Bye, [Bye]Vocational

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not easy marrying marketplace and ministry.

After all, when you consider secular expectations, the challenge of availability matching flexibility, how most church leadership models are structured…it can be tough-sleddin’.

Now, I’m not a church consultant or ministry life coach; however, in my brief ministerial experience, I’ve come to realize while tent-making is often praised behind the pulpit in an evangelism context, it’s rarely incorporated to the fullest in a leadership context.

Case and point: I work full-time hours (7:00-3:30 pm) for TDOT Monday through Friday, where at the start of each day, I take the day’s game script, stack it against my church load, and do what I can accordingly for both. For instance, on slower days I create youth discipleship content, plan events, design social media promotions, and field church-related correspondence on my breaks, whereas on busier days, I keep a running ‘to-do’ list to better tackle my gameplan after hours.

The problem is: whether or not my day at work is busy/productive, I still miss out on the life that happens at church (i.e. staff meetings, luncheons, offsite special events, etc.) during my shift.

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Granted, I do have supervisors who meet with me on a quarterly basis to catch me up to speed with important information. Yet, while the communicational challenges can be frustrating, it’s the communal setbacks that offer the greatest potential for discouragement.

So while having flex or contractual hours would be ideal, I know in seasons like the one I’m in, I can only abide in what I can control, confront what I can’t, and trust God in both. Still…this doesn’t mean the divide is easy.

On one hand, I’m proud to represent the Gospel in a taxing work environment, to mature in my reliance upon God when I find my own strength to be nothing but weakness. On the other, I’m often downcast considering a) it’s hard to justify why I work where I do1  and b) to not experience deeper community due to a job I can’t stand on my own strength is a bitter pill to swallow.

So when it comes to the idea of a bye-vocational (i.e. leaving one job to fully pursue the other) life in place of a bivocational one, I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t intrigued considering the struggle to put forth full-time effort in part-time hours is [super] real…not to mention I’m the first Fry male in three generations to not know what full-time ministry life tastes like.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s hard being bivocational when the call itself seems to rob you of relationship. ‘Cause while many think bivocational ministry is all about tackling two different jobs, truth is: it’s just as much about influencing community and inspiring culture change as it is achieving excellence. Thus, how we cope when we feel our ‘spread out’ lifestyle is diluting our impact is worth discussion.

Of course, you can count on me to drill down on this in future posts, but for now, let me just say: for those of you working multiple gigs striving to keep joy afloat, understand you carry difference-making potential inside you…and that potential is not only going to come to fruition in the territory God has given you to tend, but is also never contingent on what you can’t control. Again, that’s the beauty of trusting God. Whenever we reach an end of the line, God grants us the slack to press on. Whenever we reach an unscalable wall, God equips us to ascend it. And whenever we’re overcome by a particular lacking, God meets us in our midst, fills us, and goes before us to make a way (Isaiah 43:16-19).

Yeah, I get how hard it can be craving community and passion outlets in the arid seasons of life, but remember God specializes in showing His power in hopeless situations. So if you’re reading this today wishing you could swap out a bye-vocational life in place of a bivocational one, I encourage you: allow God to fill up your empty canteen with encouragement and fresh perspective. ‘Cause I submit: where you are now is not by mistake, but by design and by grace.

Think of it this way: If you’re thirsty, what sense does it make to cut your water bottle in half when you could simply remove the cap and fill it to the brim?

Pretty obvious, right?

Yet, how many of you reading this are essentially doing the same thing by denying yourself full-fillment as a result of wanting the ‘bye’, not the ‘bi’?

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If you can relate, I encourage you: stop overfocusing on what you wish could be different in your life and embrace the fact God has you just where He wants you. Don’t fantasize about what it’d be like to customize your life. Instead, take joy in trusting the Lord’s lead and take courage in pushing through to the good stuff that’s coming (see Isaiah 58:11).

While I’m tempted to go on, I’m goin’ to push ‘pause’ for now and instead bid adieu with some parting questions:

1) What do you need to be filled with today?
2) What is capping the ‘containers’ God has placed you in?
3) Will you remove those caps and allow God to fill you up?

I’ll just let the mic drop there…

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Footnotes

  1. in light of how I was created

Cover photo creds: ThomRainer.com 

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

Why We Need Vulnerability in Bivocational Ministry

Have you ever wondered what to do when you feel stuck and misunderstood at the same time?

I know I have.

In fact, it’s hard to remember a week when I haven’t thought about this at least once.

After all, when we talk about persevering through our purpose, no doubt, the topic holds perpetual relevance.

But for the bivocational who feel their life is like the Truman Show & Groundhog’s Day had a baby, sometimes truisms aren’t enough.

Not to sound blasphemous or anything. I just know for people like me, it helps when I’m able to  voice the struggles that come with the territory…and partner with people in troubleshooting their quandaries.

