Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Perfect Game

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” ~ (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Shake Up the [JOY]

As the advent of Yuletide approaches, festive musings step back into the annual spotlight. But instead of capturing the jovial buzzes, the grandeur of seasonal allure and heartfelt episodes of goodwill everywhere, my heart is centered on something more transcending. Not to diminish the splendiferousness of Christmas charisma or the abundance of charitable displays; however, I must confess my pondering this year is centered or whether or not the true meaning of Christmas is being corporately recognized. As much as candlelight settings and the aroma of pine permits my sentiments to glow, what truly ignites the fire ablaze comes from a deeper source. So as I tread upon Tennessee green and the towns in between, I wonder: Am I wishing people a Merry Christmas or am I believing people can and will experience the life-changing reality behind these two very powerful words?

As millions of people shake up the gaiety, it’s important to remember Christmas character is not synonymous to the pursuit and expectation of what we define as “happiness” and “goodness”. As grand as family and liturgical traditions can be, what makes a celebration holy far exceeds one’s search for satisfaction. In a culture inundated with minimalizing ideologies, Christmas tends to be relegated to superficial joy, when the brunt of priority is placed on what we do and how we act. And though sugar cookies, stockings, ornaments, caroling, midnight masses and polar bears drinking coca-colas are agreeable customs, they are also frivolous manifestations in comparison to the unfathomable realities inspired by divine incarnation.

The Perfect Game

The undeniable truth is that Christ’s initial coming represents the greatest act of love in history, and Christmas, at its core, is communion - tender worship that expresses vertical gratitude. Personified in that love is sacrifice, compassion and grace – each facet signifying the reality of God’s nature and the epitome of a goodness we’re called to emulate. As commemoration collides with Christmas, how we perceive that goodness is imperative, for goodness will deprive great faith of transformational value, if joy becomes dependent on an inferior version of it. Instead of “joy to the world” flowing from transitory outlets, why not place the focal point of delight in knowing and seeking God intimately, rather than reducing such a powerful ambition to the unmoving motions that mark the minds of hearts yearning for a Savior?

Without salvation, Christmas is not Christmas and cannot be fully honored detached from Calvary. Is the nativity worth singing about? Absolutely! But what Christmas is really about is this: Jesus finished what he started. He lived the dream – a real and rhythmic relationship with God, marked by complete obedience and compassion. Christ’s journey, which started before the almah’s womb, before the manger scene, began in the heart of unconditional love. Thus, Christmas can be analogized as the first pitch of a perfect game. What makes a perfect game is not just the first pitch delivered straight down the pike, but the hundreds of flawlessly executed pitches that follow.

Me and My [Insert gifting here: ________________]

Last week, in the bleak of a rainy night, I popped in the Claymation edition of “The Little Drummer Boy” - the only animated Rankin-Bass production I hadn’t seen. As the short reached its climatic apex, the drummer boy’s conversion struck an unexpected nerve. Not only did his hatred against humanity melt at the sight of Christ, but he wasted no time in strumming his drum to the best of his ability, despite the uncertainty of his injured lamb. Such an organic response flowing from overriding belief captivated me. With Jesus in mind, he did not fret or doublethink; he simply played his heart out, using the gift imparted to him by that same baby! His past, his problems, his worries…all did not matter in comparison to the joy set before him. If we pause and ponder hard enough, all of us can identify to some degree with the little drummer boy.
So as your family huddles around the fire this Christmas, marveling at the prophecies fulfilled at Christ’s birth, bask in the entirety of what Christ came to do. Yes, the Christmas story can be found in Luke 1-2, but the narrative is also evidence in passages like Philippians 2:7-8:

“But [Jesus] made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of The Cross”.

Just like Christmas is not Christmas without salvation, Immanuel (“God is with us”) is not Immanuel without with Hosanna (“God saves”). In light of the miraculous trisection of incarnation, justification and sanctification, recognize and embrace hallowed dependency of God in your life and like the little drummer boy, ask yourself, “Am I living to put a smile on God’s face?” and “What will my gifts to Him be this coming year?”
In closing, I would like to thank you for the loyal readership this year and I look forward to many more spirit-authored blogs in 2013!

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

~ Cameron J. Fry

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Attitude of Gratitude

At the advent of November’s fourth Thursday, I’m taken with a nation joined by appreciation that, in spite of selfish bent, has perpetuated a day of thanks in tribute to its God-breathed foundation. As heart-warming sentiments satiate our homeland, respect to freedom and liberty reaches its annual peak; however, even with the uptick in selfless ruminations, Thanksgiving has modified into one of the most ironic holidays in our history, since many employ the celebrative mission without prevailing vision of thankfulness really means. But in placement of concern, I must commit to a higher faith. For such an institution, implemented by God at the beginning of time, has never wavered, sustaining course to liven hope. A basic rewind through history confirms this.

For before the creation of the world, thanksgiving existed as a result of relationship, evident within the Trinity. And through infinite time into post-creation, thanksgiving evolved through Cain & Abel, the Feast of Weeks, Noah’s offering, Pentecost, the Last Supper, from Plymouth Rock into our post-modern age. So as stories and revelations among centuries of antiquity merge, we find a significant truth, anchored to a rich and ordained heritage that surpasses textbook content.

