Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, Lyssah & I sit down and reflect on the year that was…

When you think back on 2016, what immediately comes to mind?

CF: There are two answers to this question: The first and most obvious is Caeden. His arrival into the world was by far the greatest moment of the year. The second and not as obvious is the word, ‘horizon’, as in there’s much change on the horizon. In short, I believe the events of 2016 were foundation-laying for the season to come.

LF: The first thing I think about is Caeden being born. That moment set the stage for 2016 as a whole given the year of laboring it's been. In previous years, certain things came easy. This year everything has had a learning curve. Everything from pushing through the pain and discomfort of labor to pushing through my work when I really wanted to be home with Caeden, pushing through and learning new skills that have enabled me to be start my own side business, pushing through church/bivocational challenges, etc. Basically, there’s been a whole lot of pushing this year.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

CF: When I consider the year’s defining moments, I can’t help but think 2016 was really two years in one. As mentioned, the highlight of all 'Fry-lights' (sorry, couldn't resist ;) was January 7 when Caeden was born. Progressing chronologically, I’d say Winter Storm Jonas (January 22), moving into our new home (February 27), the Messenger Fellowship Summit in Orlando (March 14-16), the #LoveAkron Tour (June 22-26), #LoveMexico (July 15-24), our west coast adventures (September 10-17), and completing my first devotional all rank up there. After a grounded 2015, we definitely got away a lot more this year. Pretty remarkable considering we became new parents only a week into the new year…

LF: Not to sound like a broken record, but our son being born...and finding out I’m stronger than I once thought through the labor process. I feel like I definitely reached the end of myself in August and the Lord was very faithful to give me greater strength to keep going. I feel like landing my first virtual assistant client was pretty defining as well...not to mention reaching the three and five year marks in our marriage and ministry together respectively. I guess a lot of things hit a culmination point this year.

How would you compare this year of marriage to the first few?

CF: I definitely think major life changes have compelled us to be more proactive in being on the same page emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. While I was tempted to post this under ‘highlights’, I’d say the relational high point of 2016 was the overall sense of struggling and thriving together. As amplified as 2015 was, 2016 was even more challenging in the sense the highs felt higher and the lows felt lower. Yet, all in all, what we experienced this year was in large part a continuation of what we experienced in 2015 with God tightening us together through stretching.

LF: I think some stuff has been easier and some stuff has been harder because now there’s a whole new dynamic. We’re not just married; we’re married parents. So we’ve had to be much more intentional staying connected.

What lesson from 2016 are you eager to apply in 2017?

CF: A couple lessons stand out. First off, even in the darkest trials, God’s voice is just as clear if we choose to press into him. Second, God’s grace is often the change he initiates outside our control. Thirdly, success isn’t a measurable concept. As Winston Churchill once said, “success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” And it’s this courage when applied to prayer that enables us to persevere to the next level.

LF: I’d say not trying to be the one to take care of everything. I have a natural proclivity to independence and trying to take care of myself. But now as a wife and mom, I’ve learned I need to lay that burden down since there’s so much outside my control. I have to allow myself be free from feeling like I’m responsible for everybody and everything.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

CF: For some reason, that’s a tough one this go-around. I imagine some form of: “We made it through ...we didn’t quit.

LF: "We’ve made it! We’re debt-free! I’m home with my son and able to support my husband the way I want to."
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Monday, December 26, 2016

3 Underrated Life Lessons from ‘White Christmas’

One of the most revered holidays classics, ‘White Christmas’ is a timeless, cinematic confection rich in star power, memorable moments, and, of course, incredible choreography. Granted, the plot is forced, trite, and over-reliant on ex-machinas and sing-along potential; however, this doesn’t mean the movie lacks savory dialogue.

Like most Christmas movies, ‘White Christmas’ shrewdly embeds life lessons within its narrative. Yet, while the picture may be more known for its entertainment value, one can find more meaning behind the scenes upon further inspection.

Thus, in the spirit of going behind the curtain, here are three underrated life lessons inspired by ‘White Christmas’.
Phil Davis: “My dear partner, when what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left.”
Bob Wallace: “When I figure out what that means I'll come up with a crushing reply.”

For those unfamiliar with ‘White Christmas’, your two male protagonists, Phil and Bob, are polar opposites. On one hand, you have Bob who is cautious and relationally hesitant; on the other, you have Phil who is audacious and whimsical. With salt and vinegar personalities, it’s not surprising to see the two collide in witty discords at inopportune moments. Yet, while Bob is the more discerning of the two, it’s Phil’s risk-taking gall and persuasion that puts Bob in position to find what he’s looking for. Thus, when Phil calls out Bob as diffident to companionship, the stage is set for Bob to consider Phil’s words not to mention advance the plot.

