My First Seven Jobs

So, my big brother Jeff just wrote a blog about his first seven jobs…  like any good self-respecting little brother I decided I wanted to do so too. So let’s do this.

Lawn Care and Mover of Leaves. (Towson, MD)

leaves2Sometime in high school a friend and I decided we would start a lawn care business. How hard could it be? So we came up with a flyer and posted on a church bulletin board! We thought this would be great! Pick up some leaves for an hour, make a few bucks.

What we didn’t realize is that it actually took time and work to do lawn care and I had no experience doing it much less any time to accomplish it. My brothers had always handled the yard work to this point, or my family hired someone. We had two people hire us out of the kindness of their hearts and we spent a few hours in their yards raking leaves underneath bushes because we thought, “that’ll keep the bushes roots warm in winter.” Yeah…  I know.

On our second job, the owner of the house sent his son outside to “help.” It was suddenly very obvious that we should not be attempting to make money this way. We took down the flyer.

Floor Associate/Slightly Educated Labor at Michael’s Arts and Crafts (Towson, MD)leaves

The summer of my senior year I realized I needed a job. My Dad had passed away two years prior and I felt as though I needed to get a job and take some responsibility. So I walked into Michael’s and asked for an application. The manager was a rather flamboyant man who was excited to have someone interested in working for his store who would wear a button down shirt.

I was hired almost immediately and quickly found out that the majority of the employees who worked there were high school students that would sneak outside to get high. It was my first real job and I wanted to impress, so I worked exceedingly hard at everything and quickly set myself apart. The front end supervisor and managers would come over the intercom with some code or need and I would literally sprint to answer. This set me apart from a few of the other employees who would intentionally hide in the stock room, “waiting for the truck” that comes on Tuesday… it was never Tuesday when they were in the stockroom.

After a few months my boss asked if I’d ever been to a leather bar and said, “we should go sometime.” It was awkward. I told him that I’d love to and can I bring my girlfriend (which I didn’t have). He didn’t ask again. I worked really hard to prove myself… I can’t tell you why, but I needed to know if I could work. Maybe it was because I wanted to change the world, maybe it was because I wanted to show my mom she didn’t always have to take care of me, maybe I needed to show myself… whatever the reason, I worked hard and was good at my job.

Front End Supervisor/Master of Customers at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. (Waco, TX)

At Michael’s there is a coveted position at the front of the store. You get special keys with access to special rooms and particular responsibilities. You get to be in charge of the front of the store and small battalions of cashiers each day. As the FES you are responsible to handle returns, front of store set up, and in general anything that customers feel they need to address. The only downside is you are the first line of defense in customer complaints.

It’s actually a pretty good job. I like people, I like people talking to me, and I enjoy solving problems, so I enjoyed the front end.

Receiver/ Guy hiding in the back room at Michael’s arts and Crafts. (Waco, TX)

leaves4For a short time, the guy in charge of the trucks at Michael’s was out on medical leave. I was chosen to take his place. As the receiver at Michael’s you spend most of your time cleaning the back room and setting merchandise out in organized piles to go out to the floor. When you clock in, you walk to the back, check the log schedule, and sign off on all deliveries. It would be a great job for a person who does not like people. You are by yourself in a big ugly concrete room most of the day. The room is hot because it connects directly to the outside and in Waco Texas it’s 1 million degrees outside. Oh yeah, and this was before iPods and Smart Phones to keep you company on the down time.

I like people… I need people… I don’t like being in one big grey room all day by myself… boo to the big grey room.

Custom Framer/Store Pastor at Michael’s Arts and Crafts (North Carolina)

In the back of every Michael’s store lay an elite class of retail employee. These are “the framers.” They lurk in the back of the store and seldom come from behind their framing counter. Their ways are mysterious and there is magic and laughter from their room. The framing department at Michael’s was a coveted position. You spent most of the day handling valuable art work and designing framing for customers who wanted to pay $300-1000 to have their child’s art work preserved indefinitely.

I remember that room. Large sterile white tables with special padding. Wall mounted glass cutters and mat cutters. Ceiling mounted compressed air tubes to clean off your work station with. Cotton gloves to protect the art from your oily fingers. And the other framer. Like the sith, there are always two. This way one can handle the counter, while the other does the framing. When I worked as a framer I was also working as a youth pastor. So, I would talk through my sermons while I framed artwork. The other framers didn’t seem to mind. While I worked there I won a few awards for sales and framing. I was good at this job and it was fun to do.

It wasn’t until I had left that job that I realized the impact of living like Jesus in the framing department. The people in that store began to look to me as their pastor. None of them actually went to church, and I’m pretty certain only a few actually believed in a god much less Christ. So when I moved back to Texas and opened the card addressing me as “pastor” (a title I had never held) my heart was overcome. The people I had worked with for 2 years wrote stories about how their lives had been changed. As I look back, I’m reminded of the time I had the privilege of talking to a young man while sweeping the floor. He became a believer that night… it was amazing. Working there was fun… and difficult.

Farm Hand/Stinky jobs guys for my pastor In North Carolina

leaves5When my wife and I moved to North Carolina I was desperate to learn how to do ministry. I asked a local pastor if I could intern under him and he graciously paid me out of his pocket. It was a very kind thing to do. He would hire me at $10 an hour to do grunt work on his horse farm. I painted fences, mucked stalls, dug holes, put up barn siding, and spent a great deal of time hurting myself. Looking back I realize what a kind gesture it was for him to hire me like that. He didn’t need to. It was one of the kind acts I hope to repeat someday.  If you’re reading this… thanks.