Truth is: Thanksgiving is much more than an expression of regard and benediction; it is an emphatic attitude of gratitude that transcends tradition, refreshes reverence and enhances worship. Thanksgiving celebrates not only what we have, but what we give. It commemorates past, present and future sacrifices, inspiring us to continue ripening the fruit of goodness and generosity within. And while an annual day set apart for blessing is appropriate, this is only so as a result of the privilege we have to cultivate the sharing of it. For when a posture of gratefulness is fostered, we sharpen our swords to combat a deceptive negativity, one that contrasts the call to love God and our brother in intimate detail. How can we not see how great the honor is to participate in such veneration, to corporately value the way thanksgiving, whether by word or action, enlarges our capacity to encounter a deeper relational connect with one infinitely higher then ourselves, in turn, fastening our desires to : peace on earth, enduring joy and unconditional love.
Landing on an élite intro to any thankful list can be arduous. But if I had to pick one piece from a vast assortment, I would say, “I’m thankful for a God who doesn’t give up.” Yes, God gives us so many things to be thankful for, but the one thing he absolutely doesn’t give is “up”. He never relinquishes reforming the yielded heart, moving them to seek the inherent mysteries of grace. And grace, in favor and spiritual blessing, stirs us to a stronger belief in the wanting of what we don’t deserve, to be established to the end, called into companionship and participation with Christ.  Thus, Thanksgiving should be celebrated as a day that honors the joy experienced by permanent illumination, by unity in humility that constantly reminds us just how blessed we truly are. And my blessedness is, no doubt, enriched by those who have extended the same grace bestowed by my Creator. How thankful I am for the expansive list of those I’ve met who have gone against the grain to live as imitators of Christ, holding true to truth by allowing it to override any lacking of holy inhabitation. Assuredly, I am rejuvenated by the serendipitous and divinely deliberate moments uniformly marked by consecrated invasion, and equally encouraged by the advancements that have narrated this new book, contracted through rubble now into a season of fresh ink and a restored plotline.

I leave with the three Scriptures and a couple stanzas, written in recent years (slightly edited), that have collided with current heart to mark my Thanksgiving this year…
I'm thankful for so many things, a list can barely show
The magnitude of gratitude in all He will bestow
But still to mark in history
Is best than lost in mystery
So listen well So I may tell
The year from each periphery
I'm thankful God is always on
The current, next, and times foregone
The moments I'm in sync to plan
Even when I cannot stand
I rejoice for friends and brand new faces
And distance to unchartered places
A family with unique resolve
And strength to rise and not dissolve
And futures glazed with promised hope
A God faithful to broaden scope
And render us no longer captive
Free to live with love so active
Beheld I seek my Diadem
Awed at wonders sured to stem
With much oblige, I say to You
My all is Yours for all You do
Lord, may our country now appease
To yield again to God on knees
Of reckless and fearless abandon
Please be our will for us to stand in
And lead us on to higher calls
And break down all afflicting walls
Teach us to be thankful when
We fight to find on earth, heaven
In times of excitement, times of enlightenment I call upon thanksgiving 
And while said past, I sum at last Its better name, thanksliving 
‘Cause life’s too short to pass a day 
Where praise is out, as if at fray 
If airs within is lost, we’ll find 
To live as pleased enchants the mind It elevates immortal joy 
And goodness bounds to fill and cloy 
Our longing for a higher will 
That steadies paths with holy seal 
May yearning for the right lead on 
To gratitude and fear undone 
Let toasts be made to hands divine 
For favor, rest; for bread and wine
A year of marveled restoration 
Releasing gracious transformation 
So now I bid a cheer to dear 
Thanksgiving and her wondrous sphere
Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking GOD. Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. Yes, ponder Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. Think of it! One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied. Likewise I, GOD, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins. I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden, her moonscape into the garden of GOD, A place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs.” ~ Isaiah 51:1-3 (MSG)

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” ~ Colossians 3:15-17 (MSG)

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!” ~ Hebrews 12:28-29 (MSG)

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Importance of Being Unsatisfied (Part 2)

Seven months ago, on the night of July 21, 2008, my hand peregrinated into the world of the abtruse and emerged victorious. For on this night, I explored the options of how sweet life can be understanding the importance of being unsatisfied.

Now since then, I have quailed a bit with the realization my title should have ideally engaged a variant of prefix, with “dis” (implying progression and advancement) being the designator, and an “ex-nay” on “un” (possessing a more past-orientation). But for now I must dwell in the house of mercy conceded to me by the writing gods…

In a few short hours, I, along with a fifteen-member team from Lee University, will be soaring over the mighty Gulf of Mexico on route to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Our mission, as we have chosen to accept, is to ignite joy and life through several local, church-based communities through devoted service and ministry.

So as the takeoff meter ticks down, I find it especially tasking not to bethink on what has occurred so far in 2009, a year of overwhelming overcoming.

Since the clock has struck ’09, I feel I’ve tasted only the scintilla of God’s vast awesomeness. And with the end of five-year college career rapidly approaching, I tell you today I desire, I yearn, and I dream for more than just a spark from a superior Father, but for an enduring rekindling of passion that will illuminate a increased hunger for God again and shatter the mold in the pieces of me that have grown anemic and uncharacteristically wavering.

Athough life has been rather pale lately, during the past few weeks, I’ve come to understand how I'm in dyer need of something I can’t yet describe. With a slightly vexatious yet promising future ahead of me, I have sensed my spiritual antennas to have caught a bit of static. And now I stand face to face with the very word that captured my world late last summer: dissatisfaction .

Now I could spend the next several paragraphs attempting to render the internal warfare raging within; however, I feel compelled to instead use my new found sense of dissatisfaction for purposes of motivation and spiritual ignition, as compared to rambling off word bites of regret.

Dissatisfaction, I’m learning, will be a saving grace for me until the day I die. And glory to God, this facet of me has reemerged in significant fashion once again at a crucial juncture in my life.

In a way, I feel like Indiana Jones during the final moments of the last crusade, preparing to take a leap of faith onto a platform he can’t see, over an abyss that he can – a fitting analogy that applies well into the action of my own ‘currency.’

With my comfort zone moments away from breaking drastically, I crave to be shaken, a hope I will no doubt see in motion as I set foot on alien ground. I depart emotionally exhausted, yet I am anticipative of experiencing supernatural glimpses of God’s wonder.

