In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 4


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To dispossess the giants that dwell on God’s promises, we need to reach the giants. 

Are the cities they dwell in open fields or walled in? 

Ten of the explorers report that the cities are fortified and very large. They weren’t wrong! 

The cities throughout the land had tall stone walls built around them designed to protect from enemy attacks. Stones were dug deep into the ground, so that they could not be knocked down. Excavations of the region reveal that the stone walls could be up to 9 feet thick! These fortified cities were the marks of highly resourced communities with infrastructures they were determined to protect. 

How could the Israelites possibly penetrate the fortified walls to possess God’s promises? 

Caleb offers a different response: “Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us.” 

From Caleb’s response, we see that the question Moses was asking was not about penetration, but protection. Caleb knew they may not penetrate through the walls, but they were under God’s protection. 

In the original Hebrew, Caleb’s response is a figure of speech. In English, we read it as “protection”, but the analogy is: “The shadow from the cloud isn’t over them; it’s over us.” In this arid region of the world, the shadows of the clouds covered people from getting scorched by the sun. The shadows from the cloud were protection.

The shadow from the cloud is over us. 

The Israelites dwelled in tents. The giants in the cities dwelled behind walls. 

Overcoming the giants would be a challenge. But God overshadowed the Israelites. 

We may look at the giants in our lives and say: “we can’t penetrate the walls protecting them.”

Giants can’t build the protection God gives us. 

Walls trap us. 

Shadows free us. 

Walls limit us. 

Shadows make us limitless. 

Fast forward to the birth of Jesus. Mary asked the Angel how she could possibly be pregnant. The angel responds:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God” // Luke 1:35; 37

The word “overshadow” spoken to Mary is a similar word spoken to the Israelites. When we realize God overshadows us, the possibilities are limitless. We move in the freedom of possibilities – the possibilities to possess new opportunities and to birth new visions. These possibilities do not come shut up behind walls. 

Psalm 91:1 says it this way: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Many scholars attribute this Psalm to Moses looking towards possessing God’s promise. 

We don’t need to be concerned about giants that dwell behind walls. 

We dwell in freedom. 

We dwell under the shadow of God. 

Walk towards God’s promises. 

Walk under the freedom of God’s shadow. 

This story continues as the twelve explores respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together, 

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How can the freedom of God’s shadow allow you to walk towards God’s promises this week? 
  2. What possibilities can you seize this week? 
Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 3


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Is the land they dwell in good or bad?

The next category Moses asks the explorers about is the land.

Is the soil a fruitful kind that can give life or a useless kind that cannot?

Ten of the explorers come back showing Moses fruits from the land, “the land flows with milk and honey” BUT then saying, “the land devours its inhabitants.”

From their perspective, even though they held the fruitfulness of the soil in their hands, the land could not create, but only consume those on it.

How could they show the fruits and simultaneously allege the land could not be fruitful?

It wasn’t that the land was not fruitful. The ten explorers allowed the giants they saw on the land to tarnish the fruitfulness of the land. They allowed what was on the land to destroy its potential.

How often do we allow current obstacles to destroy future opportunities?

Naming our giants is a crucial key to possessing God’s promises, but it goes deeper than simply naming what we need to dispossess in order to possess God’s promises. We must also assess our soul. We must reflect on whether the land our giants dwell in is good or bad?

What are our lands and how do we see them?

Our lands are everything from our relationships, to our communities, to our workplaces and to our schools. But perhaps the most important land is our inner world – our mind, body, and soul.

Our giants – the fear giant, the doubt giant – are superficial obstacles connected to deeper origins. Naming our giants is the first step to understanding their origin – to understanding the roots. The things that seem like obstacles to us are often connected to a root wound.

It’s in the roots where we can assess the soil. It’s when go to the origins of the obstacles, that we can determine whether the soil is good or bad. It’s when we acknowledge the wounds that produced the giants that we discover the fruitfulness or fruitlessness of the soil.

Until we assess the soil, we cannot possess the promise.

If the soil is not fruitful, the promise cannot flourish.

What wounds do we find in our soil?

Rejection from family or friends. Oppression from systemic racism. Trauma from the loss of a relative, job, or future plans. Abuse from someone that was supposed to protect you. Pain from falsely spoken accusations. The list goes on. These root wounds become the origins that produce giants.

