Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ask the Butterflies

Photo credit: Myrko Thum
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10
If you've seen the cover of my book then you know it features a beautiful butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I feel a rush of joy every time I look at it - not only because I think the graphic artist did a great job, but because the image holds great spiritual significance for me.

Actually, I think it's a pretty cool story...

The road to getting my book published has been a long and arduous one. From writing the manuscript, to preparing a 70-page proposal, to signing an agent, to pitching it to countless publishing companies, the project has been the literary equivalent of running a marathon: deeply fulfilling yet fraught with uphill climbs, personal pain, and the occasional urge to just give up.

Truth be told, at one point last fall I was ready to throw in the towel. After a particularly disappointing setback with a key person (I'll spare you the details), I started to question whether I had made a mistake by ever writing the stupid thing.

One day during this dark period a friend called and said, "Hey, Sara, let me take you to my prayer group tomorrow. Maybe their prayers will help lift your spirits." I thought that was a great idea - I needed all the help I could get.

The next morning as I waited for my friend to pick me up, I noticed a butterfly outside my window. This was quite unusual because we lived in a high-rise apartment building way up on the 14th floor, and I had NEVER seen a butterfly fly that high in the seven years we lived there. I watched transfixed as he flitted around for a few seconds, alighted on the balcony railing, and then flitted off again.

My friend arrived and we headed to her church for prayer. I didn't mention the butterfly. We parked, walked toward the front entrance, and just as I was opening the door a HUGE monarch emerged from a nearby bush, flying right up in front of me. "Hey, look at that butterfly!" my friend exclaimed. "It nearly hit you in the face!"

I thought to myself, How strange! That's the second unusual butterfly encounter today. God, are You trying to tell me something?

We climbed the stairs to the second floor where the prayer group was waiting. After making our introductions, I told them a little bit about my book and the recent disappointments. This precious group of men and women listened intently and then got to praying.

At one point during the prayer time, one of the men said, "Sara, I want you to look out the window." I opened my eyes and was amazed to see a gigantic butterfly zig-zagging its way across the sky. "You know, butterflies are a symbol of new beginnings," he said. "What a wonderful reminder that 'God makes all things new.' [Revelation 21:5] Don't worry, Sara. If He wants your book published He will make a new way for it to happen, just like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon."

Of course, the man had no idea that I had already seen two butterflies that morning. Yet here he was, pointing out a third and telling me that it represented God's ability to make all things new. That I didn't need to fret, for God was in control. That maybe there was a future for this book.

Message received, God.

As I left the church I could feel my heart full of renewed hope. I walked back into my apartment later that day with a spring in my step, marveling at the idea that God would choose to encourage me through butterflies. As I entered my living room, I stopped dead in my tracks. I had forgotten what was hanging on my wall. Just that past week I had bought some new art and had prominently displayed it above my sofa:

It was as if God were driving the point home: "Remember, Sara, I make all things new."

Fast forward six months. It's April, and I've signed with a wonderful Christian publisher, Credo House Publishers. They are attentive, caring, and talented. My dream of publishing a book has come true. It's time to choose a cover, and the publisher has sent me a computer file with several different cover designs for my consideration. As I click on the file to open it, I smile to myself, thinking, Lord, it would be just like you to have them put a butterfly on the cover. The file opens, and the image pops up on the screen:

Yes, God makes all things new. And now I have a visual reminder, every time I look at my book.

What about you? Have you recently experienced a disappointment or setback? Seek God for answers. Call on Him for help. Nothing is beyond His ability to renew - no relationship, job, situation, or struggle. He is the master of new beginnings.

Just ask the butterflies.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Book is Now Available at Logos Bookstore in Dallas

Dear Dallas Friends,

Just a quick post to let you know that my book, Ready for More, is now available at Logos Bookstore in Snider Plaza!

Many thanks to owner Rick Lewis for his support!


6620 Snider Plaza
Dallas, Texas 75205
Thursday until 8:00

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My book is available on Amazon!

Dear Friends,

I'm thrilled to let you know that my new book, Ready for More, is available on Amazon!

Ready for More is an invitation to the Millennial generation to embrace their calling as church reformers. My hope is that its readers – both Millennials and the people who love them - will be encouraged in their faith and find themselves hopeful about the future of the Western church.

Below is a more detailed description, as well as a link to my page on Amazon.

Thank you all for your love and support!

Ready for More: 
How Millennials Like You are Destined to Change the Church

  by Sara Blakeney

Powerhouse. Heroes. World-changers. These are some of the words being used to describe you, the generation known as Millennials. You have an instinctive urge to renew, re-imagine, and reshape everything you can get your hands on. The institution of the church, however, is another story. Organized religion is experiencing a dropout phenomenon among an entire generation of people in their 20s and 30s. Increasingly disillusioned, you are leaving the church…in droves.

But what if this disillusionment is no accident?

As we look at the bigger picture, we see that you just happen to be coming of age during the dawning of a new church era. Every 500 years the church reforms, and we are at that time in history. Could it be that God has prepared you to catalyze the next reformation? Could it be that you are actually the revolutionaries of our age?                                                              

 Click here to order

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Starting the New Year Off Right

"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to
come." (Revelation 4:8)
I recently watched this video (below) of Kari Jobe and Chris Tomlin performing "Revelation Song," and it was so worshipful that it left me speechless.  In fact, it has helped me enter into 2015 full of renewed hope, reassured that God is on His throne.

