How to Survive a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Crappy Day

Written 9/21/15; revised 7/18/21

Have you ever had a really, really, really bad day?

You know…the kind of day where absolutely nothing goes right…where the only musterable reaction is a masquerading laughter to hide behind?

Well, let’s just say I had one of those infamous episodes a few days ago…

…one that was not only terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad, but one that gave a new and literal meaning of what it’s like to have a ‘crappy day’…

It all started last Wednesday, when I returned home from a decent day at work ironically enough. I was on the phone with my wife, Lyssah, discussing our next day travels to Atlanta and prepping to take our new puppy, Selah, on a walk when I suddenly slammed into a brick wall disguised as a sinister stench.

The smell was downright unbearable…like fermented dung reeking from the decaying innards of an infested beast.

Okay, okay…maybe it wasn’t that bad, but clearly something was wrong

After all, we had just finished decking the halls with cinnamon branches and autumn-wreath scented candles a few days prior. One would think the fragrance in the aftermath would be seasonal, not hinted with nuclear bowel explosions.

At any rate, while I could only pray the stench belonged to a deceased rodent, as I crept towards Selah’s crate, the writing on the wall became clear…and brown with streaks of splattered excrement. Like a chaotic scene from an abstract Jackson Pollock painting, my mission was now set:

I had to free Selah from her sharty prison…and the demonic oppression possessing her stool.

And so for the next hour-and-a-half, I devoted all energy to conquering Selah’s anal glands and my chemoreceptor triggers. After a thorough scrubdown, I then called Lys to discuss our Wednesday night gameplan in light of the situation. Initially, I was to meet her at church following my Selah break to pick her up from a Sunday service video shoot. From there, we’d return home, eat dinner, and head back out to church for our youth discipleship gathering; however now, due to changes in Selah’s health, Lys would forgo youth service and hitch a ride home to tend Selah leaving me to lead youth service alone.

An understandable predicament all things considered; unfortunately, since I’d lost 90 minutes cleaning fecal material and had to be at church one hour before service, I had no choice but to leave Selah unattended outside her crate. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, I figured the risk was worth taking given what I had just cleaned on top of Lys having started her drive home. I mean, c’mon! What damage could Selah possibly accomplish in 10-15 minutes or less? Or so I thought…

Well, as it turned out, quite a bit actually.

Although I can’t vouch for every canine conundrum, at some point during that 10-15 minute window, Selah apparently snuck into the bedroom, located the sparkling spectacle that was my wife’s engagement ring, and devoured it.

Now, thankfully, I wasn’t aware of this prior to youth service; however, after returning home to a wife and dog pawing around the bedroom floor on all fours, it didn’t take long for the light bulb to ignite. A quick glance at my wife’s eyes told me everything.

Something valuable had gone missing…

…and something as valuable had contributed to it.

Needless to say, once I realized our furry companion had consumed Lys’s engagement ring, I couldn’t help but wonder what the crap was going on (pun intended). First, the fecal fiasco; now this!?! Sure, the day could have been a lot worse, but this was getting ridiculous. Something needed to give and fast.

Well, as it turned, I didn’t have to wait long or look far for motivation. For as I watched my wife morph into a modern day version of the woman looking for her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), it hit me how our joy was being deliberately pursued.

Realizing the target on our backs, Lyssah and I stopped our ring hunt, prayed, packed our suitcases, watched a new episode of 30 Rock, then prayed some more. During the time, we were discouraged but hopeful God would shed light on the missing ring and cure Selah’s rectal dysfunction.

The next day, as we started our Georgia journey, we both sensed the same conviction: Although we did well in praying into the stress, we hadn’t taken every negative thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) to the obedience of Christ. Having recently preached on this with LEGACYouth, we knew full well what we needed to do.

  • First, given the small and big-picture anxieties, we recognized we’d been under assault from the enemy. So we acknowledged our authority in Christ and rebuked his schemes.
  • Secondly, we confessed we hadn’t been as immediate in our obedience to overcome. So we repented and asked God to forgive us and redeem any unsurrendered part of our hearts.
  • Thirdly, we renounced our fear and replaced it with godly belief and truth. And lastly, we expressed thanksgiving unto the Lord for all He had done for us.

Once we took these steps and laid our troubles at the feet of Jesus, I kid you not…the atmosphere in the car completely changed.

  • Suddenly, we felt secure in our circumstances knowing we’d been given everything we needed to be content in the Lord.
  • Suddenly we felt excited knowing there was nothing Satan could do to break our confidence in Christ.
  • Suddenly, we felt hopeful that God would meet our needs…and then some.