And with my farewell to everything familiar, I remind myself of the words God filled me with on that July mid-summer night:

“Dissatisfaction is not so much a pit to dig out of but rather a bridge walk that connects a stunned epicenter to its arrival at a new and better place. It’s not so much an ambush of guilt lurking in the shadows as compared to a springboard that launches one in line and in sync to his/her calling.”

To be continued...
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Bloom on the Fruit - Thoughts on the Mysteriousness of Women

Written Fall 2008

As the years on my meter increase, not only do I realize how little I know about life in general, but also how meager my understanding of the opposite sex truly is.

Women are strikingly puzzling creatures - fascinating yet painfully befuddling at times.

But praise God, for I wouldn't have it any other way. Predictability and the overall lack of mysteriousness in women shouldn't be promoted as entirely positive qualities.

For most, sharp, dynamical contracts in behavior is what provides flavor and spark. I concur that the best relationships in the world are constructed on principles associated with expecting the unexpected and striving for a personality that embraces the many curveballs life throws out.

But back to my effeminate convictions...

It has been said that women are like fine china. I prefer the more romantic approach to women being more like the bloom on fruit, inspired by the words of Henry David Thoreau. Delicate handling is a required.

Interestingly enough, it's in the delicate handling that has led me to my newest aura of frustration.

A few months ago, a female friend of mine needed a vent outlet. She was having one of those days not even Ben & Jerry could salvage. And out of 6 billion people, I just so happened to be her first choice as a rant escape route.

Now every guy should realize when he is selected as a "rant escape route" by a member of the opposite sex, there is no backing down. You have been chosen! Natural selection has found its victim. Time to close off distractions and focus 150% on your newly oppressed companion.

To all you guys out there, it's important to note all ego and sarcasm must go. For in fifteen seconds, you will find yourself submerged under a platform of negativity. To be prepared would be the best move you could make.

If you can manage the initial challenge, you're almost set. Sure, you can collect your $200 and make your early move, but keep in mind this is not ordinary Monopoly. Chances are you'll be behind bars before making it around the board one time to tell about it.
Why? Because within minutes, you'll encounter the toughest mountain of all - the seemingly insurmountable combination of vague reception and perhaps the ultimate knock on male psyche: helplessness.

You see, a woman will only jump off the deep end if she feels comfortable (which never happens anyway because how can a woman vent and feel completely comfortable at the same time?) She'll establish her feelings first, but will remain shallow on the situations at hand. Talk about the ultimate emotional incapacitation.

Also, a woman doesn't need a man to go "Dr. Phil" on them so much. Women need men who can commit to listen. Experience tells a man this is true nine out of 10 times. Women need you to look into their eyes and tell them everything will be all right, even though you feel like it's December 26, 2004, and you're standing on the beaches of Kata Noi Beach, Thailand staring into the eyes of three massive tidal waves.

Yes, waves of dramatic energy are slamming you in the face, whether you like it or not. But put down that white flag, my fellow man! Don't lose all hope just yet.

Remember, you are accomplishing what every woman says you can't do: multi-task. Not only are you listening to them rant, you are assembling multiple puzzle pieces spewing as lasers from raging, pulsating lips! Give yourself a quiet pat on the back and press on...

Now the most natural response during this stage is trying to solve the mystery of the "issue" - hoping to crack codes so you may eventually lead your dismayed damsel down a path to some form of breakthrough.

Well, congratulations! You've now entered the outer gates of my dilemma. Again, don't stress! It's treatable. It's entirely fixable.

The problem: see last paragraph.
The solution - well, it's relatively simple.

First, channel all your attention on the listening component. Depending on how dier the circumstances, she made need you to rescue her at some point; however, chances are you're not at a position to do it just yet. Quench the desire to "Robin Hood" her. Certain signs do exist concerning how to woo her from present onslaught. Still, you need to know theses signs before executing some radical "Ethan Hunt" maneuver. What are these signs? Press me enough and I'll share them with you. But for now, it's a different message for a different day.

Second, deflect her biting remarks. Guys, you must not absorb her verbage 100%. Part of every woman's claptrapping involves phrases linked to the idea that we have no idea how she feels. Sure, a few diamonds of truth can be found at the core of this notion, but is it so necessary a woman must derail a man's confidence in her attempt to surface her head above the waters? I hope the answer is clear to all of you...

If your tongue is safe-guarded and yet you find yourself on the receiving end of insult, politely bombast her back and get the heck out of there! Actually, upon second though, don't do this. But seriously, be what every woman wants you to be: a man! A wise man once told me at lunch last year: take it for what's it worth! I leave my argument at that...

I must retire for now before my mind does a "Columbia" on me. Remember, men, this is part of our role. We must step up to the challenge like a vintage Michael Jordan in his game 7 performances.

Surely, God smiled on the day woman was created - not just because He officially set the bar of "fine," but because he knew how often we, guys, would turn to Him in moments when we never could handle the bloom on the fruit.

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Faith with a Side of Fries

Life decides to hurl a string of nasty curve balls at the most inopportune moments. Your previously balanced lifestyle now finds itself challenged. And all the while you recognize God is necessary in both involvement and intervention. However, you have three meetings sandwiched between five classes, followed by choir practice, a Greek social event and an internship starting the next day. 

You wish you could fix the problem by adding four to five hours to the day. But what is really being overlooked here is that you’ve let your agenda become so saturated with extracurriculars, any time with God is now on-the-go, like a quick pit stop at Sonic during happy hours. 

Seriously, who has a free moment to spend an extended quiet time with God these days? Who can offer up sacrifices of prayer, intercession, times in the Word, thanksgiving and service where the time is measured in hours, not minutes? Why are people so content with serving and ‘loving’ a Creator who has ultimately been turned into "fast God?" 

Christian collegians around the country have made the all-too-common mistake of compartmentalizing God. It’s one of several post-modern spiritual diseases sweeping this country. We don’t utilize God’s power in our lives in every aspect. God is our focus in the shower in the mornings and by our bedsides late at night, but in between He is hardly accessed – reduced to a checklist, a pickup or a mere craving, for food - or better yet, fast food! 

