Serve in obscurity?

…rather than make a name for myself, make His name known…

“He must become greater; I must become less.” – John the Baptist

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John…” – Jesus

Have you ever considered the meaning of these words? What does it really mean to become “less”? And, how is it that of all the people Jesus chose to commend it was John the Baptist, an obscure, well-worn man living solo in the Judean wilderness? Why is it that Jesus didn’t sing the praises of Abraham, Moses, or David? Jewish tradition holds all three in high regard.

As I attended a local women’s conference this last weekend, I was confronted to reconsider these words. The theme of the weekend was “Finding Your Voice.” It centered on developing our intimacy with Jesus so that we could truly find our voice whereby we could live out our purpose in this world.

Sitting in the auditorium, listening to the message, one thought kept coming to mind, interrupting my ability to focus on the message being given… Sure, I guess I need to find my voice… I was telling myself… But what if God would rather I focus on His voice being heard?

My mind trailed deeper down the rabbit hole of that line of thinking… Rather than being known, what if it pleased God more that I be unknown? Or be known completely only by Him? My good works, my heartaches, my quirks… Rather than make a name for myself, seek to make God’s name known? Rather than advance my own reputation, advance God’s? And, then came the zinger of a question… Am I willing to serve God in utter obscurity?

*Gulp.*

Pondering such questions, I began to consider those who have answered that question in the affirmative… I mean, how long did Mother Teresa go about her business of caring for the poor, diseased, despised, and wretched before the world took notice of her noble work? How many others do the same in our day? Would I be willing to do such work without acclaim?

Coming back up to reality, the struggle is real… In all honesty, the answer is, “no.” (Besides, if I was keeping record, I’d already say I’d lost since I’m so connected through social media.) Nonetheless, I not ready to disappear into the void of anonymity, comforted solely by the fact I’m completely known by God. Yet, I know that that is every Christian’s call…

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:3-4

And so, the thought deepens… What if true freedom is really found by losing oneself? Isn’t that what Jesus said…?

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” – Mark 8:35

AND…

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33

Alright, so, to lose our life is to gain it? And to seek to make something of our lives for our own sake is actually to lose it? It sounds so contradictory… Yet, I can imagine the freedom and joy it can bring… To not be bound by other people’s expectations or approval… To be unbridled by your own fears and uncertainties… Free to do what is right when it’s not popular because you’re unconcerned with your standing and secure in who you really are…

You are His.

Keep running through the pain…

…the pain is only temporary, so keep on going…

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship…” – 2 Timothy 4:5a

Usually my runs are pretty uneventful… I might run by some barking dogs, kids riding bikes, or people cleaning up their yards… And most of the time, I feel pretty good throughout the course of my run.

One time recently, about halfway through my run, my stomach began to act up… As it jostled around with each stride, I began to feel sick. A rare occurrence for me, I began to think through what I’d eaten that day that could have contributed to this feeling… coffee, cereal, leftover rice and stir fry, too much sugar…? Nothing too unusual jumped out.

Despite the fact that my tummy was unhappy with me, my arms and legs were all too raring to go. They could have gone all day if not for my complaining tummy.

I was inclined to stop, but as sometimes happens, I expected the pain to go away. I needed to keep running, to run until the pain subsided, until I came to the end…

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I’ve increasingly found the same to be true in life. Now, I know this is not exactly an earth-shattering concept… But I sometimes have to remind myself of this fact…

So many things are thrown into our way as we run through life… unexpected, painful things… a bittersweet divorce, the loss of a child, illness and injury, painful loneliness, overwhelming anxiety… it’s difficult to keep on running… to find the motivation to stay the course…

Though this has been a blessed season for me, it’s also been one of the most difficult… On many occasions, I’ve felt in deep despair… it’s been almost a daily battle to keep running this race called “life” as regrets, “what ifs,” and anxiety about the future have landed in my path…

But just as that run taught me, I must run through the pain… WE must run through the pain…

At the beginning of track season as a kid, each run brought on the pain of side aches as I’d been out of practice for a season. Eventually, as I kept coming to practice, day after day, and as I kept training for race day, the side aches eventually went away. Before I knew it, I could run with ease and eventually I even got faster!

