Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cubes, puzzles, and what-not

Long, long ago, I was a senior in high school. And, one of my classes was a lovely 2-hour block called AP Chemistry. Which was a great class. It had, essentially, a room full of nerds, a few non-nerds, and some wannabe nerds, in one classroom for 2 hours. Occasionally, it had this group of people in a chemistry lab for 2 hours. Which was borderline scary. This was the group of people smart enough to be concerned when the chemistry teacher let us know that someone had stolen the jar with the 1-pound block of sodium in it. We didn't think it was cool, we knew it was dangerous for someone not among the nerdy to be roaming about with a chemical that would catch fire if it contacted water.

Trouble came to AP Chemistry when our teacher had a heart attack, or needed heart surgery, or something like that. It's one thing for a substitute teacher to hold kids down for 50-minutes. It's a whole different story to hold them back for 100 minutes. Especially when they are bright, energetic, almost as smart as some of the subs, and bored out of their ever-lovin' minds. Seriously. Since Mr. Wood was out for an indefinite period of time, the district didn't get a long-term, certified sub. They just got a daily sub to cover the class. They even found one that could get the basic Chemistry classes doing some learning. But they never really found anyone that could hang with the AP crowd. Why? Well, for one, we were the first AP Chem class Jacksonville High had had in a long time, and there weren't really lesson plans, aside from the ones at Mr. Wood's house. Mix in high school students who were essentially trying to do their first semester of college while in high school, as well as sort out all the personal life issues that seem important in high school, and play football, be in the band, cheerlead, act, work, do scholarship apps, college apps, and, well, just basically fill up the days with lots of stuff, and the stress/insanity meter was just maxed with no teacher and no answers.

Enter the Rubik's Cube, that lovely mind-blowing challenge of the 1980s. Yes, to the first Gameboy Generation, an analog puzzle came to school. One of the guys in class had learned how to do one, and brought it one day, as something to keep him busy in class. What followed was a 2 or 3 day course in solving the Cube.

I got good enough that I could solve a Rubik's Cube in a little under 3 minutes. Certainly not world record, but, I'm a preacher, so I learned to do the Cube as I talked through various lessons that I thought it illustrated well. And I've done it many times over the years.

Just not recent years. Much like my grasp of French, skills with Greek, and saxophone playing, I've not invested the time to hold my skill level up with the Rubik's Cube. Which is, truthfully, kind of sad. It's fun to do, it's a great crowd/attention getter, but now I can't really do it.

How does this matter? Am I just whining about things I can't do anymore? No, this has a point. We all have skills of various sorts and types. If we use those skills, improve those skills, we'll keep them. If not, they'll fade away.

Which leads to this question: What has God allowed you to learn, that you're neglecting? Are there skills He has given you the opportunity to develop that you've discarded? What will you do about it?

We shouldn't allow skills that are useful for the Kingdom to fade away without a thought.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are skills that, I think, we develop for a season in life, and then we move on. I have serious doubts that marching band skills are that crucial anymore for me, but the sound tech skills are still needed. I'm alright without the high-end calculus, although derivatives are still helpful, so some things are there for a time, and then you let them go. I don't have to work a fast-food drive-thru anymore, but I still have to interact with people.

So, consider the skills you've been given. Use them, hold on to them, until God says to let them go. Take the lessons and move forward. Especially if God is calling you, as He did Abram, to leave the life you've known behind. It's sometimes the evidence of faith to pack away the tools, to sell the store, to resign the job and go forward in trust.

The balance comes in prayerfully seeking the answer this question: What are you trusting in? Are you trusting God or your abilities? Is He at work in the skills He's given, or are you telling Him how He has to work in you?

I'm going to leave you with a question, because, if you're a believer in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you, and hopefully have a Bible, and have to answer this for you, and I can't.

How do think of yourself? That God has blessed you with skills? Or that God is blessed to have you?



  1. Oh Doug, brother, you are bringing back memories! I, too, conquered The Cube in high school. All it took was sophomore English and "Beowulf".

    That said, your point is well said.


  2. Very funny and thoughtful Doug....I just took a newspaper to class to blow off time. Crossword puzzles and drawing moustaches on the pictures!

    Those were the days. :)


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