911

For many Americans, today is a memorable day because of the events from 2001.  I suspect that many of us remember where we were & what we were doing when the two planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC. There are probably several other monumental events in your life that various triggers that evoke various memories & feelings.

While it’s important to keep these national events memorialized, let’s never trivialize the eternal work that Jesus does in our lives.  His work includes not only our eternal salvation, but also the daily experience we can have with God’s genuine love not only to us, but also through us.  Let’s be certain to remember God’s continuing work in our lives, so that God can express genuine love through us to the people around us!  The world is living in a continual state of 911, making emergency calls that only God’s genuine love can answer & resolve!

Who Is Different?

When I was growing up, my dad would take me to garage sales, art galleries, museums, estate sales, hospital visits, nursing homes, etc with an occassional stop at Arby’s for a jamocha shake & potatoe cakes – yum!!  So during my childhood, I was around lots of people who were very different than me.  It helped me a lot that my dad was very personable & never knew a stranger because I was realtively quiet & reflective.

As an adult, I also have the privilege of getting to meet lots of people from all walks of life.  I meet poor folk & prosperous folk, educated & uneducated people, polite & rude folk, insightful & obtuse . . . . Some people are alot like me & we see life from a similar perspective.  In contrast, I’m also around alot of people who are very different from me & I love this!!  What is wonderful about each person that I meet, is that they are deeply valuable, highly esteemed and massively loved by our Heavenly Father.  Let’s be intentional that we cultivate connections with people are different from us & make the committment to express genuine love regardless of our commonalities or differences!

Trusty or Tricky?

I recently received an email advertisement about getting 40% off a purchase at a store I frequent.  When I attempted to use the discount, the cashier said that the discount wasn’t applicable because of the fine print.  To my thinking, this is deceptive or tricky marketing and it doesn’t foster trust.  It’s advertising that’s appealing, but the experience isn’t fulfilling.

Thankfully, Jesus isn’t a marketing trick.  Indeed, Jesus far exceeds our wildest expectations and worthy of all our trust.  There’s nothing tricky in Jesus, but rather everything trustworthy!  Just because human marketing & expectations leave much to be desired, let’s allow our trust in Jesus to deepen since He is the ultimate expression of genuine love!

Being Wasteful

My dad grew up in the Depression, so i was raised with a firm appreciation for not wasting anything.  To this end, he composted kitchen scraps, saved leftover paint remnants in addition to finding bargains at garage sales, etc.  In Matthew 26:8, Jesus’ disciples had the same mindset when they asked Him about a chick wasting expensive oil, since she poured it on Jesus’ head, as an expression of worship.

And worshipping Jesus is never wasteful, regardless of what people may say.

Indeed, let’s be extravagant in how we worship Jesus!  The chick in Matthew 26 was extravagant in worshipping Jesus, using expensive oil.  And in our modern culture, we can be extravagant in worshipping Jesus by:

  • spending time with Jesus, giving Him our attention
  • being generous with our finances in church, with ministries and to the poor
  • choosing to wholeheartedly participate in the worship time at our churches whether we like the songs or not
  • expressing gratitude and worship to God before we go to bed each night

 

Sheep or Goat?

Who is:  hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in jail or an immigrant?  I was reading in Matthew 25 this morning about Jesus’ parable distinguishing between sheep & goat behavior.  In this parable, the sheep are the people who see others around them who have various needs like clothing, food, shelter, belonging, care, attention and connection.  In contrast, the goats in Jesus’ parable had no time, attention or capacity for needy people.

And this parable never fails to arrest my attention, forcing me to inventory my intentions and actions for sheep and goat behvaiors.  I want to say with a genuine heart that I love Jesus, giving Him my worship & affection.  But the reality is that however I treat the needy people in my life (those who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, living in bondage, or disenfranchised), is how I treat Jesus since He said in Matthew 25;45, “Whatever you do for the least of these [the needy folk] is what you do for Me.”

This verse always challenges me to love well, when I’d rather justify my selfish perspective 🙂

Give Hope

“Everyone is going to make it!”  In Acts 27, these were Paul’s words to his fellow travelers who were on a ship, when everyone had lost hope that they would survive.  And these travelers had very good reasons to have lost hope:  an horrific storm that lasted more than two weeks, no sun or stars (so there was no navigation ability), sailors who were trying to abandon the ship, endless ups and downs, rain, wind and instability on a ship, and no sight or inkling of land for numerous days, to say nothing of not eating for two weeks because of raw nerves and fear.

