(Originally Posted 1-9-2018)
Serve one another. The very act of service that leads some to believe it is in it truest form living as an indentured servant—enslaved to the very act of giving to others without receiving in kind. In fact, we all serve to some extent. What always boggled my mind is the thinking that those who serve are beneath those who do not, or in most cases will not. Unfortunately, we often times cannot see the forest for the trees.
Teachers, for example, serve every day. They give and give and receive little in return. At least as far as monetary compensation. They have the greatest influence on our future society and world and receive the least amount of pay for this great investment in our future.
There are many who work in the area of waste management. For those who work in this field, the title has evolved today from what was once referred to as the neighborhood “trash man.” This work holds a great risk to one’s health and proves a definite challenge to those in risk management to ensure the health and well-being of those who are willing to work at all hours of the night so we can have the pleasure of a clutter-free, smell-free and waste-free home. Again, not a glamorous position to hold, yet one of a great service to our communities around the world.
When I was going through college several years ago, I worked in a school cafeteria where my daughter attended school. There in-lies some of the most caring and wisest people I’ve ever met with all the glamour of a star in the making. You know what I’m talking about—sporting the unique fashion trend of a wearing a hairnet. Talk about the “bedhead” look. Yep. We had it goin’ on! Good food, service with a smile and kind encouraging words were expected and required with very low pay, hot steam in the face, skin cracking and sore backs from leaning over the sink scrubbing pots and pans. All so our children, the bright stars of our future and their instructional caretakers and staff would be properly nourished each day. Along with our custodians, I do believe these are some of the most overlooked and under appreciated people in our schools today. But each one carries the level of servanthood perhaps we should not underestimate.
Although I continue ongoing education so I may better myself in all seasons of life and so me and my family will not live in poverty, I’ve never thought of myself as too good to do the seemingly worst job. I was born to a blue-collar family. We worked and we worked hard. From farming, to serving in the military, to working in a garden to literally provide the food we ate—and yes this was only about 30 years ago, and owning and operating our own businesses. We have a strong work ethic. We have also had more than our share of ups and downs with losses that were devastating. However, I’m so very thankful to have been born into a family who has a strong moral compass and was taught early to trust God for who we are and all we need. All in all—God gave me a servant’s heart. A heart to help others.
I remember after my divorce and God’s love broke through my broken soul and skeleton of a person and began to fashion me into who I’ve ultimately become today, I told God, “I want you to heal me and heal me as soon as possible, because I do not want to spend the next 30 years trying to get over this.” God is faithful. God will move, change us and grow us all in love, mercy and grace as much and as fast as we allow him to do. God has used many people in my life to help me, for all of whom I am eternally grateful.
I remember many years ago I was watching TBN. I saw Jan Crouch walking on the banks of Jordan. She was talking about the darkness of depression and how debilitating it was for her but how God delivered her and healed her. I sat and listened intentionality and with stark, profound clarity, I realized she was describing what I was feeling but never knew how to put into words. She talked about the Lord telling her to go to church one day. Even though she didn’t feel up to it, she went anyway. At the end of the service, the Lord prompted her to go to the altar to pray for a young woman there. She described how she felt so displaced and inadequate to help her, but she went anyway. She then described how the Holy Spirit lifted her up and she began to experience breakthrough like she had never experienced before. She then said, she never understood it before, but you have to give what you need. Indeed, a clear presentation of the law of sowing and reaping—all from a servant’s heart.
It wasn’t too many years ago. I moved me and my son to Oklahoma with new, great expectations of the new beginning to a great adventure the Lord was taking us on. Had I known just how hard it was going to be, I likely would have told the Lord “No.” I came with great faith but only just enough money to support us for a few months. I stood on the scripture found in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” I called in the great harvest of all the good seeds I had sown. I stood on my knowledge and understanding of my relationship with God that he would never leave me or forsake me and in fact, he spoke to me and added to it, “To the end of the age.” So, I knew I was on another challenging but great journey with the Lord. Within days, the Lord provided me with a job.
That would go on for about three years. Then, my job began to phase out. This was 2013. I had just started school of ministry. I finally took that step of fulfilling God’s promise to me of making me an ordained minister. My faith was strong as I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. At the beginning of that year, I had a terrible car wreck that totaled my car and damaged my neck and right shoulder. I had to resort to transcribing with my keyboard in my lap, yet my faith continued strong. I was determined not to allow anything to be taken from me. One July 1, 2013, I was laid off. Electronic medical record keeping had taken many of the accounts and there was no longer enough work to justify my employment.
