3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

For many, it’s the same thing every January…

                   …we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…

…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.

If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.

Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.

Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…

1) Making culture the enemy

I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.

Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’

The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.

Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.

However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?

And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…

…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.

Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on loving them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.

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2) Hiding behind proximity

As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.

But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?

I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?

Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?

If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.

‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.

That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.

Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’

However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop  compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2

‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.

Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.

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3) Marginalizingmy bandwidth

Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?

Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.

Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?

And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?

If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, Lys & I sit down and reflect on the year that was…

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When you think back on 2017, what immediately comes to mind?

CF: There are two answers to this question: The first and most obvious is Everly. Her arrival into the world, on Christmas Day no doubt, was by far the greatest moment of the year. The second and not as obvious is the word, ‘closure’ (more on this in a moment) and the phrase ‘finish strong’. In short, where 2016 was a year of settling, 2017 was a year of transitioning…with many seasons ending on high notes and new ones emerging out from them.

LF: I think of ‘pregnant’ having spent 10.5 months in 2017 developing babies in the womb…preparing for transition in every major area of life from home to work to ministry…not to mention learning to retrust and not borrow anxiety from what I hear around me given my story is my story and your story is your story.

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What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

CF: Like 2016, 2017 felt like two years in one with our house hunt serving as a sort of ‘halftime‘. As mentioned, the big ‘Fry-light’ came on December 25 when Everly made her debut. Yet, going back further, I’d say my Restoring the Foundations healing week (April 17-19), the LEGACYouth white-water rafting trip, buying our first house (August 8), the Kingdom Youth Conference (October 13-14), and concluding our LEGACYouth tenure (December 3) all rank up there.

LF: For me…Christmas baby, wrapping up youth ministry and work at Ramsey Solutions, and prepping to pursue new goals as we transition from one baby to two.

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How would you compare this year of marriage to the first three?

CF: No question, recent life changes have compelled us to be more sensitive and aware emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually; however, unlike the past few years, I feel like this year’s challenges were more joined and less amplified. In others, the highs still felt high, but the lows didn’t feel as low. I guess being parents has helped us grow not only as people, but as spouses.

LF: I think this year was more about choice than emotion. During our first year of marriage, we were standing face to face, holding hands…starring lovingly into each other’s eyes, but this year I feel like we were standing back to back with drawn swords ready to meet the challenges.

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What lesson from 2017 are you eager to apply in 2018?

CF: Having gone through Restoring the Foundations healing this past spring, there’s so much I could say; however, if I had to pick one, I’d go with restoration requires not only the repair, but the rebuilding of broken pillars whether they be soul/spirit wounds, generational strongholds, word curses and/or deceptions. While transformation comes at the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), it’s only when we’re intentional in pursuing these pillars that we break off the past’s power over our lives, strengthen our present relationships, and invest into our family’s future.

For additional lessons, check out my mid-year life lessons post.

LF: The lesson will be the continued application of trusting God to write my story and not assuming my story is what I’ve seen in other peoples’ lives. Also, the lesson I learned from carrying Everly: perpetual hope…as in my hope is in God and His character, not in my circumstances.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

CF: “Merry Happy Christmas Birthday, Everly!

LF: “We accomplished all we set out to do. We stepped out in faith and not only made it, but thrived doing it, exceeding every metric and loving those we encountered.”

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3 Underrated Life Lessons from ‘Home Alone’

When it comes to my top 10 Christmas movies, it’s tough not to include ‘Home Alone’. From John William’s score to Kevin’s elaborate booby-traps, it’s no wonder the film has long been heralded a Christmas classic.

Yet, while it’s easy to remember Macaulay Culkin’s signature scream and home security alarm system1, it’s also worth noting the movie’s moral fiber laced among its memorable moments.

Thus, in the spirit of going behind the scenes1, here are three underrated life lessons inspired by ‘Home Alone’…

1. Don’t believe everything you hear

Imagine being a falsely labeled murderer for over three decades, estranged from family, frozen in accusation. Hard to relate, right? Unfortunately, for ol’ man Marley, his reputation had fermented such stains. Once an innocent family man, now a salty, suspicious loner with a checkered past.

Yet, for Kevin, who like any impressionable youngster buys the gossip initially, his fear ultimately fades when confronted by Marley at a local church service.

Posed with tangible truth, Kevin not only accepts his misunderstanding, but ‘captains’ the conversation into two of the movie’s driving themes:

  • Togetherness is a vital ingredient to family life.
  • Never judge a book by its cover.

By exchange’s end, Kevin reminds us not only to weigh our judging impulses, but how doing so can build unexpected bridges with people we never imagined.

2. Reconcile your differences

As an adult, it’s interesting to observe movies you frequented as a kid. For instance, with ‘Home Alone’, it’s appalling how much word cursing and finger pointing occurs within the first five minutes.

Megan McCallister: Kevin, you’re completely helpless!

Linnie McCallister: You know, Kevin, you’re what the French call les incompetents.

Jeff McCallister: Kevin, you are *such* a *disease*!

Frank McCallister: Look what you *did*, you little *jerk*.

Buzz McCallister: I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my [butt].