We talk to Him, worship Him and dwell on Him on the fly, whether on route to the next class or in our many daily mini-breaks when our attention is split among 10-20 thousand different things.

How do we address the problem? Well, like most circumstances, acknowledge the problem and make it known – whether to a friend or an authority figure (though in every case, it deserves to be mentioned to God). But this is basic. 

The step that is often missed by young adults ties back to the prayer element. Do we pray about everything we put our hands to? Do we seek God in every little detail or just turn to Him on the ‘big’ decisions? Do we openly join any club or embrace any opportunity that intrigues or entices us without allowing God to join our decision-making process?

Such questions are imperative to dwell upon.

God was never meant to be treated like a Happy Meal or a routine rendezvous in a drive-through. In the end, our faith must continuously be examined as the main entrée of our being, rather than being limited to just a side of fries.

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Life in Death

From February 26, 2007

I lost a dear friend of mine recently -- twenty-two years suddenly cut short by an ill-fated black ice patch on an Arkansas interstate. When the news first broke, I felt as if I was being sliced open by a Kutko knife. The recovery process in its initial stages was brutal --anything but “smooth sailing”, a journey to which some of you can relate. But as I reflected on her life and the events surrounding her passing, I struck a reservoir of what seemed to be premature contentment. At first I questioned if I was handling the situation properly; however, the more I processed and digested my emotions and thoughts concerning her death, the more I began to tap into a new understanding of what it truly means to live.

Emmy didn’t just believe in God, she lived for Him; her very words and actions echoed a burning passion to follow Christ. I had the opportunity to become close friends with her last year as her physics lab partner. While she wasn’t a stunning blonde or a “Miss America” type, she possessed something that was of far greater significance: a strong willingness to give of herself. Whether time, energy, or faith, Emmy shined as one who took delight in serving those less fortunate. Her positive attitude was contagious, and simple hang-time with her closest friends was enough evidence for me to truly know she was leaving her own unique legacy to those around her.

But knowing this only made the pain worse from the get-go. I had to “POE” (“Process of Elimination”) away negative mindsets, mentally check-marking all the wrong ways to respond to the news. Denial…check! Anger at God…check! Believing I could never overcome the loss…check!

After eliminating all unnecessary reactions, the heartbreak had transformed into a most unusual joy. At this point, I decided to meditate on the meaning and realities of death, and how it signifies the beginning of a perfect existence, compared to the ending of a natural one, which pales in comparison.

A friend of my father’s, who pastored “Church on the Way” in Orange County, California once said, “A believer in Christ never dies an hour too early, or an hour too late.” I’ve been imagining all the comebacks that could possibly be thrown out in response to this statement. Emmy lived more in twenty-two years than some people live in seventy or eighty years. Great! So why couldn’t see live another fifty, sixty years living in a way that was just as productive and fulfilling?

Questions along these lines only remind me of how limited our natural minds are. We are a people who hate not having the answers, and the truth of the matter doesn’t change even when discussing life’s greatest mysteries. So I can completely see why the ‘Ask Jeeves’ culture we live in today would cringe at any response along the lines of, “There are some things in this life no one understands.”

Boring! What a [cop]-out, Camoron! There’s no brilliance in that statement!

Ah ha! Flaw exposed! I’ve been wondering why we so often waste time seeking intelligence over what is pure, what is right, what is just, and what is true. If we desire an intelligent solution to explain life’s million dollar questions, would it not come out of searching for these values? What some see as an easy escape route, I see as absolute truth. The moment we realize our very existence on this earth is only the beginning of something far greater than our natural minds can ever perceive, the moment we take on a bracing freedom that transcends all knowledge and all pleasure.

If life loses its mysterious element, what joy is there when we encounter the unpredictable…the unexplainable? If we held all the answers, everything would become predictable and expected. Is it wrong to ask, “Why?” No! What I am saying is that we can’t expect to find the answers every single time we come to a crossroads and can’t find the words. Our mental limitations are not in vain. I believe the fact we can’t understand everything that happens in this life is an intentional plan to bring us to a crucial realization that we are not alone. We were not created to live and die, but live and live eternally through faith in Jesus Christ.

And knowing where Emmy is today, singing in the largest choir in the universe, worshipping God, I cannot help but sit here overwhelmed with that same, perhaps not so unusual, joy.

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The Importance of Being Unsatisfied (Part 1)

We feel unsatisfied until we know ourselves akin even with that greatness which made the spots on which it rested hallowed; and until, by our own lives, and by converse with the thoughts they have bequeathed us, we feel that union and relationship of the spirit which we seek.” ~ Jones Very

As the summer dusk fades into black of night, so it is I am unsatisfied - so enduringly and unshakably unsatisfied. And even as the sun rises on another day, and the windows of yesterday shatter beneath me – even as glory overwhelms me so purely, so it is I remain unsatisfied.

Listen. Do you hear it? Do you fear it? Do you wish to be near it?

Chances are you don’t and that’s perfectly understandable, comprehensible and everything in between.

Listen. Do you hear it? It’s the sound of people trembling at the sound of its utterance. Unsatisfied. Painful, isn’t it.

And yet, I’ve come to realize just how people relate to this particular world: many live to defy it, many thrive to deny it and several more strive to decline it.

Truth be told, I’m not better or worse for being out of this norm. And I am in no way superior for being a recipient of a Spirit-given epiphany. No one is. But if I were to die today, what goes with me is something I have found that sadly many people never do…and that…is the importance of being unsatisfied.

So how do I paint this Michelangelo style, in way that stirs, lures and endures rather than purrs and deters.

I suppose for now you’ll have to relate through the median of me, note the fair connections and proceed with caution as I lay some groundwork.

If we are ever to grasp the beauty in dissatisfaction, then we must understand how being unsatisfied has more to do with long-term, foundational soul building than short-term, provisional disenchantment.

