A Letter on New Years Eve (2020)

Dear friends and loyal readers,

Somehow, we’ve made it to the end of 2020, the strangest year of my lifetime (and probably yours, too).

Aside from the election and virus drama (which is ongoing and not insignificant), our family has had an interesting year. We’ve had some exciting professional changes, as well as some personal growth in our local friendships. We’ve juggled our two oldest son’s education as it fluctuated from virtual (back in the spring) to in-person (this fall), along with the workload of my senior year at Lee University. We’ve stayed home a lot, learned to use an Instapot, enjoyed the Mandalorian, and read a ton of books.

Have you been reading more than normal?

Without planning it, my personal reading list (outside of required reading for school) has centered on the stories of individual Christ-followers. This has unintentionally been the Year of Biographies–I’ve read about Brother Yun, Corrie Ten Boom, Oswald Chambers, Madame Guyon, and now I’m devouring an excellent one (just released this year!) on the apostle Paul.

There’s just something about hearing of another believer’s walk with the Lord during their unique historical time that encourages me. To read and ponder the way that God’s love was real, interactive, and enduring to our brothers and sisters in the past is enough to spur me on in faithfulness toward the new year.


And now a word on that word…

Faithfulness.

Paul often uses a unique little Greek word called pistis (or its other forms, such as pistois) when describing the saints who remain faithful to the Lord.
 
We see it used in Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.”
 
And also, in Col. 1:2, “To the saints in Christ at Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters…”
 
And in 2 Tim. 2:2, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
 
But the word is a tricky one…it conveys so much more than merely a one-dimensional loyalty. Yes, it carries that meaning–to be faithful IS to be loyal and true, as much as it depends on our efforts.

Paul’s pistis though is used elsewhere (and commonly) as “faith/faithful” (Col. 1:7, 4:7; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Tim. 1:12), but also as “believers” (Acts 10:45, 16:1; Gal. 3:9), “belief”(1 Tim. 4:3, 4:12, 5:16), and “trust/trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2, 7:25; 1 Tim. 1:15, 3:1; Titus 3:8). It certainly communicates our loyalty to the Lord as a person, but it goes beyond this (our own strength), as if it is an agreement, or participation, in the work that God is already doing in and through us.
 
To me, Paul is trying to convey something (both) active and spiritual that goes back-and-forth between us and the Lord–a kind of synergistic movement of faith and belief extended as a gift from the Spirit to our hearts. So then, our faithful response is to give it right back in loving trust of God and His will. For such a tiny word, it packs a punch of rich meaning.


Remaining Faithful in the New Year

It’s obvious to say that we don’t know where this next year will take us–as a nation, as the Church, as individuals. I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the social media trend of choosing a “word” for the year (I can be cynical like that…forgive me!) but this small, strange Greek word of pistis seems to be following me around lately. Maybe the Spirit is nudging me as if to say, “Hey. You’re not too cool for a word-of-the-year. Here, have fun with this one.”
 
I’ll take the challenge. I want more pistis in 2021, whatever that means!
 
Increase my faith, Lord.
Make me one who is faithful to You (despite my circumstances).
Help me to receive the gift of a deeper belief, by your Spirit.
Help me trust You fully, with all of my being.
 
Maybe this will be your word for the coming season, too. I’m holding on to the only One who has been perfect faithfulness and love to generations past, and who will be so for us in the year 2021. Will you stand with me as faithful saints?


As always, I am forever grateful for your support in opening these emails and reading my words. Thank you for being generous with your time like that–I will never get over it! Be on the lookout for more from me in 2021. I have a couple of new projects and some published work that I would love to share with you very soon…

Until then,

Sara


 

The Advent of Zechariah’s God

Zechariah was a priest and prophet about 500 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, yet he prophesied more than 14 specific points about the coming of Christ. His name, and the title of his book, means “the Lord remembers.”

This was after the calling of a people through Abraham. After the period of enslavement in Egypt. After the miraculous exodus. After the wandering and battles and victories and losses. After the Babylonian captivity. After being set free, once again.

In Zech. chapter 2, we witness God speaking through Zechariah to his people, crying out, “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!”

And

“Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the Lord, “and I will be it’s glory within.”

And

“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you…Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.”

Zechariah’s life was spent declaring the coming of Immanuel, the God who chose in love to come be with his people. This is the priestly role—to prepare the way for the Lord…to call many nations out of Babylon and into Zion…to ignite a fire of readiness.

Our God is not passive. Not forgetful. He remembers.

Can you feel the anticipation building?

Are you being made ready?

Three Things: Winter is Coming Edition (plus a bonus goodie!)

Temps are dropping, skies are grey, and gusts of wind whip the last of the golden leaves to blanket the ground. We are saying goodbye to glorious fall and bracing ourselves for a long winter–a winter spent (mostly) at home, no doubt, and in need of accoutrements.

In the spirit of making-the-most out of our mostly stationary lifestyle (hashtag 2020), I’ve put together a quick wishlist of items that I’m eyeing for the coming winter season.

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A Writer’s Campaign: Laundry, Essays, and Pressing On Toward the Goal

I look at the clock again. How is it that time already? Where have the last 45 minutes gone? I’m scrambling to finish the task I am doing, one of about a thousand that requires me to do it, my hands and my feet, and not anyone else. My pace quickens as I throw in another load of laundry, picking up items on the way to be distributed to their original places.

The small people in my home, my own flesh and blood and tears and laughter, ignore my prompt to brush their teeth to fight over a ninja turtle action figure instead. It is as if my house is spinning around me, tiny faces and random things flying through the air, and I can’t find a steady place to hang on to. I am Dorothy without her ruby red slippers.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Campaign: Laundry, Essays, and Pressing On Toward the Goal”

How St. Augustine is guiding me through this election

I’ve been spending some significant time with St. Augustine lately. If you remember, he was the Bishop of Hippo during the fall of Rome, that great “Eternal City.” I like the bishop; he is profoundly relatable. He shares the inner dialogue of his heart and mind with astonishing transparency in Confessions, a sort of autobiographical retelling of his coming to Christ at age 34 (If you have not read Augustine yet, start here.)

But it is his political theory -and more so his theory of history and how we fit into history- in his dense work, The City of God, that has caught my attention during this insane election cycle. 

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When God Asks You to Quit Your Job

Was I making the right decision?

Why would God tell me to quit a job that I loved?

What about my career path? Or finances?

What would my colleagues think?

Continue reading “When God Asks You to Quit Your Job”

Oh, Piercing Word: The Hurt of the Lord

It was a simple mistake. A grammatical error, to be exact. But it was on the internet, the modern-day public square, and (crucial to note) the error changed the meaning of the statement. When I received a mocking response (yes, from a stranger!) I was surprised at how it felt—like a hot iron, pulled from an angry fire, and pressed on my mistake. Exposing, embarrassing, and painful. My face flushed with shame; I was caught in a stupid blunder.

And just as quickly, the embarrassment was followed by shock at my reaction. Why had I responded that way?

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Front Porch Prayers (for a Slow Summer Afternoon)

It’s mid-week, late afternoon, sitting-in-the-porch-rocker time and I’m watching birds dive-bomb for treasures in the yard. My mason jar of iced coffee went down too fast and I want another one, mostly because it was delicious, but also because it is a humid 87 degrees out (and the coffee brings sweet relief).

Continue reading “Front Porch Prayers (for a Slow Summer Afternoon)”