All I Want For Christmas: A Stable Place

It’s a fascinating scene.

Mary, Joseph, and t-minus baby Jesus…navigating the tumultuous 90-mile terrain of Judea and uncertainty.

From a mangy donkey and chilly temperatures to the pirate, travel caravan, even wild boar potential, no question the journey into deliverance was labor in and of itself – a prime, if not, pinnacle example of near-term discomfort. And we’ve barely gotten to Bethlehem.

Yet, as I reflect more on the nativity story, Chapter 1 of the Incarnation, if you will, I can’t help but ponder some fresh perspectives courtesy of the past four months.

For instance, going back to Luke 1, while much attention was given to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Zechariah’s silence, and their corporate stiff-arm to tradition, consider Elizabeth’s attitude.

Now after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she secluded herself completely, saying, “This is how the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor on me, to take away my disgrace among men.” ~ Luke 1:24-25

To me, this speaks volumes about Elizabeth, specifically her confidence in God’s plan despite public scorn and her physical limitations. While she could have sulked in sorrow hiding her faith with her visibility, by acknowledging God’s creative miracle, she embraced His sovereignty. Essentially, Elizabeth’s ‘Yes and Amen‘ was a declaration of God’s faithfulness as greater than her high-risk pregnancy – a baton she would pass to Mary as she cultivated the practice.

As Mary sings in v. 47-49

“My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; for behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God!” ~ Luke 1:47-49

Again, note how “favor” is a word of overlap for Mary and Elizabeth. Paraphrasing their heartcries, we find Psalm 56:11 and 118:6:

What can man do to remove the blessing God has covered me with? While discouraging words surround me, the Lord’s favor within His faithfulness is encouragement enough. Therefore, I will boast in God’s goodness even though I don’t under the exact purpose behind His plan.

Fast-forward to Luke 2 and we find this theme playing out for Mary and Joseph. Desperate for shelter, a midwife, and rest from their journey, the temptation to fear and fume could have easily broken their wills. Almost a century mile and no room (for what they needed) in the inns? I would have blown a gasket in Joseph’s shoes!

Still, despite the inconveniences and inhumanities, God’s prophecy reigned supreme divinely guiding Mary and Joseph to what they craved all along…

…a stable place.

Were the conditions rough with health hazards to enhance a high-risk pregnancy? Absolutely. But as God had done for months (and would do in the years following during their hiatus into Egypt), He provided what they needed to be delivered. And as word of mouth increased through divine revelations, Mary’s heart delighted all the more. As she had done from Gabriel’s announcement, she stored the precious promises of God in her heart so she could treasure them at their fulfillment. If that’s not a sign of radical trust in God’s provident protection, I don’t know what is.

Bottom line: On paper and in transit, the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was anything but smooth; however, just like Mary and Joseph, we, too, have the opportunity to keep our eyes on the prize when unexpected storylines emerge.

Even when God’s execution seems far from ideal, His heart always seeks to strengthen and sharpen our awareness to His Immanuel¹ presence.

Hence, the reason why we celebrate this season: To commemorate God’s light within His love and to say ‘thank you’ for relentlessly pursuing us.

As for you, my friends, you may feel hard-pressed on every side, drained on the heels of a long year, or hopeless despite your desire to delight in the Lord…

…however, in the end, He’s still there, a star on the horizon of whatever we’re going through…

…shining light on what ultimately matters amidst the chaos.

Together, we will get there.

Until then, selah…and Merry Christmas!

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Footnotes

  1. i.e. “God with us”

The Struggle is Zeal: A SOAP Study on Romans 12:18-19

Not long ago, I was on the phone with an obstinate client. 

A stubborn deer in the headlights, I made every attempt to lead him to clarity. Timelines, next steps, how to discern and provide relevant information…the works. 

Yet, after 20 minutes of verbal tennis, our conversation had locked even at deuce, the writing on the wall now clear: No call to action or motivational strategy was going to move this client

Partially defeated, I started to guide this call to a landing when I suddenly I heard the following: “Do you advise I do this?” 

A necessary inquiry in this case but one rarely sprung so late in the game. With match point in sight, I summoned my best response in the moment. The lead off?

As far as it be with you…

A few seconds later, I sensed a shift in momentum as if somehow this sentence had turned the tides. Finally, the silence was pierced. 

You’re right. While I had considered that, I just needed to hear it was possible.”

And before you knew it, we were on our way – 20 seconds of insane courage pressed against 20 minutes of desperation trying to get there. 

Fast-forward to today and I’m still processing this happy ending and the clause that made it happen. Given the Scriptural implications, I’d like to piggyback off this story to help us understand Romans 12:18-19 in a fresh light and how we can serve customers of all types with zeal (Romans 12:11, Titus 2:14)…as far as it be with us

Ready to jump in?

