Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 8)

So lately, I’ve been basking in the early Psalms…

…soaking in security metaphors relative to God’s sovereignty.

No question, this journey is wearing me out. Five days to one month to one year. Like the text on Evy’s new ‘Sleeping Beauty’ t-shirt, ‘I can’t even’…

From driving to work without a modicum of ‘I can’t do this today’ to imaging life a year from now, the writing on the wall is a tattoo on the heart: I can’t because I shouldn’t…but I can because He will just as He always has.

For Lys and I, we’ve been overwhelmed by basic math in recent days wondering why Juby has coded seven times in five weeks not to mention a pair of baggings the past five days alone. We wish we had the answers though we’re learning the freedom of anticipating them in our day-to-day interactions. After all, if our faith is to mature, there must be a catalyst, often a challenging one, compelling our perseverance to discover God in a fresh way.

Perhaps this is why we’re often confused and discouraged but also confident and encouraged at the same time. As for any NICU family leaning into God, not relinquishing their hope, there almost has to be an uncomfortable friction between the emotional and spiritual where in between, perpetual paradoxes are broken down.

For instance, when I hold Juby’s hand, I’m reminded as she clings to my finger, so too must my hope, my trust, my devotion also cling to Jesus. Just like Caeden, Evy, and Milo at her age, she squeezes whatever she can get her hands on and doesn’t let go until I pry it loose. Sometimes, I forget how desperate she must feel, wishing the lines running across her body were gone yet oblivious to the fact this isn’t how a first-year body was meant to function.

Obviously, I know where she’s at and what she’s enduring is short-term within the grand scheme. By God’s strength, she will eventually auto-correct through these setbacks be it six months or six years.

Still, I suppose if there’s a head scratch for me, it comes back to what must I do apart from believing God is who He says He is. As this adventure has taught me, God is glorified in our suffering as we hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering and boast of it firmly until the end (Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 4:14). However, as I’m also finding, this doesn’t exactly simplify the pathway to touching His robe. In my case, while embracing stillness has been a perk to the load-bearing, I’ve also noted it can keep me idle when God is calling me to motion.

It’s like I’m content to contend…to put one foot in front of the other…but struggle to believe I can get to Jesus in my weakness. And so, on my dark days, I stay where I’m at anchoring in worship and His Word though ashamed I didn’t try harder to make that contact. On brighter days, I sense that slow motion surrender though in the wrestling still wonder, ‘Jesus, can you slow down a little? I know you’re up to something amazing but we just need more of you right now.’

Again, I don’t say this to draw empathy. Rather I say this because I’m desperate…not only to see Juby healed while operating free of fear to whatever intimacy is required…but also to know how the Father responds when any part of us, well, codes! Be it a physical code, a sin/stronghold code, a generational and/or word curse code. Who knows…for most of us, it’s probably a combination of things.

As always, time will eventually stir my pen to capture findings to my curiosities, among them why only one ‘how long’ reference in Psalms actually ties to sorrow.

For now, I bid this post and you, my friends, a fond adieu. This man needs rest and a charge to His best.

Tomorrow, we live to see another day. I will pre-rejoice and be glad in it.

Selah.

Rock Solid: A SOAP Bible Study on Psalm 18

Written: July 4, 2022

Scripture: Psalm 18 (A Psalm of David)

I’m not going to lie: I’m not in the mood to write right now. So much going on; so little time to pause and ponder. 

However, on this Fourth of July, I’m kicking chaos (and the temptation for complacency) to the curb. For the first time in [almost] forever, it’s time for a SOAP Bible study. 

As for today’s Scripture, I call Psalm 18 to the stand. For without question, the passage has been a lampstand of late casting illuminance onto present day shadows. Hopefully, for you as the reader, you find similar vibes as we explore some of the most powerful poetic imagery in the Bible. 

So without further ado, let’s dive into Psalm 18 as we probe the stabilizing presence of the Almighty…

Observations/Applications:

Right off the bat, it’s interesting to note the double rock reference in v 2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Upon first glance, we may not think much of the repetition, if at all; however, as we dig (pun intended) into the metaphor, we find rich soil. Specifically, when ‘rock’ and ‘stone’ are used in Scripture, the surrounding descriptors often point to God’s sovereignty as the anchor to communal, emotional, and spiritual stability. This reference is additionally powerful when we consider God’s steadfastness. Just as the rock conveys unwavering durability, so too is our God during our trials and tribulations. For in this life, everything outside the divine has an expiration date and within the restraint, so great is our need to identify our rock be it of ages, salvation, righteousness or simply Jesus as cornerstone. To me, this is why the narrative of Psalm 18 sounds so extreme:

While the disappointments of life can seem intense, they should never be so great to minimize our view of our Creator nor crippling to the point we resist a call to Him. Again, we’re talking about God as our rock – the source of everlasting love, a stronghold against our strongholds, the refuge of all refuges, and the ultimate constant.

