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

3 Ways to Elevate Others at Work

I don’t know about you, but I find the ironies of Scripture fascinating.

Weakness as strength, the overturning of human wisdom, redemptive reversals…there are many to choose from.

But I suppose the one gripping me most intensely right now is delayed revelation – how one can read the same verse ninety-nine times, but on the hundredth one, the light bulb goes off…as if you’re reading the verse for the first time. Call it God’s faithfulness. Call it maturity meeting an inspired moment. Whatever the reason, I believe it justifies our call to continually renew our minds in the Word. After all, in the space between passage exposure, who says God can’t work new grids and frameworks into the mix?

Prelude aside, I want to share a recent instance during which I was studying Philippians 2 when all of a sudden, I hit an accelerant taking me deeper into new territory. A familiar read, now a profound resonance. Let’s dive into v. 3

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (NIV)

“When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.” (NCV)

 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (NKJV)

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (NLT)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV)

Now, before I continue, permit me to share some context.

A couple of weeks ago, during a Foundation Group team meeting,  a colleague mentioned how we should honor one another by assuming other’s loads as “crazier” than our own – an agreeable notion given our corporate desire to serve. While I couldn’t remember the Scriptural reference offhand, I knew it took residence in one of Paul’s first imprisonment letters (i.e. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians). Accordingly, I couldn’t help feeling satisfied having found the source a week later.

As I drilled down, it made sense why this colleague would allude to Philippians 2:3. For starters, the verse captures how corporate love looks in a team construct, particularly in vocational settings. To respect colleagues and clients alike, it’s essential we surrender pride, embrace selfless motives, and integrate humility into everything we do. The reasons this constitutes wisdom are many:

  1. It yields no breathing room to arrogance or self-righteousness.

  2. It emphasizes and prioritizes advancing the needs of others.

  3. It inspires a place for the radical middle to thrive. Spiritually, we know this as living in Spirit and Truth, but vocationally, this often manifests as finding common ground to agree upon.

  4. It creates a spirit of safety and enhances camaraderie/team unity.

  5. It converts corporate ladders from vertical hierarchies into horizontal matrices where all roles are equally valuable (though diverse in function).

However, there are deeper layers to be discovered as we consider occupational application.

Case and point: The allegory of the long spoons –  a regarded illustration, but one seldom tied to marketplace principles.

 

For those unaware of this illustration, the allegory of the long spoons is a parable that shows the difference between heaven and hell wherein each location,  inhabitants are given food with oversized utensils incapable of self-service. In hell, the people cannot cooperate and wail in torment. In heaven, the diners use the spoons to serve food across the table where all are satisfied.

This in mind, we can ‘carpe diem’ the application. If our mission is to maximally serve one another, then self-seeking ambitions will fade as humility builds in places they once occupied. As Romans 12:1-2 states, when we present ourselves as living sacrifices, we position ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to discern the will of God. Yet, to do this, we must also be committed to living securely in our ‘loved by God’ identity.

‘Cause truth is: If we know who we are, not only will compassion be the hallmark of our efforts, but the overflow to how we shepherd relationships. In a sense, we won’t have room to compare or prove our worth because we know we are loved by God; therefore, we have nothing to lose valuing others above ourselves, in pursuing others’ needs ahead of our own.

As for how this looks in the business world, these truths often reflect in collaboration, communication, and correction:

With collaboration, any time a team comes together to fine-tune or streamline a process, the goal is to make critical functions more efficient…for the sake of service. While economical outcomes are practical, it’s the customer bond, not the bottom line, where equity accrues over time. Consequently, if leadership is intentional in anchoring pursuits to critical needs over critical mass, odds are the organization will validate its authenticity and purpose.

Likewise, with communications, a team is reinforced when ideas and individual strengths are integrated into its corporate dynamic. Once in rhythm, a leader can then create environments of safety where those will more experience can speak life into those with less. And though the balance may require calibrating with new hires, as long as space is giving to professional and personal growth, the ‘unity in community’ element will flourish. Again, the goal of workplace communication should be to elevate the ministry of servanthood in advance of performance metrics; however, if verbal success is to be realized, a leader must differentiate their aim and the overflow to come.

Lastly, with correction, a team leader should always employ honesty with understanding and prudence with patience. Here the principle is straightforward: If a leader is to speak discipline effectively, he/she must exercise transparency constructively. For example, if a leader/supervisor rushes to grace without understanding, then cultures of security may be compromised as opposed to strengthened. Granted, this can be a fine line to walk; then again, that’s the beauty of Philippians 2:3 – One doesn’t have to try to be right, but aim to do right in tending the good in others…

…which brings me to my last point…

If we’re to use our spoons to serve others, we must be intentional to clean them regularly.

Think of it this way: You may love pot roast and mashed potatoes, but if the utensils are dirty, you’re going to hesitate to eat them. Most likely you’re going to wash the serving spoon or request a different side item. Unless you’re really, really hungry.