I mean…you talk about a weary car-ride transformed into a triumphant road-trip; no question, we had entered into a new peace as we crossed over into a new place both internally and locationally.

So why do I share all this?

Well, for starters, you may feel the emoji of your life right now is nothing more than a steamy pile of crap. You may feel burdened by adversity and think there’s nothing you can do when the devil comes after you. For others, you may feel indifferent or incapable of persevering through the obstacles in your midst.

Wherever you’re at, remember when your joy is being pursued, you can pursue joy in the Lord right back. Even when the bottom line feels like a loss, you can still choose to see endurance as victory and strength when you feel Satan is after your weakness. And if you feel powerless to do this, when in doubt, just pray…even if you don’t have the words or the energy. For it’s in these moments God wants to reveal His grace, power, and understanding to you…to encourage and remind you He’s not only present in the dark times…but all the times!

My encouragement to you, friends, is to be unwavering in your reliance especially when Satan seeks to rob you of the good you carry. Rather than feel helpless or assume you’ve done something wrong, dare to let Jesus answer the call. As Billy Graham once said, “He’s the best home security system there is“; therefore, we have nothing to fear and no grounds to worry. Whatever you’re walking through, the next time happy and crappy collide, consider the intersection a sweet spot where you can lean into Jesus and receive His love anew and afresh.

You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: MasterKool

Fearless Faceoff: When Clients Become Hockey Players

I’ll be honest. This week was …ummm…’interesting’…

…some ups and downs, a few unexpected convos, a couple rough patches. The works really. 

Granted, I’m stiff-upper lipping this as vague vulnerability is often wise on these platforms. 

Yet, as I type this at my local Denny’s 10:00 am CT on the first sunny Saturday morning in God knows when, I’m refreshed. 

Why? I don’t know… …correction: I know; hence, why I’m writing this. 

Here’s the thing…and I’ll try to keep this brief. 

While we all work hard, for some, our professions compel us to deal with difficult clients or patients on a regular basis. Given the sage savvy you possess, I don’t need to tell you how to troubleshoot vocational pests who get under your craw.

Still, there are times that just flat-out sting, like when a person with a noble title treats you in an ignoble way – who gives the impression of accepting your apology only to betray it with a vindictive power play.

What do you when an influential figure turns into a hockey player before your eyes? What do you do when a religious leader spearheading a dignified cause threatens or blackmails you? 

For starters…

  1. Don’t take the assault and character breach personally. You are not on trial. You are a peacemaker…a son of God (Matthew 5:9). As a divinely blessed ambassador, listen, acknowledge, and confess as needed. Whatever you do, in your thirst for understanding, do not take offense to the point you react on defense. 
  2. Slow down, take a breath, and give yourself time to pray. Pray silently as you talk, out loud as you declare, and all out once secure in a safe place. In this way, you can receive grace on the go…and later in the slow.
  3. Understand that challenges have a place and a purpose. As the story of Joseph reminds us, what the enemy intends for evil, God can intend it for good. Thus, when colleagues and clients unfairly criticize you with half-baked accusations, consider the character sharpening that can occur in the moment and how it can trigger a domino-effect of resolution.
  4. Forgive the offender. Whether lost or found, remember they are the ones with blinders on and know not what they do, mean or possess for that matter. Regardless of the emotional toll, aim to forgive by day’s end knowing there’s no forgiveness without ‘give’. For when we choose to forgive an offender, we give them a turned cheek, an opposite-spirit response with the Cross at the center. Sure, they may deserve retaliation; you may think you’re worthy of vindication; however, when you put the entire situation in God’s hands, you’re leaving the grudge on the other side and trusting God to deal accordingly. I don’t know about you but if I had to choose between bitterness and a humility aware of God’s ability to reconcile anything, give me the latter every time.

Back to my case, while I could have been more administratively aware, while I could have ensured my understanding wasn’t a ship passing in the night, in the end, I found the victory. 

‘Cause…

…any time you can come to the end of yourself and not only pray your new adversary finds Jesus but for blessings to follow their endeavors, God is clearly being glorified in that moment.

Not to sound like I’m tooting my own horn; hopefully as you know, I take zero credit abiding in freedom that’s already been given.

I guess my point in sharing this is: Although arriving at this point is rarely easy, it can be simple. All you have to do is know what’s right and have a gameplan on how to get there especially when you’re on the clock and in pressure situations. 

