Exit 164. Prayers.

God, our Father in Heaven,

I pray for our world.  I pray for my country.  I pray that all of us will pay attention and engage with those who are different from us for whatever reason.  I pray that we will seek to understand why they feel, believe, and vote the way they do, rather than ignore them or belittle them as wrong for whatever reason in whatever way.

I pray for all of those who feel oppressed, marginalized, ignored, and patronized.  I pray that we will understand why they feel this way, that we will understand their lives and their history and their reactions that may differ from ours.  I pray that we might see each other as fellow human beings, not antagonists.

Forgive us, Lord.  Forgive our sins as a people.  Heal our broken nation.  I pray that we may remember our Constitution and the ideals of freedom and liberty that led to the founding of this nation.  I pray that we may heal from the sins of our history and move forward.

I pray that you will be at work in the hearts and minds of those who are angry, and those who feel hate toward others who are different.  I pray that they will be softened and broken, and that they will see the people that they hate as human beings, as beloved children of God.  I pray that bridges will be built.

I pray for my good friends who live in and around Charlottesville.  I pray that you will keep them safe as protesters and the news media descend on their region.  I pray that they will be good examples to the world at large, so that the rest of the country will know that central Virginia is a beautiful place full of friendly people who are not white supremacists.

And I pray for my own heart.  God, I pray that you will expose the biases I have, and help me practice what I preach and heal the anger I sometimes feel toward certain groups.

In the name of Jesus, who died to forgive our sins, and bring us to everlasting life with him,

Amen.

Exit 163. It all goes wrong again.

I feel beat up.

Defeated.

Hopeless sometimes.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, as the saying goes.  Doing different things and getting the same results is real life.  At least that’s what my life feels like sometimes.  And just when I’m starting to feel optimistic about something, it all goes wrong again.

I’ve been lied to and misled.  I’ve been betrayed and stabbed in the back.  I’ve been the recipient of many empty and hollow promises that never materialized.

Sometimes I feel like giving up.  That’s been on my mind a bit more than usual lately, with a number of friends also suffering from depression, and all the celebrity suicides in the news recently.

But I’m not going to give up.

I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other as long as I can.

God still has work for me to do.  Maybe things really will change someday.  Or maybe I have to help someone else out of their darkness.

See you next time.  I’ll still be here.

Exit 162. Not the new guy anymore.

I told someone recently that the upcoming school year will be my 18th year teaching (not including 2005-06, when I was traveling for half the year and substituting the other half).  How is that possible?  The students who recently graduated from high school and are starting college this year were newborn babies when I started teaching.  Where did all the time go?

And more importantly, why do I still feel like a new and inexperienced teacher?

Part of the reason is because I haven’t been teaching in the same place for very long.  I haven’t been in any one public school or school district for more than four years.  Every time I have started over, I have felt new again, since students and their parents don’t know me, and I am unfamiliar with the school culture and the curriculum.  I spent seven years at a tiny private school, and that’s kind of a different world, not to mention that there were only nine teachers and many of them had been there for a long time, so I still felt new in some ways after a while.

But I think I’m finally starting to feel like I’m not the new guy anymore.  My school has had a lot of turnover since I was hired in June 2014, with several retirements, several others taking other positions elsewhere in the district, a few moving away for family or financial reasons, and one death.  Even though I’m only going into my fourth year at this school, I think I’ve been there longer than about half the staff, and among the six math teachers, I have been there the second longest, and I am tied for second in terms of how long I have been a full time teacher in the district.

I have started preparing for the upcoming school year, and I have gotten to meet some of my new coworkers.  And the idea of not being new anymore is finally starting to sink in.  I am able to help some of my new coworkers find their way around the school, get the computers to work, and, in the case of math teachers, learn how the curriculum works.  And this really seems to be helping my confidence.  I’m not quite as shy or reticent among my other coworkers as I used to be.  I feel more like I belong, and less like I’m always rubbing people the wrong way.

I have written before that my principal has told me that she could see me being a leader among the teachers.  Maybe she’s right after all.

(By the way, I missed another week on this blog.  Sorry.)

Exit 161. A humbling effect.

Nicky Gumbel is a British pastor best known for being one of the people behind Alpha International, the publisher of a series of discussions and Bible studies presenting the basic points of Christianity.  In one of his course materials, Rev. Gumbel tells a story relating the concept that even after we turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior, we aren’t made perfect yet.  In his story, Rev. Gumbel is riding a bicycle, and a cab driver cuts him off.  Rather than follow Jesus’ advice to turn the other cheek, Gumbel pedals fast to catch up to the driver, intending to report his bad driving, and makes a rude comment once the driver is in earshot.  The driver calls him by name and tells him to be careful.  Gumbel looks at him after being called by name, wondering if he heard correctly, and the driver holds up an Alpha workbook.  He then proceeds to tell his passenger about the Alpha course and how inspirational and life-changing Gumbel’s work has been.