Thus, if any of you can relate…let’s just say you’ve come to the right place.

Bible_and_mouse_9605814_ml_1_RGBBefore His Girl Fryday launched, Lyssah and I did some research on bivocational issues and noted plenty of materials concerning the benefits of “bivocational ministry”; however, when it came to the challenges, we noticed a startling lack of content.

So in the days following, we asked ourselves some hard-hitting questions…

…like what makes the “cost of bivocational ministry” a taboo topic

…and why do some avoid confronting the truth when it seems to lack appeal?

After taking time to drill down, we realized:

The #1 thing bivocational ministers crave above all else is encouragement; hence, why so much content caters to this particular need.

However…

Bivocational ministers in hope of inspiration often stiff-arm opportunities capable of better equipping them for adversity.

Granted, it’s completely human to want edification; however, as bivocational ambassadors, we must realize we’re not called to manufacture floatation devices when storms come. ‘Cause truth is, if we want to walk in true freedom, we must get real about our struggles as opposed to tuning them out*.

And hear me…I get how easy it can be to rely on personal strength and distractions when we sense hopelessness knocking on our door.

Yet, it’s at that point we must embrace what we were ultimately designed for (i.e. accountability, intimacy, endurance, community, etc) to see and live the whole truth as God intended.

So while I’m all about encouragement and inspiration, I’m also aware we must be fearless in addressing the deep, dark closet spaces of our hearts.

Thus, in the coming weeks, we’re going to “de-taboo” some of life’s most complex questions…like…

  • What do you do when you feel like you’re not making a difference?
  • How do you respond when your authorities persecute you?
  • How do you cope with the fears of rejection and mediocrity?
  • What do you do when you feel old rejections are holding you back?
  • What do you do when you’re in the right place, but can’t connect relationally?
  • What do you do when you doubt God’s plan…and all you want to do is give up?

Of course, these questions only represent the tip of the iceberg.

Yet, as we tackle these issues, it’s my hope we not only discover the beauty in being bivocational but also the power that comes when we embrace the cost.

So in closing, I encourage you to ask yourself: Are you willing to let go of anything not God for the sake of trusting Him every step of the way?

In the meantime, stay tuned for a new post next week when we address our first question: What do you do when you feel like you’re not making a difference?

Fighting the good fight,

~ Cameron

Footnotes

*Trust me…I’ve tried self-medicating many different ways. It never works.

Photo credits: revivingthesoul.com & synergyforministry.org

Rousing Resilience: Part 1

We all have heroes.

Whether they’re family members or historical/cultural icons…we all have figures we look up to1.

Of course, not all protagonists and champions are alike; however, when we consider their innate qualities, it’d be hard to find any who lacked some form of resilience.

What is resilience, you ask?

Well, for starters, it’s the theme of this year’s Acquire the Fire event (hence, the topic’s prevalence).

Yet, as far as definition goes, resilience bears rich substance2. In fact, when we dig into Scripture3, we find resilience to be a number of things. Among them…

  • A refusal to quit…
  • A pledge to stand firm…
  • Courage maintained…
  • Boldness with honor…
  • …and a fearlessness rooted in two instinct-defying words…

“I can’t.”4

Now, I know it sounds weird, but when we confess this itty-bitty sentence to God, it not only offers Him great delight, but it also allows us to see just how much “He can.

Why? Because owning our weakness is the first step to being set free from it!

In other words, when we admit and release our crap to God, He doesn’t just listen – He intervenes, He intercedes…all the while, showing us the pathway to real, radical heart change.

Pretty cool, eh?

But resilience doesn’t stop there.

‘Cause when we drill a little deeper, we find resilience also enables us to know how…

  • …our helplessness can be expressed as acceptable worship and reference (Hebrews 12:27-29).
  • …our weakness can be flipped into God’s strength filling in the holes of our efforts (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • …and our problems can (and will) be fixed simply by fixing our eyes on the One who ultimately is in control (Psalm 16:8, Hebrews 12:2).

Honestly, when you think about, this can be especially encouraging, considering we will encounter adverse circumstances at some point, whether it’s an abusive relationship, financial and/or occupational turbulence, past woundedness, and/or the stubble of our sin. But even when life seems stuck on cruise-control and hope is nothing but a fleeting fairytale, we can still know “no fear5.

Cause truth is: all it takes is one simple shout of surrender to bounce back…

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…one victorious “Yes” to God in the face of apparent defeat…

…and one resolute declaration of “God is enough”…

even if 6 we’re walking through hell, unsure of what’s to come (see Daniel 3).

And I’m sorry, Captain Nesmith, but the phrase, “Never give up. Never surrender” doesn’t fully capture the essence of true resilience. Because the only way to “never give up” is to surrender…abandoning any independent pursuit that suggests we’re strong enough to adjust our course.