In summary (and I’ll let the Word do the talking)…

  1. Do your best to win God’s approval as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message (2 Timothy 2:15).
  2. Know a false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape (Proverbs 19:5); vengeance is the Lord’s!
  3. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)
  4. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)
  5. Apply the heart of David who was no stranger to betrayal: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” (Psalm 55:12-14).

In short, abide in endurance and discern with confidence when you face pride and prejudice in the office. After all, you have the mind of Christ and by proxy, everything you need to stand up and stand firm in those moments. You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: City National Insights

A Brewed Awakening

Written 11/6/14; revised 3/13/21

We’ve all been there.

  • The crave for caffeinated fulfillment…
  • The mid-afternoon coffee rush…
  • The anticipation of steeped goodness igniting the day’s doldrums…

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how a demitasse of brewed bliss with its steamed satisfaction can affect a day’s course. Unfortunately, as this story will prove, not every pitstop can be so rewarding.

Let’s set the scene: It’s a chilly November afternoon when some colleagues and I decide to mosey down to a local Starbucks to take advantage of a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ holiday drink special. As we approach the main entrance, we notice the coffeeshop is highly congested with a line extending outside into the brutal cold. Having experienced this location’s awkward floor plan, I guide my group to the store’s second entrance¹ and recalibrate the line as a courtesy for our fellow coffee connoisseurs.

That’s when our move is misinterpreted by an older, alternative version of “mean girls”.   

PshWe were here first,” cried the alpha.
Yeah, we were definitely here before you guys,” said another.
Oh, yeahI know. It’s just the line usually starts back here in the mornings
,” I replied. “I wasn’t…”
Well, it starts right here today! So…move aside.”

At this point, my inner Madea is activated.

These cranks are going to brew the day, I think to myself. Whoever these catty Katie’s are, they’re gonna regret bating this bulldog. A few snarky pelts later and I’m internal inches from summoning Seal Team Six, which on this day, is inspired by this modified scene from Disney’s Brink:

After all, it’s not like I’m the one spewing assumptions accusing a complete stranger as if his character could be so easily appraised. *Sigh*

But it’s at this point when something surreal begins to happen. While my flesh desperately wants to bless these women with a brick, somehow, someway I begin to cool off. Call it the frigid air offsetting my red-hot interior. Call it the still, stunned silence working its charm. Whatever the case, I realize the best foot forward is to…

Suddenly, my inner Taylor Swift starts jiving with the Spirit in the moment…

… knowing though these haters gonna hate, hate, hate and berate, berate, berate, I don’t have to deflate, deflate, deflate. Rather Christ in me, I can shake, shake, shake it off! Shake it off! And from there, perceive the situation for what it’s worth and the people around me for what they’re worth.

Consider the following verses and how they relate to this song:

“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ~ Romans 8:18 (ESV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” ~ Romans 8:37 (ESV)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

While we can’t control the cheats of the world or the biases of our accusers, we can turn the other cheek in faith knowing our dignity, security, and identity are in Christ. Accordingly, we don’t need to prove our intentions through self-seeking agenda when we can rest in the Father’s arms (holiday expresso in hand) knowing He’s our solution and resolution in times of distress.

Think of it this way: If our dependence is aligned, not only can we trust God in confronting our humanity but also in subduing our thirst for revenge. Even when others spit in the mud in our direction, God can still use it to open our eyes to His purposes and perspectives.

Hence, why this post exists: To remind us how the slights of man can lead to sights of God we never thought possible (more on this in a future post).

As for the moral of this story, regardless if Taylor Swift had Matthew 5:39 in mind when she wrote her acclaimed hit, don’t underestimate the value of the left cheek. Especially when you feel your values are violated, keep your heart pure, ears attuned, and hands free. In this way, you can hold onto your coffee and pour out a cup of the life you have inside you simultaneously.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Signature of a downtown Starbucks

Cover photos creds: HD Wallpapers

3 Ways to Be In Christ at Work (Part 2)

After discussing two ways we can vocationally abide in Christ in my last post, I want to conclude with one final thought…

…because we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ and with it, we can see the Cross as an opportunity to go weak into Jesus.

As mentioned in ‘part 1‘, the Cross not only captures total weakness but is a way of life we approach God and minister to others. By daily recognizing our helplessness in light of Christ’s sufficiency, we engage our ‘new creation’ identity (2 Corinthians 5:17) and salvation through surrender (i.e. going weak into Jesus with delight and humility).