Obviously, that sort of encounter would have a humbling effect.  Gumbel said something to the effect that it served to remind him that Jesus is not finished working with him yet.  (By the way, any inaccuracies in this account are mine, but the main points are there.)

I had an experience recently that also reminded me about Jesus not being done with me yet.  I won’t tell the whole story, I’m still a bit ashamed of myself, but essentially I picked a verbal altercation with some fans of a rival sports team.  It got very heated to the point that I was making a scene in public.  I calmed down, apologized, and walked away from the fans of the rival team before the altercation turned physical.  But I felt ashamed for acting so immaturely, especially since, even though the others kept it going, I clearly started the whole thing for no reason other than that they were fans of a rival team who dared to show their team pride here in a different geographical location.

Nothing I can do about it now except learn and move on.  Maybe this whole experience reveals that I still have some unresolved anger about being bullied in the past, some of which happened at the hands of fans of this team.

Exit 160. Good week.

I don’t have anything insightful or earth-shattering to write about this week.  But it was a good week.

I went rafting on July 4.  That was a lot of fun.  I had never been before.  I got sunburned in a couple of spots on my legs.

I went for a bucket-list bike ride, which would become only the fourth time I have ever ridden more than 50 miles in one day.

I attended a Bike Party.  The ride itself was fun, as was seeing how everyone decorates their bikes.  A lot of people there didn’t really feel like my crowd, and the whole thing smelled of weed and tobacco.  Will I go again (this is a monthly event)?  Possibly.  I wasn’t as outgoing as I might have been otherwise; being a new experience, my introverted side took over.

I went to a friend’s birthday party and played games.

I baked lots of cookies.

Let’s hope I have two more good weeks before I go back to work.  How are all of you doing?

Exit 159. Small steps.

I missed a week.  Sorry about that.  I’m trying not to let this time off work pass me by too quickly, and it seems like that should be a positive thing.

I don’t have much time left before I go back to work.  Almost three weeks, that feels like a long time, but it’s going to go by fast, and I already have plans for some of it.  I look at my long undone to-do list, full of major projects that most sane people could not get completely done, and I just get overwhelmed and discouraged.

What I need is to take small steps.  Come up with small more manageable goals, one day at a time, one week at a time.  And writing this post means I can check one off. 🙂 Happy Canada Day to my Canadian readers, and happy upcoming Independence Day to my fellow Americans.

Exit 158. Staring at this picture on my wall.

I’m really late this week.  It’s summer, I’m not working, and my routine is all off.  And I don’t really have anything on my mind to write about.

Earlier today, I was staring at this picture on my wall, wondering why it was still there.

kid icarus death star with name blurred.jpg

“Pit from Kid Icarus Attacks the Death Star.”  Artist: me, 2011.  Colored pencils on paper.

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent most of 2011 in a relationship with “Acrux,” who moved away a couple months into our relationship, making this decision without even telling me until it was a done deal.  A couple weeks after we moved, she Skyped me from a coffee shop.  Her dad was in a band that often played at this coffee shop’s weekly open mic night, and she showed me their band on Skype and introduced me to her best friend and some of the regulars at the coffee shop.  Acrux and her friend were playing a game where each one would give the other a topic to draw.  They asked if I wanted to play, I said sure, and they gave me the topic of Pit attacking the Death Star.

That was a good night.  That is what I thought a long distance relationship would be like.  As my long term readers and friends know, it wasn’t like that at all.  In the four months that we stayed together, we only Skyped three more times; I pretty much had to beg to get her to spend that time with me, and she wasn’t all that attentive to begin with.  That was pretty much the way things always were with us.

So why did I leave this picture on my wall, even though I got rid of a lot of other things that reminded me of Acrux after we broke up?  I don’t know.  Maybe because it’s awesome.  And funny.

And why am I writing about it today?  I don’t know.  Why not?

Exit 157. Mystery blogger award.

Hi, friends.  Alli over at Hey Worms tagged me in something called the “Mystery Blogger Award.”  I’m not sure what’s so mysterious about it, but it gives me a topic for this week’s post, and this was a busy week, away from my usual routine, so an award like this with the topic all spelled out for me is just what I need.  By the way, go check out Alli’s page; you’ll be glad you did.

