3 More Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

If you’re like me, you like to reflect.

So much to say, so much to do…how can either happen when there’s so much to think.

Yet, as we journey another January, the heart behind this series, as made known last year, is still the same:

If we want to think right, then we must get right, if we want to get right, then we must get real…and if we want to get real, we must value cleanse before change.

Not to suggest such internal inventory is easy. Certainly putting all things on the table for examination requires courage, humility, vulnerability…among other things; however, since my goal with these posts is to help us embrace God’s ‘next’, it only makes sense to pray into the substitutions¹ God has for us.

That said, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the page to 2019…

1) Making sense of my surroundings

It’s remarkable the ways we justify our surroundings. I know for me, whenever I find myself in what I can’t explain, living in the moment can almost seem secondary to knowing why it has to exist. ‘If only I can solve the mystery, perhaps then I can find the satisfaction and peace I crave,’ I sometimes think.

But as we know, the journey of life is far from cut and dry. As much as we want to reconcile all our relationships and circumstances, we’ll never be able to given sin and free will’s response to it among other things.

Granted, God’s sovereignty isn’t confined by man’s weakness. But it’s also not restricted by our ability to ‘sherlock’ the past. And it’s this temptation I believe trips many of us up. We long to feel affirmed when we’re down. We yearn to feel validated when we smell injustice. We burn to make sense of our surroundings when they don’t make sense. Yet, in our quest to solve our voids, little do we realize the size of our ego and the numbing effect it has on our attitudes and heart postures.

It’s not always fun to accept, but the way I see it: Often the reason we are where we are is because God wants to help us find our kneel…to show us where our independencies have become idolatries…and to learn reliance within the unforced rhythms of grace. Perhaps you’ve struggled to grasp this feeling in seasons of idleness or stress…in settings where you felt more like a fish in an aquatic Pandora’s box.

If so, take a bite of my 2018 testimony. Our free will exists so we can choose Jesus to find freedom. No 12-step program full of striving. Just a simple decision to resist the fear of man and the impulse to make sense of our surroundings.

Accordingly, if you sense the temptation but not the exit, yield to surrender, voice the heartcry, and receive the serenity of stilled waters. God has not abandoned you, so don’t you abandon ship.

giphy

2) The Nazareth complex

I suppose this could be a subset of point #1, but the nature of this conviction alone is worth emphasizing.

As alluded to in my 2018 Year in Review post, when last year started, going back to The Gate was far from an option. Having phased out of LEGACYouth weeks prior, my hope had clung to a sunset narrative where my last days of youth ministry would coincide with where it took place. While there were many reasons I emotionally did not want to return, the core of my withdrawal² centered on what I call the Nazareth complex.

The Nazareth complex is based out of Luke 4:14-30 when Jesus is driven out of his hometown (i.e. Nazareth) after revealing his true identity at the synagogue. While obviously I’m no Jesus, the personal correlation was this: Among whom whose eyes I had been under for years, there was no way for me to be known as God knew me. As such, what Nazareth was to Jesus, The Gate/local church was to me. To move on with my life, I had to leave the church to find anyone who not only would listen, but see me sans past and last name.

Of course, it’s safe to say Jesus never employed such a self-absorbed attitude. Still, it’s not hard to see why my deception took months to dissipate with resentment rooted in deception and victimization fixed in misapplied Scripture. To justify my isolated ego, I had to constantly cite the past, church gossip, unsurrendered soul/spirit hurts…even assumed vain assumptions (sounds confusing, but that’s unholy fear for you).

Yet, as the story goes, I eventually woke up, realizing if I truly wanted to move on and take hold of the new, I couldn’t keep holding on the way I had been. Six months later, the exchange is still ongoing…however, the door to freedom is much wider, in large part, to having repented of this complex.

tumblr_nikl8pxddz1tq4of6o1_5003) Financial fitness

For many couples, one spouse is the buyer, the other is the saver. In my relationship with Lyssah, the contrast is evident. While I’m a buyer who lives well within his means, Lys is much better at budgeting and sticking to it.

