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.

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

To be a wife…

…waiting in active preparation…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”*

Recently, one of my single girlfriends came over to share lunch and watch an episode of the series This is Us. In the middle of the episode, something sparked us to reflect on our own love lives… or, rather, lack thereof… We shared our experiences, our heart’s desires, our annoyances, and our frustration in waiting… and waiting… and waiting

After we finished and my friend left, I began to reflect on our conversation… It got me thinking what would it look like to be a wife? Not, what does it look like day in day out… But rather, what would I look like as a wife…? what kind of wife would I be? What are the traits that I would hope to possess? And it occurred to me, I’m not there yet…

I’ve been blessed to know many godly women who have been great examples to me of what it looks like to be a good wife, and a good mother… It’s taken them couragepersistenceperseverancetoleranceforgivenessselfsacrificeallowanceacceptance… determination am I that kind of person?

To be a wife is so much more than being a lover, an assistant, or a support…

It means being an encourager being an ego booster being a confronter

It means being willing to put in the hard work to work through differences, disagreements, and misunderstandings… without running away…

It means being vulnerable and real

It means being willing to put aside the desire to be found correct, and instead seek to be one

And, I venture, it means many more things I have yet to understand or even know…

Proverbs 31 has always been the passage that the Church has always looked to as the best example of a wife… To be honest, at times that Proverbs 31 lady seems so perfect that it seems impossible to try to be like her… even though the desire remains strong to try to keep her pace…! Like the perfect “soccer mom” of the 90’s

Well, as I sit here in my cozy bedroom-for-one enjoying an evening of peace and quiet, I’m humbled to recognize the ways in which I have to grow even as I recognize these things and even strive for them, I must also accept the truth that I’ll never be perfect… never

So, as I seek to “grow up” in maturity – to be tolerant, gracious, flexible, dependable, stable, encouraging – I also seek to rest in authenticity, being real about who I am and where I’m at…

And so, I guess I am content to wait but wait with purpose wait in active preparation seeking to grow, deal with my insecurities, my anxieties, my issues… so that when I meet my man, I can be all the more ready to grow in oneness with him…

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”**

*Proverbs 13:12

**Ecclesiastes 4:12

pc: Sarah Coffey, Cesis, Latvia 2016

…a half…

…Jesus is enough…

one-hundred-eighty-four days… twenty-six weeks… six months… half a year… half a year… half

I’ve been in Utah now for half a year… It hardly seems possible… And yet, there’s the calendar proving the point…!

These six months have passed by like Mario Andretti rounding the track at the Indy 500, pulling out a win… blink and you’ve missed him…!

…to my chagrin, it no longer feels like I just recently moved here… the dust is settling… roots are growing… so many reasons to be hopeful, excited, thankful…!

Now in a new state… a new house… new roommates… new church… new perspective… a new job… new friends… new adventures…

But one of the most surprising, exciting, yet, scary things has been the self-discovery learning more about who I am… who God has made me to be… and, even how I’m broken… yes, broken, to my own dismay…

It’s been said that no matter where you go, you always take yourself with you… [Ain’t that the truth?!] There have been many times that I’ve wanted to leave myself behind, so to speak… To be someone else… Someone “cool”… someone that’s got it together… someone successful, in the eyes of the world…

Alas, I’m still just me… Sarah… with all my bundles of nerves, idiosyncrasies, “just so” tendencies… But you know what?… God continues to teach me, I’m enough… But more importantly, He’s enough!

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…”*

Yes, love He has loved me in those who have loved me here… reached out in kindness to listen to my stories… invited me to dinner… included me in the group… cared about what concerns me…

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me… no one can snatch them out of my hand.”**

Yes, secure… so often I’ve doubted my security in Jesus, but He’s promised that no one can take from what is His… after all, He said, “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”***

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

Yes, sufficient in moments when I’ve struggled, He has been right there… in the silence, the stillness, the uncertainty and confusion…

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”++

Yes, immeasurably more than we imagine… so many new beginnings and new surprises… the future always held such an anxious grip on me, that I didn’t want to enter… and yet, Jesus reminds me He is the Author of new things…

And so, as I look back over the last six months, I smile with a tear in my eye at all His provisions… His faithfulness… despite my weakness… despite my denial of His goodness… despite my fears of things imagined… and so, He will also bring me through the next six months and beyond…!

*Jeremiah 3:13

**John 10:27-28

***John 10:17-18

+2 Corinthians 12:9

++Ephesians 3:20-21

pc: Sarah Coffey, Utah 2017

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

A Lesson from Dunkirk…

…where there is unity there is victory…

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting my mom for a visit. It was a nice time to reconnect, catch up, and explore…

While here, my mom mentioned wanting to see the movie Dunkirk. I hadn’t heard of it, but not having seen a movie in the theater in a while, and knowing my mom has good taste in movies, I was definitely up for the venture.

Dunkirk recounts the historic Battle of Dunkirk on the coast of France during WWII. As it goes, the Nazis had surrounded British, French, Belgian and Dutch forces in May of 1940. The Battle of France was beginning to heat up, so British and Belgian forces rallied to France’s aid.