Dissatisfaction, then, is not so much a pit to dig out of but rather a bridge walk that connects a stunned epicenter to its arrival at a new and better place. It’s not so much an ambush of guilt lurking in the shadows as compared to a springboard that launches one in line and in sync to his/her calling. This, in my opinion, is the silver lining to joy’s strength. You see, the easy route - the road more traveled by - is always the road where emotional decisions are closely based on its naturality.

No doubt, I understand that it’s natural and perfectly human to desire meaning out of everything and for a sense or action to be dependent on what is deserving. But why do we hesitate to implement control over the end results of the many situations and circumstances that hold in them key importances that govern and rule our lives? Why do people mutilate their psyche, and occasionally their bodies, in hope to establish restitution and penance for a crime or wrongdoing they’ve committed?

For it is so that such a move is tragically bonded to its innate want to feel sensible. And it is the very yearning for truth, the desperate want to go beyond sensibility that holds the key for those who seek to become overcomers.

Behold, this is a lesson that has taken me years to not just realize but apply and utilize time and time again: to be unsatisfied is the first step into embracing a higher life.

And within the ‘higher life’ one can find grace, acceptance, understanding, perspective and perseverance – all beyond measure. It is here where our deep is more or less crying out to Deep as compared to meeting and being refined by it to the point we are ultimately transformed, and we come out completely fresh and anew. And all the while our initial dissatisfaction fades into an entirely alien and unrecognizable entity.

Still not everyday soon after will be easily navigable. If anything, the storms will only seem to multiply, while the grounds beneath seem to sink all the more. And yet the purpose for dissatisfaction leads us on, for we know now how it’s meant to save and guide us in times of tribulation – in times when all we seem capable of doing is withstanding. And to the quivering voice that seeks the death of my heart, I can now stand up and say:

It is true that I am unsatisfied. It is true I am unsatisfied that my past comes nowhere close in capturing the wholeness of me. It is true I am unsatisfied with the decisions of long ago that were linked to the shattered glass of a contorted self-image. It is true I am unsatisfied with unintentionally setting people up with falsehoods in which they may or may not hold to this day. It is true that I am unsatisfied with once possessing likenesses to those who have grieved me in ways they will never see. It is true I am unsatisfied that I had many a chance to overcome my doubts and deepest apprehensions only to yield to susceptive sensitivity. It is true, it is true, it is true I am unsatisfied of how I’ve failed, why I failed and the key moments of which the failures themselves occurred.

But I refuse to be bounded. I refuse to be held captive by the conditions that induced the deepest of my displeasures and instead will rise on the opportunity to be forever changed. Because that is how I’m called to respond – that is how I’m designed to react so even in the midst of my greatest dissatisfaction, I find You.

God be with me and hold me close…for it is also true I am satisfied in You and how You’ve opened my eyes to Your beauty in all things – for in all things, there exists many importances: of being grateful and slow to pride … of being selfless … and… of being unsatisfied.

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The Phantom Song Proposal

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Proposal Song - "Dear Love, I'm Finally Home"

Ok, so it isn't perfect. But she still loved it anyway. :) And at least the lyrics are decent:

Verse 1

When he was a child, he talked like a young man
Blessed with a dream before his life began
He knew

And boy grew in stature, he started to realize
How nothing compared to looking in the eyes
Of one he prayed for
Of one he would adore


And when the one is found
The journey starts anew
As worlds collide
Two hearts betide
To pen new love in tome

And as the pages fill
Divine unraveling
Flames love sincere
It's clear, my dear
You are my heart
Dear love, I'm finally home

Verse 2

When she walked into light and (en)raptured attention
Sweetening life into awestruck completion
He knew

And time ticked on by, they would understand glory
Narrating joy in an unfolding story
Of how one came from two
Of how I will love you


This I pledge to you
To honor and be true
My deep, I'll always bring
Can this be happening?

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Election Day is here, and if I’m honest with myself and the world, I’m pretty politicked right now. Granted, I’m not the biggest political guru in America. In fact, I consider my bureaucratic reticence equal to a preservation of sanity, not to imply an advocacy of ignorance or indifference, as much as contentment in the limited exposure of diplomatic dealings.

I’m not writing this to preach how conservatism will help this country in select ways. But I will say in recent years, I’ve opposed many executive policies to have come out of the White House, and in response, I’ve had to pace politics as a precaution against discouragement. Granted others have higher tolerance levels, which I sincerely commend, but regardless of political affiliations, the bottom line is: when the spiritual meets the political, faith must always have room to breathe. And if our allegiance is to remain anchored in God before country, we must activate hope through the power of prayer. When we lock into prayer on behalf of country and elected authority, we will find that dissension melts away, laying the red carpet out for trust to build on. And as trust increases, so does our hope in providential sovereignty.

Still, in recent weeks, I’ve rediscovered how an overabundance of Fox and CNN can risk spoiling prospective interest concerning campaign developments. As exciting as close presidential elections can be, there’s only so much prejudice, partisan and dogmatism I can tolerate in one thirty-minute news segment. Yes, I do care about the marriage of authority and government from sea to shining sea. But upon voting in my third consecutive election, I confess: I’m still having a tough time caring about each intimate detail about each presidential perspective. Personally, I much rather discuss the decisions that influence the needle direction on this country’s moral compass. One thing is for sure: change is inevitable; whether it is worthy of believing in remains to be seen; however, the outcome of tonight’s election does not have to reduce your faith to a piñata. God does not change, and that is something we’re called to celebrate 24/7/365.