Bottom line: If the best time is now/if the better judgment involves the riskier road (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6), that doesn't make it wrong. 
Bob Wallace: “So if you're worried and you can't sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.”

I’ve never been a fan of counting sheep. Even as a little kid, I found it obnoxiously stimulating; however, as an adult, I’ve found counting blessings to be one of the most refreshing exercises one can make. You see…often times, our mental computations lead us to discouragement as opposed to thanksgiving. We’ll count the cost, what we still need, and what we don’t have, but when it comes to what we’ve been divinely given, we forget. For Bob, counting blessings was not only a catchy jingle, but also a contagious habit contributing to his sunny demeanor and those around him.

Bottom line: If there’s anything worth counting in life, it’s your blessings (Psalm 103:2). 
Phil Davis: [about Bob's idea to help the General] “I think it's ridiculous, impossible, and insane!”
Bob Wallace: “Anything else?”
Phil Davis: “Yes, I wish I'd thought of it first.”

When it comes to helping others, we tend to operate within our means. We’ll draft a gameplan suitable to our bandwidth and executive according to what’s doable. But when it comes to a giving heart, the best approach maximizes generosity by going beyond what’s possible. I love Phil’s reply to Bob’s question here. For starters, you see maturity in Bob’s character for daring to give big. In addition, you note Phil and Bob are more in sync from being united for a special cause. Fittingly the storyline changes at the point both characters commit their decisions to helping someone else. Had Bob and/or Phil continued being overly concerned with their career pathway, they likely would’ve missed the chance to honor their friend's legacy.

Bottom line: We only have what we give. So why not outdo each other in doing good (Hebrews10:24)? Not only will this enliven your other-centeredness, but it will also stretch your capacity to give.

B                    O                    N                    U                    S
Betty Haynes: [singing on the train] “I wanna wash my hands, my face, my hair with snow.”

Phil DavisBob WallaceBetty HaynesJudy Haynes: [singing] “... And may all your Christmases be white. Merry Christmas!”

As a lover of winter and all things snow, it wouldn’t be right if I left off a quote or two from the movie's long list of wintry references. Here's to these lines being prophetic during the next few months in middle Tennessee. 😁

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Let It Be

To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin.

I mean…I know it should be the most wonderful time of the year; I know all should be merry and bright.

But after the most brutal month in five years, I guess I can’t help if it doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.

Not that I’m writing this to implore sympathy. I just know I’m not the only one struggling with disappointment and the idea of sweeping it under the holiday carpet right now.

Perhaps you’re sitting there waiting for the snow to fall wondering how to overcome the heartache you harbor inside. If so, I want to encourage you today. ‘Cause when it comes to disappointment, especially in seasons when we feel we should be in ‘joy to the world’ mode, it can be hard knowing how to cope. I know for me, I can feel a little guilty whenever I have to manufacture an outward expression contrary to my inward state.

Yet, while inner/outer dichotomies can feel awkward, when we choose to be joyful in spite of pain, we can overcome as heroes putting up a stand rather than fakers putting up a front.

Granted, I’m not saying this is easy; however, I am saying when we justify withdrawal by not wanting to feel hypocritical or not wanting to leak unprocessed hurt, we risk exalting our disappointment above anything God may be drawing our attention to. Yes, being disappointed is a natural part of life; however, if we allow the letdowns of life to govern how we live, we not only validate the influence of tolerated bondage, but we also limit our capacity to trust God.

Take Luke 1 for instance:

When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to Zechariah (v. 13-17), including the promise of “you will have joy and gladness”, note the first three words out of his mouth: “How can I?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty remarkable how a man righteous before God could be overcome by such skepticism in His presence. Considering Zechariah’s past behavior (v. 5-7), such a reaction tells me he most likely preserved his disappointment of Elizabeth’s barrenness though hopelessness and concealed it through blameless service. Had Zechariah allowed God to grieve with him during his darkest hours, chances are his fear would have yielded to hope realized instead of hope deferred.

Flash-forward to Mary’s encounter and we find similar apprehension when Gabriel greets her as evident in v. 29: “But she was greatly troubled…and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”

Yet, after Gabrielle unpacks his message, note the difference in Mary’s response (v. 36): “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be.”