So I have to do all of this stuff:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog.
    (Done, see first paragraph)
  • Mention the creator of the award
    (The creator is someone called Okoto.  I don’t follow Okoto’s site; maybe I should go check it out one of these days.)
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Ask nominees any 5 questions of your choice
  • Share the link to your best/favorite post of yours.

I guess I’m on the step where I have to tell three things about myself. I did another one of these blog award things a few months ago where I had to tell things about myself, so I’m not going to repeat any of those things.

  1. I’ve been to 112 different In-N-Out Burgers.  In-N-Out Burger is a drive-thru burger place that started in the 1940s near Los Angeles.  Their menu has stayed pretty simple over the years: burgers, fries, shakes, drinks, that’s it.  No chicken nuggets or salads or kale and broccoli wraps with pine nuts or anything.  They were exclusively located in southern California until the early 1990s; since then, they have expanded to over 300 locations in six states in the western and southwestern US.  I had my first In-N-Out Burger in late 1997 and was instantly hooked.  Two friends from college (one of whom was Jeff from 80isenough, a frequent commenter on this site) were talking about taking a road trip in the summer of 1998 to go to every single In-N-Out Burger in existence (there were 130 of them at the time).  They never did it, but that inspired me to go to as many different ones as I could, just for fun.  So if I’m on a road trip through a part of the country with In-N-Out Burger restaurants, I’ll take a little side trip to check one off my list, or sometimes I’ll go to two or three of them and only get one item at each one so I can check off more than one.
  2. I’ve never had kale, as far as I know.  I make fun of kale all the time, but I don’t really have an opinion on it; it’s just easy to make fun of.  Kale is basically the Nickelback of vegetables.
  3. Let’s see, how about one that isn’t about food… My first gray hair and my first kiss on the lips came in the same year, in that order.  That could mean that I started getting gray hair unusually young, or that could mean I didn’t kiss anyone until I was older than most.  I’ll let you decide which one you think is true.

I’m also supposed to answer questions that Alli asked to the people she nominated.  For some reason, that isn’t on the list of things to do that I got.  Hmm.

  1. What is one big decision you made in your life that could have changed everything?  I’m not entirely sure about the wording of this question, but I’ll say that I quit my job in 2005, spent four months traveling trying to find myself, and eventually moved to where I am now.  Had I not done that, I probably would have stayed in the same job where I was, as I gradually became more and more cynical and felt more and more out of place, and more and more disillusioned with Christianity since one of the major reasons I moved was because I couldn’t find a church.  I probably would have reached my breaking point of being tired of life a few years later, when California was in a budget crisis and not hiring teachers.  Maybe I would have moved out of state.  Would that have been better or worse than the life I have now in the long run?  I don’t know.
  2. Would you rather be poor and in love or rich without a partner?  I can’t decide, because either one is an improvement over being poor without a partner.  I should point out, though, that I’m really not poor from the perspective of how most people on planet Earth live.  This is also a tough question because I don’t really don’t know what it feels like to be in love in a healthy way.  I’ve experienced all of the pain of relationships with little to none of the good times.  Even my five months in my late 20s with Vega the Nice Ex weren’t really representative of what it’s like to be in love, because that was a medium-distance relationship and we only saw each other in person a couple times a month.  My gut instinct is to say I’d rather be poor and in love, but sometimes I wonder if maybe being in love isn’t right for me.  I’d have someone around all the time.  Would that be difficult for me as an introvert?  I still tend to think that if I were really with the right person, we’d find a way to work it out.  So I’ll go with poor and in love.
  3. What’s a fun fact you know that most might not?  Are you kidding?  Just one?  I’m full of fun facts that most people might not know.  I’ll go with this one that most of my real life friends have heard me say: “Business Route 80” in Sacramento (an old routing of Interstate 80 that has since been bypassed) is actually state highway 51 on paper.  Caltrans doesn’t want to put 51 on signs, because apparently they think that this would be too confusing having highways 50 and 51 in the same city.  Apparently having two different highway 80s in the same city is less confusing, but this kind of nonsense is typical of California’s state government.
  4. What is one of your favorite lyrics?  My screen name on this and several other sites is literally one of my favorite lyrics, so I should probably go with that one.
    Live a life less ordinary
    Live a life extraordinary with me
    — Carbon Leaf, “Life Less Ordinary” (2004)
  5. Why did the chicken cross the road?  Because the chicken was moving with a velocity vector that intersected the line of the road, for enough time that the absolute value of the coordinate of this intersection point minus the coordinate of the chicken continued to decrease until it became negative.

