Am I in the Right Place?: Finding Satisfaction in Service

Service.

If you’re a student at Dallas Baptist University, that word made you either jump to attention or roll your eyes. On top of the constant mantra of “servant leadership” that appears in every class (literally, in every syllabus), the most common DBU scholarship requires a certain number of service hours to be performed every semester. The idea of service is reinforced so often that we sometimes feel like we never stop serving.

When I was a freshman, I, like everyone else on that coveted scholarship, was required to pick a service off a list of approved locations and roll with it for an entire semester. Little Catherine took one look at that list (which rivaled War and Peace for length), was immediately overwhelmed, and quickly devolved to looking specifically for service projects involving children. I had been working with kids in my home church ever since I outgrew childcare myself, so I figured that was the best choice. I picked the first one that promised transportation and showed up with as little pomp and circumstance as possible.

It was alright the first week. I went back a few more times, then got some friends (who had put off service hours as long as possible) to go with me.

Nothing changed for two-and-a-half years. Everything was exactly the same… except, that is, for my morale and attitude.

Maybe I’m more adventurous than I thought I was. Maybe I lost my touch. Maybe the kids’ stories made me too sad. Whatever it was, by the middle of my junior year, I was so discouraged that I actually didn’t get enough hours because I skipped service so many weeks. I’m one of those students who doesn’t skip class unless I physically cannot get there (yes, I’ve gone to work with a migraine), so that only made the discouragement worse.

The Bible encourages us over and over to not give up: “Do not be afraid, and do not be discouraged,” Joshua 1:9 says in one example, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). It’s hard to be discouraged when you can see God working in your life or in the life of someone you’re serving. Yet there I was, watching God work through my friends while I watched on the sidelines. It wasn’t the way things were supposed to be, but I felt like I was in the wrong for feeling this way.

This jumble of emotions and worries was what came out of my mouth one day while I was cooking dinner and conversing with a friend. Somehow, he understood enough of that spiel to offer me an alternative, and because I was short on hours, feeling guilty about it, and curious about the idea of working with adults, I jumped on it.

If you want fuller details on what happened after that, read my previous blog on the subject here. For now, suffice it to say that I discovered I’m much more at home in homeless ministry than children’s ministry (ironic, no?), and I’ve been soaring above my service-hours requirement ever since.

Here’s the thing, folks: attitude is everything when you go to serve in the name of Christ, but there’s more to it than that. Look at Romans 12:3-8, which points out that since “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” everyone should use his or her specific gift to accomplish what God has sent him or her to do, not try to do something that is meant for someone else. With a new season of life came a new purpose, and I wish I had discovered that earlier.

Maybe you’re in a place of confusion today. Maybe you’re not getting the same joy out of a service you used to love. Maybe you feel like God is calling you somewhere “not here.” Listen, friend: Commitment is good, healthy even, but if God is telling you that you are needed elsewhere, listen to Him. The most amazing things happen when God tells you to leave everything you know and you obey.

Your heart isn’t always right; the human heart is fallen, and Satan loves to trick us into thinking we’re listening to God when we’re really listening to ourselves. But if you’re trying your best to have a good attitude toward service and you still come home feeling like you’re wasting time, it may be that God has a different place for you.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” reads 1 Timothy 6:6—gain for the Kingdom of God. Be content in your service, and you will find that it comes a whole lot easier.

Written by Catherine

Image credit

Advertisements

Father of Lights

James 1:17 reads “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God has many names, but “Father of Lights” has been one of my favorites lately. I love the image it creates in my heart and the memories it evokes in my imagination. I love lights. They are extraordinarily important to me. When I think of who God is in my life, I often think of lights: a small candlelight flickering to life for a moment before being snuffed out and lost for years, then being suddenly drowned by the blinding light of the noonday.1

To explain what I’m trying to say, let me start at the beginning. My brother was a worship intern at a church, starting about six months before my first semester at DBU. The summer between high school and college, my family and I decided to visit this church to watch him lead worship. To put it gently, I was not on good terms with God at that point in my life. In fact, I’d scarcely ever been on good terms with God. In my heart, we were not friends; He was a presence I couldn’t get rid of even when I asked. The flickering candlelight of my faith had been snuffed out for so long I could hardly remember what it looked like.

When I walked into that church, something felt unfamiliar to me. I was no stranger to services at different churches, but there was something special here—something special about this worship. I didn’t exactly realize what that something was, but I felt it during one song in particular. The lyrics resonated with me in a way none ever had. I felt honest and true in worship for maybe the first time ever. I wanted to raise my hands, but I was afraid to look foolish. I scanned the room nervously to see if anyone was watching. To my relief, the lights were low—low enough that no one would notice one person raising her hands. I felt free; it was entirely new and wonderful.

