The Right [of] Way: A Farewell to TDOT

It’s a cold day [at TPAC] as I take this final skyline glance.

Vacancies once held now seven years of vibrancies starring back at me. Crazy how a city can reflect what you already know – the fact life is a highway built on and by dust…the cold yet beautiful reality that life is a vapor because it was spoken into by such.

Still, the question remains…

 How can one possibly capture a septennial’s worth of growth? Or put into words a spiritual journey equivalent to a Sahara crossing with one camel and a military canteen?

Whatever the answer, I won’t shy from letting words fly given this post is ultimately a testimony to God’s sovereignty. As such, I encourage you: Don’t read this as a summary of one man’s odyssey, but a synthesis of God’s faithfulness to transform.

Prologue aside, let’s dive in…

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When I started with TDOT Finance in April 2012, life was a bull market. From Lyssah to LEGACYouth to graduate school, everything seemed fresh and exciting. For the first time in years, I was enjoying all aspects of life – a stark contrast to the brutal four years preceding.

Yet, by fall 2013, many of these facets began to settle. While most things ministry and marriage-wise were flourishing, the same couldn’t be said about work. After a “promotion” from Budget to Payables, I struggled not only adjusting to the position but having to be in it at all. Unlike the two generations of Fry’s before me, I couldn’t support my family through pastoral ministry alone. Consequently, I often clocked in already feeling like a failure…like I didn’t belong.

And so, I vilified the culture, my 7-3:30 reality a necessary evil disguised as a reincarnated Matrix.

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On the surface, I was pressing on, but deep down, I was defeated, a prisoner of my own narrative. To be free was to be out, but I had no escape plan. Just a spray of mental splinters reminding me I had nothing to offer.

For years, I believed the lie my value couldn’t be realized at TDOT. While I was able to return to Budget by summer 2014, by then, the early stages of depression had settled in. Driven by lingering guilt from past seasons, it was clear the fight to tame my despair was not being helped at work. If anything, the lack of voice and professional development only compounded the problem. Perhaps had I not compartmentalized my ‘loved by God’ identity, these voids wouldn’t have hindered the way they did.

Either way, by January 2015, my disdain for the work culture had finally trickled into disdain for certain people. No longer could I emotionally separate the two. Like a house divided, my joy was one-sided with each day an elevator countdown and a prayer against hopelessness. Long gone were the days I could thrive; I just wanted to survive.

And yet, life was fantastic behind the scenes. For starters, all things family and LEGACYouth continued to bloom – the best years coinciding with the worse years at TDOT. I was coming off a solid two year run at MTSU where I received my Master’s in Education: Instruction and Curriculum. And to cap it off, after hitting three years in youth ministry, I was had started working towards my licensure with Messenger Fellowship.

However, the major plot turn came during spring 2015 when I started to sense God’s call to create a written resource for vocationals¹. At first, I questioned if this word was from God given the timing made no sense. Not only did I feel disqualified, but emotionally unprepared to tackle such a task. Who was I to say ‘yes’ in light of where my heart was at?

But looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering…

  1. Even in our darkest hours, God is faithful to stir in ‘content’ despite our discontent.

  2. It’s often in the places we’re snake-bitten where God wants to deliver healing and entrust authority.

At any rate, after months of underground writing, His Girl Fryday published during summer 2015 to a humble following of 25 followers with biweekly posts and a podcast launch a few years after. But for TDOT, the key takeaway was the big picture – the fact God would use a special project to erode my heart of stone and transform it back into a heart of flesh. After all, it’s hard to stay mad at the marketplace when marketplace people represent your target audience. I guess that’s why they say, ‘God is without a sense of humor’.

Flash-forward to January 2019 and my heart is three years softer towards all things TDOT. Granted, there were some tough days; however, the inner maturation was now at a point I could daily choose joy, declare gratitude, and receive rest. Having learned a new rhythm of releasing, rarely did I carry anxiety into a new day. By God’s strength and power, I was being renewed regularly and refreshed in the mundane.

