Say the Words: The Bridge Between Forgiveness and Identity

Okay, so I know I promised a ‘part 2’ in my last post; however, I figured a) I’d delay for some storytime and b) You guys wouldn’t mind a change of pace. Accordingly, I’ll retarget the aforementioned sequel to next weekend. 

So yesterday, I’m eating lunch with some colleagues when suddenly an open question becomes an answer to my silence. An opportunity to share now a moment to care…just without the words.

Deep down, my subconscious begins to skew…

I thought they said life wasn’t supposed to a spectator sport? I should be in the game, not the sidelines! Why did I accept this invitation anyway?

Granted, I’m embarrassed having assumed the question was for me when it was for someone else. Still, I’m desperate to quench this oral craving. Time to take the plunge and jump in, I think to myself.

And so I do. Five minutes in…the first unforced tangent, I carpe diem the crap out of it. Like an open book, I’m elated knowing where I’m going, where I’m stopping, and where I’m headed in this midday manuscript.

What could go wrong’, I wonder. ‘I just need to wrap up my say and head back to the bleachers. Get in, get out, and go home happy.’

And for a while I’m right. After a relay question to stitch the rabbit trail, I‘m not only out, but home happy – the start of 18 hours of muted conscious.

That is until this morning’s 5:30 am wake-up call – a muffled ‘Beautiful Day’ ringtone softened by the tune of leftfield conviction.

You totally hijacked that conversation,” I hear.

Sensing that familiar twilight echo, I quickly realize God is talking to me.

When you go to work today, make sure you apologize to the person you cut off.”

*Sigh* “Okay, God. I get it. You got it. Like my most popular Slack, ‘Will do’.”

Hours later, I’m back in the office, a couple convos into a steady rhythm when my time comes to apologize. Without hesitation, I pivot off a talk of the times to the words of the time.

About yesterday. I know you probably thought nothing of it. Certainly didn’t mean anything by it. But I just gotta say…I totally hijacked that conversation yesterday. It would have been better for me to listen than chime in out of fear of not being heard. Will you forgive me?

Like butter to burnt toast, I smell the melting – this friend of mine, a fairly recent acquaintance, touched by such sensitivity.

Wow, you’re a man of God, aren’t you,” she says.

Uhhh…yes. Yes, I am a man of God. This is true. Can’t argue…” I stagger.

At this point, I’m reeling like a teenage pop-fan in 2012, stunned by this one direction¹. In no way did I expect the dialogue to end up here of all places.

Yet, as I reflect back, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

‘Cause truth is: Whether we’re owning a misgiving or repenting for a fault, asking for forgiveness always helps us rediscover who we are. Sure, we may feel like a horse being led to water, eager to rid ourselves the yoke of apology. But as I learned this morning, there’s not only grace behind an “I’m sorry”, but identity calibration as well.

As for the apology, some would say I had nothing to apologize about. But for me, I’m glad I had something to own. For when we own something, it only proves we’ve accepted what’s been given in the first place. And while this could look a number of different ways, I submit at the core of it all is a gentle, gracious reminder that we are loved in and through weakness. Even when we’re not perfect, there’s at least room to be perfected – the space in between the sweet spot of our identity.

Selah.

Later this spring, I’ll discuss this forgiveness/identity dichotomy in greater detail. For now, here are some verses we can revisit for next time…

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.~ Luke 1:76-78 (ESV)

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  – Luke 7:47 (ESV)

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ…” 
~ 2 Corinthians 2:10 (ESV)

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”  – 1 John 2:12 (ESV)

‘Til then, you got this, people of God…

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Footnotes

  1. Youth pastor joke from my LEGACYouth days (see linked text)…
Photo cover creds: Healthy Beginnings

 

The Road Less Traveled: 4 Convictions for 2020 (Part 1)

They say life’s a highway…

… like a road you travel on where one day’s here and the next day gone.

But for me, I side with the converse…

…that the highway of life is life-inducing…where one day’s here and the next undone.

