Year in Review: A Look Back at 2022

Remember that scene in Muppet Christmas Carol when Scrooge tilts around town extending good cheer?

I don’t know about you…but rewatching this with my kiddos, I can’t help but appreciate Caine’s conviction as he proclaims:

The glory that you see
Is born again each day
Don’t let it slip away
How precious life can be

With a thankful heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise every breath I take
Will be used now to sing your praise

To be fair, the transformation of character is heart-warming even if condensed in a cinematic finale. But to be honest, these admissions of truths, while dear to heart, are harder to swallow this year.

And for good reason, dare I dive into details you may already know. A year to remember? Oh, for sure. But what exactly should I remember? That is the question I’m asking with one week left on this year’s clock.

While a recap can only go so far, what I can say is to what I remember, to that I will be grateful. Lost wind and sail be darned, I will not yield to disappointment though the woods still surround me.

For starters, I delight in God and the daily outpouring of His nature into the challenges and opportunities He divinely appointed this past year. No question, it took a marriage, a family…and many a team and tribe to bear the load. To our families, friends, colleagues, and the NICU units at Centennial and Vanderbilt (shout-out to Paige Buhl, Bailey Jenkins Stults, Courtney Osborne & Heather Akers among others who went above and beyond the call of duty), we again express our gratitude from the sincerest and deepest places of our hearts. While we’re saddened to have lost a daughter, we rejoice in having gained new family as a result…not to mention heightened levels of strength, perseverance, and endurance to take into the next God has for us.

While I’m on the ‘grateful heart’ train, I’d like to thank our parents and siblings, most notably Jan Ferguson for her cut-above support in being available despite several family storms this year, to Jessika Stephen Sanders for introducing Lys & I to Praying Through Ministries and inspiring network awareness, to our Gate fam for setting, service, and sustenance support, to Greg McRay, my colleagues in the Sales Department, and many others at Foundation Group who were intentional in following Juby’s journey, really anyone who directly reached out to encourage us the past year…we toast your kindness and generosity.

As for additional recollections, of course, the many miles and minutes logged in juggling home and NICU life stand out. The course and prep work involving Juby’s tracheostomy and homecoming, the teaming in learning new skills…all of it was a highlight even though the ultimate dream fell short. As I told one of my co-workers, Lys & I had a one-of-a-kind year during which we took our date nights to Vandy where we cried, prayed, and processed the crap out of life…where slowly but surely, investments into something much larger than ourselves and our circumstances began to take root.

On the home front, props are certainly warranted for Caeden, Everly & Milo for their flexibility amidst the audibles. With evolving rhythms almost a weekly reality, I take pride in their maturation and how they’ve adjusted to life at Greater Things Christian School (shout-out to Chris Harris). When the year started, Lys & I had hoped to enroll them under the same educational roof. Despite a surge of logistical gymnastics, we rejoice in not only reaching this goal but also having the privilege of being a part of an emerging community full of families like ours.

On the work front, the adversities, unlike the NICU, were felt between the lines and behind the screens. While outlooks and viewpoints have been compelled to modulate, I celebrate the space and place I’m in. As I’ve told several prospects, in terms of mission and colleague comradery, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more humble, unshakable core. In more ways than one, I’m in good company.

As for side hustles, Fry Freelance continued its momentum in guest writing for a host of entrepreneurs connected to Dan Cockerell’s keynote network. With seven active podcast series under our belt, we hope to continue bringing marketplace podcasts to life. In similar fashion, Lys & I look forward to another year of facilitating communications at our local fellowship and leading small group Zoom calls within Messenger Fellowship circles across the globe.

As for looking ahead, it’s hard to know how to feel about next year, let alone tomorrow. But I suppose that’s part of the Juby effect:

  • I fear not about tomorrow because today is a gift urging my focus to stay present.
  • I fear not about death because today I’m alive in Christ, my life in Him an invitation to embrace the fullness of joy and strength for body, soul, and spirit.
  • And I fear not about what man may do or say because today God’s victory in me is imminent and shattering the mold.

His uphold a response to every stronghold, I smile upon the journey that was, is, and is to come. For while many would consider our year a brutal stretch, we see it as a life-altering season with life-giving implications. Yes, losing Juby was a significant shock to the system, but given the reset trajectory, I can’t help but anticipate fresh leaps of faith with refreshed perspective as a man undone.

