Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Muncie Boyhood-Murphy's Law and a Stapler

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

That’s known as Murphy’s Law, and it’s true of many things. 

You never have a flat tire in the garage…nope, it will obviously happen on the interstate highway.  And, then, it won’t happen when you’re dressed in jeans and a work shirt.  No.  Rather, it will only happen when you’re dressed up in a nice suit.

If you drop a quarter on the kitchen floor, it will automatically roll under the stove.

The guy in front of you will only hit the brakes when you look down.  BOOM!

If one tiny chicken bone is left in the pot of chicken & noodles, It will end up with it on my plate.  FACT!

And, if the seam of your pants rips from front to back, it will only do so in public, and in a crowd.  EXPERIENCED!

I’ve officially ripped out my pants four times…every time in front of a group.

Event One

Sometime late in my high school career, I attended a Fairlawn Church of Christ youth group event at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Often I would have driven myself, but thanks to Murphy and his law, I had decided to ride with the group in the church vehicle.  So, when I bent down to catch that softball someone tossed my way and I heard (and felt) that seam tear in my jeans, I had no choice but to retreat to the back of the Chevy 15-passenger van.  I resigned myself to social self-seclusion.  I was sitting dejected on the rear seat when I was rescued by one of the girls.  She handed me her hooded sweatshirt and I tied it around myself; then returned to the festivities.  Problem solved.  I may have looked like a giant teenage baby with a cloth diaper, but I still managed to hit a homerun or two in the softball game.

Event Two

I’d gone off to Williamstown Bible College in West Virginia, and each spring and fall, the ministry students traveled to another city to participate in a week-long “campaign.”  In the spring of my second year, we held a campaign at the Lindberg Road Church of Christ in Anderson, Indiana.  On the last night of the event, after all the official programs were over, the whole crew gathered at a local family’s home for a party...a local family with three teenage daughters.  At this point, I’m twenty years old…and still enough of a kid to enjoy hanging with all the teens.  So, there I was in my gray dress pants…my fairly old gray dress pants…out in front playing basketball.  The ball went up.  The ball went down.  I bent over to get it.  RIP!  Front to back!  There I was, undies to the wind, in front of all the guys…and more importantly, in front of all the girls.  Luckily, I had an extra pair of pants in the car, so I jumped in and slipped the extra pair over the ripped pair and returned to the party.

Event Three

After college, I returned home to Muncie and involved myself with the college-age group at my home church.  Among the many various activities was an annual bus trip to Chicago for a seminar.  It was March.  There was snow on the ground.  It was a long bus ride, and we stopped at a rest area along I-65.  Now, before I go on, you need to know that all of the luggage was piled up in the back five rows of the bus.  It was just thrown in there in no particular order.  Anyway, the whole group of passengers…goofy college boys and cute college girls…, well they all piled out to go take a leak.  Boys being boys, and snow being on the ground, a snowball fight naturally ensued.  I bent over to get me a good frozen missile when I heard (and felt) the opening of my rear window.  RIP!  Front to back!  I quickly retreated to the men’s room and sent a friend to retrieve my suitcase.  Of course, people started to ask: “Where’s Mike.”  My friend, being the honest guy he was, replied: “Oh, he ripped his pants out, so we’ve gotta get his bag for him to change.”  Of course, my return to the bus was met with more than one giggle and snicker.  My face was as red as my frozen butt.

Event Four

A couple of years later and I’m all grown up.  I have a full-time job slingin’ bearings at Bearings, Inc at the corner of Liberty & Willard streets.  I spent my days answering the phones and helping customers at the counter.  There were eight or nine of us in the branch plus a constant flow of customers.  A guy came in and asked for something we had in the warehouse.  I headed back to get it.  It was on the bottom shelf, so I bent over to get it.  RIP!  Front to back!  My fanny was in the breeze again!

So, I called to the warehouse guy:  “Hey Terry!  Can you help me out?”

“What do you need?” he replied.

“I’ve ripped my pants out.  Can you take this up to the guy at the counter for me?  Just tell him that I got tied up with something back here, so I asked you to take care of him.”

“Sure,” he says with a sneaky grin.

I grabbed a stapler and headed to the bathroom.  He grabbed the stuff and headed to the counter.

A few minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom with a pair of pants that you couldn’t get through the security gate at the airport to find an office full of sneaky smiles and a guy at the counter that was belly-laughing.  The information was too good for my warehouse guy to keep to himself. 

I overcame the embarrassment within a few minutes, but sitting at my desk was precarious the rest of the day.  There is a great reason that clothing companies do not use staples to make trousers.

So, take it from me.  Murphy’s Law will guarantee that if you wear your pants until they are threadbare, the butt seam will split at the most inopportune time.  Of course, maybe it wasn’t Murphy’s Law…maybe I was just a clothing dork.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Grace and the Soldering Iron

Many years ago, I did a message on how guilt is like the sense of touch.  I said it was kind of like when as a kid, you put your hand on a hot stove…that burning pain warned you that you were doing something that you shouldn’t.  I said that guilt was the same way.  It was something that God put on our conscience that taught us that doing wrong was bad for us so that we would stop doing those things.

However, I was off-base.

For example, once in high school I took a shop class on Electricity.  As I was working a little soldering project, I inadvertently reached up and grabbed the wrong end of my soldering iron.  After I stopped screaming and got done rinsing my burning hand under the cold water spigot, I had learned to never do that again….and I haven’t.

For another example, as a kid of about 18 years old, I had a moped; one of those old Batavus mini motorbikes that had goofy pedals sticking out of the sides.  I took off on it one day and rode over to a friend’s house.  I didn’t go far…only a half mile or so…and I happened to wonder if the muffler was hot after such a short ride.  Now, I know that right now you’re thinking:  “He couldn’t be that dumb!”  Well, I WAS that dumb at eighteen years old.  That’s right.  I reached down and touched it.  That hot, searing pain taught me to never do that again, and I never have.  Lesson learned.  I’m not that dumb any more.

But, guilt doesn’t seem to have that effect.

I seem to be quite capable of doing the same dumb, sinful things over and over again…feeling guilty…then feeling guilty again…without ever seeming to learn to avoid those things in the future.

I’ve finally figured out after all of these years that beating myself up and feeling all guilty…while it does serve the purpose of driving me toward repentance…does nothing with regards to preventing me from doing the same stupid things over and over again.  (Of course, maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only one who seems to fall into the same self-imposed temptation traps over and over again.  Would you tell me if I’m not?)

Anyway, guilt is simply not effective in teaching me anything useful in breaking that cycle.  Guilt is really kind of like burning your hand on the soldering iron, then forgetting how much that hurts a few days later and doing it again....and again...and again.

But, I think I’ve finally found something that is effective…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  (That’s you, me, and even that goofy kid with his pants hanging around his rear and the nose ring poking out of his nostrils.)  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, (That’s all those stupid things you, me, and that goofy kid seem to keep doing.) and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  Titus 2:11-14

Did you catch it?

The grace of God TEACHES us to say no.  It’s not the guilt…it’s the grace.

I have decided that from now on, if I’m falling short….no…wait…scratch that…WHEN I fall short, it’s not that I need to feel more guilty….I don’t need to have a deeper understanding of how messed up I am.

What I need when I fall short is a better understanding of how deep, how wide, how incredibly amazing is the grace of God.

Only through a deeper knowledge of grace can I hope to LEARN to say no…and to live a godly life.

Maybe you knew that all along, but I’m just glad the light bulb finally lit up for me.