Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Red Umbrella

I’ve always had a thing for red umbrellas1

…a peculiar liking considering my preference of wet over dry…and the fact my favorite colors are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

So naturally…when my home church decided to set up a red umbrella by our welcome desk earlier this summer, my fascination couldn’t help but rekindle.

What a nice touch, I thought2. This will add some flair to our lobby.

But while the red umbrella, no doubt, offered a charming visual, the more I passed it by, the more I realized its unique significance, specifically, it wasn’t just some classy décor there to look cute; it was a landmark drawing people to a place they could connect3 and discover hope4.

Suddenly, I could sense the Spirit broadening my definition of the term.

Yes, hope is a sure and steadfast expectation (Proverbs 23:18), but this doesn't mean it's limited to a feeling about the future, a dollop of quixotic optimism5...or pride in something passionately believed in.

Contrarily, hope is a dwelling place, an open door for faith, a bridge for testimony and community, and a sounding board for confidence.
  • It's being ready to reach out and help others find relationship…
  • It's being willing to share what God gives…
  • …and it's being an agent of peace to those who are trying to find their way.
So putting it all together…hope is not only a sure expectation of what’s to come when God’s confidence kisses ours in the now…but it’s uniting people to the track God has for them.

Or to put it another way, hope is taking the red umbrella everywhere you go (#micdrop)…whether it’s your home, your work, the gym, the shopping center…you name it.

It’s being an extension of God’s redemptive6 love and a torchbearer of truth in our spheres of influence.

Pretty amazing, eh? 

So if you want your life to breathe life, consider (the sweet covering of) the red umbrella as a watermark of the hope you have to offer.

‘Cause in this life, there are many storms…
…why not have red umbrella handy…just in case.

Footnotes

1) After all, I love the rain…as well as the characterization in Pixar’s “Blue Umbrella” short…ironically enough…
2) My mind now a textual explosion of applause emojis
3) Specifically, where new guests could connect with church members after service…and receive a gift bag designed to let them hear about our story
4) A fitting recognition, considering my church’s decision to set it as our new membership ministry logo
5) Shout-out to Dr. Carla Waterman
6) The scriptural significance of the color “red” has much to do with our redemption. Check Isaiah 1:18 and Matthew 26:28

Photo creds: http://www.brownaviationlease.com & https://cmchesebro.files.wordpress.com

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

3 Ways to Overcome Loneliness



Have you ever felt ‘home’ locationally yet far from it relationally…

…secure in the journey, but perhaps insecure in community?

No question, it’s an awkward emotional dichotomy…to feel in love where you’re at yet estranged at the same time.

Perhaps you’ve wondered what do when you feel like you’re not connecting or what to do when you feel God isn’t honoring your obedience with the right relationships.

If that’s you, then heed my words…

…’cause truth is: I’ve been there...

…and in some ways, I’m still there.

And I’m sure for many of you reading this…you can say the same.

With that said, here are three ways to rightfully cope with the contradiction.

1)      Live and breathe God’s wholeness.

No doubt, God is enough. The question is: do you honestly believe it?

Consider Jeremiah…a prophet whose calling meant to be alone, as evidenced by his directive not to marry, go to weddings or funerals, be in the presence of feasters and merrymakers, etc.

When we study Jeremiah’s narrative, it shouldn’t surprise us to find him often discouraged and depressed. After all, Jeremiah was entirely human…and to be without friends is one of life’s greatest challenges. But though Jeremiah carried certain “love deficits”, this didn’t keep him from finding satisfaction in God, as noted by his tendency to open prayer with “sovereign Lord” and conclude it with a reference to His steadfast love and/or power. Though Jeremiah lived without companionship, God was able to use his singleness and isolation to fulfill His purposes1 through him in ways that couldn’t have happened had he shared dependence.

As for us, there may be seasons when God temporarily detaches us to cultivate greater dependence on Him, as He did with Jeremiah. But while these seasons may be arduous, we can still find contentment in knowing God always has our best in mind and always sees the beginning from the end.

Hence, it makes perfect sense to receive God’s wholeness since it not only helps us cope with our deficiencies, but provides spiritual nourishment to keep goingall the while, renewing our trust in His providence.

2)      Pray the Word over your location.

Let’s be honest: It’s easier to pray for people you know than those you don’t, right?

…especially considering we live in a compartmentalized culture where our concept of the world is essentially our concept of ‘our world’.

However, let’s say God repositions you in a foreign place or season. Would the change be enough to diminish your prayer life or would you stay persistent regardless?

While prayer can certainly benefit from sound company, truth is: the tempo of our prayer life should not be dictated by our social life2 or lack thereof.

Why? ‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s God who orchestrates our connectedness!

Thus, if we’re feeling dissatisfied or desolate, we should feel compelled to turn to God without hesitation and seek his direction, considering if anything is in the way, it’s likely a stronghold of man.