At least, that’s the thought as I drive this prairie paradise, my road, my view covered in white. The bleak mid-winter suddenly a meek lid-printer inking this retreat from reality. If only the weather could be as cold as the past three months, maybe then I wouldn’t need an escape to nowhere to tell me what’s up.

But I supposed this is why I’m writing this. Because somehow, someway…I needed to get away to look that direction. Hopefully next time, I can be less spontaneous and more strategic. For now, I want to share four convictions (over two posts) from the past three days that will hopefully change the narrative for me and you in 2020.


On your mark, get set, let’s go…

  1. Rethink ‘More’

If I’ve done anything right in 2020, revisiting ‘The Prayer of Jabez’ (both the verse and Bruce Wilkinson’s book) tops the list. In case you need the refresher…

Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” ~ 1 Chronicles 4:10

Upon first glance, it’s easy to assume ‘enlarge my territory’ is the patented phrase of this passage; granted, for many, these three words can be the critical takeaway at a given point. However, it’s crucial we see a different three-word set as more significant overall.

‘Cause truth is: While asking God to enlarge the territory of our influence has its place, it’s the Immanuel essence of ‘God with us’ – in Jabez’s case, the ‘be with me’ – that’s the core blessing.

Consider this: Jabez could have easily paused after ‘enlarge my territory’ and ended with ‘that I may not cause pain’. But he didn’t. Why? Because he knew the bedrock of what he was asking, specifically that the ‘enlarge my territory’ was dependent on what came next, ‘that Your hand would be with me’. Accordingly, I submit the ‘bless me’ is the ‘be with me’ more than the ‘enlarge my territory’.

Now, before you all get your briefs twisted, understand I’m not trying to smite the Prosperity Gospel though I vehemently disagree with it. If anything, I just want to caution us as vocationals to examine what is driving our requests to God. For many a new year starts and we’re off the races urging God to give us more leadership, more opportunities, and more favor. As if our concept of ‘more’ is perpetually rooted in ‘me’.

But what if I told you we can submit these supplications (Philippians 4:6-7) in a way our intentionality flows from humility, not the other way around?

Would not our initial approach to God’s sovereignty be based in what we’re continually receiving as opposed to what we hope to employ?

Bottom line: While God is certainly for us, this is already established by the fact He is with us. As such, when we ask God for the tent pegs to expand (Isaiah 54:2), remember the point of what you’re asking is “for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)

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  1. Burn for Longing

We all know time is precious…that every thought, every word, every action has a beginning and an end. Yet, while we know for everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), we also know for anything we may not have a reason. And if you’re like me, this can be an intimidating prospect.

Sure, we can tell ourselves there’s a time for every purpose under heaven, but let’s be real: How often do we think that ‘time’ is never near…or fear His hand is idle when we need it?

Whatever the case, it’s fair to say…

  1. Anxiety is everywhere with many bogged down by worry, doubt, and uncertainty.
  2. The core of such angst is not only a misuse of trust but a lust for control1.
  3. Such lust often elevates contingency plans above courageous risks.
  4. Consequentially, more people would rather have a reason for everything than a season for anything.

Think of this way: Whenever we yield to anxiety, we’re essentially wanting something right the wrong way. For instance, we may desire what is good, what is true, what is healthy…yet at the end of the day, what’s fuels the desire is a fear of lacking, not a burn for longing. If that’s the case, should it really surprise us when we catch ourselves preempting the possibility of failure for false contentment and security? Or are we so numb by way of self-preservation, we no longer see our ego cheating us from the fill we crave?

If only people knew the pursuit of promise starts with still and ends with will, maybe then we’d be more motivated by longing than lacking.

For now, let’s consider this scriptural rundown of what it means to long and go from there…

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” ~ Psalm 107:9 (ESV)

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” ~ Romans 8:19 (ESV)

I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They’ve ­­­pushed and pushed—they never let up— but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word.  ~ Psalm 119:81-88 (MSG)

I don’t know about you but give me a burn for longing over a fear of lacking any day! As the Psalmist declares, even when we’re tormented and humiliated, we can yearn to know God…to see His glory permeate the darkness and decay around us. Given God has granted us grace and an abundance of life, take heart: Not only do we have His mind to abide in greater fullness, but also His heart to long for more longing.