So as you watch the votes come in tonight, be encouraged to pray for mercy and for strong character rooted in the Word of God to emerge out of the ashes and rubble of rebellion. In all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, remember the King of kings orchestrates all things for his glory. A presidential term can never overcome the ways of God, for He uses history to guide His divine plan. In remembering Christ, we must find the excitement that comes when we commit to pray for the kings of this time, “and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Yes, there are many questions left to be answered. Yes, this nation has abandoned its position of living on bended knee. However, the question we can ask ourselves right now is: will we accommodate our vote with something more powerful? Will we pledge allegiance to a faithful God who does not ever forsake us, even in times of peril and uncertainty? Will we position ourselves to receive an unquenchable, unfathomable love, one that comes with a rich inheritance and encourages us to live and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)?

Pray that our next president and his cabinet of leaders and advisors will labor in the Lord, that miracles of any shape and size will inspire unity among those in authority (Ephesians 4:3-6). Embrace the opportunity to resist the devil and fear of man on their behalf. Relish the privilege to speak life and grace into their strategies and ideologies, and for courage and righteousness to endure in every place they set foot.

When we consider the big picture, tonight becomes a good night no matter how you slice it. Especially when we humble ourselves, pray, and seek the Lord’s face, that we, as one nation under God, will turn from our wicked ways, to hear from heaven and to receive forgiveness and healing" (II Chronicles 7:14).

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Friday, October 26, 2012

1 Corinthians 13 Revisited

It’s interesting to note how Paul wastes no time in likening love as the most powerful expression of intentional devotion in verse 1. Often, inspirational homilies begin 1 Corinthians 13 at verse 4, immediately jumping into intimate details, without explaining why framework is equally essential. But Paul contrasts this tendency by shedding light on love’s framework before guiding the reader on a tour into the heart of God’s love, while also enhancing the passage’s structure (i.e. verse 1-3 bookend s verse 4-12 with verse 13).

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this “prelude” is: God’s love is required to be alive. Without love, without the most authentic foundation divinely designed to be at the core of everything, we are walking dead. Before sacrifice and surrender, before any application of God-given gift, there must be a root system connected to a life source, which is none other than God’s perfect love. With framework applied, we can believe in an unfathomable love, far greater and deeper than the sum of its components. We can believe that in the same way Christ is love, any relationship with God is not only defined by love, but is love, permanently solidified in all it encompasses.

Thankfully, Paul does not stop there.

Beginning in verse 4, Paul supports his opening statements with an explicit analysis on what love is and what love isn’t, imparting insight to how love exists as unconditional affection, as stated in verse 13. As Paul commences the love tour, he describes love as enduring - of all love’s features, Paul chooses to begin here. But why? Because no matter how Paul elegantly followed up, it would not have mattered unless he initially established the truth that love must last – that the light of love must never be shut off. Although enduring is preserving and involves patience and faithfully abiding in hope, we have to understand that to endure is to first and foremast reflect the unconditional and everlasting temperaments of agape love. For love to be love, it cannot fade away (verse 8), nor be reduced by manufactured limitations; rather love brings clarity to the ways of God (verse 12) and opens eyes to see Him in finer detail.

Furthermore, love cannot flirt with unrighteous, since genuine love commits to fearing God and walking in purity. Paul captures this well in verse 4-7, by stating how we love God and one another in fullness and integrity when we love what God loves (patience, kindness, selflessness, believing the best in every person) and hate what God hates (pride, arrogance, selfishness, conceit via exercising faith and hope without love).

As discernment matures, we discover how God’s love is the only way to encountering anything complete. And since we are designed to press into the likeness of Christ, we can understand love to be the most glorious necessity in all eternity, especially since real relationship with God cannot be experienced without an acceptance of His love - a love that granted us salvation, reconciliation and sanctification. With such a powerful denominator serving as the transforming orchestrator of all that is good, we can rejoice in applying God’s love to all relationships.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Grace in Place

This morning I woke up to my body clock, impeccably timed, having erroneously set my alarm four hours past due. Not intentional, of course, simply a slight slip-up of one mere key stroke. Yet, as the clock revealed 6:03 AM, plenty of time to dress and depart, I couldn't help but smile at refreshing irony, the kind wholesomely reflected by extant ether. With each tick and tock synced to the inaugural rise of October light, the pitter pats of a new month, a new day, warmed me to the contrast of 56 rejuvenating degrees. And as skyline met peripheral on the vocational road, I inhaled the grace that awakened me, breathing new life into understanding, abet not only by punctuality, but by mended perspective.

Pit, pat, pit, pat - the blades faithfully whisk the raindrops, as fervency presents my musings to grace. And as the burn for coffee subsides, the moment encases me, with time whizzing into a furious lapse.

Suddenly out of mind, grappling with grace again
The sweetest symbol in the equation of love
The captivating constant in the calculation of change
Authors a story, better than fiction
Soaked in a full, surreal reality

Yet, weakness in knees and strength in heart
Can’t shake the unshaking truth that beats
The idea that I am truly, sincerely unworthy
Emphatically, unequivocally undeserving
Of that which arrests my anxious attention

But a voice cries out on encouraging cue
Reminding me to speak the light:
We have to receive grace to give it
We have to embrace grace to love it
And doing so gratefully to love at all

Are we as ignorant as we think we are?
Have we not tasted fresh flavors of grace?
The richness of relational renewal
The sustaining savor of stalwart seeking
The joy of overcoming the overwhelming…

…or do we label on afflicted assumption
Caught up in pretentious presumption
Preserving deception and setting inception
For the belief that cuts will keep us alive?

Why settle in chains, distraught with distain
Topping grief with itself and synthetic pain?

Instead, let’s fathom a faith that believes
That out of His fullness, we have received
Grace in place of grace already given (John 1:16)
That comes through Christ, our Lord who lives in
Our souls and minds, what can’t be defined
Our hearts and strength, perpetually refined
Yes, grace is the gift that reigns in death (Romans 5:17)
His life in my nostrils, I ride every breath

Pit, pat, pit, pat – the rain falls on unguarded head. But praise be to God, I am saturated in a divine romance – one steeped in a quenching grace that conquers doubt, never ceasing to amaze me.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Breaking Taboo

When it comes to favorite pastimes and surefire sources of laughter, I’m reminded of Taboo, the game known for its outrageous cards and legendary buzzer.

