Cries and Shine: Why God’s Joy Comes in the Mourning

So lately, I’ve been thinking…

In seasons of sadness, processing emotions can be complicated. As we declutter the soul, we sometimes stumble upon excess baggage, unmet expectations, even hidden motives we didn’t know where there; however, I also think part of the struggle concerns how we compartmentalize grief from its holy accompaniments.

For instance, many published works will tell you there’s joy to be found after sorrow, godly remorse, death, you name it. But filtered through the Scriptures, we find a different picture. More specifically, we don’t grieve to find joy but grieve with joy to find God and what He’s saying.

On the surface, this can seem like a paradox: How can a heart be at peace and rest in the midst of great pain?

Well, it depends on how your faith intersects its prepositions. If you believe you persevere to something good, be it a better outcome, a finish line, etc., chances are you’ll rush, perhaps force the virtue through coping mechanisms. Conversely, if you believe you persevere through something good, be it courage, humility, thanksgiving, and joy, chances are you’ll discover and uncover profound wisdoms once foreign.

Consider Psalm 30:11:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…”

When the Psalmist says “you have turned my mourning into dancing“, he’s not implying a complete substitution but embracing the two as co-existent. Per his next line – “You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” – the implication is not an eradication of suffering but a reorientation to the Spirit of God upon Him. Accordingly, the man once burdened by his surroundings can now take delight amidst a lifting load given his focus in more vertical than horizontal.

This tells me two things:

  1. Finding joy in grief starts by experiencing God on the road to recalibration.
  2. Finding joy in grief allows us to walk in freedom and share what God is doing simultaneously.

Can grief be turned into joy (John 16:20)? Absolutely! However, rather than itemizing the two, consider the bridge of comfort in between as a path to the glory that is His and the victory that is yours. From there, keep the oil of jubilation (Isaiah 61:1-3) handy and distribute as needed. After all, even in death and turmoil, there’s a favorable year of the Lord to proclaim. Might as well keep dancing.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

The Renew in You: How to Refresh, Restart, and Reset with God

Well, folks. We’ve made it.

The summer solstice, the midyear equinox, the halfway point, whatever July is to you, we’re here and still in one piece. Who would have thought making it this far would feel like such an accomplishment?

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Memes aside, as some of know, this is a special time of year for me – a time when I reflect and consider adjustments for the year moving forward; however, this year, I want to shake things up a bit. Rather than share reflections on lessons learned, I want to focus today’s post on finding rest through refreshing, restarting, and resetting with God. Yes, I get how the series sounds similar. Outside of our personal computers, I bet most of us use these terms interchangeably. Still, there are critical differences worth discussing as they relate to our emotional and spiritual well-being. As such, I encourage you to keep an open mind and a sensitive heart as we explore the depths of this topic.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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  1. Refresh

When I say ‘refresh’, what immediately comes to mind? An emerald beach resort, snow-covered slopes, a sparkling beverage?

Okay, okay…so these are some of my favorite things. But to an extent, you can see the common denominator. Generally, when we consider what refreshes us, our minds gravitate to what instantly gratifies us. Whatever can elevate our spirits in the heat of the moment, whatever can distract us from despair, chances are we receive it as refreshing.

Yet, while there is an interim component to refreshment, from a biblical standpoint, refreshment isn’t refreshment without sustaining momentum. For example, if you’re in a desert and find an oasis, the kiss of water to your lips is just as much refreshment as the long-term fill you carry on with. While the express relief is undeniable, it’s made more powerful through the restoration of heart, soul, mind, and strength to its original design.

Perhaps this is why the theme is threaded through all Scripture:

“And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain you; after that you may go on, since you have come to your servant.” And they replied, “Do as you have said.” ~ Genesis 18:5 (ESV)

“The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless), restoring and refreshing the soul; The statutes of the Lord are reliable and trustworthy, making wise the simple.” ~ Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

“He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3 (ESV)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].” ~ Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (MSG)

Upon further review, these passages tell me four things:

  1. Refresh is not only a footstool to rest, but can be the rest itself ¹.
  2. Refresh is often the next step towards righteousness (in particular resisting fear, receiving grace, and stilling our inner being).
  3. Refresh is designed to lead us towards places of freedom, health, and unity.
  4. Refresh is centered in the abiding of God’s nature.

Therefore, if you ever feel like a stalled webpage, don’t just receive God’s ‘refresh’ as momentary rest, but embrace it as sustenance taking you deeper into His love. ‘Cause truth is: Refresh is not simply what you take in, but what you allow to put out. All the more reason to rest in knowing even when there’s a setback, there’s a kickback with God to pursue. 

  1. Restart

Rolling with the browser analogy, as many Mac users know, a ‘refresh’ is not always a surefire cure-all to the ‘death spiral’.