In our daily living, we get to choose how we will respond to the ups and downs of life.  The people around us can be despondent and lose hope, but let’s be the one who stands confident in God’s goodness and love, offering hope and future, just like Paul in the middle of a brutal storm.  Let’s actively choose to trust in God’s love and goodness, while offering hope as a life preserver to anyone around us who may be discouraged by the storms of life!

Called to Listen

We had dinner last night with a lovely couple & the husband said something profound that is continuing to echo in my thoughts today:  We are not all called to talk, in terms of public speaking, but we are all called to listen.

There are times, no doubt, when we need to speak up & be advocates for love and justice.  Additionally, some of us have the gift of gab & our personality lends itself to be a “talker.”  But let us never minimize the importance of listening – not only with our ears or intellect (so that we can interject a witty comment or some helpful wisdom), but also with our heart, so that we can be attentive with compassion, tender affection and gentle endurance.

In Mark 4:9, Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Have a happy listening weekend!

Predicting Success

What does it take to succeed?  Is success a consequence of luck, personality, talents, perspiration and focus?  I think all of these things can be ingredients to help us succeed and I think there’s another essential component that is often overlooked because it’s simple and obvious:

routine

What you do everyday will predict where you will succeed.  I saw this principle play out in my life from some advice from my dentist.  It went something like, “Sarah, if you will floss more regularly, our teeth cleaning appointments will be shorter, your gums won’t bleed and your breath will be less offensive.”  So I decided to try out this advice & guess what?!?!??  It worked!  And I’ve taken this idea and integrated it into my daily routines for areas where I want more success.  These are some examples of where I’m seeing more success because of cultivating better routines and habits:

  • writing:  I want to be a better writer, so I’ve been writing virtually everyday for the last few years
  • intimacy with God:  going to bed earlier every night has helped me so that I can get up in the morning to catch some daily time with God
  • fitness:  I’ve been endeavoring to walk, at a minimum, everyday and my pants seem to shrink less from the dryer ,)

I know that God wants us to succeed, so let’s be sure to cooperate and work into our daily routine, habits that will foster successful outcomes!

Inadequate Meets Uber-Adequate!

There are times in my life where I am inadequate to meet the needs and demands of what’s happening around me.  In these times, I know that I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, don’t have the energy to match the demands, nor do I have the endurance to match the race stretched in front of me.  In these times, it’s tempting to get overwhelmed by the questions, the shortfalls, demands, inadequacies and scarcity I feel in my soul.  Such deficiency is often a universal human condition and maybe that’s by Divine Design.  Maybe God has always intended for us to never be enough, such that we must choose to reach outside of ourselves to find provisions beyond our finite resources.

Let’s be certain that we reach for God to participate in our lives every day and not just as a last resort!  Indeed, God is more than enough for our overflowing deficiencies!

Willing to Change?

Right motives but wrong target:  when Saul was going to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus, he was endeavoring to promote adherence to God’s ways, but he missed the point that Jesus is God.  I think Saul / Paul had good intentions, but he was misdirected.  Thankfully, God interrupted his plans & gave him some pause to make some major adjustments to his belief system.

I wonder for us today, if we don’t sometimes need to have some adjustments to our goals.  Similar to Saul / Paul, I think we can have very noble motives and intentions (adherence to God’s ways), but how we accomplish such noble motives can be tricky.  Ultimately, when we are followers of Jesus, we need to make genuine love our motive & outcome because of what Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Are there any areas in your life that need to be changed so that genuine love is your endgame?

Selah 🙂

When You Fail

I’ve never met a person who enjoys failing & most of us avoid stuff that has a high risk for failing.  But there are LOADS of people in the Bible who failed, took risks and some had tremendous successes – usually after they had overcome some significant failure hurdles.  Some examples would include:

  • Jacob’s son, Joseph:  failed with his brothers, but became 2nd in command to Pharoah in Egypt & rescued his family from famine
  • Jacob:  tricked his brother & father, but went on to become “Israel” and the founder of the Twelve Tribes
  • Saul / Paul:  gave hearty approval at Stephen’s martyrdom & became the largest contributing author to the New Testament in addition to founding the majority of early churches on two continents

When you fail, keep in mind some helpful perspectives:

  • failing is a verb, but failure is a noun:  one can change but the other is more permanent
  • the greatest lessons often come from failing more than succeeding
  • failing can the essential fertilizer for redemption
  • no failure is beyond God’s power & love to transform into beauty, resurrection, abundance and divine success!

