Tag Archives: job

Plans, pigeons and prayers

Ten days after we made the decision to pursue ministry full time, I called my best friend.

“That just made my whole day,” he said when I told him the news.

It felt good hearing that.  We were excited and it was an amazing feeling to finally tell some people, especially him.

I had been on a mission trip with him and some others during the summer of 2012, while I was still living in Florida.  We have some dear friends who live in North Africa and we went to support them.  As the trip neared the end, we had a special prayer time in our friends’ apartment.  I was so teared up and torn up that I couldn’t even express a verbal prayer.  I realized then how much I missed my friends.  Leaving that trip was going to be like leaving South Carolina all over again.

This is why it was so comforting to start telling people what God had put on our hearts.  We started feeling the comfort of our friends again.

I considered the plan we made.  Step one, find a job in SC.  Step two, get into seminary.  Step three, graduate and find a job in ministry. Very early in our process of moving back to South Carolina, I had a job interview.  I just knew that I was going to get the job.  I knew that God was behind it.

I sat in a parking lot overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway on my lunch break while I spoke to a recruiter.  I was watching a flock of pigeons (or are those flocks?  gaggles?  herds?), anyway, a bunch of pigeons eating some feed that someone threw out.  There was one bird that looked…unkempt.  Another way to say it is the bird looked downright sketchy.  He looked like someone gave him a bag of donuts and a bag of meth.  You know the way your hair (not mine since I don’t have any) looks when you wake up in the morning?  The bird look like that.  I’ve never seen a bird with messed up feathers before.  I even think the bird had a lazy eye.  I made sure my doors were locked.  The strung out bird-thing looked something like this:

Image_pigeon

While I was staring at this bird, I noticed that no other birds came near him.  I guessed he also hadn’t seen a birdbath in a while.  I chuckled at the sight of this bird for a moment, but then became saddened.  There was something wrong with this bird.  Maybe he was born that way.  Maybe he got struck by a car or flew into a window and was injured at some point.

Over time, I started feeling like that bird.  I started feeling alienated.  I started feeling neglected.  I didn’t get that job after all.  In fact, not a single company that I sent my resume to contacted me.  I had a fantastic resume.  I was 31-years-old and a corporate advertising executive for one of the fastest growing media companies.  I had a strong six-figure salary with a bonus potential more than some people make in a year.  I had been promoted often and had a vast knowledge of the industry.  I was applying to jobs that were below the level of my first job out of college.  Nothing.  No emails.  No calls.  Silence.

It was at that point that my prayers started becoming more silent, too.  I never doubted that God was calling me into ministry, but I was doubting the timing.  It was a daily struggle to try and understand that balance between what I was feeling and what was actually happening.  Discerning God’s will is not an easy task.  Getting out of my own way and letting God work is an even harder one.

At service one Sunday, God reminded of me of some important verses.

Therefore do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

In just a couple short lines, God steered me back on the path.  So what if things were not happening as I had planned?  So what if these companies didn’t call me back?  So what if things weren’t happening as quickly as I had hoped?

I started praying boldly.  I started praying very intentionally.  It was difficult for me to get to this point.  I really struggled to figure out if I was being obedient by praying specifically, or if I was being selfish by telling God what I wanted.

I started praying that God would guide me to a time where my former church home was ready to have a missions pastor.  I knew it was down the road and could be years, but I asked God to place me there.  I asked that the church would become financially able to add a staff position and have the workload to justify it.  I asked that he would prepare me through seminary to be the missions leader they would one day require.

Looking back, I noticed something about that freaky pigeon.  As lonely as he seemed at the time, someone was still feeding him.  He was still getting nourished by the food that was sprinkled out on the ground before he even arrived.  And you know what?  I started getting fed as well.

I finally got a the call I had been waiting for.

From the church.

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10 Life Lessons from the Movie Big

You know the scene.  Josh and Billy are walking down the street after a busy day of being kids.  They start singing –

The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don’t let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend – a triscuit. She said, a triscuit – a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly’s out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.

I have no idea what this song is, but I know that I’ll never forget it.

Big_Poster

Big came out the day after my 7th birthday in 1988.  If you’ve never seen this movie before, immediately stop what you’re doing and head to Netflix.  In case you haven’t seen this piece of cinematic wonder in a while, here’s a brief summary.   The movie is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh Baskin, who wishes to be ‘big’ in order to fit in and win over a lady.  The morning after he makes the wish, he wakes up a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks).

I have no idea how many times I’ve seen the movie, but it’s somewhere around 174 (just guessing).  Here are 10 lessons to apply to your life immediately.

1. Be happy with who you are…and when you are.

Zoltar Speaks

Zoltar Speaks

Josh was so frustrated with being a small 12-year-old and he just couldn’t stand it any more. After dropping a coin in the Zoltar Speaks machine, he wishes to completely bypass the most important years of his young life and skip right to being an adult just to fit in.  While you’re ‘growing up’ you have a lot of milestones to look forward to.