I'm sharing the video with you in the hopes that it will lift your spirits, too. May you experience the joy of the Lord as you watch it, and may that joy last throughout the year!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where Is Your Bethlehem?

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and the line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7)

I wonder if, on one hand, the trip to Bethlehem was a nice family reunion for Mary and Joseph. Because Joseph’s entire family line was required to travel there, he may have been reunited with family members he hadn’t seen in years, perhaps even meeting distant relatives for the very first time. Who knows, it could have been fun. I’m picturing shared meals, warm laughter, reminiscing around the fire, and children running and playing with their newly acquainted cousins.

On the other hand, traveling a great distance just to register for a census was probably a total drag and a terrible inconvenience. Since the entire Roman world had to pick up and move to their birthplace at the same time, Mary and Joseph would have been caught up in a sea of people clogging up the road between Nazareth and Bethlehem. Think JFK airport on the busiest day of the year. In fact, scholars say that travel between Nazareth and Bethlehem was not just inconvenient, but downright dangerous, with bears and lions living in forests along the way, and thieves and marauders waiting to ambush unsuspecting travelers. And all because the greedy empire mandated a census so it could wring every last tax dollar out of its citizens.

Either way, the trip to Bethlehem had to happen, for 750 years earlier it had been prophesied that Jesus would be born there:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)

On that first Christmas, God in His sovereignty had arranged the circumstances of Mary and Joseph’s life to ensure Jesus would be born in the right place at the right time.

What about you? Will your Christmas this year be filled with joyous reunions? Inconvenient travels? A little of both? God is no less sovereign over your life and mine. Scripture says that all of our days were planned before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16) That means that wherever you'll be this Christmas, it’s because the same God who sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem set the wheels in motion long before you were born to make sure you would be in the right place at the right time.

Why? The reason is the same today as it was that first Christmas night: to bring Christ into the world. There is someone you will be with this Christmas that needs Jesus. Maybe they need his unconditional love, or comforting presence, or the knowledge of him as savior. Pray ahead of time and ask God to show you, for there may someone who He has pre-planned for you to encounter.

Mary carried Christ in her womb. You and I carry him in our hearts. Where are you taking him this Christmas?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Person Named Peace

I am writing this from beautiful Half Moon Bay in northern California where I’ve accompanied my husband on a business trip. At the moment, I’m enjoying breakfast in my hotel room with a spectacular view of the Pacific. Through the open window I can feel the ocean breeze and hear the rhythmic crash of waves on the rocky shore below. I took a picture to try and capture the moment for you, but you know how hard it can be to do it justice on an iPhone:

I have nowhere I need to be. No stressful to-do list to follow, no packed schedule bearing down on me. I think I can literally feel my blood pressure falling. The longer I sit here, the more relaxed I feel.

In short, I am at peace.

But the reason I’m blogging about this is because of what just happened while I was sitting here.

A moment ago as I sat looking out the window, I began to pray - I say “pray,” but it was really more of a casual conversation with God in which I’m telling Him how much I’m enjoying His pretty ocean and thanking Him for inventing coffee and bacon. All of a sudden, the peace I had been feeling became palpable. It was a peace that went way beyond quiet solitude. It was a peace that invaded my soul and filled up my senses to the point that my surroundings didn’t even matter anymore. It took me a second to understand what was going on, but then the realization hit me: I was experiencing the presence of God. I was communing with the Prince of Peace himself.

And I was reminded of a verse in Micah where God says that He literally is our peace:
“He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely,
for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace.”
(Micah 5:4-5)

Maybe true peace is not just the absence of stress or conflict, but the presence of God.

So now it dawns on me – if true peace is not so much based on external circumstances but more on an awareness of God’s presence, then I can experience peace anywhere, anytime. If He is our peace, then it doesn’t matter whether I’m sitting next to the ocean or in a traffic jam on the freeway. He’s there just the same. I can simply invite Him into my moment, and He will answer.

For He is our peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Turn Out for What?

Although many pundits emphasized the importance of the Millennial vote in the mid-term election, very few ended up voting on Tuesday.  In fact, only 13% of voters were age 18-29, an even lower turnout than in past elections.

Not even Lil Jon and his star-studded “Turn Out for What” video could rally young voters.

photo from the #turnoutforwhat video

Many consider Millennials to be unmotivated, whether it’s in elections, career advancement, or church attendance, and would chalk up this week’s election as one more example.

However, I agree with Jim Denison's assessment of the Millennial mindset in his excellent recent article:

“Millennials [are] intensely motivated, but by their personal mission rather than their financial success…They have little ‘brand loyalty’ to a particular organization, denomination, or political party. However, they are intensely loyal to those whose mission aligns with their own.”

On Tuesday, Millennials voted by not voting. They voted to opt out of a system that doesn’t align with their ideals. They are tired of empty rhetoric, broken promises, and the inertia of bureaucracy. And although I strongly believe as Christians we need to exercise our right to vote, I nonetheless admire the integrity of Millennials. Why stay loyal to something that is not in line with one’s values or mission?

Likewise, when it comes to the institutional church, Millennials are voting with their feet. They are leaving the church in droves, although not necessarily abandoning the Christian faith. Instead of pointing the finger at Millennials, assuming that once again they are just unmotivated, perhaps the church should take the opportunity to explore ways of focusing less on “brand loyalty” such as denominational issues, and more on instilling a sense of personal mission as a follower of Christ.

Until then, whether it’s in politics or the church, Millennials may continue to wonder, Turn out for what?