An Echo of Heaven

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

On The Other Side

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

Turning Points

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

A Well-Dug Legacy

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

Fatherly Affirmations, Fire Alarms, and Fruit Roll-Up Hugs

We start all of our Sundays with Prayer and Prep at 11:15AM. It’s the most important moment we get as a team to center ourselves as one body, one family, and one movement before we start to serve God’s vision for Radical Culture. But Sunday, November 13 (the Sunday after the elections), God was up to something in our community and in me.

In the days after the elections, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the question:

What role does God want the Church to have in our country in this season?

As I wrestled with (and continue to wrestle with) this question, I had a fleeting thought that I could have greater influence for the Kingdom if I went back to a legal job. After leaving my job as a lawyer, nothing has gone as I anticipated. The challenges have worn me down and worn me out.

That fleeting thought went away almost as fast as it came and the Lord kept whispering Fatherly affirmations to me about my ministerial calling, my commitment to Radical Culture, and my vision to build-up people into their God-design.

Even as I confront my own challenges in the tension, I’ve learned an important life tip: steward what’s right in front of you.

God allowed that post-election question to marinate in my mind and spirit and with it He had given me clear instructions to do this Sunday a little bit differently. So, my assignment was to steward that question and those instructions.

My objectives for our Worship Experience were two-fold:

  1. Create a safe space for our young people to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections 
  2. Start to engage in a dialogue about what role do we, as Christians, need to play

During Prayer and Prep, I looked at our team of leaders and volunteers who were serving and noticed that 12 out of the 16 people were young people 22 or younger. As I looked, I felt God affirm: “I’m doing it. I’m making my vision for Radical Culture to be a movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God a reality.”

With that Fatherly affirmation, I went over our two objectives for that Sunday. I affirmed the power of their presence and the power of their service to God’s vision. I shared some words from my prayers that week about the reason I serve young people and serve alongside young people. I told them it’s because I want to build sustainable bridges for them to cross into the future. I told them I want to dig deep wells for them to drink living water from as they stand in the gap for the Kingdom. I told them I want to train them well, so that they will train the generation that follows them well. We prayed together and we started to serve God’s vision.

As affirmed as I felt by God for this particular Sunday, I know that I can never take the opportunity to teach, preach, and build young people lightly. Our young people needed to hear from God’s voice in a way that resonates with them, so that they could be comforted by God’s words, confronted by God’s ways, and conformed to God’s will. And that…well that is not an easy assignment. In these days, where our young people are bombarded by the noise of voices that influence and form them, how could I offer a kingdom-cultural voice?

Here’s another life tip: Pray for prayer people. Choose them. Use them. I have prayer people and I had already chosen the prayer person who prays me into the hardest battles to pray. She prayed specifically about my influence and that I’ve been chosen to have that influence because of my righteousness before God. She affirmed our objectives for that day and my calling. I was ready.

We followed up the worship set with an open-ended question about general thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections. I shared from David’s story about a moment when he embraced the mystery of God’s timing and seized an opportunity for reconciliation. Then, we opened up the conversation again to make some observations about Christ-like reactions and responses to this moment in our culture.

As one of our young people shared about the challenges of a Christ-like reaction, the fire alarm went off.

Are you kidding me right now? Talk about mysterious timing! There’s always a message in the mystery. 

I grabbed my guitar on the way out, determined not to miss out on the momentum of this moment. I rallied our community and the young person who was talking during the fire alarm finished sharing.

As the fire alarm went off and the fire trucks approached the church, we prayed. We prayed for those who may be feeling fearful about the future. We prayed for those who were hurting and in shock. We prayed for God to have His way. We prayed for our newly elected president.

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The fire alarm stopped, the fire trucks left, we got an all-clear to re-enter the building, but we stayed outside of the church praying in a parking lot.

Then, one of our leaders led us to keep holding hands and wind up in circles – basically like a fruit roll-up – until we were all in a giant group hug!

In that fruit roll-up hug, I played my guitar and we sang, “No Longer Slaves” as one body, one family, and one movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God.

In that moment, I had one of those out of body experience where you’re watching yourself. I watched us the way I imagine God may have been watching us. I smiled as at us. I smiled realizing this generation is bright with the light of His presence outside of the walls of the church. I smiled seeing the power of our young people. I smiled confident that God isn’t waiting to use them until they’re older, but that He’s using them now. I smiled at myself, thankful that He chose me. I smiled affirmed that although I’m in the tension, I’m leaning into and living out God’s calling.

