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…

β€œGetting 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

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: β€˜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

Message in a Bottle: Why God Collects our Tears

Recently, I received a letter from a dear friend who encouraged Lys & I to consider Psalm 56:8.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (ESV)

At first, I was confused. For starters, what are tossings apart from 3:00 am body shifts…and what exactly is the tie between “bottle” and “book”? Is there something specific I’m to glean from this in present application?

So, I did some digging, following my curiosity into the Word (which may or may not be my default entrance these days). And upon further review, I couldn’t help but notice some powerful reminders…

1. Per Psalm 56‘s header, this passage was written after the Philistines seized David in Gath. As such, the oft quoted, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (v. 3) a few verses prior would become a critical heartcry allowing his hope to rise above the flesh. While simple in statement, the declaration established immediate divide between eternal safety and present concern for David. In turn, this solidified his endgame as “[walking] before God In the light of life” (v. 13).

2. The word, “tossings”, stands out as a word worth underlining. Although bedside maneuvers can be involved, on a larger scale, tossings refer to wanderings and challenging seasons we walk through. Accordingly, the fact God is quantitatively cognizant of our sufferings should assure us of His sovereignty and omnipresence in times of strife. One could say this makes perfect sense given God is continually directing our steps (Proverbs 16:9) and knows everything from the number of our days (Psalm 139) to the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7)…

3. Despite the verse’s urgent tone, the concept of bottled tears stabilizes the tenor. To David, tears were deposits of desperate trust into a bottle of remembrance. Given he had already surrendered his fear (of what men could do to him), he had, by proxy, opened his heart to receive comfort and his posture to look up. Poetic license applied, the metaphor is a beautiful reminder how even in great pain and distress, we can acknowledge the God who rejoices over us with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17) is the same God who weeps alongside us when troubles mount.

4. Just as God is omnipresence, so is He omniscient. Since nothing takes God by surprise (Psalm 95), the idea of God tallying a ledger of our trials and tribulations should hearten us to take heart. After all, God not only wipes what we weep but is forever on standby to offer joy as featured within the unveiling of His purposes/promises.

How sweet it is knowing we can delight in suffering in remembrance of Christ knowing He does the same thing with us each and every day!

Bottom line: In seasons of grief, in times of challenge…don’t be afraid to cry out and leak a little along the way. As David expressed literally and figuratively, our tears are never in vain as they…

All the more reason to trust God through the struggle and know He’s for us through the sorrow (v. 9).

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll return to our Power in the Mud series to discuss why Jesus was so passionate about healing on the Sabbath. For now, I’d like to thank all our supporters and prayer partners as we share this 200th post! We greatly appreciate your words of encouragement and engagement the past five years especially as we’ve turned the corner from youth ministry into marketplace ministry. Although there’s much going on behind the scenes, we look forward to continuing our aim to resource the church and empower vocationals everywhere to live as Christ within their arenas of influence.

Footnotes

  1. Hence, why God tracks what He allows to stretch us and what He appoints to transform us into His likeness.

Cover photo creds: Marilyn Gardner

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

Power in the Mud (Part 1): Why Jesus Used His Spit to Heal

So recently, I’ve been investigating some of the more creative and intense miracles of Jesus during His ministry.

Among my questions: What is the full significance of the garment at Gennesaret? Why were those at Gadarenes intimidated by Jesus? And whenever a specific number is mentioned, is there a reason for it? Or is it just arbitrary in some cases?

But perhaps the most pressing of late is the most random:

Why did Jesus use saliva in some of his healings?

While my research is ongoing, what I can say for now is while the Spirit of God as demonstrated through the spittle of His Son seems like a bizarre theme, the concept is not so far-fetched.

You see, back in the day, the medical community, particularly in Judea, believed strongly in the curing power of saliva. While practicing with spittle seems disgusting by our standards, as BC became AD, a patient would want a physician’s spit to be part of the prescription. Pretty crazy, right?

Accordingly, Jesus healing a deaf man by a wet touch to the tongue (Mark 7:33) and two blind men with a similar approach to the eyes (Mark 8:23, John 9:6), should not surprise us. Granted, Jesus could have gone against conventional wisdom and treatments in ‘out of leftfield’ fashion.

But that’s not who Jesus is or what He came to do. Rather than discredit welcomed practices (by Jewish and Roman cultures, no doubt), Jesus operated within an expected vein so He could communicate His intention to heal before actually doing so.

And while there’s plenty of symbolism involving the mud and washing of eyes, as I revisit these stories with one in the NICU, I’m encouraged by the Prince of Peace channeling a relatable ‘big picture’ into these miraculous moments.

For instance, while Jesus knew there was power in His Word, He also knew there was healing power in His saliva intended to impart life and restoration. With divine DNA flowing with His humanity, we can better understand such an operational dichotomy:

Just as there was future power in His blood, so was there present power in the mud…

…revealing His power to heal the afflicted and open their eyes in more ways than one.

Put another way, Christ’s lifeblood was His lifesource. To the extent He yielded and relied on God, to that extent His wonder-working power manifested through grace, understanding, even medical empathy. This makes sense especially when we take a birds-eye view of Christ’s creative healings.

For Jesus so loved whom He took compassion on, not only did He seek to model love by His power but also care by His intent.

While I will aim to unpack this further in my next post, for now, I live this in real-life in real-time. Given the amount of preemies I pass in the halls these days, I’m stirred by the fact Jesus never repeated the same healing miracle twice. And as Lys & I enter these dogs days at Vandy, I’m reminded how, like Jesus, we can be dependent upon a higher power pulsating through us…reviving our hearts again.

How sweet it is to know our Savior is an expert at making something out of nothing and meeting our spiritual need with a physical manifestation? After all, to heal is to not only restore what once was lost but to reclaim by faith God’s original design for our life.

Selah.

Jubilee (“Juby”) Fry after her laser eye surgery on 1/27/22.