No question, Mary had the right idea.  For though her initial reaction was akin to Zechariah, her processed reaction allowed her to receive the promise in faith, in turn, altering the trajectory of what would happen soon after. In Zechariah’s case, his doubt preceded his silence; for Mary, her belief preceded her worship (i.e. “my soul magnifies the Lord” – v. 46).

Now, could Mary have chosen to freak out? Of course! I’m sure the thought of her having to do some explaining crossed her mind; however, when you consider Mary could have easily become preoccupied with her own life, this makes her song of praise (v. 46-55) all the more profound.

So what’s my point, you ask?

My point is like Zechariah, we all carry some type of void within us…some measure of disappointment…the weight of prayers unanswered. Yet, like Mary, we can also know the hope of Christ in us as infinitely more than the sum of all uncertainty…the peace of Immanuel (God with us) as captivation helping us conquer the temptation to make sense of our surroundings. 

Maybe you’re reading this still wondering how to ditch the loneliness looking for something to light up the fireworks in you. If you can relate, I want you know there’s not a hopeless void God can’t reach, nothing out of his range to restore. The same God who sent His one and only Son to take away the sins of the world is more than able to take away whatever burdens you’re carrying this Christmas.

And yeah…I know it can be tough to let it go. I get that. All I’m sayin’ is if you give yourself a chance to let it be, I guarantee you’ll find new joy when you let it go. In other words, know who’s closest to you is nearer than what’s in front of you. That to me is what Christmas is all about.

As always this time of year, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a magical start to 2017.

~ Cameron Fry

Photo creds:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pride Killer: Why Humility Always Wins

There’s something you should know about me: I make mistakes.

Not a few, not several…but a lot. Why I have no problem admitting this…I don’t know.

Granted, I count it all joy, yet this doesn’t mean I enjoy confessing weakness. In fact, there have been [many] times I’ve shadowed it under the false comfort of ‘closed’ issues staying closed issues.

Yet, after digesting one of the worst weeks of 2016, I can honestly say while it hurts to fall down, there’s gain in the rise up.

‘Cause truth is: a good leader best learns from his failure not by how he stays ahead of it, but by how he responds to it.

Permit me to unpack…

When we talk about leaders doing leader things, it makes sense those things remain above reproach and reproof. I think we can all agree there.

Yet, given leaders are human beings too, it’s important to remember their mistakes are just as inevitable. Thus, how leaders handle adversity, setbacks, and judgment errors are worth discussion.

In my ministerial role, there are times a protective heart can become over-protective if offense (real or perceived) and presumption allows trust to detach from submission.  Knowing my weakness, I understand if I start to feel overzealous and start to self-stitch the evidences of a problem (real or perceived), I can get off track in a hurry.

In these moments, I find the absolute, single-best way to realign is humility.

Now, humility is one of my favorite topics because it’s actually one of my strong points, especially in the wake of a dilemma. Growing up, I wasn’t always teachable, but once I started integrating humility into relational and circumstantial troubleshooting, maturing in meekness became remarkably effortless. It just clicked into gear the more I realized I needed forgiveness on a daily basis.

In the case of my most recent shortcoming, I overstepped a boundary in my attempt to establish one and after processing my lapse in judgment, I realized a) in order to receive grace I had to throw myself at the mercy of God and b) the best way to get there was through humility.

After embracing these two steps, it wasn’t long before I went to my supervisor, repented, and set up a series of meetings to apologize to anyone I may have hurt, offended, or confused. No question it was a liberating yet exhausting process. While there was certainly an emotional toll, the presence of humility ultimately eroded any pre-existing offense in turn funneling peace into places where it hadn’t been in several years.

My point in sharing this is…

1. Humility is both a precious gift but also a powerful weapon and an exit strategy for those tempted to take reconciliation into their own hands. Seriously…if pride (or any similar derivative) is like being locked out of your car, humility is the wire hanger that breaks the jam and gets you back to where you need to be.

2. There will be times when we think we’ve got it, only to find we’ve lost it. Thankfully, when we receive grace and apply humility, we become more concerned about what is right than who is wrong. In other words, by dying to our right to be right, we essentially find the right way to the right path. That’s the power of humility in action.

Anywho, hope you all have a fantastic weekend. I have a few more blogs on the backburner and will look to post some more in the weeks ahead.

‘Til then, stay humble, my friends.

~ CF

Photo creds: &
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.