Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Life Overseas

Please check out, a blog where I will contribute some of my thoughts as a contributing writer.  My first post will be on Friday.  It's called:  "Politics: Always great dinner conversation." 

Please check out some of the other posts, too.  I'm by far the least qualified and least skilled writer.  Obviously.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Red and yellow, kill a fellow

Angela and I were talking about all of the old sayings, and how silly some of them are.  In some instances, we hear them and know how ridiculous they are.
"Sneeze in threes and you may be pregnant."
Other sayings we've heard so many time in our lives that we don't really know if they are true or not.
"Chocolate causes acne;"
"Pull one gray hair, three will grow in its place;"
"You lose most of your body heat through your head;"
"Sugar causes kids to be hyper."

If they aren't literally true, oftentimes you can pull a helpful metaphor from it.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" 
This does not mean apple on the breath will deter a doctor like garlic to Dracula.  But eating well will certainly cause less health issues in the long term.

One that holds true and literally and metaphorically is
"Red and yellow, kill a fellow."
Literally, it refers to comparing the skin patterns of coral snakes to king snakes in order to tell which is poisonous.  When the red and yellow rings touch, you know you are dealing with a poisonous coral snake.

Metaphorically, I believe it's also quite true.  Below are a few examples of how you can recognize many common, every day situations that if you could get too close could cause a slow poisoning of your person.  Many businesses choose colors based on "color psychology."  Based on these principles, an organization often chooses red since it is quickly noticed and related to excitement and yellow because it can often be associated with feeling happy.  Some also see these two colors as a way of encouraging a "quicker stay."  Here are a few examples.  The list is not conclusive of the "poisonous snakes" out there, but it's helpful to have a starting point.
Drastic action should be taken to protect the poor and desperate in our communities. Some Texas cities are doing too little too late I fear.
Here's a satirical website pointing out the evils of Predatory Lending.

Ahhh, comfort food. And salads? Maybe they are changing their image.
To paraphrase a professor of mine: "How do you define 'bueno'?"
Would you prefer extra corn syrup or more deep fried? At least there is an alternative to the meal I grew up on.
Welcome to the biggest, baddest snake around. Everyone knows, but we keep going back.
I'll probably catch some flack from friends and my mom who swear the vegetable plate is a healthy option.  It could be if you stick to the lighter options.
Even from a distance, it looks menacing, doesn't it?
While you may not have seen this one coming, a brief viewing of "The Office" reminds us that these guys are causing smaller, local companies to close down.  But I guess any big box store could be put in this category.
Anybody need a mortgage through possibly unethical behavior?
The light and the way to get your car going.  An opportunity to get the poison airborne.  Oh, Big Oil.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any to add?  Am I off-base?  I'd love to hear your thoughts about my claim that these are big "snakes."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Goodbye, first car. Thanks for the good times.

Last week I said goodbye to my first car -- my 2002 manly VW Jetta TDI.  It wasn't planned, but it turned out to be a blessing.

Angela and I were in Wichita Falls for the Spook'n'Spoke bicycle ride the day before.  Sunday morning we packed up the car to join our friends at church in Dallas.  It was the second night in a row with freezing temperatures.  Angela's parents said goodbye quickly before going back inside to the warmth of the house.  Since the Jetta has always had a difficult time starting on cold mornings, I knew we would be there for a few turns of the key.  After the third attempt, however, we thought we should use the smartphone to problem-solve.  As we're looking up a few websites, Angela noticed smoke rising from the edges of the hood.  I quickly stepped out and noticed an orange glow on the ground below the engine.  A quick look under confirmed that a fire was building.  I told Angela to get out and check for a fire extinguisher in her parents' place.  I then advised her dad to call 911.

By the time the fire department arrived, the car was finished.  I have a few pictures below.  Unfortunately, none of them show the three foot flames coming out of the sides of the hood.

I'm thankful for the Jetta.  It served me well for 10 years.  I'm also thankful for the people at Augustine Insurance in Dallas and Gene Litton's people in Wichita Falls, both Allstate people.  They turned my car into a sort of phoenix:  Rising from the ashes, a check appeared.  Finally, thanks to my parents for a great car.  It served me well for 169,000 miles.  Though I don't recommend VWs to others due to their cheap, plastic interiors, this one had a great engine and took me to LA and back many times.

Do you have any good stories about how you ended your relationship with your first car?  I'd love to see how you said goodbye.

Now for some pics.  (By the way, I hate Blogger when it comes to pictures.  Apologies.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A selfish kind of gospel

This morning I experienced one of the most selfish versions of salvation I've ever experienced.  Here are the five points of why "I would become a Christian today":
  1. God wants me to become a Christian.
  2. The Christian life is better/healthier/more beneficial.
  3. My life could end unexpectantly.
  4. My heart could harden.
  5. Jesus could return today.
While those things may be true, I left church this morning feeling like something was missing.  I felt as if someone was trying to sell me eternal life insurance -- better to have it just in case -- rather than a loving God.  In the end it just came across to me as selfish.

Since I was visiting the church (and I have a problem with arrogance), I refrained from sharing my thoughts with the preacher.  But I was saddened by the prescription for a sickness that is really just a symptom of the deeper sickness.

I kept waiting to hear the word "love."  The only mention was in a quoting of the KJV John 3:16 used as evidence of point 1.

