Unfettered…

…live unfettered and let God achieve the unachieveable…

…he soars into the yard, wings extended… quickly closing them up under his breast as he touches down on the green grass… looking for the proverbial worm to fill his belly at breakfast… at a moments notice, his white and black striped pinions open high and he’s off over the fence… searching another lawn for the juicy grub…

Around here black magpies fill the air, the yards, the parking lots… Their coloring is striking… black and white… a shimmer of teal reflecting from the black feathers… I’m always drawn to them…

In watching them, it got me thinking… what would it be like to be completely unfettered? Free to roam, fly where you choose, unfettered by the cares of this world?

To many, I seem like a “free spirit,” and in many ways, I suppose I am… But for a very long time, I have stressed about many things… money, relationships, career, purpose, ministry… being enough… So many goals… seemingly unachieveable in my own eyes and perhaps even the eyes of the world… especially based on my track-record and current status… How can they come to be?? And, even if I was to give up stressing about figuring them out, how would that get me any closer to achieving them? To let them go… wouldn’t that mean giving up on them?

Yet, as I sit here, considering life… it occurred to me… stressing out and trying to “figure” it all out hasn’t really gotten me much closer… it’s just gotten me more stressed, bitter, tightly wound… and that is not living…

Isn’t our God bigger than that? Isn’t He bigger than our puny attempt to try to figure things out? Bigger than our failures? Bigger than the dead ends we think we find ourselves in?

And, just maybe by living more carefree, giving up trying to figure things out, that would actually get us closer to seeing them come to fruition…! I’d be free from worry, burdens, cares… and so, perhaps I would be more myself, a relaxed self, a beautifully unfettered self…!

Luckily, there is some solid advice from God’s Word… He seems to know us so well…!

“…look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”*

“For nothing is impossible with God.”**

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”***

 

*Matthew 6:26-27

**Luke 1:37

***Hebrews 13:8

pc: The Internet – The National Audubon Society (I couldn’t sneak up on them fast enough for a nice photo.)

…when it’s beyond reason, believe…

…keep on believing…

Several years ago, my mom gave me this little decorative sign… Outlined letters spelled the word BELIEVE and below was engraved the following phrase…

Believe when it’s beyond reason to believe.

At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t really appreciate it… It was nice sentiment, but it almost sounded too pithy for me to think it a serious philosophy to adopt. However, in recent months I’ve been more convicted that this is actually the key to the Christian life…

There are times that God moves in unmistakable and undeniable ways in our lives. We cannot help but give credit to God, boasting of His presence in our lives…

And then, there are other times we go through life as if in the dark… it seems like we’ve entered a great silence… Our prayers soar up to the heavens, only seemingly to float back down to us with question marks attached… Where are you, God?

I’m at a place in life right now where I feel both simultaneously… On the one hand, I can see God moving in my heart and life… On the other hand, my own impatience gets the best of me as it seems God isn’t answering or He’s moving WAY too slowly…

During a recent church service, the pastor made reference to the life of Kurt Cobain, the composer and lead singer of the band Nirvana. He lived a life of inner turmoil, never really able to find peace… He ended his life before he was thirty years old, thinking the world would be better off without him. At his funeral, his band mates recalled one picture that Kurt carried around in his billfold simply because he thought it was the only “good” photo of himself. In the background was a sign reading, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Rather ironic… The man searching for hope, peace, joy, purpose had the answer behind him all the time… But I suppose his heart was clouded by his own shortcomings and disappointments to even consider that somehow God or Jesus could have been the answer.

At times, I’ve felt like this… how do you keep from getting disillusioned? How do you keep yourself from going down the path of disenchantment? And then I realized…

Believe when it is beyond reason to believe…

“We live by faith, not by sight.”*

*2 Corinthians 5:7

pc: Sarah Coffey, Macedonia

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

Worth the climb…

…don’t give up, the climb is worth the view…

IMG_8479

Before departing Macedonia, I’d agreed to go on a hike with one of my teammates. It was planned for the morning of our departure. At first, I was glad to have one last opportunity to see the city from the hilltop. But as preparations were being made to leave, my mind raced, thinking of all the packing, cleaning, and goodbyes yet to be done. I could feel the stress welling up in me… it felt so consuming… how could I drop everything and make time for a morning hike with so much left to do? But, still wanting to see the view and having given my word, I met my teammate at our appointed time.