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Fatherly affirmations, fire alarms, and fruit roll-up hugs, have taught me (and are teaching me, because I’ll need to keep learning this) the depth and truth of what the author of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and since which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may no grow weary or fainthearted…It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. [Hebrews 12:1-3, 7, 11]

In the tension together,

sg

Go – Lesson #3

This is the third and final lesson that I learned about the tension from rock climbing. I challenge you to reflect on how God is training you in this season of your life for His calling and vision for  your life.

Lesson #3: Go through the uncertainty

While our whole team was still in the section with the “easy” walls (read “Go – Lesson #1″ to see why they weren’t that easy!), I walked over to the tall and “harder” walls. They definitely were harder. I hooked in my harness and made an attempt to climb a pink path. I was on my own this time. No one was spotting me or watching me. I made my way up the wall. Only to realize, I had no idea how to follow the path of pink that allegedly was supposed to get me to the top. I was uncertain. I let go. And I didn’t even attempt this wall again. It was too uncertain for me, so I didn’t want to make the attempt to climb a wall I had no clue how to climb.

But throughout our time at the rock climbing center, I had this nagging feeling in me that even though I was uncertain about how to climb up this pink path, I needed to go back to it and make the attempt. This time when I made the attempt, I didn’t make the attempt alone. I had two friends watching as I climbed through the uncertainty. (I learned a thing or two from Lesson #2.)

Somehow I found – with the help of my friends who were watching – a path through the uncertainty this time that wasn’t clear to me the first time I tried to climb up this wall. But as I made my way up the pink path to the top, there was a point in the path that swerved all the way to the right. I had no clue how I was going to twist my body to make it over there. My friends were shouting suggestions from their perspective about which pink rocks I should climb. I was thankful for their perspective, because when I was uncertain about where to go they were certain about where to lead me. Their certainty helped me get this far, but then there came a moment when it wasn’t clear to any of us which parts of the pink path I should take to climb to the top.

And then I felt it. With my left hand, I felt a rock hidden on the side of the wall. I couldn’t see it, so at first I was uncertain about whether this rock was actually part of the wall. But as I felt it, I felt that it was a hidden rock for my hand to grip. This rock would allow me the mobility to make it through the right swerve in the path and to the top of the wall.

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In the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment there will be uncertain paths. I wonder if one of the things that scares us the most about going through uncertain ways is the risky feeling that we can’t see a clear path. to the promise. God may have declared something powerful over your life and you want to believe that His promise will become a reality. But the path to the promise is uncertain. 

I feel a lot of affinity with the story of Abraham and Sarah. (And not just because my name is Sarah ;)). God gave a promise to Abraham about his family, his name, and his inheritance of blessing for all people on Earth. The part that resonates with me is when God explicitly told Abraham to “Go to a place I will show you.” Aka go through the uncertainty. He doesn’t give him a map. He doesn’t give him a gameplan. He gives him a promise and an instruction to go.

Abraham is so obedient that He does go. His story is not an easy story. He makes mistakes. Big mistakes. But check out what Paul says about Abraham thousands of years later:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:20-22]

He didn’t waver when the path to the promise was certain. He took the risk of faith in what he could not see and this made him righteous before God.

He climbed up the wall and, like me during the moment when the wall swerved, he didn’t see the rock on the side of the wall, but he felt it and he used what he felt by faith to continue on towards the promise.

Go through the uncertainty with the certainty that God will make the path to His promises clear.

In the tension together,

sg

Go – Lesson #2

God is training you for your God-design in the midst of your everyday normal life.

Can you see His hand? Can you hear His voice? Can you understand His ways?

These three lessons I learned about the tension through rock climbing are an example of how. You can read more about Lesson #1 here.

But more than learning alongside my lessons, I challenge you to reflect on how God is training you in this season of your life for His calling and vision for  your life.

Lesson #2: Go through the shaking

Another wall in the “easy” section literally became the giant I was determined to conquer before we left! I’m not sure if this wall was so challenging for me because my body was tired from climbing other walls or what. But every time I tried to climb this wall, every muscle in my body started to shake and couldn’t continue to hold on, so I would let go. This happened so many times, I had to take a break from even trying with this wall.

During my break, I rested my arms. I went to the front desk to get chalk to use on my sweaty hands to keep them dry. I cheered for our leaders and volunteers who climbed this wall and made it to the top. I watched strangers climb this wall to try and understand their strategy. I even saw a little girl, who could not have been more than 10 years old, climb the wall in what felt like 60 seconds!

Now it was my turn again. I was ready.

