CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “missions”

Interesting.

“May you lead an interesting life.”

I have no proof of this, but I have always been given to understand that this is an old Chinese curse.  I used to think that such a thought was silly; who wants to lead a boring life.  Then I understood just how stressful and difficult it can be when one’s life is “interesting,” and I longed for a life that was perhaps a bit less “interesting.”  I even found that for a while.  However, I find myself at a place now where my life is again a bit interesting.

For a while I’ve been in a bit of a quandary.  I have wanted to post here, but was finding it difficult to develop a relevant topic.  And then I heard Jeremy Riddle’s “Sweetly Broken” on our local Christian radio station, WCTL (BTW, they also stream and can be found at www.WCTL.org).  This song touched me, and after pondering for a while, I realized why my life is currently interesting and why this song resonated at this point in time.  There are several components to where I am right now.

First, a couple of weeks ago I found myself in an odd state of mind.  It occurred to me that I was quite frightened of a situation in which I am close to finding myself.

In previous posts I have discussed our Pastor, Bob Klecan in one reference or another.  I have had the privilege of grabbing an occasional cup of coffee with him on several occasions.  We have discussed everything from theology and “the church” to The Beatles, Vietnam, and sports.  And two things I have noticed: First, Bob Klecan is extremely smart.  And second, he is often underestimated.  He is a very humble man, able to discuss a variety of topics, understands deep issues, and can preach the word in a way that is understandable both in theory and in application.

I once asked him, “How do you deal with people underestimating you all the time?”  The look on his face was priceless.  He was shocked, first of all because it is true, he is consistently underestimated, but also because someone noted that fact.  He asked me how I knew that.  My reply was that it was easy for me to recognize that in him because I am underestimated all the time as well.

Note to all.  I am not bragging here, and this is not a “How cool am I?” piece.  Puffing myself up is not my style, far from it.  But I need to acknowledge  some things in this post which could look like bragging.  Not so.

Anyhow, with that proviso, I admit that I’m a fairly smart individual.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy experiencing new thoughts and new situations.  However, I come from a blue-collar family, solidly middle-class; not intentionally identifying ourselves as intellectual.  My Father was a non-commissioned officer in the army in WWII, and after that a farmer.  After selling the farm (where I grew for the first six years of my life), Dad purchased a service station in Springboro, PA.  He later took a job as a tool and die maker, working in that job until he retired.  Dad also did tax work on the side, which is about the only post-High School education he had.  Mom, due to family situations prior to marriage, did not have a chance to complete High School.  Relatively common in her era.

My point in giving some description of my family’s levels of education is to show that I do not come from a background of  higher education.  Some people come from families of doctors, attorneys, accountants, whatever.  Those families more or less expect their children to also get an education, the key word being also.  I did not grow up in that situation.

Although they had no college background, my family expected me to go to college, and it was just understood that I was going to college my entire life.    It wasn’t until decades later I discovered that when my parents adopted me, the judge granting the adoption made my parents promise that their son would get an education.  My parents were two of the most honest and honorable people I have ever known and when they made that promise, they were determined to keep it.  And they did.

My high school years were spent in Saegertown Area High School (they called it Penncrest, but we that went to Saegertown knew better).  I kind of coasted through high school, and struggled through my undergraduate work at Penn State.  I wasn’t much of a student at that time, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find new stuff fun.  I did.  Leaving home and going to Behrend College of Penn State for the first time was cool!  Going to Main Campus from Behrend was cool!  Getting into my major class work as a junior and senior was cool, and I did a lot better, gradewise.  Within a few months of graduating from Penn State, I got a job as a policeman, my dream job, and I have been a policeman for over thirty years.

All this background is to get to this:  my entire life I have hidden my intelligence, my drive, and my love of learning and knowledge.  Cops are the best bunch of people one could ever find outside the military, and I am honored and privileged to belong to that fraternity.  And cops hate a peg that sticks out.  If someone is unique, cops will do whatever it takes to pound that person back into the hole.  This isn’t necessarily an “I’m threatened” kind of thing, either.  We depend on each other for our lives.  Very few professions worry about some knucklehead deciding for whatever reason to put a bullet into them because they had a bad day.  Cops have to know, viscerally, that the guy next to them is dependable, and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.  A fellow officer’s oddities and uniqueness makes cops nervous, so they do what they must to feel secure that they are safe.  And that includes figuratively beating on intellectually minded people (I was also different from most cops because of the “peculiar and strange” values I brought with me due to my understanding of Christianity, but that isn’t what I’m discussing here).  So I learned (at least to some degree) to suppress that part of me.  Note:  This is not a value judgement or a criticism.  I understand the necessity of what cops do, and it is what it is.  It’s just not all that pleasant sometimes.