  • 10-years-old – double digits!
  • 13-years-old – you’re a teenager!
  • 16-years-old – you can drive!
  • 18-years-old – you can vote / you graduated high school!
  • 21-years-old – you can drink!
  • 25-years-old – you can save on insurance!
  • 30-years-old – you can kiss your youth goodbye!

After a while, there’s not a lot of personal milestones to anticipate.  Soon, you start getting excited about those milestones for your own kids.  No matter what age you are, you’re going to feel somewhat unfulfilled, too young, too old, too early, too late, too awkward, too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too carefree, too worrisome, too too too.  If we spend all our days waiting for what’s next, we’ll forget to pay attention of what’s going on now.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

God made us in his image.  He planned for our existence at this very time.  He didn’t plan for us to be around in 1730 or 600 or 300 B.C.  He chose for you to be here now.  He chose the way we look.  He chose our skills.  He chose our weaknesses.  When we try to force changes or wish upon a Zoltar, we’re telling God that we think our plans are more important.*

*(They aren’t.)

2. Don’t forget about your friends.

big_joshbilly

As we get older our circle of influence grows wider and wider with the people we work with, go to church with or parents of the friends our kids hang out with.  But, I think over time our inner circle of really close friends thins out.  Graduation, relocation and reproduction all pull us away from the friends we used to see all the time.

During one scene, Josh and Billy are arguing because Josh’s job is consuming all his time.  Josh tells Billy that job is important.

Billy replies, “I’m your best friend. What’s more important than that, huh?”

We need to embrace our friends, both literally and figuratively.  Take the time to call people.  I struggle with this.  I get selfish with my time.  I might be on a three-hour drive across the state, but I just want to zone out and listen to music.  I truly miss several of my friends and I love that I can pick up where I left off with many of them.  It’s been hard moving to a new city and having to build my friend base over again.  I miss cutting up with my friends.  I miss serving my friends.  I miss being able to give them an actual hug (my man-card says I can do that from time to time.)

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

3. Realize that things are temporary.

big_apartment

Greatest.  Apartment.  Ever.  What kid (heck, what adult) didn’t want this bachelor pad.  Josh had a Pepsi machine (mine would have been Coke, but still…) in his apartment!  He had ridiculously high ceilings and a massive trampoline outfitted with rubber balls.  He had a basketball hoop.  Inside.  He had bunk beds (“I get to be on top!”)  He had a 6′ godzilla-blow-up-thing and pinball games.  This place was awesome.

But, Josh started to fall in love.  As he did, more and more of his time was spent at his girlfriend’s place, or out on dates.  Eventually, he started realizing how out of place he was and how much he just wanted to be back home as a kid.  His things became less and less important.  You could walk in his apartment and think he had the world on a string, but inside Josh was insecure and scared.

Who are we once you strip away all our belongings?  How much do we rely on our things for joy instead of relationships with God, family or friends?

4. You’re never too old to have fun.

This is probably the most iconic scene in Big and one of the most timeless scenes ever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”

5. Speak up if you don’t understand something.

A co-worker and I have created our own term.  When a vendor is trying to explain something to us and we just don’t quite follow what they are saying, we say that we “Tom Hanks it.”  Simply, this just means that the value proposition or main point is not being clearly communicated.

In this scene, Josh doesn’t understand how anyone could have fun with a building that turned into a robot.

6. You don’t have to blend in.

big_tuxedo

For the record, I believe that everyone should own a great piece of thrift store formal wear.  I have a couple of pretty stellar suits that haven’t been in style since Big came out.  I quite enjoy wearing them when I get the opportunity.

Josh made a heck of an entrance when he showed up to a company event dressed in an all-white tuxedo.  He didn’t blend in with all the other traditional black penguin-style tuxedos in the room.  If we were all preoccupied with being someone else, no one would be themselves.

7. Do things on your own terms.

big_dollars

Josh Baskin’s first paycheck working for the toy company was for $187.30.  Josh went to the bank (this was way before auto-draft) to cash his check and the cashier asked him a profound question.  “How do you want that?”

“Three dimes, a hundred-dollar bill and 87 ones.”

We should do what we want every now and then.  God still wants us to have fun.  He kinda invented it.  We have the physical ability to feel fun, excitement and spontaneity.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 reminds us that God wants us to have enjoyment, “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

8. Do what you love.

Billy: So you got a job, where you play with all these toys.

Josh: Yup!

Billy: And they’re gonna pay you for that!

Josh: Yup!

Billy: SUCKERS!

Colossians 3:23-24 tell us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Whether we are working in ministry or in secular careers, we should be working to benefit the Lord and we should love doing it.  Not everyone is called to work in ministry.  Some are called to serve in other industries that keep the world moving.  We need doctors, teachers, farmers, assembly line workers, white collars, blue collars and volunteers.  We need to prayerfully consider how our career could impact the church body and how our own personal ministries can penetrate the workplace.