The rejection wound may turn into the fear giant. Because we were rejected by those closest to us, we fear we will never be accepted by those who don’t yet know us.

But the land can still be good land, when we examine our wounds and allow God to do the deep work of healing.

Healing comes from…

  • a willingness to acknowledge our wounds,
  • a confession of our wounds, and
  • a determination towards the work of monitoring our wounds

God longs to heal us, so that our soil can be good soil. Good soil requires maintenance. We must assess our soil and monitor our wounds. 

“In this life, all healing is temporary” // Erwin Raphael McManus

Through assessing our soil, we can respond like Caleb did.

The land is exceedingly good and the Lord will bring us into and give us the land. // Numbers 14:7

The land is not only good. The land is doubly good. The land is better than we could have ever imagined.

This story continues as the twelve explorers respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your lands and how do you see them?
  2. What are the wounds in your soil?
  3. What wounds can you pray into this week, confessing to God that you need Him to do the deep work of healing?
In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 2


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Last week, we began unpacking this big question:

How do we possess God’s promises?

When Caleb says let’s go into the land, he means let’s possess the land.

Possess in Hebrew: yaresh (yaw-rash) meaning to dispossess what possesses something

The word “possess” implies that something must be dispossessed in order to possess.

To possess the promises of God, we must dispossess the obstacles to the promises.

Moses’s first category of questions about the people in the Promised Land is a helpful starting place: 

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?

Ten of the explorers say: “The people in the land are strong. The descendants of Anak (the giants) are there. The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites are there.”

Who were these giants?

Promised Land

What are the obstacles these giants represent?

    • Amalekites: Made them feel doubt
    • Hittites: Made them feel fear
    • Jebusites: Made them feel oppressed
    • Amorites: Made them feel rejected
    • Canaanites: Made them feel small

Caleb saw who these giants were and understood the obstacles they represented, but he responds to the giants in a different way.

Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. // Numbers 14:9

Caleb’s use of figurative language reveals that despite the obstacles the giants represent, they could consume them. He never minimizes the reality of the existence and representation of the giants, but he doesn’t allow what they are to determine who God is.

I’ve experienced the tension of believing fully in God’s promises one moment and then the next moment confronting a situation that discourages me. What I’ve discovered is that when I’m discouraged, it’s because that situation is uncovering a giant. The fear giant. The rejection giant. And that uncovering leads to discomfort.

Honestly, it would seem easier to ignore the giants. To not wrestle with them. To pretend they are not there. To hide from them.

Ignoring the giants doesn’t dispossess them. The more energy I’ve invested ignoring the giants, the worse the discomfort is when another situation uncovers the giant again.

Having faith in God was never meant to be about ignoring our giants. Faith doesn’t mean we live in a world where nothing hurts, where nothing scares us, where nothing challenges us.

Faith gives us a lens to see how God wants to work in us and is working in us. Even working through our giants.

Naming the giants puts them into the right perspective. The right perspective allows us to consume the giants.

Caleb had the right perspective about the giants. He knew the giants and He knew God. He knew that the giants were meant to be consumed and not to consume them.

Don’t ignore your giants.

Name your giants.

“How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” – Japanese Proverb

We can possess God’s promises by naming our giants and consuming them one bite at a time.

This story continues as the twelve explores respond to the next category: the land. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your giants?
  2. What are the obstacles they represent?
  3. What would it look like to consume them one bite at a time?
Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 1


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God says: “I’m your refuge and strength. You will fly, run, and walk as you wait for me. You are more than a conqueror.”

You wonder: “Okay, God these things sound nice, but how do I receive Your promises?”

Possessing God’s promises invites our proactivity.

Big Question: How do we possess God’s promises?

Short answer: We cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors.

That answer, brings us to another question: How do we cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors?

To explore this question, let’s look to Moses’s questions to the 12 explorers he sent into the Promised Land and how they responded to what they explored.

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?
  3. Is the land that the people dwell in good or bad?
  4. Are the cities they dwell in camps or strongholds?
  5. Is the land rich or poor?
  6. Are there trees in it or not?

These 6 questions can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The people
  2. The land
  3. The cities
  4. The soil

Ten of the explorers say: “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However…”

They start off with faith. And then, they interrupt their faith with a “however” or a “nevertheless.” When they say, “however/nevertheless” they limit the possibilities of God’s promise, because of the inconsistency of their faith.

