The Struggle is Kneel: Why Surrender is Hard [at it’s] Core (Part 1)

So lately, I’ve been pondering the challenges of juggling family, vocational, and liturgical responsibilities. After all, my greatest passion is helping marketplace leaders balance the sacred and secular while discovering their influence within their spiritual gift mix.

However, if I’m being straight-up honest, I’m finding this calling, at least in recent months, more difficult than I could have imagined. In fewer words, I could cite career adjustments and pandemic troubleshootings in 2020 as well as the Jubilee journey kickoff in 2021 as justifiable narratives. But this wouldn’t scratch the itch of what lies beneath – the insecurities in the closet, the anxieties swept under the rug, and the fears at bay yet preserved in toleration, just to name a few.

Perhaps time will eventually permit me to unpack this series in greater detail. For now, what I will say is as we hit new strides in an unsettling world, let’s not empower the past by assuming God can’t do a new thing in familiar settings.

For some of you, this is not a struggle, but to me, this can be tough. In fact, I would submit the wrestling, while worth it from a perseverance perspective, is ironic: As we grow through life, as we war through the ups and downs, so do our laundry lists grow of what we wish we could have done differently.

I look at 20-25 and I see a double-minded Christian meandering like a chicken with his head cut off. I look at 26-32, as one who aligned but took too much personally and could have been a more consistent leader. And now after years of counseling and spot-start ministerial assignments, I’m ready to get back into the game. The problem is my hands are tied primarily by what I can’t control…

…and that’s okay.

What’s not okay is the propensity I sometimes fall prey to: Defining relationships by emotional impressions.

By this, I’m referencing the practice of perceiving a person through the greatest internal reaction they’ve elicited be a single moment or repeated pattern. For instance, within a single connection, there may be nine positive interactions; however, if the tenth provokes a strong negative response (seen or unseen), we may taint the entire association to the point of withdrawal.

Again, the issue with this mindset ties to our natural minds. Without holy parameters and godly beliefs, we are almost always going to scale the magnitude of these moments incorrectly. Not to mention if we’re not sensitive to the Spirit to surrender at the point of awareness, that snowball is only going to get bigger.

As I’ve been asking myself…

…what will it take to fully surrender certain disappointments and discouragements?

If I’m waiting on divine intervention in the form of a burning bush, I’m not only likely going to miss opportunities to serve but also moments to show [and grow] up where overcoming can happen.

If this sounds blunt, know it comes as one pointing the finger at himself. Clearly, this is a habit I need to mature in as the first half of 2022 concludes.

Granted, I know I’m not alone and if anyone needs to hear this, I hope this prompts a boost for you to stay the course, forgive past offenses, and deflect the lies of the enemy. As much as we’re curious to know what deceptions other people are plagued by, especially as they pertain to us, dare to not hold your destiny hostage. Instead, find yourself in Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV) and focus on the next best step.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

As C.S. Lewis once said…

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll take a deeper dive into how we can integrate surrender into our quiet times, fuse it with our curiosity, and apply it relationally. Until then, I pray Jeremiah 10:23 over you in the sense God guides you to His heart to direct your steps. In all you say and do, remember the way of man is not in himself but in acknowledging and knowing God. Why not draw near, be still, and be at peace as you lean into His highest?

Selah.

Cover photo creds: iStock

Bad Blood: The Struggle with Crusty Clients

So I’m slightly jaded as I type this. And forgive me, it’s been a rough week for this guy though on a Juby note, her health has been thriving of late. Let the record stand my perspective has not fully waned.

As for this post, the intent is not to vent but to gauge a social braintrust – to inquire your perceptions to fill in where mine may be off.

I don’t need to be so specific as to why I’m discouraged; however, I will say as long as I’ve been a professional, I’ve been a firm believer the client is not always right. In fact, I’ll just say it: For most customers I deal with, they are misinformed/uninformed, ill-equipped…or some variation either at the point of requesting assistance or at another within their contract journey. It’s not only one of the reasons why client care is so valuable..but also why I enjoy providing timely solutions, calibrating expectations, and championing concerns.

But every now and then, bad eggs come to town, sometimes out of leftfield…and ‘warpath’/smear-campaign you into the ground…all because their way was not ‘the’ way…at the end of the day. If only everyone could speak from a level head in the heat of a disagreement or blood boil (*sarcasm*).

