Finding Your Voice

Finding Your Voice, In the Tension

How “On the Basis of Sex” & the Women’s March Inspired Me About the Future of the Church


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“On the Basis of Sex”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I know this case disrupted our lives.

Jane Ginsburg: Who is it for if not for me?

If you have not seen “On the Basis of Sex”, then you need to see if before it leaves theaters. The movie chronicles the story of Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the early years of her career as an attorney. 

During a turning point in the movie, Ruth experiences a setback in the gender discrimination case she’s trying to bring before an appeals court. This case, if they won on appeal, would change the future of gender equality in the US. 

She’s given everything to and for this case. The whole family is involved, including her daughter, Jane. Ruth wants to give up and she apologizes to her daughter for the case disrupting their lives. 

Then Jane says a powerful statement: “Who is it for if not for me?” 

This becomes a turning point for Ruth – both for her relationship with her daughter and for the tenacity with which she holds on to her vision for gender equality. 

Ruth understood something about being tenacious in the tension: 

  1. It’s not about you
  2. It’s about those who come after you

The way the movie portrayed Ruth’s story and her relationship with her daughter, Jane, highlighted the impact our influence can have on those who come after us. Their story reminds us that our devotion to something greater than ourselves can leave an indelible legacy.

The Boston Women’s March

On January 19, I went to the Boston Women’s March. We stood outside in the 30-degree for 4 1/2 hours listening to speaker after speaker encourage us about gender equality and equity. We came together in solidarity for the stories about where we’ve been and where we have the potential to go. 

What marked me more than the speakers were the young folks surrounding me. These young folks came from a range of lived experiences and identities and they came together to acknowledge and advocate. 

Our young people are growing up in a culture where it’s normal for them to go to rallies and rallies. They understand how to navigate conversations about buzzwords that the corporate world is trying to figure out: diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our young people don’t need to figure these words out, because these aren’t words to them, this is their lived experience.

I had the honor of being there with two young Latina women who are hermanitas for me. As I talked with them, I realized the great potential they have to lead not only the future of this generation, but also the future of the Church. 

They understand what Jane Ginsburg understood and communicated to her mom: “Who is it for if not for me?”

They understand that devotion to something greater than ourselves can leave an indelible legacy. 

Millennials, Generation Z, and The Future of the Church

We live in increasingly complex times. As a leader in the Church I’ve watched as we’ve become increasingly insulated as the complexity has disrupted us. I’ve watched as we’ve let go of navigating the complexities – out of fear and out of a lack of clarity.

We stood by and watched the exodus of countless Millennials, because we stopped being tenacious in the tension.

Now, Generation Z, is growing up with advocacy across a range of issues  (many that are and will be disruptive) woven into their lived experiences. 

  • How will we, the body of Christ, respond? 
  • What will our tenacity in the tension look like as we lean towards the vision of loving God and loving others as we love ourselves? 
  • How will we recapture the beauty that the good news of Christ isn’t for us to hoard, but to share with others? 
  • How will we share the full good news of Christ to and for those who come after us? 
  • How can we embrace young folks and empower them to lead alongside us as we build the future of the Church? 
  • How can we listen and learn from their lived experiences as well as disciple them to live out a vibrant faith as followers of Christ? 

8 lessons “On the Basis of Sex”  and the Boston Women’s March taught me about building the future of the Church:

  1. Listen and learn together
  2. Walk alongside others
  3. Make room for wrestling together
  4. Talk about the full gospel because it’s STILL powerful
  5. Prepare to run the long race, because this isn’t a sprint
  6. Devoting time is the gamechanger 
  7. Deconstructing is important, but leads to hopelessness
  8. Create safe spaces to reconstruct the deconstructed pieces of faith 

In the tension together, 

sg

Finding Your Voice, Possessing God's Promises

I Dare You To Move


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I had an unexpectedly busy Thanksgiving vacation. I went home to Florida for 10 days of rest, reflection, and celebration of the many blessings of 2018. But God had different plans. I went from preaching one sermon to preaching three sermons in 10 days. 

A few weeks before I went home, the senior pastor at my mom’s church, Centro Cristiano Hispano (CCH), asked me to preach on Thanksgiving morning for the sunrise service. 

Since the beginning of October, God stirred a word in my spirit about hospitality, so I decided to lean into the stirring and preach on the theme of hospitality. As I prepared the message, about a week before I left Boston, I felt an overwhelming impression, that I needed to preach this sermon in Spanish. 

Two important facts you need to know about me: 

  1. I’ve been preaching since I was 20 (I’m 32 now) and EVERY sermon I’ve ever preached has been in English. (When I was 20, my first English sermon was actually at CCH)
  2. Two years ago, I wrote a single-sentence entry in my journal: “Before you open your church, you will preach your first sermon in Spanish.”

Preaching in English is in the sweet spot of my spiritual giftings, but preaching in Spanish has not been something I’ve been atrevida (daring in Spanish) enough to attempt.

But I couldn’t ignore this overwhelming impression.

The night before Thanksgiving came. I was finalizing the message by translating my English notes into Spanish, deleting all the English from my notes, and practicing saying the words outloud in Spanish. 

When I spoke to the Pastor, who normally interprets for me, he asked me if I needed him, and I said no I’m doing it in Spanish today. He asked again. “No, I need to do this on my own.” 

And just like that, 35 minutes later, I preached my first Spanish sermon on Thanksgiving from the same altar I preached my first sermon ever 12 years ago. 

Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. 

Did I make up words? Most likely. 

Did the message on hospitality get communicated? Absolutely. 

Then, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was asked to preach the same sermon again that afternoon at another church. Then, after I preached that Sunday afternoon, I was asked to preach a sermon to youth group at CCH on the following Wednesday. 

Three sermons in ten days.

I expected to preach one sermon. But God did what God does and multiplied the opportunities for me to serve Him. 

I’m confident that part of the multiplication happened, because of my willingness to respond to the overwhelming impression to do something I had never done before. To preach in Spanish. To be obedient to the Spirit of God and jump into the deep end with no one there to interpret for me, except the Spirit. To make a move. 

I didn’t question the overwhelming impression. I didn’t ask God for confirmation. I didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion. I moved. 

I want to share about the theme of hospitality with you all, because I believe there’s a prophetic instruction that God is giving us for the times we are living. 

But before we can respond to that instruction, I wanted to share with you this story of responding to God’s instructions. I wanted to encourage you to start making moves. 

God has given a living Word, called the Bible, filled with instructions on living an extraordinary and abundant life. God has given us the Spirit to lead us with instructions on living life to the fullness of our potential. We’ve got some great starting places for God’s instructions. 

But, so often, we hesitate to move. We make moving this hyper-spiritual thing, where we need an angel to appear in our living room telling us to move. We need someone to speak prophetically over us. We look at the story of Gideon and think we need to throw out a fleece again and again before we’ll ever make a move. 

While we wait to make moves, we miss opportunities to experience God moving. 

What if we lived a life of true faith that meant we didn’t try to coerce God through superstitious actions? 

What if we dared to move freely without fearing whether the move is the right move? 

I dare you to move. 

Here’s some encouragement from one of my favorite songs by Switchfoot: “Dare You to Move”

In the tension together, 

sg

Questions to ponder: 

  • What’s one thing that God has already instructed you to do that you haven’t done? 
  • What’s one step you can take to do that thing before the end of the year? 
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

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