Blogs…

We fall down and get up…

…run in such a way so as to get the prize…

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

So, about a week before Christmas, I took a spill during one of my runs. Being that winter was well under way, the sun was already sinking low after I’d come home from work. However, that didn’t deter me from my running goals… I’ll just run on the streets with street lights and if there aren’t any nearby, I’ll just be extra careful… yeah… right…!

After changing my clothes, I got caught up in conversation with my roommates. Before I knew it, I’d lost fifteen more minutes of daylight…! Finally out the door, the sky had changed to a dark blue color as it turned night…

Listening to a podcast of my favorite pastor, I ran through the neighborhood and out to the main road… Though a bit out of shape, I knew I’d need to hurry if I was going to make it before it was too dark to see a foot in front of me.

A year earlier, I’d owned a little headlamp… But somewhere along the way, I ended up giving it up… Oh, how I wished I’d still had that little light now!

About two miles in, I decided to turn around and head home. Though the main street was pretty well lit, it was also noisy… So, I decided to take one of the parallel side streets.

Swept up in the sermon, I was happily running along the sidewalk. A few blocks down it dawned on me to check the street sign so I’d know where to turn back to the main road…

As my eyes strained to see the sign, my feet stumbled on the uneven sidewalk… Before I even knew what was happening, I was well on my way towards the cold, hard cement… Just like the movies, time seemed to be moving in slow-motion as several thoughts raced through my head… I’m falling… I’m actually falling… I’m going to hit the ground! I hope no one is watching… how did this happen? It was as if I was in a time continuum outside of time itself… the Twilight Zone…. doo-do-doo-do, doo-do-doo-do, doo-do-doo-do…!

All at once… chatter… scrape… At the end of someone’s driveway, my knees hit the pavement first followed by my chin… I could feel blood oozing through my brand new running tights…

Trying to pull myself together, I sheepishly looked around to see whether anyone was around to see my graceless descent… I paused… Am I okay? Yep, I’m okay… a little banged up, but I’m fine… no concussion or broken bones… For a couple blocks, I walked a bit gingerly as the pain in my knees subsided, and then I picked up the pace and ran the remaining two miles home.

Now, that fall could have been much worse… It could have been in a street, I could have broken an arm, someone could have been watching to my utter embarrassment… It could have deterred me from running altogether. I mean, who really wants to go out and fall down??

Today during my usual run, with snow falling all around, I realized that the fall back in December hadn’t been enough to keep me from my run today… Though slush was on the ground, I wasn’t afraid of falling…

The old adage is true, “you have to get back up on the horse that threw you…” Life is the same way… When we fall or experience a failure, we cannot simply give up or give in. We will never really know when or if we will fall… But if we don’t go running, we will never cross the finish line either to experience the gratification that comes from finishing the race. Our love of running, our love for life ought to keep us going…

I, for one, am not someone who really likes to fail… The word “risk” is one of my least favorite words… But if we don’t try and go after that which we want, if we don’t risk falling, we will never have the chance at success… The chance at crossing the finish line… We may fall… We might fall numerous times… But we must get up again and again… Because the finish is worth it!

How have you been encouraged to keep running after a “fall?” What was the outcome of your decision to get back up after a “fall?”

pc: Sarah Coffey, Zambia night sky 2016

E Pluribus Unum…

“…out of many, one…”

A few years ago, I had opportunity to travel to New York City. Some close friends had moved to Long Island and invited me out for a visit. Being that the Big Apple was only a train ride away, I set aside a day and ventured in to see the sights.

It was surreal to see so many iconic places in person…

The Empire State Building…

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The New York Library…

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Central Station…

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The 911 Memorial…

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And that amazing city skyline…

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One afternoon, my friends ventured into the city with me. Having been descendants of immigrants, we were intrigued to visit both Liberty and Ellis Island. After standing nearly an hour in line, being thoroughly questioned, and systematically screened, we boarded a small boat.