Which in a way, ties into the reason we gather here today…

For into chaos, Jesus came not only as an innocent babe but also as a Prince of Peace with a sword to awaken the priorities of His beloved.

Through all we experience, through all we endure…the glory of God can be known as we seek and press into Immanuel, relying on Him as He calibrates our intentions to what really matters. To everyone, young and old, meek and bold, while seismic life events can serve as holy catalysts, there’s more than enough reason to let a rightful celebration of Christmas wash over and encourage you to receive the gift and presence of Jesus anew.

And as we advance into greater unknowns in this decade like no other, it’s this Spirit-inspired head I choose to maintain as good tidings are embodied much like Scrooge on the heels of his healing. One way or another, we’re going to get there…one Juby empowered baby step at a time.

From our home to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Selah.

Prepare Him Room: The Innkeeper’s Dilemma

Written: 12/21/15; edited 12/15/22

I don’t know about you, but…

Granted, it’s 70 freakin’ degrees and our only hope for a white Christmas lies in a water and sodium polyacrylate amalgamation (thanks, El Niño blowtorch).Then again…it’s not like Christmas hinges on what can be tangibly felt…be it an emotion, a moment, or an unfavorable teleconnection with ridging tendencies.

Of course, you know me; I could go on about the Grinch-like weather and other seasonal interferences like a mopey cotton-headed ninny muggins. But I figure:

  1.  Nobody got time for that and… 
  2. There’s way too much goodness worth discussing.

‘Cause while the weather outside is NOT frightful…with certain situations far from delightful…truth is: God has given us a place that is rightful…where all is still well and all is still bright.

But perhaps you’re like many who aren’t feeling so hot right now, fatigued from a difficult year and/or stressed by the perilous times in which we live.If so, then I encourage you: take heartfor you are not (or ever) alone…nor are you hopeless, helpless…or unworthy of receiving the kind of rest and peace this time of year has to offer.

‘Cause when we talk about Christmas, we’re not talking about some annual tradition, a candlelit spectacle, or an excuse to be off work. Rather, we’re talking about an expectant hope made possible by God who has set things right for us (Jeremiah 33:16), who remains true to His promises…all the while giving us a reason to know joy and fear not.

Thus, when we pause to consider what Christmas really means, we ultimately set ourselves up to look up…and experience a joy that merges with a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

Consider the innkeeper in Luke 2…a character in the birth narrative who gets a bad rap due, in part, to his lack of mention. As a kid, I had this idea that the innkeeper was this snarky, Arab Ken Jeong type who opened the door, glanced at Mary and Joseph, and blared, ‘No room for you’… only to slam the door in their face.

But as I’ve revisited the story in recent years, I’ve come to realize the innkeeper was not only fulfilling his part in the prophecy (Micah 5:2), but was also doing his best to extend joy into Mary and Joseph’s situation through hospitality.

You see…at this point in the narrative, we often underestimate the contrast between what was being felt versus what was being done.Personally, I believe the innkeeper was being true to his word (i.e. ‘there’s no room in the inn’), based on the time of the day, the time of year…plus you never lie to a pregnant woman who’s dilating on a donkey.

Yet, while it’s very brief in text, what the innkeeper does between the lines in offering his only ‘stable’ option is actually super profound.

‘Cause what he did, in purest essence…was prepare Him room (i.e. He offered the only thing he could offer in the moment, wrapped it with humble honesty…and counted it all joy).So when you think about it…the innkeeper, despite his minor role, captures what Christmas (and joy for that matter) is all about: being intentional in making room for Jesus in the midst of our chaos…and laying our burdens before the Lord so that the voids left behind can be filled with expressions of honor.

I love this short put out a few years back from The Skit Guys…

Per the above, I encourage you, my friends, to consider your Christmas contribution to Jesus this year…whether it be your time, your walls, your fears…and to seal it by preparing Him room in your hearts…all for the sake of saying, ‘Jesus, you are my joy, the answer to life…and the reason for the season.’For when you ready yourself to receive Christ, you repeat the sounding joy by also receiving the continuous outflow of His blessings and grace…which is exactly why God sent His only begotten Son in the first place.

