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

Master Messiah: The Final Lessons of Jesus

When we reflect on the Easter story, we often dwell on the Cross and its aftermath. We consider Jesus’ final moments, the empty tomb, and the ascension sealing the end of Jesus’ first coming. 

However, while Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest climax the world has ever known, one must not forget the lead-up to Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion. True, He took the nails for our transgressions, paid our ransom in blood, and secured our freedom with the keys from hell. But He also offered some crucial reminders on how we’re to press into the Father during life’s greatest trials…when we feel betrayed, abandoned, even abused. 

Accordingly, as we prepare for the ultimate remembrance, may we heed and receive these final lessons of Jesus…our Master Messiah.

  1. How to Overcome Verbal Abuse

For those familiar with the Gospel culmination, we know Jesus was accused, mocked, and beaten before dying a criminal’s death ahead of His vindication. Yet, what’s sometimes lost in translation is the verbal nature of Christ’s abuse. While Jesus was accustomed to being misunderstood from ministry origins to His triumphal entry, the assault taken as He carried the cross is worth noting.

First, imagine bleeding to death, muscles exposed, your beard ripped out, a scarlet robe dangling from reclotting wounds, all the while carrying a 100-lb wooden crossbeam two miles to your execution site. Then, ponder the compounding pain of venomous falsehoods cracking your spirits simultaneously. I don’t know about you, but words and modern-day recreations can only go so far though this scene is a valiant effort…

Although Jesus had cultivated a lifelong habit of not taking offense, who knows what thoughts and temptations crossed His mind at this juncture. After all, it’s one thing to be mistaken as you’re praised; it’s another to be scorned as you’re dying. Still, even with the weight of the Cross on His shoulders, the Cross was still before Him. Despite the brutal slew of ridicule, Jesus, with fading strength, knew these people not only represented the very thing He came to die for but also what future generations would continue to do. 

Think about it: What we do in secret and subdued fashion tacks on to this moment. In times of misjudgments, we react out of confusion and anger, subconsciously doubting Jesus is who He says He is. From there, we take matters into our own hands and curse our troubles as if the victory on Calvary never happened. Granted, I know an insult to fallenness before us is different than a personal attack; however, I suppose the relatability from present to past is what grips me – the idea we, though millenniums apart, played a part in Jesus’ death, the future weight of our sins notwithstanding.

Like those who cast their slights on the first Good Friday, we, too, must confess the times we’ve a) failed to identify our Lord as Savior amidst our struggles and b) undermined His authority by not taking captive what He took captive 2,000 years ago. 

Of course, given we’ve been forgiveness and restored, why not learn from Jesus by turning the other cheek when we’re derided and declaring His sovereignty during suffering?

For when the world interrogates our faith wondering if we truly believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for our deliverance, our life should speak with or without the words.

Even though we can’t control what others say, we can love by an unwavering stand to deflect offense Luke 23:34-style while stilling ourselves to pray…

Bottom line: Jesus was cursed but not crushed in the face of verbal abuse. While we, like Peter, may occasionally renounce Jesus in word or in thought, this doesn’t mean we can’t stand firm amidst verbal onslaughts. As long as we know what we wrestle with is not a matter of flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we can invite God into the calibration of our emotions.

2. How to Pray Amidst Anxiety

Between The Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest, we note Jesus goes to Gethsemane for one last communion with the Father, a time during which He asks God not once, but twice for the cup of His wrath be removed. Anxious to the point of hematohidrosis, He cries out in desperation longing for God’s nearness and an assurance of His will. If there was any possibility of an audible, now was the time to reveal it. 

Yet, even in anguish, a lamb among wolves, Jesus stood firm modeling one last lesson to the disciples before His betrayal. We see this in Matthew 26:36 when Jesus asks His followers to sit and watch as opposed to incorporating them in group prayer. No question, Jesus needed the vertical one-on-one under the circumstances, but this didn’t mean He was cavalier concerning what the 12 would witness. Hence, why Jesus’ charge matures from ‘sit and watch’ (v. 38) to ‘watch and pray’ (v. 41) in a final effort to encourage them. Specifically…

Just because I’m not physically with you doesn’t mean you can’t participate with me. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak…but fear and faint not. For I long to take comfort with you as the Comforter preps His homecoming. Until then, join in, stay with me, and keep watch though my enemies are lurking, though evil abounds. Taste and see one last time:

You don’t have to be overcome because I have overcome the world (John 16:33). 

Bottom line: Although Jesus was in great despair, He used this emotion to steer Him into the Father, showcasing the epitome of reliance in the process.