In life, we must also run through the pain… Eventually the pain will subside as you get stronger… Show the pain it cannot have you… It will not consume you… You will outrun its grip on you. Before you know it, either the pain will cease to exist, or you’ll find yourself at your intended destination. No matter how long the pain lasts, we must remember it won’t be forever… There are days filled with joy and delight ahead of you… Don’t give up before you can experience them… After the storm comes the rainbow; beauty comes from the ashes; rain makes things grow… Keep on running, my friend… You’re not alone; I’m running there right along with you…

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

“…[stand] firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings…” – 2 Peter 5:9

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pc: Sarah Coffey, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River

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

Beautifully broken, beautifully bold…

…help me share God’s story of all He’s doing…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – Jesus*

So, I’m writing a book… you read that right, a book…! The above heading may be the title, but nothing, not even the exact contents, are yet set in stone… But, it’ll be about what I experienced and learned while on the World Race in 2016. It came about kind of by surprise…

Through the World Race, I discovered my love for blogging… As part of the program, we were required to blog… I soon found myself writing nearly every week about my experiences with my team and with the local culture, or things God was teaching me through people or situations…

Once I touched down on American soil, I knew I’d need another outlet to continue developing my writing skills. That’s what led me here, to WordPress… Within days, I had created my own blog and began searching for tips on how to be a better writer.

In the process, I came across a writers guide from Westbow Press, a sister company of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson. After downloading it, I soon received a call from them wanting to know my writing goals. Before I knew it, we were working together on a book! (It’s common for people to use an assisted self-publishing company like Westbow. So, that’s what I’m doing!)

I’ve been working with them since June and they’ve given me a generous deal. I’m raising $2640 USD which will cover the cost of editing, copywriting, registering, and ultimately publishing my manuscript. Once the process is complete, it will be available wherever books are sold!

Would you like to help me tell my story…?

Or rather, God’s story of all that He’s doing in the world… to highlight Christianlife across the globe… to share the beauty of living in deep, confrontational, raw community… to share how God can transform a little life, like mine, showing all that He can do if we simply say, “yes, send me…”

Our eyes will open, our hearts be touched, our will challenged, our lives transformed

Help me encourage others to take courage to step out of their comfort zone into the unknown, risking being uncomfortable, becoming aware of their brokenness…

Discovering that it’s Jesus who makes us strong when we are weak…

Will you consider joining me on this journey??

(Below is a link to my fundraising page.)

https://www.youcaring.com/sarahcoffey-951200

Even as I venture out on this new expedition, I’ll still be here, blogging along… but, I look forward to sharing my progress with you, every step of the way!

*2 Corinthians 12:9

pc: Sarah Coffey, WR Launch 2016, Thailand

Along the highway…

…carry each other’s burdens…

We live in a big world… So many news organizations, media threads… Inundated with an excess of information can leave us feeling overwhelmed… wondering, what can I do?

Recent news of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has left me feeling similarly helpless… And yet, I’m reminded of things that I can do despite being so far removed from the situation…

As we traveled in 2016, we were often left feeling a bit overwhelmed… We’d arrive in the country, ready to help out, only to find the need was far greater than what we could ever do in a single month. During times like these, I was grateful to be working alongside locals who served in the community year round. They lived, breathed, and sweated alongside the lay person, so they knew intimately the true needs of the people…

Coming home to the USA, I had similar feelings… A year abroad meant a year of missed information, missed events in the lives of my loved ones, my community, my country… And yet, I longed to make a difference…

After touching down in Chicago and a few days with friends, a teammate and I embarked on a road trip cross-country that I’ve often reflected on…

We stayed with friends along the way, entering into their world for a brief moment. But out on the highway, the rubber truly hit the road…

While driving through Missouri, we came upon a roll-over wreck. Steam rising from the crumpled hood indicated it happened only moments before. Wanting to help, we pulled over, ran across the street and asked those already on the scene what we could do…

The truck was on its side, a tree lying on the shattered windshield, the driver pinned in… He was unconscious, blood running down his skull… I thought he was dead… I felt completely helpless… We all stood around assessing the situation… But what could we do?

At that moment, it dawned on me one thing I could do… I could pray.

Further on in our journey, we came across some drifters at a highway rest stop. Seeing them there, cardboard sign in hand, again I wasn’t sure what to do… So, I went about my business, stretching my legs, visiting the restroom…

As I walked back to the car, I saw my friend chatting with them… Apparently they were recently unemployed and had lost their housing… the current future looked bleak… Moved to compassion, my friend offered them our meager snacks to tide them over. Then, he prayed with them… Though in the moment we hadn’t changed their circumstances, their demeanor was changed, more hopeful… The burden had been lifted as they knew someone actually cared

One of the greatest joys and game changers I’ve found is the simple act of entering in Entering into someone’s situation, whether it be joy, pain, or bewilderment… So often I feel helpless at knowing how to help someone, especially a stranger and especially not knowing their full story…

And yet, simply opening up a conversation with them so that they might be heard and then offering what I can, albeit spare change, the offer of a ride somewhere, or simply the act of prayer, can be transformational in that moment, for them and for me… Suddenly, the skies aren’t so dark, the duffel not so heavy, the way not so grim…

Is this not what we are called to do? Who we are called to be? So, where and how can I stop along the highway to help my neighbor?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”*

*Galatians 6:2

pc: Sarah Coffey, South Africa