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…

giphy.gif

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.

EmbellishedDefiantBlacknorwegianelkhound-size_restricted.gif

mega-city-the-matrix-a2af1128-dbf1-46f9-b3ed-ce426693222-resize-750

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…

source

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

Nothin’ ‘Bout The Blood

So last week I’m on a Messenger Zoom call discussing Triune worldviews when a chilling question is raised:

Are we, as rising, maturing believers valuing the bloodand living in light of that ‘precious flow [making us] white as snow’?

Certainly, it’s easy to think we are given Christ’s death and resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity.

But what if I told you to the extent we detach God’s communal nature as a foundation of love from our corporate theological foundation, to that extent we reduce the blood as nothing more than a sacrament. Would you agree?

If not, permit me to connect some dots after laying some groundwork…

1. To construct a worldview from the core of God’s nature, we must accept the fact God is a Communion of Three Persons in perfect love.

2. From there, we can establish and grow Biblical community in the same way God does His work: by multiplying what He is as a communion of love.

3. Only then can we value the Gospel and consequentially, understand the destructiveness of sin.

Unfortunately, as we progress in this post-Millennial age, the more young believers are distancing themselves from the saviorhood of Jesus2. As a former student pastor, I can attest to this. For many youth, believing the universal lordship of Jesus having once saved is far less challenging than accepting their current need for a sovereign Redeemer who continues to save.

Granted, our culture’s emphasis of reason over revelation and self-autonomy allots sense to the trend. That said, one must wonder how a world system based on deficiency is affecting the church’s thirst for relevancy.

Take ‘mission’ for example. For most, mission is seen as a journey, an assignment or a means to an end; however, when we note the Godhead, we find ‘mission’ to be an overflow of an established nature.

You see, before love could be extended, there had to be an identity with the ability to love; hence, why so many feel the weight of performance given they’re trying to abide in love not knowing who they really are and as such, forget the key to anything starts and ends with being loved by God.

The question is…

Are we abiding in love…or are we searching in love to find ourselves? Are we trusting God to fill our needs or filling our needs to trust in God? Are we forgiving having received grace or seeking grace in order to forgive?

Either way, it’s worth reminding ourselves…

  1. There’s no depravity God can’t redeem.
  2. Abiding in who we are in Christ is the blueprint to Holy Spirit dependence.
  3. The bedrock of truth, especially as revealed in revelation, is cemented when we allow God to reveal Himself in all circumstances.

giphy-1.gif

As for the blood’s depreciation among ‘next gen’ believers, it’s important we, as the body, perceive the issue as a conflict between identity and performance. For as long as Western individualism exists, so will the temptation to approach mission as drive, fellowship as metric, sin as shame…and thus, the blood as obsolete.

Yet, when we remember we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), when we accept Christ’s atonement as the security of our freedom, only then will we understand the blood’s purpose in all things.

For instance…

The blood is central to our community:

Take care and be on guard for yourselves and for the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd (tend, feed, guide) the church of God which He bought with His own blood.” ~ Acts 20:28 (AMP)

The blood is central to reconciliation:

…and through [the intervention of] the Son to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven.” ~ Colossians 1:20 (AMP)

The blood is central to redemption:

In Him we have redemption [that is, our deliverance and salvation] through His blood, [which paid the penalty for our sin and resulted in] the forgiveness and complete pardon of our sin, in accordance with the riches of His grace.” ~ Ephesians 1:7 (AMP)

The blood is central to cleansing:

But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come…He went once for all into the Holy Place [the Holy of Holies of heaven, into the presence of God], not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, having obtained and secured eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer is sufficient for the cleansing of the body, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal [Holy] Spirit willingly offered Himself unblemished  to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the ever living God?”~ Hebrews 9:11-14 (AMP)

Let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” ~ Hebrews 10:22 (AMP)

Get the picture?

My final thoughts are:

1. To minimize the blood is to minimize our freedom in Christ as it stresses our fear of deficiency over God’s sufficiency (2 Corinthians 12:9).

2. Instead of wanting to be relevant, why make the Good Newsprevalent? After all, the presence of goodwillis a testament to the Good News of the Gospel – the fact Jesus continues to heal the oppressed and set captives free having reconciled us to God through…(wait for it)… His shed blood.

3. Accordingly, by downplaying Christ’s sacrifice, we risk performance systems bridging the gap not only between identity and sin, but also church and mission (more on this in a future post).

I don’t know about you, but give me Jesus and the power of the cross as the divide between those medians.

giphy.gif

Looking ahead, stay tuned for a sequel post where I’ll dive into more detail on how we can better educate young people on how to live in God’s present ministry of reconciliation5.

‘Til then, peace be the journey

~ Cameron

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Of Jesus
  2. This coming an observation from multiple pastoral colleagues across the country
  3. Which can’t be separated from Christ’s ultimate sacrifice
  4. And our call to extend it
  5. An active reality, not a past occurrence
Cover photo creds: Mudpreacher.org