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Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll unveil ‘part 2’ to this conviction series (by Valentine’s Day *fingers crossed*).

‘Til then, be blessed and be a blessing.

You got this!

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Evidence of contract thinking (more on this in a future post)
Cover photo creds: Subham Dash; loop time-lapse footage by Cameron Fry

 

Don’t Dream Big: Why Hindsight Doesn’t Have to be 2020

I’ll be honest.

I’m really tempted to write a reflection post about the past decade. Where I started, where I’m ending, the ups and downs along the way…yada, yada. With so much to say, the piece would essentially come down to the right filter. As you know, rarely do I sugarcoat content through rose-colored lens or Panglossian takes.

However, with many writing such pieces these days, I want to go in a different direction. Instead of recapping seismic shifts and lessons learned the hard way, I want to discuss ways we as vocational leaders can seize the year ahead.

For many the miles we’ll walk in 2020, but far few the moments to stay ahead of hindsight. Why not break the spell of the typical by committing your ways before pursuing them?

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Wherever you’re at right now, know this…

While it’s my heart you embrace humble beginnings1 as fresh intimacy with God, it’s my hope you relish them to purify your idea of success.

Eventually, we’ll discuss how this looks in greater detail. For now, let’s go back to our initial question and dive in…

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If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a go-getter. You like to read, research, explore the unknown…all the while creating original and/or improved work for the world to enjoy. At times, you may be more inclined to sacrifice construct for the sake of benevolence or governance. Either way, you’re a dreamer, a stargazer hoping to experience something bigger than you. And it’s no secret why. After all, everyone is equipped with a unique smorgasbord of gifts and skills for such a time as this.

The problem is in our pursuit of impact, we often lose sight of that ‘why’. For instance, we may desire a certain level of influence, but forget the reason it exists…or pursue a goal with pure intention, but in the hustle, neglect what defines our singularity. If either resonates, first off, know you’re not alone. But secondly, receive peace and request wisdom this side of whatever you’re contending for.

‘Cause truth is: Often, we pray for the plunge, not when and how to plunge. We plow our plans for ministry, but not our hearts for it return. And the crazy thing is…it’s not like any of us are looking to sacrifice abiding on the altar of achievement. It’s not like we want our divine inspirations to overwhelm all modes of operation. Yet, when push comes to shove, chances are we rather balk than bask in the face of Immanuel God. Why is it when Giver meets gift, we rather run with our ambition than consecrate our passion? If we believe we’re loved by God and that His loving power resides in us, wouldn’t it make sense to sanctify His way over our own? Or are we scared of what we want to be yes’s being no’s we can’t understand?

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I don’t know about you, but as the clock hits a new decade, I’m slowly realizing something I wish I would have gotten a long time ago…

In the fine-tuning and pruning of life, we should see the big picture as more important than a big dream.

What is the big picture, you say? In short, it’s knowing our discovery of God has a root system to our ‘loved by God’ identity. Like any root system, growth and fruit come at the watering of its source. The question then becomes, ‘What is the source and how do we water it?’

For starters, the source is our Creator and our relationship to Him – the eternal and perpetual reality we’re constantly pursued. As for the water? Not only is it more than a John 15 buzz word, but the Master’s way of grooming our hearts as we seek His. That one-of-kind wellspring connection when God casts perfect light on imperfect objectives revealing our aims for what they really are. Ideally, whatever dreams we have are overflows of having committed our time and stilled our mind.

Yet, even on the go, there’s never a time we can’t ask God to invade our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. As I’ve learned during my career, some of the sweetest times with God are those staccato moments when He prompts an invite into what we’re doing. Like a shot from leftfield, He never stops guiding us to His goodness, to contemplate His compassion in the midst of chaos. Perhaps this is why the Psalmist was so confident in His soul being nourished regardless of circumstance2.

