The Right [of] Way: A Farewell to TDOT

It’s a cold day [at TPAC] as I take this final skyline glance.

Vacancies once held now seven years of vibrancies starring back at me. Crazy how a city can reflect what you already know – the fact life is a highway built on and by dust…the cold yet beautiful reality that life is a vapor because it was spoken into by such.

Still, the question remains…

 How can one possibly capture a septennial’s worth of growth? Or put into words a spiritual journey equivalent to a Sahara crossing with one camel and a military canteen?

Whatever the answer, I won’t shy from letting words fly given this post is ultimately a testimony to God’s sovereignty. As such, I encourage you: Don’t read this as a summary of one man’s odyssey, but a synthesis of God’s faithfulness to transform.

Prologue aside, let’s dive in…

giphy.gif

When I started with TDOT Finance in April 2012, life was a bull market. From Lyssah to LEGACYouth to graduate school, everything seemed fresh and exciting. For the first time in years, I was enjoying all aspects of life – a stark contrast to the brutal four years preceding.

Yet, by fall 2013, many of these facets began to settle. While most things ministry and marriage-wise were flourishing, the same couldn’t be said about work. After a “promotion” from Budget to Payables, I struggled not only adjusting to the position but having to be in it at all. Unlike the two generations of Fry’s before me, I couldn’t support my family through pastoral ministry alone. Consequently, I often clocked in already feeling like a failure…like I didn’t belong.

And so, I vilified the culture, my 7-3:30 reality a necessary evil disguised as a reincarnated Matrix.

EmbellishedDefiantBlacknorwegianelkhound-size_restricted.gif

mega-city-the-matrix-a2af1128-dbf1-46f9-b3ed-ce426693222-resize-750

On the surface, I was pressing on, but deep down, I was defeated, a prisoner of my own narrative. To be free was to be out, but I had no escape plan. Just a spray of mental splinters reminding me I had nothing to offer.

For years, I believed the lie my value couldn’t be realized at TDOT. While I was able to return to Budget by summer 2014, by then, the early stages of depression had settled in. Driven by lingering guilt from past seasons, it was clear the fight to tame my despair was not being helped at work. If anything, the lack of voice and professional development only compounded the problem. Perhaps had I not compartmentalized my ‘loved by God’ identity, these voids wouldn’t have hindered the way they did.

Either way, by January 2015, my disdain for the work culture had finally trickled into disdain for certain people. No longer could I emotionally separate the two. Like a house divided, my joy was one-sided with each day an elevator countdown and a prayer against hopelessness. Long gone were the days I could thrive; I just wanted to survive.

And yet, life was fantastic behind the scenes. For starters, all things family and LEGACYouth continued to bloom – the best years coinciding with the worse years at TDOT. I was coming off a solid two year run at MTSU where I received my Master’s in Education: Instruction and Curriculum. And to cap it off, after hitting three years in youth ministry, I was had started working towards my licensure with Messenger Fellowship.

However, the major plot turn came during spring 2015 when I started to sense God’s call to create a written resource for vocationals¹. At first, I questioned if this word was from God given the timing made no sense. Not only did I feel disqualified, but emotionally unprepared to tackle such a task. Who was I to say ‘yes’ in light of where my heart was at?

But looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering…

  1. Even in our darkest hours, God is faithful to stir in ‘content’ despite our discontent.

  2. It’s often in the places we’re snake-bitten where God wants to deliver healing and entrust authority.

At any rate, after months of underground writing, His Girl Fryday published during summer 2015 to a humble following of 25 followers with biweekly posts and a podcast launch a few years after. But for TDOT, the key takeaway was the big picture – the fact God would use a special project to erode my heart of stone and transform it back into a heart of flesh. After all, it’s hard to stay mad at the marketplace when marketplace people represent your target audience. I guess that’s why they say, ‘God is without a sense of humor’.

Flash-forward to January 2019 and my heart is three years softer towards all things TDOT. Granted, there were some tough days; however, the inner maturation was now at a point I could daily choose joy, declare gratitude, and receive rest. Having learned a new rhythm of releasing, rarely did I carry anxiety into a new day. By God’s strength and power, I was being renewed regularly and refreshed in the mundane.