Two of them have a very different response, namely Caleb. Caleb silences the limitations and inconsistencies of their faith, saying: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” In other words, let’s possess the promise of God.

Caleb led with his faith. He didn’t allow his beliefs to be limited by the facts of what he saw or his feelings about what he saw.

This is the beginning of possessing God’s promises.

This is the beginning of cultivating consistency in our faith.

Do not allow facts or feelings to limit your faith.

Allow your faith to lead you.

This story continues as the 12 explorers respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Their responses give us 4 proactive ways to possess God’s promises as we cultivate consistency in our faith.

Join the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in-depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  • What’s an area of your life where you’ve allowed facts or feelings to limit your faith?
  • What would it look like to allow your faith to lead you in that area?

Promises to Remember and Possess:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” // Psalm 46:1

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” // Isaiah 40:31

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” // Romans 8:37-39

Dreams and Visions

Dream Every Day


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“Solitude is a catalyst for innovation” – Susan Cain

My days come with the fulfilling and exhausting opportunity to stand alongside people as they grow professionally, academically, personally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s fulfilling because building people up into the God-designed version of themselves is one of the core parts of my calling. It’s exhausting because I go from meeting to meeting and conversation to conversation all day. By the end of the day, the introvert in me is crying out for silence, solitude, reflection, and rest. I would be lying to you if I told you that I do a stellar job of finding these spaces every day. But I can tell you that I’m striving for it.

One of the ways I’m striving for it is to take time to read and reflect. Currently, I’m reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and these words resonated with me: “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”

I am an ideas person. I come up with crazy ideas – and not so crazy ideas – all the time. But lately, because of flow of my days, it’s been hard for me to clear my mind enough to let those creative sparks fly. So, when I read these words about solitude and innovation…I thought: “YASSSS! Preach! That’s so true for me!”

Taking these words to heart, I spent some time last Saturday sitting in the corner of my  favorite coffeeshop coming up with a bunch of ideas for our Sunday Worship Experience the following day and our upcoming Radical Culture Spring Conference. With my headphones on and blank pages in front of me, I started to dream and envision the possibilities. My mind was awake.

 

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Tatte Bakery & Cafe, Harvard Square

On Sunday, I arrived to church about 30 minutes before the first service. I had a long  list of to-dos that needed to be accomplished to make all the ideas that I’d had the day before become a reality.

I walked into the balcony of the new sanctuary and there was a guest worship team doing sound check. I didn’t know who they were or where they were from, but in an empty balcony I stood there listening to this beautiful worship.

And then a crazy idea popped into my head: Let’s scrap our gameplan for today and just have our young people stay here for worship. (Eventually, this crazy idea turned into us staying for the entire second service instead of having our Worship Experience.)

I ended up staying for the first service instead of tackling the to-dos. I closed my eyes, in an act of solitude, and spent the time worshipping, praising, and envisioning God. In the last 20 minutes of the service, the guest pastor, invited the guest worship team back up to sing a song they had written. He instructed everyone to get into small groups of 4-5 people and asked everyone to respond to two questions.

But I didn’t join a group.

When the worship team started to sing, I walked to the front of the altar.

I wasn’t being defiant or rebellious to the instructions. I was just responding to the desire of my soul for solitude and reflection.

I stood there alone listening to the words of the song:img_7613

“I can feel the drum of your heartbeat

calling us to be your hands and feet

we’re rising up with courage in our hearts

to carry out your love to the hardest and the dark”

“We’ll lead this generation to the glory of the Lord”

And then – as it always does – the bridge of the song struck me so powerfully:

“There’s a ‘yes’ in our hearts

and it carries through eternity

simple obedience changes history”

All of these words, but in particular the bridge were confirmations and echoes of all of the dreaming and envisioning I had done the day before. Standing there at the altar alone listening with my eyes closed, I could see God’s hand moving pieces and parts together for our Spring Conference. I caught glimpses of dreams and visions that I stored on a shelf somewhere in my mind coming to life again. I could see God moving me towards the dreams and visions He’s put in my mind and that I’ve said yes to in the past.

I started laughing and crying at the same time. I smiled so big that my face hurt. Just standing at the altar solo in the presence of God I was inspired. I stood there reminded that being silent in the presence of God is the greatest catalyst for innovation. I was overwhelmed by the truth that the “yeses” that we say to the God-dreams and visions He unleashes in our hearts carry through eternity.