*Sigh*

As a proud Client Success Manager, I take pride in what I do, ensuring clients understand the parameters behind the principles they’ve agreed to. After all, it’s one thing for companies to have products and processes; it’s even more for them to have principles and parameters to accommodate. True, the policing is not…how to do I say it…fun; however, it’s part of the job security and necessity to promote healthy workflow and streamline.

‘Tis why as an ‘air traffic controller’ of the client experience, as a ‘relationship manager’, I relish the opportunity to keep the big picture in mind as I maximize my reach in the moment…granted, it’s a delicate tightrope act requiring a daily assessment of goals, targets, and time-management tactics.

Yet, what can you do when the abusive bully persona hits your line, blows up your e-mail…and there’s no way out? Either you acquiesce to the client and dilute your company’s customer service philosophy or stand your ground communicating professionally to the tune of BBB threats and negative reviews. Hence, why in some situations, you just can’t win, try as you may be with reason, and why so many 5-star organizations carry 4-4.5 star averages on review-based platforms.

But back to my point: In fewer words, I’m struggling to justify the ‘customer is always right’ rationale. For one thing, Selfridge never intended the phrase be taken literally. Yet, more importantly, if we abide by this motto, not only do we forfeit our ability to lead from empathy and react from fear but we also empower the most illogical expectation, minimizing our help from the hands on to the signed fine print behind it.

Again, these are raw thoughts I’m probing this week. I’m not citing any of this as gospel truth. Rather, I’m calling what resonates to the surface for the sake of unifying our mentality. In most that we do, regardless of our profession, we deal with many people through many interactions. And if there’s any shade of client care in your position, more power to you given the amount of misdirected pointed fingers can be overwhelming sometimes.

That said…

…this is where we must also see our opportunity to reflect the heart of service: To inspire direction, goodwill, and accountability into the voids we encounter.

Take it from one who has learned over time: Quality client care is not based in an ability to bend over backwards to appease but in a commitment to respond and listen in a way that bridges need with best practice.

The fact I don’t cater to out-of-bound demands does not, in any way, imply I don’t have the client’s best interest in mine. Because again, my goal, is to facilitate and foster success by outlining next best steps, making them known, and encouraging confidence into the customer’s decision-making. God at the core, that is the foundation I work on. God in my midst, that is the foundation I work in.

To the word curses of the week, consider the dust off my sandals…

…or out of my shoes in this case.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: PCC The High Road

Master Relater: Why Jesus Doesn’t Just Heal our Infirmities

Not long ago, my eight-month-old daughter, Jubilee, received her tracheostomy – an answer to months of prayer, waiting, and wondering.

At last, The Master Physician…not just making a way for greater health but advancing her recovery to the next level.

Yet, in recent days, as I’ve considered the Cross with Easter still in mind, I’ve been moved by the Messianic prophesy captured in Matthew 8:16-17:

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'”

A popular verse among those quoted in hospitals, I want us to consider Isaiah’s verb choices.

For instance, he doesn’t say verbatim Jesus would cure our infirmities and heal our diseases. Rather, he suggested Jesus would take them up and carry them – a metaphoric preview pointing to the Cross to come. Granted, on the surface this may seem discouraging for those seeking immediate results; however, I submit these words can carry powerful resonance if we allow them.

Think of it this way: Before Jesus could heal our diseases, He first had to relate to them. As Hebrews 4:15 emphasizes, Christ identified with us in our sufferings so He could restore our brokenness, transform our perspective, and fix our eyes to His presence. Cross in mind, this is why Jesus did not purchase our eternal freedom at the cost of iniquity alone as He knew our physical reconciliation was part of the package. Hence, why we must understand…

…while Jesus died for our sins and eternal relationship, He also endured our physical limitations so we could better relate to Him in our weakness.

To me, this blows my mind knowing…

…Jesus, even in His final moments, was not only proactive to consider our need to walk in fullness by His grace but cared just as much about our physical restoration as our spiritual freedom.