I made my way up the wall and started to shake again. Then, I heard one of my friends – who also happens to be a Crossfit Coach – tell me to go. “Keep going.” My body was shaking like a maraca and I kept thinking there is no way I can go through this shaking! But he kept telling me to go. “Go!” So, I went. I went all the way to the top. I went through the shaking.

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of holding on and continuing on through the tension is when the shaking sets into our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our spirits, and our voices. How do we go through the shaking when we’re weary? How do continue going through the tension when everything that we are wants to stop holding on, to stop going forward, and to just let go?

I know that it was the voice of my friend telling me to go – in his powerful and persistent coach voice – that kept me going. It kept me going all the way to the top of the wall. It kept me going, even though I was shaking the whole way!

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Our Radical Culture Leaders and Volunteers aka some of the coaches in my life that keep me going!

In the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment we will feel shaky. As we hold on to that promise, that vision, and that word that God proclaimed to us, our grip will get shaky. We get shaky, because of exhaustion. We get shaky, because our muscles are being worked hard. We get shaky, because we’re fearful that we don’t have the strength to keep going. But God is like a Coach telling us to go. Our friends are like coaches telling us to go. Our coaches know that if we go through the shaking, we find another dimension of strength in us. We find a strength that came from going through more than we could handle. Going through the shaking is when God activates the momentum of power that can only be broken out of weakness. It’s when we go through the shaking of the tension that our voices are most powerful and our victories most prominent.

“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” – Maggie Kuhn

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. I love learning. I love hearing about other people’s stories. Maggie Kuhn has a powerful story of using her voice to make a tremendous difference as a social activist for the rights of the elderly. #OldPeopleForTheWin Learn more about her story here or by clicking on the quote.

Go – Lesson #1

God wants to use every experience of your life as a training season for His calling and vision for your life.

Our Radical Culture community is in the midst of a series entitled “Training Season” that is about that big idea. I love the ways this series is pushing me to think about the training season God has me in right now. A couple of weeks ago our Radical Culture leaders and volunteer went rock climbing and God used rock climbing to teach me a few lessons about my training season!

Over the next few days, I’ll share those lessons with you. I challenge you to learn from these lessons, but more than that to reflect on how God is training you in this season of your life for His calling and vision for  your life.

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Lesson #1: Go through the obstacles

After we were suited up with our harnesses and shoes, the instructor brought us to an area of the rock climbing center where we had the opportunity to practice on “easier” walls. (I say “easier”, because I didn’t think they were that much easier.) Rock climbing walls are color-coded and each color corresponds to a different path to the top of the wall. The first section that I climbed followed a black path. I chose this section and path, because there was an obstacle directly in the middle of the path. (I’m pretty confident that if I had never been rock climbing before, I would not have chosen to go up this section. But I had a little confidence under my harness because I had done this before!)

I like to look at the colors before I start climbing up the wall to figure out my path to get to the top. The first time I got to the obstacle in the path, I tried to get around it but couldn’t, so I fell back and started again. The second time, I decided that instead of trying to find a path to the top around the obstacle, I was going to go through the obstacle. There were places on the obstacle itself to grab with my hands and put my feet on, so I navigated the path my going through the obstacle. By going through the obstacle, I was able to get up the path so much easier than when I was trying to go around it.

In the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment there will be moments when we don’t see a clear path. There will be obstacles. Sometimes we try to find a safe way around the obstacles. We try to find a way to avoid the obstacles. We try to find a way that may be exceedingly more complicated, but exceedingly less confrontational.

But what if the more confrontational path is the path that gets us to the promise faster? What if taking the path of more resistance, instead of the path of least resistance, actually brings us into a truer fulfillment of God’s promises? What if the going through the obstacles refines our voice, because it causes us to be more clear, more concise, and more convicted about what God has promised us?

God didn’t speak a safe promise to us.

God didn’t speak an avoidant promise to us.

God didn’t speak an confrontation-less promise to us.

The path towards finding our voice in the tension won’t be found in safety, avoidance, or less confrontation. The path towards finding our voice in the tension comes when we go through the obstacles.

In the tension together,

sg

Run the Other Way

When we run in the opposite direction we see a clearer view of God’s intention. I have been running Jamaica Pond in the same direction for nearly three years. Until last week, when I ran the other way. As soon as I was about to take a step my normal direction, I felt this impression in me telling me to run the other way. I didn’t doubt it. I didn’t question it. I ran with it. Literally.

My friend took a photography class once and the teacher told the class that often times the best views are the views behind you. I wasn’t taking pictures on this run, but that statement rang in my head as I made my way around the Pond. I saw the best views of the trees, foliage, viewpoints, and terrain. Views that are normally behind me. As I ran, I was in awe of the beauty of the landscape and I was proud of the altitudes of the terrain that I hadn’t realized I climbed when I ran in my usual direction. In many ways, running the other way made me feel like I was running around a new pond.