By early February, a new assignment had emerged, this time a Bible study open to all TDOT employees. As the Lord assured me, the inner man was ready to lead a charge that hadn’t been attempted in over two decades. A drive I would have laughed at four years prior, now a Spirit-led operation to plant a community of God’s presence. Using a mix of His Girl Fryday and Messenger Fellowship/Commission U content, I began to translate church-speak discipleship into digestible vocational dialogue. Though attendance rarely hit double-digits, the study would ignite a few more throughout the James K. Polk building. At last, the final chapter of my seven-year TDOT journey was complete.

By now, I bet you’re wondering…

source

And to that, I’d reply: The point is the story itself and the source it comes from. The way I see it, God permitted my TDOT landing so I could learn how to abide in a place I didn’t fit and love within a culture I didn’t understand. Along the way, I discovered how much more Jesus I needed…how I couldn’t possibly love and lead without His daily presence manifesting as sustaining power. I also tasted the bitter dregs of indifference, resentment, and what it’s like to project insecurity onto those mirroring your own struggle. If only I received correction without assuming gracelessness, no question, much grief during my time at TDOT could have been spared.

Still, when I look back on my TDOT tenure, what I’ll ultimately remember are the seven wonderful years I had to grow in my professionalism. Could have I been sent to more trainings, webinars, and conferences? Yes. Was it difficult being a travel specialist getting to send people all over the country without being able to join them? Absolutely.

Yet, at day’s end, all this is moot.

For many are the miles, but few are the meters to loving your neighbor. Much is the work, but much more are the people who work it.

Therefore, whether we’re CPA’s or ASA’s2, remember what matters is faith, hope, and love channeled through attitude, integrity, and legacy. The road may not always be easy, but as long as we stay the course, the freedom and ripening we crave will come.

As for now, I relish this moment to say, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ not only to my TDOT family, but every breakthrough, confrontation, and endeavor that has occurred the past seven years. What started as a single man looking for occupational and financial stability has ended with a family of five finding spiritual and vocational stability in the places that matter most.

One line ends, another begins. No question, I’m on a higher precipice thanks to what I learned here.

‘Til next time, here’s to the next and the undeniable truth that the best is yet to come…

Selah.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Particularly those in ministry and marketplace simultaneously
  2. Admin support assistants
Graphic creds: Skyscrapercenter, Alchetron

Staying Strong in the Void of Calm (October Recap Ed.)

I admit: I have not been in a writing mood this month.

Baby Milo, new job prospects, freelancing gigs, totaled car, family health issues…no question, there’s been much to handle in recent weeks. But amidst the turbulence, there have been silver linings – rays of strength in voids of calm. And while there’s much I don’t know in this state of processing, what I do know is we often discover new levels of courage during life’s greatest challenges.

So for today, I want to get real, raw, and a little freestyled about what the past month has been for me and family.

‘Cause truth is: Our response to crisis and unforeseen trauma is crucial; yet, it’s our heart towards God in the midst of chaos that defines whether we see Him as a momentary provider or persistent sustainer.

Real quick, before I forget: If you’re reading this and feel outside your comfort zone, rejoice! You’re probably doing something right or better put, right where you need to be. Be at peace, receive the calming of the seas within, and don’t look back.

That said, let’s dig in…

tenor

As mentioned, October was a roller coaster month with memorable highs and freaky lows. The fun and games started back on October 7 when Lyssah was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Coming off this appointment, we were only mildly concerned knowing we were close to Milo’s due date, not to mention we now had a valid reason to designate ministerial assignments. What we weren’t ready for was the nasty stomach virus spreading through our family starting with Everly then me, Caeden, and Lyssah respectively. While the bug left me quickly and unscathed, the same could not be said for Lyssah.

I’ll let my October 10th post do the talking…

FBP

As you can see, the episode ran a gauntlet of fear, mainly preeclampsia and early induction. Thankfully, while our collective nerves had been rattled, none of these issues verified. Despite the modest scare, the event was now mellowing to background prologue. Surely Milo’s labor and delivery would be uphill in comparison…

Birth story recap: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/10/25/birth-story-staying-strong-in-the-void-of-calm/

Long story short, strength had gained momentum heading into Milo’s birth weekend thanks, in large part, to our surprise emergency excursion; however, this impetus could not have happened without deferred fear and supernatural strength adrenaline. For instance, throughout the Dickson Tristar ordeal, I’d often catch myself wondering, “How am I doing so well amidst this turmoil? I should be freakin’ out right now. This is unchartered territory. I don’t how to handle all this!” Yet, time and time again, I’d land on a familiar tune, beating into heart as if it had been on loop for days…

Don’t just ‘not stop’ and keep going, but stop making sense of my strength…and just receive it.

