3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

For many, it’s the same thing every January…

                   …we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…

…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.

If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.

Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.

Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…

1) Making culture the enemy

I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.

Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’

The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.

Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.

However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?

And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…

…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.

Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on encouraging them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.

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2) Hiding behind proximity

As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.

But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?

I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?

Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?

If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.

‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.

That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.

Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’

However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop  compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2

‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.

Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.

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3) Marginalizingmy bandwidth

Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?

Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.

Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?

And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?

If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper

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

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 recently…

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

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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 discussing our next-day travels to Atlanta when I suddenly slammed into a brick wall…disguised as an offensive odor straight out of a National Geographic documentary gone wrong.

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 not right.

I mean…if you deck the halls with cinnamon branches and autumn-wreath scented candles one weekend and a few days later, come home to a fragrance of “hazy aftermath o’ nuclear bowel explosion”…something has to be off, right?

At any rate, I could only pray the stench belonged to a recently deceased rodent rotting in certain porcelain confines. Yet, as I slowly crept towards Selah’s crate, the writing on the wall became quite clear…

…it just so happened to be in the form of droopy ordure (feces).

Before I continue, let me just say maybe someday, I’ll unlock the mystery of how projectile excrement can condensate outside caged quarters while also splattering the wall as if it was an abstract Jackson Pollock painting. For now, I’ll just say I found Selah miserably trapped in a sharty prison…and it was up to me to set her free from the demonic oppression that had possessed her stool.

So after spending the next hour conquering Selah’s anal glands as well as my chemoreceptor triggers, I contacted my wife a second time to discuss our ever-evolving Wednesday night gameplan. Initially, I was to meet Lyssah at church following [what I thought would be] a brief dog-sitting break to pick her up from a women’s ministry promo vidshooting for Sunday service. We’d then return home, eat dinner, and head back out to church for our youth discipleship gathering. But as it turned out, due to changes in Selah’s health as well as our church’s Wednesday night schedule2, Lyssah would have to forgo youth service to tend Selah’s “issues”, leaving me to fly solo on the youth front.

A perfectly understandable predicament…all things considered; however, having lost 45 minutes cleaning fecal matter, an additional 30 minutes due to our church’s Wednesday night time shift, and an additional 10 minutes of extra prep time as a result of Lyssah’s impending absence, I realized I had no choice but to leave Selah unattended, considering we had no “plan B” for her now “out-of-commission” crate.

Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, it seemed like a worthy risk. After all, Lyssah was already on her way home…and I mean, c’mon…what damage could Selah possibly do in just fifteen minutes?

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

Of course, I can’t vouch for every canine conundrum, but what I can say is at some point during that fifteen minute window, Selah had snuck into the bedroom, located the sparkling spectacle that was my wife’s engagement ring…and devoured it3.

Now, thankfully, I wasn’t aware of this prior to service; however, after returning home to a wife and dog pawing around the bedroom floor on all fours, it didn’t take long for any incurred exuberance to dissipate.

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A quick glance at my wife’s eyes told me everything.

Something valuable had gone missing…

…and something just as valuable had contributed to it.

Needless to say, once I realized our furry companion had consumed Lyssah’s engagement ring, I couldn’t help but wonder what the crap4 was going on. Yet, 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.

So Lyssah and I prayed, packed our suitcases, watched some 30 Rock, then prayed some more…residually discouraged…yet 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 realized we hadn’t taken every negative thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) to the obedience of Christ. Having recently walked this issue out with LEGACYouth, we knew full well what we needed to do.

First, 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. And suddenly, we felt hopeful that God would meet our needs…and then some.

You talk about a weary car-ride transforming 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 I guess the moral of the story is: you may feel the emoji of your life is nothing more than a steamy pile of crap. You may feel burdened by adverse circumstances…and think there’s nothing you can do when the devil comes after you.

But I’m telling you…when you realize your joy is being pursued, pursue joy in the Lord right back…choose to see it as strength in the times you feel Satan is after your weakness. And if you feel powerless to do this, then just pray…even if you feel you don’t have the words or the energy. Why? ‘Cause it’s in these moments God wants to reveal His power to you…to encourage you…and remind you that He’ll not only strengthen you in the dark times…He is your strength every second of every day!

My encouragement to you, friends, is be unwavering in your courage, especially when Satan comes knocking at your door seeking to rob you of the light you carry. Rather than feel helpless and/or assume you’ve done something wrong, why not let Jesus answer the call. After all, as Billy Graham once said, He’s the best home security system there is.

Footnotes

1)  Nightly classes had moved to a 6:30-8:00 pm timeslot as opposed to the usual 7:00-8:30 pm

2) A last-second assignment that had just been given to us the day before, mind you

3) A peculiar stunt considering she’d never done something like this before

4) Pun intended


Photo credits: sarah.theworkexperiment.com, nikkifort.com, https://tm-pilbox.global.ssl.fastly.net