In The Name of [G]love

I love to play fantasy football.

Really all fantasy sports: Football, baseball, basketball, even hockey. With all major sports currently coinciding due to COVID-19, no question it’s been a busy month on the hobby-front. Yet, of all the ups and downs (mostly ups), perhaps my favorite moment came last week for one of my baseball teams.

Here’s the stage: After starting the season 7-12-1, my team goes on a heater finishing up the regular season with a league-best 30-16-4 to finish at 37-28-5. Heading into the last week of the regular season, my team’s playoff probability was <5% as I needed two teams ahead of me to go 3-6-1 or worse while I had to go 8-1-1 or better just to qualify for a tiebreaker. Well wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what I happened: My team goes 8-1-1, the other teams go 3-6-1, and against all odds, all three teams finish tied at 37-28-5.

Now, for most leagues, tiebreakers are decided by head-to-head matchups during the regular season; to me, this makes sense given the practice considers past performance and is adopted by most major league sports. However, for this league, the Commissioner had set it up in a unique way: Rather than award head-to-head record, the team who finished the final week with the best record would win the tiebreaker and the seeding advantage. A moot point in most circumstances, but a critical one in this case since the tiebreaker decided the last playoff berth.

All things considered, you can image my elation to have clinched a playoff berth having been left for dead at 7.5 games back with two weeks ago.

There was only one problem: I forgot to pay my league entry fee.

This probably deserves an unwind. For custom leagues, a payment deadline is generally enforced by the fantasy network provider. If even one of the managers forgets to pay on time, the league is stripped of its cash status and becomes a free league with no payout.

Initially, I had paid on time; however, that was before another manager missed the deadline costing our league its cash league status. After receiving a refund, I carried about my business assuming this league would be re-classified with no cash prizes. But as I learned following my playoff berth, the managers had decided to handle payments ‘off-grid’ six weeks prior, a memo I missed based on my fantasy app’s messaging settings. Why no one contacted me is beyond me. Perhaps they thought my team was weak and wasn’t a threat. Whatever the reason, my team overachieving into the playoffs was suddenly a legit problem for the managers who had paid and lost the tiebreaker.

As I continued discerning the dilemma, the choice became clear: I needed to own my mistake (even though I knew it wasn’t the only mistake in this situation) and inquire next steps in our next live chat. So that’s what I did. At soonest convenience, I logged in, acknowledged the error, and told the managers I’d happily pay the fee after-the-fact. Unfortunately, this pitch (pun intended) was not unanimously received given the cheap convenience involved. As one manager said, of course I would pay now; after all, I had new skin in the game.

But that’s when I made an easy call: Instead of defending my position, I surrendered my playoff spot to the runner-up manager.

Upon announcing this, the live chat blew up. Apparently, the other managers were prepping for a vote on whether or not I should remain qualified as a playoff team. For some managers, they understood the loop holes involved; for others, they were more concerned about league rules being followed to the bitter end. Yet, once I laid down my team, the other managers were floored. They couldn’t believe after all my hard work, I’d just casually offer my playoff bid to another manager. In response, I explained how it didn’t make sense for me to win a cash prize in a league I didn’t pay an entry fee for. Granted, it would have been nice if someone said something so I could have paid a second time…on time. Alas, that’s not what happened.

What did happen is while I lost a chance to earn $120, I won souls in how I handled the disappointment. For as the chat session continued, the encouraging comments poured in – most applauding my integrity, some even asking me if I would return to the league again. At first, I was like, ‘Calm down. It’s not that big a deal’, but upon second thought, I saw where they were coming from.

‘Cause truth is: Integrity isn’t only realized when a decision is hard, but also when a decision is obvious. Applying Proverbs 11:30 (ESV), while a challenging circumstance can impact integrity, or lack thereof, ultimately how it’s handled is what wins soul. For instance, a basic ethical response can diffuse conflict when it advances corporate virtue ahead of an individual goal. Additionally, it can inspire others to do likewise when selflessly expressed in sincerity. Put another way…

…doing the right thing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not contingent on the extraordinary but is often maximized in the ordinary.

Sometimes, we undermine the value of humility when its exercise is plain. Even when there’s a cost, when the path to goodness is clear-cut, we can shrug it off as we walk it in fear of being self-centered.