I mean…if I had family like that, I probably would want them to disappear too. No wonder my parents started the movie after these scenes!

Of course, as we eventually find, Kevin, not realizing he’d been inadvertently abandoned, learns to value what his parents provided him while Kevin’s parents learn to press through guilt into doing whatever possible to get home.

By the finale, not only do we see Kevin’s rejuvenated appreciation of family, but Kevin’s family realizing the type of person they’d been abandoning long before leaving for Paris.

Granted, it would have been ideal had humility and forgiveness being more directly exchanged. Yet, in the world of cinema, beggars can’t be choosers so we learn to live with backhand affirmation (Buzz: “Hey, Kev. It’s pretty cool that you didn’t burn the place down.”), hugs speaking for themselves, and a mother’s ‘sorry’ covering for the entire family2.

3. Don’t just conquer your fear, stay ahead of it

Remember the scene when Kevin goes down to the basement and encounters the furnace (apparently voiced by Sauron)?

Upon further review, Kevin does right in downgrading his foreboding to imagination, but as we later see, once the furnace opens, it’s game over.

Fast-forward twenty minutes and we find Kevin, having since conquered a pestering clerk, a stereotypical police officer, and a klutzy pizza delivery man, revisiting the furnace, flexing his new found confidence (see 1:18-1:27 in the clip below).

Yet, while Kevin is able to ‘defeat’ the furnace,  he knows to beat the wet bandits, he must not only brace his fear, but embrace it by tackling each hurdle in stride as evidenced by my favorite scene in the movie…

Thus, as Kevin reminds us, if we want to better confront our challenges, we need to anticipate and see ourselves rising above them. Only then can we stand strong, hold our ground, and defend the faith as we were made to.

Bonus: Be careful what you wish for.

As a kid, this line constantly sailed over my head…

…but now as a married father of two, I get the joke.

Obviously, Kevin is too young to understand the full contrast between independence and relationship, especially in a family where neither is modeled well; however, for older viewers like us, his tantrum3 can remind us to be careful what we say, what we wish for, and how we interpret hidden cries for help.

In Kevin’s case, not only did he feel left out, but ridiculed and scorned when attention was given (hence his level of frustration; see word curses above). Yet, while his comments on the surface seem to indicate a craving for solitude, his ‘when I get married‘ slip up clearly confirms a much deeper-seeded desire for meaningful/functional connection.

As for us, let’s learn from Kevin by making sure we don’t defer our hope in the face of disappointment while keeping a steady ear, eye, and hand out for those in similar struggles4.

Footnotes

  1. In more ways than one
  2. Though quick side note: while Kevin’s parents lived their ownership, as we’ve talked about here on His Girl Fryday, full reconciliation of relational soul/spirit hurts can only occur if repentance is confessed
  3. Shout out to Joe Pesci whose reaction makes this scene)
  4. Which interestingly Kevin does with old man Marley during the church scene

Bible Verses

  1. 2 Timothy 1:7
  2. Romans 8:37
  3. Psalm 23:4
  4. Isaiah 41:13
  5. Deuteronomy 31:6
  6. Psalm 27:1; 34:4
  7. Psalm 115:11
  8. 1 Peter 3:13-14
  9. 1 Corinthians 16:13
  10. Proverbs 13:12

Photo cover: Film & TV Now

The Season of Perpetual Hope

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so we’re told this time of year.

But let’s be honest: how many of us feel remotely close to Yuletide bliss?

I know for me…as the fall sun sets into what should be the happiest season of all, the stress of it not being so sets in as well.

What if December is blue, not white. What if this and that are not right.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say the anxiety can be overwhelming.

And yet, as valid as our tensions may be…as easy as it is to yield to negativity and strive for positivity, it’s worth noting we were made for the other way around.

But Cam…how do I get there? 

Well, that’s why I writing this.

‘Cause truth is: this Advent season can feature some of the roughest crossroads of the year. For instance, what do you do when you want to sing joy to the world, but feel too ‘Charlie Brown’ to care? Or what do you do when Christmas is coming on too fast for one limping among shattered dreams and broken goals on way to another yearly finish line?

To help answer these questions, I want to cut away to one my favorite Christmas movies: Home Alone.

Remember the scene when Kevin’s mom is desperately pleading with the Scranton ticket agent?

And I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike! If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.”

Well, it just so happens prior to her ‘Momma Bear’ unleashing, she leaks out one of the most profound definitions of Christmas in cinematic history.

This is *Christmas*! The season of perpetual1 hope!

Now it’s worth pointing out a couple things:

  1. Kate McCallister, like many of us this time of year, is tired, frustrated, yet determined…knowing what she wants but unsure how to get there.
  2. Kate admits a profound truth as a means to justify a personal end (i.e. getting home to her son’)…as opposed to letting that means be the end she needed to persevere.
  3. Kate’s response reminds us of the potentially beautiful relationship between resolve and desperation (Note I say ‘potentially’ since unguarded desperation can mislead our resolve away from what we believe).

In short, Kate had the awareness of what was right: Christmas is the season of perpetual hope2; however, in her frantic state, she lacked the application of what was right as the only thing she wanted perpetual was herself.