By early February, a new assignment had emerged, this time a Bible study open to all TDOT employees. As the Lord assured me, the inner man was ready to lead a charge that hadn’t been attempted in over two decades. A drive I would have laughed at four years prior, now a Spirit-led operation to plant a community of God’s presence. Using a mix of His Girl Fryday and Messenger Fellowship/Commission U content, I began to translate church-speak discipleship into digestible vocational dialogue. Though attendance rarely hit double-digits, the study would ignite a few more throughout the James K. Polk building. At last, the final chapter of my seven-year TDOT journey was complete.

By now, I bet you’re wondering…

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And to that, I’d reply: The point is the story itself and the source it comes from. The way I see it, God permitted my TDOT landing so I could learn how to abide in a place I didn’t fit and love within a culture I didn’t understand. Along the way, I discovered how much more Jesus I needed…how I couldn’t possibly love and lead without His daily presence manifesting as sustaining power. I also tasted the bitter dregs of indifference, resentment, and what it’s like to project insecurity onto those mirroring your own struggle. If only I received correction without assuming gracelessness, no question, much grief during my time at TDOT could have been spared.

Still, when I look back on my TDOT tenure, what I’ll ultimately remember are the seven wonderful years I had to grow in my professionalism. Could have I been sent to more trainings, webinars, and conferences? Yes. Was it difficult being a travel specialist getting to send people all over the country without being able to join them? Absolutely.

Yet, at day’s end, all this is moot.

For many are the miles, but few are the meters to loving your neighbor. Much is the work, but much more are the people who work it.

Therefore, whether we’re CPA’s or ASA’s2, remember what matters is faith, hope, and love channeled through attitude, integrity, and legacy. The road may not always be easy, but as long as we stay the course, the freedom and ripening we crave will come.

As for now, I relish this moment to say, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ not only to my TDOT family, but every breakthrough, confrontation, and endeavor that has occurred the past seven years. What started as a single man looking for occupational and financial stability has ended with a family of five finding spiritual and vocational stability in the places that matter most.

One line ends, another begins. No question, I’m on a higher precipice thanks to what I learned here.

‘Til next time, here’s to the next and the undeniable truth that the best is yet to come…

Selah.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Particularly those in ministry and marketplace simultaneously
  2. Admin support assistants
Graphic creds: Skyscrapercenter, Alchetron

Kingdom Carriers: The Reason We Exist (Part 2)

Part 1: Kingdom Agents: The Reason We Exist

So a few weeks back, I’m chillin’ in my humble abode, perusing a couple bivocational pastoral forums when I notice an intriguing update…

I work for UPS and have not taken a salary in the year and a half since I’ve been at my current church. They do provide a parsonage though. I have really been struggling with being bivo[cational]. Outside of my secular job I never feel I’m able to give enough or do enough for my ministry or my family. My job doesn’t build relationships because I’m all way in a different office and on different routes with no real interactions. It really is money only and I hate that. My dream would be to have a job [where] I can truly make money, not a get rich quick gimmick, and that gives flexibility when needed. Actually I’ve always dreamed of opening a coffee and sandwich shop. I have a dream to write but can never get enough time to make much progress. I just have been dealing a lot lately with not being enough, or not achieving enough, in any part of my life. It feels like the duck floating in the water. Things look smooth on the surface but underneath I’m fight what seems to be a losing fight right now. And I don’t know how to fix it or what to do.”

Now, before I continue, understand I’m normally not one to share anonymous posts; however, with this one, I can’t help but resonate given there are people like this all around us…

…questioning their purpose…

…making ends meet…

…all the while desperate to dream in light of their surroundings.

Accordingly, how we engage the chaos in a way that merges ‘hope of glory‘ and ‘hope of freedom‘ within our influence is worth discussion.