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Sometimes, you need a hard restart to reboot your system to access files more quickly; think ‘have you turned it on and off again‘ but next level.

Assuming you can relate, consider the parallels to mental peace. Like refresh, restart implies calibration, alignment, and engagement to a higher form and by proxy, an ideal intent. Granted, a restart is more disruptive but it can also lead to more enlightening outcomes.

Take this year, for instance. These days there’s no question we’re experiencing unprecedented disruption. While we’re not encountering radical crises such as world wars or great depressions, we’re still seeing almost every nation being impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On the surface, this captures a historic screenshot, but digging deeper, look at what it’s inspiring. Despite so much on hold, we’re seeing people revising their priorities, pursuing dormant dreams, and encouraging their way out of complacency. Even in the most unlikely scenarios, people are beginning to care again at fundamental levels once taken for granted. An exciting, if not, thrilling development in a year many have thrown the towel on.

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As for how we ‘restart’, I submit we first take inventory of what we’re clinging to. Ask yourself, ‘What and where are those internal points of desperation? Are they guiding me to Jesus or pulling me away?‘ Be honest and know your wilderness is not the problem, but rather your commitment to the road God has made in it. From there, remember the secret of being content in every situation is God as your strength providing all you need for good work, faith, and life in abundance. Where you need to ask for purity, ask for purity. Where there’s past to surrender, surrender it.  Where there’s pleasure in stronghold, ask God to orientate your perspective. No matter where you are, what situation you’re in, you can pray, ‘God, I long to see not only what you see, but how you see‘ so I may not lose sight of your faithfulness and the ‘why’ to which I am called.

Of course, this is just a proposed template; obviously, be Spirit-led and discerning in your approach. For now, I pray and trust this guide can help start your ‘restart’.

  1. Reset

Finally, we come to reset, which if you think is similar to ‘restart’, you’d be correct. To reset is to essentially restart, but with one caveat: A reset requires change; a restart doesn’t.

You see, unlike the glorified mulligan that is a restart, a reset goes beyond a redo and into the realm of upgrade. To upgrade anything, you have to put it all on the table. Every detail, every piece, every character…every little thing must be re-examined in the spirit of inevitable revision.

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Now, if you think I’m taking a scenic route in describing repentance, I’m not trying to per se, though it is certainly applicable. Rather, my takeaway with ‘reset’ is the context of the action. Specifically, all of us should regularly take time to get away with God – to retreat with Him for the sake of being intentionally disrupted.

Consider this the full-circle moment of this post: To be disrupted is to know God has a message for you. Whatever the message is, you have to first position yourself to receive it. Hence, why resetting often can’t happen without a break from the ordinary. To receive from the Lord, you have to eliminate potential interferences including innocent routines. It’s not a knock on your daily rhythm, but a call to push to pause knowing God is more important.

My encouragement to you, my friends, is to heed these differences to know the season you’re in. For some of you, God wants to refresh your moment. For others, He wants to restart your walk and/or reset your faith. Whatever the case, don’t hide in the shadow of uncertainty or anxiety. Instead, know the time has never been better to supplicate – to ask God in earnest, ‘Is there a new idea, a fresh work you want to begin in me? Is there a lost truth you want to illuminate in me? Is there anything in my heart that needs to be uninstalled so you can install something in its place?”

And if it helps, think of this way: When you let go of the ‘me’, you can receive the ‘re²’; when you receive the ‘re’, you can find the ‘renew’ – the Isaish 40:31 – in each step:

“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” 

 Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or is the start of rest itself
  2. Whether it be a refresh, restart, or reset
Cover photo creds: Generals.org (edited in Canva by Cameron & Lyssah Fry)

Kingdom Aligned: Why the Unshakable Church Starts With Unbreakable Family

Written March 15, 2017; Revised July 12, 2020

Bible verse: Hebrews 12:28-29 (MSG)

“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!”

In light of much shaking in the world today, it’s fair to wonder how the church is to become more Kingdom-aligned.

From liturgy to doxology, theology to ecclesiology, there are many topics worth discussing, perhaps more than we like to admit. But before we dive into any ‘ologies’, it’s important we examine the church relative to God’s first command (Genesis 1:28): The family.

As Scripture attests, belonging to a family culture is not only a crucial part of our relational perspective but also our call to engage fellowship and know intimacy. A brief exegesis of Genesis 1 and John 1 confirms this: Before man could exist, there had to be a communal model for him to operate in; however, for this model to also exist, there had to be a holy community sharing everything in common (Acts 1-4) in perfect harmony. Hence, why from the very beginning, the church¹ was a sparkle in the Father’s eye.