Yet, as I pondered the name of the game, upon finding it in my closet, I found myself mentally adrift. In church culture, has the word “taboo” become, well, taboo? And if the answer is “yes”, how do we contend?

Before we pursue answers, we have to realize some key truths about the “church-taboo” dichotomy.

For one thing, the church at large has developed this idea that the unacceptable can’t be corporately discussed - that intolerable is wildfire, only contained if quarantined into smaller fires, extinguished behind the veil of conditioned understanding. However, this type of veil opposes the living, breathing Word of God. Why? Because this version of veil shields believers from deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit. Although secular independence says otherwise, the fact is only God can establish veils and draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

When we study the Bible, we discover a certain curtain that, on rare occasions, lifts up to reveal things normally hidden (2 Kings 2, 6). We see this with the birth and baptism of Jesus, the transfiguration and the prophetic visions of Joseph and Daniel. With each uncovering, God’s absolute authority and power allows glory to be encountered for the sake of communion at a specific time. And when authority, power and glory intersects, God manifests His perfect love through the disclosure of plan and purpose; however, as spectacular as this is, challenges often stand in the way of whole-hearted devotion and complete obedience. Although supportive evidence abounds as to why this is so, what I can say is the body of Christ must be careful not to fabricate veils to shun what culture considers “taboo”. For only God can authorize the institution of veils into relationship. When we investigate the Scriptures, there is a higher spiritual framework to embrace, one that requires routine heart inspection.

In examining ourselves, we cannot be afraid to ask the following questions concerning the “taboo dilemma”:
  • Ø  Do we not see how passive-aggressive approaches fuel the church-wide temptation to cower in the face of discomfited dialogue?
  • Ø  Do we not realize how lax stances customize the Word to tailor agenda, needs and results, thus, dowsing the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • Ø  Do we not care that such a mentality (see bold text) quenches holy fire to render hearts for the sake of avoiding all that is taboo?

Friends, we must realize that truth calls us to actively engage the unbearable, address the inexcusable and conquer the impossible. God is not honored with overprotective inclusivity - when the heaven-bound tiptoe around imperative subject matter, treating His absolutes like some fragile, fine china, when contrarily, they are steadfast, strong and enduring (see Psalms, John 1 & 3, Colossians 1, 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1, James 1). He is not glorified when the church customizes the identity and joy of sanctified dialogue, or exalted when the power of Scripture and Spirit is dialed down to scale partial faith.

But God is honored when His people are united in educating the lost, the confused and the suffering (Isaiah 58, Romans 1). He is glorified when the church lives out boldness in fullness, operating out of surrendered connection to His heart, without the joke of pretentious religion (Isaiah 2, Psalm 73).  He is exalted when discernment is balanced into a desire to emphasize relationship over regulation, and when courage encourages one to talk about the socially unacceptable in a perfectly acceptable way*.

Truly, if anything is to be deemed “taboo”, then the church’s futile attempt to conform to unholy standards should be high on the list. Seriously, just say “boo” to “taboo”, grow up (the Jesus way), love with hope, love with faith, encourage the courage in others, while standing tall in the face of fear. Friends, the time is ripe and the time is now to tackle difficult issues that modern Christianity is facing. In the meantime, ask the Lord to hone your patience and discernment. Ask Him to fill you with a greater hunger to seek Him consistently and persistently. And as momentum collides with revelation, you’ll understand how “taboo” is severely overrated in contrast to the thrill of the unveiled God.

* Out of a posture of obedience and worship.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make Love to Pressure?

In 2004, Stephen Jackson, shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs, cemented his legacy in sports media lore when he boldly declared, “I make love to pressure”, referring to his ability to hit difficult shots in clutch situations. Although Jackson’s flair for the dramatic has often transcended into off-court notoriety, with this statement, he inadvertently released silver-linings of truth that we, believers, can rally around, specifically how we merge a Christ-centered approach into the arena of pressure.

Before I continue, permit me to step back a few decades.

I’ve always loved basketball. In terms of athletic uproar, nothing beats the sound of a swished net in an electrified arena with the game on the line. For years, I have retained an enthusiasm for the game as an avid NBA (National Basketball Association) fan, one that started with John Paxson’s game-winning three-pointer in game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals and carried on through the championship runs of the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

During this time, I developed a particular admiration for athletes who overcame adversity with perseverance – players like Chris Webber, Scottie Pippen and Sean Elliot among others. In my mind, the best basketball players played with passion, selflessness and contagious confidence. So whenever I took my talents to the basketball court, I made a conscious effort to emulate my style after my hardwood heroes.

Not only did basketball have physical and physiological benefits, but relationally, the sport provided an outlet of relatability and acceptance among my peers. Whenever a conversation transitioned into basketball, I would instantly illuminate, digging into the dialogue through the sharing of random statistics and background info. Occasionally, such hoopfest exchanges would include the off-court shenanigans committed by a particular player or coach. So as I read in my Bible the other day, reflecting on the powerful wisdom in James 1, Stephen Jackson flashed back into mind.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about pressure, I don’t automatically default to strawberry fields and pocket full of posies. If careless, I can allow stress and worry to overwhelm me to the point of fear, whether rejection, failure or unmet expectations. Deep down, I believe in the divinely created man who will consistently ride waves of grace and supernatural strength to victory in the face of pressure; however, on the surface, I can, at times, wrestle with my own preconceptions of pressure and its corresponding triggers. Thus, as the dichotomy between outer angst and innate faith expands, I am compelled to make an important decision. In light of James 1:2-3, will I cave into vain misunderstandings or consider troubles as joys to behold?