Now, allow me to skip ahead a few months. First semester, freshman year, I took an Intro to Broadcast class. For this class, I had to volunteer twenty-five hours on a media project. Twenty-five is a lot of hours, and I was really freaked out at the idea of finding a media project where I could volunteer. I freaked out quite frequently in those days—mostly to my brother. His advice for this particular meltdown was to ask the Sound Guy* at our church (the same church I had visited that previous summer) if I could volunteer on the media team. The first words out of my mouth were, “Do you think he would let me?” To me, the media team was a well-assembled group of super individuals who, for lack of a better description, knew what they were doing with all that fancy equipment. They looked like superheroes to me, and I could hardly imagine joining their ranks. When I spoke to the Sound Guy about volunteering, he asked what kind of experience I had with broadcasting. My heart dropped into my stomach, and I said I didn’t have any experience at all, thinking he’d deny my request. “Great!” he answered. “Then we can train you the way we want you to be trained.”

A few weeks later, I found myself shadowing the engineer for that Sunday. She was in charge of adjusting how bright everything looked on-camera, but it seemed to me that she was piloting a spaceship for all I understood of her job. I mean, the screen in front of her looked like this:

av equipment

The whole video suite was daunting, and I was nowhere near confident I belonged there. Still, I felt welcome in that atmosphere. Being with the media team was nothing like I’d imagined. Everyone was so nice; they pulled me into their conversations and didn’t mind at all that I was too shy to speak at first. I remember one of them showed me pictures of horses on his phone for almost twenty minutes between services. After church, when my brother asked how my morning was, I remember saying something like this: “It was awesome! The equipment is so cool, and everyone’s so nice, and they had donuts!” He laughed.

Long story short, I showed up again to volunteer the next week. Then I showed up the week after, the week after that, and every single week for almost five months. During that time, I learned to be an effective engineer. I also became efficient in other media team positions:

Camera Operator **

camera

Technical Director (TD)

technical director

Stage Hand

stage hand

Computer Graphics (CG) Operator

cg operator

I began to really bond with the other team members, who ended up being the first friends I made in college.

Along with the excitement of joining the media team, there was a whirlwind of changes that came with starting college: new living arrangement, new job, new friends, new independence. The culmination of these changes came one Sunday morning at church when I was acting as the Technical Director. I was gazing at the screen in front of me, letting my mind wander, when I sensed a voice speaking to me. It was almost like when a thought pops into my head, except this thought popped into my heart. I knew instantly it was the voice of Holy Spirit, but I had never heard it before; I needed Him to confirm what He was telling me. I returned my focus to the screen for the time being and decided to ask Him if this was true when I could be alone.

That night, I sat down at the desk in my dorm room. I wasn’t sure how to go about praying with such an odd question in mind, but I thought having a Bible in front of me wouldn’t hurt, so I opened one up to a random page and set it on the desk. I also played some worship music on my phone, attempting to invite Holy Spirit to speak to me again. Once I’d done everything I could think of, I asked aloud something like, “Is this real?” Immediately, Holy Spirit spoke. The sensation is as clear in my heart today as it was in that moment. The darkness that’d choked my heart was broken through by a flood of daylight2, and the darkness has not overcome the light to this day3.

In March of my freshman year, the team was in need of a new lighting operator—someone to control all the lights in the Worship Center and on the stage. The Sound Guy asked me to try operating the lighting console one Sunday morning. I wouldn’t be programming the way anything would look; I would just be in charge of pressing a button at the right times to make the lights change according to the music. I liked it immediately. I was terrible at it, but I liked it. I started doing the lights a couple of Sundays a month, and I slowly began to get the hang of the musical timing. One day, I asked the Sound Guy if I could learn how to program the console myself, and he told me he’d teach me***. The next Saturday, he sat with me at the console, and we programmed the next morning’s service together. He walked me through every single motion I’d need to know. It took 13 hours. After several weeks of patient work together, we eventually got to the point where I could program alone. Today, I’ve been the volunteer Lighting Director at my church for a year and a half.

sound board

another sound board

The beautiful irony that I once walked in darkness and now work with light is not lost on me4. I am now the person who can dim the lights enough that a newcomer to our church can raise her hands freely in true, honest worship to my God, my Savior, my Lord, my King, my Lover, my Father of Lights5.

Notes and Scriptures:

*Definitely not his official title. Also definitely what everyone still calls him.

