Tag Archives: embarrassment

There’s a WOMAN in my bathroom!

One of the most difficult challenges of living in Asia for me?  There is always a woman in the men’s public restrooms.  I appreciate that she is there to make the place as clean and comfortable as possible, but why is she always inside?

And she doesn’t leave when I come in.  She sticks around while all the men do their business, sometimes mopping around our feet while we go.

I think it’s because women don’t know about the male code related to bathrooms.  We have certain unwritten rules that all men observe.  I don’t know if we learn them from our dads or from inconspicuous observation, but we all know them:

  • Always skip at least one urinal between men.
  • If the only open urinal is between two men, use the stall.
  • Don’t talk to the guy next to you unless you know each other well.
  • Eyes to the front, elevated approximately 110 degrees.
  • Never shake hands in the restroom.

But the most important rule is….Don’t hang around if you are done with your business.  It’s creepy.  Get in and get out.  Quickly.  That’s the rule.  I don’t even like it when there is a male custodian in the restroom.

Of course, I know what my wife will say when she reads this post.  The woman is there to supervise the men, because no matter how old we get or how much practice we’ve had, we still miss the bowl.


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Filed under accountability, Challenges, culture, Culture Shock, discomfort, funny, humor

Her First Birthday Party

Each summer, I serve as the Bible teacher for a summer camp in Texas.  The camp’s mission is to create positive memories for abused and neglected children, ages 7-11.

Two years ago, we had a little girl who was at camp for her first time. Every time she would see me, she would remind me that it was her birthday during the week, and she asked me over and over not to forget. I promised  her each time that I would be sure to remember and that we would celebrate it together.

Confession: I knew something that she didn’t.  At the camp, we always throw a birthday party for ALL the kids on Thursday night.  Many of them have never celebrated their birthdays before, so we get a church to donate enough toys to fill up a large shoebox for each child, make a giant cake, decorate the camp’s mess hall with streamers, confetti and party favors and make sure it’s an event that they will all remember!

When the night of the party arrived, I was excited for her and hoped that she would be pleased with the celebration. Amazingly, none of the older kids had let on about the party, even though they had been to camp several times before. I did my part distracting the kids with some other meaningful activities while the party decorations were completed, and then I got them lined up at the door of the mess hall, ready to go in for their big surprise.

The door opened up, loud cheers and clapping emerged, and the kids bounded inside, high-fiving all the adults and teens that had lined up to greet them!  Once past the gauntlet of celebrating big people, the kids found tables and chairs set for the biggest birthday party they had ever seen!  Party hats, juice pouches, colorful plates, napkins and plastic ware, noise makers and balloons!  Everyone excitedly took their seats and began to explore their table settings while the adults brought them cake and ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday!” to them.

When I went to see the girl after the initial surprise, she caught me off guard. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Pastor Mike! You remembered!” Over and over.  She was quite undone by the grace of it all.

I was a little embarrassed that she thought I was the reason for the party when I had really done nothing except distract the kids while the preparations were being made, but I didn’t want to ruin her moment by saying anything awkward. To her, this was a promise fulfilled and an opportunity to celebrate her birthday for the very first time.

I often think about this moment.  It both breaks my heart (for a little girl who had never had the simple gesture of a birthday party), and it humbles me.  There were dozens of people more deserving of the credit for her birthday celebration, but God allowed me to be the one that received her appreciation.  What I’ve realized is that God often allows us to get the credit for good works that we had very little to do with.  If we are honest, He does 99% of the work most of the time.  We have little to offer, and we are often selfish about offering what we do have.

I think He uses these moments to remind us of the joy we receive from joining Him in His work.  They are an incentive for us to trust Him more with our time, our talents and our treasures, and they soften our hearts toward those in need.

So, in retrospect, I’m not sure if the birthday party that night was more for the little girl or more for me.  I suspect God made the appointment for us both.


If you would like to know more about Royal Family Kids’ Camps (which are held in many places around the world), you can visit their website at http://www.rfkc.org.

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Filed under Abundance, agape love, christianity, generosity, grace, love, Service, Serving Others, unconditional love

It’s Called “Walking” Street!

So many different people have recommended that we go see “Walking Street” in Chiang Mai that we just had to go this weekend.  It’s a place where local vendors hawk their wares.  We thought we would take a few hours, see what it was all about and then head to church.  We were wrong.

 We found what we thought must be it and parked just out of range of the several booths that had been set up alongside the road.  At the time, there were several cars parked in the same place, so we had to parallel park to squeeze into a small place (“parallel wedge” might be a better description – inching forward sixteen times and back seventeen).

