Shock Value

There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking.  It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.

And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut.  For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day.  Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:

  • He ate with sinners.
  • He associated with tax collectors.
  • He kept company with the irresuptable.

All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens.  And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love.  Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂

Have a happy weekend!

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!

Do You Need Abundance?

Sometimes we find ourselves running on empty.  This can happen not just with finances, but sometimes we run out of energy, or we don’t have enough time, maybe our relationships feel shallow or perhaps you have more problems than solutions.

Feel free to watch & share this short video to see how Jesus provides for us!

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

 

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 🙂

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

Are You Distracted?

Do you ever struggle with distractions or competing priorities?  There are loads of things in our world that demand our attention, from the pop-ups that happen on our Facebook feed to the random text message advertising some random product.  So how do we deal with these distractions?  And what about competing priorities?  Here are some helpful thoughts that you could pass along to your friends / family as well 🙂

 

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 🙂

More Than Enough

“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.

I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.

In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

More than 50,000 soldiers dead all triggered by a concubine running away from her husband. I’m reading the last few chapters of Judges in the OT & these events leave me baffled & cold. They baffle me because even though Israel obeyed God’s directives, they still lost two battles and 40,000 soldiers died.

These events leave me cold because of the human ability to be barbaric: the concubines husband cut her up into 12 pieces and sent her body parts throughout the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly, this is a very dark time in Israel’s history.

And there are times / events in our lives when we don’t understand God. Why does an omnipotent God allow atrocities and deplorable behaviors? And how does
God’s loving character reconcile with His judgment? Making these questions get even more personal, why doesn’t God heal various ailments & terminal illness?

Or why does a cheater co-worker get the promotion & we get bypassed, again?

I’m grateful that God is abundantly able to handle our questions, doubts, fears, uncertainties & pain.

While we wrestle with these questions, or different ones, let’s stay in fellowship with God for the simple reason that He holds us together because of His infinite love for us!

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 🙂

To Be Known

“ . . . . just as also I have been fully known.”  1 Cor 13:12

When I think about who I am & who I present myself to be, I want to think that there’s no discrepancy. But sometimes there is. It’s not uncommon for us to be in a situation & moderate ourselves to be situation appropriate. There’s some wisdom with these kinds of choices. 

But I appreciate that we Jesus / Genuine Love, there’s no need to modify or regulate who we are. Indeed, no one knows us better than Jesus & being anything less than fully transparent w Him is a tragic distortion of intimacy. And even worse, we miss experiencing genuine love. And in full truth, we are made for genuine love – to be loved & fully known, as well as knowing & fully loving Jesus. 

Happy Father’s Day weekend!

What Is Success?

It’s interesting to scroll through various social media platforms & look at the abundant advice about how to be successful. When I read through some of this advice, I always walk away asking, “What is success?”  

Is success:

  • living a comfortable life, without conflict or drama? 
  • having heaps of money, recognition, achievements or a glam image? 
  • living a balanced life, all things regulated & controlled for maximum mediocrity?

What is success?  In Jeremiah 9:23-24 it says,  “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;  24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

So maybe the most simple definition of biblical success is knowing & loving God, as well as loving our neighbor & ourselves.  Have an awesome Memorial Day weekend living successfully!

Heroes & Villains

There’s running banter betweeen DC & Marvel fans about which brand of hero entertainment is better.  Each side seems to have it’s own strengths & shortfalls, each hero having a fatal flaw:  Superman has his kryptonite & Ironman has his arrogance (or whatever you deem to be his weakness).  And that’s the rub with the human race – we can have our moments of glory & splendor with dark quagmires nipping the heels of grandeur.

Enter Jesus who is the ultimate flawless superhero.  Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing and present everywhere.  If Jesus has any weak spot, it would be His affection and devotion to you and me.  Jesus continues to go to inexplainable extremes to keep us reconciled to Himself, infused with genuine love.  Let’s be committed to worshipping the real hero of the human race:  Jesus Christ!

Overcoming Obstacles

“Here ya go!”  As I was standing on the sidewalk on cold winter day, my friend flung me a seriously AWESOME winter cap that she had made me.  I caught the cap with utter shock, checked it out & beamed from ear to ear.  She had knit me this thoroughly magnificnet blue & white cap that has been my favorite for years.  She later explained that she had to figure out a creative way to get the cap into my hands because of my difficulty to receive gifts.

Each of us have quirky hangups that can create obstacles for connecting in healthy ways with others.  Maybe you have a sense of superiority over others & feel the need to help them improve – that’s an obstacle for connecting.  Perhaps you see yourself as a victim from a past trauma or abuse, so it’s difficult for you to trust, another obstacle.  I could endlessly list all kinds of obstacles we may have for connecting with others, but let’s be thankful that God has already overcome all of our obstacles and quirks because of genuine love.  While there may be hindrances and obstacles along our horizontal journey, our vertical relationship with God is never in peril nor compromised – for the simple reason that God never stops loving us.  His lovingkindness is everlasting!