But that’s why I’m sharing this story – to remind us to embrace the power of practical integrity and cherish the simple ways character can influence. Who knows? By buying that meal, being transparent, or extending grace, you may just win an opportunity to lead someone to Jesus because you were willing to be like him in the first place.

Selah.

Photo creds: ArtsyCanvas.com

3 Ways to Overcome Labeling at Work

Labels.

They can be tough to handle. As one who has endured his fair share, my heart is sensitive to those wrestling with identity, to those struggling in the shadow of slander and prejudice. While some people know the truth of who you are, the fact is many are in the dark to what makes them unique. And if we’re to mature in wisdom and influence within our communal arenas, how we stand firm when assailed by this demographic is worth discussion.

Regardless of what we do or where we’re at, whenever vulnerability strikes, having a game-plan is vital in our quest to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Accordingly, here are three ways we can bust the boxes people put us in and prevent their labels from becoming our tags.

1. Anchor Your Belief

Before we take any action, the best way to deal with backbiting is to resist fear through the Scriptures. While how we respond as follow-through is important, how we react in the moment is just as, if not more, crucial. Here’s a check-down of some verses I quote when I sense typecasting, favoritism, or neglect:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” ~ 1 Timothy 2:7 (AMP)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Note how this is merely a shortlist; obviously, you can customize your ‘fear resistant’ prayer guide however you please. Just be advised when you’re on the clock in real-time, our tendency to misread and misjudge what we observe is constantly tested; hence, why it’s important not only to know what you believe but also how to take captive what doesn’t align.

Bottom line: When you suspect attitudinal shifts, be slow to believe what you perceive. Don’t be afraid to resist unnecessary judgments, labels, and deceptions. Even if all you can do initially is defer, defer in faith with the hope of casting all anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)

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2. Pray into the Offense

When we suspect people are labeling us, it’s hard not to take offense. Even if we can’t prove a typecast, the temptation to rationalize what we’re sensing is real, sometimes tantalizing. I know for me, when I perceive a relational distancing from colleagues or co-workers, I start to crave reconciliation before it’s necessary. On one level, I feel a surge of self-perseveration desperate to find a reason why; on another, I’m frustrated to have to own anything in the first place. It’s like a winless tug-of-war: I want to be heard, understood, and not given up on, but in case those fears verify, I want to, at least, be the next best thing…to be right. Not exactly a sustainable formula if community is to be a pure pursuit.

For those wondering why the transparency: I have no problem being vulnerable because I know I’m not alone. The fact is in most cases, insecurity fuels our offenses and if we don’t acknowledge and repent of them, they can pollute our view of relationships, identity, place and purpose, etc.

So what then? If people are nice one day and suddenly stop acknowledging our existence the next, we’re supposed to keep our mouth shut and be okay with it? Well, no, I’m not saying we neglect the opportunities to bridge divides. Conversely, I’m saying if grudges or walls emerge, we must first lean on God’s understanding to accurately see the situation. From there, we can take rest knowing we’re proactively sowing peace as opposed to reactively striving for peace. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Through Him, we can persevere in prayer and thanksgiving that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5).

Bottom line: Seek correction before direction. Let God be the space between your hurts and emotions. Release the want to control, manipulate, and be a victim. All the while, pray into the offense and don’t be overcome by the absence of good. Rather be the good in the voids you sense, real or imagined.

3. Turn the Cheek…and the Tide

For most of us, we’re familiar with Matthew 5:38-40:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is . But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

While the general meaning of this passage is to approach evil in the opposite spirit, the concept of turning the other cheek can still be confusing. Is Jesus suggesting we tolerate the presence of malice, gossip, passive-aggressiveness, even silos in our workplaces? Is he hinting we embrace suffering and survivalism as socially acceptable? Not at all. Au contraire, he’s implying we encourage all people through a double portion of his nature.

For instance, if we encounter a void of good, when people are intentionally forsaking us, don’t respond by doing the same. Why lower your standards and behaviors to a level outside your faith? Instead, know your power source and abide in the current of his grace. In this way, you defuse offense, inspire virtue as a contagious overflow, and preserve what needs to be said in a spirit of love.