As for how this can encourage us in the short-term? Again, consider the Cross within Matthew 8:16-17. Before Jesus could instantly heal, there had to be a way to Him and for Him to call us to receive His healing. By establishing this pathway, He also made clear a critical order: Healing, in its rightful place, is not a catalyst but an overflow – a means to relationship with God. Accordingly, since Jesus is the answer (John 14:6), we must be careful not to assume His divine intervention is even close to the solution He is.

Yes, the NICU life, like many settings and situations, is a struggle stirred by our desire to know the ‘why’ of God’s plan, but this shouldn’t deter us from pressing into Jesus. As Matthew 8:1-17 reminds us, healing is a holy prompt to discover God as He connects to our circumstances. While miracles are often perceived as the mic drops of God’s power, dare to see the waiting for them as opportunities to know His love, nearness, and faithful sovereignty in a fresh way.

After all, it’s God’s heart our burdens aren’t the only things growing amidst our perseverance.

Bottom line: While healing is a culmination of God’s power, the anticipation of it should excite our hearts knowing He never stops pursuing us in the midst of chaos and crisis. Even though many of us reading this have felt the letdown at one point or another, take heart: The next time you sense God knocking, open the door, cast your anxieties, and let Him minister to you in ways only He can.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

Master Messiah: The Final Lessons of Jesus

When we reflect on the Easter story, we often dwell on the Cross and its aftermath. We consider Jesus’ final moments, the empty tomb, and the ascension sealing the end of Jesus’ first coming. 

However, while Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest climax the world has ever known, one must not forget the lead-up to Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion. True, He took the nails for our transgressions, paid our ransom in blood, and secured our freedom with the keys from hell. But He also offered some crucial reminders on how we’re to press into the Father during life’s greatest trials…when we feel betrayed, abandoned, even abused. 

Accordingly, as we prepare for the ultimate remembrance, may we heed and receive these final lessons of Jesus…our Master Messiah.

  1. How to Overcome Verbal Abuse

For those familiar with the Gospel culmination, we know Jesus was accused, mocked, and beaten before dying a criminal’s death ahead of His vindication. Yet, what’s sometimes lost in translation is the verbal nature of Christ’s abuse. While Jesus was accustomed to being misunderstood from ministry origins to His triumphal entry, the assault taken as He carried the cross is worth noting.

First, imagine bleeding to death, muscles exposed, your beard ripped out, a scarlet robe dangling from reclotting wounds, all the while carrying a 100-lb wooden crossbeam two miles to your execution site. Then, ponder the compounding pain of venomous falsehoods cracking your spirits simultaneously. I don’t know about you, but words and modern-day recreations can only go so far though this scene is a valiant effort…

Although Jesus had cultivated a lifelong habit of not taking offense, who knows what thoughts and temptations crossed His mind at this juncture. After all, it’s one thing to be mistaken as you’re praised; it’s another to be scorned as you’re dying. Still, even with the weight of the Cross on His shoulders, the Cross was still before Him. Despite the brutal slew of ridicule, Jesus, with fading strength, knew these people not only represented the very thing He came to die for but also what future generations would continue to do. 

Think about it: What we do in secret and subdued fashion tacks on to this moment. In times of misjudgments, we react out of confusion and anger, subconsciously doubting Jesus is who He says He is. From there, we take matters into our own hands and curse our troubles as if the victory on Calvary never happened. Granted, I know an insult to fallenness before us is different than a personal attack; however, I suppose the relatability from present to past is what grips me – the idea we, though millenniums apart, played a part in Jesus’ death, the future weight of our sins notwithstanding.

Like those who cast their slights on the first Good Friday, we, too, must confess the times we’ve a) failed to identify our Lord as Savior amidst our struggles and b) undermined His authority by not taking captive what He took captive 2,000 years ago. 

Of course, given we’ve been forgiveness and restored, why not learn from Jesus by turning the other cheek when we’re derided and declaring His sovereignty during suffering?

For when the world interrogates our faith wondering if we truly believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for our deliverance, our life should speak with or without the words.

Even though we can’t control what others say, we can love by an unwavering stand to deflect offense Luke 23:34-style while stilling ourselves to pray…

Bottom line: Jesus was cursed but not crushed in the face of verbal abuse. While we, like Peter, may occasionally renounce Jesus in word or in thought, this doesn’t mean we can’t stand firm amidst verbal onslaughts. As long as we know what we wrestle with is not a matter of flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we can invite God into the calibration of our emotions.

