Willing to Love


This picture is from a pretty shady neighborhood in Phnom Penh Cambodia. When you go into this apartment complex, it can be super creepy & intimidating. But it’s full of people & this is why it’s great because Jesus loves people!

Doing love well is an essential ingredient to following Jesus based on John 13:35. But it’s not easy, sometimes. It’s not easy to love a drug addict mom who neglects her kids to feed her addiction. It’s not easy to love when your body doesn’t feel well. It’s not easy to love someone who can be prickly & cantankerous. It’s not always easy to love.
But this is what Jesus says is the defining mark of those who follow Him – that we will be recognized by our love for one another. Let’s choose to love & let God love others through us, even when it’s not easy 🙂

failure goes with training

Don’t be afraid to fail, but do be afraid to stop trying.

Sometimes, I think we don’t try to do things because we don’t want to fail or we’re afraid we won’t do well.  I’ve come to conclusion that failure is an essential ingredient for training and ultimately for success.  It’s seems to me that the road to success is littered with a fair amount of both failure and persistence.

I say this thinking about Joseph in the book of Genesis & his success in keeping nations from literally starving to death.  When you consider his leadership work in Egypt during an epic famine, it’s more than just a little impressive.  But consider that Joseph had lots of practice & failure along the journey to get him to a place where he could be so outrageously successful.  I would suggest that he was training and practicing in leadership with his family during the dreams and many colored coat thing.  Furthermore, he was training with his administrative & leadership skills in Potipher’s house & prison.  And all of this was for the ultimate purpose of rescuing thousands & possibly millions from starving when he became second in command in Egypt under Pharaoh.

So when we fail, let’s replace any potential shame with applause, that we tried to do something new or different and we can only get better from here!  The other side of failure could mean life for lots of people around you!  Be sure to let the Holy Spirit continue to help you practice and get better 🙂

Old and Mature

Does age equal maturity?

I was talking with a friend this weekend about being mature.  He made a comment that settled into my mind for lots of thinking.  He made the statement that being an “older Christian” was the same as being a “mature Christian”.  This is where I paused to think.  I started to think about what it means to be a mature Christian and I thought about this in light of knowing lots of folk who have been Christians for multiple decades.  Does time equal maturity?

If time and age don’t equal mature, what does it mean to be a mature follower of Jesus?  Here’s a short answer: a person who is more & more Christlike is an increasingly mature follower of Jesus.  If you’d like to ruminate on some sturdy ruffage on this topic, consider taking some time to read & digest Hebrew 5:11-6:8 🙂

Let’s endeavor to be not only aged followers of Jesus, but more importantly mature believers, full of Christlike fruit in our daily living 🙂

Lessons in Resting

Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level.  There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.

More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities.  So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix.  Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:

  • be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
  • consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
  • be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
  • don’t ditch church 🙂

Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help

Doing Right

This morning I read how Joseph resisted the invitations of Potipher’s wife. Potipher was Joseph’s employer & Joseph didn’t want to dishonor his employer nor sin against God by giving into the wife’s seductions. In some respects, it might have been easy for Joseph to cave: Joseph was away from his family, he was a slave, maybe they could’ve kept their trist a secret & maybe there was some appeal to his flesh, on the most basic level. Nonetheless, Joseph kept his integrity & consistently rejected the wife’s efforts. 
In my thinking, Joseph should have been rewarded for holding the high ground but instead, he was lied about & then thrown into prison. So now he’s not a slave but maybe worse, he’s a “convict”.  God rewarded Joseph in prison & previously under Potipher by giving Joseph favor & leadership positions. 