So here I am, thirty (plus) years later, and I find myself in a new position.  I am the Chief of Police at a University in northwestern Pennsylvania, Edinboro University of PA.  I enjoy this stage of my career, partly because of the position, of course.  I think I am doing some good where I am, and I have the chance to make a great police department even a bit better.  But for me, part of the uniqueness is being on a college campus.  I am an administrator at an institution that not only appreciates intelligence, it encourages people to apply that intelligence and to develop it.  I have found myself on various committees that I would have never dreamed of a few years ago, and I am enjoying that.  I find myself in debates with friends on the far end of the political scale from me, and have loved the debate.  My wife and I have visited an “Athiests and Agnostics” meeting, and I now have a couple of acquaintances that intrigue me and I look forward to developing a relationship with them.

And here is where I found myself frightened.  I find that I am close to being seen as a “smart” person, someone who, if not exactly an intellectual, enjoys intellectual debate and can hold his own in that area.  And not only seen as smart, but valued because of that.  I have suppressed that part of me for so long that it is scary to tap into it.  As a couple of examples, when we attended the Athiest and Agnostic meeting, the discussion was based on John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” an essay he had written in 1849.  It is a philosophical treatise on Utilitarianism, and definitely not light reading.  I read it for the discussion, and I loved it!  I have not participated in philosophical readings or discussion in over ten years, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that.  I also took college level Spanish 101 and 102 this summer, and my comprehension of a foreign language was better than I have ever experienced.

There are also a number of events occurring this summer.  I am stepping out on a number of issues: instead of sitting in one place, Beth and I took the conscious step to confront some issues that had been effecting us.  So instead of just passively standing still and taking shot after shot from life, we decided to deal with it, and consequently we are in a much better place now.  I decided to have needed corrective surgery that I had been putting off for some time (healing nicely, thank you).  We are dealing with the loss of my Mother last fall, as well as other family issues.  I volunteered to be on a council that is quite frightening in and of itself, but I felt led to do volunteer, and so was obedient.  And we are going back to the Dominican Republic in January.

If you have read my posts regarding the one-week missions trip to the Dominican Republic which started this blog, you already know how astounding it is that I would want to go back this year.  I didn’t just kind of not want to go to the DR, I did not want to go, and I was angry that I had agreed to go and was being held to that agreement.  But, being the son of honorable people, I was determined to honor that commitment, even if I hated every single second of the time I was there. Read my posts in chronological order to see the progression, but suffice it to say that God worked in amazing ways in me over that week. I came back from the DR with a renewed spirit and huge gratitude for God’s love for me.

This year, I felt that we needed to go back.  However, no one at church had made any effort for that to happen and I felt God’s prompting to be the driver.  I contacted our team leader from last year, we conferred with Pastor Klecan, and we got a game plan together.  Last Sunday at church I made an announcement regarding the trip, and seventeen people showed up to discuss their participation in the DR trip in January.  Fifteen want to go, but only four can fund the trip for themselves, and the deadline for the down payment (and thus one’s ability to go in January) is two weeks from tomorrow.  This past week, an anonymous donor paid for five to go.  We have six to fund.

I have been battered and bruised.  Crushed, numb.  But I see changes in me, in the way I view things, in my outlook.  I see healing and the return of my desire to excel, to learn, to push myself and to “push the envelope.”  Although I am more than a little uneasy at where I am right now, I feel my sense of God’s presence returning and it is far from boring.

An interesting life?  Yeah, it sure is.  And for now, I love it.  Sweetly Broken?  I’m not sure I completely understand that concept yet, but I’m far closer to understanding it than I was.

Check out Jeremy Riddle’s song “Sweetly Broken” here: http://youtu.be/fyJuKHvoPGc.

To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

Chorus:
At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

Chorus:

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

(2x’s)
Chorus:

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I am just not used to this (part one).

When we returned from our short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we talked about sharing our experiences at church, First Baptist Church in North East, PA.  I know this is pretty standard fare for people serving in this capacity.  One goes on a mission trip, comes back, and talks about the trip at church.  What isn’t standard is that I was “volunteered” to speak.  I kind of thought we would all speak for a couple of minutes, but was unanimously (minus one) voted down.  It was decided that I would speak for the group.  Lovely.

Our pastor, Bob Klecan, agreed that a presentation would be appropriate, and he figured ten minutes would be a good time for the report.  He scheduled me to speak yesterday, February 19.  I wasn’t too worried about it, I write fairly well, and I belong to Noon-Time Toastmasters in Erie, PA.  So I was comfortably confident I could turn out something coherent and present it in an acceptable fashion.  This isn’t to brag, I’m just saying that the basic skills required were not a huge concern.  I just wanted to honor God with what I did.

Through the week I worked on it, and as of Saturday I had about four minutes, thirty-eight seconds.  Wow!  Expanding this would not be difficult, I was happy to add stuff that I had been afraid would not fit.  Beth made a couple of suggestions which I incorporated, and I got the talk ready to go.  I made a few fine-tuning changes later on Saturday, and even Sunday morning until just before service started.  I prayed about it, Beth prayed about it, and we prayed about it together.  I was confident that I would at least present it ok, and not embarrass myself.  Good enough for me.

I have been fighting a cold for a week or so, but getting better.  I did not think that would be a factor.  However, on Saturday I sneezed for about five minutes straight.  When I was done sneezing, my nose became a faucet and my sinuses were completely clogged.  Beth and I serve on the worship team at church, with Beth being one of the guitarists, and I am one of the singers.  With the unbelievably nasty cold hitting like a blizzard (uh, flood?), I was doubtful I could sing, and was concerned about my ability to talk on Sunday

The cold hit me mid-morning Saturday, just before I started working on the talk.  So, I did what I would expect anyone in that position to do.  I took my laptop, got a cup of coffee, and headed out to our unattached, unheated garage to work on the missions report.  One might ask why in the world I would do that?  Well, the answer is that I had determined to smoke one of the Dominican cigars I brought back while working on the report.  And I’m not permitted to smoke my cigars in the house.  So, I was left with no choice but to work in the cold, cruel wastes of northwestern Pennsylvania, sheltered only by an unheated garage, and with a nasty cold no less!  See how cruel my wife can be?  (Kidding, honey!!)

In any event, I was fairly calm about the whole thing, cold and all.  We went to bed Saturday night, and I prayed (and we prayed) that God would take away the cold for Sunday morning.  Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea tea, NyQuil, and lights out.  Interestingly, Saturday night I wound up doing an all-nighter; I’m at the age where that means I don’t have to get up even once to use the bathroom.

Not just solemn lessons learned.

This has been a very interesting journey.  On this blog  site, I have chronicled my frustrations, my reservations, my anger at going on a short-term missions trip to the Dominican Republic.  And I have posted that much to my surprise and gratitude, it was a fantastic trip.

But in reading my posts about the trip, it might seem like this was just a solemn, pious, boring trip.  And it was anything but that.  I haven’t laughed that hard or that often in a great while, and my wife Beth said the same thing.  Of course, some of the stuff wasn’t funny to me except in retrospect, and I was so cranky about the whole thing that the laughter didn’t start until at least Tuesday or Wednesday, but that’s ok, I’m a bit slow sometimes.

It started on Sunday.  Saturday night when we arrived, we were told some of the rules, with a full orientation to be given on Saturday at 3:00 PM.  One of the things we were told right up front is that the septic systems in the D.R. cannot handle toilet paper, and they have a strict rule about not putting used toilet tissue in the toilet and flushing it.  We had to put it in waste containers beside the toilet.  In fact, our friend Jen told the entire group that if you forget and put the tissue in the toilet, “Don’t flush.  Go fishing.”  Hardy-har.  Real funny.  Especially since I forgot (just once).  Any idea how gross it is to have to retrieve such an item and put it in the waste container?  *Sigh*

At the Sunday meeting, we were introduced to the various areas available for us to volunteer our time during the week.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but at least I would be with one of my teammates from our church.  I was not real comfortable being in that place with a bunch of people I didn’t know, and took comfort in knowing I would be around at least one of the other four from home.

I am not a handyman.  I’m not too bad at home projects big or small, but I don’t enjoy them.  And (speaking in my attitude at the beginning of the week) if I had to go on this stupid trip I’ll be hanged if I do anything that smacks of handy work.  So when they said they had light construction and painting, I was able to rule them out in about a nano second.  Beth, my lovely, supportive, wonderful wife, who I held tighter on that trip than Linus held his security blanket, pipes up in a chirpy, cheerful voice, “I’m gonna paint!”  Say what?  Great, just great.  One down, but I have three to go.  Out of the remaining three, I’m fairly sure I’ll be with someone from home on one of the groups.  Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the kids in the village?  Not likely, before the end of the week, I’ll likely wind up in a Dominican jail, and wouldn’t that be just lovely?  Steph decided that was for her.  Two down, two to go.

Then there’s the prayer team, which went into the villages with the medical, dental, and optical teams (and VBS).  Ok, I pray frequently, but walking around asking strangers to pray wouldn’t likely happen at home, let alone in a place that, as we all know, I was not real thrilled to be at in the first place.  Debbie, John’s wife, decided to go with the prayer team.  Three down.  Now I’m getting nervous.