The wind whipped through our hair, carrying with it conversations from an array of dialects and tongues. As everyone looked back across the Hudson River, I was struck by the scene…

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The cityscape sparkled in the sunshine, tourists from all over the world gazed back at the view, and Ol’ Glory waved as if to attest to the irony of the situation. E Pluribus Unum… “out of many, one…”

Though our nation inherited many political and societal structures from Britain, the culture has been shaped by immigrants. People who have brought with them traditions, customs, and creativity which has contributed to the prosperity and strength of us all. People who yearned for opportunity, freedom, the chance at a different life… The words of Emma Lazarus, have rung true… Lady Liberty has been the Mother of Exiles…

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”*

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Our nation has endured so many things… Breaking free from colonial rule, horrific civil war, economic depressions, world wars, equal rights for all… Yet, despite such groundbreaking successes that brought us together, we have become increasingly divided, polarized. No longer do we know how to be friends with those different from us… with those on the other-side-of-the-aisle, much less the other side of town! We don’t know how to have constructive conversations…

Rather than celebrating and welcoming opposing views, seeing them as bringing greater clarity, a catalyst for better solutions, or providing opportunity for growth, we withdraw from them… seeing them as “wrong,” “bad,” or simply an obstacle to our own comfort. We’re quick to scurry back to our little hovels full of people just like us, who we perceive to agree with us. We take offense at being misunderstood ourselves…

But this kind of thinking will get us nowhere. You need only turn on the TV, the radio, or your smart phone to see the fruit of such thinking… We cannot continue to label one another and write people off for the sake of our own ego… In so doing, many have villainized would-be friends.

The Apostle Paul knew there would be conflict in the midst of diversity. In fact, the church is the perfect example of that. God has drawn people from all walks of life to His family… wealthy and poor, presidents and slaves, the scientific and the artist, the guard and the prisoner, the doctor and the sick… Amidst such a diverse group, there would be differences of opinions, perspectives, biases, and sore-spots…

He reminded us of how our own body works…

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still ONE body…

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large integrated life…

The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful.

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together

…If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”**

It seems to me these are wise words which would be helpful not only for the church, but also for the nation. That we would see each other as a valuable, significant part of the success of us all.

I want to leave you with a link to Mandisa’s new song entitled We All Bleed The Same… An insightful reflection that when taken to heart has the power to change the world.

We All Bleed The Same

pcs: Sarah Coffey 

*From The New Colossus

**Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 in The Message translation

Falling off the wagon…

…what do you do when the struggle is real?

So, the first of the year started out pretty well for me. Boy, was I motivated! I’m going to get this done and that done… I’m going to eat healthy, work out, sleep plenty… I’m going to save money… I’m going to blog every week… Yadah, yadah, yadah….

Well, as with nearly every “New Year’s Resolution,” after a while the novelty and motivation can wear off. Before you know it, those well intentioned goals are simply dreams that faded with the sunrise over the night sky. Only a couple weeks into the year and I had lost that energetic motivation. I guess you could say, I fell off the proverbial wagon.

My well-meaning intentions remained, but I was having trouble finding inspiration. Between standing on my feet at work all day and this relentless struggle with a lack of sleep at night, I was just plain exhausted in the evening. All the goals I taped to my bedroom wall as reminders of what I’m aiming at seemed like too much effort and almost like only a measuring rod for my failure.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’ve found new motivation… I’ve wanted to remain faithful to my audience and to grow more in this thing called, “blogging…”

With each day and week, I’m still trying to keep at it. Perseverance is a quality I’ve always been told to put into action. And so, I thought I’d ask you, the reader, where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you to keep at it when the struggle is real?

pc: Sarah Coffey, Romania

Keep on dancing…!

…embrace each new year as an opportunity to live to the fullest…

“Ruby?”*

“Did you say, ‘Ruby’? Why, that’s me!”

Turning in response to my cry was an elderly lady, feet propped up in the stirrups of her wheelchair. Each curl of her graying hair was so volumatic one would have thought it was actually artificial. Wheeling her back to the exam room, I could tell I was in for a treat… this was no one ordinary.

Carefully, I pivoted her chair into the room, backing it up so that she sat in line with our usual exam chair. All set to begin, I positioned myself behind the computer screen to begin taking notes of the reason for today’s visit…

But Ruby was lost in her own conversation, going on and on about how good she felt…

“You know, it wasn’t until I really got sick that I even stopped dating. I never once thought about my age or worried about it… This little nurse that’s been helping me, she turned forty just a few weeks ago. I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown! She was so distraught about turning forty, but she didn’t look it at all! I even met her little old mother; she didn’t look her age either. I don’t think her mother even gave age a second thought. In fact, I think this little nurse picked up all this worry about getting old from her friends. Well, I’ve never been concerned about my age. I’ve dated and danced all the way through life… That’s what you gotta keep doing: keep on dancing. Ah, that’s what I miss most… If I wasn’t in this chair, that’s what I’d still be doing… dancing.”

