Friday, August 26, 2016

August Rush: Cruisin' with the Musin'

A few journal excerpts from the past few weeks...



August 16 

So during my workout today, I was thinkin'...

We live in the past so the past won't repeat itself. The problem is through the self-preservation we prevent ourselves not only from believing we can change/have changed, but that we can live the change among what God has entrusted us with. In many situations, we elevate our fear of the past repeating itself over our desire for/pursuit of community. Yet, what sense does it make to idolize a sin and its consequences, especially at the cost of something God-ordained...something that was meant to be near and dear to our hearts? Are we not then abiding in an infinite loop, recycling our fear of anything and everything apart from God?

I think for many of us the step of faith we need to take in this season is two-fold:

Yes, we need to be more intentional in ministering life to anyone God puts in our path, but we also need to be willing to lose ourselves as we receive from Christian community. Don't hide behind a give-only approach or worse, through withdrawal. If you want to be the change you desire, it can only happen in the context of community. Don't focus on people who've moved on or slammed the door in your face. Instead, focus on how God wants to grow you as he guides you to relational wellsprings of life. After all, He's given us every reason to trust in His faithfulness.

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August 25

The other day I was pondering the struggle in relating to those (in close proximity) who keep us outside their arena of care. And as the musing unfolded, I couldn’t help but wonder if what really bothers us in these situations has more to do with the absence of good than the presence of ‘no good'.

For starters, we are called to “not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). But perhaps you’re like me having wondered, ‘What do I do when I feel attacked more by a lack of good than an act of evil?’

To be honest, I’m no expert on the matter; however, I do believe it’s worth discussion given so many people are longing to apply hope in places where their souls are being sucked dry. Granted, there’s much in this life we can’t control; however, this doesn’t mean how we control what we can is justified. 

For instance, I think for many of us, we have adapted to doing whatever is necessary to keep our heads above water. We’ll scrap, we’ll claw…basically whatever we have to do to feel alive and appreciated.

The problem is when we live this way, we ultimately deprive ourselves of the strength we need to be the change we crave. As a result, we grow hollow by way of prioritizing our need to ‘get by’ over our need to ‘get filled’ by what only God can provide.

Thus, I submit the only way we can troubleshoot the issue…the only way we can triumph through adversity is to sync with God’s love with the intention of blessing anyone with it. And by ‘anyone’, I don’t mean your inner core, those you feel comfortable with, those you agree with, etc. Contrarily, I’m talking about those outside your inner core, those you don’t click with, even your enemies and those content in not giving you any indication your life matters.

See…I think far too often, we want to feel right about the life we’re living; hence, why many, including Christians, manufacture boundaries for their “good deeds”. Of course, when we realize this goes on all around us all the time, it makes perfect sense why voids of goodness and godliness exist. 

My advice: Don’t give in to the voids! Rather stand strong, let God fix/adjust your boundaries, and allow Christ to dictate your thoughts, attitudes, and actions. For when we do this, we position ourselves to be empowered by God’s Spirit (as opposed to what can’t be control)…and to be unconditional in pointing people to perfect love and truth.

So if you feel far from victory today, know full well God wants to be your champion. Even if you feel surrounded by ‘no good’, there’s always a ‘good’ to fall back on.

And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating with the 'anyone's' God puts in our path.
Photo creds: fineartamerica.com

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Monday, August 8, 2016

The Lockout @ the Lock[in]

So last night...I'm playin' some 'Communist Church' with LEGACYouth at our summer lock[in] event when one of our students notices this guy laying flat outside the main entrance.

At first, I'm thinkin' maybe we should let him be, but after a group huddle, it becomes clear we need to reach out instead.

Given we had ~30 youth downstairs, I decide to split them up into three groups: the bigger group would remain downstairs in the Youth Room, another would be upstairs in the main lobby praying/on standby, and the smallest group (four of my youth leaders) would join me in going out to talk/share some pizza with the man.

Upon approaching him, we note a portable radio plugged into an outdoor outlet blastin' some bluegrass, some beer, and some cigarettes. As for the guy himself...let's just say he was high as a kite and super inebriated...his first words upon seeing us: "Lord, thank you that you have sent your angels."