Think about that.

Our “yes” to God carries a weight through eternity. A “yes” to being part of His story changes history. No dream and vision that God has given us and that we’ve said “yes” to is an empty “yes”. God is on the move. Can we slow ourselves down enough to see His movement?

Let’s find the moments of solitude.

Let’s go to the altar space that can inspire our mental space.

Let’s dream with God every day. 

Let’s re-envision the visions He’s given us.

Let’s create something with our Creator.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

BUILD


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It’s been nearly a month since my last post and I’ve longed to share with you what God has been doing throughout the past few weeks. On January 17, I started a new job. I’m working at an organization called Bottom Line. We work with low-income, minority, first generation students providing support for them from high school to college and college to career. I’m serving as the Career Team Manager and leading a team of 6 counselors who support college juniors and seniors by giving them the tools to be career-ready.

(Fun fact: During my junior and senior year at the University of Central Florida, I worked for Career Services as a Career Peer Advisor. My life has a tendency to move in spirals or circles – depending on your perspective – so in many ways God’s preparation for me for this role began a decade ago.)

(Also an important sidenote: I am still serving as the Youth Pastor of Radical Culture at Leon de Juda. By the grace of God, I’m continuing to balance every day miraculously.)

Almost a year ago, I was sitting at my favorite coffeeshop, Ula Cafe, working on the Color Me Yellow book, when I heard two people at the table next to me talking about an organization that supported students through the transitions from high school to college and college to career. That organization was Bottom Line. My eavesdropping led me to googling.

I checked the job postings at the time and there wasn’t anything that interested me, so I left the name on a post-it and moved on.

And then about 7 months later in August 2016, I saw the post-it and checked the website again. That’s when I saw the Career Team Manager position and I applied, thinking what’s the worst that happens: I never hear back.

Well, I didn’t hear back.

Until the middle of November. I had completely put the application process out of my mind and mentally moved on. So, when they called to schedule an interview I was in shock. After the first interview, they told me they would reach out in two weeks to let me know about final interviews. But less than 24 hours later, I received an email from the Program Manager asking me if I could come in for an interview in 2 weeks.

That 2-hour interview was the most intensive interview of my life. At the end, they told me the same thing: “We’ll reach out to you in two weeks.” Four days later, they offered me the position as Career Team Manager. I had the weekend to decide.

Honestly, I had no clear sense from the Holy Spirit about whether or not this was a God-thing or a distraction from the God-thing. I’d kept this whole process extremely private and the Sunday before I made the decision, two conversations were spoken into my spirit.

The first, came from a prayer about choosing the thorny road or the comfortable road. As my friend prayed, she told me that she didn’t know which was the thorny one or which was the comfortable one, but that she knew that deep down I knew. And I did. It wasn’t about this position giving me the comfort of having a salary, health insurance, title, etc. Accepting this position was actually the more thorny of the two. It was the more complicated, the more challenging, the more transforming.

The second, came from a conversation about my concerns related to time and having enough of it to balance everything. My friend essentially said to me, I have other concerns, but I’m not concerned about your time, because in a special way God always gives you more time than other people. You’re gonna have time to do everything.

I accepted the position.

In the month leading up to my start date, God had been reminding me about my God-design and the way He’s framed me and called me to frame my life. In particular, reminding me of a line in my personal vision statement about building people up into their God-design. He whispered the word “build” to me over and over again. Build people. Build systems. Build ideas. Build networks. Build capacity. Build. I have known for a long time that one of my roles in the kingdom is to be a builder. It’s not just because I love Legos, although I’m certain that God was up to something when He gave me that child-like love! It’s because I genuinely desire to build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

In my 495 square foot apartment, there’s a wall that is the last thing I see when I leave and the first thing I see when I return. I recently did some rearranging and purging, so that wall has been empty for months. While God had been whispering to me “build”, I got a vision to use that wall as a visual representation of these words. I had a vision to create a word map with the word “build” in the middle of the wall and then connect different images and words to the word that would be a reminder to me of what and how God has called me to build His kingdom. I would include images and words from my personal vision statement, my core values, and other inspirational images and words that would help me build.

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The “Build Wall” is now up in my apartment.

I leave asking the question: What will you build today?”

I return asking the question: “What did you build today?”