I scarcely could bring myself to move the conversation along. Her words struck me… therein was a lesson that I needed to learn, a good word I needed to ponder…

Keep on dancing.

Suddenly it occurred to me the irony of the phrase… The theme of my high school graduation had been “I hope you dance.” (LeAnn Womack’s song of that title had come out that same year, so it was fitting for our class.)

At over ninety years of age, Ruby had found the secret to remaining youthful. In fact, I never would have guessed her age… Her vivacious spirit would have put her at least thirty years younger in my mind!

We live in a day when people are in desperate search of the secret to youthfulness. People invest their hard-earned-cash in creams, diets, athletic regimes, surgeries, all in the vain hope of keeping up that 20-something look. Meanwhile, their minds grow old… their spirits grow dull and lifeless…

Ruby’s quip was exactly what I needed to hear and what I think many of us need to hear. For me, I’ve just entered the latter half of my thirties. I’ve been dreading the idea of reaching forty without a spouse, children, or career to show for… But Ruby’s lesson inspired me to consider her words as profound wisdom… Stop fixating on length of years, instead fixate on the quality of your years.

Age is not to be feared, dreaded or escaped. As much as I urge you to take this to heart, I write it as reminder to myself. We ought to receive, accept, and embrace each new year, considering it an opportunity to grow, discover, and keep on dancing.

*Not her real name.

*pc: Sarah Coffey, Swaziland, Africa

Like a couple of rabbits in the garden…

…to have room for the new means to be rid of the old…

…screeeeaach… I forced the door to my clothes closet open… I was in search… Now where is that stuff… I was sure I brought it along…

Digging through all my paraphernalia, accoutrements, various doodads, I could feel myself sinking, being buried alive in my closet. It hit me… thoughts turned from my search to this impediment… Despite all my efforts to down-size earlier in the year, these possessions were once again growing, multiplying like a couple of rabbits left alone for a spell in a garden… No sign of the carrots, just countless figures of fluffy white fur canvasing the vegetable patch…

Beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic, I began making snap decisions… No, I haven’t worn that in the last year… No, I haven’t even cracked that book in all the years I’ve kept it… Quickly a pile began to form of articles to purge.

In the midst of this sorting, a realization hit me…

The only way to have room for the new is to be rid of the old.

Such a simple thought, yet pivotal.

For so many years I’ve held on to things for “the future.” As if this “future” would be full of destitution or poverty, a lack of necessities or no remembrance of days gone by…

Yet, in so doing, not only has it limited my floor space, it has limited my mind, trapped me in yesterday… There was no room for new things.

Like a breath of fresh air or a weight lifted from my shoulders, my mind seemed to open. To get rid of the old is to make room for the new… To make room for the new is to give myself permission to do new things… It means, new things WILL happen… new, GOOD things are coming… But I can’t grab a hold of them with my arms still full of yesterday’s heap!

I suppose I had felt that I somehow needed permission to move forward, permission to move on from the past… To let go of the past was somehow to deny or discount it…

But I was beginning to see how to let go of the past was in essence a way of assuring future goodness. To make room for the new was to see that new things would actually come! To be looking forward to those mysterious, as of now, not-known things – good things – that would be coming in the future… But how could I grab a hold of them if I didn’t move on from the past?

And then I was reminded of God’s word…

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

– Revelation 21:5

So, as I enter this New Year, I am eager to make room for new things… The past is full of trials and triumphs, of which the present time and the future will not discount. It was what it was, but now it is time for something new. And so, my heart will carry the following sentiment through 2018…

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:3

Time marches on…

…live your time…

Though we’ll turn our clocks back this weekend as Daylight Savings Time ends, no doubt we’ll all still ponder the necessity of the practice. Accepting the changing of our clocks is one thing, but each of us must come to terms with the passage of time in our own lives.