Now, I don't have a full transcript of our conversation; however, in my attempt to paraphrase, I'll just say he repeated: "Lord, thank you...but I can't take all this loving kindness. Please...please leave me alone" around five to six times (enough for me to wonder if we were dealing more with spirit than man).

Of course, we couldn't just 'leave him alone' having just arrived on the scene. We knew right then/right there we had to find the balance between letting God's love 'stay on the field', while not doing anything to overwhelm him. Knowing we had to stand strong and trust the Lord for strength/discernment, we continued renewing conversation in hope to learn his story, how we could help him, etc.

But as you can imagine, it wasn't easy. In fact, for the first ten-ish minutes, we hardly said anything as the guy begins to unload questions about what type of Christians we are...what type of church we are...all the while giving us his take on what's wrong with the world. During this time, he quotes multiple Scriptures with warped commentary, enough for us to realize he'd had some exposure to truth.

Yet, while this may sound like an easy open door, his hostility to any act of compassion made the situation more difficult. The more we tried to redirect dialogue to him, the more he'd change the subject or try to quiz us on what we knew. Eventually, after asking if we could pray with him, the guy just walked away in frustration leaving his personal belongings behind. At this point, the five of us circled up and begin to pray.

About three/four minutes later, we heard someone approaching us (Keep in mind: it's ~ 9:00 pm and completely dark at this point). To our surprise/delight, it's the same guy we'd been talking to...who not only came back, but joined our circle and received prayer! Talk about glorious whiplash! And while we didn't lead him to salvation or heal him of any physical ailments, we were able to find the words he needed to hear through God's favor/grace.

Leaving on peaceful terms, we went back inside, where I called my supervisor to inform him of the situation (We ultimately determined the best course of action was to make the Franklin police aware so they could establish a presence near site as we were only one hour away from parents arriving at The Gate to pick up their youth), before carrying on with the night.

Now, why do I share this story? Because I honestly believe the Lord is wanting to inconvenience His bride in greater measure in the days ahead. Think about it: God loves us so much, He's willing to let us grow more uncomfortable so we can have more opportunities to show His love to the brokenhearted...from the widow next door to the vagabond on the street desperate to find a home/any morsel of life.

In this case, God literally brought a homeless man to our doorstep! All we had to do was respond through obedience...take a step of faith...and find the open door in letting God's love through. Was it uncomfortable? Yeah. Was it inconvenient? Yeah. But we knew despite the fact this was interrupting our plans, we had to accept God's audible in that moment. And as I've processed the encounter today, I can't help but wonder if this episode was meant to be a microcosm of what God wants to do in/through the body at large...

Anywho...I'll have more thoughts on this in blogs to come. In the meantime, I just wanted to share this story, especially in light of today's messages @ The Gate...not to mention what God is corporately calling us to in the days we're living in...



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Thursday, August 4, 2016

3 Truths for When You Don't Get the Job

Have you ever been minutes away from a peaceful night sleep only to be shell shocked by a last second ‘bad news’ barrage?

If you answered, ‘yes’, welcome to the story of my life last Tuesday.

Before I continue, for those who’ve been following our story the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how ‘perseverance in challenging work environments’ has been a prevalent theme; however, today…I’m going to talk about the other side of the coin (i.e. the roller coaster ride that is “job hunting”).

Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not a renowned expert in “job hunting”. In fact, since I landed at TDOT in April 2012, I’ve only been able to engage the search for eight months with hiatuses attributable to Master’s work and recent life changes1.

But while I may not be the greatest career transition consultant, what I can say is: such a road, while disappointing at times, can be rewarding if we remain steadfast in patience and determination.
Yet, for many of us, it bears discussion how to cope with the discouragement that comes when denials and ‘no calls’ start to accumulate…
…which finally brings me to Tuesday night.

So there I am sitting in my bed when a mental alarm reminds me to check a certain well-known Christian company's ‘current openings’ page. By this point, it had been a little over two months since I applied to (what appeared to be) the most exciting position I’ve come across in a while. I’m talking about the prospect of working as a…

Youth. Ministry. Specialist.

Just let that sink in for a bit, consider my night gig, and then let it sink down even more.

‘Cause truth is: this had me written all over it…like ‘magnum 5.3 mm, chisel trip, permanent sharpie ink’ written.

