Not Ideal

We all have different ideas about perfect or ideal. Some of us would be perfectionists & we struggle to navigate sometimes in stuff that’s less than perfect. Some of us are kind of the middle of the road – we like ideal or perfect, but we can figure stuff out when life is imperfect. And for some of us, perfect is almost a joke & an elusive ideal. 

I find myself frequently in less than ideal situations & sometimes I flounder but other times I can flourish in the imperfection. Here are something’s that I’ve found to be helpful for flourishing in less than ideal situations:

  • Focal point: keeping my eyes on Jesus helps me not get so ruffled
  • Choose trust: it helps me to actively choose to trust Jesus & His love for me
  • Identify lemons: what are the less than perfect challenges?
  • Make lemonade: it really helps me to ask Holy Spirit how to make improvements in situations & experiences that aren’t ideal or perfect. Lots of times, the feedback I hear from from Holy Spirit is to shift my point of view & opinion 🙂

What’s Helpful

As I travel, I see people who struggle with their luggage, finding the departure gate, language challenges, etc. And I know I could be helpful on lots of this stuff, usually. However, I’m learning from various experiences that often being helpful in human interactions, is defined better by the recipient rather than person giving the help. I say this because there have been many occasions where I stepped in to help, without asking the person if they wanted my assistance.  In no uncertain terms, I’ve gotten the proverbial hand slap for not asking first. 

So when we want to help someone, instead of jumping in without asking, we would be wise to do these two things first:

  • Ask the person if they would like help
  • Ask how they would like help 

This kind of communication is useful not only with strangers but also with co-workers, family members, friends, acquaintances, etc 🙂

Just a little practical wisdom from the road that we can all use for improving our communication 🙂

Timing Is Everything

“My time is not here yet, but your time is always opportune.” This is what Jesus said to his brothers in John 7:6, replying to their advice about His visibility and their marketing wisdom. And there’s lots of value in thinking about the right timing, alignment, relationships, resources, etc.

It seems to me that in our modern world, we don’t have much appetite for patience, refinement processes, aging, maturation and stuff like that. We want the results, but not the time that goes into having the results. And yet I see such massive value in the actual process, time spent, maturation journey. There is timeless wisdom and value in looking at life for the long view and not only the short-term gains. Indeed, since God is the author of time, we would be wise to trust in God’s timing and processes, but most of all that God deeply loves us!

Why Obey God?

This is a timeless question that maybe every human has asked, at some point in their life. And I suspect that Job, in the Bible, asked this question or some version of it, during the massively difficult season in his life. So do we obey God because there will be good outcomes? Do we obey God to avoid negative experiences? Do we obey God because life will go more smoothly? Do we obey God because it makes us feel good?

Why obey God?

During my life, I have obeyed God for the reasons I just listed and more. Sometimes, my obedience has facilitated good outcomes. And sometimes, I’ve obeyed God and stuff hasn’t turned out like I wanted. So I’m coming to the conclusion that I choose to obey God because I love God and more importantly, I’m loved by God. When I keep genuine love as a core motivation, my soul stays more tender and healthy 🙂

The Tired Toaster

I cleaned out our toaster over the weekend & noticed that the knobs are broken off, the base comes off of the body and there are a few exposed electrical wires. A day later, my husband suggested that I buy a new toaster. I explained that I cleaned it out over the weekend and it should be good to go, knobs being nothing more than convenient accessories. He smirked and said, “Sarah, the base is separating from the toaster & it could be a fire hazard.”

Hmmmmmm.

Like my worn out toaster, sometimes we can get worn down from life and grow comfortable being broken or dysfunctional. But genuine love will step into that quagmire and speak truth, redemption, hope, transformation and life. Let’s be available to speak gentle and loving words of truth and redemption. And let’s be open to receiving truth and life with genuine love!

Nutritional Value

My husband & I enjoyed a delightful dinner at a “healthy” restaurant last night. The menu overflowed with nutritional options, including the desserts. My indulgence was a chia parfait and I wasn’t expecting anything very tasty. Indeed, my kids will often associate consuming healthy stuff with things being flavorless, at best. More often they think that healthy is flavor repulsive. So it was nice to be pleasantly surprised with the delicious chia parfait!

I wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to consider nutrition in not only a food context, but also in the contexts of our attention, spiritual disciplines, relationships, intellectual pursuits, time management, conversations, etc. And ultimately, no one & no thing is more tasty or healthy than a deepening walk with God! Indeed, let us taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34:8 🙂

Will You Grow?

It never ceases to amaze me how much we grow, as humans, in our first two years of existence. Not only do we gain weight and increase in height, but we also massively grow in our cognitive, emotional, relational and identity capacities. And we continue the growing experience when we go to school, learning lots of stuff related to communication, fine motor skills, organization, moral quandaries, computational proficiencies and the list goes on.