My thought is: whether you consider yourself vocational, bivocational, or multi-occupational, regardless of what you’re sacrificing, you desire to lay a foundation of life that pierces the mundane doldrums of an ego-driven culture.

Unfortunately, our desire to build upon this foundation is often offset by discouragement and disorientation. For example, some people know their identity as ‘loved by God’, but feel rudderless in a dead-end situation while for others, they have the ideal situation, but have no idea of who they are and what they’re truly called to.

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To compound matters, there is dissonance as people who see themselves as a collection of acquired skills and experiences collide with those who view their passions and assignments as functions of their uniqueness. Granted, we live in a fallen world of mixed perspectives where you are what you do outside of what you believe; hence, the tension many believers encounter when they take a servant mentality into the marketplace.

But for the dire dreamer determined to stay up on the down side of life, sometimes acknowledging the fact it’s not supposed to be easy isn’t enough. At some point, we must accept the fact people are not only looking for momentary motivation, but long-term resources and willing availability.

Not to suggest we downplay our readiness in giving answers for the hope we have. I’m just sayin’ if all we’re doing is pointing people, like the UPS man, in the right direction, can we honestly say we’re doing all we can to help? In counseling them to find the tools and direction they’re looking for?

And hear me: I’m not sayin’ we fix all the peoples…all the situations…and make floating ducks feel like power trucks.  I get there are times when all we can do is stand and point people in the way they’re to go.

However, if we see ourselves as Kingdom agents/ambassadors, then we should expect to receive appointed assignments where the only way to reach out is to create room…

…which leads me to why I’m writing this…

…so that we all can be more attuned in extending Jehovah-Jireh hope to the UPS man’s of the world…

…in conveying the promises of God who will not only provide, but get us to the other side…both in trust and in faith.

Perhaps you’re not a fan of who you are or where you’re at right now. Maybe you feel an awkward divide between you and who you wish to pour into1.

If so, I encourage you: stand strong, know you’re loved2, and invite God into the voids you sense. Remember you have what it takes to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:11-16)…and by not quitting, you ultimately help others do the same.

As to how we do that?

Well, let’s just say…

that is why we exist.

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or who you wish could pour into you
  2. And never alone
Cover photo creds: benzinga.com

 

 

The Season of Perpetual Hope

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so we’re told this time of year.

But let’s be honest: how many of us feel remotely close to Yuletide bliss?

I know for me…as the fall sun sets into what should be the happiest season of all, the stress of it not being so sets in as well.

What if December is blue, not white. What if this and that are not right.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say the anxiety can be overwhelming.

And yet, as valid as our tensions may be…as easy as it is to yield to negativity and strive for positivity, it’s worth noting we were made for the other way around.

But Cam…how do I get there? 

Well, that’s why I writing this.

‘Cause truth is: this Advent season can feature some of the roughest crossroads of the year. For instance, what do you do when you want to sing joy to the world, but feel too ‘Charlie Brown’ to care? Or what do you do when Christmas is coming on too fast for one limping among shattered dreams and broken goals on way to another yearly finish line?

To help answer these questions, I want to cut away to one my favorite Christmas movies: Home Alone.

Remember the scene when Kevin’s mom is desperately pleading with the Scranton ticket agent?

And I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike! If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.”

Well, it just so happens prior to her ‘Momma Bear’ unleashing, she leaks out one of the most profound definitions of Christmas in cinematic history.

This is *Christmas*! The season of perpetual1 hope!

Now it’s worth pointing out a couple things:

  1. Kate McCallister, like many of us this time of year, is tired, frustrated, yet determined…knowing what she wants but unsure how to get there.
  2. Kate admits a profound truth as a means to justify a personal end (i.e. getting home to her son’)…as opposed to letting that means be the end she needed to persevere.
  3. Kate’s response reminds us of the potentially beautiful relationship between resolve and desperation (Note I say ‘potentially’ since unguarded desperation can mislead our resolve away from what we believe).