Yet, while Kate could have saved herself some stress, we can learn from her mistake by discovering what the Word says about  ‘perpetual hope’. ‘Cause when we talk ‘perpetual’, we’re not only talking about the immutability of God – the reality of an unchanging God timeless in nature, but also the quality of hope we internally long for.

Ask yourself this: why do so many nations celebrate the secular symbol of Santa Clause…or represent their holiday spirit with illumination? Is it not as Bryan Bedford stated from “Miracle on 34th Street”, “to create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made…”?

If yes, then I submit we’re not only hard-wired with an innate drive to hope in something, but to hope in something perpetual. Granted, it’s easy this time of year to put foot to gas…hoping to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’…hoping to feel good about ourselves…hoping enough satisfaction can be derived from momentum…as opposed to resting in our perpetual Provider; however, if you’re sitting there worried the joy of Christmas has to be earned or is going to take off without you…I have good news for you:

You don’t have to carry the load anymore!

Rather you can relinquish fear, release control, and receive a fresh hope centered in the always abiding, ever enduring love of the begotten. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about: remembering the “light of the World” who came not only to make a way, but a perpetual way (Isaiah 43:16)…even when we feel no one can reach us3.

Thus, if anyone needs some perpetual hope this Christmas, consider it’s always been Jesus…

…God from God…

…Light from Light…

…Strength of Strength…

…Hope of [Perpetual] Hope…

…breaking through the darkest of nights to save…

…you.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Perpetual = Never ending/changing, everlasting; occurring repeatedly
  2. Honestly, how many people around her could have come up with a better summary of Christmas in six words or less, especially under those circumstances
  3. Desperation Band – “Make a Way

Dear Church: Get Real, Not Relevant.

I got something to say…

…and gotta get it straight before the sun goes down.

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If the church wants to be a city on a hill, then why is it trying so hard to be relevant?

Not to suggest the church should be indifferent towards evangelism or complacent in discipling; I’m just sayin’ since when did the church become ashamed of the Gospel? Since when did she start making it about you…and your receptivity to truth?

‘Cause truth is: the church was never meant to be culturally relevant or well-received, but contextually real and eagerly given.¹

For what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the wonderful things God has given us.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12 (AMP)

 “[So I have intended] to come to you, in order that I may reap harvest among you…both to the wise and to the foolish. I am eager to preach the gospel to you…for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” ~ Romans 1:13-16 (ESV)

Granted, most of you agree; however, in a time when church gets commission, but not Gospel…where truth is seen as content only worth its reach, it shouldn’t surprise us why many struggle to get God since what’s being modeled to them is more marketable than relatable.

Thus, it’s worth asking: How do we conquer the divide (be it deception, segregation, warped ecclesiology, etc.) in a way that gets us back to fishing for men without the bait? 

To answer this, we must accept…

  1. Relatability and relevancy are two completely different thing (more on this in a future post; ’til then, note Jesus’ interaction with outcasts (Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 21, Mark 5, John 4).
  2. The world isn’t looking for church to be relevant; it’s desperate for something real, radical and revolutionary.
  3. When we’re reaching out, embracing in, and loving like Jesus, we never have to attract people to the Kingdom because it’s already there in front of them.

Remember the church’s call is to draw near to the lost like God, not draw the lost to find God.

Sure, our church may be in the midst of a powerful sermon series with catchy taglines to promote. But at the end of the day, what the world really wants is the reality of grace abounding as people love the way they know how.

‘Til then, I charge the church to get real about her entitled expectations. ‘Cause honestly, whether or not we’re in favor of a church’s peripherals (worship style, tech incorporation, service flow) or demographics (diversity), shouldn’t distract us from what ultimately matters – people fearlessly living and loving like Jesus…who are willing to resonate truth rather than make it relevant.

Remember Jesus didn’t die for you so you could be you; He died so we could be of same mind and heart so those lost and afflicted could join in. He didn’t die so you could be convinced how special you are; He died so you could tell others why they are.  He didn’t die so you could be served; He died so you wouldn’t have to worry whether or not you are.

And that, my friends, is what the Gospel is all about:  serving those deserving, giving to the living, bringing unity to community, telling not selling…I could go on.

Maybe you’re sitting there discouraged wishing things could turn around. If so, I want to encourage you tonight: while it may seem you gotta get your life in order to make a difference, you can make a difference in order to make a life.

Yeah, you may think you have nothing to offer, you make think your faith isn’t ‘attractable’, but given the Word says it’s who you are over what you have (1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 3:27-28), you never have to worry about having something to lose and nothing to give.

As for the church, I also encourage you: whether you’re pitching a product, promoting a series, or marketing a vision, never forget…

  1. The ‘me’ in ‘follow me’ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) is not about you.
  2. We’re called to make disciple-makers, not gain followers.
  3. Millennials don’t want your relevancy; they want your authenticity.

After all, when we “present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God”, we not only capture their attention, but their hearts as well.²

tenor

Selah.



Footnotes

  1. Vaters, Karl (2016, March 30). “Forget Being Culturally Relevant.” Christianity Today.
  2. Dyck, Drew. (2017). “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”). The Aquila Report.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest