Friday, July 6, 2012

It's Only Hair

     Money's tight, so when I walk past a sign that says "$8 haircuts for men by Vivian," I take notice. Never mind that the salon used to be called "Lovely Lady Coiffures." It is now "International Hair and something something." AND, Viv only charges 8 bucks. This was a place I had to patronize at least once. I had a gut feeling it would be an experience to remember.
     When I walked in, Viv was casually sweeping the floor and told me to take a seat. As I settled in, Viv kept sweeping, veeeery casually, and then started to prep her hair cutting tools. She asked me what I wanted and I pointed to a picture on the wall and said, "Just do what that guy has." Right as she was about to clip my sides, the phone rings and I wondered if Viv would be the type to answer the phone in the middle of a hair cut. Viv goes and answers the phone and starts giving directions in her native tongue very loudly to the caller. Apparently, they weren't getting in on the other end, so Viv kept repeating herself and got louder each time. Once she returned she told me that they were here from New York and she didn't have time to see them, so they were coming to the shop. Yes, Viv would be entertaining family during my hair cut.
     Viv finally took the clippers to my head but suddenly stopped and said, "Sorry," and something else I couldn't understand because the clippers were right next to my ear, but I was thinking "Sorry" isn't really what you want to hear come out of your haircutter's mouth.
     Then the family arrived and as she was still clipping, she shouted out some greetings or instructions to her loved ones. And sure enough, she walks over to them and continues the not so light banter. But I just kept thinking, "8 bucks for this experience."
     Viv returned and asked me if my hair was short enough. As I checked out the top, no, it wasn't, She suggested using some gel, but I had her take some more off. As she did, she says, "Oh, I see what I did." Again, not something you want to hear from your hair cutter. Then she muttered something about my gray hair. I'm just going to assume that she was calling it distinguished.
     As she wrapped it up, she was blowing the hair off me with a hair dryer, and as I stood up and was walking away, she was still blowing the hair off me with the hair dryer. I paid my 8 bucks plus tip and was on my way, but not before Vivian said to me, "Come again."
     Once I got home and on further inspection, I found that Vivian took me literally when I said, "No sideburns." She had raised my sideburns higher than they have ever been in my life. Now I know what she was apologizing about. But it's just hair, and it was only 8 bucks and quite a memory. And the crazy thing is, in a month I'll probably be visiting Viv again and paying 8 bucks for another experience. The even crazier thing is, I'll probably be taking my son!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Just Want to Help People

     I started attending seminary classes mostly out of convenience. My denomination's theological seminary was opening a branch at the church where I was on staff. And we were given scholarships and a discount for enrolling in classes. Hey, why not? But could I do it? I had three kids five and under, like under my feet, in addition to a full-time ministry. I hadn't been in school for fourteen years. Could I do this? I took it one class at a time.
    In one of those classes, I observed my professor's passion for the topic. Being a father and husband in a blended family, he was driven to help others affected by divorce. This class was designed to equip us as pastors to minister to this population in the church and their special needs. The professor was so... impassioned! There's no other word. He lived out the painful experience he was teaching us about. He studied the topic, he wrote books and materials and started a ministry. As I sat in one of his sessions, being remarkably impressed by him, I said to myself, "I just want to help people." I'll never forget that moment. I wasn't feeling called to that specific people group (though I have used the information gleaned in that class on several occasions), but I just felt impressed to help others. I didn't know who or what issues I would be tackling, I just wanted to help in a way that I hadn't before.
     As the years passed and our focus in ministry became more clear, I transferred to a university that offered a Master's in Pastoral Counseling. This resonated with me. In other classes I would get A minuses and B's, but I got solid A's in all my counseling classes, affirming that impression of just wanting to help people.
     About an hour ago I finished my Master's program. Recalling the last four years and working on this task boggles my mind. We took a trip to Disneyland and played all day then I had to study all night. When we went back to Springfield, IL to be commissioned as US Missionaries, I lugged my heavy textbooks on the plane because there were book reports to write and discussion board posts to create. On my first fundraising tour, I would get up early in the morning to get some homework done before driving off to my appointments. We left our home church of 17 years. We established a non-profit ministry. We were living life and all the while I had looming due dates and tests to take. But now, the last test has been taken. I have finished. This is probably as close to an awards show as I'll ever get so...
     I'd like to first thank my God for seeing me through. There were several times I didn't think I could do this and I begged Him for help. And He helped. I want this to be for His glory and purposes.
     I'd like to thank my wife for her support and belief in me. I know it's cliche' but it doesn't make it any less true: I could not have done this without her.
     My kids... Now I don't have to tell them "no, because I have homework," or "don't bother me, I'm taking a test!" I know they're grateful for that.
     I'd like to thank my professors, each one bringing a unique dynamic to my experience. Each of their names have been logged in my journal and the notebooks saved, so they can be credited when necessary in the future.
     And I would like to dedicate this achievement to my parents. This is when it gets hard, when they're not here to witness these things, but I know no one would be more proud of this accomplishment than those two dear and dearly missed people.
     So, now what? I just want to help people.