Just because we become adults, doesn’t mean that we should stop growing. May we never limit our capacities nor abilities to:

  • be compassionate,
  • explore new things,
  • learn new communication skills,
  • get more proficient with forgiveness,
  • become more loving,
  • take on new ideas,
  • meet new people

Let’s keep growing!!

Sunshine Mantra

Everything is great!  Life is fantastic! I’m blessed & highly favored!  Living’ the dream!

I’ve said these words more than occasionally when my life isn’t whipy, when I’m tired, sick & when stuff is awful.  So was I lying?  Was I making a faith confession?  Was I living in denial?  Depending on the day or hour, yes 🙂

If we want to love genuinely, let’s be ready for someone to be honest & say that stuff isn’t going well. Indeed, when Job went through a season of living hell, his friends stayed with him in silence for a week before they said a word. There was no sunshine mantra in the conversations w Job & his friends.  When a friend goes through a crisis, let’s be willing to walk alongside them with honesty & not get ruffled. 

As it relates to having a personal crisis, I recognize that not everyone can handle our honesty or when things aren’t going well.  And that’s ok!  Let’s allow God to bring people into our lives who don’t always settle for the sunshine mantra. 

Changing Conditions

Changing Conditions

Choppy or smooth? Icy or powder? Chunky or groomed?  These are all descriptions of the snow conditions when a person skis or snowboards. 

When I was first learning to snowboard, I struggled to navigate changing conditions. I was really good on groomed runs but ice caused me some significant problems. 

I’ve been snowboarding now for almost 15 years & I can navigate various conditions usually without injuries, although I have definite preferences. 

I think the same can hold true for us as we mature in our walk with Jesus. Early on, maybe we didn’t have the agility to navigate disappointment or unanswered prayers. As we mature in our walk w Jesus, it’s helpful to keep love as our top priority regardless of the changing conditions. I find that the more I stay in love w Jesus, regardless of what’s happening around me, the easier it can be to navigate changing conditions 🙂

Old and New

Happy 2019! Starting a new day, a new month and a new year is a nice way to think of a fresh start. In some respects, a new year is a little bit like a do-over, taking some of the mishaps, failures, lessons, progress and successes of 2018 and making improvements on these for 2019.

Where you’ve had failures & disasters in 2018, be careful not to allow shame, embarassment, defeat, fear or insecurity define your perspective on these things in 2019. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of failures, defeats, disasters and mishaps in terms of practice and progress. In this way, let’s make new mistakes in 2019 and not the same ones from 2018.

Where you’ve had success, improvement, maturation & progress, let’s take such momentum into 2019 and keep going! There’s a good chance that God would like to build on these things from 2018 and expand those victories!

It’s a new day, new month and new year – all aligned with God’s work because He makes all things new (Isaiah 43:18), including you and me!

Not Ready

The week between Christmas & New Year’s feels like a “not ready” week, maybe because of all the festivities, bustle & frenzy leading up to Christmas, . . . . . And then we pause 🙂

And for such a pause, I’m abundantly grateful. I don’t have to get ready for anything – no dinner guests, no events, no sermons, no parties, no gift wrapping or last minute presents to buy. In this week, it’s ok to be “not ready.” So I appreciate the opportunity to lounge in pjs, take time for reflection, watch birds and squirrels eat berries off the tree outside my window, get my vacuum into the shop for a much needed tune-up, sleep in a little bit and be entirely comfortable with being “not ready.”

Maybe this idea goes back to the concept of Sabbath, when we pause from our work and take a day of rest. I sincerely believe that such a pause is an essential ingredient for growing in our intimacy with God 🙂

Finding Jesus

In that today is Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas when you read this, we might be thinking about Jesus’ birth 🙂

And in the story of Jesus coming to live among us, there are some interesting things we can consider for our daily living.

*Unexpected Coincidence: the shepherds in the field were doing a normal night of shepherding when there was a supernatural interruption. Let’s be mindful that a supernatural interruption can sometimes be dismissed as an unexpected coincidence, causing us to miss something God wants us to know or experience

*Inconvenient Journey: the wiseman took the Star as a signal to go on a journey to seek out something unknown but important. Let’s be mindful that what could be inconvenient and unfamiliar has the potential to lead us to know Jesus more deeply and in a richer experience.

*Unconventional Relationship: Joseph decided to keep Mary as his fiancé even though she was pregnant out of wedlock. Let’s be mindful that being merciful, gracious and generous can position us to bring Jesus to people in meaningful and life-giving experiences.

Let’s keep finding Jesus and helping others experience genuine love through finding Jesus!

Not Yesterday

The past is a really interesting thing to consider. Like me, you likely have some very fond memories as well as some experiences that you’d rather forget. And today is a new day, with new mercies, new experiences, new people, new minutes, new activities, new adventures, . . . . lots of new for new days!

