Month: April 2016

Exit 104. There is a common thread.

I was recently asked to speak at an Alumni Night for my alma mater’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Instead of the usual talk by an actual IV staff worker, they had four people speaking: an older alumnus (that’s me), a recent graduate, a current senior, and a current freshman.  This was planned as part of a theme centered around God’s work on the campus across the generations.

I have mentioned my involvement with this group before, but it was not without its share of ups and downs.  I had a variety of disagreements with the way the group was set up over the years.  (I’m not going to get into what those disagreements were, specifically, since this is not the point of what I’m trying to say here.)  For a few months in 1997, I even went so far as to attend another church’s college group a few times, because I was frustrated with the way certain things were done at IV.  I jokingly referred to this at the time as my Rebellious Period.  But I eventually came back, reasoning that this group was still much more of a force of good in the world, and because I was still benefiting and growing from the teaching, Bible studies, and service opportunities.

The group has changed quite a bit since the last time I attended a non-alumni group meeting, which would have been around 2000.  (I was done with school by then, but I still had younger friends still involved with IV, so I showed up every once in a while.)  Some of the changes they have made are the kind of things I wasn’t sure I agreed with back in my day.  In some important ways, the group had a very different feel from what it was like in the late ’90s.

But I did not feel uncomfortable there at all, because there is a common thread.  And that common thread is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ died for all of our sins.  Although he came in the context of a specific time period and culture, he came to bring people of every culture to God, throughout all of history.  A number of students came up to me afterward and told me that they really related to the story I told.  Most of these students did not come from backgrounds like mine.  They grew up in a different time period, being born around the same time that I got involved with IV as a university student.  But they have all known the kind of alienation I felt that night in the story that I told, and they all understood how much it meant to me to find out that my friends were praying for me.

As Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35)

Exit 103. Worth the risk.

Short and sweet this week…

Forgiveness really is a beautiful thing.  I’m not always good at it.  It’s not easy for me to let go of things.  I’ve been hurt a lot, and when I am hurt, it is natural to want justice, if not vengeance.  But, not only is this un-Christlike, it also tends to escalate into a never-ending cycle of hatred and negativity.

Forgiveness is also difficult because it leaves me vulnerable, especially when the individual I need to forgive is someone whom it is difficult to avoid crossing paths with on a regular basis.  I don’t want to open myself up to an opportunity to be hurt again by the same individual’s actions or words.

But no matter what, I know that forgiveness is still preferable to holding grudges.  Restoring friendship, with all the risks involved, is worth the risk.

Exit 102. My mind is blank this week.

My mind is blank this week.

I had a thought about what I wanted to write, but it just doesn’t feel right.

And that’s okay.  That in and of itself can very well be something to write about.

I’ve had a very intense week, and I feel like my mind isn’t processing things like it should.  I’m okay… I’ve just been busy and overwhelmed.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Sacramento Kings basketball team is moving to a new arena that will open this fall.  The last three games at the old facility were all this last week, and I went to all of them.  That was a lot of fun.  But between three basketball games, church, tests to grade, and other assorted responsibilities, I just can’t handle any more for a while.

And that’s okay.

This week should be a little easier than normal.  And I plan to spend as much of it as I can keeping to myself and being an introvert, recovering from all the interaction and running around and stress I’ve been dealing with for the last week.  I’ll be back to normal soon.  I just might need a few days.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes you have to take care of yourself.

Exit 101. It’s nice to feel trusted.

I was recently visiting someone, whom I’ll call Albireo.  She was babysitting her 7-year-old cousin for part of the time that I was there.  This kid is hilarious, and once she quickly got over the initial shyness that many kids seem to experience when in the presence of an unknown adult, she seemed to take a liking to me.  At one point, Albireo had left the room for a few minutes to check on something that was in the oven, and the little girl decided that it would be hilarious to tickle me, repeatedly.  I eventually tickled back, and we got into a big tickle fight that eventually led to her standing on the arm of the couch and jumping on me like a wrestler jumping off the ropes to body-slam his opponent. Albireo walked back in the room just as I was getting body-slammed and quickly told her that jumping on people was not acceptable behavior.

During the whole time I was getting tickled, I was a little hesitant to tickle back, and even when I decided I was going to play along, I felt hesitant… mostly because I didn’t want to do anything that might be construed as child molestation or anything like that.  People are way too sensitive about this kind of thing these days.  In my line of work, of course, that kind of allegation can be quite damaging, and I have often been cautioned to leave the door open when students are in my room by themselves.  I was relieved to see that Albireo seemed to trust leaving me alone in a room with her.  It’s nice to feel trusted.

But, wait, you’re probably saying. Albireo is your friend.  Of course she would trust you.  Is there really a reason you think she wouldn’t trust you?

If you’re asking because of anything that happened in the past specifically involving Albireo, then no, I don’t think she would have a reason not to trust me.  But given things that have happened in the past involving other people, one incident in particular, yes.

In 2003, I was attending a Bible study meeting through Church II With The Problems.  Someone I didn’t know brought a baby.  I remember briefly looking at the baby.  I don’t remember exactly what I did or said to the baby, but it wasn’t anything unusual that I, or any normal person, wouldn’t do in a circumstance like that.  A few minutes later, a guy who I had known for almost eight years, since long before I started attending Church II With The Problems (he was essentially how I found that church in the first place) pulled me aside and said that the baby’s mom had told him that I had touched her baby inappropriately.  Whatever it was, it was either a lie or a misunderstanding, and I honestly to this day don’t know what happened to bring about this false allegation.  But what hurt was that the guy who pulled me aside to talk to me was someone I had known for years, far longer than I have known Albireo now.  I would expect him to trust me enough that he could have told the baby’s mom that I wouldn’t do something like that, but he did not.

At work on Friday, the principal stopped by briefly during every period to talk to the students about something, and during my most difficult period, one student was interrupting enough that she asked him to leave the room and talked to him about it before he came back.  (I honestly don’t know if he was given detention or anything like that.)  As I was leaving later that day, I saw the principal, and she asked how the rest of the day went.  I mentioned that it had been good, except that the period when the one boy had interrupted her was unusually poorly behaved the rest of the day, even for them.  As we were talking about various ways to handle that class, not once did she ever make a remark along the lines of, “Well, you just need to control those students better,” nor did I ever feel like I was being scolded for having a class that was out of control.  I felt that from many of my superiors in previous jobs over the years, but it has not been like that here.  I generally feel more trusted and supported currently than I have in the past.

Trust is a touchy subject for me.  As I said, I am used to others not trusting me, because of various negative experiences in the past.  I am also used to being too trusting of others, and then having that trust betrayed.  Be careful whom you trust, but if someone trusts you, don’t ever take that for granted.