Let’s do it…

Scripture 1: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” ~ Romans 12:18 (MSG)

Scripture 2: “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~ Romans 12:19 (MSG)

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19 (NIV)

Observation 1: Let’s be honest. While God created good in everyone, we seldom see it in full display during our initial interactions. Perhaps the occasional flash or two. But generally nothing more due to limited exposure, the hustle of business, and the lack of physical engagement. In a marketplace context, this is especially true when dealing with difficult customers and colleagues. With the number of walls and veils in existence today, discovering the beauty in everyone can seem like blind faith; however, when we filter this verse through a vocational lens, we can find joy in blessing all people under our breath, if not through direct encouragement. Even when we encounter antagonism, we can promote harmony as peacemakers in the opposite spirit. As Paul later says in v. 21, we champion goodness, generosity, and joy not by what happens to us externally but the light we carry internally. Accordingly, if your goal is to be reactive, then you cannot be proactive in seeing the silver linings in challenging people and situations.

My thought is: When we go into work each day, why not center our hearts and make up our minds to get along with everyone? After all, we don’t commit to these calls because they’re easy but because we have the ingredients to season our settings with hope. All the more reason to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus‘ during the dial-ins and commutes of life. 

Observation 2: In a fast-paced culture, timing and timeliness are everything. At least, that’s what culture wants us to think. And to be fair, in a client care context, this makes sense. Many times, the pathway to blessing a customer is to honor their time with a mixture of best practice and efficient decision-making. But what about when clients delay the help they crave through impatience, procrastination, even obduracy? What do we say, what do we do when colleagues or clients insist their way or the highway? Is there a holy solution to “good riddance”? Well, in a single word, yes. There is most certainly a way and Romans 12:19 hints at the answer:

Whenever we’re inflicted in a way worthy of judgment, we have an opportunity to let go and let God handle it.

Far too often in the heat of the moment, our offense disables compassion and grace; however, when we apply v.19, we make room not only for God’s wrath (i.e. His ministry of reconciliation and love manifest through justice) but for care to be centered on the person, not their grievance. Don’t waste time trying to make things right in your own strength; you’ll only burn out in frustration or overstep an unauthorized boundary. Instead, as far as it be with you, trust God to take care of the consequences as you passionately bear results through meekness. Put another way, don’t consume yourself with unassigned fire; rather pay it forward with humility and watch God win your adversary over. 

Bottom Line 1: As you follow Christ’s example and live a life controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21), inspire peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). 

Bottom Line 2: As you trust God in trying situations, make room for His justice and reconciliation to prevail. 

Prayer: “Father, we come before you now. We thank you for creating in us hearts that desire good and godliness, for upwelling thirsts for righteousness in our workplaces; however, we also confess we’re not always consistent in acknowledging your beauty, let alone the beauty you’ve cultivated in others within the mundanities of life. For those who may be struggling with offense, desiring retaliation in self-gratifying ways, refresh their hearts to know your wrath is pure and able to permeate the darkest chaos. Help them be still, to know your presence as they leave room for your wonder working power. As for the rest of us, center our desire for influence, excellence, and resolution in a supernatural satisfaction that only comes from abiding in your sovereignty. Regardless of where we’re at, what circumstances we’re facing, help us exchange our lust for control for a trust that surrenders. In all we commit our hands and feet to, may the fruit of our effort be blessed for your glory’s sake. Amen.”

Cover graphic creds: Business 2 Community

Lockstep Leaders: A SOAP Bible Study on Galatians 5:25

Scripture: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (ESV)

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” (MSG)

As God-fearing vocationals, this verse packs a punch on multiple levels. On one hand, Paul is confirming the Holy Spirit as a perpetual gift received upon conversion; on the other, he’s charging the Galatians to see living as Christ as abiding by the Spirit. Given the acceptance of Christ is not detached from this process, the question, as captured throughout the second half of Galatians, becomes clear: “If I have the Holy Spirit through faith, what’s next?

In few words, if God’s Spirit lives within you, live by it; to live by it, keep in lockstep.

Simple enough, right?

Well, it can be…but to get there we have to remember the life we have chosen through free will and divine inspiration was also predestined from the beginning. Essentially, to abide in our calling is to not only believe God ordained it before creation but continually blesses it as we live. Big picture, the implications are massive but for starters, we’ll keep it basic:

Just as God is faithful to help us discover Him, so must we be faithful to discover Him through His Spirit

In worldly terms, the word ‘discover’ often implies a one-time or seasonal pursuit; however, with heaven in mind, believers can know as long as we have breath, we’re meant to discern and mature in the likeness of Jesus as sanctified new creations. Since we live by the Spirit, we have everything we need to remain tethered to God’s nature through His Word and the still small voice reminding us we can do all things with the mind and strength of Christ. 

Application: As for how this looks occupationally, I love how the Message translation provides focus. If we accept the truth that abiding by the Spirit is a daily exercise, we can further embrace our unique identity as dedicated stewards of the jobs we’ve been given. For instance, since we know perfect love hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), we can abide in God’s presence with confidence and accept His perfecting work knowing we’re 1:1 masterpieces designed to bring God glory.

