Still rattling from another week of dodging arrows, taking them in the back in some cases.
I’m done with this. I’m so fed up and yet starving at the same time. Forget why; I just want to know when.
When will things get better? When will things start to turn around?
I look at Juby and I delight in her progress. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the journey…the literal baby steps one must take during these intense stretches.
But when it’s Monday morning and you’ve been out of home for three months. When it’s a brand new day and your only source of sanctuary betrays you, I’m sorry, I just can’t even…
Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t given up or anything. Contrarily, I sometimes wonder if not knowing how to not believe is part of what’s working.
Yet, as I continue to wrestle and keep my head above the water, I discover new depths to what faith is like at the end of its rope…
…and it is gloriously terrifying. A place you relish and long to relinquish at the same time.
Like many paradoxes, the dichotomy is confusing. After all, vertical reliance is supposed to be uncomfortable – an achy burn as opposed to a contagious high.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: I trust God has something in store for Lys & I once this season blows over. It’s just getting harder to move, to leave the house, to function really. Even though we’re hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, even though we’re perplexed on multiple fronts, but not [yet in] despair, the temptation to think otherwise entices me.
How can the life of Jesus fully manifest when all I can do is stand? How can His glory be revealed when I’m this lost searching for a horizon to light my way?
Sure, I can stiff-arm fear all day, but at day’s end, I just want to know where I am headed.
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there wondering this right now.
Disoriented and fatigued, my charge tonight is simple…
You may feel like you’re trembling on a precipice, but where courage lacks is also where much is given. In time, you will be able to strain forward to what lies ahead. For now, embrace the opportunity to receive as you persevere, let steadfastness have its full effect, and hold fast the confession of hope without wavering.
Even when you step out of your car and a freak gear glitch causes it to launch into a neighbor’s yard before you somehow, someway stop it from crashing into their house, count it all joy. Tally up His goodness and scale your conflicts accordingly.
Take it from one in the trenches with you. Your life isn’t as broken as you think. And even if it is, there’s not a solve or repair unbeknownst to God.
Why not trust the handiness of His hands as you trade in your sorrows?
I’ll be honest: Sometimes, I don’t [fully] understand “community”.
I mean…I know we were made for it. I know God ultimately is it. But I guess I just don’t know how to live it the way we were intended.
Granted, my perspective is a tad crusty, dare I say, cynical due to former friends fading away and misplaced support voids.
But skepticism aside, I do wonder if part of the confusion is tied to the increasingly blurred line between perceived “community” and proximity.
For instance, with proximity, you’re generally around people who are apathetic in knowing you. I’ve seen this with former employers. If you’re ‘different’¹, then people are indifferent. If you don’t fit in, you can’t stand out. As a result, unhealthy cliques form, outskirts are treated as outcasts, and communications are compromised.
Contrarily, with community, you’re around people who are open to the idea of seeking relationships and in some cases, building koinonia. I’ve seen this at my current job as well as select churches in my area. When a new person enters, he/she’s not only taken in, but walked with until they’re communally integrated (or at least have a clearer understanding on direction). Accordingly, life begets life, sincerity abounds, and gratitude becomes the hallmark of interaction.
Now, before I continue, let me clarify: I’m not saying nearness and/or involuntary forms of togetherness are wrong. If you know me, then you know I’m a huge advocate regarding the ministry of availability. What I am saying is if we desire to be fishers of men, to be influential stewards in the marketplace, we must discern the difference between proximity and community. Especially in a year like 2020, if you’re feeling discouraged trying to make sense of veiled social circles and structures , permit me to share some empowering thoughts…
1) Whether or not we desire community, it must be a priority in our lives.
While this point may seem straight-forward, the nuance is worth noting. After all, part of our uniqueness boils down to weighted values as filtered through personality, wirings, and spiritual gifts. As many wise men have said, loving yourself should not come at the cost of loving and serving others. Even if it’s quality time or encouragement at an inconvenient moment, the ripple effect can be profound; for who knows the exact words and gestures God has prepared for us at any given point.
Think of this way: If we want to be love, we must desire intimacy with God.; however, to desire intimacy with God, we must understand walking in stride with Him often means doing likewise with others. While this may seem overwhelming, by cultivating a sensitive heart of worship, we can learn to rely on God in relational situations knowing…
God, as part of the Trinity, has been a relational reality for eternity.
God has entrusted us to be intentional in our approach to unity.
God has given us what we need to effortlessly abide in community.
Bottom line: To live as Christ is to live as one with one another.
2) Community isn’t just a good idea but one of the greatest mandates in Scripture.
So random question: How many of you like chocolate milk? Remember Ovaltine back in the day? As a kid, I used to love buying the Chocolate Malt container and stirring some scoops into a icy cold glass of milk before bedtime.
If you can relate, you likely know chocolate milk isn’t really chocolate milk unless the chocolate is stirred in. I mean, have you tried tasting unstirred chocolate milk? No bueno! Basically just milk with a subtle hint of cocoa residue.
Visual secured, I submit community is like a chilled glass of chocolate milk². If we don’t allow the Spirit to stir us through genuine relationship, if we’re so easily satisfied by fenced-off fellowship, then the flavor of whatever community we’re experiencing is going to be compromised.
Therefore, if we truly want to live out Hebrews 10:24-25 we must be willing to allow the Spirit to stir us up so people can taste the sweetness of God’s presence through our interaction.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” ~ Acts 2:42-47
Bottom line: Just as God is love, He is community. When our lives are tasting and seeing that God is good, no question our corporate devotion to do likewise will strengthen.
3) Community starts by drawing near to One.
Here’s a question: In terms of relationship, if there are walls or barbed wires involved, can we honestly say what we’re experiencing is real? Not to suggest ‘real’ and ‘complete’ are synonymous or that there can’t be camaraderie behind closed doors or in passing. Certainly, obedience and courage can help us embrace empathy and the missional aspects of community.