And may we never forget that God’s mercies are new every morning because the faithfulness of God is infinite. Let’s allow each day to be new & have a fresh start. Yesterday is over & today is a new day 🙂

What Smells?

How often have you smelled a perfume or cologne & it reminds you of someone you know?  Or maybe you played sports & when you smell a certain soap it brings back those memories from showering off the workout / practice sweat. 

In the same way, we can leave a lingering smell / residue in our interactions with people. To this end, think about the people who leave a “bad taste in your mouth” & how you might try avoiding them. On the other side, think about those people with whom you interact & you find yourself smiling, cozy on the inside & wanting more interaction. 

I would propose that genuine love is what all of us want & the exchanges that have genuine love leave a healthy & desirable residue. With Jesus’ help, let’s aim to leave a sweet smell from our people interactions!

What Do You Hear?

“That’s not what I said.”  A lot of times when I listen to someone talk, I have to realize that I don’t always hear what’s being said. And I don’t hear what’s actually being said because of my own perspectives / filters that obscure what is said. Consider that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day couldn’t hear His words because of their own filters. They were concerned about their position & power more than hearing Jesus’ truth & genuine love.

With this reality, we would be wise to consider what may be our filters. Here are some examples for your consideration:

Fear: failing & bad experiences can skew our ability to hear stuff clearly

Scarcity: lack skews our ability to hear clearly 

Shame / Embarrassment: when something has terribly wrong in our lives we can easily feel shame

Jesus tells us to be careful what we hear & we would be wise to consider what filters we might have that could be muddling what we hear!

Happy Advent!

The Attitude Factor

It’s easy for me to get a bad attitude when I’m tired, when I have jet lag, when a day is overflowing with bad stuff, etc. And I find that attitudes are important catalysts for how we experience life. In the Bible, we can see various people who wrestled with their attitudes & the outcomes. For example, David had good reasons to have a bad attitude with the Saul season & he endeavored to coach his attitude by keeping his focus on God – a really helpful principle!

Let’s also remember: a bad attitude ruins everything good & a good  attitude ruins everything bad 🙂

The Abundance Factor

Little tweaks can make big impacts & I see evidence of this in lots of ways.  For example, I have a friend who regularly reminds me that gratitude makes everything enough.  She uses everyday examples of how she’s thankful & the impact this attitude makes on her thinking, conversations & decisions.  And she doesn’t just do this at Thanksgiving!

The same can also be true for a little tweak with treats we enjoy!  During this holiday season, I’m doing a #hungerstrike campaign with Saving Moses, asking everyone to forego one treat / indulgence & send that money to Saving Moses to help us feed a malnourished baby. A candy bar in America, or a pumpkin spice latte, or the extra pair of shoes that we forego, could make the difference between life and death for a baby in our malnourishment clinics.

Let’s remember that abundance can be a direct result of gratitude!

Managing Hiccups

Hiccups aren’t pleasant. Some ways people deal w hiccups include: a spoonful of sugar under the tongue, eating a dab of peanut butter, drinking water upside down, startling someone, etc. 

And what about the unexpected hiccups in one’s schedule or mishaps with various plans?  What are some ways we can cope with the unexpected?  Here are some ideas:

  • Take a deep breath & remember that nothing catches God by surprise
  • Recognize the surprises have an emotional toll & this can be part of the challenge to navigate
  • Look for the upside – finding some good can make surprises more palatable
  • Do healthy – drink water, get rest, make good eating decisions, take a walk / exercise
  • Step into it & make the best with what you’ve got, frequently asking for God’s help

Happy Monday!

Enjoying People

Over the last week, it’s been fun to be around LOADS of sexworkers in Bangledesh, nice church folk in America, random & fascinating travel peeps & best of all, my family. And I enjoyed each exchange & interaction. 

Were some people cranky?  Yes

Were some people strange? Yes

Were some people brilliant? Definitely 

Were some people hurting? Absolutely 

Were some people broken? Everyone 

And I’m so grateful that God is teaching & helping me to both enjoy & love people, full stop. Sometimes I do this better than others, to be sure. And it’s immensely helpful just to relax, smile & enjoy people no matter what!

Against the Grain

“We aren’t doing that!”  This morning, I read in Exodus about the Egyptian midwives who didn’t follow Pharoah’s command to kill all baby boys born to Hebrew moms.  They ran against the grain & took a risk when they didn’t comply.  Because they didn’t obey Pharaoh with his command, God blessed these midwives greatly!

I find the behaviors of these midwives to be very interesting:  they aligned themselves with a nation to whom they didn’t belong, they protected the most vulnerable, they were advocates of life and they found a “convenient reason” to explain their non-compliance to Pharaoh.

Sometimes we need to run against the grain of what’s popular around us to live as advocates & examples of genuine love!  🙂