God started a movement when He created all things. Jesus continued that movement to bring us into a reconciliation that we could not achieve on our own. The Holy Spirit was sent to us to empower us to continue that movement. To build His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

What will you build today?

In the tension together,

sg

Finding Your Voice

An Echo of Heaven


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I sat in the back of a coffeeshop getting teary eyed. Last week, I was working on the book in coffeeshop with limited internet access. I seized the opportunity to unplug from everything. I won’t give away too much of the chapter I was writing, because I want you to experience the idea in it’s full context. But as I sat there writing with an unplugged clarity, I got teary eyed! 

Honestly, I can’t even tell you the fullness of why I got teary eyed. But what I can tell you was that in that moment I was not writing. It was as if the Holy Spirit took over my thoughts, feelings, and fingers and started typing a word of encouragement that I needed to read.

Here’s what I read:

Every mountain you climb invites you into a newly unfolding part of your story where you will face challenging and exciting new experiences. With every every mountain you climb, on this side of eternity, you experience new dimensions of God. This inevitably gives you the opportunity to experience new dimensions of your voice. As you climb the next mountain, your voice is transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven. A sound that you and the communities God has entrusted you with desperately need to hear. Climb the next mountain.

I can’t promise this paragraph will make it into the final draft of the book. Even if it does, it may go through several edits and look completely different. So, I share this with you as a rough draft of words written by the Holy Spirit.

There are ten chapters of context before this paragraph appears, so the larger implications about finding our voices in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment are absent from these words. But there’s a word of encouragement here that I needed to read as I look out on the horizon to climb the next mountain. My prayer is that there’s a word of encouragement for you as well.

If I could characterize the season in the tension that I’ve been walking through for the past 16 months, I would call it a season where my faith grew exponentially. When I was younger, I always used to say that faith was hard for me. I used to say that it was hard for me to believe.  Maybe that was because I questioned, deconstructed, and overanalyzed everything. The truth is I still do those things, but faith and believing aren’t hard for me.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” (I preached a sermon on this verse last Sunday, that you can hear on the Radical Culture podcast soon). In this season of the tension, I have learned more about the reality of this verse. My faith has taught me that there are a lot of mountains in our lives meant to be climbed and possessed. The incredible invitation of every mountain climbing expedition is an opportunity to transformation. We accept the invitation to mountain climb through faith.

I wonder if our fears of heights, of the edge, and of the unknown, keep us from climbing the next mountain.

I wonder if the work and effort it took for us to climb just one mountain leaves us so burnt out that we spend our lives pointing to that one experience and never accept the next invitation.

I wonder if as we comfortably sit on the top of the mountain, saying “I did it!” and taking pictures, that we don’t want to risk climbing down from one mountain to climb the next mountain we see off in the distance.

I wonder if we mount up excuses after excuses – I don’t have time, I’m too old, I won’t make it through another one, etc – that we rob ourselves of the new dimensions of God and ourselves that He wants to reveal to us.

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Mount Evans, CO | 14,265 feet above sea level | 3rd highest mountain in the US | Highest paved road in the US 

Friends, set aside your fears, stop being complacent, quit being comfortable, quiet your excuses, and climb the next mountain.

There’s work to be done. The kingdom of God is at hand. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. There’s a promise that God has already given you that you have to possess.

There’s a dimension of God that you haven’t experience yet. There’s a dimension of yourself that you haven’t experienced yet.

I started to get teary eyed when I read this sentence:

As you climb the next mountain, your voice is transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven.

I want to be transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven. I want it to be said of me that my voice was an echo of Heaven.

Echo: the repetition of a sound caused by reflection of sound waves.

Finding your voice in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment is not easy. Tension implies intensity. Mountain climbing is intense. But there’s a trail map for the tension. The trail map is the Word of God. As we follow the trail map to climb the next mountain, the Word of God becomes the guide and we learn how to understand it. We understand how to follow it so much, that our mind, heart, and soul align with its markings, paths, and coordinates. We are transformed. As we climb the next mountain, the transformation in us causes us to speak a sound that reflects the sound waves of the Savior. We become an echo of Heaven.

And here’s what’s mind-blowing to me about the grace of God. We become an echo of Heaven, not simply for ourselves, but for the communities that He has entrusted us with who desperately need to hear His echo.

Name the next mountain.

Pack your trail map.