Granted, I get this is easier said than done. My thought is…

If we see our big dreams as pieces of a bigger picture, we ultimately invite God’s power into our perspective – more specifically, to fix His hold on what He’s purposed us to do.

Thus, in a sense, I’m encouraging you NOT to dream big…

IF it means losing sight of the big picture.

One more point before wrapping up…

As vocational leaders, switching big dream with big picture can look a number of ways within the flow of our calling; however, if I had to pick a unifying resolution for us, it’s this…

Before we set any initiative, mission statement, or resolution…heck, before we even purpose them in our hearts…let’s get with God so He can refresh, renew, and reset our minds3.

In this way, we can retreat with God to know what He wants to write on the whiteboard of our hearts.

Sounds simple in theory, but like most January topics, it requires intentionality. Accordingly, for next time, I want to discuss what following the deliberate and well-thought-out plans of God looks like in 20204. For when we acknowledge the foreknowledge of God, only then can we properly prostrate our hopes and dreams before the throne.

Stay tuned…

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
  2. Psalm 19, 23 (ESV)
  3. Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
  4. Acts 2:23 (MSG)
Photo creds: Kanban Zone

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2019

**Scroll down for our HGF 2019 reflection pod**

When you think back on 2019, what immediately comes to mind?

CF: There are three answers to this question: The first and most obvious is Milo. His arrival into the world, no question, was the highlight of the year. The second and not as obvious is the phrase, “finished strong“. Granted, this was part of my 2017 answer, but it’s arguably been more applicable this year. Last but not least is the phrase, “hope realized“. As my next post will attest, I can’t recall a year where I felt so spiritually buoyant amidst great uncertainty.

LF: On the surface, one would think everything that happened this year involved situations I’d already experienced. But under the surface, everything that could wrong did go wrong, be it pregnancy, work, ministry, etc. That’s just how the year feels at first glance. Glass-half full, I’d say everything that could be different was different in 2019. The need for grace and deeper trust has rarely been so high from what I can recall.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

CF: Apart from Milo, I’d say our anniversary/missions trip to France, starting a TDOT Bible study, getting ordained with Messenger Fellowship, and the transition to Foundation Group round up the top four. Come to think of it, it’s crazy how my former employer fits into half these spots, but this only testifies to God’s brilliant and timely plan. Also, while this fall featured one of the more turbulent stretches we’ve known, the way we came out of it…I’d say was defining for our family as a whole.

LF: France, definitely. Losing two clients due to their need for in-house support. A very challenging pregnancy that impacted every area of life. Frankly, there were many defining moments this year, but most of them were taxing, testing, or both. Quite the opposite from last year.

How would you compare this year of marriage to years prior?

CF: From the onset, I sensed a leap not only in my understanding of intimacy but my appreciation of the little things. Call it a serendipitous surge, I feel 2019 has been our best start-to-finish year from what we were able to grow and persevere through. Obviously, as a newly crowned family of five, quality time and discussion are limited so expectations have to adjust. But this is offset knowing we’re pouring more into our co-workers, clients, and the kids under our care.

LF: This year had some of its sweetest moments for sure, some hard, some adventurous. Really a little bit of everything. All in all, the more life has put on us, the more refreshing the teaming has been despite its twists and turns. Blows my mind we’re almost to seven years already!

What lesson from 2019 are you eager to apply in 2020?

CF: God not only gives us everything we need for goodness and godliness but faith and fearlessness. As I used to tell LEGACYouth, when you abide in Christ, the way to ‘yes’ becomes clear even if the way out isn’t. This is especially true in the midst of great pain or confusion. We may be blindsided by disappointment, but trusting God books our next appointment.

Also, this is more awareness than lesson, but 2019 really exposed the fact I’d rather serve God than be close to Him. My halftime reflection piece unpacks some of this further…

LF: Resting in my weakness and learning not to strive. I had to learn these lessons the hard way this year, but I’m excited to build off them next year. I guess anytime you find yourself wanting to acknowledge weakness in a ‘You got this, God, I don’t‘ sort of way, good things will happen. One more reason to be flex and flow when things don’t go how you want them to go.

