Corona Fight: Why We’re to Be Unshaken, Not Stirred

So recently, I was reading a blog post about how God is using this COVID-19 crisis to help believers see what is still shakable in their own lives (Haggai 2:5-7, Hebrews 12:22-29).

And by all means, my heart resonates with this truth.

Until something is unshakable, there’s always room for greater stability and strength.

Yet, while much focus is on how God is shaking out our co-dependencies¹ (and rightfully so), I can’t help but wonder if we’re forgetting the grander scheme unfolding.

‘Cause truth is: Yes, God wants to prune our dependencies and purify our securities. But I also believe He wants to use this time to train the body to be hope in the face of age-defining uncertainty.

Not to suggest we be insensitive to personal conviction or how God is shaking the nations. Certainly, now is a perfect time to take inventory and ask the Lord to awaken us in this season of chaos.

However, in our quests for enlightenment, let’s not forget the bigger picture either – specifically, how the church must show the way amidst the dismay through love-distance (a.k.a. long-distance) relationship².

As for the days ahead, I wish I knew more. For now, what I can say is a super creative God is illuminating new creative outlets for those He loves. And as the evidence pours in, let’s keep one thing in mind:

The same God who is shaking global foundations is the same God fixing your eyes on what He intends to remain unshaken.

Even though there’s much change to behold, there’s still plenty of life in you purposed for consistency (be it joy, faithfulness, endurance, etc). Accordingly, let’s not lose sight of what God has done as we lean into what He’s about to do.

As for any of you feeling displaced or out of rhythm, be encouraged: God is not one to run out of ideas. If anything, He’s working out a temporary solution with lasting repercussions you can’t see yet.

As for you with spiritual gifts centered on direct services, like giving, compassion or hospitality, be discerning and disciplined, but don’t vacation from your calling either. Rather, research, network, build your technological awareness (To be fair, this goes for all of us 😉)…and dare to see where God’s bridges of benevolence take you.

In closing, I charge you, my friends, to calibrate to God’s character/Word (see verses below) and consider what He’s anchored within you. After all, even when life seems to fall apart, He never stops refining your part in helping others find Jesus.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll finally unveil ‘part 2’ to my ‘4 convictions for 2020‘ series. Until then, may God’s hedge of protection cover and calm you in these turbulent days.

“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.” ~ Exodus 23:25 (NIV)

“For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”  ~ Psalm 34:20 (NIV)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good thing, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” ~ Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  ~ Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

Footnotes

  1. For some, you may feel God is sifting your heart Amos 9 style as opposed to shaking it (see video above).
  2. More on this term in a future post; for now, view it as a love that stays in bounds because it knows no bounds.

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Cover photo creds: Action News Now

Say the Words: The Bridge Between Forgiveness and Identity

Okay, so I know I promised a ‘part 2’ in my last post; however, I figured a) I’d delay for some storytime and b) You guys wouldn’t mind a change of pace. Accordingly, I’ll retarget the aforementioned sequel to next weekend. 

So yesterday, I’m eating lunch with some colleagues when suddenly an open question becomes an answer to my silence. An opportunity to share now a moment to care…just without the words.

Deep down, my subconscious begins to skew…

I thought they said life wasn’t supposed to a spectator sport? I should be in the game, not the sidelines! Why did I accept this invitation anyway?

Granted, I’m embarrassed having assumed the question was for me when it was for someone else. Still, I’m desperate to quench this oral craving. Time to take the plunge and jump in, I think to myself.

And so I do. Five minutes in…the first unforced tangent, I carpe diem the crap out of it. Like an open book, I’m elated knowing where I’m going, where I’m stopping, and where I’m headed in this midday manuscript.

What could go wrong’, I wonder. ‘I just need to wrap up my say and head back to the bleachers. Get in, get out, and go home happy.’

And for a while I’m right. After a relay question to stitch the rabbit trail, I‘m not only out, but home happy – the start of 18 hours of muted conscious.