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In theory,  the same concept applies to ministry, work, and all points in between. While what you serve is important, how you serve is all the more. For instance, not only does ‘how you serve’ shape your influence but answers the question as literally considering Jesus.

As such, if you ever wonder how to serve with clean spoons…lock on to Jesus. Specifically, look to Him as your example in selfless humility (v. 5), empty yourselves as servants of all (v. 7; Mark 9:35), and honor each other with enthusiasm (v. 12). Dare to work in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1), in a way that points to Christ’s sovereignty. And from there, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, and actively pursue spiritual maturity (v. 12) in community, in unity…with humility.

You got this, my friend.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Terryberry.com

3 Ways to Mature as an Effective Influencer (Part 1)

If I were to ask what the point of ministry is, what would you say?

Drawing people to Christ? Developing them as disciple-makers? Deploying them into service?

Albeit, these are all fine answers…but what if I told you we can sum up ministry in one word…

…influence.

Would you agree?

Regardless, the Word is clear our ministry emerges from our influence.

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:11

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

If you’re like me, you hear ‘persuade’ and immediately think ‘convince’; yet, when we dissect the Hebrew and extend it through v. 21, we find Paul is actually talking about influence.

Applying this filter, we can better understand how influence not only partners in God’s ministry of reconciliation, but matures our effectiveness as marketplace influencers.

Granted, there are many ways to broach the topic. For now, we’ll start with our usual ‘core three’ and work from there…

1. Know who you’re fearing

As mentioned, the bottom line of ministry is reconciliation achieved through influencing; however, to get there it’s important we grasp the fear of the Lord.

For while “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), it’s also a preserver of our sincerity (Colossians 3:22) and a gateway to comfort in the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).

Note the latter reference:

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

This tells me two things:

  1. Godly fear multiplies wisdom and virtue in addition to faith.
  2. The evidence of influence is peace inspired by encouragement.

Therefore, when we talk about influence, we’re not talking as much about personal strength as we are the maturation of corporate morale and pointing people in the direction of Jesus (more on this in future posts).

Contrarily, it’s important we understand what influence isn’t.

‘Cause while the key to influence is the fear of the Lord, the enemy will use the opposite spirit, the fear of man, along with memories of past hurt to contrive a narrative where we’re seeking to overcome what’s already been overcome.

Thankfully, as Kingdom agents…ministers of reconciliation who can persuade through the fear of the Lord…we can rhythmically resist this mindset whiling combating the compromised systems of the world.

For as long as there is sin, enterprise will be governed by hierarchy1 where people are bound by control, manipulation, and intimidation. Yet, as for you, you can see people as God sees them (i.e. forgiven) and help them find purpose through daily influencing where they are.

After all, freedom begets freedom…and He craves it more than you do.

2. Know how you’re leading

As effective influencers2, it’s imperative we not only have the right mindset towards people, but our work as well.

For starters, we must view our work as an opportunity to show people who they are as opposed to a stage to prove our self-worth. In this way, we not only invest trust in God being the one to open eyes, but free ourselves to influence through our wiring and discover new strengths through how God uses their responses.

‘Cause truth is: When we allow God into our realm of influence, we trade the pressure of of accomplishing goals for a humility motivating others to reach them.

But Cam…what if I’m not a team leader or in a place of authority?

Again, to answer this question…we must ask ourselves why we’re asking it.

For instance…

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If we’re talking about what we’ve been conditioned to believe…then authority is nothing more than the appointed person governing ‘over’ us; however, if we’re talking about absolute authority3, then we can see how a) God alone carries it…and b) what we often associate as ‘authority’ is, in fact, influence manifest through the seven motivational gifts (as outlined in Romans 12).

Again, the system…a real life Matrix if you will…runs by pecking order, production, and the Jerry Maguire mindset of ‘show me the money’, but…

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…as Kingdom influencers, we can approach metrics and outcomes without agenda by combining nurturing with our competence4.

Thus, whether you’re a supervisor in crunch time or a subordinate in training, you can help hold your team accountable to achieve certain goals in your respective roles. Just remember no matter what you do to galvanize effort, make sure it stems from a desire for everyone to succeed given a true influencer always values people over goals and never risks reaching them at the cost of another’s well-being.

For when we value people and decompartmentalize our desire to impact them, we not only influence a place where encouragement and goodness abound, but also where confidence and favor are ultimately shared.

Stay tuned next time when I’m unveil my third and final step to maturing as an effective influencer in the marketplace.

‘Til then if you have any questions, thoughts, concerns, feel free to leave them below in the ‘comments’ section and I’ll return serve as soon as I can.

Peace for your week,

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. As well as the idea leadership is greater than serving (contrary to Romans 12 which tells us each gift is equal and carries status and dignity)
  2. All influencers lead, but not all leaders influence
  3. Difference between authority and authorities
  4. A simple formula for adding value to your team members in a way they’ll turn to you for guidance and feedback

Cover photo creds: MikeLavere.com

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 

3 Truths for When You Don’t Get the Job

Have you ever been minutes away from a peaceful night sleep only to be shell shocked by a last second ‘bad news’ barrage?

