Learning to Love Well

Hello from Dubai!  What an interesting city & diverse population!  Our guide told us that about 85% of this city is not local & only 15% are native born. So I’ve been here less than 12hours & I’ve met folk from Bangladesh, Greece, India, Afghanistan, Egypt & lots of other places!  With such diversity, it’s helpful to be friendly, smile & be a learner. It seems to me that when I’m open to learn, that often helps me to love & in particular learning from people who are very different from me. 

Some thoughts for loving well:

  • See people & not objects, projects nor  functions 
  • Serve & smile
  • Flexible let’s me adapt to enjoy & thereby love better

Here are some interesting pix from Dubai today 🙂

 

Bring Out the Best!

I was in a parking lot today and watched the drivers from two cars get in a honking battle.  They concluded their exchanges with middle fingers, yelling and mean looks.  I would suspect that perhaps these drivers have different sides to their personalities, such that they don’t go through their lives everyday with expletives, middle fingers and combative behaviors.

Just because someone is hostile or cranky with us doesn’t mean that we have to repay the same acrimony.  Indeed, such moments are opportunities to do a quick heart check on ourselves and choose better.  Furthermore, we can go the extra mile & look for constructive ways to bring out the best in people.  Here are some suggestions for your consideration:

  • encouragement, gratitude and polite words make a comfortable runway for others to be gracious
  • a soft answer turns away wrath – Prov 15;1
  • forgiveness is a decision to reflect God’s DNA in us, since we are liberally forgiven even more than we realize
  • what a person “deserves” is best left in God’s hands, since we are commanded by Jesus not to judge in Matt 7:1

Let’s endeavor to bring out the best throughout our daily exchanges!

What is Wisdom?

There’s lots of stuff in the Bible about wisdom, even a whole book, Proverbs, that’s devoted to the topic.  It’s also mentioned in the NT a fair amount, like in James 1, where it says that we should ask for wisdom.  So given the frequency of this topic, perhaps it would be helpful to think about what it is, along with what it is not.

In the “wisdom is not” column, here are some things to remember.  Wisdom is not:

  • merely information;  facts, formulas, information and details
  • advanced degrees, memorization or books read

In the other column that defines wisdom, based on the Bible, here’s what we can say.  Wisdom is:

  • grounded in “fearing God”;  this means that having a healthy and robust respect for God in our lives is the pathway to facilitating wisdom
  • discerning the times and seasons in our lives
  • appreciating what is appropriate and helpful in various situations and events
  • recognizing when to speak and when to listen

Lets always be ready to get more wisdom & let wisdom be active in our daily living!

What’s Enough?

I go through seasons in my life where everything seems manageable.  This means that I have a balance with my workload, time, responsibilities, family stuff, travel, etc.  And then I go through seasons that seem very unbalanced:  too much work, not enough time, overwhelming responsibilities, unresolved family challenges and maybe a host of other hotspots.  So in these seasons, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m drowning and I can’t manage everything – there’s not enough of me to adequately match everything that’s being demanded or required.

In these seasons, it helps me to focus on what’s immediately in front of me and taking one day at a time.  Indeed, I don’t have the resources, wisdom, energy or wherewithall to get very far into the future and it can overwhelm  me when I try.  Maybe this is why God did the manna thing for Israel, giving adequate supply of bread for each day.  This forced the Israelites to trust God on a daily basis and this is a helpful mindset that we can also choose for today.  Let’s thank God for giving us daily provisions, adequate for each day 🙂

Where Are You Looking?

When you’re driving and you look over your shoulder to check your blind spot, has your car ever veered to the side?  When I took driver’s ed, the instructor taught us that we need to be careful about keeping the car centered at the same time we would check our blind spot.  “Your car will often follow where you look.”

I’ve followed this advice mulitple times and reflected on the times when I let myself get distracted from a goal or destination with the subsequent collision or loss of direction.  So it always helps me to remember Hebrews 12:2 where it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfector of our faith!”  Jesus is our goal, so let’s keep focusing on Him throughout each day!

Do The Work :)

Welcome to Monday, the start of a work week for some of us, or the start of a school week for those who are students.  Wherever you find yourself on this day, there are things in front of you and me that we need to do.  Maybe you need to work on a school assignment, write a paper or study for a test.  Maybe you need to write some emails, craft a proposal, flip a hamburger, wash a toilet, load the dishwasher, drive to a soccer practice, grade some papers, manage a project, crunch some numbers, etc.  No matter what, all of us have stuff we need to do today – do the work.

And this is part of God’s design for each of us.  You and I are uniquely designed to participate in and accomplish things.  How we do such work is the real issue, even more than what we do.  So here are some helpful ideas about how we do our work:

  • work as unto the Lord and not to man – Colossians 3:23
  • keep a grateful heart – 1Thessalonians 5:18
  • stayed focused and eliminate distractions – Proverbs 4:25
  • maintain genuine love – 1Corinthians 16:14

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!