Bottom line: In the presence of evil, in the absence good, you can’t turn the tide if you don’t turn the cheek. Don’t live in defeat in a moment’s heat but be true to what is right as you stir others to do the same.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive back into my ‘Trinity as Structure‘ series to discuss the Trinity’s influence on teamwork. For now, I bid you adieu with an inspiring video from New Hope Church:

Cover photo creds: https://medium.com

The Trail We Blaze: 4 Convictions for 2020 (Part 2)

After unlocking my first two convictions in ‘part 1‘, I want to conclude this mini-series with two more (despite the fact they are three months overdue – my apologies).

In the spirit of ‘better now than never’…let’s dive in!

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  1. Know you are known.

One of my biggest vices is wanting to be understood…

…the thought that if people just gave me time, be it quality time, time to speak or time to adjust, they’d like what’d they see.

However, as I’ve recently rediscovered: The problem with this mindset is it sets unfair expectations, fuels ego, and fixes identity on satisfied love languages. 

As Scripture attests, a pure desire to be known strays once it seeks to self-satisfy (Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5-6 MSG). Like a stealthy narcissism, a warped desire to be known is not only egocentric but often can’t function without pride or manipulation. Even if the pride is silent, it can still hinder relationships through the anticipation of self-preservation and withdrawal. Consequently, if we cater to this type of insecurity, it shouldn’t surprise us to find ourselves sealed in cynicism and complacency.

As for the corollary, one of the best ways we invest in others is not preemptively burdening them with a want to be understood. Take it from one who has failed at this time and time again:

If there’s ever a way to trust God as more than enough, it’s through our ‘loved by God’ identity and our ‘love one another’ commission.

Don’t ever put yourself behind the ‘8 ball’ in fear others will set you there first. Instead, cast all fears and anxieties (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7 ESV) before they take root knowing God gets you, what you’re going through, and what’s best for you. Trust the Lord will provide the social desires of your heart and focus your mind on loving Christ through serving His people. Surely the arm of the Lord will be with you and enlighten the right minds at the right time along the way.

Bottom line: The human heart wasn’t just made to be known and loved; it was made known and already loved.¹

After all, we were known before we were formed (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16 ESV) and created for intimacy in a way only God could understand (1 Corinthians 14:2 MSG). ²

As the Psalmist declares…

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Yet, even there, “you desired faithfulness…and taught me wisdom in that secret place.” ~ Psalm 139:13, Psalm 51:6 (ESV)

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  1. Discern the Why’s and the Ways of God

Whoever said Stephen King has been writing ‘2020’ couldn’t have been more accurate.

In a year featuring a global epidemic, killer tornadoes, police brutality riots, and economic recessions, the narrative has been turbulent to say the least.

Yet, despite the political and social unrest, there have been silver linings: Families coming together, spouses maturing in awareness, enterprise and liturgy finding new creative ways to connect and serve. Honestly, the list is longer than you think.

Hence, I’ve been wondering if part of God’s plan for 2020 is to start healing our land from the inside-out. Yeah, yeah, I get why some might think God is wanting to make us more uncomfortable. Like many, I’ve heard the ‘shake, not break’ sermons. But the way I see it, to stop there would be deceiving.

‘Cause truth is: While God may be exposing our privileged mentalities and independencies, His end goal is to perfect our hearts in the abidings of His love and draw us closer to glory. Accordingly, if you’ve felt the divine pruning or sensed the Spirit shaping your reliance, by all means, rejoice and receive God’s work in your life. Don’t waste time focusing on what you lack, but rather in faith, inquire without expectation the ways and why’s of God.

As John 14-16 reminds us…

…to ask of Him is not to be entitled, but to know you’re entrusted.

Even though you may feel pigeon-holed in this time, remember whenever you’re stuck in the corners of life, the only way to go – the only place to look – is up. In every journey, there are fires, conflicts, and forks in the road. But ultimately, the same God who fashioned you is the same God in the thick of your tribulations and decision-making. All the more reason to cherish 2020 knowing God as author, answer, and strength is in it.