But the immediate imprisonment result wasn’t the optimum outcome for maintaining a high level of integrity. 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do the right thing even if the immediate results seem to backfire 
  • Keep pure motives to serve & be a blessing
  • Make sure your forgiveness stays fresh 

I think all of this was practice for the real work of keeping a nation from being eradicated from a severe 7 years famine along with rescuing his entire family from starving to death 🙂

Do the right thing 🙂

A Good Tired

Is there such a thing as a good tired? Often when I’m tired, I get cranky, impatient & selfish. So what kind of tired might be the good kind?
Here are a few good “tireds” for me:

  • exercise tired: when I’ve swum hard, run long or lifted well, my body is spent & there’s a euphoria that feels very satisfying
  • mission tired: sometimes when I come home from a Saving Moses trip, there’s a sense of rich fulfillment, seeing redemption in realtime for today & into the future
  • people tired: when I minister, it feels good to spend myself & let the Holy Spirit work, touch & talk through me. 

There’s also some bad “tireds” that I experience from time to time:

  • selfish tired: when I get self-absorbed, this can be very draining
  • abundance tired: there’s an interesting balance between being overfull versus starving; being overfull with activities, achievements, food, sleep, coffee, etc can make me very tired
  • stress tired: when I carry / hold lots of pressures, it drains me of energy

Seems to me that the good tired happens when I’m balanced & keeping my eyes on Jesus. The bad tired happens when I get my eyes off of Jesus & try to fill myself with other stuff. Jesus is always our best choice 🙂

#heavenlyhelp

Keeping Perspective

Sometimes we get in situations & seasons that are not pleasant. Such challenges can include a bad report from a medical test, job changes, not being accepted at a university, waiting in a long & interminable line, etc. in these occasions, it helps me to do a few of these things & maybe these could help you as well:

  • Look for the good things happening around you
  • Chose to be friendly & grateful – being cranky is draining
  • Think about your favorite Bible story & imagine you’re in that story as one of the characters you like
  • Pray – asking for divine Help is always a premium upgrade 🙂

Waiting in the Flood

Noah waited in the ark 150 days during the flood cataclysm. When I read that recently, it caught my attention & I began to imagine what that was like for him, surrounded with his family & the animal hordes traveling with him in the ark. I would suspect there was heaps of panic initially, probably fear, anxiety, uncertainty & likely some worry to boot. Being “trapped” in the ark while the earth was deluged from above & below, water thundering on the ark with animals & humans pitching back & forth – this doesn’t sound very appealing. But the other option, drowning in the deluge, wasn’t such a whippy alternative. So the people in the ark could chose, initially between living or dying. Clearly, they chose to stay alive. From that decision, then they needed to manage their fear, uncertainty & anxiety, pausing 150 days in the ark. 
Sometimes we find ourselves in “pause” mode & maybe see / hear disasters happening all around us. In these situations, I find my salvation alone in keeping my focus on Jesus & my mind set on the Holy Spirit – Rom 8:5. Listening to & watching the circumstances around us can be debilitating. Make the long term decision to keep your thoughts & focus on Jesus, no matter what 🙂

Healing Takes Courage

This morning I read in Luke about a blind guy who was yelling for Jesus. After the blind guy was persistent, Jesus stopped & asked him what he wanted. Of course Jesus knew that the guy was blind, but He waited for the man to express what he wanted. 

This has started me thinking about what I want & this truth: if I get what I want from Jesus, I will need to change my behavior. This is often a bigger deal than what we realize. Being healed means that we must act differently. We can’t be healed & continue to behave in the same dysfunctional & broken routines. 

Being healed means that we live more wholly & make choices that are healthy & life giving – and this takes courage. Not only do I want to be well, but I also want the courage to live well.

#selah

hot topic: loving Muslims

If you’ve kept up on the news, you’re probably aware of the ISIS attacks in Paris over the weekend, leaving almost 130 dead, along with massive numbers injured, a city badly shaken & many of us outraged.  Truthfully, I find myself very conflicted with topic.  Not only have there been attacks in Paris, but recently, a Russian plane crashed in Egypt from a terrorist attack & there’s also been an attack in Beirut leaving 43 dead & 239 injured.  To make these atrocities even more barbaric, the ISIS propaganda machinery applauds these attacks and wants a bloodbath across the world, taking aim & great pleasure in particular against “Christian” nations.