Part Time Youth Pastor/Full Time Awesome at Pleasant Ridge Christian Fellowship in North Carolina

Perhaps the greatest privilege I have ever been given is pastoring. In NC I was a part time youth pastor. We started with 5 students at a church of about 70 people and worked really hard to teach the Bible. I watched as the Scripture changed lives and as people bit into God’s word. My initial leap into church ministry was amazing. I was the set up team, the tech team, the tear down team, the do whatever was asked team, and I was the youth pastor. Each Sunday I would set up 109 chairs, lay out a sound system, put out rugs for the musicians and pastor, and do any necessary clean up. After Service I would pick up the chairs, set up for youth, and have youth group at night at 6pm. I stayed up late talking to students, worked three jobs, and struggled to maintain my own spiritual walk while Stephanie was in grad-school and I was going to seminary part time. For two years I poured myself into the ministry at PRCF and it was amazing. It set me on a course over the next 10 years that led me to where I am today. I will always look back fondly on these years.

I made tons of mistakes, but had an honest pastor who constantly made me mad by not hiding anything from me. He was blunt and abrasive and always had a “word” to share if I had made an error. I often had words of my own for him! We would fight pretty constantly about things and I learned not to take myself so seriously. Unfortunately for him, I did not learn this until after I left… sorry. I learned that I was going to fail people and that I could not be super pastor. Ever since then it is a rally cry of mine that I will not be super-pastor. I refuse. In the course of my time serving there, lives were changed and it was amazing.

So those were my first seven Jobs. ..  fun fun fun.

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Temptation

I could feel it’s icy hand creeping up my shoulder, whispering to me that I could just give in. No one would know. What’s the harm? The tempter’s foul breath sliding across the back of my neck making the hairs stand on edge as I debate within myself whether or not to succumb to the enemy of my joy. My hands tremble as I enter into the war. I know the strength of this enemy. I know the feelings of dismay that would come in surrender to fleeting pleasures. And yet, the temptation remains as I struggle to engage my mind in the battle.

What is described above is a common occurrence. It is not unusual to wrestle with temptations in this way; sometimes with victory, sometimes with failure, always feeling alone. In my walk with Christ thus far, I’ve learned to recognize the signs of temptation before they come. They bear a consistent pattern: a private moment, a sinking feeling, a mindless inattentiveness to surroundings, and a silent commotion within my inner being. I know this enemy well. This former lover of mine, who seeks to own me, will stop only when I kill it or give in to it.

Maybe this makes since to you? Maybe you’re super-spiritual and it doesn’t affect you at all? Either way, maybe the following will help you when you’re tempted.

When faced with temptation, remember:

Consider the consequence of your sin, it’s not just your life.

When King David made his horrific decision to stay home instead of going to war, as kings were supposed to, he set in motion the downfall of the Kingdom of Israel. (2 Samuel 11:1) In the pages of 2 Samuel 11-12, David denies responsibility as king, abuses his authority, commits adultery, plots to deceive, murders, and then tries to hide his sin from the eye of the people. It is not until the Prophet Nathan rebukes him in 12:9 that David finally repents. If David had known the extent of the consequence of his sin, surely he would not have pursued the course he did. Had he known that his sin would destroy a family, result in the death of a child, begin the splitting of the kingdom of Israel and eventually result in exile for his nation, surely he would have held back his urges. David’s people deal with his sin for the next 600 plus years. Consider your steps and the far reaching effects of your secrets. Your children will war against what you have hidden.

Remember the Love of your King

The voice of the enemy almost always echoes in my ears: “no one cares,” and “it’s no big deal.” But that is not true. The Lord of all the universe actually loves you and is not far from you. As He has promised in Mt. 28:20, Dt. 31:6, 8, Heb. 13:5, and Joshua 1:9, He will never leave you. Further, we are admonished by Peter to “cast [our] cares upon Him, for he cares for you.” (1Pt. 5:7) The love of God is so deep and powerful that He consistently remains with you when you have turned your back on Him. He is a good God, who loves you deeply. Now, consider this… even in the midst of your darkest hour, He remains with you and loves you. Cling to His love and throw off the lie that you’re alone in this… you’re not.

Call upon the community to share the load

At my church we have a saying: “we all struggle, your struggles are just more visible than mine in this moment.” I find myself reminding people of that often. Too often. People don’t believe me when I say it, but it is true. We ALL are beggars in God’s economy of grace and not one of us deserves the grace that God gives (c.f. Romans 1-3… and the rest of the Bible.) Your sins are no greater than mine, and mine are no lesser than yours. When we grasp the truth that God is great and we are not, we can begin to lift each other up and walk with one another. It is a tragedy in the American church that we are incapable of working together to combat sin. Instead we decide to hide our sins from each other fearing that we will be made less in the eyes of our friends. The truth (at least in my church) is that people who will confess their sins openly are held in much higher esteem than those who do not. So, when facing temptation, call on your community for help. Be specific when necessary and be sure to pray with each other openly. The more accountability the better.

Make war

Too much of modern Christianity is defensive. Go on the offense when temptation comes. Eric Ludy has a great chapter in his book on masculinity God’s Gift to Woman. (please ignore the pretentious nature of the title.) He explains that when the adversary attacks, go on the offensive. Keep running lists of people’s prayer needs and pray for them each time you’re feeling tempted. Go talk to someone about Jesus every time you feel tempted. Sing worship music, make art, engage your soul in positive works for the Kingdom of God and the glory of His name! Get to work for the Kingdom and watch the adversary run from your great God! Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Mathew 16:18? “You shall be called Peter, for on this rock (the confession of Jesus as the Christ) I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not overcome it!” Last time I checked gates are defensive… not offensive. So storm the gates! You are not on defense!

Now get to work!

At Sovereign Grace Fellowship we are striving to live this out. If these words resonate with you or you’re simply interested in learning more, come check it out.

You can find more about what we believe here: Sovereign Grace Fellowship Documents

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