I knew that God was up to something with this. I knew the impression in me was Him telling me to run the other way. But I didn’t have a full picture of His intention that day or even in the days that followed.

Until this past Sunday. I was in church singing and praying during the worship set and a friend came to pray for me. She started off talking to God about how weak I was feeling and how I felt like I didn’t have the strength to keep going. All of these are true feelings in the midst of my own tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment.

Then she said, but we can look back and see how You’ve brought her to this place through other moments of feeling weak with no strength to keep going. In that moment, God brought into my mind that impression and experience of running the other way. I saw myself running the other way and realizing the amazing views that were behind me on every run for three years. Then, I saw myself running the other way in my life and remembering the amazing views behind me. The beautiful landscapes of God’s faithfulness. The wonderful victories over challenging terrains.

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There’s clarity in remembering. When we remember, we take the time to run the other way and see the great views behind us. Looking backwards helps us look forward with clarity. We see that God’s intentions towards us and for us have never changed. We trace the terrain of His faithfulness. We track the steps of the victories. We discover ourselves in His greater story of redemption and restoration. We recover the truth of our transformation – that we have been transformed, we are being transformed, and we will be transformed. We run the other way to remember.

When I think of remembering, the book of Deuteronomy always comes to my mind. Moses is writing to the generation that would enter into the Promised Land and possess the promise of God for the people of God. His theme is a theme of remembrance. In particular, Deuteronomy 8 is a beautiful encouragement to run the other way.

And you shall remember the WHOLE way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2

Moses encourages us to run the other way to remember the WHOLE way that the Lord has led us through in our moments of wandering. When we remember, we are humbled seeing that God tested us to forge in us a heart fully committed to His ways. When we remember, we are encouraged at our core from the seasons the Lord has brought us through.

My friend continued to pray that based on looking back, we can look forward knowing there is strength for this season. In my mind, I could see myself running in my normal direction around the Pond with a renewed sense of enthusiasm knowing what’s behind me. I could see the race of my life – still in the tension – with a sense of encouragement. I knew that the great views behind me of God’s faithfulness and our victories are there to give me the enthusiasm to continue running.

I could see God’s intentions for me clearly. His intentions for me to not give up. His intentions for me to keep running. His intentions for me to be tenacious in the tension.

Moses continues his encouragement in verses 7-10 saying:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, and a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

There’s so much I wish we could talk about in these verses, but let’s just focus our attention to the words, “he has given you.” These words are in the past tense. But wait, didn’t these verses start off in the present tense saying, “God is bringing you”? Does Moses have bad grammar? Not at all.

Here’s two important things to remember about the intentions of God:

  1. He’s called you to run towards a vision He has already given you.
  2. He’s promised you something that’s already yours.

We run in the opposite direction to a clearer view of His intention for our normal direction.

Today, I ran in my normal direction. I ran thinking of the great views behind me. And guess what? I ran faster than my average pace per mile. I ran stronger and steadier than I’ve run in weeks. 

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Running the other way gives us the encouragement to return toward running towards His vision and His promises for us. Let’s take time to run the other way and remember. Let’s run in the opposite direction to see a clearer view of His intentions.


Color You _____ Moments

  • What are some moments when God has been faithful to you?
  • What are some moment when God has helped you to be victorious?
  • Based on those moments, what are some themes of God and your story?
  • How can those themes encourage you to run towards God’s vision and promises for you?

In the tension together,

sg

I’m Watching You

Do you like group fitness classes? Be honest. Everyone in the room is watching you…judging you. Or at least that’s what you think in your head. It’s kind of intimidating. Or at the very least uncomfortable.

Over the summer, my friend asked me if I wanted to go to a kickboxing class. “Groupon has a deal!” These are code words for: “How could we not seize the opportunity at this cheap price?!” I’m always down for trying new things and to be honest, this was our second attempt at kickboxing  (ask me about that story later!), so we were determined. 

True confession: I was nervous. I don’t like group fitness classes. I like to think of myself as a strong person. I’m a doer. I’m a go-getter. Anything you can do, I can do better. I’m internally very competitive. But my left shoulder is weak (more about this in the Color Me Yellow book). That weakness means that I need to be mindful of what I do with my left arm and how I do it. So I was a little nervous about being in a group class where that weakness would be exposed. I wanted to try it out with no modifications, no special treatment, and no attention from anyone. So I foolishly didn’t tell the kickboxing coaches about my weakness. Even though my friend told me to say something. But even though I have this weakness, I didn’t want anyone to see my weakness. Maybe you can relate to that?