Divine Interruptions

  • “We interrupt this program for this important message . . . . “
  • Amber Alert
  • Notification Settings

All of these examples remind us of things that arrest our attention to focus & tell us to focus on something different, even if just for a few minutes.  In general, I don’t need any help to interrupt my focus because I can be easily distracted.  Consequently, I do as much as I can to eliminate distractions and interruptions.  While this strategy can be helpful in being productive, it is also possible that God might be trying to get my attention and I’m dismissing the “divine interruption” because I perceive it as a distraction.

In the Bible, there are some great examples of God interrupting a person’s daily living to grab their attention & invite them to make a course correction.  Such examples include:  Moses & the burning bush, Samuel as a little boy with Eli, Gideon hiding in the winepress with the angelic visit, the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus  & Saul on the road to Damascus.

We would be wise to pause at what could be a distraction or interruption and reflect for a few moments to listen and watch for God to speak with us.  Sometimes God interrupts our daily living to help us make some important decisions & course corrections 🙂

Selah

Using Deodrant

“Did you put on deodorant today???”  Sometimes a family member will ask me this poignant question & it arrests my attention.  I stop to think, “Why are they asking me this?” And then instinctively I take a whiff to check & quickly inventory my morning routine.  Body odor in America can be highly offensive, regardless of the reasons that might “justify” the aroma 🙂

And our body odor is a reflection of our daily hygiene habits, what we put into our bodies, what activities we do and the environments where we spend time.  I think all of these are relevant to thinking about spreading the fragrance of Jesus wherever we go, as Paul talks about in 2Cor 2:15.  So here are some things to think about, that can help us make Jesus smell good to those around us:

  • daily hygiene: this can be a helpful parallel to our daily quiet time with Jesus (Bible & prayer time help to ground our thoughts, emotions and perspective)
  • inputs:  in Col 3:16 Paul tells us to let God’s Word dwell richly in our hearts; garbage in = garbage out;  glory in = glory out 🙂
  • activities:  when I practice genuine love and not just talk about it, then it becomes more natural and helps me remember that love is my endgame because of John 13:35
  • environment:  being around genuine love (letting God love us), helps us to spread the fragrance & value of genuine love throughout any given day

Being around Jesus’ love helps us spread His fragrance 🙂

When You Get Bad News

No one gets a pass on receiving bad news.  And recently, I heard some stuff that was discouraging – the opposite of what I’d been asking from God & I was unhappy with opposite outcome of my prayers.  I think it’s pointless to hide my emotions from God or pretend that everything is ok when it’s not.  At the same time, the world doesn’t stop just because we get some bad news.  So here are a few suggestions that could be helpful:

  • Tell God how you feel & what you’re thinking.  Reading Psalms & Job give some really  insightful thoughts & expression to emotions that are raw & real.
  • Perspective adjustments:  sometimes it’s helpful to look at a broader picture than just the bad news
  • Consider the cause:  is it possible that the bad news is a consequence of something you did?  If so, maybe it would be helpful to make some course corrections / different decisions.
  • Choose to trust God:  It always encourages me to remember that God uses all things for the the good to those who love Him & stay aligned with God’s purposes

Feel free to pass this along to any friends / family who might be struggling with getting some bad news

Navigating Turbulent Times

I find that life has seasons of serenity and contrasting times of turbulence.  The danger of serene seasons is that we can become stagnant or let our values get highjacked by comfort and convenience.  In relation to turbulent times, here are a few ideas that you, or a friend, might find helpful:

  • take a walk – I find that walking and talking with God helps me unload anxiety and gain some helpful perspective
  • pay attention to your choices – it’s not uncommon for us to seek comfort in turbulent times & sometimes what “comforts” us can actually be detrimental
  • get some help – this can be a variety of things such as exercise, making a praise & worship playlist, having lunch with a friend, reading a good book, etc
  • anchor in the Bible – it always helps me to find a few key Bible verses to keep in the forefront of my thoughts.  Here are some helpful suggestions:

Ps 55:22, “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”

James 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Matt 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom & everything will be added to you.”

