The Story of a Hairnet

Your motives will determine your reward.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

From stocking ice cream in a refrigerated tanker at the age of 14 to sanding columns and pillars by hand at 17, I have been a hard worker all of my life. While I never regretted my history of employment, especially my 14 years of military service, I had always wondered how things would change if I were a college graduate. Sitting in a stewardship committee of a church I pastored when I was 30; I gave some input on the topic being discussed. I will never forget the response from the committee chairman, who said, “Pastor, do you have a college degree in business?” “no, sir,” was my reply, “then please let us handle this matter without your input.” I was stunned, angry, and, most of all, embarrassed. Three years later, I hung two degrees on my wall; an Associates and a Bachelor’s, both in business. It was shortly after that God called me to start a new church. Not wanting to burden or distract any new members, I decided to refuse any financial compensation for the first year, took my bachelor’s degree, and started teaching for a local school district. I never stopped my education, as the day I had my bachelor’s degree conferred, I started my first class toward a master’s degree.

Two years after receiving my undergraduate degree, my family and friends cheered from the bleachers as I had my first master’s degree conferred. A few months after graduation, I received a call from the school district with a job offer, a special needs adult student who required one-on-one instruction at his job site. This position would allow more flexibility with my schedule, which would help our new church grow, so I thanked God and accepted. This student worked at the Virginia Veteran’s Care Center (VVCC), doing different janitorial and laundry service tasks. My job was to provide two hours of tutoring in the morning on his job site before he started his workday, shadow him as he completed his tasks-providing practical instruction-and then resume schoolwork during his breaks; for a total of six hours each day. I was thoroughly enjoying my new assignment and praising God for such an opportunity for my family and our church. Until…

As usual, I reported to the front desk of the VVCC to sign in and find out where my student would be assigned so that I could start our morning instruction. That morning was a first, my student had been assigned to the kitchen, and I had the dining hall as my classroom for the initial two hours. When my two-hour instructional period had ended, my student’s supervisor for the day came over to introduce himself and lead my student to his work area in the kitchen. As required, I followed along to shadow my student. As I approached the entrance to the kitchen, the supervisor, a young 20-something, placed his hand on my chest and condescendingly declared, “You can’t come in here until you suit up with a bib, gloves, and a hairnet. This is my kitchen, and you will follow my rules.” I replied, “I don’t think you understand. I will not be working in the kitchen; I am here to supervise my student, document his progress, and ensure he is given all accommodations in his contract. I won’t get near the food preparation area; I will hang back and observe”, to which he replied, “My kitchen, my rules. Suite up with a bib, gloves, and a hairnet, or I won’t let you in, no matter who you are!” I took the high road that day, suited up, and did my job-even washing dishes as instructed by the kitchen supervisor-with a subtle, passive-aggressive attitude, birthed out of pride. As soon as the clock revealed my day was over, I threw my bib in the laundry, flung my gloves in the trash, and stomped angrily to my car. 

Plopping down in the seat, after slamming my door, I looked in the mirror to see that hairnet still on my head. Ripping it off and flinging it on the passenger seat, I had a conversation with myself. “I am a grown man! I have a teaching license issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia! I have a master’s degree in education! I will not let a 20-year-old, pimply-faced kid with an attitude boss me around; I don’t work for him! I have worked too hard to be here; I am better than this!” It was that last statement that God decided to interrupt my conversation with a scripture, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I. Cor. 10:31, ESV).

My pride turned to humility, my anger to peace, and my sin was no longer justified but confessed. At that moment, in that car, on that day, I realized what it meant to do everything for the glory of God. The reason I had such an attitude was that I had been doing that job for all of the wrong people; the school district, my congregation, my family, and even that arrogant kitchen supervisor. The truth is, if Jesus Christ had asked me to put on a hairnet and wash dishes, I would have considered it an honor and done so with joy. For me, when we change “who” we are doing things for, everything changes, even our attitudes. The next day forward, that kitchen supervisor and I got along famously; he saw a man, old enough to be his father, willing to submit to his authority with joy and work harder than anyone else in that kitchen. That assignment only lasted three months, but the lessons I learned have lasted over 15 years.

Scripture: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” -Col. 3:17, ESV

Question: Do you ever find yourself working begrudgingly? How about complaining about your job or seemingly insignificant tasks you’ve been assigned? Do you ever feel you could be in a better position, one where you would have more respect for your experience or education?