As we progress towards v. 6-7, we not only note a stark contrast between God as rock and the rocks upon which we tread, but also our vertical S.O.S in between.

“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled…”

This compels an ironic dichotomy: As God, in His mercy, answers our plea for intervention, He often allows a shaking of some kind, a holy dislodge in the direction of freedom where He and hope abound. Honestly, what better way to capture the scale of our deliverance request than to consider the physical and spiritual effects of an infinite God engaging our finiteness. Even if such poetic license is taken to its most literal, the sensory saturation is sensible. While God whispers to our hearts in a still voice, this in no way mitigates the seismic repercussions of when He moves, sets a new thing in motion, and ministers to our hearts. After all, to receive from God is to yield to His power as much as it is to trust His purposes against our perceptions of prosperity and pain. Hence, why we should consider how the potential discomfort of ‘God with us’ is far greater than the false comfort of ego, tolerance, even works mentalities.

Heading into v. 8-9, the Psalmist suggests an angry God true to context, but this doesn’t represent how God tends our brokenness every time. As many a Scripture testifies (see references below), when God addresses our distress, His heart is stirred by love and is executed through justice, compassion, patience, faithfulness, grace, wrath…usually a combo platter of attributes. Yet, though the nature of God’s dealings may vary, the large-scale reality is God never stops pursuing us through them. Given the darkening days and the absolute essence of God, the Psalmist makes a riveting case: Although crises may increase, from personal to global, we have every reason to believe God will in some way, at some point, draw near and provide what we need even if we don’t immediately understand it.

As Psalm 18:31-32 triumphantly declares:

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”

Shout-out to the hailstone usage in v. 12-13 and the humility/honoring layer in v. 16-30, I can’t help but relish the anti-relative exclamation here. Though Oprah would disagree, the truth is only God can give what we need for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Only God can straighten our paths and direct us to walk on them accordingly (Proverbs 4:26; Hebrews 12:13). Only God can shepherd our hearts when we feel lost, when we’re sinking in waters we were never meant to walk on alone.

Only God. Our rock…

I know He’s able

As for you, my friends, in the spirit of v. 2,  I raise you a double portion of rock and encourage you to delight in God as He delights in and rescues you from whatever pit of despair you’re in (v. 19). For it is He, our light and life giver, who brightens our darkness to see what He sees, who not only establishes our steps but also purifies them so we discover Him afresh and anew…each and every day. Blessed be our rock and exalted be the God of my salvation (v. 46)!

Selah. 

Prayer:

Father God,

We praise you for being our rock, our refuge, our fortress, our deliverer. We exalt you as the author of our support system. And we celebrate the fact you take joy in saving us. Truly, there is no one like you! As we digest today’s Word and return to our daily routines, we ask you lock these truths into the tapestry of our understanding. In a culture full of extremes, we remember you are a God who constructed the very things that make them possible. The difference is you intended them for our good, for the best possible outcome and we acknowledge our sin, our strongholds, our self-centered tendencies have collectively interfered with your highest callings on our lives. That said, we also remember the Cross, identify with your heart to reconcile and restore, and lean into you once more as our precious rock. Yes, we ask you protect and cover us, but we also ask you anoint, bless, and cover our steps not to preserve us from darkness but to empower us to live as salt and light in an increasingly fragile and morally decaying world. We choose to live from victory, not for victory today knowing the battle has been won. Accordingly, we choose to take up the Word and put on the armor as we recall our corporate identity as vocational priests and our individual identity as beloved warriors contending for your love to be known. Be with us as we go about our days and ways. May we be catalysts in our surroundings helping others taste and see that you are good. And may you be glorified as we surrender all knowing it’s by your Spirit we can resist fear and humbly call upon you to invade our space.

In this we pray, amen!

References:

Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” 

Psalm 62:7-8 – “My honor and salvation come from God. He is my mighty rock and my protection. People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection.”

Psalm 144:1-3 – “Of David. Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?

Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

Isaiah 2:10 – “Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!” 

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Cover photo creds: WallpaperBetter

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