Ironically, you would never know by where our financial anxieties lie. As co-bread winners, to make ends meet, we both must work…whatever the cost with whatever time we can give. Unfortunately, the drive for excellence doesn’t always extinguish the entitlements and justifiers we use to buy (or even save for) momentary contentment/peace.

I know for me, I can only afford to invest so much as I near the end of paying off student loans. The white lie, then, is if I can’t currently invest as much as I want for my family, I should be frugal in my giving and employ generosity through alternative means. Yet, as I’ve been convicted, often my lack of giving ties to a lack of trust manifest as leverage against God for not opening certain doors. And I think for some of us, we forget withdrawing doesn’t just apply to our presence and/or banking transactions. It’s applies to trusting God with our finances…our energy…our time…not just what to sow, but where to sow and how much.

All that said, if you feel financial weak starting 2019, you’re not alone. Yeah, I’m an ex-Ramsey spouse. I have content, lessons, and principles I can pass down to future generations. But I also know…

  • If I’m not maturing my stewardship, those values can only go so far.

  • If’ I’m not maturing my stewardship, my intentionality in inviting God into my budget will be compromised.

As for 2019, no longer will I reduce God to an on-call financial counselor and over-rely on my wife’s strengths to make up the difference. Rather, I’m going to pursue financial fitness, embrace frugality under the context of stewardship, and flex into shape accordingly.

Think of it this way: Even though money isn’t the end-all, be-all of extending God’s providence, in no way should we want God’s faithfulness to be restricted by what we’re not trusting Him in.

Besides if you’re reading this, chances are you have enough and know God as more than enough. Not do you have what it takes…but you can do this. Why not do it together?

giphy-1.gif

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Where I’m letting go of a stronghold, sin, negative thought pattern, etc. to replace it with something better
  2. Albeit an indefinite sabbatical was necessary
Photo creds: https://buzzerg.com

3 Ways to Level ↑ Your Teamwork

Have you ever struggled with group participation or felt more productive working independently?

Perhaps you’re a team player at heart, but feel taxed, even lost, when collaborating in a joint setting.

If so, I want to encourage you: a) you’re not alone and b) dare to rethink what you know about teamwork.

For while corporate success often hinges on team dynamic (i.e. how a group behaves and performs in pursuing a particular goal), such cooperation is only possible when each member knows the purpose and direction of their role.

Thus, in the next few posts, I want to discuss how we, as students and employees, can build teamwork through better team dynamic starting with these three points…

giphy

1) Clarify Expectations

It’s been said group morale is a fragile art – a sacred science based on strength integration, maintaining transparency, and trust management.

Yet, of all the bonds that bind, arguably none is more cohesive to team dynamic than clarifying expectations.

To quote Ron Edmondson…

to feel a part of the team, people need to know where the team is going and what their role is. An understanding of the overall goals and objectives fuels energy. When the big picture objective is understood each team member is more willing to pull together to accomplish the mission because they know the ‘why’ and can better understand where they fit on the team.”

In other words, to achieve positive outcomes, each role must be clearly defined in a way direction, unity, and purpose are mutually inclusive. Of course, none of this can happen without accountability, authenticity, and strategy/tactics (as we’ll later discuss); however, as long as expectations are effectively communicated top-to-bottom, the foundation to success is, at least, secured.

Bottom line: The more people perceive core value and expectations1 through vision, the more team dynamic will strengthen.

5QOJguX.gif

2) Don’t Just Direct People, Develop Them

As mentioned in my ‘effective influencer’ post, strong teams form when people are valued over goals and success is celebrated corporately as well as individually.

Unfortunately, not all work cultures are created equal where motivation is shared, let alone contagious. The question is…

How do we inspire unity among our teams regardless of setting, situation, or position?

For starters, we must be willing to connect role to direction and expectation to vision. In my case, having worked in various financial and ministerial arenas, I’ve found the best unity occurs in environments where each member understands their role and how it directly impacts the success of the organization.

Granted, easier said than done for the sanitation engineer and mail deliverer; still, if strong team dynamics are applied, even these employees can be directed to know the company’s core values2 and developed to take ownership of their responsibility.