I mean…the very thought of me not receiving a phone call, an e-mail…anything…didn’t even cross my mind back when I was carefully packaging my writing sample, résumé, references, and questionnaire.

But alas…’tis what happened.

 Thus, as you can imagine, my mind couldn’t help but wonder…

what did my references say…?
…what are my credentials lacking…?

…is it because I’m still involved in youth ministry…?

…is it because I’m not affiliated with sou…(cough)…a certain denomination2?

Seriously…I’ve been involved in youth ministry for eight years…pastoring the last five. Forget the fact I have the drive and required skills to succeed. I’m a young voice with fresh, ‘2016 perspective’ on where youth ministry is in America these days. Why not take a flyer on this alone?

Granted, I still have no clue how many applicants applied…or if the job simply went off the radar without any notification.

All I know is for a few dark moments, I felt ‘struck out’ knowing a golden opportunity was now nothing more than an expired dream of what could/should’ve been.

Nail in coffin, I softly whispered, ‘Lord, help me. This one is gonna hurt’ before graciously drifting off.

Flash forward to today…and I’m feelin’ better. A little sore…but at the same time, I know when you’re down, you can’t stay down. Fall down seven, get up eight. Such is the philosophy of our ‘carry on’ culture, right?

Yet I also know, with every hurt, there’s not only a way out, but a transition out. The difference being…a way implies direction, but transition implies process. Thus, it’s fair to ask ourselves, ‘How do we navigate the process of overcoming when the pain seems unbearable’?

CHn6z8T

Again, I don’t have all the answers. But based on recent experiences alone, I can confidently submit:

1. God's ways are always greater3.

Sure, we may not understand this in every situation. Yet, when we contrast our finitude in light of sweet sovereignty, we ultimately discover the refuge behind God knowing what is best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sayin’ you’ll never feel like a sinking sailor caught up in a sea of potential, but I am sayin’ this shouldn’t ever deter you from trusting your Captain.

2. We can’t assume how things would’ve panned out.

This one may seem obvious. Yet, how often do we assert the wrong declaration? For instance, I can tell myself, ‘Things would have been great there!’ Then again, I’m basing my rationale on a piece of paper…an image on a screen. Yeah…I might feel judged being judged by a piece of paper, but what’s the point in reciprocating by conjecturing?

Truth is: Only God knows the coulda/woulda/shoulda’s of life. Thus, why not proclaim the veracity of God’s faithfulness as it pertains to what he shields us from? Just sayin’…

3. At some point, we must embrace ‘careerealism’4.

Whenever we’re notified of not being the best fit, to be upset is only human. But to be professionalism in our attitude when no one is looking? That’s the kind of ‘wheat from chaff’ attitude we should aspire to.

If it helps, remember the four pro’s and three per’s:

Four pro’s: professional, proactive, productive, proficient

(i.e. to be professional is to be proactive in being proficiently productive)

Three per’s: perseverant, perceptive, persistent

(i.e. to be perseverant is to be persistent in being perceptive)

Combine these all together and you got a solid recipe of getting back on track the way God would have you.

Perhaps you’re wondering what your next move should be or are struggling to process work/job hunt-related disappointment. If you can relate, we want to encourage you today. So if you want to share your story in the comments below, feel free to do so…or if you’d rather shoot us a private message, that’s perfectly fine as well.

‘Til then, keep looking up and know the best is yet to come!

~ Cameron

THE_BEST_THINGAVAILABLE_1

Footnotes
  1. Highlighted by pregnancy, Caeden’s birth & new home
  2. What is the official “religion” of Tennessee, Alex…
  3. Isaiah 55:8-9
  4. Inspired by http://www.careerealism.com
Photo creds: careerfaqs.com & http://www.bpodiary.com

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

4 Takeaways from #LoveMexico

So last month, I had the privilege of co-leading a team of LEGACYouth down to YWAM Pachuca and Real del Monte on our #LoveMexico missions trip (i.e. the third stage of #oneepicsummer). Like #LoveAkron, the experience was a huge hit, granted in this case, we had a larger team returning for its sophomore campaign.

However, after reconvening with the youth during Facedown last week, we couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what now?’

After all, having taken an aerial view of the past two months, no question we’ve ‘leveled up’. We’re more tightly bonded, we’ve stepped further outside our comfort zone, we’ve ministered life to the broken, we’ve led people to Jesus…I could go on.