That is until this morning’s 5:30 am wake-up call – a muffled ‘Beautiful Day’ ringtone softened by the tune of leftfield conviction.

You totally hijacked that conversation,” I hear.

Sensing that familiar twilight echo, I quickly realize God is talking to me.

When you go to work today, make sure you apologize to the person you cut off.”

*Sigh* “Okay, God. I get it. You got it. Like my most popular Slack, ‘Will do’.”

Hours later, I’m back in the office, a couple convos into a steady rhythm when my time comes to apologize. Without hesitation, I pivot off a talk of the times to the words of the time.

About yesterday. I know you probably thought nothing of it. Certainly didn’t mean anything by it. But I just gotta say…I totally hijacked that conversation yesterday. It would have been better for me to listen than chime in out of fear of not being heard. Will you forgive me?

Like butter to burnt toast, I smell the melting – this friend of mine, a fairly recent acquaintance, touched by such sensitivity.

Wow, you’re a man of God, aren’t you,” she says.

Uhhh…yes. Yes, I am a man of God. This is true. Can’t argue…” I stagger.

At this point, I’m reeling like a teenage pop-fan in 2012, stunned by this one direction¹. In no way did I expect the dialogue to end up here of all places.

Yet, as I reflect back, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

‘Cause truth is: Whether we’re owning a misgiving or repenting for a fault, asking for forgiveness always helps us rediscover who we are. Sure, we may feel like a horse being led to water, eager to rid ourselves the yoke of apology. But as I learned this morning, there’s not only grace behind an “I’m sorry”, but identity calibration as well.

As for the apology, some would say I had nothing to apologize about. But for me, I’m glad I had something to own. For when we own something, it only proves we’ve accepted what’s been given in the first place. And while this could look a number of different ways, I submit at the core of it all is a gentle, gracious reminder that we are loved in and through weakness. Even when we’re not perfect, there’s at least room to be perfected – the space in between the sweet spot of our identity.

Selah.

Later this spring, I’ll discuss this forgiveness/identity dichotomy in greater detail. For now, here are some verses we can revisit for next time…

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.~ Luke 1:76-78 (ESV)

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  – Luke 7:47 (ESV)

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ…” 
~ 2 Corinthians 2:10 (ESV)

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”  – 1 John 2:12 (ESV)

‘Til then, you got this, people of God…

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Footnotes

  1. Youth pastor joke from my LEGACYouth days (see linked text)…
Photo cover creds: Healthy Beginnings

 

The Right [of] Way: A Farewell to TDOT

It’s a cold day [at TPAC] as I take this final skyline glance.

Vacancies once held now seven years of vibrancies starring back at me. Crazy how a city can reflect what you already know – the fact life is a highway built on and by dust…the cold yet beautiful reality that life is a vapor because it was spoken into by such.

Still, the question remains…

 How can one possibly capture a septennial’s worth of growth? Or put into words a spiritual journey equivalent to a Sahara crossing with one camel and a military canteen?

Whatever the answer, I won’t shy from letting words fly given this post is ultimately a testimony to God’s sovereignty. As such, I encourage you: Don’t read this as a summary of one man’s odyssey, but a synthesis of God’s faithfulness to transform.

Prologue aside, let’s dive in…

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When I started with TDOT Finance in April 2012, life was a bull market. From Lyssah to LEGACYouth to graduate school, everything seemed fresh and exciting. For the first time in years, I was enjoying all aspects of life – a stark contrast to the brutal four years preceding.

Yet, by fall 2013, many of these facets began to settle. While most things ministry and marriage-wise were flourishing, the same couldn’t be said about work. After a “promotion” from Budget to Payables, I struggled not only adjusting to the position but having to be in it at all. Unlike the two generations of Fry’s before me, I couldn’t support my family through pastoral ministry alone. Consequently, I often clocked in already feeling like a failure…like I didn’t belong.

And so, I vilified the culture, my 7-3:30 reality a necessary evil disguised as a reincarnated Matrix.