At the end of the day, the only means of courage is to admit we must be filled with it to live it.

And that, my friends, is what real resilience is all about it.

Next time, we’ll examine some practical points on how to live resilience out in a transformational way.

In the meantime, I leave with some passages from Isaiah & one from Habakkuk:

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In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength~ Isaiah 30:15

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” ~ Isaiah 40:29

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.” ~ Isaiah 57:10

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” ~ Habakkuk 3:19

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Footnotes

1) Which is how we’re designed

2) And is arguably one of the most overlooked faith terms in Scripture.

3) Especially Joshua, 2 Timothy, Philippians and Romans

4) Point inspired by Christ Is Life Ministries

5) The fact this sentence contains a “triple-negative” doesn’t devoid it of truth.

6) The story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego really centers on these two words (Thanks to Kemtal Glasgow for the inspiration)

 
Cover photo from thefeministwire.com

Staying the Course – The Importance of Not Quitting: Part 2

We’ve all been there.

Life in a lifeless cubical world. Surviving the 9-5 vocational jungle. Juggling a bunch of disjointed dreams against the backdrop of reality.

Perhaps you know what it feels like to be a fish in an aquatic Pandora’s Box

…like you don’t belong no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard the effort.

untitledNo question, it’s in these moments when we’re most tempted to quit…when we’re most likely throw in the towel and walk away.

But as I mentioned in last year’s post, there’s value in not giving up, there’s honor in putting down the white flag in favor of the warpath…and there’s hope in maintaining a posture of perseverance, no matter how hard the challenge.

True, it can be arduous making ends meet and bridging relational divides amidst an unfulfilling environment; it can be difficult loving¹ people in a vacuum where nothing around you seems to give you that much desired sense of accomplishment and worth.

But truth is, at some point or another, we’ve all questioned our place, especially during [what seems like] a fruitless season, where nothing seems to be effective or bear influence.

Yet, I contend we don’t often help our cause at theses points of impasse.

Why? Because of the human tendency to put calling before purpose.

You see, our purpose is simple: to be heaven on earth

…by choosing to love as Jesus loves…

…and to be an extension of hope through proclaiming the good news².

However, our calling is a bit more complex.

While our purpose boils down to modeling God’s love, our calling is how we model God’s love – an evolving expression, designed to influence different people at different seasons in our lives.

Thus, if our purpose is truly predestined (see 2 Timothy 1:8-9), then it should be clear how a) purpose proceeds calling and b) staying aligned to God’s will with a grateful heart is dependent on being completely satisfied in our purpose, regardless if we understand our calling (or how it should manifest in a given season).

In my case, when I applied this truth, it didn’t take long before my dayjob frustrations started making more sense. I had lost sight of my purpose within my assigned role, instead, fearing I was wasting my calling in a passionless, uninspiring position.

Yet, when I recognized my pride, flipped it through repentance, and returned my focus to loving people where they were at, my whole perspective changed.

No longer did I perceive my situation through an entitled lens…or doubt the handy plan of God on my life. No longer did I shrink in timidity or defeatism based on the incurrence of condescending labels.

Contrarily, I began to understand, in greater measure, how a) our callings aren’t meant to always align with what we think they should (i.e. our innate wirings, our creative passions, giftings, etc.) and b) the disconnect between where we are and where we hope to be doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in the wrong place.

In fact, I submit this wedge is something we all must taste at some point if we’re to truly appreciate and rely on the faithfulness of God.

‘Cause whether we feel relationally abandoned or hopelessly lost in an occupational wasteland, it doesn’t negate the fact God is always up to something. For He knows exactly what we need, when we need it…and will always stay faithful to develop the fine qualities He’s established/establishing in us (Romans 1:20)…even if our workplace environment doesn’t [seem to] value these things.

As for me, the only way I could rightfully deal with my workplace dissatisfaction was by embracing a holy satisfaction in my divinely appointed purpose: to do Father’s work His way…and to allow His Kingdom to reflect in and through my life (Matthew 6:33; John 5:19).

And I’m telling you…it wasn’t long after surrendering my aspirations in this way that I began to feel fulfilled within God’s placement again.³

So in closing, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to not see your worth through what you do or value your calling ahead of your purpose. Rather, allow yourselves to be fully content on what God has purposed you to do, all the while, being faithful to pray into your calling…regardless if the heartstrings of passion are being presently plucked.

‘Cause at the end of the day, you’ll find when the two are in alignment, you’ll be primed for refinement.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful place to be.

Footnotes

1) Granted, love should never be circumstantial anyway

2) In addition to being disciple-makers

3) Sometimes, a return to basics with a slight twist of perspective is all we need to adjust the way God wants us to.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Photo from motivationgrid.com & mosstotalfitness.com