That accomplished, we unloaded the herd and headed to a street-side restaurant, had lunch and then began our walking tour.  About two and a half hours passed, and we were running late for church, so we started back toward the car.

But as we got closer to where we remembered parking, my anxiety began to grow.  There were a lot more booths than I remembered from a few hours ago.  In fact, there weren’t just booths on each side of the street; now they filled the middle of the road, too.  Hundreds and hundreds of vendors had brought their goods to sell, and there was maybe enough room for a motorbike to pass between some of them.

Leaving my family behind, I picked up my pace.  By the time I reached the car, I was at a nervous trot.  Then I saw it…a boat of a car in a sea of angry street-side vendors. 


Instinctively, I put my keys back into my pocket so that no one would notice that I was the owner.  Casually, with a bit of a smirk on my face to indicate how amused I was that someone would be so stupid as to park their car in the middle of this particular road, I passed by my car to survey the prospects of extricating it from the mess it was in.

It was hopeless.  I walked 50 yards up the street and only saw a congested series of expensive roadblocks just waiting to be knocked over or crushed under my tires.  I tried back the other way – no use.  Side streets – no point.  Everything was blocked. 

So, my wife and I huddled together to work out a plan.  Walk the streets for eight hours with three grumpy kids?  Nope.  Abandon the car to more responsible future owners?  Nope.  Hide out at the Wawee Coffee Shop until the whole thing blew over?  Bingo! 

Only one problem…our laptops were in the trunk.  You can’t go to Wawee without your laptops.  It would have been a definite giveaway, and by now, everyone within twenty blocks knew about the car.  Loudspeakers up and down the street repeatedly called for the owners to make themselves known for a public shaming.

There was no helping it.  The laptops had to be recovered.  Who was to do it?  For a moment, I entertained the fantasy that my wife would volunteer, but that was less likely than us navigating the clogged streets.  So, after kicking the dirt a few times, I coolly walked up to the trunk, inserted the key…and received a verbal tongue-lashing from the vendor, whose space I was blocking. 

Her English was pretty good, actually.  I’ll save you the adult-rated details, but her main point was that this was “WALKING Street!”  You don’t park your car on “WALKING Street!”  As politely as I could, I asked her if she could help me find a way out, but at this point, she said, “I’m not talking to you!” and turned away…for a moment.  Then, she started yelling at me again.

With tail between my legs, I returned to my wife, who was busy pretending not to notice me and trying to forget that we’ve been married for fifteen years and had three children together.  I gave her the laptop and told her to give the kids a good home and a good life; I was going back to the car to endure my fate.  No tears or long embraces marked our parting, just a hasty retreat, laptop bag in tow.

Returning to the car, I noticed quite a crowd had assembled.  There weren’t exactly an angry mob, but it was still too light out for the torches to be fired up.  They stood around the car discussing ways to get their lost earnings out of it.  Melt it down and recycle it?  Paint indigenous art on it and charge admission?  Convert it into the first four-wheeled tuk-tuk and transport tourists around the city?  It was either going to be one of these, or they were going to tie me to the hood as a warning to other irritating interlopers. 

Keeping my head low, I put the keys in the lock, avoiding any eye contact that might trigger the mob mentality.  I had no idea what I was going to do once I got into the car – maybe just gun it and hope for the best.  But to my suprise, as soon as I slid into the driver’s seat, a policeman emerged from nowhere.  I honestly believe he was an angel sent from God…with a bit of a twisted sense of humor. 

He led my parade the full hundred yards or so, making vendors pick up their wares and give way to the funny farang (local word for clueless foreigners).  He directed foot traffic and helped roll carts out of the way – even picked up and moved a motorcycle for me, but the entire time, he insisted on pointing me out to the people lining the parade route.  “There he is!  There’s the one you’ve been hearing about on the loudspeakers!  I’ve captured the monster!”  Then, he got out his cell phone to call his law-enforcement friends and share the story.

With my window down to hear his directions, I was treated to one-hundred yards of slow-moving humble pie.  Locals and foreigners alike laughed at me.

But to their credit, no one threw produce at me.  No one tried to pull me bodily from the car to subject me to a public beating.  No one shot out my tires.  Most got a good laugh as I confirmed all their assumptions about farangs living in Chiang Mai, but it wasn’t a mean-spirited laugh.  The only one who spit fire was the woman whose parcel of street I blocked.  I made it to the end of Walking Street with all my apendages, and the officer was too amused to even give me a ticket.

True to their reputation as people of the “Land of Smiles,” almost all the Thais grinned at me (about me) as I passed.  I lost a little face, but I had some extra to give.  And I learned a good lesson:  it’s called “Walking” Street for a reason. 


Filed under Challenges, overcoming obstacles, self-image