I wanted to hear that "God is love," the key part of that being that we are to love others.  I walked away thinking, "If I don't have to love others this is the easiest -- and cheapest -- way to eternal life ever.  That is a 'good' reason to become a Christian."

I wanted to hear something about "community."  Instead I was left thinking all I had to do was repent and be baptized -- this was something I did all on my own.

I knew it wouldn't happen, but I was longing to hear something about serving "the least of these."  Unfortunately many church congregations would rather ignore the list of things we are called to do in lieu of the list of things we should not do.

When we are "signing the papers" looking toward the future, we ignore the fact that Jesus has already come once.  During that time he taught us how to live as if heaven was already here.  The key: love.

Without the key ingredient of love, the gospel is reduced to the selfishness of being all about you.  That is cheap and misses the point of the Good News.  The Gospel is anything but selfish -- that is the reason you should become a Christian.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A good lesson for me to learn: Stop teaching

"I've been teaching empty classrooms for years."
After reading several good bloggers's posts, I recognized something different about my blog posts.  Whereas many great posts end strongly with a question, my posts -- attempts at reflection -- often end with something that I don't set out to do:  A lesson.

If you blog or have read just about any article about blogging, you can probably tell me that I'm not supposed to end it with a lesson; I'm supposed to end it with an invitation for a response.  Even most (maybe some) preachers with blogs know that.

My problem seems to be rooted in how I relate to people. 

If you've seen The Hangover part II (please don't if you haven't), you might remember a scene where Alan Garner flashes back to the night no one else can remember.  He sees himself and his friends as 12 year-olds.  It explains a lot about him.  The scary thing is that I sometimes act like I see everyone else as a 12 year-old.  The exception is myself:  I'm the adult.  And what do adults do?  They teach children valuable lessons.

How jacked up is that?
Not really sure what's happening here, but it's jacked up, too.
It's another sad reminder that I pretend the world revolves around me.  It's like I've already forgotten that which I don't want to be reminded of.  I am so thankful that I'm not as important as I pretend to be.  But why do I keep pretending I'm so important?  If anything, I'm the 12 year-old boy in a world of people who know better than me.

I'm far from a prolific blogger, but that's no excuse for not loving people and recognizing how important and how smart they are.  I think that's the reason for it deep down.  And it's definitely something I'm trying to recognize and change.

This is where I'm supposed to end with a McGuffin, a film device now used incorrectly in social media.  This is also something I'm not good at.  Maybe this will invite a response, though: 

I think many of us struggle with everyday struggles against selfishness and ego.  Mine exhibits itself in the need to teach a lesson.  I'd love to hear [read] about any ways you see this in yourself, and -- even better -- how you have battled against it.  Hopefully this will encourage Angela that there is hope for me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hire this man

If you see the header below show up on your desk, I recommend you contact this person immediately.
You're probably thinking, Wow. Is that Calibri font? How original. Hired!
I'm primarily looking to reengage in the world of higher ed again.  This time I want to be working at the intersection of social justice, service-learning, and global experience.  If it doesn't exist at your university yet, let me know.  I'm preparing my project proposal.

Angela and I would appreciate your prayers during the search.  We're both nervous already, getting ready to return.  Searching for a job just adds to it.

Blessings and thanks for the help you can offer.  If you know of any opportunities, let me know.  Also, if you think there is a better font than Calibri for a resume, share your recommendations.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self-Reflection #18 (or thereabouts)

I keep thinking of this quote from a "30 Rock" episode a while back:

Liz Lemon [to Jack]:  "I'm sorry you got caught up in another one of Liz Lemon's adventures."
Jack Donaghy:  "My adventures!  I am the protagonist!"
I laughed a lot when I first heard this.  It's a great line -- after all, we're each the star of our own life.  Then I thought more about it.  As I did so, it became even more true:  I think I'm the star.

It's definitely what led my wife to say, "Justin thinks he's cooler than he really is."  I didn't laugh as much when I heard this, but it definitely got me thinking.

I remember when I was a big-time 8th grader.  I was on the bus heading home having a conversation with a 6th grader.  In a nonchalant manner she called me a "nerd."  I began to make my case as to why this was not true.  After arguing away her claim, point by point, she simply said, "I still think you're a nerd."  This girl was simply saying the same thing that Angela told me:  "Justin, you think you are cooler than you."

I just wish it hadn't taken 18 years to realize that it is so true.

Since I've been living my life as the protagonist of "Justin Schneider's Adventures," I haven't stopped to ask myself whether this is really my story.  In a way, it is.  But in a major way, it is not.

As a follower of God through Christ, the big story is his.  His love adds import to my role, but I'm not the protagonist. I keep thinking of the line by Kundera (or Stanislavsky), "There are no small parts, only small actors"  (said long before height-challenged Dustin Hoffman or Tom Cruise).  Being a part of his story doesn't make us less important; it just makes him more important.  Our role is to play the hell outta what we're given.  That means all of what Jesus said, which Paul does a pretty good job of paraphrasing in Romans 12

Like Angela and that 6th grader did for me, Paul clearly reminds us "Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us" (Romans 12:3, NLT).  

That's enough for today.  It's about time to start again tomorrow.  I'm going to begin with this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.