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On the surface, I was pressing on, but deep down, I was defeated, a prisoner of my own narrative. To be free was to be out, but I had no escape plan. Just a spray of mental splinters reminding me I had nothing to offer.

For years, I believed the lie my value couldn’t be realized at TDOT. While I was able to return to Budget by summer 2014, by then, the early stages of depression had settled in. Driven by lingering guilt from past seasons, it was clear the fight to tame my despair was not being helped at work. If anything, the lack of voice and professional development only compounded the problem. Perhaps had I not compartmentalized my ‘loved by God’ identity, these voids wouldn’t have hindered the way they did.

Either way, by January 2015, my disdain for the work culture had finally trickled into disdain for certain people. No longer could I emotionally separate the two. Like a house divided, my joy was one-sided with each day an elevator countdown and a prayer against hopelessness. Long gone were the days I could thrive; I just wanted to survive.

And yet, life was fantastic behind the scenes. For starters, all things family and LEGACYouth continued to bloom – the best years coinciding with the worse years at TDOT. I was coming off a solid two year run at MTSU where I received my Master’s in Education: Instruction and Curriculum. And to cap it off, after hitting three years in youth ministry, I was had started working towards my licensure with Messenger Fellowship.

However, the major plot turn came during spring 2015 when I started to sense God’s call to create a written resource for vocationals¹. At first, I questioned if this word was from God given the timing made no sense. Not only did I feel disqualified, but emotionally unprepared to tackle such a task. Who was I to say ‘yes’ in light of where my heart was at?

But looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering…

  1. Even in our darkest hours, God is faithful to stir in ‘content’ despite our discontent.

  2. It’s often in the places we’re snake-bitten where God wants to deliver healing and entrust authority.

At any rate, after months of underground writing, His Girl Fryday published during summer 2015 to a humble following of 25 followers with biweekly posts and a podcast launch a few years after. But for TDOT, the key takeaway was the big picture – the fact God would use a special project to erode my heart of stone and transform it back into a heart of flesh. After all, it’s hard to stay mad at the marketplace when marketplace people represent your target audience. I guess that’s why they say, ‘God is without a sense of humor’.

Flash-forward to January 2019 and my heart is three years softer towards all things TDOT. Granted, there were some tough days; however, the inner maturation was now at a point I could daily choose joy, declare gratitude, and receive rest. Having learned a new rhythm of releasing, rarely did I carry anxiety into a new day. By God’s strength and power, I was being renewed regularly and refreshed in the mundane.

By early February, a new assignment had emerged, this time a Bible study open to all TDOT employees. As the Lord assured me, the inner man was ready to lead a charge that hadn’t been attempted in over two decades. A drive I would have laughed at four years prior, now a Spirit-led operation to plant a community of God’s presence. Using a mix of His Girl Fryday and Messenger Fellowship/Commission U content, I began to translate church-speak discipleship into digestible vocational dialogue. Though attendance rarely hit double-digits, the study would ignite a few more throughout the James K. Polk building. At last, the final chapter of my seven-year TDOT journey was complete.

By now, I bet you’re wondering…

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And to that, I’d reply: The point is the story itself and the source it comes from. The way I see it, God permitted my TDOT landing so I could learn how to abide in a place I didn’t fit and love within a culture I didn’t understand. Along the way, I discovered how much more Jesus I needed…how I couldn’t possibly love and lead without His daily presence manifesting as sustaining power. I also tasted the bitter dregs of indifference, resentment, and what it’s like to project insecurity onto those mirroring your own struggle. If only I received correction without assuming gracelessness, no question, much grief during my time at TDOT could have been spared.

Still, when I look back on my TDOT tenure, what I’ll ultimately remember are the seven wonderful years I had to grow in my professionalism. Could have I been sent to more trainings, webinars, and conferences? Yes. Was it difficult being a travel specialist getting to send people all over the country without being able to join them? Absolutely.

Yet, at day’s end, all this is moot.