Prayer: Father, there are times I allow pride to hinder my work and affect my attitude. May your words take root in my mind and heart so that I intentionally purpose to do everything for you and your glory. Thank you for giving me the health and strength to rise each day to serve you, no matter what you have me doing. Please help me recognize that you have a plan for my life that includes my work, and may you see a faithful, hardworking, and cheerful servant each day I report. Please help me recognize that my attitude and work ethic is a reflection of my relationship with you. Father, may I show you my gratitude today by what I do in your name. Thank you for your patience with me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

A Better View

Knowing this present life will not be our best gives us hope worth dying for.

Photo by Shayla on Pexels.com

Excited about my newfound faith in Jesus Christ, I couldn’t wait to sit down and talk with a pastor; I had so many questions. My then-girlfriend Laurie and I traveled to her hometown in Southwest Virginia to speak with her childhood pastor to answer my questions and talk about baptism. Pastor Chuck loomed over his office desk, a large and stately man in his 50’s that had transitioned out of the coal mines of Virginia to follow the calling into ministry.

To say that I was intimidated from the moment I entered his office would be an understatement. From his large hands that swallowed mine when we shook to his booming bass voice that welcomed me in, Pastor Chuck communicated conviction, faith, and power by his words and body language; this was a man marked with confidence that inspired others to believe. Sitting in a chair facing his desk, I told Pastor Chuck about my recent salvation and my desire to be baptized; even sharing my testimony caused me to be filled with excitement all over again. After planning out my future baptism service; I moved on to my most pressing question, “Pastor Chuck, I know forgiveness, joy, and love like never before. If all of these blessings are evident this early in my walk of faith, what can I look forward to with a life in Christ?”. Pastor Chuck leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms, and looking at me as a doctor with a terminal diagnosis would look at a patient just before relaying the bad news. I will never forget his next words, “Brother Tom, you are now an enemy of the devil, this world, and your flesh. You must be prepared. In your life, you will experience a trial by fire; a circumstance the likes of which you’ve never had to endure before.” I left the office that day a little discouraged, with “trial by fire” resonating in my head like a ghostly voice echoing the halls of a house in a bad horror flick.

Thirty years later, I realize his words to be valid. Yet, Jesus didn’t leave us unprepared; he told believers often that this world is full of pain and sorrow, our flesh is at constant war with the Spirit, and Satan and his legion of demons are now targeting us to destroy our testimony, weaken our influence, and hurt the very heart of God (Ecc. 2:23, I Pet. 5:8, Mt. 26:41, Eph. 4:30).

I have gone through some severe trials in my life, and there are many more around the corner, of that I am confident. However, my faith is stronger than ever because my hope is anchored to the throne of God. I believe attitude has much to do with the victories we claim over such times of hardships. Our choir director used to lead our adult congregation with the words, “this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me…the world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away”. What a wonderful reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above and protected by the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

I am confident that you have endured some great times of trial and tribulation, times when you didn’t think any more tears could be produced; like your very heart had been ripped out from your chest. Let me remind you that while we are told in this life, we will have tribulation, this life is short, and the next life will be more extraordinary forever (John 16:33, Ja. 4:14, Mt. 6:19-20). 

Please consider Chrysostom’s following historical account, a man who would have told a young, newly saved and excited, Tom McCracken, the same thing Pastor Chuck did. 

Chrysostom was “a godly leader in the fourth-century church, who preached so strongly against sin that he offended the unscrupulous Empress Eudoxia as well as many church officials. When summoned before Emperor Arcadius, Chrysostom was threatened with banishment if he did not cease his uncompromising preaching.

His response was, “Sire, you cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” Arcadius said. “Nay, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” came the answer. “Your treasures will be confiscated,” was the next threat, to which John replied, “Sire, that cannot be, either. My treasures are in heaven, where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from man, and you will have no friends left!” was the final, desperate warning. “That you cannot do, either,” answered John, “for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

John was indeed banished, first to Armenia, and then farther away to Pityus on the Black Sea, to which he never arrived because he died on the way. But neither the banishment nor his death disproved or diminished his claims. The things that he valued most highly not even an emperor could take from him.”

MacArthur, John. Matthew 1–28.In MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishers, 1989.

Scripture: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39, ESV

Question: Have you allowed circumstances to disrupt your life instead of serving as a reminder of the hope you have in Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Father, I am weak. There are times when I feel that everything around me is collapsing and falling apart. Please help me remember that all of the blessings you have freely given can’t be touched by Satan or circumstance. Thank you for the firm foundation of your love; the peace that passes understanding, the strength to endure, the faith to believe, and a future worthy of high expectation. Please help me during the seasons of trials to remember that you have a plan. Please help me see that no matter how trying my life may get, there is coming a day when you will wipe away every tear, still every mind, change every body, fix everything broken, right every wrong, and make all things new. Thank you for loving me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.