Accordingly, it makes sense, as Paul suggests, to associate life in the Spirit with a life lacking room for vain imaginations and false comparisons; granted, in our insecurity, we can succumb to the idea respect and love is contingent on skills, knowledge, charisma, and chemistry.

Yet, as for you, dare to have more interesting things to think about and work towards. Sure, you may feel left at the altar with certain dreams; you may feel like you got the short of the stick in how people treat you. You may even struggle to understand why some don’t give you benefit of the doubt and/or are quick to write you off. Honestly, there many ways to struggle and wrestle in this day and age.

However, when we bask in this verse, we can know God not only as the one who has our back on the clock but also as one who never stops refining what He’s planted within. Therefore, while the daily grind may weary our flesh, we can delight through the Spirit as the gap between joyful dependence and fear-based anxiety expands over time.


Bottom Line: By abandoning the distractions of unholy fears and passions of former ignorances, we can keep each step in perfect sync with the Spirit as faithful stewards/marketplace leaders. 


Selah.

Prayer: “Lord, we thank you for calling us to a free life and celebrate your sovereign hand in guiding us towards your heart. As faithful workers, we are humbled to represent your nature to our colleagues, clients, and connections; however, we also confess we can’t possibly do this in our own strength. As willing vessels weak in the flesh but strong in your Spirit, we ask you continue to sharpen our desire to do your work your way. Develop and cultivate an internal thirst to stay persistent in perseverance and consistent in compassion. May our commitment to what we believe is true be a banner by which we conduct our behavior and affairs. Guard us from legalism and self-righteousness as we help others discover your plans and purposes. Help us get out of our way regarding prideful comparisons and coping mechanisms. Above all, as Galatians 5:25 reminds us, open our eyes to any place where we’re abusing grace, reducing the Spirit-filled life as a warm sentiment, as fortune cookie wisdom. Convict and channel what needs to waste away so we can taste your goodness in all things. Finally, create in us a new heart conformed to your precepts and new efforts seasoned in sensitivity and expectancy. While we believe good fruit and good days are ahead, we acknowledge you as the reason. Whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead, make us more and more like you as your will is perfected in us. Inspire and champion your ways in us today. In your precious name we pray, amen!” 

Graphics creds: istockphoto.com

Eyes Wide Open: The Keys to Watchful Prayer (Part 1)

As I ponder the marketplace applications in Colossians 4, I find the initial imperative in v. 2 intriguing:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

In its purest form, this verse is straightforward. As we’re devoted to persistent prayer, may our focus be coated in gratitude and humility – a fitting charge for supervisors and subordinates alike.

However, digging deeper, I find the next layer even more compelling.

As we worship on the go, on the clock, on the way…not only should we be alert in prayer, but also watchful in it.. 

Consider John 16:13 (AMP) and 1 Corinthians 16:13 (AMP):

“…the Spirit of Truth…will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears, and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].”

Be on guard; stand firm in your faith [in God, respecting His precepts and keeping your doctrine sound]. Act like [mature] men and be courageous; be strong.”

Fusing these contexts, we find powerful truth regarding God’s intent for our employers. As we act wisely towards clients making the most of our time (4:5) with solutions seasoned with salt (4:6), let’s not compartmentalize prayer as an extemporaneous exercise; rather let’s integrate it with expectancy into all we do from procedure and protocol to communications and collaboration. 

‘Cause truth is: While popcorn prayers are perfectly acceptable within mind and with colleagues, to be watchful for God’s unfolding purposes, we must also be sensitive to what we should ask the Holy Spirit in terms of corporate direction. For many are the meetings we set to plan our course, but fewer the ones we set for God to establish His steps.

The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, And He delights in his way [and blesses his path].” ~ Psalm 37:23 (AMP)

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.” ~ Proverbs 16:9 (AMP)

Granted, these exchanges can be one and the same but that, in part, is my point in writing this: As much as we chart and map our goals, for them to be set apart as anointed strategies, we must be steadfast and watchful in meekness, in praise, and the effort in between. Only then can we discern how to communicate the mystery of Christ through our work (v. 3).

As for today, my friends, uphold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, spiritual maturity, and the belief that as your hearts are encouraged, you’ll be able to understand the doors of opportunity (4:3) God opens for you to proclaim that mystery. Remember as you seek the Lord with a pure heart to ask Him to make His intentions known and His ways straight. In this way, even during your darkest days, you’ll be in position to stay alert and be watchful in prayer when you engage God at work.

Selah.

As for next time, I will aim to build off this post with some more practical, baseline ideas on how we can abide in watchful prayer and thanksgiving during our daily routines. 

‘Til then…

As I always say, you got this!

~ Cameron

Cover graphic creds: Cities Church