Adventures

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

Dreams and Visions

Turning Points


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

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

Day 7 – July 29, 2016 – 1:50PM PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the tension together,

sg

In the Tension

Go – Lesson #3


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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

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