Scrubbing Toilets

To close out 2012 and kick off 2013, I spent better part of 6 months in a constant state of emotional torment. In the midst of a very critical decision making process, I felt like a child somehow positioned on both sides of the world’s biggest see-saw. The highs seemed astonishingly high and the lows incredibly low. The relative ease in which I was able to change directions actually turned out to be quiet troublesome to me. Up and down, up and down, up and down with that rhythmic squeaking that almost lulled me to sleep, not wanting to ever make the decision.

seesaw2Part of me wished that my see-saw partner would have been that much bigger kid. You know, the one that had all of the leverage due to his weight? At any moment, he could plunge down and send me soaring into the sky like a bottle rocket, only to jump off just as I reached the highest point, causing me to plummet down at an even more accelerated rate until the ground, my seat, and my tailbone would join forces to bring me to an abrupt stop. Yes, I actually hoped for such a happening.

The showdown taking place in my head was a career choice. I was faced with choosing between a full-time position as a campus pastor with my church, Fellowship of the Parks, or staying at the Dallas Fire Department and preparing to take a promotional exam to hopefully become a Lieutenant. Here is the single question that created the most indecision and was the root of all of my internal struggle: which career would be living within God’s will for me?

I addressed the idea of feeling a “calling” in a previous post Calling All Ninjas, but I was recently reminded of another lesson I learned throughout this process: you can live within God’s will for you no matter your circumstances. My wife Ann was wise enough to point this out to me when she told me, “you don’t have to work for a church to serve the Lord.” She could not have been more right. There were plenty of guys on the job at DFD serving the Lord each and every day, and there are probably equally as many church staff members out there who are not serving Him. The truth is that you get to decide daily how you will use your circumstances and circle of influence to impact other people, whether you’re a fireman, a pastor, or the custodian at a local high school.

CUSTODIAN OR COUNSELOR?

Charles Clark (pictured at right) became the custodian at Trinity High School in Euless, TX a couple of years before I arrived there in October of 1992 in the middle of my sophomore year. Mr. Clark was recently the subject of a short new piece covered by On the Road. (Click the link under the picture to watch the short video.) Mr. Clark is a great example of what I would consider living out God’s will within his given circumstances. He could easily have chosen daily to clean the bathrooms, empty the trash, lock the doors, and quietly slip out for the day. Instead, Mr. Clark has chosen to use his profession, his love for people, and his influence to impact the lives of the people around him. Here are 3 lessons that we can all learn from the janitor at my alma mater.

1. “Once they trust you and they know you love them, you can get them to buy into what you’re selling”

The wisdom in Mr. Clark’s voice was never more apparent than when these words poured from his mouth. More powerful than any persuasive speech or marketing campaign is the power of personal relationships. Christians, please re-read and re-listen to the words of that custodian. They sound much like the words given to us through the Bible. Before you can get someone to listen to what we have to say, they have to know that we love and care about them. We are told to help everyone become believers and to teach them what we have learned (The Great Commission), but we need to be reminded that the best way to do that is to first love them. After all, the effectiveness of anything we do is affected by the way we love people (see Matthew 22:37-40). A person does not value your input until you make them feel loved, respected, and cared for by you. Your circle of influence is directly proportionate to the number of people that feel like you genuinely care about them. I suspect that Charles Clark has a circle of influence that is, at a minimum, the size of the Trinity High School campus.

2. Do things because they need to be done, whether they are your job or not.

I am in the process of instilling a “code” to live by for me and my sons. One of those codes is that Macheca men will right wrong. I feel like God calls us to stand up for what is right at all times, not just when it is easy or convenient. It is always our responsibility to take part in fixing what is broken, in healing who is hurting, and standing up for those that can’t defend themselves. Mr. Clark sees that high school students living in a broken world, facing the cruel realities of a very unforgiving society are often unable to “defend themselves”. You see, even though it is not your job to help my mom change her flat tire, it is not your job to show compassion for a homeless addict, it is not your job to sit and listen to a hurting neighbor dump their issues on you in the driveway, and it is not your job to invest time in another person’s child, the world sure would be a better place if we all did. I wish I had the ability to see all things through the lens that Charles Clark sees his work. How much greater would your life experience be if everyone looked at you the way that Mr. Clark looked at his students? What if everyone saw you as being worth it? What if everyone valued you and invested in you? What if everyone did these things not only when it was their job, but all of the time because it needed to be done? I doubt any of these things are in the job description of a custodian, but there are stories of Mr. Clark purchasing clothes for students, giving them rides to jobs, even giving them a place to stay when they had nowhere to go.

3. You get out of something what you put into it.

Let’s face it, the job of a school custodian is not highly respected in our society. This is a job that could be seen as ordinary and unremarkable, negligible and unrewarding. But such is not the case at Trinity. Charles Clark sees his role as significant and far-reaching. He pours his heart and soul into the work that he does and the place that he does it. And you can tell by listening to him, that he gets great fulfillment and joy from his work. This is a prime example of reaping what you sow (see Gal 6:8-9). At the end of the interview, Mr. Clark says, “this custodian thing is working out good for me. I got a great life.” What if we all used those words to shape our outlook on our own lives? What if you lived and worked in such a way that allowed you to constantly say these words to yourself, only changing the blanks, “This ___________ thing is working out good for me. I got a great life.”