For many are the miles, but few are the meters to loving your neighbor. Much is the work, but much more are the people who work it.

Therefore, whether we’re CPA’s or ASA’s2, remember what matters is faith, hope, and love channeled through attitude, integrity, and legacy. The road may not always be easy, but as long as we stay the course, the freedom and ripening we crave will come.

As for now, I relish this moment to say, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ not only to my TDOT family, but every breakthrough, confrontation, and endeavor that has occurred the past seven years. What started as a single man looking for occupational and financial stability has ended with a family of five finding spiritual and vocational stability in the places that matter most.

One line ends, another begins. No question, I’m on a higher precipice thanks to what I learned here.

‘Til next time, here’s to the next and the undeniable truth that the best is yet to come…

Selah.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Particularly those in ministry and marketplace simultaneously
  2. Admin support assistants
Graphic creds: Skyscrapercenter, Alchetron

Proverbial Life: A Quick Guide to Possessing Your Soul

Context: This post was inspired by a May 16 conversation with my dad prior to his Sunday AM message @ The Gate Community Church on May 19. Moving forward, any content centered on internal endurance (and/or a ‘Proverb outside of Proverbs’) will be categorized into this new series called ‘Proverbial Life’.

It’s a complicated theme in Scripture…

God, as love, authoring His will in the deepest still; the epitome of fellowship perfecting faith before it could create.

No question, the infinities of life are complex, sometimes intimidating; however, when we consider God at the beginning, we converge on a central truth:

We were made for connection (for love, with love, by love)…

…to pursue peace with all people1

…and to be unity in community.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done in a day when relationships are compromised by  busyness, striving, even insecurity. Perhaps you’ve encountered similar barriers wondering how to navigate around them.

If so, I want to encourage you with a Proverb that somehow found itself in Luke 21.

But before I dive in, allow me to uplift the down heart reading this…

  1. You are not alone. You are not here by accident. You are a treasure. You are an asset to an unshakable Kingdom. You are a chosen child of God. Just marinate in these identity statements a bit.
  2. If you’re not in the rhythm of daily dying2, staying the course in any situation will be challenging. An odd segue, I admit, but one I speak from wanting you, the reader, to surrender all trust in God knowing He understands your wants, needs, desires, and dreams better than you do.
  3. In writing this, I don’t want to downplay the struggle of connecting to those preserving their rhythms, content with you being on the outside looking in. I get it. If there’s one mountain in recent church testimony, it’s this. Still, even though the purest of intentions can become unyoked priorities, you can’t take on the wrong burdens even if you’re the only one who sees them.

Having said that, let’s dig into the Word…

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By your patience possess your souls.” ~ Luke 21:19 (NKJV)3 4

By your endurance you will gain your lives.” ~ Luke 21:19 (ESV)

By your [patient] endurance [empowered by the Holy Spirit] you will gain your souls.” ~ Luke 21:19 (AMP)

Stand firm, and you will win life.” ~ Luke 21:19 (NIV)

Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.” ~ Luke 21:19 (MSG)

As expected, wording varies upon translation, but the general concept is the same. When we reference this verse to Matthew 4 and note the heart of Jesus, we find the Son of Man walking in authority by the power of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere he went in this power, every time he returned in this power. Even when Jesus was tempted, Jesus was centered in his identity by…you guessed it…the power of the Holy Spirit.5

Often times, when we think power of the Holy Spirit, we think wonders and miracles, but for Jesus, the most frequent manifestation of the Spirit’s power in him was his reliance upon the Father to possess his emotions. A simple anecdote upon first glance, but one with significant applications when we consider Jesus was tempted in every way like we are today. This in mind, we can’t take lightly the vain thoughts we tolerate in place of deferred hope given the power of fear ultimately numbs us to the power of the Spirit.