Ultimately, if team members are empowered to see their skin in the game, camaraderie will flourish in the sense each person is directed, developed, and driven to see his/her work as more than a means to an end.

Bottom line: Intentional leaders not only give their team intentional purpose, but help their teams understand mission while embracing vision.

AlienatedCoordinatedCassowary-max-1mb.gif

3) Get Out of the Office

A great ministry leader once said…

Don’t get so busy doing the work of the Lord that you don’t spend time with the Lord of the work.”

Interestingly, while this truth pertains to spiritual intimacy, the same concept can be applied in collaboration and networking. After all, if project management and people management are best undivided, then the quality of our communication should extend beyond performance into its surrounding context.

For example, as a former LAMPO spouse, sports editor, and youth pastor, no question, the best “silo-busting” moments occurred during retreats, corporate team-building activities, and family outings. In each scenario, not only were tensions lessened, but a sense of esprit de corps developed carrying over into seasons of challenge and discomfort.

Moreover, to the extent creativity and oasis conversations abounded, to that extent priorities were pruned in the wake of internal and external inventory. Ultimately, as awareness within community increased, so did morale and enthusiasm by proxy.

Bottom line: 1) Teamwork is just as much attitude as it is practice. 2) If you want better teamwork, know the context of your team’s performance given team dynamic is influenced just as much outside work as at work.

Selah.

tenor.gif

Looking ahead, I want to talk about how we, as spouses and household heads, can abide by the same teaming principles outside our careers and inside our homes.

In the meantime, be at peace as you better people to better your teams to better your business.

As always, Lys & I are rooting for you.

Here’s to the journey…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Even compensation
  2. Tip: consider creating a team charter)

Cover photo creds: Australian Institute of Business

3 Ways to Better Love Your Enemies

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s something everyone has, is the evidence of having stood up for something…yet also a byproduct of brokenness?

Give up? The answer…our enemies.

You know those people who curse you yet you’re supposed to bless…who hate you yet you’re supposed to love…

In many ways, we love to hate our enemies…to exact sweet revenge without the calories. But what if I told you while revenge is sweet, forgiveness is sweeter? What if I told you while enemies hurt, not loving them hurts even more?

Whatever the case, wherever you find yourself…if you want to better love your enemies, here are three truths to remember…

1. Understand who they are

When it comes to our enemies, it’s easy to hide behind the labels we place on them. Seriously, how many of you at one point had a sinking relationship you wanted to write off? Like mileage on taxes…or interest on a mortgage?

Granted, enemies come in many forms and yield to subjective definitions; still, if you’re like me, then chances are you know what it’s like standing on the mast of a shipwrecked relationship capsized by offense and insecurity. Perhaps now you’re drinking the bitter dregs of an expired friendship, a partner turned rival, or a severed family tie.

If so, I want to offer some hope: you don’t have to see your broken relationships as enemies!

But Cam, how is this even possible?

To be honest, I can’t say entirely. All I know is when it comes to better loving our enemies, the best place to start is choosing to see them how God sees them.

Now I know this is a sticky, tricky subject for some so with that, I want to tread this topic carefully. At the same time, I want to emphasize the importance of perceiving enemies as broken yet redeemable brothers and sisters in Christ.

‘Cause truth is: when we do this, we ultimately redirect ‘enemy’ off a person’s identity and onto the principalities in between (see Ephesians 6:12)

Therefore, if you want to better love your enemies, the first step is to accept the fact who you think they are isn’t who they are…and instead reframe ‘enemy’ as lovable people who you’ve hurt, who’ve hurt you, who’ve cut you out, who’ve accused or slandered you, etc.

Bottom line: “For 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.”

Toy-Story-Sequel-To-Be-A-Love-Story-Between-Woody-and-Buzz

2. Consider your ways

Now that we’ve framed who our enemies are, we can better discuss how to bridge our divides with them.

But before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: not all reconciliation stories are going to have happy endings. After all, when the lock is on the other side, obviously you’re not going to be able to unlock it.