3. How To Let God Go Before

Following Jesus’ death and descent into hell, we note an almost anticlimactic return to start Matthew 28. Rereading v. 3, one would think the description of the angels would have been assigned to Jesus as part of a grander entrance; however, just like His triumphal entry, we find Jesus applying the symmetry in v. 7. As the angels tell the Mary’s…

 “…go quickly and tell His disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you

Now, I know this may seem like a random pivot point but just let that bold phrase sink in a little. During the final days of Jesus, His life message to His followers, in part, was a progression of hope:

For a short time, I was with you, then I went before you to seal the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. And now, I am back going before you one last time before taking my place on the right side of the Father so like Him, like my Spirit, I can be among you. 

So, it’s interesting as much play we give to Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, the education never stopped. Until the end of His human tenure, Jesus was steadfast to reinforce our corporate calling:

  1. To love one another as a people covered in grace, secured in freedom, and strengthened by faith.
  2. To inspire our unity and resolve to know He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. 

To the Mary’s, the disciples, and future generations to come…this is why He came back. To make sure we, scattered as we might be, could understand the truth – that as we go tell it on the mountain, the streets, at work, even the most hostile environments, as Christ is in us, God is with us, as in heaven…so on earth.

Bottom line: While Christ’s death allowed Him to take the keys to the Kingdom, it also served as a reminder to generations of believers to come: Since I have overcome the world, I can be with you and among you simultaneously. That is why I, as your forerunner (Hebrews 6:20), will never stop going before you as you learn to teach my ways to the ends of earth…to the ends of time. 

Selah. 

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Power in the Mud (Part 2): The Healing Habits of Jesus

During ‘Part 1’ of our ‘Power in the Mud’ series, we examined why Jesus used saliva when performing miracles involving the senses. 

Linkhttps://hisgirlfryday.com/2022/01/29/power-in-the-mud-why-jesus-used-his-spit-to-heal-part-1/

While I hope to unpack similar habits later on, for today, I want to explore the spiritual rhythms of Jesus in situations when miracles manifested. 

‘Cause truth is: For many of us walking through the valley, waiting for healing and physical breakthrough, more hours involve spiritual warfare and the daily positioning of our hearts as opposed to tending miracle aftermath. 

Yet, while handling immediate calls to action are important, my hope with this post is two-fold:

  • To help us not only find the Incarnation in the ordinary but also in the anticipation of extraordinary.
  • To help us take heart as God establishes our steps and makes our paths straight…even before we’re called to walk on them.

Accordingly, here are three basic routines we can employ to calibrate our hearts during gradual recoveries and ahead of divine interventions. 

  1. Time Your Breakaways

As much as Jesus ministered in person, we note he also devoted daily time with God to reset connection. Luke 5 is a classic demonstration of this. After calling his first disciples at Gennesaret, miraculously filling the nets at Galilee, and healing a leper at a neighboring city, we find the punch line in v. 16 (AMP):

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray [in seclusion].” 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would Jesus withdraw when many others were drawing near to him for healing as well? 

You see…Jesus, at any point, knew exactly who needed the expedite healing to further His name and power without attracting unnecessary attention. From a practical, even vocational standpoint, we can applaud this maneuvering from a time management and facilitative perspective. For Jesus not only wanted to heal the infirmity in the moment but plant seeds of testimony capable of encouraging communities of His presence after-the-fact; hence, why Jesus often told the ex-afflicted where to go, who to tell, and from there would move to his next location (see Luke 5:17-26). 

No matter the juncture…

Jesus had the ultimate end-game in mind: To inspire people to His love through an awareness of their original design and an alignment to their eternal design as co-heirs with Christ.

And while I’m sure Jesus had a master itinerary, partly secured through His quiet times, Jesus never lost touch with His Incarnation – the fact He couldn’t be everywhere and heal everyone at once despite His divine DNA. What mattered to Jesus was activating active faith within balanced boundaries (see Luke 4:38-44) and the strategies confirmed in His breakaways with the Father. 

Bottom line: From pre-service dial-ins to timely retreats, Jesus knew exactly when to engage (heal) and when to reposition/refresh with God – the Cross and ministry of reconciliation always before Him

  1. When in Doubt, Pray

When we explore Jesus’ quiet times, we find He essentially wrote the book on 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (ESV):

Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.”

Now, to be fair, Paul is the author here; however, such inspiration, no question, came from how Christ modeled His prayer routines. 

Check out these passages:

“…He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-40).

“…it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: ….And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people … and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:12-19).

Now, this isn’t to say you must deprive yourself of rest to fully press in. Conversely, as emphasized by the bold text, these cases are examples of how we should cope when desperate and/or discouraged.