Roughly 400,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on the French coastline, hemmed in by the Axis powers. Conceivably, the only means of survival was an evacuation by means of the English Channel.

Being that the piers on the French coast had been destroyed and large naval vessels couldn’t sail into the shallow waters nearest the shore, the call went out to British civilians to relinquish their private yachts and small fishing boats to the government for the rescue mission deemed, Operation Dynamo.

Prior to this plan, Churchill had briefly considered a conditional surrender to the Nazis. Had he done this, it’s possible that the outcome of WWII could have been vastly different, being that this was just the beginning of the war. Churchill also thought they’d only be able to rescue a mere 30-40,000 soldiers.

In response to the call, approximately 850 private vessels sailed across the channel, some with their proprietors aboard, and rescued over 330,000 Allied soldiers!

Upon reflection, a connection formed in my mind between this historical event and current happenings here at home…

Right now, there’s a battle being waged in America… Race and ideologies are recurring themes… It’s insidious, subtle, disturbing… It can be difficult to understand… Passions run deep… We have seen how our government and media reacts… Use of force, replaying the horror, perpetuating doom…

But this is OUR nation… these are OUR people… these are OUR communities… Simple civilians, we must continually respond to this call… Government power and strength is limited… We must offer our vessels, dawn our sailor’s cap, hoist the mainsail and stand ready at the wheel…

Just as the fate of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers was changed by the intervention of British citizens, so too, the fate of our communities depends on us, the citizenswe the people… The battle at Dunkirk was too great for the government to manage alone… and so the battle in our nation runs too deep for government resolution…

So, what can we do?? What does it look like to fight such a battle??

We must all ask ourselves these questions because the answers will look different for each one of us. However, may I suggest we start by remembering who we are… We are the UNITED States of America…

And so, let us start by coming together… making a point to stand together in our similarities, rather than stand apart on differences… choosing peace instead of pride… holding hands across the aisle instead of fists… choosing UNITY

At Dunkirk, “…the divisions of society…were put aside and ‘everyone came together and showcased what is best about Great Britain. They found unity from diversity.“*

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies.

– Thomas Paine

Where there is unity there is always victory.

– Publilius Syrus

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

– Psalm 34:14

*LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-ca-mn-dunkirk-history-20170714-story.html)

pc: Sarah Coffey, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

A bit of American culture… at the Rodeo

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…cowboys decked out in Stetson hats, star-studded button-ups, full-grain leather boots… the smell of manure and BBQ wafting through the air… elegant, sleek horses jaunt into the arena… It’s time for the Rodeo!

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Although I grew up in what some considered “Hicksville,” the agrarian lifestyle wasn’t too familiar to me. The closest I’d ever really come to it was the annual visit to the Puyallup Fair wandering through the livestock pavilion, and from visiting my mother’s family whose livelihood consists of ranching and farming.

So, when I heard there’d be a rodeo in town during the annual Pioneer Days festival (during which the entire state commemorates the arrival of Brigham Young and other LDS pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847), I was excited to check it out!

I dawned the best “Western” outfit I could find, taking into account the warm weather… Denim shorts, a patriotic-red button-up, and my premium leather belt from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma. Head ‘em up, move ‘em out! Let the lasso-ing begin!

After a short word of prayer, followed by the national anthem, the “Whoopie Girls” raced around the arena carrying the sponsors’ flags. And as they did, I noticed one bearing the name of my employer! I felt so privileged…

Sitting with my friend and her family, we watched as the cowboys wrestled steers…

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rode the Broncos…

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raced around barrels…

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…there was even a girl from Kentucky who stood atop two horses galloping around the arena, riding through fire even! It reminded me of Disney’s movie Toby Tyler about a boy who runs away to the circus and ends up learning how to do stunts bareback.

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We finally came to the main event of the evening… Bull Riding.

I’d seen clips in movies and on TV of bull riders, but never in person. I’d at first imagined the bulls with flaring tempers, out to gore any one or any thing that crossed its path.

Now, the goal in bull riding is for the rider to stay atop the bucking bull for eight seconds. Sounds like an easy task, but when you see that bull come out of the shoot, flailing about, you begin to gnaw your nails, praying the rider makes it! Riders can only hold on by one hand, while being sure their free hand doesn’t touch the bull. If it does, they’re disqualified. And, if the rider falls off before eight seconds elapses, his score comes to zero. Zero!!

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Rider after rider came out of the shoot, hanging on for dear life. At one point, a bull almost gored the rodeo clown! Thankfully, the clown was alright and they got the bull back in the shoot. Riders came from all over… Wyoming, Missouri, Texas, Idaho… there was even one from Ellensburg, Washington! After each ride, the big screen showed a replay of what happened.

All in all it was a fun evening with friends, seeing a different side of American culture… as the sun set, we gathered our things as Ol’ Glory waved gracefully in the breeze over this Land of the Free…

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