • Rides like the carousel. Tame. Predictable. Safe. 
  • Rides like the ferris wheel. True, you have to deal with being pretty high up, but still, much tamer than a rollercoaster.
  • Rides like the teacups. You sit in a large teacup and spin as fast or slowly as you choose. YOU are in control. 

Rides like these have their place. After all, it would be a bit hard on the stomach to be subjected to nearly non-stop flips and rolls of rollercoasters all day long. But without the rollercoasters, and amusement park wouldn't be all that interesting.

In life, there are many different things that happen.

  • Much of life, like the carousel, is made up of fairly ordinary and tame events. Mundane. Not all that exciting.
  • Then, there are the ferris wheel events. These events stretch you a bit, even as the riders of a ferris wheel are stretched to adjust to seeing the world from high in the air.
  • There are the teacup-like parts of life. The events that we try to control in some way or other. These adventures are ones that we choose. We get spun around a bit, but we still remain in control.
Cedar Point's Maverick . Image found here.
And then, there are the rollercoaster events. These events can be amazingly exciting in a good way, or they can be terribly painful. 
The journey of adoption.
The journey through illness or injury.
Raising a family.
Losing a job.
Once you are strapped into the car of journeys like these, you can't get off. You have to go through it. You are committed for the entire ride, whether you like it or not.

For the believer in Jesus, we can be assured that we face the ups and downs of these "rides" with the safety restraints in place. Jesus will not send us out to free fall when the train barrel rolls around a loop in the track.

Might we be terrified as our car gets ready to take a steep plunge? Sure.
Might we want to close our eyes as the train goes into a dark tunnel? Perhaps.
Is it possible that we might wonder if, spiritually speaking, our stomachs will ever catch up with us? Probably.
Will there be times when we find it hard to even breathe? Without a doubt.

One thing is for certain, though. After riding one of life's wild rollercoasters with Jesus at our side, we can step out of the car, look at Him and say, "Wow! That was amzing!"

You see, some lessons in life, we can never learn on a carousel. We can only learn it on a rollercoaster.

Has God taught you something on a "rollercoaster" in your life that you would never have learned on a "carousel"? Why not share it in a comment below?

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