In the Tension

Go – Lesson #2


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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.

In the Tension

Go – Lesson #1


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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

In the Tension

Run the Other Way


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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

Finding Your Voice

I’m Watching You


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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

Color You _____, In the Tension

This Is A Fatal Activity


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“This is a fatal activity.” That’s what the video told us as we prepared to jump out of a plane on that mild August day in 2015. We had already signed the waivers, but just in case we wanted to turn back the man on the video wanted us to know we could die from skydiving. But at this point, nothing would hold me back from living out the adventure of this dream. For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of going skydiving. Something about free-falling through the sky and flying like a bird through the clouds left me in utter awe and desirous to jump and fall.

Just two days earlier, I handed in my letter of resignation to the executive director of the organization I was working at as a lawyer. A decision that did not come easily or lightly. A decision that I wrestled with and fasted over. But a decision that ultimately would set in motion a season of wonder and absolute dependence on God. I had no clue what would come next in my life. I know that God had called me into full-time ministry, but I had no idea what that would look like. But I was being obedient to the call of God. Being obedient to God’s radical invitation to surrender everything. Being obedient to taking up my cross and walking the death walk with him. Being obedient to this fatal activity of following Christ into the unknown.

Here’s what a lot of people don’t say when they talk about following Christ: “This is a fatal activity.” It’s not fatal because we die a physical death. In fact, physical death has no sting for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, because he overcame the sting of physical death when he went to the grave and rose from the dead. But it is a fatal death in the sense that we do have to die to ourselves. We have to die to our dreams, our goals, and our hopes. We have to die to our education, our titles, and our positions. And in all honesty, that kind of death is painful. Walking the death walk is painful. But our light momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17) and in this fatal activity we free-fall into what’s eternal.

While the plane elevated higher and higher into sky, I watched as the trees, houses, and cars became smaller and smaller. I replayed Hillsong United’s “Touch the Sky” in my mind and allowed myself to get lost in thoughts of how gracious God is towards me. The moment came. 10,000 feet above sea level. I was so lost in thought that the instructions to hold onto a bar at the front of the plane were lost on me and I accidentally grabbed the steering wheel the pilot was holding to fly the plane, titling the plane a little bit. And then just like that, the weight of the professional skydiver who was flying tandem with me caused us to free-fall out of the plane. This is the ultimate trust fall and it’s with a complete stranger.DCIM100GOPRO

The fatal part of the activity is the tension of the free-fall. I wasn’t just falling. Free-falling through the winds takes skill. And even though they taught us a few key positions that we needed to know for the sky dive, free-falling required me to rely on the skill of the person I flew tandem with, because he knew how to navigate the winds.

In my own story, I’ve had to learn to trust that the professional skydiver I’m falling with, whose name is Jesus, is navigating the winds of this free-fall. I’ve had to learn to trust that I know the positions and can hold them steady, so that he can guide us through the winds, through the clouds, through my uncertainty about when it will be the right moment to lift the parachute.

The most fatal thing we can do is trust Jesus.

I’m not talking about trusting him with one thing here and one thing there while we hold on tightly to other areas of our lives. I’m talking about trusting him completely. Dying to everything that we are (and everything we think we are) and trusting him with everything. I’m talking about not just singing about surrender on Sundays, but actually living surrender in every area of our lives.

I’m not all the way there yet. There are moments when I can’t even sing the songs about surrender, because I understand the death blow those words inflict on my desire for control. (In fact, “I Surrender” just randomly popped up while I’m writing this and I needed to pause writing to really let those words sink into my soul.) But I have learned and am learning to trust that I’m free-falling with a professional skydiver, that I know my positions, and that He knows the exact moment to lift the parachute.

There’s a reason they call it free-falling. It’s because if you allow yourself to feel it, you feel so free. The wind pushing against my face. The spit from my open-mouthed laughter wetting my face. The 60-seconds that felt like time was suspended. The pure wonder of it all. Free-falling.

One of the parts of my personal vision statement is building people up to become the God-designed version of themselves and to fulfill their specific calling. As I mentioned in my first post, I’m writing a book and in line with this part of my vision statement, the book is designed to stand alongside you in a practical way towards finding your voice. At the end of each chapter, there are practical questions and activities that serve to help you in the process of self-discovery. I figured I’d continue making that vision a reality here on the blog as well, so that this can really be a journey that we do together.


Color You _____ Moments

  • What is a radical invitation that you feel the Lord has extended to you? How are you responding?
  • What is the hardest part about trusting God for you?
  • What areas of your life do you feel like you’re free-falling? How can you choose to enjoy the free-fall instead of flailing through it?

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

Two Years Ago…


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This morning when I opened Facebook on my phone for the morning scrolls, it reminded me of that on this day two years ago I posted the “Color Me Yellow” video. We were coming to the end of our Color Me ____ Series with Radical Culture and I was excited to preach the final sermon in the series, “Swords, Anchors, and Cheerleaders”color-me-graphic

The Color Me Yellow adventure has been years in the making, but the Color Me ____ series sprouted a dream in me to write a book on this theme. A dream that Facebook reminded me this morning has been two years in the making. And an overflow of that dream has been this blog – two months in the making.

Color Me Yellow is about finding your voice in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment. It’s about embracing that every single one of us has a God-designed color to add to the canvas of His masterpiece.

The book is a dream that is coming to life. Several chapters have already been written and the G-O-D and I have had countless conversations about Him using each chapter to encourage you as you walk through and live in the tension of your own lives. The blog is an overflow of stories and observations that won’t make it into the book. But more than that, it’s an acknowledgement that we are always in the tension. And since we are always in the tension, I wanted to create a space for us to be there together.

You can’t imagine how much has happened in those two years since this dream began to sprout. So much has changed in my life. Things that I could have never predicted or anticipated. But as I pulled out my notes today from the “Swords, Anchors, and Cheerleaders” sermon, I discovered these notes are as true today as they were two years ago (and as I know they will be two years from now):

  • [Hebrews 3:12] : The Word of God in the mouth of a highly ranked and highly favored child of God has the power to cut through the tension of any circumstance or situation.
  • [Hebrews 6:19-20] : Rough seas teach us the value of the unseen anchor in our seen tensions. Anchors do their best work when they are unseen.
  • [Hebrews 12:1-2] : We are surrounded by a cloud of cheerleaders saying “Go yellow, go blue, go green, you go!” This is a reason to find joy in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment

I am just as excited as I was two years ago to share this adventure with you – for us to stand alongside each other as we find our voices – our God-designed colors!

In the tension together,

sg