Walking through the park, up the hill where the trail began, my mind kept recounting last minute details… Did I remember to pack all my toiletries? Will I need to go to the market for any snacks? Are my phone and laptop chargers packed?

Meanwhile, my friend led the way along the narrow, steep, canopied path. It was a beautiful day…! The sun barely peaking over the hillside, birds singing, hardly anyone on the trail… Too nice for me to be grumbling…! Again and again, I prayed that I could be present in this moment… Again and again, I could hear my heart grumbling, this hike better be worth it… the view better be spectacular…!

IMG_8498

Rounding the bend at the crest of the hill, I was in awe… The view of the city below was truly magnificent! And there was a little wooden bench beside the path, perfect for a mini-rest to enjoy the view. In that moment, I was overcome… humbled… overcome by the breathtaking view… humbled because I’d spent a good portion of the trail grumbling to God…

Sitting on the bench, my friend and I reflected on our month of ministry… For me, it had been a difficult month… There were dark things my soul had wrestled with… It was only by God’s grace and His steady Hand that I had made it to this moment… Tears began to fall down my cheeks as I felt overwhelmed by His faithfulness… I began to pray with my friend, thanking and praising God… apologizing for my wayward, stubborn heart…

IMG_8496

Looking out over the valley, the climb was well worth leaving my “important” tasks behind… I had been given a broader view… my frenzied self was re-grounded, calmed by God’s presence and love…

I’ve been discovering that life is a lot like that hike… There are so many tasks that compete for our attention and devotion… Family, friends, work, church responsibilities… It’s difficult to get away to find the calm… In our dog-eat-dog world, it’s tough to see the value in it…

Not to mention, the hike of life seems difficult enough… the incline is steep, we cannot ascertain what the next bend will bring, whether it’ll be shaded or find a rattlesnake in our path… We want ease…

As a kid, I thought following Jesus would be easy… Do what He wants, abide by His rules, and He’ll reward you with blessings and provide safety for you, protection to be unworried by the happenings of this world…

But, that’s not so… Following Jesus isn’t easy… Keeping the faith, walking with Him has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life… As life has thrown me some unexpected curveballs, even my deepest held, most dear beliefs have been challenged…

But I know the hike is worth it…

And so, to you, friend, don’t give up…! Jesus has promised not only that the climb will be difficult, but that it will be well worth it… He knows our troubles… In fact, He promised that we’d see our fair share…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”*

So, just as we’ve experienced the trouble He promised, how much more can we count on the rest of His promises??

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”**

And so, if you find yourself sore from the climb, doubting whether it is worth it, remind yourself that it is… Take time to be alone with Jesus… Let Him renew your spirit and revive your soul…

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”***

And find others with whom you can hike… You are not alone!

“Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”****

“So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”*****

*John 16:33

**John 14:2-3

***Isaiah 40:30-31

**** Peter 5:8-9

*****Hebrews 10:35

pc: Sarah Coffey, (except the one I’m in is by Darek Hollis), Bitola, Macedonia 2016

Take 5…

…there was evening and there was morning the first day…

So, it’s been five months since I moved to Utah… And it finally hit me… During the last week, I finally came down with a nasty cold bug. It hit me hard, knocking me down with a fever for a couple days… I haven’t been this sick since I accidentally took too many Ibuprofen pain pills back in Zambia last September!

It caused me to reflect…

Five months in and the seeds that I began planting back in March are beginning to bear fruit… I’ve found a home church, small group, new friendships, the blessing of a good job, new purpose… My community is taking root. All that cultivating is paying off, and my body is telling me to take five, and rest.

But I’m like the Energizer Bunny… Fear of missing out keeps me going and going and going and going…

I’m reminded of a lesson I learned back in Bible College… As we studied Genesis, the professor was quick to point out the significance of the wording of the first chapter…

“…and there was evening and there was morning—the first day…the second day…the third day…”*

That phrase is repeated after every creative work God did each day. Can you see it?? Can you see the wording?? First came the evening, then came the morning

All my years growing up in church I thought each day started with the morning and ended with the evening. But, no… According to Moses, who wrote Genesis, the day begins when we fall asleep… As he reiterated in Deuteronomy, “The Lord himself goes before you…”**

In the silence and stillness of the darkness of night, God goes about His work, preparing the way for us and the day ahead… When sunlight streams in over the Eastern hills, we awake to see what He has done and to join Him in the work He’s already set aside for us… After all, “…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”*** You see that?? God has good works for us to do… He prepared them in advance of our arrival!