On behalf of Lyssah & I, we want want to wish you a very…

Cover graphic creds: Subsplash

Star Yores: The Turn of the Magi

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12 (AMP)

Imagine this.

You’re a renowned scholar of your time, a respected expert in astrological sciences, and in general, a maestro of subject matter.

With a mind geared towards the aerial, your intellect hits new light: A star, one you’ve never seen before far outside your scope. Your natural inclination is to pause and ponder. Could this be a confluence of planets, a comet, perhaps a supernova kissing our celestial cul-de-sac? Or is this an illusion, a unicorn moment too good to be true?

Whatever the case, there are no analogs. Whatever you’ve seen, whatever you’ve heard…for once it’s not good enough. And thus, a fire rages within to crack the mystery. but even more so to discern this urge to do something radical, something crazy.

The fork ever widening, you roll the dice and take the risk. Seeking out this angelic beam, you’re now on a camelback quest with your comrades. Advancing into unchartered territory, you quickly realize this isn’t Kansas anymore and your directions aren’t so simple as second star from the right and straight on ’til morning. Your convenient, carpeted life…now subject to the Euphrates and a Royal Road to true royalty.

Like a pre-disciple, you’ve said goodbye to home, not entirely sure if you’ll return. Risking it all to lay it all down, the gifts you bear are years from delivery but capture the source of your faith.

You’re going west, young man…with words of gratitude close at heart yet from far from optional. For this cryptic star, the one you’ll regard as of David, had once shined on a child in manger lay. The illuminating origin of eternal freedom the same origin as that still small voice compelling you to follow confidently.

But though the trek is long and arduous, despite future uncertainty, you embrace the joy set before you as a constant rising and a call to worship. One way or another, you will complete this crusade and discover a new depth of truth you never thought possible.

A once foreign light illuminating a stable place, now an inspiration for yours to walk from.

Fast-forward to present day and you are where you are. What a ride it’s been…

Unlike many, you may believe you have something to offer outside your realm of expertise, something to contribute outside your wheelhouse of benevolence. You may have that itch inside wanting to pour out in a fresh way – your modern-day equivalent of frankincense or myrrh on standby.

However, like many, you may be waiting for a catalyst to surrender and sacrifice when in reality, the time is now to sojourn into deeper waters, to try a new course. Granted, I can only speak so far into anonymous situations. Yet, I know for me, as one who anticipates burning bushes that never come, I must be ready to render those focuses off-center and recognize the Spirit as “star power” capable of illuminating the way I’m to go.

Which brings me to my point for today: You may feel depleted and broken, perplexed and confused; you may be overwhelmed or overthinking.

Yet, regardless of your circumstances, if your 3:00 am restroom break is on the verge of turning into a brutally early wakeup call, guess what! That same star of wonder, the same star of night…is still alive and well today to guide you into whatever perfect light you need to walk in.

You see…for the magi, they lived for this. Even as they (literally) contemplated their next steps from illumination, the timely cost of multiple years and the emotional cost of social and occupational inconveniences didn’t deter them from making one of the most epic expeditions in the Roman era. Put another way, before the wise men could fathom the historical repercussions of their Messianic voyage, they had to first contest the ramifications of their surrender; hence, why as brilliant as they were, their greatest asset was not their wealth of knowledge and resources, but a corporate humility to recognize eternal prominence.

And in the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us, that’s why I’m writing this – to implore holy inventory and discourage whatever annual defaults we’ve accepted to justify idleness and self-preservation. I can’t make sense of the pain my family and I feel right now. I can’t make sense of the pain you likewise may feel as we close out the year.

But for all I don’t know, what I do know is basic spiritual probability. Specifically, if my attention isn’t anchored to holy light, then chances are my call to mobility and a humble returning will be compromised.

Yes, I miss Juby, the times life felt more stable, even the opportunities I could have been truer to my faith. Yet, amidst the chaos, I remember that stable place 2,000 years ago and those who released their inhibitions to adore what matters most in all eternity. For all of us, may this truth be the centerpiece of any Christmas stirring as we approach 2023.

Selah.

Cover graphic creds: Wallpaper Cave