Malawi, Hippo's and What Ought to Be

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Let’s be honest. There are parts of the Bible that are frustrating. Like where Paul talks about how he’s “learned to be content.” I mark up every book I own and the Bible is no exception. I took the liberty to jot down my own thoughts in the margin next to Paul’s words. I wrote, “How do I do that?” Profound I know!

How do you learn to be content? It sounds a lot harder than riding a bike. In fact, if your life looked anything like mine did at the time I wrote my own commentary on the passage, you’d down right think to learn to be content is well, impossible.

I scribbled that question in the margin of my NIV sometime during 2007. That year was a blur so don’t ask me to remember exactly when it was during 2007. What I do remember of that year is wiping toilets and cleaning up putrid smelling vomit at the Tragic Kingdom, which you may know as the Magic Kingdom. I was a seminary graduate with a newly achieved Masters of World Missions and Evangelism degree and I worked as a self-proclaimed “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” It was better than restroom cleaner, janitor, custodian and all things to do with trash and vomit. In less than a year I went from Master to Mistress.

Needless to say, I was a bitter beast during that time and I was anything but content.

Wouldn’t you know Jesus went to work with me every day as I cleaned toilets, sprayed enough air freshener to put a hole the size of Texas in the o-zone layer and go down on bended knee to clean up the aftermath of someone who ate too much junk food before hitting the rides. I didn’t recognize him at first, not because he looked any different than he does any other day but because I wasn’t looking for him. I was so consumed with Me, I didn’t see Him.

Until a precious, tiny woman with a broken heart invaded mine. Less than 5’ tall, Sam was also a “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” Her husband was abusive, her kids bad behavior a simple and understandable reflection of their chaotic home life; she felt like her world was crumbling right before her eyes. In a custodial closet filled with toilet paper and air fresheners, Sam poured her heart out to me. Her desperation for hope rang loudly through her every word. She was tired, lost and hopeless.

Something fantastic happened. I stopped dwelling on my own toilet scrubbing state and I saw Jesus. Not physically, wearing the stereotypical long white robe with a baby blue sash and long flowing hair. No, I didn’t see him, but I knew he was there and I knew, in that moment, that Jesus had some things to say to sweet Sam. I knew he had put me in that depressing restroom stock closet to share with Sam what Jesus thought of her. So I sighed, put my hand on Sam’s tiny shoulder and began to talk to Jesus. She cried, I cried, and together we asked him for wisdom and hope and peace to swell over her and her family.

Later that day I decided to try listening to Jesus, who I was now sure was with me as sure I was I cleaned toilets for a living. Up to this point, I’d been doing a lot of talking at him, asking him questions like, “Why did you take me 3,000 miles from home to go to seminary and learn about evangelism only to bring me back home and the only job you provide is cleaning toilets at an amusement park?”

Jesus, being the man of mystery that he is, didn’t exactly speak as quickly as I wanted him to during that season, but slowly, I noticed a much needed change taking place in my heart and in my attitude. I was humbled that even in a season when I was bitter and frustrated with God because I blamed him for not fulfilling my expectations for my life, he still extended such love and grace towards me in that he’d perfectly orchestrated Sam and me to be in the custodial closet at just the moment we both needed to meet with Jesus. I slowly, very slowly, began to realize that what I do for work, regardless of my title, regardless of where I live or any other circumstance around me, has absolutely nothing to do with his fierce love and purpose for me. He can and will use all of it for his good work and purpose.

Sam wasn’t the only person I had a Jesus conversation with after that day. In fact, there were many more that heard and sought out Jesus. It saddens me to think I may have missed opportunities to share his love with others because I was fixated on my own problems.

Paul’s statement doesn’t seem all that difficult to understand now. I too learned to be content when I set my pursuit in life on Jesus; not on myself and certainly not on my circumstances.

Regardless of where I work and where I live, what my Creator requires of me is simple. He asks me to love him before all else in this life and to consider and love those around me. Contentment ensues here on out and it’s beautiful. I am a Master of Evangelism. All those who follow Jesus are. By our love others will know his great love. I didn’t expect to be an evangelist in a restroom, but in that moment, it didn’t matter where we were. All that mattered was Jesus was there and he intimately and radically showered Sam and me with his unfailing love.

So whether you’re a Mistress or a Master I encourage you today to look not unto your own works, hopes and dreams for yourself, but into the One who created you with hopes and dreams. For in Him and Him alone you will find contentment. Wipe toilets or build skyscrapers. Whatever you do, do in love for Him and love others.

Do you also find Paul’s statement to be frustrating? Are you feeling discontent? Spend some time in stillness and quiet and listen for Jesus. He will meet with you where you are when you’re ready.

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Tags | Global

Learning to Work with Girls at Risk

When Frederick Douglass said slavery "has been called by a great many names and it will call itself by yet another, and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume,” he knew what he was talking about.

Modern-day slavery looks different than it did during the nineteenth century when Douglass spoke those words. Today, slavery is not bound by borders, race, religion, economic status or social class. At its core, slavery is the exploitation of the most vulnerable. 