LUNCH WITH MR. CLARK

Although I never got to sit just outside of the office on that big rock with him and I never got to slowly stroll the halls with him listening to his sage fatherly advice, I have learned a great deal from Charles Clark, Custodian at THS. To be completely honest, I never had the pleasure of meeting him in our 3 years there together; however, he taught me a tremendous amount about life and perspective in just 2 minutes and 42 seconds. If anyone knows how to contact him, let him know I’d like to buy him lunch one day. T’s up Mr. Clark.

T's up

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Calling all Ninjas

Have you ever felt like you were just meant to do something? Like you were created perfectly for a certain job or maybe a specific sport? Or have you ever been watching someone do their thing and thought to yourself that they were just “born to do that”? I worked with a few men like this on the Dallas Fire Department who often made me question whether they could ever be happy doing anything else. Guys like HH, Strib, and QB just seem like they were created solely to do that job and to do it very well. Some call it being predestined and others say it is a natural ‘bent’. Christians will often use the term ‘calling’ to describe an overwhelming feeling that you are supposed to be doing something specific, as in “I feel like God is calling me into ministry.” That very topic came up this morning when a co-worker pointed over at her son and explained to me that her 5 year old son has already started experiencing this phenomenon. He dropped a bomb on her when he recently let her know that God is calling him to be a ninja. You heard me… a ninja!

ninja

My advice to the little karate kid is simply this: answer that call from God! Dude, only a select few get to be ninjas and you have to take advantage of an opportunity like that. Chances are that at some point in his young life he will be called to another line of work, but until then I suggest he put all his energy into ninjaing. 

Through personal experience, conversations with many people, and after receiving what I would call wise counsel on the matter, I feel like I have learned a lot over the last couple of years when it comes to this topic. I thought I would share 3 things that I feel we need to consider when we feel called, led, predestined, born for, or bent toward something. So before you run off to start taking ninja classes, consider these things:

1. If you say no to a calling, you will be uncomfortable.

I had a very wise older gentlemen named Jim Newsome tell me that the 2nd most miserable person in the world is the guy that felt called into ministry, but never did answer. He told me this right after I decided to leave my job as a fireman to go into vocational ministry. I appreciate him encouraging me and affirming a decision I made hesitantly. I actually turned the job offer down at one point, but after the initial relief from the stressful decision-making process, I began to feel as if something was constantly tugging at my shirt. It was similar to those times when my youngest son Jackson will pull on my shirt time after time saying, “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad Dad” until I finally give in and answer him. He gives me that look like had I just answered him in the first place, he wouldn’t have had to say my name so many times. A voice in my head kept telling me “you can’t say no” as if my decision was simply unacceptable. I’m not sure I would’ve ever been completely at ease had I not finally given in to that nagging voice. Is there something that keeps tugging on you? What is it that you just keep feeling like you have to do but haven’t acted on?

2. You can’t create your own calling.

Naturally I had to ask Jim to tell me who the most miserable person in the world was. He retorted with “the guy who wasn’t called into ministry but decided to go for it anyway.” After feeling encouraged by the first half of his little quip, I was now wondering if I would end up being that guy! I went from feeling encouraged to terrified in a matter of seconds.

Let’s face it, as cool as we know it would be, we can’t all be ninjas.It can be painfully obvious when we see people who are clearly not working within their strengths or skill set. If you saw the MVP award presentation after the World Series last week, you know what I mean. Watch the video on the left if you haven’t seen it yet. I don’t share this to insult or degrade Rikk, but I think this viral video shows the level of discomfort that can come with working outside your sweet spot. Not everyone is suited to present awards to athletes in front of MILLIONS of TV viewers. In fact, I bet very few people are comfortable doing that. I think Fox and Chevy created their own calling for Mr. Wilde and it caused him tremendous trepidation.  He was set up for failure from the get go and I feel sorry that he was put in that position.

Also under this category, I will include one of my favorite sayings. Don’t do stupid or hateful things in the name of Jesus! I am fairly sure that God will not call you to sell all your possessions and give all of your assets to a televangelist. I am quite certain He is not asking you to protest the funerals of soldiers or to hold up signs that read, “God hates _____!” We should all avoid the temptation to use the ‘God called me’ card to justify our foolish actions.

3. He may call you back later.  

Where you are and what you are doing today may look nothing like it will in the future or like it did in the past. Just because you trust your instincts and follow what you feel you are being led to do, you cannot be assured that you won’t be led down a different path later on in life. We have to be open to change and to opportunities as they arise. I honestly believe that God wants to use each of us to be part of His story, but we have to be willing to be flexible as the plot changes and to be open to playing multiple roles.  I hope you are willing to answer when some unexpected doors open for you. As for me, I am going to enjoy where I am right now and patiently wait for His next call, hopefully it will include a ninja.

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