I asked John what he thought he might do, and he said he was thinking about going with the medical team.  Whew!  That’s what I was thinking, so now I’m a bit relieved.  Wow, I was worried a bit there, God, thanks that John’s going medical with me.  John and I went and sat down, and listened to the presentation by the medical team leader.  After, oh, maybe five minutes, John leans over and says, “I’m gonna go see what the prayer team’s gonna do.”  Are you kidding me??!!?  Real good, God, way to maneuver me into a position of maximum discomfort.  Was that really necessary?  Well, yeah, I guess in retrospect it kind of was.  And I have posted on what God did with it.  I can kind of giggle about it now that I’m on this side of the situation, but I gotta tell you, I was less than happy at the time.

John often wound up riding on the same cattle truck that I did, since the prayer team travelled with the medical team.  So I did have the comfort of a friend nearby, at least for the ride out and back.  But after he left me sitting on the bench, I shoulda heaved him over the side.

…more to come…

I HATE this

I have been having trouble with this D.R. trip for several weeks. A lot is baggage from the past year (that’s a blog or two in itself).  But a lot is the trip itself.  My old job was a soul killer, my new job is great.  But one thing I carried over from old job to new is that my vacation is extremely precious to me.  I need time to recoup, to rest, to energize.  That translates to me being very jealous of my time off.  I hate to waste days off on what I consider stupid stuff, I treasure it for the recovery aspect.

The D.R. trip will consume six (count ’em, six) vacation days.  Are you kidding me??  Great I need that time for me, and now I gotta use it on what is not going to be a relaxing journey.  Thus appears anxiety number one.

I hate “doing stuff.”  Beth loves going on vacation and “doing stuff,” but not me.  We used to go on vacation camping with the kids.  We would strap bicycles to the top of the car, go to the campground (often Red House, Quaker Run, or Lake Erie State Park, all in New York).  We would set up camp, I would unfold a camp lounge chair, and weld myself to it.  Beth and the girls would go for walks, bike rides, whatever.  I moved to eat, go swimming (mostly laying on the beach), eat, and go to bed.  And yes, I said “eat” twice.  But that’s it.  None of this “doing stuff.”  That has carried over.  I like thinking, I like reading, but I do not like working on the house, helping a buddy put on a roof, or changing the oil in the car.  I am perfectly content to pay someone else to do that stuff.

So here I am, looking at this stupid D.R. trip, where I am not going to relax, I am not going to refresh,  am not going to recoup.  I am going there to do stuff!!   I HATE this!!  Thus appears anxiety number two.

But I don’t get it.  This is killing me, and I don’t understand why.  I have talked about it, thought about it, worked with it, and I am still dreading this.  I’m losing sleep, my heart is racing, I’m short-tempered, and all this seems a bit out of proportion to the whole thing.  what is the problem, here!??!!

More to come…

Missionary? Not ME!!!

Just a bit of background. My wife had gone to the Dominican Republic on a short-term mission a couple of years back.  She came home refreshed, and at peace in a way I had not seen her in a long time.  She urged me to go, saying that the experience was invaluable, and that she thought it would be of tremendous benefit to me.

Understand, I am not one that relishes helping people with building, moving, rearranging, car repair, home repair, or just about anything else that one can think of to fit in this type of situation.  So when Beth suggested this, I had absolutely no qualms to inform her that such a thing was extremely unlikely.  I thought the matter closed.

Until my friend J.L. went to the D.R.  He and I are relatively close, and he knows me pretty well.  He came home jazzed, and talked the trip up, like Beth did, only more obnoxious (my observation).  It got to the point that I had to tell him to let it go, I was getting ticked, and he was pushing way too much.  So he did.

I get the feeling that he kept praying, though.  About a year ago, after a message in church,  really felt that I was supposed to commit to going to the D.R. I spoke with J.L., and he had scheduled a second trip last spring.  I told him that I was feeling God‘s leading that I should go to the D.R., and if he would commit to leading the trip, I would go the following January (January 2012).  Apparently he was a bit unhappy, as he had not relished the thoughts of going back a third time, but I told him that was my condition; “he don’t go, I don’t go.”  When he returned, he was fired up, and couldn’t wait to go again.  Crap. That angle didn’t work.

As the year went on, I forgot about it, and at the end of summer, I thought that maybe J.L. had forgotten, and whew! What a sense of relief!  He forgot, I have no idea about the sign-up dates, they are probably past, and I don’t have to go.  I thought, “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ to John until December.  Then, I can say something like, “Hey, whatever happened to the D.R. trip?”  “Oh, the sign-up dates are past?”  “Ah, man, I was gonna go, too.”

The jerk remembered.  And we signed up.  And Beth and I are going next Saturday, a week from today.  And this has been extremely difficult for me.  And this is the impetus for me to begin this blog.

To be continued…

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