Climb the next mountain.

Transform more and more into an echo of Heaven.

God, I present to You every life reading these words. I ask that you would empower them to turn away from fears, complacency, comfort, and excuses and turn towards your incredible invitation to climb the next mountain. Increase their faith to accept the invitation. Remind them that you are not finished with them yet. Reveal to them Your desire for them to experience new dimensions of You and of themselves. Inspire them to possess the promises you have given them. Give them a desire to immerse themselves in your Word, so that they can internalize the trail map that will guide them to possess the mountain. Transform their voices into an echo of Heaven. I bless their lives. I bless the communities you have entrusted them to steward. I bless their mountain climbing expeditions. Let them be an echo of Heaven. Let us be an echo of Heaven. In Your powerful name, Amen.

In the tension together,

sg

In the Tension

On The Other Side


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Sometimes making the decision to do something – even when that something is the last thing you want to do – is the best way to stay tenacious in the tension.

Twelve weeks ago, I started working at Instacart. This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Instacart is an app-based grocery shopping company that allows customers to make a grocery shopping list and have someone shop and deliver their groceries to them.

I sat at my training interview thinking: “What are you doing here, sg?”

After my first day working for Instacart at Whole Foods, I really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I’m not a quitter. I made a decision that day that I was going to try my best to not complain about this opportunity. (Except complaining about how cold it is in grocery stores!)

I was going to do my best to let this be a training season. A training season on the other side of my comfort zone. A training season in customer service – a field I’ve never worked in before. A training season in not being the person in charge. A training season in serving others.

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These are my notes from the other side:

1. Always pray for the people you serve.

From day one, I made the decision that I was going to pray for every single “batch” (shopping list) that I received before I started working on it. I would never meet the people that I served, but you learn a lot about people based on their grocery shopping lists. You learn whether they have kids, gluten allergies, a cold, and tons of other things.

Praying for people before you serve them gives you an open door into their spirits.

It helps you remember that all people are created in the image of God.

It helps you serve them as though you were serving Christ.

2. Make the call.

I would never see my customer’s faces, but this didn’t mean they didn’t have a voice. Before the app allows you to start the checkout process, you have to call the customer if you’ve replaced any of their items. You can bypass this phone call by sending a text message to them about the changes to their order. It’s much easier and faster to send a text message than making the call. From a shopper perspective, we are ranked based on our metrics. The faster you shop, the more batches you get. The more batches you get, the more money you make. Making the call often ruins your metrics, because it takes time.

Serving demands time.

Making the call to the person you’re serving is how to serve excellently.

Excellence demands sacrifice.

Making the call to the person you’re serving values the person over the system.

3. Be kind. Be merciful.

From a leadership perspective, perhaps one of the most exciting things about being a start-up company is the freedom to create and innovate. I discovered this is perhaps one of the least exciting things for employees. Constant changes – while they are exciting for leadership – get passed on to the employees to execute. My shift supervisor was given the task to implement these changes under the watchful eyes of her supervisors. To be honest at first, I resented all the changes. Then, I remembered all the times that I’ve implemented changes among my teams. This caused me to start to be kind. I started to be merciful to the people leading me.

Creativity and innovation thrive in a culture of kindness.

Changes met by mercy instead of resentment help everyone go farther faster.

4. Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

I was an anomaly to the metrics system. My supervisors could not understand how I was getting so fast and accurate so quickly. I attribute much of this to notes 1-3 and to fact that I am a fast learner. But they didn’t know that. They just knew that in my short time at Instacart, I was performing like some of the senior shoppers. So what did they do? They made me the guinea pig for the new ideas they wanted to implement to train new shoppers. These new ideas included everything from my shift supervisor following me around observing my approach to my shift supervisor clocking the amount of steps I took per order with a pedometer, and to my shift supervisor implementing new checkout methods with me. At first, all I wanted was to be left alone. Let me to do me. And then I started to think about all the people on my teams that I’ve made to be guinea pigs for new ideas. I thought about why I chose them and I realized that I choose to ask certain people to do things, because I admire their approach.

To everyone I’ve asked to be a guinea pig for one of my crazy ideas: thank you for enduring my madness. And forgive me for not explaining to you that I chose you to be a guinea pig out of admiration.

Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

Consider it an honor when your leaders see something in you that they want to clone, so that others can be like you.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re doing something right.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re setting the new standard.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re blazing a trail for others to follow.