During the class, I was ALL IN. But the next day, I could barely get out of bed. Muscles I didn’t even know I had were sore. My left shoulder was in pain. I could barely lift my arm. We weren’t going back to the class for another week. I was thankful, because I ended up needing the whole week to recover! But my friend told me that I had to tell the coach before the next class about my left shoulder weakness.

She stood right next to me while I told the coach –  partially to make sure that I did it, but more than that to have my back throughout the class. The coach asked all the right questions about when it hurt last week. He gave me all the right instructions about making modifications to certain exercises, about being mindful of my form while I was punching the bag, and about not punching the bag too hard with my left arm.

Then my friend told me: “I’m watching you.” 5371a6bec6b42d0ca7e9f828b6194a5c1f2d006539d04fb330abb1e3f0d722aa

Well, thank you. This is reason I hate group fitness classes. I don’t want anyone watching me in my weakness! 

Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

1 Timothy 4:15

Paul writes to Timothy when he was a young pastor of a church in Ephesus. This church was originally Paul’s church and he chose to leave it to his mentee, Timothy. He must have been honored. But he also must’ve need some encouragement as a young leader. So, Paul encourages him to do three things:

# 1: Practice Certain Things

In order to serve his purpose as a pastor, he needed to practice. In the verses before, he’s already told him what to practice. Practice being confident. Practice being an example. Practice preaching and teaching the Word. Practice encouraging people. Practice mastering the excellence of your gifts.

#2: Immerse Yourself In Those Things

In the original Greek language, the idea of immersing himself was to “be IN them”. Paul wanted Timothy to be in these things so much that they absorbed him and he absorbed them. Paul encouraged him to commit to a persistent practice of certain things that would help him live out his God-designed purpose. We practice to get better at something, because we haven’t mastered it yet.

#3: Practice Those Things For ALL To SEE Your Progress

Okay, okay. Wait a second. I can get super pumped with persistent practice, Paul. But when you start to talk about doing it so that others can see it…then I start to get nervous. I start to think about group fitness classes again and how much I don’t want anyone watching me in my weakness!

Allowing people to see our progress means allowing people to see our weakness.

For Timothy, this meant that people would have to see him struggle with insecurity and move towards confidence. They would see him failing to be a good example for others. They would have to listen to some bad sermons. They would have to see him struggle to encourage discouraging people. They would have to watch him progress from fumbling in his gifts to mastering them.

Allowing people to see our progress means allowing people to see God’s strength working itself through our weakness. Allowing people to see our progress means allowing people to see God’s hand at work our practiced process, not just our finished product. Allowing people to see our progress means allowing people to see us as God sees us and love us as God loves us. 

And that can be terrifying. Terrifying because it means you have to be vulnerable with people about your process. The messy, disastrous process of practicing. Of being weak. Of failing. Of falling. Of becoming.

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I didn’t want my friend to watch me in my weakness. But knowing she was watching, actually challenged me to practice strengthening my weak arm with the modifications. I knew her watching me meant her watching out for me. She was cheering for me. She was supporting me. She was having my back (and my arm). She was watching out for me through the process and seeing my progress. Instead of feeling intimidated, I felt inspired. 

As people inspire us to progress, we inspire them to progress. As people watch us and watch out for us, we create the space for us to watch them and watch out for them. As people receive our vulnerability, we open our hands to receive their vulnerability. 

Seeing each other’s progress glorifies God in the process of practice. 

He’s glorified, because we are transforming as individuals into our God-designed purposes AND we are transforming into a God-designed community. A God-designed community where even though we’re all practicing and progressing through our weaknesses, we’re not doing it alone. A God-designed community where people are cheering for you, where people are supporting you, and where people have your back. A God-designed community where group fitness is actually inspiring!


Color You _____ Moments

  • What is one of your weaknesses that is hard for you to share with someone?
  • Why is it hard for you to share that weakness?
  • How would you describe a God-designed community?

If you are part of a God-designed community, I want to encourage to let others see your progress. I know it’s terrifying, but I also know that it’s inspiring.

If you aren’t part of a God-designed community, then I want to share a little bit of perspective on what Paul was telling Timothy. Timothy was the leader of his community. Paul was telling Timothy to set the standard for vulnerability. Get connected to the body of Christ, start setting the standard for vulnerability, and God will start transforming those relationships, so that His God-design comes alive.


Often times the best place to find your voice is alongside others. I’m watching you.

In the tension together,

sg