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t knock at least once. The question is: How do we knock the right way at the right time?

For starters, it’s always best to take inventory of vain vs. actual misunderstandings before dashing to the doorstep. Ask yourself what is being assumed, what is the reason behind my suspicion, what signals and vibes am I giving off? Give yourself permission to self-examine.

Then after careful consideration, begin to rejoice and repent…

  • Ask the Lord to illuminate outstanding resentments, bitterness, and grudges.
  • Release to Him the burden of having to be the one to make things right.
  • Request of God a removal of fear, a prescription of peace, a path to follow, and a heart of humility.
  • Pray into what needs to be said and how it’s to be communicated.
  • Thank the Lord for all He’s done and what He’s going to do.

Remember these steps don’t entitle you to action, but rather position you to better know how to bridge the gap once given the green light. From there, it’s all downhill (i.e. embracing courage, walking in grace; see next point).

Bottom line: Before rushing to resolution, “humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6

iicki0hwcu9z

3. Make love known

For this point, we’re going to assume you have the peace to confront…or as I like to say…make love known (not an agenda).

While intentional, demonstrative love involving ‘enemies’ can be intimidating, it can be all the more freeing when we commit; however, to do this, we must recognize…

    • Love starts with courage. No question, loving in a contradicting environment requires boldness, but consider this: the fact you’re here reading this/at the point is already indicative of the faith you carry. Thus, I submit if you have faith in love (i.e. God) and its message (i.e. the kingdom of God), then you have access with confidence and without hindrance into the places they’re needed the most (see Acts 28:31, Ephesians 3:12). Keep in mind you have what it takes…so don’t be discouraged if it takes everything you’ve got.
    • Love continues by faith. If you’re decision to love is motivated by results, then newsflash: it’s not love…since love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). For genuine love to continue by faith, then you must die to your need of a favorable outcome/progress. That way, when your effort is refuted or ignored, your desire to ‘try again’ will be renewed and you won’t take the rejection personally.
    • Love ends with an invitation. When we boil it down, loving your enemies is God’s ministry of reconciliation in motion (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Still, how we reconcile is worth discussion since if we’re to be “out of our mind”, when must do so in way that tells our adversaries “it is for you” (2 Corinthians 5:13).

In my experiences with adversaries/frenemies, I’ve learned the best way to mend fences is to be sensitive to what they’re going through and how they’re processing it. ‘Cause I know if I can capitalize on an opportunity to offer hope in the moment, I can further extend it through invitations to connect after the fact. Even if it’s just a short e-mail or text, never underestimate the impact those ‘little’ things can have in stitching reconciliation.

However you feel called to make love known, know the same Christ who is in you is in your midst working with you on your behalf. Remember there’s no need to fear when you have nothing to lose.

Bottom line: “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (MSG)

Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Cave

3 Ways to Better Date Your Wife

Guys…let’s be real: you love the lady in your life. You love her smile, the way she moves, how she wears it, makes it…I’m sure I could go on.

But let’s be honest: how well do you actually show it? Perhaps not as much as you’re capable of, right?

Well, fear not. If you’re here hoping to spice up your marital dating relationship or simply mature as a pursuer, I got you covered. Granted, I can only give you a head start in your quest for better connection, but hey…a boost is a boost and that’s, in part, why HGF exists.

That said, let’s dive in and discuss three ways we, as husbands, can better date our wives…

  1. Date her, not the moment

As an adventure aficionado, I love a good time. Whether dinner and a movie, pizza in the park, or a concert on the green, it’s hard to top a night out with the ‘better half’.

Still, if you’re like me in the sense you take pride in being a skilled date night architect, then heed the reminder: a date is about the person you’re with, not the setting or seconds it happens in.

Not to suggest the man shouldn’t effort in laying down the proverbial red carpet. After all, dating and wooing should never be mutually exclusive; however, if you’re a guy who tends to pursue the moment more than the ‘so’ (significant other), it’s fair to question not only where your heart is anchored, but also who (or what) you’re actually dating.