9. Throw thermal pod.

big_wizard

Early in the movie, Josh is playing an old-school computer game and he can’t get past a certain level.  He is standing among slain ice dwarfs and has to defeat the evil wizard, but has no idea how.  Eventually, as Josh’s life experiences influenced him and gave him wisdom, he revisits the game and conquers the evil wizard with the command “throw thermal pod.”

We need to intentionally pray for wisdom to overcome our current and future dilemmas.  Solomon prayed and his “wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.”

There are over 200 references to wisdom throughout Scripture.  Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

10. Hug your mom.

big_mom

For heaven’s sake, hug your mom.

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Is that you, God? Or just Morgan Freeman?

Bruce Almighty has one of my all-time favorite comedic scenes. If you have never seen the movie, Jim Carrey plays a down-on-his-luck character named Bruce Nolan. Bruce is trying to make it as a news broadcaster, but is stuck covering silly stories instead of being behind the big desk on the nightly news.

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Bruce gets himself fired and in the midst of his personal meltdown, he gets enraged with God and thinks that he could do God’s job better than God himself. So, God lets Bruce try to back it up. My favorite scene is when Bruce starts taking advantage of his new powers.

Bruce’s rival, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) and he decides to sabotage him on live television. Bruce uses his Godly influence to completely mess up everything His Evan tried to say. Take a look:

Ultimately, Bruce realizes that he can’t handle the stresses and demands of this world trying to be God. He’s a human and imperfect and incapable.  He needed God to be the focal point in his life in order for everything else to fall in line.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m enjoying my wild blueberry crunch bagel and my Starbucks skinny (makes me feel better about myself) vanilla latte.

On the PA system, I hear the golden voice of God…err…Morgan Freeman.

Morgan says, “Ladies and gentlemen in the interest of air safety and your own personal safety, please do not leave luggage unattended.” Absolutely! I will get right on that. I mean, it’s MORGAN FREEMAN!  How could I NOT follow those sweet sounding instructions…heck, any instructions that roll off his lips?  Punch the guy next to me? Sure thing, Morgan.  Blow a raspberry on that old lady’s giggly arms?  OK!

He goes on, “Report any unattended bags or suspicious behavior to the nearest TSA agent. Thank you and have a nice flight.” You got it Mr. Freeman! That woman didn’t watch her bag when she walked six feet to the garbage. Oh, and that guy over there didn’t wash his hands after he peed. I’m pretty sure he’s up to no good. Your silky yet authoritative voice is comforting.

Morgan Freeman’s narrative voice exploded in popularity and seems to be everywhere these days. I’ve never been more enthralled in penguins than when he narrated March of the Penguins.  It’s funny how marketable, comforting and trustworthy Morgan Freeman’s voice has become. He is chosen for these roles because he has a calming force to him. He speaks clearly and directly. He sounds like someone you want to have coffee with.  Could you imagine if he had to give you bad news?

Morgan Freeman: Well, son, I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go.
Me: I understand, and I am so sorry you had to fire me. Can I repay you my salary or possibly shine your shoes?

How quickly we are soothed by the voice of someone familiar, a parent, a friend, a celebrity or a musician. But, when we encounter those rocky times in our lives we shut out the one thing that can provide us the ultimate peace – God.

In Scripture, God’s voice is described as gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12); powerful and majestic (Psalm 29:4); striking with flashes of lightning (Psalm 29:7); being able to shake the desert (Psalm 29:8); thunderous in marvelous ways (Job 37:5); and roaring like rushing waters (Ezekiel 43:2).

So, if God’s voice is all of these things, than why in the world don’t we pay attention?  God wants us to figure pieces of God out on our own.  Sure, he gives us prompting, but he wants us to genuinely seek him out.  Hearing God isn’t as easy as having a little chat and some clever dialogue with Morgan Freeman (it’s goooood).  God communicates with us much more subtly.  He lives in believers daily through his Holy Spirit and we can feel his communication and his inspiration with us.

There’s a lesson buried in Bruce Almighty.  God could have easily fixed all of Bruce’s problems, but it that’s not what GOD wanted.  God wants to be worshipped.  God wants us to hold steadfast to him with our lives.  God wants us to recognize Him as the master of our lives.  In the movie, once Bruce did that, he gained happiness and Grace (did you catch that his girlfriend’s name was Grace?)

God communicates to me in creative ways.  He reveals himself to me through music.  He opens my eyes to his glory through the photos I take or how I visualize the world around me.  He also allows me to learn more about himself through communication.  I find myself understanding my thoughts better when I’m in small group conversations, or talking with my wife or now, writing a blog.  How does God communicate with you?  Are you listening and responding?

I’m working on it.

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