**I didn’t get a picture of the cameras at my church, but this one looks a lot like one of ours.

***I later found out that he hated programming the lights so much that he was beyond excited when someone else wanted to take it over.

  1. Isaiah 58:10-11
  2. Genesis 1:3-4
  3. John 1:4-5
  4. John 8:12
  5. John 1:8

Written by Becca

Header image credit: Becca Redmon

The Purpose

This past summer, I volunteered with my church’s Vacation Bible School for 5th and 6th graders. My family and I do this every year; everyone who is too old to attend as a student teaches a class. I had always worked with smaller kids, second grade and younger, but this year I was ready for a change. I wanted to get deeper into the Bible with kids who could understand more.

They kept up, all right. The boys were rowdy and mostly refused to respect me or the other leaders, but the girls in my little group of ten were almost exactly what I had pictured—fun but ready to listen and learn… except for one. She came with her older sister, who served as her translator—she didn’t speak much English. Quickly figuring that their mother wanted the girl (we’ll call her “Mia”) to learn English by being around people who spoke the language, I went on about my business, welcoming the girls and shepherding them over to the rest of the group for recreation time. They stuck tightly together, interacting with the other kids as little as possible. Between them and the gaggle of restless boys, after just two days, I was starting to wonder how I was going to make it to the end of the week.

Then, Wednesday dawned, hot and sunny as you’d expect from a June day in Texas. I had to lead my biggest group yet, and they, like their peers, all wanted snacks halfway through the morning. As the leaders were preparing the day’s offerings, I overheard someone ask Mia if she spoke Spanish, to which she replied a simple, “Yes.” That caught my attention; she hadn’t spoken enough for me to discern her accent before, but now I knew we had a connection that no one else in the group had. I had finished the last of four semesters of college-level Spanish just a few weeks before; I could speak her language, however minimally.

Shortly after this, as I was wrestling to keep the bowl of Goldfish crackers from being inhaled by the boys before the girls got any, one of the ladies in charge of snacks for the smaller kids came in with more food. The youth pastor came up to me a few minutes later and asked if the woman was my mother. “No,” I said, explaining that my mom was home with my baby brother. Then, as the pastor walked away, just to see what happened, I muttered quietly, “Mi madre está en mi casa.”

Mia’s head snapped up, her dark brown eyes wide as the Gulf of Mexico, and she said, “What?!”

Suddenly, I wondered if I had said something wrong; just because I had finished four semesters doesn’t mean I was very good at Spanish. I hesitantly repeated myself and then asked, in English, “Did I say it right?” After translation, Mia’s face lit up in a huge smile, and she nodded with an excited, “Yes!” I made a show out of how glad I was that I had spoken a sentence in Spanish without help, and she just kept smiling and laughing.

When small-group time rolled around, my instructions were to go over the Roman Road with the kids, and I decided to let them look up the verses in their own Bibles. Mia’s Bible was written in Spanish, of course. I asked her to read her Spanish version of Romans 6:23 after the English version had been read. She was hesitant, but she agreed. By the time she was done, even the boys had stopped roughhousing to listen, and she was smiling. She later volunteered to read a longer passage (Romans 5:8-11). It was the quietest and most attentive moment my group had all week; they even applauded when she was done. Mia spent the rest of the week trying to join the others and talking to me as well as she could. My sister, who was in another group, said she could see a drastic change in Mia’s behavior.

I tell this story because it taught me two big things.

One: those two years of Spanish seemed awfully pointless when I was in the midst of them (I was working on an English degree at the time), but if that week was the only reason I was in those two years of classes, then I am satisfied. The most “pointless” part of my degree plan has already made a potentially huge difference in someone’s life. That is as good a reminder as any that nothing we do is pointless; every step that we take is part of a greater plan, and the results of that plan are greater than we sometimes realize.

Two: Mia and I, as two completely different people—child and adult, American and Hispanic—were both willing to step out of our comfort zones that day, and we both grew from that experience. When we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, no matter where it takes us or how much we might potentially embarrass ourselves, we will be better off in the end.

Those Spanish classes were out of my comfort zone and beyond what I thought was the scope of my life plan, yet I was able to use it to help an out-of-place, intimidated little girl find her way a little closer to Jesus. The value in shattering cultural barriers like that is something that can be not only felt, but sometimes counted.

So, next time you’re faced with something you don’t want to do, whether it seems pointless or impossible, go for it. You never know how the Lord might use you.

Written by Catherine

Image credit: Catherine Anderson.A sketch of me done by one of my other students. Yes, she was drawing during Bible study time, but can you blame me for being flattered?