With each rising of the sun, we are reminded that yesterday is gone. As we enter the new day, it may be tempting to mourn the day that has passed. Time knows no favoritism, but is equally cruel to us all. Age comes as surely as rain falls from the sky.

Now stay with me here; I’m not intending to take this lackluster thought and lead us down a dark road…

Growing up, I often sat listening to stories of my grandma’s growing up years. Walking miles to school, helping her dad on the farm, learning in one-room school houses, attending community picnics… It all sounded so simple, fun, and romantic to my little mind! When she’d finish, I’d exclaim how I wished I’d been born during that time to experience those things. But in her wisdom, she’d always reminded me, “Sarah, we all live our time.

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That little statement never really made sense to me.

We all live our time…

What does that really mean?

As time has passed, I have begun to understand…

Each of us was created for a specific purpose and a specific time. It is all our own; no one else’s. No two people on the planet – even identical twins – are exactly the same. God orchestrated it, science has proven it.

King David was well aware of this…

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:16

His son, King Solomon, took it a step further…

“There is a time for everything; a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

As Queen Esther contemplated whether or not to get involved in the plight of her fellow Jews, her cousin Mordecai reminded her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

It’s easy to mourn days gone by and wonder our purpose for today. But there is a plan, though sometimes unbeknownst to us. Know this…

“God has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

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So, if you are wondering, waiting, working to find purpose, meaning, a plan in your life, know that there is one. You were not simply the creation of little nuclei coming together thanks to your parents. You were created for a reason. If you’re not quite sure what the reason is, know that first and foremost it was to know your Creator. After all, He formed your inner workings and caused you to be here. Seek after Him and find meaning for your life…

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” – Jeremiah 29:13-14

pc: Latvian Sunset, Sarah Coffey; from Grandma’s album, unknown; Me in Swaziland, dani izac

Risking Grace.

…risk grace to reap generously…

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously… And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, 10-11

Okay, so, I’m not naturally a “risk-taker.” Perceived “risks” that I’ve taken have all been calculated. If I was going to step out on a limb, I was going to be sure the limb was large enough to hold my weight and the tree was firmly rooted in the ground. I’ve not been one to reach out for a broken branch on a dying tree, clinging to life on the side of a cliff. Danger has been my nemesis.

While on a hike through the woods recently, a new thought began to form in my mind regarding risk…

Life is about risk.

Hmm… Risk.

Chatting with friends along the way, we began to share our yet-to-be life dreams and goals. Even as I shared mine, this thought occurred to me… perhaps the reason some of these dreams are still unfulfilled is because I’ve failed to risk stepping out on a limb to see them become a reality…

Whoa.

Could that be it? That I’m actually my own worst enemy? That if I was to risk more, I would actually gain more?

I’ve longed to own my own house, but never felt financially able to do so despite a sterling credit score. To own a house means to risk being able to make payments or repairs.

I’ve longed for marriage, but have shied away from male friendships. To marry means to risk being vulnerable or enduring heartbreak.

I’ve considered going back to school, but am not keen on taking out a loan. To increase one’s credentials costs money and time.

You see, I’ve seen my problems as bigger than my God… I’ve seen the risk as larger than the reward… My focus has been on the cost, rather than on the payoff…. on the risk, rather than the resulting joy.

Have I forgotten the God whom I serve?

After telling Mary, Jesus’ mother, the good news that her once-barren relative Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age, the angel Gabriel reminded her, “For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37

Nothing is impossible with God.

God has given us grace along the way so that we would give life our best shot… He affords us grace to risk making mistakes… Grace so our risk would result in great victory… Grace to reap generously for His kingdom… Grace to give it a go… But if we never risk, how can we live in that grace? Could living a “safe” life be to reap sparingly…? And besides, isn’t He our Redeemer? The one who can redeem all things…?

As Job reminds us, I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” – Job 19:25

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So, as I continue on this path of faith, seeking out God’s vision for my life, I’m realizing that perhaps it’s time to “risk” more… To sow sparingly, is to reap sparingly. To sow generously, is to reap generously. Where have I been stingy with my resources? Where has my faith been meager? Yet, where does my heart desire to see growth, fruit, abundance? I should carefully consider how and where I may need to risk more in order to experience more… Where is God calling you to risk more?

pc: Sarah Coffey, Utah