Unfortunately, this sparkle is now contending with a culture eager to redefine identity and blur the line between love and tolerance. Stir in a coronavirus, racist divides, and fear propaganda, and there’s even more to distract us from what matters these days. Take it from a brother: If you’re a believer and have struggled lately to combat new deceptions while living your faith, my heart goes out to you. You’re certainly not alone.

Still, despite the challenges, we can’t let temporary headlines shield us from important questions worth asking. In this case…

1. While the church may be conveying truth, is she allowing it to be tasted and seen? Is the church delighting in what she’s demonstrating?

2. If not, how can we expect those outside the church to do the same?

While most would cite an answer between leadership and service, I submit part of the solution to both questions concerns how the church develops and facilities discipleship within the family dynamic.

For instance, in most structures, discipleship is perceived as in-house mentoring with evangelism serving as the primary faith vehicle into the ‘real’ world; however, if the church desires to be more Kingdom-aligned, it should further seek to prioritize these elements in the home. Yes, small groups are essential, but then again, so are Zoom calls, spontaneous texts of encouragement, one-on-one coffees, even charitable support. Like any family, tending community involves systematic and impromptu engagement. And if the church is to be the church today, we must realize this can’t happen without interactive/virtual collaboration on curriculums, events, and leadership/volunteer development.

But reeling it back to 2020: While the COVID-19 epidemic has been discouraging, the evolution of church into the home has been a significant silver lining. While not every experience has been the same, many congregations are discovering new ways to be salt and light in a crooked and twisted time. Accordingly, it’s my hope the church will continue to be Spirit-led as…

1. Her boundaries adapt
2. Her creativity sharpens
3. Her definition of evangelism expands remotely
4. Her definition of discipleship expands virtually 

Assuming all four mature in rhythm, no question, believers will be more equipped to walk in authenticity, confidence, and love (1 Peter 3:15) as immediate and church family relationships strengthen.

Bottom line: If the church wants to mature in her ‘unshakability’. she must also extend her ‘open door’ policy to the home and places of influence. After all, before the church can model grace and love to a deceived generation, she must already be doing so to the next generation. Given we want our church families to be more effective in culture and at work, let’s remember to the extent we desire the unshakable Kingdom, to that extent we must pour into unbreakable family.

Selah.

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Stay tuned next time when I’ll explore how faith in the marketplace can help bridge family dynamics at work and home. I must admit I’m excited about this new series as it seems largely unchartered.

‘Til then, have a great week, everyone.

Rootin’ for ya as always,

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Not to mention her approach to family discipleship and co-equal in value, diverse in function theology
Cover photo creds: Life Pointe Church

Rise and Shine: The Secret to Giving Your Best

Inspired by vintage Keith Green…

Many of us have heard the phrase, ‘Do your best and let God do the rest’.

But lately, I’ve been wondering how well I truly understand this.

I mean I ‘get’ the Bible verses…

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” ~ Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” ~ Galatians 6:5 (MSG)

…yet somehow in the application, I’ve been missing something. And I think I’m starting to see what it is.

You see, we often approach work as a derivative of ‘doing’ be it a project we initiate or a means to manage. Define the goal and pursue it. Clarify the objective and go for it. In a way, this makes sense given we’re all hard-wired to perform with excellence for excellence.

However, while execution and effort have their place, it’s important, dare I say critical we ask ourselves: At what point are we allowing God into the picture? Into the frame-work of our work if you will?

At the point we’re exhausted? At the point we’re confused? At the point we’re doubting?

Or are we making way His way from the very beginning?

As one who has failed time and time again with this, trust me when I say…

1. If you want to do your best, let God get in front of it.
2. If you want God to do the rest, let Him get behind it.

Don’t wait until you’re burnt out. Don’t wait until you’re stuck. Rather before you clock in each day, consecrate your effort, receive His faithfulness, and know He will accomplish His purposes in you. Even if He’s guiding you into turbulence, into danger, know He’s calling you to see Him in the midst of it in a fresh way. Accordingly, don’t be discouraged by growing pains when in reality He’s sowing gains you can’t yet see.

In closing, I encourage you, friends…

1. Let God be in the midst of your best and rest, not the middle.

2. Examine any place you may be relegating God to an on-call substitute, any place where ‘doing the rest’ has become a request to autocorrect above anything else.

Let Him be more and go before!

Selah.

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Cover creds: The Youthing Magazine

 

Staying Strong in the Void of Calm (October Recap Ed.)

I admit: I have not been in a writing mood this month.

Baby Milo, new job prospects, freelancing gigs, totaled car, family health issues…no question, there’s been much to handle in recent weeks. But amidst the turbulence, there have been silver linings – rays of strength in voids of calm. And while there’s much I don’t know in this state of processing, what I do know is we often discover new levels of courage during life’s greatest challenges.

So for today, I want to get real, raw, and a little freestyled about what the past month has been for me and family.