But as I mentioned last month, I’m not one to tempt any spirit of false accomplishment. ‘Cause truth is: what credit can we possibly claim? I mean….whatever good we do, we do it for Jesus…because of Jesus, right?

Thus, what better way to start walking this talk than with a #LoveMexico reflection post featuring a fresh set of trip takeaways...

1. We stayed alert

On mission trips, it’s easy to stay alert ‘when necessary’…when the opportunity knocks. But with our Gate crew…I believe part of the reason we enjoyed such an effective experience was due to people staying attentive in all situations.

Case and point: During our time at Teotihuacan, one of our team leaders started talking with some local tourists, one of whom had a fractured finger. After learning about the injury, this leader, without hesitation, started to pray…and instantly the fracture healed! What commenced as innocent conversation ended with an ex-broken finger operating with full range of motion.

The next night, after arriving in Real del Monte, our team participated in a ‘Bigger, Better’ ice breaker with some of the local youth. During our scavenger hunt, one of our youth encountered a vendor at a beverage stand. With the rest of the team moving on, I decided to join pursuit. Yet, after a few minutes, I noticed the youth was still absent, so I returned to the stand…only to find him praying healing over the family.

While I could share a boatload of similar stories, I submit these two given their microcosmic representation…not to mention they happened early in the week before our evangelism training1.

Bottom line: Not only were we ready, but we stayed alert and attentive to the Spirit by the Spirit at all times. As far as takeaways go, I’d be amiss if I didn’t start here…



2. Courage was constant 

Shortly after arriving at YWAM Pachuca, I spotted a notecard by my mattress with Ezra 10:4 scribed at the bottom. At first when I read it, I thought, ‘Ok. This is a nice little tidbit of truth’. But after returning to it a week later, I realized the passage not only proved prophetic personally, but also encapsulated the spirit of our team2.

‘Cause like point #1, we didn’t grow content in simply applying courage ‘when necessary’...we didn’t stop once our 20 insane seconds were up.  Instead, we intentionally took up our cross and came ready to share the love of our ‘strength provider’.

Did we pray for divine appointments? Absolutely! But the key here is: we didn’t rely on them to pop up before pursuing them. Rather we pursued the distribution of God’s love using courage as the vehicle. As a result, we were able to impact more people and see more lives changed.

Bottom line: Whatever success we experienced was directly tethered to God’s covering…as well as knowing why we had come…and being unwavering in strength/prayer.



3. We were united

As you can tell, #LoveMexico left lasting impressions on all of us. Yet, while I can certainly cite more moments when God showed up, I’d be leaving this list incomplete if I didn’t highlight God’s faithfulness in how it manifested relationally with YWAM staff and youth from other corners of the globe.

Similar to #LoveAkron, the fellowship with other believers not only exceeded expectations, but also served as a reminder of how the body of Christ is called to be (i.e. to be of one heart and one mind…united in goal, to have everything in common, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, etc.).

Bottom line: Despite the language barrier3, we were able to gel well with those God teamed us with and those He put in our path. And while I could credit “chemistry”, I believe favor + ‘being united under the canopy of great grace’ would be a more accurate commendation.



4. We stayed humble

During our nine days in Mexico, we saw many miracles and souls saved. Yet, as many outreach leaders know, sometimes pride can sneak into these moments bringing with it a sense of self-centered satisfaction. Seriously…how many of us have cleared the courage + obedience hurdles…only to falter into pride at the finish line?

In my experiences, I’ve found the best way to conclude any stretch of evangelism is through thanksgiving and humility. Yes, confidence is a wonderful thing; however, when it’s left unbridled, it can derail our attitude, our outlook…and a result, our response. Hence, when we consecrate our confidence having experienced the joy of team unity working together to save the lost and encourage the brokenhearted…we put ourselves in a better position to stay alert/take action as the Spirit leads (see point #1).

Bottom line: We ate our humble pie, rebuked pride when it crept in…and refocused our attention on loving those around us (which in turn…edified group accountability).

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Footnotes
  1. A nice, friendly reminder that God’s timing >>> our idea of ideal timing
  2. Or rather the Spirit of God within the spirit of our team
  3. And at least for me…not knowing anyone coming in…
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