Wow. I moved me and my son to a land I did not know, people I did not know with no family I could reach out to for support of any kind. This was hard. I must have sent 50 resumes for work, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was to the point I had to have a break or I was going to be evicted. By this time, I had exhausted all provision I had.
Through a neighbor, I was introduced to the pastor of the local Salvation Army church. She asked me if I would be willing to teach piano for their youth. I was excited! I finally had a break—even as small as it seemed. Doors even opened for me to clean a few houses. What is always amazing about God is that in all things God works all things together for our good. It was at this very church I had my first opportunity to tell my story to the women’s group. This ultimately opened doors for me to tell my story at their headquarters homeless shelter chapel, and eventually allowed me the opportunity to stand behind their pulpit and preach. In all things, God is good. All. The. Time.
Eventually, I was offered a full-time position managing their bell ringing ministry for the holidays. Have you ever seen someone standing outside a store ringing a bell with a kettle you put money in that is hanging on a stand during the Christmas season? Yep. That’s what I did in Broken Arrow. For three years I operated this ministry for them. I absolutely loved it! It was not only full-time work, I was able to work with people from all different backgrounds. The common thread in everyone—we were all willing to work—we had a mind and a heart to work. If you’ve never done it, this job is not for the faint-hearted. It requires standing on your feet for hours at a time, and remaining cheerful and pleasant while the cold wind and even rain beats on you making you feel as if a thousand knives are cutting away at you. At the end of the day, you feel as if you had been run over by a bus—back hurting, hips aching, wrists tired—and all you did was stand and ring a bell.
My day would start at 7 am and end at 10 pm for six days a week. If I wasn’t working in the field, I was in the office answering the dozens of phone calls of the organizations who wanted to be scheduled to help ring the bells for this fine organization. We would rally together each morning for a few encouraging moments to motivate the servant’s heart in remembrance of “It’s not about us.” It was at times exhausting, but I loved it. I saw the spirit of man at its strongest. I saw the love of the season shown in the simplest expressions of Hi! Merry Christmas! Peace to you! All from people who I know had very little to give—except the heart of a servant from within themselves. I must say, you cannot put in a box and buy from a shelf the gratitude of those who were given an opportunity to serve and give day in and day out.
I took the time to talk with each one every day. I heard about where they come from. Struggles they have come through—some they are still working through. I saw the smile on the face of those who were given life through the ability to give a smile to someone else—some who may not otherwise receive a smile throughout their day, and even some who could care less to ever understand the plight of another’s condition. I saw great excitement when towards the end of the season, those who stuck it out and continued to give as unto the Lord were rewarded with bonuses.
I’ll never forget the tear-filled eyes and facial expression of a woman who came from almost nothing, who had little self-esteem beset upon her from the many life struggles she encountered, but with that little seed of faith within her, she stepped out and just “tried” each day. She worked earnestly trying to “find her place.” When she finally received the ultimate “Red Kettle” award for ringing the biggest kettle, she jumped out of her seat with excitement. This was same excitement I saw from my son when he was ten years old and he finally made a basket for his team in basketball—he literally jumped three feet in the air! This woman’s self-esteem grew so much throughout that season of bell ringing, she soon thereafter found stable, year-round, full-time work. Yes. The seasons I operated the kettles ministry was very rewarding.
Yes. As hard as working during the kettle season was, I loved it and I always hated seeing it end.
Serving is hard. It requires giving of yourself. Sometimes, it requires giving more of yourself than you ever thought to had, without expecting to receive. That’s why scripture tells us in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do (whatever your task may be), work from the soul (that is, put in your very best effort), as (something done) for the Lord and not for man. (AMP)
When we give as if we were giving to the Lord, the giving doesn’t seem to be as hard. Be honest with yourself. Doesn’t it seem easier to give to someone you love, rather than someone you don’t even know? Of course it is! When we rely on our own strength, our own understanding, our own expectations and our own perceptions of others, we will soon find ourselves asking more questions of “why” or “why not” rather than just accepting, receiving and loving.
Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6. Our perfect is example to follow is Jesus. Jesus came to serve. Let God show you the line to draw in your service to him. Truly, we are not all called to serve in the same areas or tasks. But we are all called to serve on the same battlefield. The battlefield of pulling down those strongholds through showing God’s love to one another. Do so with eyes wide open, willing to pray. Then we will taste and see that the Lord is good. Serve the Lord. Serve others. Do all things as unto the Lord.