Think of this way: What is insanity in the midst of chaos and crisis? Frankly, it’s not praying! At the very least, acknowledge who God is into a given situation and watch as fear fades in the face of scaled perspective. Again, for prayer to be anchored as habit, the practice must be tethered in consistency and intentionality. Jesus literally gave himself outs during the busiest of ministry days to hear what His Father had to say. How much more should we embrace the call to do likewise? 

Bottom line: Jesus’ lifestyle defines solitude as praying with God and embracing the opportunity to vertically rely on Him.

  1. Clothe Yourself in Compassion

If we’re to dissect Jesus’ habits in secret, then it’s only fair to consider His attitude in public. For while Jesus never resisted His lifeline, He also never used it as an excuse to conceal His nature. And the application is palpable:

As believers in today’s world, we may have hope-building acumen, we may know how to exercise our faith; however, if we’re not applying love to the equation, those behaviors are meaningless. 

The question is: How can one convey a relatable, contagious love when we’re struggling emotionally, physically, even vocationally? 

I know for me, when I start to spiral, ideas of going beyond myself, outside myself come to mind. But even those sentiments can go so far. 

The key, I submit, is clothing yourself with compassion as backed by Colossians 3:12 (ESV):

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating how the first word in this series is ‘compassion’, almost as if there’s purpose behind the sequence. Perhaps the author was suggesting love at the heart should be layered most intimately with compassion? Kinda like it’s the inner garment relative to the inner organ of love with meekness/patience acting like the outer garment. Who knows.

What I do know is Jesus frequented the virtue. 

Consider the exhibits:

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” ~ Matthew 14:13-14 (ESV)

“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” ~ Matthew 20:30-34 (ESV)

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things.” ~ Mark 6:34 (ESV)

Upon further review, note the contrasts between Matthew 14 and Mark 5. In both instances, Jesus withdrew. Yet, in Matthew 14 (and Matthew 20 for that matter), Jesus pivoted His action on the heels of compassion. While the transitions in Mark are more pronounced, in the end, Jesus stayed consistent as one who could never deny Himself. After all, to answer a cry for mercy is who He is. And though many of us are seldom on the receiving end, the reality is we can follow a similar roadmap is addressing unspoken needs through yielded sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading (More on this from an occupational perspective in our next segment).

Bottom line: Jesus took compassion as one already clothed in it and rode empathy into opportunities to heal and reveal.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Berean Baptist Church

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.

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 6)

It’s a chilling 72 degrees as I type this.

Still rattling from another week of dodging arrows, taking them in the back in some cases.

I’m done with this. I’m so fed up and yet starving at the same time. Forget why; I just want to know when.

When will things get better? When will things start to turn around?

I look at Juby and I delight in her progress. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the journey…the literal baby steps one must take during these intense stretches.

But when it’s Monday morning and you’ve been out of home for three months. When it’s a brand new day and your only source of sanctuary betrays you, I’m sorry, I just can’t even…

…not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t given up or anything. Contrarily, I sometimes wonder if not knowing how to not believe is part of what’s working.

Yet, as I continue to wrestle and keep my head above the water, I discover new depths to what faith is like at the end of its rope…

…and it is gloriously terrifying. A place you relish and long to relinquish at the same time.

Like many paradoxes, the dichotomy is confusing. After all, vertical reliance is supposed to be uncomfortable – an achy burn as opposed to a contagious high.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I trust God has something in store for Lys & I once this season blows over. It’s just getting harder to move, to leave the house, to function really. Even though we’re hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, even though we’re perplexed on multiple fronts, but not [yet in] despair, the temptation to think otherwise entices me.

How can the life of Jesus fully manifest when all I can do is stand? How can His glory be revealed when I’m this lost searching for a horizon to light my way?

Sure, I can stiff-arm fear all day, but at day’s end, I just want to know where I am headed.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there wondering this right now.

Disoriented and fatigued, my charge tonight is simple…

If you find yourself at the end of your rope, rejoice in the stillness and tie a knot.

You may feel like you’re trembling on a precipice, but where courage lacks is also where much is given. In time, you will be able to strain forward to what lies ahead. For now, embrace the opportunity to receive as you persevere, let steadfastness have its full effect, and hold fast the confession of hope without wavering.

Even when you step out of your car and a freak gear glitch causes it to launch into a neighbor’s yard before you somehow, someway stop it from crashing into their house, count it all joy. Tally up His goodness and scale your conflicts accordingly.

Take it from one in the trenches with you. Your life isn’t as broken as you think. And even if it is, there’s not a solve or repair unbeknownst to God.

Why not trust the handiness of His hands as you trade in your sorrows?

Just sayin’…

Selah.

Cover photos creds: Word Slingers