In short, Kate had the awareness of what was right: Christmas is the season of perpetual hope2; however, in her frantic state, she lacked the application of what was right as the only thing she wanted perpetual was herself.

Yet, while Kate could have saved herself some stress, we can learn from her mistake by discovering what the Word says about  ‘perpetual hope’. ‘Cause when we talk ‘perpetual’, we’re not only talking about the immutability of God – the reality of an unchanging God timeless in nature, but also the quality of hope we internally long for.

Ask yourself this: why do so many nations celebrate the secular symbol of Santa Clause…or represent their holiday spirit with illumination? Is it not as Bryan Bedford stated from “Miracle on 34th Street”, “to create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made…”?

If yes, then I submit we’re not only hard-wired with an innate drive to hope in something, but to hope in something perpetual. Granted, it’s easy this time of year to put foot to gas…hoping to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’…hoping to feel good about ourselves…hoping enough satisfaction can be derived from momentum…as opposed to resting in our perpetual Provider; however, if you’re sitting there worried the joy of Christmas has to be earned or is going to take off without you…I have good news for you:

You don’t have to carry the load anymore!

Rather you can relinquish fear, release control, and receive a fresh hope centered in the always abiding, ever enduring love of the begotten. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about: remembering the “light of the World” who came not only to make a way, but a perpetual way (Isaiah 43:16)…even when we feel no one can reach us3.

Thus, if anyone needs some perpetual hope this Christmas, consider it’s always been Jesus…

…God from God…

…Light from Light…

…Strength of Strength…

…Hope of [Perpetual] Hope…

…breaking through the darkest of nights to save…

…you.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Perpetual = Never ending/changing, everlasting; occurring repeatedly
  2. Honestly, how many people around her could have come up with a better summary of Christmas in six words or less, especially under those circumstances
  3. Desperation Band – “Make a Way

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 

Hold on to Your Why (Part 1)

We now know we have a why…an internal motivation that gives our ministry meaning. This why serves as our anchor when we are faced with the inevitable desire to quit, throw up walls or just go into auto-pilot. To often, that why gets lost in the urgent, monotonous or discouraging things we encounter as we serve. How can we keep our why front and center when all the white noise is looking to push it to the sideline?

Over the next couple of posts, we will take a practical look at some things we can do to elevate and re-embrace our why.

First, Identify your why.

Hold up-don’t we know our why? I can’t start on that assumption. Personal experience has shown me that when discouragement hits, I often have to rediscover why. Why am I serving even though no one seems to care? Why am I investing in people when no one is investing into me? Why am I putting in hours (that, let’s be honest, we don’t really have) only to have no one show up? If we are asking why questions, chances are we need to go back to the beginning and reunite with our why. How do we do that? Take those same why questions and instead of asking them in a reactionary way, ask them in the future tense. “Why would I be willing to serve even if no one cares?” “Why do I want to invest, even if no one is investing in me”?, etc.

For many of us, the answer is: People. For those called to ministry, it is liking having a beating piece of God’s heart deposited in yours. We want to see people know Jesus. We want to see them walking in victory and in the fullness that God has planned for them. We want to see a God centered community formed that then impacts the city around us and glorifies God.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the contrary. If you why isn’t centered on service and glorifying God, it may not be a why that will keep you going. I can say that I want to change my eating habits to look good. But that motivation, that why, may not be enough for me to withstand the immediate gratification associated with a yummy bowl of ice cream. My why has to be bigger than me. As a mom, if I say I’m going to change my eating because I want to make sure my son grows up with healthy habits-bam, I have a why bigger than me.

Ministry was never meant to be about me. I have found personally, if my why has become askew, my what and how become labored and trying.

So, for this week-identify your why. If it is off, realign it and start fresh.

Next Week: Why be accountable?

Have you experienced a why that was off? Share in the comments. Let’s learn from one another. 🙂

Photo creds: paulmadson.com