Ahhh, just receive it. Sounds easier said than done, right? Like fortune-cookie wisdom disguised as solicited sarcasm or oversimplified commentary on complex theology. But as the ‘tune’ advised, when ‘try’ and ‘do’ become excluded, the right option becomes an effortless decision, and perseverance is made practical, who’s to say receiving divine strength has to be challenging?

As Lys and I discussed with our doula, sometimes abiding in Christ is simply allowing God to prop us up when falling seems like the only option. Even as waves of crap are hitting the fan, by recognizing the proximity and sovereignty of God, we can experience a higher confidence never thought possible. Granted, it may seem counter-intuitive at first; however, as embracing God’s strength in weakness becomes rhythm, it’s not long until we find rest and rise to our aim.

For example, when I crashed my car in a four-vehicle accident a few Friday’s ago, I could have easily catered to disappointment wondering ‘why me‘ or ‘why God‘; however, having exercised my focus to ‘help me‘ and ‘help God‘ in prior troubles, my dependence was locked into gratitude.

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 8.25.48 AM.png

Of course, sitting in a totaled car on an interstate median is never fun. But again, as the Spirit reminded me, it can be when you count your blessings and declare praise knowing you and God’s best are still alive. Come to think of it, I wonder why we often say, ‘it could have been worse‘ when to use it implies a contrast of an inferior outcome to the worst possible one. Shouldn’t we go the other way and gauge reality through the ‘new’ that is to come?

GargantuanDisguisedCowrie-size_restricted.gif

Whatever the case, whether you’re walking through hell or a level of purgatory, what ultimately matters is knowing a) you’re perpetually loved by One who has your front and your back and b) even in your darkest hours, you can worship through staccato cries for help.

As for how one stays strong in the void of calm? Frankly, there are many ways, but perhaps the shortest and sweetest one is this: Draw near, surrender fear, pray on the fly, don’t wonder why…just rely. Again, this takes years to learn and is handily theorized outside moments of stress; however, by committing to these steps ahead of the heat, you’ll be primed for God’s power during it. Like conquering any temptation, the winning move doesn’t start at the point of testing, but well before it (more on this in a later post).

For now, I’ll conclude with this: Though this breakthrough may sound basic to some, for the first time in forever, I’m pressing through pain without making sense of it, content in knowing what I don’t immediately understand will eventually be understood. And while I get the value in devotionals and specialized guides on handling conflict, there’s something to be said when God shows up in a fresh way, does an expanding work in your heart, and it’s not contingent on whether or not you ask for it.

He just shows up and pours in…because that’s who He is.

Selah.

As mentioned in my last pod, Lys and I will try (key word) to air a new pod on all this before 2020. Until then, feast on these verses (ESV/AMV), receive them whether or not you’re in a storm, and know if all you got is, ‘Help me, God‘, ‘Hallelujah‘ or ‘I need you, Jesus‘, God considers it a fragrant offering.

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Psalm 107:29-30 – “He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.”

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-9 – “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 46:10 – Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.

Woke Faith: A SOAP Study on Acts 17:15-34

When I say ‘Acts’, what immediately comes to mind?

Early church? Paul’s conversion? Pentecost? Speaking in tongues?

Perhaps you’re like me in thinking ‘Holy Spirit’, ‘encounter’ or some variation. To be fair, all these are great answers; however, they also occur during the first half of Acts. And as vocationals, I believe it’s important we examine Paul’s ministry in the latter half to understand modern-day application as Kingdom influencers in the marketplace.

That said, after discussing the Capernaum centurion in our last SOAP study, let’s fast-forward to Acts 17 where we find a provoked Paul stirring in Athens.

Scripture: Acts 17:15-34

Observations:

Relative to prior pitstops, the setup to Paul’s Areopagus address is fascinating. After mixed receptions in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul lands in Athens, a densely paganized hub drenched in idolatry (v. 16). Weary from travel, it’s fair to say Paul could have withdrawn or charged the scene in an abuse of confidence; however, as v. 17 states, Paul not only turned the other cheek, but reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews, city officials, and…[wait for it]…marketplace leadersevery day with those who happened to be there“.