So next time you find yourself disappointed by the hardness of your heart and/or surroundings, pray the Word over your location…and choose to make intercession your default as opposed to withdrawal.

Again, it may not be easy, but you can, at least, bank on finding fuel even when you’re running on empty.

3)      Focus on opportunities to serve.

As mentioned before, we all want to belong…and find our place.

However, though the desire itself makes sense, the problem is often how and where it’s prioritized.

For instance, if the desire is overly prioritized, then we risk engaging community as a means to an end, where on the flip side, if the desire is not prioritized enough, we risk relationship being a nonchalant concept, dependent on chance rather than intention.

But if we truly want to bridge relationships organically, why not focus on opportunities to serve and invite God into the process?

Seriously…it’s not like we have anything to lose yielding to the Spirit’s leading.

And if you think you got to have friends before you can find your “place,” consider how God prepared the way in Scripture time and time again (i.e. God frequently prepped the territory before tending the inhabitants; see Deuteronomy 1-16, John 14:3).  

In short, when it comes to seeking connection, the best approach is to let God be God by consecrating our relationships (present and future; real and hopeful), staying rooted in prayer, and seeking His desire to plant us in the best place possible…in the best way possible.

Footnotes

1) To fulfill his purpose, it was essential Jeremiah relied entirely on God, considering he may have a) integrated a fear of man into his prophecies or b) fallen away completely had he placed his own needs above God’s wants.

2) Or how we feel our social life is

Photo credits: http://blog.febc.org, https://c2.staticflickr.com/
 
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Derived Decision



Have you ever accepted something that seemed right at first, but in the end, turned out completely different…or know what it’s like to be led in a certain direction only to have the rug pulled out from under you at the last minute?

No doubt, we’ve all been there…charmed by a favorable circumstance, only to be discouraged by the disenchanting mirage in its wake.

But truth is: how we cope with such disappointment is worth discussion.

‘Cause if for everything, there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1), then it makes sense how the delay, even death of a dream can be exactly what we need1.

Consider the story of my life last month…when such insight ignited after a private school pitched me an alluring math teaching position2.

For two weeks, everything converged on what I thought was an “open door” opportunity.

The interviews? Excellent. My application? Outstanding. My audition? Smooth…especially on short notice.

Eventually, I received an official offer and after a weekend of prayer, verbally accepted, figuring I was finally being rewarded with the career change I’d been believing for.

But while everything made sense “on paper”, it wasn’t until my eyes met the contract’s fine print that I realized the job wasn’t going to be the answered prayer I’d once expected.

As a result, the pursuit stalled…and the decision became lodged between a rock and a hard place3.

So I returned to the drawing board.

Yes, the opportunity would have allowed me to reach certain goals over a two-year span; however, it wasn’t going to permit me to immediately provide for my family in a critical season.

Thus, the question came down to: Is this the time to slice 66.67% off my income and rely on God to supernaturally provide for my family?

After a night of prayer and processing, I woke the next morning to the tune of a still, small whisper:

Cameron, I will anoint your steps no matter what you decide4.

Immediately, I knew what I needed to do…

…decline the offer and commit back to TDOT.

The next day, after making my intentions known, I became overwhelmed by an inner peace.

No question, I had made the right call…
…granted, it still hurt like heck.

After all, the decision was the postponement of a dream near and dear to my heart.

Yet, as my spirit received resolution, I was reminded how...

 1)    God delights in entrusting us with His Word...
 2)    God delights in imparting His confidence...

And as a result…

3) Our will strengthens only when we let it go5.

In my case, clarity came the moment I a) renounced my fear of making the wrong decision and b) confessed I had the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and the tools to make the right choice.

Once I acted in confidence and took authority in Christ, not only did my peace strengthen, but I could also feel the tangible presence of God in my midst (Seriously…I kid you not…it was like I could sense God’s hand on my shoulder, cheering me on saying, ‘You got this, Cam!’)

In short, although the ordeal felt like an emotional roller coaster, I consider the ride completely worth it.

True, I had to turn down a desirable opportunity…
 …but now…I’m in position to receive a better one.

Not to mention I got to experience God lifting a weight off my back and filling me with His peace.

So I guess the moral of the story is: trust the Spirit’s leading…and don’t worry about making the wrong decision. Instead, empty yourself before the Lord so you may receive His confidence, which in turn, will illuminate the way you are to go.

Not only will you find a decrease in disappointment, but an increase in Holy Spirit reliance as well.

Footnotes

1)    A lesson we usually understand better in theory than application
2)    (i.e. teaching three of my favorite math courses in a supportive environment with a licensing program in the summer)
3)    The “rock” representing the tantalizing career move and the “hard place” representing the stale, cubical vacuum I’ve grown accustom to
4)    Essentially, God was putting the ball in my court, giving me the chance to make the call without the guilt of feeling one way was absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong
5)    (i.e. “let go and let God”)


Photo credits: https://www.psycon.com & https://www.themotivatedmindset.com 


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