2. How to Pray Amidst Anxiety

Between The Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest, we note Jesus goes to Gethsemane for one last communion with the Father, a time during which He asks God not once, but twice for the cup of His wrath be removed. Anxious to the point of hematohidrosis, He cries out in desperation longing for God’s nearness and an assurance of His will. If there was any possibility of an audible, now was the time to reveal it. 

Yet, even in anguish, a lamb among wolves, Jesus stood firm modeling one last lesson to the disciples before His betrayal. We see this in Matthew 26:36 when Jesus asks His followers to sit and watch as opposed to incorporating them in group prayer. No question, Jesus needed the vertical one-on-one under the circumstances, but this didn’t mean He was cavalier concerning what the 12 would witness. Hence, why Jesus’ charge matures from ‘sit and watch’ (v. 38) to ‘watch and pray’ (v. 41) in a final effort to encourage them. Specifically…

Just because I’m not physically with you doesn’t mean you can’t participate with me. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak…but fear and faint not. For I long to take comfort with you as the Comforter preps His homecoming. Until then, join in, stay with me, and keep watch though my enemies are lurking, though evil abounds. Taste and see one last time:

You don’t have to be overcome because I have overcome the world (John 16:33). 

Bottom line: Although Jesus was in great despair, He used this emotion to steer Him into the Father, showcasing the epitome of reliance in the process.

3. How To Let God Go Before

Following Jesus’ death and descent into hell, we note an almost anticlimactic return to start Matthew 28. Rereading v. 3, one would think the description of the angels would have been assigned to Jesus as part of a grander entrance; however, just like His triumphal entry, we find Jesus applying the symmetry in v. 7. As the angels tell the Mary’s…

 “…go quickly and tell His disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you

Now, I know this may seem like a random pivot point but just let that bold phrase sink in a little. During the final days of Jesus, His life message to His followers, in part, was a progression of hope:

For a short time, I was with you, then I went before you to seal the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. And now, I am back going before you one last time before taking my place on the right side of the Father so like Him, like my Spirit, I can be among you. 

So, it’s interesting as much play we give to Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, the education never stopped. Until the end of His human tenure, Jesus was steadfast to reinforce our corporate calling:

  1. To love one another as a people covered in grace, secured in freedom, and strengthened by faith.
  2. To inspire our unity and resolve to know He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. 

To the Mary’s, the disciples, and future generations to come…this is why He came back. To make sure we, scattered as we might be, could understand the truth – that as we go tell it on the mountain, the streets, at work, even the most hostile environments, as Christ is in us, God is with us, as in heaven…so on earth.

Bottom line: While Christ’s death allowed Him to take the keys to the Kingdom, it also served as a reminder to generations of believers to come: Since I have overcome the world, I can be with you and among you simultaneously. That is why I, as your forerunner (Hebrews 6:20), will never stop going before you as you learn to teach my ways to the ends of earth…to the ends of time. 

Selah. 

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Power in the Mud (Part 2): The Healing Habits of Jesus

During ‘Part 1’ of our ‘Power in the Mud’ series, we examined why Jesus used saliva when performing miracles involving the senses. 

Linkhttps://hisgirlfryday.com/2022/01/29/power-in-the-mud-why-jesus-used-his-spit-to-heal-part-1/

While I hope to unpack similar habits later on, for today, I want to explore the spiritual rhythms of Jesus in situations when miracles manifested. 

‘Cause truth is: For many of us walking through the valley, waiting for healing and physical breakthrough, more hours involve spiritual warfare and the daily positioning of our hearts as opposed to tending miracle aftermath. 

Yet, while handling immediate calls to action are important, my hope with this post is two-fold:

  • To help us not only find the Incarnation in the ordinary but also in the anticipation of extraordinary.
  • To help us take heart as God establishes our steps and makes our paths straight…even before we’re called to walk on them.

Accordingly, here are three basic routines we can employ to calibrate our hearts during gradual recoveries and ahead of divine interventions. 

  1. Time Your Breakaways

As much as Jesus ministered in person, we note he also devoted daily time with God to reset connection. Luke 5 is a classic demonstration of this. After calling his first disciples at Gennesaret, miraculously filling the nets at Galilee, and healing a leper at a neighboring city, we find the punch line in v. 16 (AMP):

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray [in seclusion].” 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would Jesus withdraw when many others were drawing near to him for healing as well? 

