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

And So It Begins: Another Year, New Hopes & Fears

Written 1/16/22

It’s another late night as I tread this lonesome road…

…one dark in shadow and glistening in twilight

…a fair reminder of the fine line on which I walk.

In all honesty, I should be ecstatic: The year ends in ‘2’ again, my family is healthy, new ministerial endeavors are in discussion, and I work for a company with ‘Foundation‘ in its name. Not to mention my location has doubled its seasonal snow average in just one week.

But given how last year transpired, not even a blanket of white can hide my anxieties of late.

On one hand, I’m hopeful and relish the light at the end of the tunnel. Juby is now at Vanderbilt; remodeling on our house has begun, and we’re on the doorstep of starting Caeden, Evy, and Milo at a new school a mile down the street.

On the other, I’m hesitant to be so optimistic. I look in the mirror every morning and note the scars wondering when the internal bleeding will stop. Lord knows Lys and I will need counseling to account for retroactive trauma. How easy it is to wonder how long we must juggle above our means…and if we’ll ever be able to find ourselves after this stretch.

Still, I stand firm, thankful as I count the blessings along with the cost. Even with the bittersweet coating, my trust in God’s faithfulness to provide what we need and expand our capacity to handle more is intact. Regardless of narrative, of scene or setting…this season is on a timer.

It will end, the dust will settle, and the celebration, when all is said and done, will be unlike any I’ve ever experienced.

Until then, we wait, not waste, in eager expectancy awaiting fresh outpourings of patience and perseverance.

So, what next then?

Do I continue to hold onto hope…the end of my rope? For things to turn from current scope?

No question. After all, I’ve learned to be content not having all the answers.

If anything, I desire to know how to better contend in 2022 – to not only be still in God’s strength but present in every moment…always on call to call out.

God, I invite you into this calm. Even though it seems carved out, even though I’m completely overwhelmed, you’re welcome here. Extend these silenced waters so I may walk on them. And if and when I sink, remind me what ultimately matters. No matter what, you’re here with me. Depth be darned.

As for you, my friends, there’s a next step with your name on it. I may not know what it involves or how many are required; however, the more I think about where we’ve been and where we’re going in this decade of disorientation, the more I believe these seasons are on purpose for purpose. Although we pine for breakthrough, take heart amidst these temporary strains and consider them as what He ordains…

…for good, for better, and ultimately best; cherish the ride, embrace the rest.

For together, we’ll get there; from point A to elsewhere.

Until then, keep burning; love well; stay in prayer.

Selah.

Graphic creds: Wallpaper Flare

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 7)

Written on 11/14/21

‘Tis an early sunset on this gentle night; though all is not calm and all is not bright.

I guess I’m not ready for darkness’ descent; my mind is torn, my bandwidth is spent.

But alas, these signs, we cannot change despite the dawns now closer in range.

And so I press on and count the cost wondering if this year has been lost.

One thing for sure are the lessons won; these three alone are worth the run.

1) If you’re stuck between a rock and hard place, make God the latter to trust Him in pace.

2) If you’re weary at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on; let this be how you cope.

3) If you’re lost at a sea, at a point of breaking, change your course; leave peace in your waking.

To do these things in trial is hard; why not let God guide you in front and rear guard?

Selah.

Footnotes (per series above)

1) When you allow God to be your rock in difficult situations, you focus your mindset on what doesn’t change as opposed to what does (see Psalm 18). Not to mention you eliminate negativity on one side of the equation to scale your problems proportionally. Why not invite the ultimate absolute into your midst and make Him your trust?

2) The beauty of crisis and chaos is this silver lining: When you feel there’s nothing else to grab hold of, you can always grab hold of your rock (see #1; verses below)

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”~ Matthew 5:3 (MSG)

I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me! That would be certain death. If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you.” ~ Psalm 143:7-10 (MSG)

3) While some may feel like they’re holding on for dear life, for others, the circumstances may seem more like a crossroads. How many of you can recall a particular intersection you felt like no matter what direction you chose, the outcome was a lose-lose?

If you can relate, consider the fact…

When you’re at a breaking point, you can make it a turning point.

Per Romans 4:1-3 (MSG): “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”

Often, when we’re struggling, we balk at full surrender or rely on our own terms. I know for me, there are times when I succeed in admitting helplessness, yet stray trying to make sense of my surroundings. If you’re ever caught in this conundrum, rather than entertain dark thoughts, let God’s spirit sustain you (Proverbs 18:15) as you steer into His presence, goodness, sovereignty, etc. In this way, you can find a corrected course divinely set without the striving.

Cover photo creds: wallspaperwide.com