3 More Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Making sense of my surroundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2) The Nazareth complex

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

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

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

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

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

tumblr_nikl8pxddz1tq4of6o1_5003) Financial fitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Selah.

Footnotes

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

The Good, Bad & Awesome of 2014

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When you think back on 2014, what immediately comes to mind?

LF: I really think 2014 was marked by clearing hurdles. The theme of mountains and valleys was huge. There were highs and lows, but the amazing thing is that every low was immediately followed by an awesome high. Overall, it was a good year with its fair share of challenges.

CF:  I agree. To me, it was a “back to the drawing board” kind of year. Plenty of fine-tuning. If I had to sum the year up in two words, I’d go with “successfully conquered”.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.03.30 PMLF: The first thing that comes to mind is getting published on ‘Darling’ magazine’s website. It was a poem I wrote for my mom for Mother’s Day and it was exciting to share that. Also, seeing the youth engage in worship and leading by example, especially during November’s Wednesday Worship Experience, was amazing. Oh, and our one-year anniversary trip to Chicago…

CF: Yeah, our travels to Chicago and St. Louis were pretty epic. I’d say graduating with my Master’s in Education a couple weeks ago was a highlight, though if I had to choose one in particular, I’d go with LEGACYouth reaching a new level in its ministry this summer. It’s been exciting to lead such an awesome group of students during a watershed year. No doubt, it’s going to be even more amazing in 2015 as God continues to lead us in developing the worship culture.

How would you compare the sophomore and freshman years of marriage?

LF: I feel like we hit a pretty good groove this year…much more in balance. The first year featured a lot of learning. I feel like we click more. We laugh more. We cry more…but it’s with each other rather than ‘because of each other’. I also feel like we have become better friends and as a result, better partners. We anchor and support each other and it is a joy to operate that way.

CF: Amen. I feel like our emotional unity has helped us press through some hard times. Overall, I think we understand and compliment each other more. We’re not as afraid to be vulnerable and transparent…and that, in turn, has enhanced our relationship. Everything feels more settled now. The honeymoon year was pretty sweet, but I think the second year has been even sweeter!

What lesson from 2014 are you eager to apply in 2015?

LF: There’s a difference between motivation and determination. You can be determined to complete something or apply yourself even when you don’t have the motivation. All too often this year, I held back because I didn’t “feel” like doing something. But that is not a scalable philosophy. Determination and dedication will take us so much farther than “feeling motivated” ever will. I feel like this applies to multiple areas in my life right now.

CF: Word. I’ve felt this on the work front a couple times this year. Even when you feel out of place…and your drive is splintered, you can thrive by allowing God to breathe faithfulness into your pursuit of excellence. On a more personal note, I’ve learned, at least to a higher degree, the positive consequences of trusting God while feeling alone/disconnected (relationally outside of marriage)…when wrestling with fading strongholds…and when setting boundaries, whether in ministry or with finances and time management.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

LF: The dedication is paying off. The query letters have been sent. Only three months to go until we’re debt-free. We’re expecting.  I think those are the big ones.

16449_10100287050750132_1109098363311312523_nCF: I second these. I’ll also add: What a successful first year of His Girl Fryday (cough, cough), what an effective year serving The Gate Community Church as a new Messenger Fellowship associate…and what a thrilling year seeking fresh leads on a new career pathway. Oh…and I’m hungrier for God and His ways like never before and thus, ending my third decade of living on the highest possible note.

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2014 – By the Numbers

  • Estimated miles driven: 27,586
  • Deep Fry blog posts: 52
  • His Girl Fryday blog posts: 16
  • Fall 2014 GPA: 4.0 (clinching Magna Cum Laude Honors)
  • Snowchased Snow Amounts: 17.4″
  • Miles run (Cameron): 674