5. People love yogurt.

After twelve weeks, I completed probably around 300 batches and the item that makes it on nearly everyone’s shopping list is yogurt. Greek yogurt, almond milk yogurt, grassfed yogurt, and not to mention all the different flavors in these broad categories. People love yogurt. One batch had 24 individual cups of Stonyfield chocolate yogurt. When I first looked at the batch, I thought there’s no way they’re going to have 24 cups of this yogurt. Much to my surprise, they had 24 individual cups. Why? Because…people love yogurt.

What’s the lesson here?

My mom uses this phrase when she’s going to grocery store sometimes: “I’m going to get the essentials.” I came to discover that yogurt was one of “the essentials” for so many of my customers. “The essentials” are those things that make the list to get you through the week.

As we humbly serve others, it’s crucial that we always seek to meet people’s essential needs. That we meet their essential needs to help get them through the week.

I worked my last day at Instacart last week. I can honestly say that although this was the last thing that I wanted to do, I learned a lot about humbly serving others. I learned lessons that I pray will make me a better servant leader. I learned lessons that I pray will make you a better servant leader in the areas God has called you to steward people that He’s placed in your hands.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

Turning Points


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The greatest ride of my life so far was this past summer riding the rails on the Amtrak across the country. I spent two weeks on the rails with some amazing friends and I’ve held on to nearly all of the stories from this trip. Sometimes the journey isn’t something that needs to be shared right away. It simply needs to be treasured like a sacred gift. But I’ve been thinking about the way leaning into turning points give birth to greater glories.

I thought I’d share with you from my moleskine with a prayer that you would be strengthened to lean into the turning points in your own lives.

Day 7 – July 29, 2016 – 1:50PM PST

The stories of the journey we’ve been on in the past couple of days is too good not to tell, but I have to write about the wonders we’re beholding in this moment of our adventure.

We’re traveling up the coastline from LA to Emeryville. I’ve always dreamed of riding this coastline – of taking a car and driving Big Sur. But God wanted to take that dream to the next level and had something even more special in store for my first experience. The train is taking a route that’s completely unavailable by cars in several sections. The tracks run through private lands – lands that you can’t even get close to. With ocean to my left and the mountains to my right, we’re on the move.

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We could see the train turn outside of the window from where we were sitting

This is our God. A God who takes our wildest dreams into His wildness and makes them even more wild.

The train takes us to Point Conception. A place where the southern and western currents meet and as a result the waves are some of the strongest in the country. Historically, Point Conception was the place where Native Americans believed their spirit would rise to their next life (hence the name Conception).

But what is more interesting is the geographical collide. The state of California coming from the south to the north travels west until it reaches Point Conception and then it shoots north. It’s been such a distinct point in my mind of the map of the U.S. But today, I learned something about that point that makes it even more distinct.

c298cae50ff253d764327d45fa0ccae3-jpgThe collision of wave currents. The wild Northern and Southern waves crash into each other producing powerful and amazing waves that surfers love to ride. But the place is completely remote. It’s completely desolate. And in this collide, there’s a birthing – a new birthing.

This is the wonder of our walk with Christ. In the wild and forceful collisions of turning points in our lives we get to ride the greatest waves and experience new births that make us come alive.

But it’s scary…the sharp curves, the collisions of waves from two directions, never knowing what’s around the turning point. But these turning points that are so wild and so unknown are where we are conceived. These places are the places that become the stories we tell about the people we’re becoming. These wonders – in the wild – are the wonders we look back on and discover they are distinct not just because of their shape, but because of the way they shape us as we experience them. Often times that experience happens in the remote and off the grid places. Often times wilder than our wildest dreams. And God does that on purpose.

His desires are wilder than our wildest dreams. And the thing is, I’m not certain that we could ever contain His desires in us. But we can expand our dreams to be bigger and wilder and know that He will exceed them. He will do exceedingly more than anything we could ask or imagine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. [Ephesians 3:20-21]

Turning points give birth to greater glories. As we lean in to the collision of the curve, not knowing what’s on the other side of that turning point, we can trust that it will give birth to a new glory in us that reflects His glory.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

A Well-Dug Legacy


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As a steward of God’s Word, the Word has to comfort and confront me before I preach it. About this time last year – around the year anniversary of when my father left for his eternal home – I was preparing a sermon entitled “A Well-Dug Legacy.” The Word woven into this sermon dug a well of healing in me that I needed after the loss of papa.