Similarly, consider the workings of the human body… When we’re ill, wounded, broken, what are the doctor’s orders?? What is it he or she prescribes? Rest. Stillness. A cessation of work. Why? So that the body may mend itself and we might find health again.

Who would have thought that rest would be so productive?! And yet, let us consider the celestial cycle of our day and the inner workings of our bodies as a reminder of the importance of rest. Even as many of us are gearing up for the busyness of the new school year, do what you can to find time in your day or week for rest… Even if it is only a moment of stillness, let us find health and preparation for all that’s ahead.

*Genesis 1:5

**Deuteronomy 31:8

***Ephesians 2:10

pc: Sarah Coffey, Ndola, Zambia

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

Shine on…

…rely on His presence that we might be Sonbeams…

Living in Utah, I’m slowly adjusting to the hot, dry summer days. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt the rain on my back or heard the pitter-patter of little drops falling on the neighbor’s roof… As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors… hiking, biking, walking, playing tennis… I’m sure my body is chock-full of enough Vitamin-D to last me until the first snow. My skin is tanned and my hair has lightened, stained by the sun’s rays… When we enter Fall, we’ll all still be glistening from spending so much time in the sun…

It got me thinking about Moses. Yep, Moses…

“…Moses came down from Mount Sinai… he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him…”*

Moses’ face was radiant. Radiant… As in, glowing brightly or sending out light… transmitting heat… warmth… After having spent time alone with God, he literally shined… So much so, that God’s people were afraid… Awed no doubt by the impact God’s presence had on their leader… He was physically changed

That’s how I envision it should be for me, for you, for anyone who knows Jesus… Spending time alone in God’s presence should leave me being changed… His Word should create such a stir in our hearts that when we leave our prayer closet, we enter the world glistening with joy, a brightness that fills a room because of His presence within us…

Too often I find myself looking less like a sunbeam and more like a rain cloud… The busyness of life has pushed solitude into a corner room… I’ve convinced myself it’s more worthwhile to clean house, run errands, or simply “stay busy” than stay still… get around than get away… be more than do less… No wonder I’m all wet!

Along with busyness, I find that my worries choke out my hope… the doubt questions the doubtless… the insecure hesitates in the midst of certainty… anxiety strangling assurance… the “what ifs” cloud out the “what might be…”

But Jesus knew this and so He still calls us today…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest… Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly…”**

 And…

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

 So, let us not be afraid to come and rest… rely on His presence to fill our lives with light… that we might become Sonbeams in a world of rain…

*Exodus 34:29-30

**Matthew 11:28 NIV, 11:28-30 The Message

***2 Corinthians 12:9

pc: Sarah Coffey, atop Victoria Falls, Zambia

Everything for our enjoyment…

…in the busyness of life, let’s not forget that creation was made for our enjoyment…

…I sat in the airport, charging my phone before boarding the flight… though my body remained still, my mind paced… I’ve always enjoyed flying, but as of late, my mind has wandered into the territory of worst-case scenarios… I hope we don’t crash… is the pilot experienced? Will there be a lot of turbulence? Has everyone been thoroughly screened?? One disaster after another spun through my consciousness…

As soon as we took off, all my worries faded as I gazed in awe at the beauty below… lakes, rivers, forests…. The glimmer of the setting sun, kissing the still waters of the Puget Sound… pockets of lakes and ponds in differing shades of blue… some a rich, deep blue… others a hazy, grey blue… So much beauty!

Soaring higher and higher above the Cascades, more water… but this time covered in a glassy, glossy white… ice and snow blanketed the deep, pristine wells…

In that moment, I was calmed, reminded of God’s goodness…

“…put your hope in God, who richly provides us everything for our enjoyment…”*

God… richly provides us everything for our enjoyment… For our enjoyment!

In the mess of my private thoughts at the airport, I had become overly obsessed with worry about what could happen… All the while, God wanted me to see the beauty of what He created for ME! For me to enjoy!

Have you ever stopped to ponder that?? That all of creation was created out of love for us and for our enjoyment?? Too rarely do I take time to enjoy life… enjoy what God has given me… enjoy those God’s placed in my life… enjoy the fullness of life… this beautiful creation, of which we are the crown… it is all a gift to us

So, the next time worry creeps into your mind, your to-do list runs off the page, or notifications keep buzzing your cell phone, consider that “life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…”**

*1 Timothy 6:17

**Matthew 6:25c

pc: Sarah Coffey, SeaTac, WA