Unfortunately, remembering our ‘new creation’ identity in the heat of hustle isn’t always easy. While some may struggle to understand daily dying and rising with Christ, for most of us, the crux comes down to self-effort and independent thinking.

For instance, when we make a mistake at work, the temptation is to fix the problem before we invite God into the situation. Granted, reconciling errors is an important part of any job; however, as marketplace ministers, we must understand there’s a divine order for our faith and reliance to follow.

If our heart is to serve the Lord, then we can know the way to best serve our colleagues and clients is to focus on Jesus as we embrace our weakness. In doing this, we accept the fact we are loved by God as new creations with a purpose beyond perfection. Again, conflicts and miscues come and go but the source of faith is eternal.

As nuanced as certain situations can be, far greater the glory when we discover freedom in embracing weakness – when ‘I can’t do it on my own’ becomes a battle-cry of worship.

Think of it this way: The Cross, as a picture of total weakness, was the plan from the beginning. Accordingly, we can find peace knowing God designed dependence to be a lifeline in our relational pursuit of Him. To the secular world, dependence is weakness, the sign of our frailty, but in God’s eyes, dependence is a highway of intimacy and discovery. 

Practically, this can manifest several ways at work. A classic example involves our response to fear and anxiety. When we encounter gossip, false accusation and/or neglect, our default is often centered in retaliation or withdrawal as opposed to yielding in surrender with praise and petition. Yet, as our faith compels us, anytime we feel overwhelmed, we can see the pain and discomfort as opportunities to press into Jesus.

When we feel angry about subordinates or teammates not committing their all, we commit the frustration to Jesus and the need for immediate resolution. Remember peace is not simply an overflow of wisdom but the way we trust God when we’re struggling to connect, relate, or understand. 

If it helps, consider how Paul relished the thorn. In the same way the thorn became his icon of dependence, so too it can be our symbol of savor for Jesus as we yield and surrender. As for how we do this at work, I submit we follow a similar pathway:

As we depend on God by yielding to the Spirit and acknowledging our helplessness, we can…

  1. Surrender our struggle by receiving grace in place of fear and our entitlement to make sense of our surroundings.
  2. Remember the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood but of principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
  3. Approach suffering not only as a way we engage God’s Kingdom but as the core to our vocational identity (Hebrews 5:8).
  4. Enter into His courts with praise/gratitude knowing we’re called as faithful stewards and partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
  5. Respond to Jesus in weakness through prayer, petition, obedience. 
  6. Walk in humility knowing Christ lives His dependence to the Spirit through us (Isaiah 11:1-5).
  7. Rest in knowing goodness and godliness will mark our work because we have been given the mind of Christ (Psalm 145:7, 2 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 2:16).
  8. Tackle conflicts with confidence knowing it’s not on us to overcome. 
  9. Abide in intimacy through daily dying/rising with Christ (i.e. calibrating to the Cross).
  10. View dependence as a way we trust God for healthy working relationships and perpetuate peace even when we don’t feel it.
  11. Perceive the future with expectancy knowing God will transform our hearts through the renewing of our minds.
  12. Obey with joy knowing as we worship through weakness, our attitudes are shaped in peace by the same power that renews/transforms the minds of Christ we already have.

As Paul declared in Galatians 2:20, we don’t rely in our strength but yield to Christ who lives in us. Therefore, when the work gets tough, when the times get rough, dare to see your inward groans as worship unto Jesus. If suffering is the catalyst to embracing weakness and embracing weakness the key to pressing into God, then it makes sense why we can boast in God’s sufficiency. To live as Kingdom influencers at work, we must remember our success is not about what we accomplish each week but what we gain going weak into Jesus. 

Bottom line: Since we have the mind of Christ, we can experience breakthrough at work by the way we depend on Him. In times of strength, we honor God by acknowledging the good we contribute is because of Him; in times of weakness, we honor God by delighting in what we can’t do apart from Him. After all, when we work with the mind of Christ applied, not only can we taste communion with Jesus in challenging circumstances but embrace weakness as both the way we surrender to the Cross and the way we relate and endure as new creations. 

Selah.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you, friends, to let your thorn be a boost to Jesus. Don’t just press through at work but press in. Don’t just surrender on the go, but draw near and be still. After all, teachable hearts make preachable moments and you, brothers, are testaments to this truth.

Cover photo creds: Kirkland Baptist Church; videos courtesy of Steve Fry‘s Reset series @ The Gate