If you answered, ‘yes’, welcome to the story of my life last Tuesday.

Before I continue, for those who’ve been following our story the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how ‘perseverance in challenging work environments’ has been a prevalent theme; however, today…I’m going to talk about the other side of the coin (i.e. the roller coaster ride that is “job hunting”).

Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not a renowned expert in “job hunting”. In fact, since I landed at TDOT in April 2012, I’ve only been able to engage the search for eight months with hiatuses attributable to Master’s work and recent life changes1.

But while I may not be the greatest career transition consultant, what I can say is: such a road, while disappointing at times, can be rewarding if we remain steadfast in patience and determination.

Yet, for many of us, it bears discussion how to cope with the discouragement that comes when denials and ‘no calls’ start to accumulate…

…which finally brings me to Tuesday night.

So there I am sitting in my bed when a mental alarm reminds me to check a certain well-known Christian company’s ‘current openings’ page. By this point, it had been a little over two months since I applied to (what appeared to be) the most exciting position I’ve come across in a while. I’m talking about the prospect of working as a…

Youth. Ministry. Specialist.

Just let that sink in for a bit, consider my night gig, and then let it sink down even more.

‘Cause truth is: this had me written all over it…like ‘magnum 5.3 mm, chisel trip, permanent sharpie ink’ written.

I mean…the very thought of me not receiving a phone call, an e-mail…anything…didn’t even cross my mind back when I was carefully packaging my writing sample, résumé, references, and questionnaire.

But alas…’tis what happened.

 Thus, as you can imagine, my mind couldn’t help but wonder…

what did my references say…?

…what are my credentials lacking…?

…is it because I’m still involved in youth ministry…?

…is it because I’m not affiliated with sou…(cough)…a certain denomination2?

Seriously…I’ve been involved in youth ministry for eight years…pastoring the last five. Forget the fact I have the drive and required skills to succeed. I’m a young voice with fresh, ‘2016 perspective’ on where youth ministry is in America these days. Why not take a flyer on this alone?

Granted, I still have no clue how many applicants applied…or if the job simply went off the radar without any notification.

All I know is for a few dark moments, I felt ‘struck out’ knowing a golden opportunity was now nothing more than an expired dream of what could/should’ve been.

Nail in coffin, I softly whispered, ‘Lord, help me. This one is gonna hurt’ before graciously drifting off.

Flash forward to today…and I’m feelin’ better. A little sore…but at the same time, I know when you’re down, you can’t stay down. Fall down seven, get up eight. Such is the philosophy of our ‘carry on’ culture, right?

Yet I also know, with every hurt, there’s not only a way out, but a transition out. The difference being…a way implies direction, but transition implies process. Thus, it’s fair to ask ourselves, ‘How do we navigate the process of overcoming when the pain seems unbearable’?

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Again, I don’t have all the answers. But based on recent experiences alone, I can confidently submit:

1. God’s ways are always greater3. 

Sure, we may not understand this in every situation. Yet, when we contrast our finitude in light of sweet sovereignty, we ultimately discover the refuge behind God knowing what is best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sayin’ you’ll never feel like a sinking sailor caught up in a sea of potential, but I am sayin’ this shouldn’t ever deter you from trusting your Captain.

2. We can’t assume how things would’ve panned out.

This one may seem obvious. Yet, how often do we assert the wrong declaration? For instance, I can tell myself, ‘Things would have been great there!’ Then again, I’m basing my rationale on a piece of paper…an image on a screen. Yeah…I might feel judged being judged by a piece of paper, but what’s the point in reciprocating by conjecturing? Truth is: Only God knows the coulda/woulda/shoulda’s of life. Thus, why not proclaim the veracity of God’s faithfulness as it pertains to what he shields us from? Just sayin’…

3. At some point, we must embrace ‘careerealism’4.

Whenever we’re notified of not being the best fit, to be upset is only human. But to be professionalism in our attitude when no one is looking? That’s the kind of ‘wheat from chaff’ attitude we should aspire to.

If it helps, remember the four pro’s and three per’s:

Four pro’s: professional, proactive, productive, proficient

(i.e. to be professional is to be proactive in being proficiently productive)

Three per’s: perseverant, perceptive, persistent

(i.e. to be perseverant is to be persistent in being perceptive)

Combine these all together and you got a solid recipe of getting back on track the way God would have you.

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Perhaps you’re wondering what your next move should be or are struggling to process work/job hunt-related disappointment. If you can relate, we want to encourage you today. So if you want to share your story in the comments below, feel free to do so…or if you’d rather shoot us a private message, that’s perfectly fine as well.

‘Til then, keep looking up and know the best is yet to come!

~ Cameron

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Footnotes

  1. Highlighted by pregnancy, Caeden’s birth & new home
  2. What is the official “religion” of Tennessee, Alex…
  3. Isaiah 55:8-9
  4. Inspired by http://www.careerealism.com

Photo creds: careerfaqs.com & http://www.bpodiary.com