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“A Well-Dug Legacy” is rooted in Genesis 26 during a drought in the Promised Land. It’s against this backdrop, that the Lord instructs Isaac to stay and dwell in that land and declares the same promise of Isaac that was declared over his father, Abraham. Under the bright shadow of Abraham’s legacy, the Lord blesses Isaac so much that he has to leave the town he settled in and sojourn throughout the Promised Land. His journey begins by re-digging the wells of his father.

And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. [Genesis 26:18]

As I studied and meditated on these words, they began to dig deeply into me. The unique thing about the Bible is that because it’s living and active, it has an incredible power to reach into you and transform you when you read it through the lens of the Spirit. And as I read it, I began thinking about my father’s wells. I thought about the marks that papa left. I thought about the bright shadow of his legacy that I have the privilege to live under and to continue.

I’ve never known anyone who loved the Word of God like Papa. He loved to learn it, to teach it, to talk about it, and to live it. His whole life was a life devoted to conforming to the ways of God woven into His Word. Papa taught the principles of Scripture in every conversation and every interaction. The Bible didn’t even have to be open for the Word of God to be palpable with every breath he exhaled. The marks of the living Word were left everywhere, because of the way he lived. And if you had the opportunity to know him, he inspired you to love and live God’s Word.

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I never anticipated that God would grace me with the gift of preaching and teaching. I used to wrestle with this, as we often do because of the scandalous nature of grace. But as God’s word for me in “A Well-Dug Legacy” continued to dig into my soul, I sensed the healing power and sufficiency of grace spring up fresh living water in me. Living water from a well dug inside of me by my father. The living water of God’s Word and the calling to steward His Word.

As Isaac’s story continues in Genesis 26, he follows the marks of the wells his father dug, he digs new wells, he confronts adversity, and ultimately comes to a place called Rehoboth. The name Rehoboth means “broad places” or “room” and when Isaac gets there he declares the Lord has made room for us to be fruitful. I imagine after all this time of journeying throughout the Land, Isaac was overjoyed to finally be able to rest.

But in the very next verse, the story tells us that he went up to Beersheba.

I don’t know why Isaac went up to Beersheba. Why would Isaac leave a place of comfort? I wonder as Isaac was tracing the marks of his father through the pattern of the wells he re-dug, if he began to see that just beyond the place of comfort – Rehoboth – was a place of faith – Beersheba. Beersheba was the city that Abraham and Isaac settled in immediately following Abraham surrender of Isaac in sacrifice to God (where Abraham nearly kill Isaac). Beersheba is the place where Abraham’s faith in God’s word took root. Beersheba is the place where Isaac saw and learned the faith of his father. So in Genesis 26, Isaac leaves a place of his own comfort to continue the well-dug legacy of faith that his father began.

img_0628I began to see my own story woven into the words of Scripture and was filled with this sense of the opportunity that God has given me…an opportunity to move beyond the place of my own comfort and into a life of a well-dug legacy of teaching God’s Word.

My mom says the last time papa heard me preach, he leaned over to her and said, “She’s better than me.” 

Legacy doesn’t just leave a mark; legacy leaves the right mark. The right marks of legacy are found in the deeply dug wells of people who have continued the faith movement that God started in the beginning. The right marks of legacy are well-dug img_4637into us by the fathers, the mothers, and those communities of faith. They dig faith wells in a way that gives us an opportunity to find healing and inspiration through re-digging them and continuing the faith movement. They dig in such way that when we seize the opportunity to live a well-dug legacy, they can proudly say: “They’re digging better than me.”

This Thursday, December 8, will be the second anniversary of Papa’s heavenly birthday. I know that the wells of his legacy were dug into so many people who are continuing the faith movement and know that he would proudly say, “They’re digging better than me.”

A huge part of his well-dug legacy of teaching God’s Word was an overflow of generosity towards others. For Papa, teaching the Word of God meant conforming to the Word of God and all throughout Scripture we see God’s abundant generosity. When you live out God’s Word, you can’t help but be generous. Papa was generous with his time, resources, listening ear, advice, and love.

Would you stand alongside our family this week and celebrate Papa by living out the Word of God in the form of generosity towards someone?

In the tension together,

sg