Luke 1:37, “With God, nothing is impossible”

Philippians 4:11, “. . . , for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

 

Crazy Maladies

Dislocated shoulder, Cambodian spider bite, concussion & maybe a hairline fracture:  these are some of the injuries my doctor has diagnosed over the recent years.  So whenever I book an appointment, I grimace as I anticipate their amused facial reactions.  And I’d prefer to skip the whole experience & be on my merry way, injury free.  But life has a way of serving up some hurtful maladies.

Thankfully, we have a Divine Physician who specializes in healing & repairing bodies, emotions, memories, injuries, hurts, etc.  Let’s be careful that we don’t allow our tendency to be independent to sabotage Jesus’ healing work.  Compensatory behaviors can interfere with divine healing, just sayin’

🙂

Marketing Mishap!

I recently received an advertising email from a national pizza franchise encouraging me to buy an XL pepperoni pizza & the picture was irresistible!  So I placed my order & went to collect my XL pepperoni pizza only to be disappointed.  It wasn’t XL & it looked just like the frozen pizza, I buy in bulk from Walmart.  Nor was the taste  anything spectacular.  So I was disappointed because the marketing didn’t remotely match the experience.

This also happens with Jesus’ followers.  It’s not uncommon for people to be disappointed with the experience when it doesn’t match the marketing.  Sometimes we call this hypocrisy and it can often happen when we look at the advertising more than the real thing.  When we look at fellow believers or even “super-star” Christians, we’re setting ourselves up to be disappointed.  So the core lesson here is that we keep our eyes on Jesus more than any human because Jesus isn’t just a marketing ploy.  Jesus is genuine love & slakes our thirsty souls with living water 🙂

Brush Your Teeth :)

A few months ago, I was in Angola with Saving Moses & I forgot my toothpaste, so I bought some Angolan toothpaste & it’s not my favorite.  I can appreciate that you might think I should know better than to forget toothpaste, but that’s a conversation for another blog ,)

A few helpful thoughts about tooth brushing:

  • Halitosis / AKA:  bad breath – when some people open their mouths, bad things happen.  Nothing sweet comes out in words or smell.  So let’s put good things in our heart, so that sweet comes out of our mouth, based on Proverbs 10:11
  • Furry Teeth:  brushing off the plague and residual food helps our smiles be warm rather than unnerving or distracting.  And Proverbs 12:14 speaks to the importance of mouth maintenance
  • Bacteria removal:  bad things happen when bacteria builds but & removing it daily from our teeth preserves our ability to continue using our teeth.   Proverbs 12:19 helps us appreciate the importance of keeping truth in our mouths 🙂
  • Preventing enamel & tooth decay:  hurtful & destructive words set into motion negative things in our lives, so let’s be mindful of James 3:1-12 to keep our lives overflowing with love & life!!

Feel free to send this to your friends & share it on FB as a helpful reminder about keeping a sweet mouth with life-giving words!

Being Uncomfortable

“That’s awkward!”  I’ve said this in various contexts: social, athletic, ministry, cultural & lots more. If you’re like me, we tend to avoid what’s awkward & uncomfortable, but sometimes this is detrimental. 

When I look at Jesus’ disciples, they seemed to follow Jesus into lots of uncomfortable, inconvenient & awkward scenarios, such as sinking boats, conversations with demon possessed people, massive throw downs with religious leaders & not just a few baffling teaching moments / parables. 

Here’s some truth that could be helpful:  uncomfortable is often when we grow the most. And maybe we need to grow & mature more than we need comfort & convenience 🙂

Selah 

Jet Lag Jig

A jig is a dance and implies energetic stepping & this feels like the opposite of jet lag.  If you’ve ever heard a song played at half speed with the words sounding long & drawn out, incomprehensible, and the music total nonsense, this is how jet lag feels.  It’s no bueno.

Thankfully, time in God’s hands is a good thing.  It helps me to remember that God has organized time and events in my life such that even when I have jet lag & eventhing seems slow, God is in control.  So whether we want things to speed up or slow down, God’s timing in our lives is perfect, regardless of how we feel or the circumstances of our lives 🙂