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What has surprised you the most?

CF: In few words, the setting of adversity. While it’s no surprise the year had its ups and downs, the places we found support and the places we didn’t were far and away the biggest shock to me. We’ll see how much shaking we experience as a family in 2020. For now, it’s nice to know the two places I spend the most time are places I love to be.

LF: In general, I agree. Perhaps not to that extent, but I see where you’re coming from. I’d also add there were many answered prayers this year, but it’s hard to classify them as surprises when all is said and done.

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

CF: “Hello, Davidson county!“, “You have questions about the Charleston Principles? Yes, I can help with that!“, “Welcome, Cameron and Lyssah. We’ve been expecting you.”
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High Priest in a Manger: The Nativity As Seen Through Hebrews 4

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so they say.

To exalt why we exist, to know freedom abundantly…

…yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.

But if you’re like me these days…drained, disoriented…wondering when and where you are…unsure of most things status and standing…lend an ear.

‘Cause while I don’t have all the answers, I’m also not one to hide what I find. Even if it means going back to certain wells time and time again.

That said, a few weeks ago, I was glancing through Hebrews 4 when it hit me: While verses 14-16 are often attributed to genealogy and lordship, they also hold value in light of Christmas.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s read together…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Upon first look, it’s fair to say there’s not much Bethlehem and Messianic prophesy referenced in this passage. Granted, one could say the “great high priest” achieves the latter, but either way, odds are you’re not thinking Luke 2 when reading Hebrews 4.

However, when we take a deeper dive, we begin to see the significance of what “great high priest” means for us today. For instance, after emphasizing Christ as Word and the trust/rest dynamic in v. 14, note the critical turn in v. 15. As the Message translates, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.” Rather, He is able to understand our weaknesses and temptations because He not only conquered them but experienced them!

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From here, we begin to see how this passage pertains to Christmas. Before the Son of God could bear our sin in His body, the Son of Man had to be born into it. Before He could redeem us from the curse of the law, He had to establish His plan of grace. Before He could save us through the Cross, He had to love us through the manger. You get the picture.

Yet, even before the manger, Christ had to be our high priest relating to us before the beginning of time. In this way, His sovereign authority could craft a divine pathway for our eternal relationship and our fearless approach beforehand. After all, nothing takes God by surprise.

Of course, the theological layers run deeper, but for now, consider this. When we celebrate Christmas each year, we’re essentially saying…

… “Lord, I’m taking hold of your mercy, I’m entering your rest, I’m accepting your help, I’m renewing my mind…all because you loved us to know our flesh as flesh. And from that relatability, I can receive you in confidence as the center of my ability, humility, stability, tranquility, etc.

I love how the Amplified breaks this down…

Therefore, let us with privilege approach the throne of God’s gracious favor with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy AND find His amazing grace to help in time of need…an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.”

Ahhh, at the right moment. Isn’t that what we’re always searching for? The right time, a right moment, the right one, even? And yet, so often we miss the fact Jesus is all these things. A perpetual reality punctuated by the incarnation, Jesus was our hope as a high priest before He became hope as a baby. Now we can live with Him in heaven forever all because once upon a time, a hope once deferred became the hope we cling to today.

Accordingly, for all you in despair, in a rut…a funk, whatever it may be, know this: Jesus came at the right moment so He could intervene for you at the right moments. Past, present, future…He never stops being a shining light of David directing our hearts to where His rest lies. As Paul states in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” All the more so, His light could enter, penetrate the darkness, and shatter the mold.

And so…as we wrap up another year, my prayer is that you’ll embrace this season and boldly enter into God’s best, His rest, and His next. For when you see the Cross behind the manger, you understand Christmas; however, when you see the priest in the manger, you’ll know the courage that can be yours as you invite into your weakness. How awesome it is to know Christ made Himself vulnerable so we could be vulnerable back? Not to mention with each other as we share the good news of His love in all we say and do.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Love you guys…

~ Cameron

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Cover photo creds: Renovare