The answer should be quite clear. In God’s eyes, to be tested is to be entrusted and ultimately empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you desire fullness in Christ, then it makes no sense to tremble with timidity, but with referent fear and humility. Until we understand how this self-emptying devotion is an emphatic privilege, we cannot know the joy that comes when we persevere under pressure. Let’s think about the battlefield in the context of spiritual warfare. The army of God must not only thrive in pressure, but should also want to love it, as the embrace corporately matures us into His image and likeness. In Luke 12:48, we are told, “To him who is given much, much is required.” Again, God is entrusting us to share His story, counting on us to transform lives to transform the world. How can we not view pressure as privilege? How can we fail to recognize pressure as potential in progress*?

If we sincerely believe in the goodness instilled in us by a supremely sovereign God, and desire to advance our faith, hope and love in Him, we have to shake off hesitation and position ourselves to apply perseverance into pressure. As we walk in this, we will discover how perseverance helps renew faith, sharpen discernment, strengthen hope, anchor prayer and cultivate steadfast love, all the while, teaching us how to receive new life and refreshment from the Lord through His resurrecting power. In all things, we are given the capacity to overwhelmingly conquer through Him who first loved us (Romans 8:37).

So don’t just respect pressure from a distance; go out of your way to appreciate it up close. Don’t go looking for trouble, but believe that God will equip you to endure the trials, adversities and pressures you encounter. The truth is there will be times when God gives you more than what you can handle (Note: many people misinterpret 1 Corinthians 10:13; the reality is God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability), but at the same time, He gives us the gift of perseverance to make it through without succumbing to the flesh. How great is our God? I’m under no pressure whatsoever to proclaim the greatness that He is.

• Voiced by Kurt Warner, former NFL (National Football League) quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Upgrading the Church (Part 1)

Originally published 6.29.10...

I’m hearing a stack of smack about the postmodern church needing an upgrade. And with church currently carrying an out-of-tune melody, the declarations hold merit.

How does God view His house these days? And how would He fix the disarray within?

Ask yourself these questions routinely and dare to be unmotivated.

Neil Cole, author of Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, voices this well in his recent release, claiming an organic operating system is crucial concerning the effectiveness of programs, worship methods, and structural issues. And organic, for those who need clarification, is simply the nutritional value (sustenance) of a church’s spiritual life and efficacy to witness. 

**Just a quick side note: If you read about this subject matter often, you may find writers indirectly evaluating the church as the latest Microsoft product or a Triple Play Starter Package. – I’ll do my best to veer from this “norm.”)**

Now, I believe the church doesn’t require a complete makeover, but it unquestionably needs renovations that shatter some funky mold that has been in place for several centuries. Cole, in fact, traces certain meticulous huff back to 300 A.D. 

Bottom line: The church is not doing everything wrong. It just could do most things better.

Lingo-shmingo aside, let’s investigate why the church is integral to Christianity, and what improvements should be made without finger-pointing preferences. Seriously, the last thing anyone should want to hear is constructive criticism masquerading as biased nitpicking. 

So the church is guilty for not penetrating secularism, the marketplace, and the neighbors next door, eh?

Chances are you’ve heard a blend of the following as to why this is so: an overemphasis on clergy-led political structure, an over-institutionalized approach, a strong internal community with a weak external counterpart, etc. 

For the most part, these assertions are correct. Church is incredibly business-like in its procedures these days, and rising generations aren’t grasping church as a people, as compared to a place. They don’t understand church is just as much verb as it is noun. (By verb, I’m implying the heart of any church – the community of God at an appointed place – should strive to see the far corners of nations reached, starting from backyards to unchartered igloos and Asian shacks.)

Is church necessary? Yes! Why? Because it links koinonia to the Kingdom.

It is encouraging to hear the volumes of youth hungry to expand the Body from the comfort of homes to the chaos of the streets. However, the fact the same persons doubt the answer to the question above is a strong indicator that the church in America, as a whole, is not succeeding at full potential. Perhaps the definition of church has become so skewed, we can’t separate church from sanctuary. 

The key word is balance.

In the post-ascension era, the early church held two services a day, both at a chosen meeting place and the home (Acts 2:46). Back then, there wasn’t so much division over location, since abundance of life flowed from the quality and quantity of social and positional diversity. Also, clergy weight didn’t have the same prominence as it does today. So the end result revealed healthy corporate activity, both relationally and spiritually (Much more I could say, but I’ll try to keep this brief…)

Today, the scene is much different, though somewhat similar in certain circles. 

Yes, we have to place higher value on relationships and a discipleship culture that fuels evangelism. And yes, the church must utilize a systematic approach to make this happen. After all, organization is a branch of holiness. But there’s abuse in the house these days. There’s too much temple junk penetrating ministries, curriculums, and church agendas around the world - too much selling, self-promoting, and divide between clergy and congregation.

Bottom line: Without anointed balance, things get ugly…fast! 

Of course ministries and programs are a blessing. But it’s a curse for the Kingdom if opening blind eyes loses focus. It’s a poison to manifestations of the Spirit that illuminate the existence of an all-mighty Supreme Being.

Many verses in Bible portray how church was intended to function. One of my favorites comes out of Ephesians 4:

“For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God… may [we] grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

~ Ephesians 4:12-13; 15-16

Note the analogy of the body and parts. Like in Romans 12, the exercising of spiritual gifts among all is vital to church life. And once again, we’re back to determining exactly what is it means to be “organic.”

Interestingly enough, the philosophical dictionary captures a similar viewpoint on the term: If an entity such as a work of art, or the state, or a complex of pleasure and desire, is thought of as an organic unity, the implication is that the whole cannot be exhaustively understood in terms of the parts, since the parts and their functioning have in turn to be identified by their role in sustaining the whole.

In conclusion, the church must make a shift in format and perspective, not a total overhaul that forsakes the genuine right. The answers can be found by a balanced mindset, applying established historical concepts, and remaining true to the Word.

More to come on this matter in the days to come…

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