‘Cause truth is: Our response to crisis and unforeseen trauma is crucial; yet, it’s our heart towards God in the midst of chaos that defines whether we see Him as a momentary provider or persistent sustainer.

Real quick, before I forget: If you’re reading this and feel outside your comfort zone, rejoice! You’re probably doing something right or better put, right where you need to be. Be at peace, receive the calming of the seas within, and don’t look back.

That said, let’s dig in…

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As mentioned, October was a roller coaster month with memorable highs and freaky lows. The fun and games started back on October 7 when Lyssah was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Coming off this appointment, we were only mildly concerned knowing we were close to Milo’s due date, not to mention we now had a valid reason to designate ministerial assignments. What we weren’t ready for was the nasty stomach virus spreading through our family starting with Everly then me, Caeden, and Lyssah respectively. While the bug left me quickly and unscathed, the same could not be said for Lyssah.

I’ll let my October 10th post do the talking…

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As you can see, the episode ran a gauntlet of fear, mainly preeclampsia and early induction. Thankfully, while our collective nerves had been rattled, none of these issues verified. Despite the modest scare, the event was now mellowing to background prologue. Surely Milo’s labor and delivery would be uphill in comparison…

Birth story recap: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/10/25/birth-story-staying-strong-in-the-void-of-calm/

Long story short, strength had gained momentum heading into Milo’s birth weekend thanks, in large part, to our surprise emergency excursion; however, this impetus could not have happened without deferred fear and supernatural strength adrenaline. For instance, throughout the Dickson Tristar ordeal, I’d often catch myself wondering, “How am I doing so well amidst this turmoil? I should be freakin’ out right now. This is unchartered territory. I don’t how to handle all this!” Yet, time and time again, I’d land on a familiar tune, beating into heart as if it had been on loop for days…

Don’t just ‘not stop’ and keep going, but stop making sense of my strength…and just receive it.

Ahhh, just receive it. Sounds easier said than done, right? Like fortune-cookie wisdom disguised as solicited sarcasm or oversimplified commentary on complex theology. But as the ‘tune’ advised, when ‘try’ and ‘do’ become excluded, the right option becomes an effortless decision, and perseverance is made practical, who’s to say receiving divine strength has to be challenging?

As Lys and I discussed with our doula, sometimes abiding in Christ is simply allowing God to prop us up when falling seems like the only option. Even as waves of crap are hitting the fan, by recognizing the proximity and sovereignty of God, we can experience a higher confidence never thought possible. Granted, it may seem counter-intuitive at first; however, as embracing God’s strength in weakness becomes rhythm, it’s not long until we find rest and rise to our aim.

For example, when I crashed my car in a four-vehicle accident a few Friday’s ago, I could have easily catered to disappointment wondering ‘why me‘ or ‘why God‘; however, having exercised my focus to ‘help me‘ and ‘help God‘ in prior troubles, my dependence was locked into gratitude.

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Of course, sitting in a totaled car on an interstate median is never fun. But again, as the Spirit reminded me, it can be when you count your blessings and declare praise knowing you and God’s best are still alive. Come to think of it, I wonder why we often say, ‘it could have been worse‘ when to use it implies a contrast of an inferior outcome to the worst possible one. Shouldn’t we go the other way and gauge reality through the ‘new’ that is to come?

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Whatever the case, whether you’re walking through hell or a level of purgatory, what ultimately matters is knowing a) you’re perpetually loved by One who has your front and your back and b) even in your darkest hours, you can worship through staccato cries for help.

As for how one stays strong in the void of calm? Frankly, there are many ways, but perhaps the shortest and sweetest one is this: Draw near, surrender fear, pray on the fly, don’t wonder why…just rely. Again, this takes years to learn and is handily theorized outside moments of stress; however, by committing to these steps ahead of the heat, you’ll be primed for God’s power during it. Like conquering any temptation, the winning move doesn’t start at the point of testing, but well before it (more on this in a later post).

For now, I’ll conclude with this: Though this breakthrough may sound basic to some, for the first time in forever, I’m pressing through pain without making sense of it, content in knowing what I don’t immediately understand will eventually be understood. And while I get the value in devotionals and specialized guides on handling conflict, there’s something to be said when God shows up in a fresh way, does an expanding work in your heart, and it’s not contingent on whether or not you ask for it.

He just shows up and pours in…because that’s who He is.

Selah.

As mentioned in my last pod, Lys and I will try (key word) to air a new pod on all this before 2020. Until then, feast on these verses (ESV/AMV), receive them whether or not you’re in a storm, and know if all you got is, ‘Help me, God‘, ‘Hallelujah‘ or ‘I need you, Jesus‘, God considers it a fragrant offering.

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Psalm 107:29-30 – “He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.”

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-9 – “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 46:10 – Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.