Next, I have to nominate 10-20 people.  I don’t like this step, because some people like doing these and some don’t.  So I’ll nominate anyone reading this.  If you want to do this post in your blog, or other social media site, go for it.  And if you are, these are your five questions:

  1. What is one of your favorite bands that most people have not heard of?
  2. What was a time when something that happened in a way that you didn’t want ended up being better in the long run?
  3. If someone made a movie about your life, who should play you?
  4. Have you ever met someone in a really unusual, noteworthy, or humorous way, and ended up becoming really close with the other person?  Tell me about it.
  5. Are we there yet?

And finally, I have to link to my favorite of my own posts.  This is a hard one… but I’m probably going to go with #86, in which I discussed the correct pronunciation of the term “.gif.”  People get so worked up over this, and it says some interesting things about us and language.

 

Exit 156. More than I’d like to admit.

Yesterday at church, the topic of the prodigal son’s older brother came up.  For those of you who don’t know the story (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus tells a story of a wealthy man with two sons.  One of them tells his father screw you, I don’t want to wait for you to die, give me the inheritance so I can go blow it all on booze and hookers (paraphrased).  After doing so, he eventually runs out of money, finding himself poor and doing a humiliating job just to stay alive.  He decides to go back to his family, apologize, and offer to work on his father’s farm to make up for wasting his share of the family fortune.  But before he even has the chance to beg his father for a job, his father rejoices that his son has returned and prepares a feast for him.

The man’s other son does not share in the joyful mood, however.  He says, essentially, hey, wait a minute, I’ve been loyal and faithful all my life, so why don’t I get a party? Why are you celebrating this jerk who abandoned the family fortune and blew it all on hookers?  Dad replies, essentially, I still love you, but we have to celebrate because your lost brother is found.

The story is an illustration of God’s love for his people and his desire to bring us back into relationship with Him, even with all our sins and mistakes and mess.  God sent Jesus to die for the sins of all human beings, not just the Jews.  The brother in the story represents the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews in Jesus’ time who were obsessed with their rules and their way of life.  They were unable to accept Jesus because he did not fit their narrow-minded idea of what the coming Messiah would be like.  They resented the fact that Jesus was reaching out to tax collectors, prostitutes, and those on the fringes of society, while criticizing the Pharisees’ narrow-minded views despite their outward, yet empty, displays of devotion.

I was thinking about this, and I realized that I’m more like the prodigal son’s brother than I like to admit.  I often find myself a bit resentful when people’s lives still involve all the things I was always told was wrong, yet they manage to be happy and successful and find the kind of church involvement and fellowship that I’ve been struggling to find for the last decade.  Hey, wait a minute, I’ve been loyal and faithful, so why don’t I get all that?

If I’m ever going to be happy, I need to put an end to this kind of thinking now.  I have no right to feel this way, and my attitude is exactly that of the people that Jesus criticized most harshly.  For one thing, I haven’t been loyal and faithful.  I’m not perfect.  I am a sinner saved by grace, just like everyone who has made me feel resentful, and I should be thanking God for this.  My supposed outward signs of piety aren’t what is important here.  And I can’t keep comparing my life to that of others.  I have to let go of everything I had once hoped for that isn’t going to happen now.

I know in my head exactly what is wrong with this line of thinking.  The hard part is actually changing the way my mind works…

Exit 155. Light at the end of the tunnel.

I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  In a few days, I will be finished with this school year.

The end of the year is always a bittersweet time.  I’m glad to have a break coming up.  But I’m definitely going to miss some of the students.  Although their math skills left much to be desired at times, this year’s students really were sweethearts for the most part.  Of course, many of them I will still see walking the halls next year (but then, last year’s students who are finishing middle school entirely I won’t see around anymore), and there are always a few every year that I stay in touch with.

The end of a school year is also a good time to reflect.  I can look back and think about how this year went, and what I can do differently next year.  I had some ideas for things I could do differently this year, and once the school year started, and I became overwhelmed by many other changes made across the whole school, my ideas didn’t get implemented well.  It didn’t work the way I had expected it to.  So I’ll try again next year, and it will be better now that I know how this year turned out.

This is also a good time to reflect on my personal life.  I have some time off coming up, obviously, and that is the perfect opportunity to do things out of my comfort zone.  Sometime in the next few days, I’m going to write a list of goals for my summer break.  It sounds kind of clichéd, but I’ve done this a couple times in the past, and it really did help me do something out of character that I wouldn’t ordinarily do on at least one occasion.  I don’t know yet what will be on my list, and I don’t know yet if I’m ready to share my entire list, whatever it ends up being.

I often feel pressure at the beginning of summer vacation, like I have to make this the best summer EVER!!!.  And I often feel pressure at the end, because of everything I wanted to happen over the summer that didn’t happen.  I’m trying not to worry about all that and just enjoy life.