But as for intentional brotherly devotion, for ‘everything in common’ life, while it’s okay to accept scraps in dry seasons, we must remember…
When we talk about how this looks in the church, we note community isn’t a vehicle to do life together, but God’s life together since the church is a reflection of the Godhead.
Similarly, in the marketplace, community can be seen as the relational modeling of work as worship and the God community with respect to business.
While I’ll aim to unpack this in my next post (given both sides are essential to our ‘Kingdom influencer identity), for now, know regardless of your situation/setting, if we’re content on not loving past our relational defaults and resentments, then our community will be nothing more than a shadow of God’s origin intent.
Take it from one who occasionally feels disoriented by what he’s not experiencing. Whenever I’m wrestling with relational voids, I’m reminded to draw near to God, resist fear, and pour out my anxieties upon Him. By doing this, I allow the Spirit to stir up a desire to encourage others with the good news that Jesus is near (proximity) and eager to abide with us (community).
Bottom line: Love is not contingent on acceptance but is calibrated by humility seeking the interest of others, making kindness evident, and proclaiming the goodness of fellowship’s Creator (Philippians 2:4 + Romans 12:10 + 1 Peter 2:9).
As such, my encouragement to you is to ask the Lord to fill you with passion and compassion for His people, to not only move you to physical presence but to the inner courts of the Spirit’s presence.
1) By ‘different’, I mean anything from calling and character profile to age and race
They can be tough to handle. As one who has endured his fair share, my heart is sensitive to those wrestling with identity, to those struggling in the shadow of slander and prejudice. While some people know the truth of who you are, the fact is many are in the dark to what makes them unique. And if we’re to mature in wisdom and influence within our communal arenas, how we stand firm when assailed by this demographic is worth discussion.
Regardless of what we do or where we’re at, whenever vulnerability strikes, having a game-plan is vital in our quest to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Accordingly, here are three ways we can bust the boxes people put us in and prevent their labels from becoming our tags.
1. Anchor Your Belief
Before we take any action, the best way to deal with backbiting is to resist fear through the Scriptures. While how we respond as follow-through is important, how we react in the moment is just as, if not more, crucial. Here’s a check-down of some verses I quote when I sense typecasting, favoritism, or neglect:
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” ~ 1 Timothy 2:7 (AMP)
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4 (ESV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
Note how this is merely a shortlist; obviously, you can customize your ‘fear resistant’ prayer guide however you please. Just be advised when you’re on the clock in real-time, our tendency to misread and misjudge what we observe is constantly tested; hence, why it’s important not only to know what you believe but also how to take captive what doesn’t align.
Bottom line: When you suspect attitudinal shifts, be slow to believe what you perceive. Don’t be afraid to resist unnecessary judgments, labels, and deceptions. Even if all you can do initially is defer, defer in faith with the hope of casting all anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
2. Pray into the Offense
When we suspect people are labeling us, it’s hard not to take offense. Even if we can’t prove a typecast, the temptation to rationalize what we’re sensing is real, sometimes tantalizing. I know for me, when I perceive a relational distancing from colleagues or co-workers, I start to crave reconciliation before it’s necessary. On one level, I feel a surge of self-perseveration desperate to find a reason why; on another, I’m frustrated to have to own anything in the first place. It’s like a winless tug-of-war: I want to be heard, understood, and not given up on, but in case those fears verify, I want to, at least, be the next best thing…to be right. Not exactly a sustainable formula if community is to be a pure pursuit.
For those wondering why the transparency: I have no problem being vulnerable because I know I’m not alone. The fact is in most cases, insecurity fuels our offenses and if we don’t acknowledge and repent of them, they can pollute our view of relationships, identity, place and purpose, etc.
So what then? If people are nice one day and suddenly stop acknowledging our existence the next, we’re supposed to keep our mouth shut and be okay with it? Well, no, I’m not saying we neglect the opportunities to bridge divides. Conversely, I’m saying if grudges or walls emerge, we must first lean on God’s understanding to accurately see the situation. From there, we can take rest knowing we’re proactively sowing peace as opposed to reactively striving for peace. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Through Him, we can persevere in prayer and thanksgiving that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5).
Bottom line: Seek correction before direction. Let God be the space between your hurts and emotions. Release the want to control, manipulate, and be a victim. All the while, pray into the offense and don’t be overcome by the absence of good. Rather be the good in the voids you sense, real or imagined.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is . But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
While the general meaning of this passage is to approach evil in the opposite spirit, the concept of turning the other cheek can still be confusing. Is Jesus suggesting we tolerate the presence of malice, gossip, passive-aggressiveness, even silos in our workplaces? Is he hinting we embrace suffering and survivalism as socially acceptable? Not at all. Au contraire, he’s implying we encourage all people through a double portion of his nature.
For instance, if we encounter a void of good, when people are intentionally forsaking us, don’t respond by doing the same. Why lower your standards and behaviors to a level outside your faith? Instead, know your power source and abide in the current of his grace. In this way, you defuse offense, inspire virtue as a contagious overflow, and preserve what needs to be said in a spirit of love.
Bottom line: In the presence of evil, in the absence good, you can’t turn the tide if you don’t turn the cheek. Don’t live in defeat in a moment’s heat but be true to what is right as you stir others to do the same.
Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive back into my ‘Trinity as Structure‘ series to discuss the Trinity’s influence on teamwork. For now, I bid you adieu with an inspiring video from New Hope Church:
“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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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:
It yields no breathing room to arrogance or self-righteousness.
It emphasizes and prioritizes advancing the needs of others.
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.
It creates a spirit of safety and enhances camaraderie/team unity.
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.
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.