You see…Jesus, at any point, knew exactly who needed the expedite healing to further His name and power without attracting unnecessary attention. From a practical, even vocational standpoint, we can applaud this maneuvering from a time management and facilitative perspective. For Jesus not only wanted to heal the infirmity in the moment but plant seeds of testimony capable of encouraging communities of His presence after-the-fact; hence, why Jesus often told the ex-afflicted where to go, who to tell, and from there would move to his next location (see Luke 5:17-26). 

No matter the juncture…

Jesus had the ultimate end-game in mind: To inspire people to His love through an awareness of their original design and an alignment to their eternal design as co-heirs with Christ.

And while I’m sure Jesus had a master itinerary, partly secured through His quiet times, Jesus never lost touch with His Incarnation – the fact He couldn’t be everywhere and heal everyone at once despite His divine DNA. What mattered to Jesus was activating active faith within balanced boundaries (see Luke 4:38-44) and the strategies confirmed in His breakaways with the Father. 

Bottom line: From pre-service dial-ins to timely retreats, Jesus knew exactly when to engage (heal) and when to reposition/refresh with God – the Cross and ministry of reconciliation always before Him

  1. When in Doubt, Pray

When we explore Jesus’ quiet times, we find He essentially wrote the book on 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (ESV):

Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.”

Now, to be fair, Paul is the author here; however, such inspiration, no question, came from how Christ modeled His prayer routines. 

Check out these passages:

“…He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-40).

“…it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: ….And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people … and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:12-19).

Now, this isn’t to say you must deprive yourself of rest to fully press in. Conversely, as emphasized by the bold text, these cases are examples of how we should cope when desperate and/or discouraged.

Think of this way: What is insanity in the midst of chaos and crisis? Frankly, it’s not praying! At the very least, acknowledge who God is into a given situation and watch as fear fades in the face of scaled perspective. Again, for prayer to be anchored as habit, the practice must be tethered in consistency and intentionality. Jesus literally gave himself outs during the busiest of ministry days to hear what His Father had to say. How much more should we embrace the call to do likewise? 

Bottom line: Jesus’ lifestyle defines solitude as praying with God and embracing the opportunity to vertically rely on Him.

  1. Clothe Yourself in Compassion

If we’re to dissect Jesus’ habits in secret, then it’s only fair to consider His attitude in public. For while Jesus never resisted His lifeline, He also never used it as an excuse to conceal His nature. And the application is palpable:

As believers in today’s world, we may have hope-building acumen, we may know how to exercise our faith; however, if we’re not applying love to the equation, those behaviors are meaningless. 

The question is: How can one convey a relatable, contagious love when we’re struggling emotionally, physically, even vocationally? 

I know for me, when I start to spiral, ideas of going beyond myself, outside myself come to mind. But even those sentiments can go so far. 

The key, I submit, is clothing yourself with compassion as backed by Colossians 3:12 (ESV):

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating how the first word in this series is ‘compassion’, almost as if there’s purpose behind the sequence. Perhaps the author was suggesting love at the heart should be layered most intimately with compassion? Kinda like it’s the inner garment relative to the inner organ of love with meekness/patience acting like the outer garment. Who knows.

What I do know is Jesus frequented the virtue. 

Consider the exhibits:

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” ~ Matthew 14:13-14 (ESV)

“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” ~ Matthew 20:30-34 (ESV)

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things.” ~ Mark 6:34 (ESV)

Upon further review, note the contrasts between Matthew 14 and Mark 5. In both instances, Jesus withdrew. Yet, in Matthew 14 (and Matthew 20 for that matter), Jesus pivoted His action on the heels of compassion. While the transitions in Mark are more pronounced, in the end, Jesus stayed consistent as one who could never deny Himself. After all, to answer a cry for mercy is who He is. And though many of us are seldom on the receiving end, the reality is we can follow a similar roadmap is addressing unspoken needs through yielded sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading (More on this from an occupational perspective in our next segment).

Bottom line: Jesus took compassion as one already clothed in it and rode empathy into opportunities to heal and reveal.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Berean Baptist Church