Bottom line(s): 1) Know where your help and healing come from. 2) Pursue the bonus opportunities God is directing you to. 3) Embrace the burn as you yearn, the unseen in quarantine. 4) Remember that “God entrusts [you] with a bit of His extraordinary.” ~ Lana Christian

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” ~ John 16:13-15 (ESV)

“‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.” ~ Haggai 2:5-7 (ESV)

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Per David, it’s interesting to note how godly sorrow and godly happiness points back to our ‘loved by God’ identity. If we’re to learn anything about the man after God’s own heart, it’s how to center faith, hope, and love through the emotion of our worship.
  2. Put another way, we were made by love with love for love.
Cover photo creds: DesiringGod.com

The Timely Lincoln

“There is not one piece of cosmic dust that is outside the scope of God’s sovereign providence.” ~ R.C. Sproul

Written 4/5/17; revised 6/30/20

So yesterday I’m walking in the rain to work when suddenly I notice a five-dollar bill lying in a puddle. Seizing the serendipity, I approach the curb, check both ways, and cross the street before grabbing the Lincoln. Not a bad start to a soggy Monday, I think to myself.

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Hours later, I’m working on a spreadsheet when this damp, dreary bill begins to beg.

Spend me! Use me! Exchange me for coins!

At first, I consider. After all, a brewed boost on an overcast Monday makes as much sense as the cents it costs. Yet, after weighing my Starbucks balance and an empty lunch box, I decide to pass. Who needs a bland blonde when you have cash in your wallet anyway?

Fast-forward to today and the temptation is real. Like yesterday, I have no lunch as my weekly tradition of forgetting it is now an epidemic. Granted, when you’re spending the night at your in-laws and have to switch cars with your wife so you can pick up your son and dog after work, it makes sense lunch would be an afterthought. Whatever the case, I give into my Jimmy John’s craving and order a sub online.

Problem solved. Appetite quenched. My little Lincoln still snug in its billfold.

Hours later, I’m on course to pick up Caeden from daycare when suddenly a sinister light appears out of the corner of my eye.

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Alas, the gaslight is not only illuminating but flashing to the tune of 12 miles to spare. Consequently, like any rational person on his last half-gallon, I channel my inner Kim Walker:

Fuel me up, God. Fuel me up, God!

And wouldn’t you know it? The traffic cooperates, an exit opens up, and the situation makes like Desperation Band finding me at Shell with six miles left. For the second time today, crisis averted.

Admiring the relief, I park at a stall and head to the cashier – the tune of Taylor Swift‘s “Out of the Woods” ringing in my head. Unfortunately, it’s at this moment when I make another startling revelation. Reaching into my coat pocket, I sense a painful lack of presence, a void that could only mean one thing:

My wallet was in my car which wasn’t my car because my wife had my car since her car is the van and the van has Caeden’s seat and it was my day to pick him up.

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So now I’m stranded, inches from fuel and salt & vinegar potato chips but hours away from the nearest family member. Seriously, it’s almost as if someone had graffitied a target on my back. What next, I wonder. This day is clearly out to get me.

But then it hits me. Before I left for the day, I had switched the $5 into my pant pocket which meant though my wallet was missing, I had just enough cash to buy enough gas to get to Kingston Springs. Once there, I could then rendezvous with Lyssah’s mom, pick up a check, and convert into the $20 I needed for the 45-minute trek home to Spring Hill. For the third time in one day, sovereignty had smiled down. After a long and weary day, I was finally headed home.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Of everything going on in the world today, this minor tale of fortunate happenings is hardly worth mentioning. And to that, I would completely understand…

…but ultimately disagree.

You see, as in any story, there are morals – themes of truth woven into the fabric of what it stands for. And while my case may have been a matter of convenience, the way I see it, when God does a good, great, or epic thing, who I am to stay silent?

Even if the good “pales” in comparison to what we deem a supernatural wonder, the truth is God is always looking out for us in the big and small, from destiny to daily bread. Hence, why I keep coming back to this phrase:

God knows exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

To accept this reality is not to over-spiritualize, but to realize God’s compassion as versatile and not entitled to a master plan. Sometimes, God just wants to help because that’s who He is and for some of you, He’s wanting you to be okay with that. Given He’s given you everything for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), why not affirm the faithfulness and providence of God? Why not rest in the One who not only helps in the grander schemes unfolding but the meager stresses of life as well?

Selah.

Perhaps some of you reading this have encountered similar situations. If so, the stage is yours to share your story. If not, I bid you farewell and pray God’s richest be your highest.

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~ Cameron
Photo creds: best-wallpaper.net

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