Orange County, CA has one of the highest populations per capita of homelessness in the U.S., with only 3,400 temporary shelter beds available. An individual needs to work 141 hours per week at minimum wage in order to afford average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment. It should come as no surprise then that hundreds of homeless families find themselves residing in motels. This working homeless population is a socially neglected, ignored and an extremely vulnerable population. 
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Interruptions: How Rude! Maybe Not...

From the moment we begin walking and talking we are taught not to interrupt adults. It’s just rude.

And so, as we grow up into adults, we learn to not tolerate interruptions from anyone or anything.

Just last week I was working out at home on my elliptical. I had my headphones on and a book in my hand. I was in the middle of my 30 min ‘me time’ workout. My brother-in-law came into the room where I was engrossed in my workout, my music and my book and he began to talk to me. “I’m clearly busy now. Can’t you just wait to talk to me until I’m done?” Immediately I thought of Stephanie Tanner’s famous saying, “How rude!”

And then, almost immediately, two stories in the Gospels about interruptions came to mind. Thanks a lot God!

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Best Reads of 2012

This was a great year of reading for me! Here is a list, along with a brief description of each, of my favorite books I read in 2012.

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Jesus met me at Starbucks this morning

Originally posted 3 years ago, here is a Christmas season repeat of hope, justice, Jesus and latte's. 

 

I broke routine this morning. I interrupted my morning commute to work with a pit stop at Starbucks and a book in hand. It’s been a very long time since I have sat and read over a latte and to my surprise, Jesus was there.  

 

I ordered a sinful Caramel Brulee Latte and took a seat along the perimeter so that I could watch the subtle rain drops collide with the ground outside. I opened my book in hand, Just Courage by Gary Haugen and reached for my latte. But before I could take in my first sip of that delightful little beverage, I was met by Jesus who had appeared somehow on my Christmas themed cup.

 
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What's New? The Lausanne Global Analysis Publication

“To deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts so that Christian leaders will be equipped for the task of world evangelization.”

A new publication was released today from the Lausanne Movement with the underlying purpose of the statement above. Some of the titles found in the first issue include Where Next for the Arab Spring?, People and Their Religions on the Move and Choosing to be Salt & Light: Can the Church in India be a Model in the Fight for Anti-Corruption?

The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released every other month. Publisher of the LGA and Chairman of the Lausanne Movement Doug Birdsall writes that the LGA is the result of a “gap between the massive amount of information that surrounds us 24/7, and the ability to process that information and access credible analysis from an evangelical perspective.” You can read more about Dr. Birdsall’s publisher’s note here.

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Two Short Stories: Communities Caring for One of Their Own

Story A: The wife of a good man and the mother of two boys called out for help when her husband died and she was left with his debt to pay. The creditor came to collect on the loan and when the woman explained she did not have the money to repay the debt, the creditor gave her a short window of time to pay the loan. If it went unpaid by the time specified, her two sons would work for him until their father’s debt was paid back in full.

Story B: In North Carolina, a teenage girl was abandoned by her drug-addicted parents.  A senior in high school, she rose before the sun each morning to work as her school custodian. After school, she worked another two hours cleaning up the classrooms. Despite her long days, she managed to pull straight A’s in her classes.

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Why the Congo Conflict Matters at Christmas

It seems as though the Christmas shopping season, which officially kicked off on Black Friday, is a bigger deal than ever this year. For the first time stores opened on Thanksgiving rather than waiting until the wee hours of Friday morning to welcome hoards of shoppers. Some people, eager to be the first to snag a killer deal on a 50-inch LED television, camped out in front of stores like Target and Best Buy Best for a week.

Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with Black Friday and Christmas shopping or with people camping out on sidewalks across the nation for days in order to get a good deal. I mean, who doesn’t want a great price on everything these days?

But I do have a problem when this consumer nation is uneducated about the products they are buying such as how objects are made and where the materials to make all the products we love so much come from. Sometimes it seems that America, a country in which education is freely available to any and all who desire it, operates as one of the more ignorant, uneducated nations in the world in terms of understanding how things work globally. 

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Give Thanks; Not Spanks

A few years ago, during a Thanksgiving church service, my hilarious younger brother leans over and whispers in a silly tone of voice to both me and our older brother, "give thanks; not spanks." As is typical when I'm with my brothers, I got a bad case of the giggles and wiggles in church at his funny little rhyme.

Every day we have choices. Grumble and complain about life's spanks or give thanks.

Trust me when I say I can grumble with the best of them when things just aren't going my way.

I was doing a lot of grumbling over life's spanks upon me back in 2007. I had finished seminary, moved back home with mom and dad, struggled to find a "real" job and ended up cleaning toilets at Disneyland. One stereotypically beautiful Southern Californian day, I met up with a friend who had attended seminary with me. My sweet friend listened as I went on and on complaining about my life during that season of toilets, plungers, and a whole lot of blah, blah, blah. When I had finished spewing out complaints about life's spanks, my friend graced me with her wisdom and love and asked me one simple question that caused a radical shift to take place in my life.

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About
I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.


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