Hair Dye

I’m writing this post, sitting outside of my hair salon with foils in my hair, looking semi-chic 🙂

And of course, I get some odd looks, people thinking I’m the reincarnated character from “My Favorite Martian”.  But alas, it’s just the normal hair dye appointment, where the grey gets covered over & I maintain the look that says I’m at least 10 years than my birthdate would confirm.

And whatever we may look like on the outside isn’t as important as the decisions we make on the inside.  Our internal thoughts, emotions, values, decisions and perspective are loads more important than the external image.  It’s in my thinking processes where I:

  • make decisions to be generous,
  • decide to act from various insecurities,
  • consider how another may be affected by my words / actions
  • choose to be afraid or choose to be constructive

So no matter how we look on the outside, let’s be certain we make internal decisions to be generous & loving people.  What’s on the inside is what will often regulate what happens on the outside 🙂

Anniversary Celebration!

My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage this week & that’s a noteworthy achievement!  It’s noteworthy for lots of reasons such as:

  • lots of seasons and changes to navigate: doing hefty careers, an intense baby season, growing in our careers, raising teenagers & a few medical challenges along the road
  • distinct personalities:  we are very different in our personalities, so this requires us to give each other lots of grace, space & affirmation to be unique but complementary rather than combative
  • prickly insecurities:  just because we’re married doesn’t mean our individual insecurities don’t get triggered from time to time; so it’s helpful to recognize such weak spots & decide to nestle into genuine love 🙂

I’m definitely a better person from being married to Reece & there’s no doubt that God has helped us to grow in our relationship over the last 25 years!  Let’s remember that being a person who is growing in character, love and strength is a decision we make one day at a time!  And be certain to celebrate the milestones along the journey!

Suicide and Depression

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned of various people who have committed suicide and it’s heart wrenching.  A few of these individuals have been pastors, which hits even closer to home considering that I’m a pastor’s kid, I’m married to a pastor and I am a pastor.  These events have also made me reflect on various people over the years who have committed suicide.

As much as I want to be articulate in this post, I feel so deeply about this subject that I can’t seem to get my words or thoughts into some semblance of order or cohesive progression.  So maybe I’ll just free flow with this post and pray that it’s helpful to you, somehow.

More than anything, I hope that you will be gentle, tender and kind with others and yourself, regardless of any external veneer.  When we are in a car and see a handicapped license plate, sticker or a “baby on board” sign, we will often give that person a little extra consideration, grace and space because we know there’s a vulnerable / fragile person inside that vehicle.

May we also have the same mindset with the people in our lives, appreciating that each person with whom we interact, has their own internal struggles regardless of what the exterior looks like or how they behave.  Let’s be purposeful to:

  • be comforting rather than critical
  • choose mercy over judgment
  • be hopeful more than hostile
  • express patience more than petulance

Those Yucky People

“Why is He eating & drinking with sinners and tax collectors?”  This is what the scribes of the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples in Mark 2:16, when Jesus got all cozy with these less than upright scum.  The tax collectors and sinners were considered “yucky people” by the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day.  So no wonder they questioned Jesus’ decision to not only associate, but also get cozy with such reprobates.

And I’m so thankful for His reply in Mark 2:17, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick;  I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Thankfully, Jesus has never required us to get everything clean and pristine in our lives before He would hang out with us.  Not only does He accept us as we are, but He makes us better because of His genuine love for us.  In the same way, let’s be certain that no one in our lives gets the “yucky” treatment, being ostracized, belittled or shamed.  Indeed, Jesus loves us and wants to love through us!

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!

Time Is Love

I was getting fuel this morning & there was an employee standing by to help or answer questions a customer might have.  Since most of us could put fuel in our cars with our eyes closed, this employee didn’t have much to do other than circulate & be friendly.  So we engaged in trivial chit chat:  where are you from, nice weather we’re having, etc.  We had a lovely chat & I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him better so the next time I get fuel there, he won’t just be the “gas dude.”  Additionally, we prayed together for our health with working out and making better eating decisions.

All of this happened while I was pumping fuel & a few minutes longer.  The extra few minutes we give, can be an invaluable expression of love, since everyone is so “busy”.  Let’s be lavish with our love by giving an extra few minutes to listen, affirm, engage and acknowledge people & not just functions 🙂

Happy Rest Day :)

In the US today, we celebrate a national holiday called, “Labor Day.”  The official year that it was started in America was 1882 & laborers had to strike to get the day “off” for a pause or rest from work.  And I think it’s the universal human experience that we all need a pause from work.  Perhaps we agree on this because of Divine design.
If you think about it, even God took a pause on the seventh day of the Creation week, when He rested.  And to reinforce the need for rest, God established the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments.  The Sabbath is one day a week to rest from our work & set our attention / affection toward fellowship with God.

So let’s celebrate not only success and productivity, but also rest because without rest our souls become thin, weary, unsettled and broken.  Happy Labor Day!

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!