Again, Jesus is the way we must model. To him, his ‘standing identity’ wasn’t mutually exclusive from his identity in God. He knew to walk in real authority, whether resisting the enemy or healing the sick, he had to possess his soul to keep it from ruling him. The more opportunities he had to cultivate endurance in this way, the more he walked confidently in his identity and the authority that overflowed.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting Jesus never asserted his authority as a self-evident right, but out of a posture of rest. This is key for us concerning spiritual warfare. To say Jesus asserted his authority out of rest means he didn’t contend for authority with the enemy; rather he exercised it knowing he was free from needing God to approve himself and defend his rights.

This, in turn, allowed his faith to flow from identity and empowered him not to be offended that his purpose was rooted in dying.

So in a weird sense, we should delight in the fact God tests us through relational voids6 given His heart is to refine our rest and trust in our ‘loved by God’ identity. Not to suggest every relational lack is a test from God. I’m just saying when we look at how Jesus lived and what He longs to develop within us, how can we not be grateful knowing our patience can mature as we master our inner man? How can we not be excited our ego-triggered fears can be subdued by the same power Jesus abided in?

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Bottom line: Every day is an opportunity to die to self, receive God’s life, and discover our purpose through our ‘loved by God’ identity.

Accordingly…

  • Next time, you’re alone, remember Jesus was often alone…yet relied on the Father in those moments.
  • Next time, you feel judged, remember Jesus was constantly misunderstood, even in praise…yet consistently ran to the source of his confidence.
  • Next time, you feel drained, remember Jesus was tired on many occasions…yet knew the fruit he bore strengthened his perseverance. 
  • Next time you feel disconnected or discouraged, remember to rejoice as you suffer in steadfastness!

After all, God is always up to something special, something incredible beyond your comprehension. Just keep your eyes centered on the perfecter of your faith, surrender what you think should be present in your life, and stand firm regardless of how you feel…

…knowing no matter what happens…

…the Creator of your soul will be there to gain your souls.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Hebrews 12:14 NKJV
  2. To the will of your flesh
  3. Putting NKJV first since I like the way this translation catches the Greek
  4. Patience in Hebrew refers to suffering in steadfastness
  5. So while there’s truth in viewing this verse as a bottom line for a well-disciplined life, the whole point is what connects standing firm to winning life…and that is the power of the Spirit.
  6. And conflicts
Cover photo creds: WallpaperUP

Begin Again

I’m feeling dry in mid-July as I take to a familiar scene…

…where Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are, once again…

…deep in nightscape dialogue.

Like them, it’s been a year where nocturnal serenity has frequented my cul-de-sac of vulnerability.

Perhaps this is why I’m watching this, I think to myself.

After all, it’s not every day you catch a cinematic glimpse of what you and God do once the kids go down.

Walk and talk.

Walk and talk.

The perfect end to an imperfect day.

But this time…things are different. For once, I’m inside and idle, content in a still of a different kind.

Riding the rarity, I dive in, the laughs and prose all working towards this one moment…

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…sealed by a mic drop for the soul.

And yet, this story, in more ways than one, is just beginning.

For as credits roll, I approach the screen…

…to shelve a case of what was seen…

…only to balk and wonder why.

Why don’t I want to leave this moment, I wonder.

Perhaps it’s a sequence, a song, an emotional call. Perhaps the answer is ‘none at all’.

Either way, I’m at peace. Let it go, let it rest. Sometimes, walking away is best.

Flash-forward to mid-August and I’m cleaning again…the aura of Pledge, a fitting calm.

Then suddenly, it hits me

…what struck me that night was not the scene, but the title itself

…slowly marinating into the stubborn caverns of my disbelief.

Two words…we need, but take for granted; two words…preached, yet breached and slanted.

Two words…an answer once hoped for; two words…a truth igniting my core.

Two words for two months…and likely beyond. Now comes the part I ‘yes’ and respond.

And so it goes…there’s nothing God can’t use to find us and whisper the sweet reminder…

…that sometimes, to go forward, we must go back and…

begin again.

Roll credits.

Photo creds: 7-Themes, Pinterest