This tells me three things off the bat:

  1.  Paul knew his audience, intentionally seeking it out realizing where the influence was coming from.
  2.  Paul was persistent, persuasive, and patient in his dealings with people from the get-go. As we’ll later see, how else could Epicurean and Stoic philosophers go from “What does this babbler wish to say?” to “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” in one verse?
  3. Paul understood the seeds of truth he needed to sow, but also the soil he needed to cultivate for those seeds to take root.

Continuing on through v. 28

Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

From here a couple more points stand out…

1. Paul, knowing his audience, not only adapted his language in preaching the Gospel but included secular references in verifying the Scriptures. Note how in v. 28 he cites Epimenides of Crete and Aratus’s poem “Phainomena” to prove the invalidity of temples gods.

I love how Cameron McAllister, a speaker with RZIM, captures this as “cultural apologetics”…

2. Paul, up until now, has not introduced the concept of repentance. This is because he was more concerned about connecting God’s love to creation than freedom from sin – which they lacked context for anyway.

3. Like today’s world, 1st century Athens valued diversity, connectedness, and were open-minded towards many philosophies (v. 21). This is likely why Paul prioritized a) singularity and relationship when explaining God’s absolute nature and b) centralization metaphors/analogies that made sense to them. In other words, Paul knew to capture the sovereignty of God, he had to first emphasize what they inherently knew about Him whether they recognized it or not.

CTA-Makes-Sense

4. As we find in v. 32-34, Paul saw few people converted in Athens on behalf of his presence; however, the lasting influence of his ministry is evident in that today the text of his speeches is still engraved on a bronze plaque at the ascent to the Areopagus.

Applications:

As Paul portrays, relating to the Athens of life is one of the most significant choices we can make as marketplace leaders. Like some of our working environments, Athens was a junkyard of idols, a toxic wasteland where intellect trumped truth. But amidst the funk, there were still people, blind as they were, who were open enough to listen – to give an open space as the Message translates. Thus, it could be said the greatest weakness of the Athenians was also their greatest strength given their misplaced devotion ultimately gave Paul the opportunity to testify.

As for us, there’s something to behold about this moment, especially as it pertains to our vocational environments. For one thing, I believe there are more people with receptible bandwidths in our midst than we think. Like Paul among the Athenians, we are often surrounded by colleagues, co-workers, and supervisors – many of them with a story, a set of ears, and a desire to be heard. Why then do we assume these people wouldn’t want to hear what we have to say? Is it because we’re afraid our vulnerability will not be received? Because we fear the truth will fall on deaf ears? Or are we so insecure, we evade judgment before it’s even cast? Not to downplay the discouragement Christian workers face operating in worldly systems of enterprise. I get how tough it can be when twenty seconds of insane courage become twenty minutes of painful rejection. I’m just sayin’ like Paul, we don’t have to resent the lost for being lost or the hurt for being hurt. Rather, we can sit down, invite them into our confident zones¹, and peacefully present the good news by which we live our lives.

Furthermore, I believe the power in our testimony is enhanced when we choose to speak the language of those we’re witnessing to. Remember everyone has skills and abilities, but very few know where they come from. As such, it’s imperative we acknowledge and affirm the areas God is manifesting through, whether or not they’re immediately recognized. After all, we’re all created by a master Creator with breath to take in the evidence of His presence. Hence, why it makes sense to incorporate the simple things we share in common into the unique ways we capture God’s love.

Selah.

Prayer:

“Lord, we thank you for being our source and our rock. We thank you for going before us to make a way when none seem possible. Day in and day out, you are our sovereign sustenance. What can we do but declare gratitude and victory in your name? But Lord, we also realize as vocationals, as marketplace leaders, as Kingdom influencers…we are not immune to daily alignment. Every day we’re exposed to idolatry, deception…worldly systems of tolerance and reciprocity disguised as love and compassion. We confess there’s much to be frustrated and angry about; however, we also confess your will in us, your Holy Spirit burning within, we have everything we need to counter culture with goodness, godliness, and the love you’re constantly perfecting inside our deep (Psalm 42:7). Give us the strength and discernment, Lord, to use your words in a language those around us can understand. Help us not be closed off to the raw giftings you’ve planted inside those who are far from you. If anything, help us know how to steward those divinely sown seeds so one day those carrying them will know without a day who they come from and why they are there. We choose you and accept the paths you’re establishing even now as we speak. May this all be so in your precious name. Amen.”

Footnotes

  1. As opposed to comfort zones