My advice? Always remember while framing the moment is key, at the end of the day a) the woman is why you’re on the date in the first place, b) intimacy trumps entertainment, and c) it’s not about you.

Apply this formula in unison and I guarantee the moment will be where it needs to (i.e. secondary to the relationship).

Bottom line: 1) What makes a date is your date, not the date. 2) Don’t pursue what can’t pursue you back; instead, dare to align your focus and priorities on what ultimately lasts.

anigif_enhanced-23112-1444905303-5

  1. Make love a present rhythm

No question, time is a valuable commodity; hence, the reason ‘date’ (the engagement) shares the same word as ‘date’ (the occasion); however, have you ever wondered what would happen if the two dates became less synonymous?

For instance, if you’re on date wanting to ignite nostalgia into the moment, can you honestly say what you’re on is a ‘date’?  Or are you simply trying to regurgitate a throwback to feel closer to ‘first love’?

And hear me, men: I’m not trying to gut punch your moxy here. I’m just sayin’ for those who may be in the routine of dating as opposed to the rhythm, it’s worth exercising caution when comparing the current edition of your ‘better half’ to the edition you first met. ‘Cause truth is: your wife isn’t who she used to be…and the love you’ve built isn’t what it used to be. Rather, both are continually upgrading  on account of precious time and energy being invested into a deeper connection fermenting with time.

Therefore, if you can resist the comparisons, then chances are you’ll be in much better position to revive love in the present, not an outdated version from years past.

Bottom line: 1) The best way to ‘carpe diem’ your date starts with sparking love where it’s at, not where it’s been. 2) Be in the rhythm, not routine, of dating your wife.

nickandjess

  1. Make her the center of attention

While I may seem like a ‘hitch’ for dating, I admit there are times I [almost] take the opportunity for granted.

Yet, whenever I’m lucky fortunate enough to catch myself, I’ve learned the best adjustment is to find my wife within my attention and make her the center.

To do this, I subscribe to the following formula…

  1. Turn off your cell phone. Note: If you’re more controlled than I am, you can get away with silencing, but as one who likes to check scores, fantasy teams, social media post-‘post’, etc…I’ve learned it’s better/safer to go the extra yard here).
  2. Sit back turned to screens. Exception: Your wife has agreed to join you on a Buffalo Wild Wings date to watch the Predators, Titans (or the team of your choice) dominate.
  3. Seek a new compliment and/or question. Guys, if you can relate to point #2, then you’re going to want to deviate from distraction in a way that blends creativity with challenge. For me, this comes in the form of asking, ‘What’s new’ without actually saying ‘what’s new’.

Examples:

a) ‘I noticed you talking with ____ on the phone earlier? How did your conservation go? What did you talk about?’ (Note: Don’t EVER stop a thread after one question. See how the second question gives dialogue more trail options?)

b) ‘I noticed the casserole tasted different. What extra ingredient did you use? Whatever it was, I liked it!’ (Note: Some may consider ‘different’ to be a dangerous word; however, if you use it, make sure the connotation is positive. Yes, you could say ‘better’, but in case her reply is, ‘What was wrong with it before?’…make sure you have an answer ready).

c) ‘How was your admin tech meeting?’ What did your team talk about?

d) ‘If I remember correctly, you had a lunch date today with _____’ (repeat ‘a’ in follow-up)

e) Plan a future getaway and inquire bucket-list activities while also linking them to adventures of old (i.e. did you ever do this as a family back in the day; great way to blend past, present, and future together).

Bottom line: Regardless of what route you choose, remember a) whenever you give authentic inquisition and humility permission to dig, you ultimately discover places within your spouse you didn’t realize were there, b) your wife is a tome, not a spark note…thus why not read every word of every page as opposed to just skimming, and c) as husbands, we were made to reflect perfect love in perfecting fashion…which can’t happen unless we make it known.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s show our wives what they were made to be shown…and relish the time we have to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Assurance

Stay tuned next time for Lyssah‘s installment on how wives can better relate and connect to their husbands.

Cover photo creds: Mental Floss