My initial reaction to this crazy is to support equal if not escalated retribution & I can make a really reasonable case to neutralize this kind of crazy, with whatever means necessary.  And revenge, according to Alfred Hitchcock, is sweet and not fattening.  But revenge is not the path of following Jesus.  Indeed, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek to our enemies, to repay evil with good and to bless when we receive cursing.  Revenge is the level playing field, but as a follower of Jesus, we get to walk in a higher plane and make choices that are grounded in genuine love.  Let’s pray for, bless and love well, with the help of the Holy Spirit 🙂

More trust, less worry

  

Easier said than done, to be sure!! But nonetheless, the decision to trust God more & worry less is both healthy & essential. All of us have uncertainties, impossibilities & varying degrees of stresses. What we do with this stuff is the important decision. It’s easy to let stress get under the skin & seep into the bloodstream, elevating our blood pressure & distorting our perceptions. When this happens, our decision making ability gets shady & we can make poor choices. 
But let’s do that “taking captive” thing that Paul talks about in 2Cor 10:5. Let’s not allow worry to have a free run & unlimited access in our minds. When we start to worry & have troublesome thoughts, let’s pray first & ask the Holy Spirit to help us take those thoughts captive & not let them under our skin nor into our bloodstream! Dear friends, let’s worry less & trust God more 🙂

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Hot Topic: being human 

Have you had a busy week? Did you get a lot done this week? Are you frustrated that you didn’t get as much done as you think you need to?  

Take a deep breath with me for a moment. 

There’s a balance that we struggle to maintain: the balance between human being & human doing. With this thinking, our culture makes that balance very tricky. Heaps of stuff all around us tell us to get busy, be productive, don’t be lazy, achievements equal importance & significance is through activity. While there’s some truth is these ideas, the operative word is SOME. 

Let’s not forget that God’s first day with Adam was God’s day of rest, affirming the truth that we are foremost human beings, lovingly affirmed by our Creator. 

Be human & do balance 🙂

Don’t Regress

Ever feel like life sometimes has 3 steps forward & then 1-2 steps back? Truthfully, Monday mornings often feel like the toucan two step with some possible backward progress. 
Translation: I’m not a Monday morning fan. 

But no matter what happens or doesn’t happen on difficult days, let’s keep in mind that God has given us the ability to chose our attitude, words & actions. I’m very happy to have this ability & I just need to be careful that I keep my attitudes, words & actions moving forward & positive rather than letting them slip into some Monday doldrums 🙂

I’m choosing not to regress – anyone with me?

Power View

I had a friend who wrestled with anorexia & bulimia. It was an entirely awful thing to watch her in this struggle & I couldn’t grasp how she could think she was overweight when the scale said 72lbs & she was like 5’7″. Despite numerous indicators that she was not fat or overweight, she still kept this mindset & it ripped me up. As she struggled with this challenge, I did my level best to be a supportive friend but there was nothing I could do to change her perspective. 
The vision she had of herself was defective & didn’t match truth, so this vision was inherently destructive. If we aren’t careful, our perspective & vision can be smoked with deception & distortion by the devil. This is why it’s absolutely critical that we live in Romans 12:1-2. Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by renewing your mind. Let’s choose power vision rather defective vision 🙂

selective listening

Have you ever had one of those conversations where someone said something insensitive to you & you didn’t know if or how to respond?  This morning I was chatting with a lovely group of ladies & someone said something to me that was kind of zingy & I found myself suspended in that moment trying to figure out what to do.  Having given it some thought, here are some take aways I’m choosing that might help you as well:

  • benefit of the doubt:  I’m sure this person didn’t mean for her comment to be zingy & even if she did, I’m choosing to see her from a positive perspective
  • forgiving:  quick is better than nursing & rehearsing which only gives my emotions a fever
  • ignore:  rather than call this person out of their comment, I decided to dismiss the comment & adjust the conversation for a different trajectory (translation:  change the subject)
  • some people just have a zingy edge:  truth be known, we can always use some help with our diplomacy skills, so it’s best just to be fully graceful with the help of the Holy Spirit & know that we are all growing, learning and improving 🙂

Happy Labor Day weekend & feel free to share this post with your friends on FB & be sure to signup by email for this blog to keep some encouragement in your inbox 🙂

Forget About It

“You’re not bitter about that are you?” My husband can be very poignant when he senses an area where I might be a little shady. So his question last night, in the middle of our discussion about some of my high school experiences, was a “nice” depth charge, sort of. In my guts, I know he’s right & I appreciate his help because I know he loves me, even though I don’t always relish these chats. 
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that he forgets the past so he can press on toward the future. While I know that we can’t ignore or deny the past, there’s still heaps of wisdom & value in letting the past fade to grey & focus forward to God’s plans & purposes for our lives 🙂

Sometimes you just gotta forget about it & move on!

Be Gentle

  

Celebrate!!!! No puking & no migraines – YAHOOO!! I’m starting to get back into working out & in typical Sarah fashion, I want to go from 0-Mach 3 in a split nanosecond. This strategy has backfired on me in the past & resulted in some less than desirable outcomes. So on this go around, I’m being more patient & gentle with myself & voila, no migraines or puking!
I’m taking this lesson to heart for other areas of my life as well – less harsh, rigid & impatient with my family, work, friends, decisions, responsibilities, etc. 

Maybe when we are gentle with ourselves, we let God’s love massage it’s way into our hearts with healthy transformation, at God’s pace 🙂

Success Secret Sauce

  
This is a page of my handwriting, which is possibly the most illegible you’ll ever see in your entire life. But I keep writing – not to make my handwriting better (that might be hopeless) but for a different reason, maybe a little bit like Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples.

Consider that Peter was one of the crowning examples of success on the Day of Pentecost when he stood up to share about Jesus to a massive crowd of curious Jews. From Peter’s message, 3,000 became followers of Jesus & the Christian church was birthed with the power of the Holy Spirit. But if one looks into Peter’s years preceding Pentecost, I wouldn’t really throw him in the “successful category.” From my perspective, he was kind of a loose lipped, impulsive wannabe, not unlike me from time to time. 
But here’s an essential ingredient for the success secret sauce: practice. 

Peter kept practicing even though he had frequent failures, shortfalls & general stupidity. But he kept practicing. Even when Jesus corrected Peter, he didn’t quit practicing. Sometimes Peter got it right, “Jesus, you’re the Son Of God.” Sometimes he needed to keep practicing, like when he tried to forbid Jesus from dying for the sins of the world, whoops. 

Rather than framing our mistakes in the failure or quitting filter, let’s keep the practice mindset & know that the more we practice the more we grow & the better people we become. What are some areas in your life that need more practice?

core training

When I do physical therapy for my shoulder, I do some exercises (turkish getups, step ups, etc) that have some nice side benefits related to strengthening my core.  Translation:  my abs get a workout along with my shoulder.  I’ve learned that when my abs are strong, the rest of my body has better alignment, agility and strength.  In a similar way, I think that one of the core essentials to following Jesus is trusting Him.

So here are some core exercises to consider for your “Cross Training”:

  • when you go through high pressure experiences, choose to lean into rather lean away from Jesus (don’t fall back on old habits or destructive patterns)
  • consider doing some extra Bible memorizing to strengthen your muscle memory & provide a constructive alternative to the worry default
  • pain is gain:  I know my abs are getting a good workout when they hurt & following Jesus isn’t only about having perpetual pleasure
  • agility comes with practice: the more I trust Jesus, the more adventures I get to enjoy rather than endure (Saving Moses is a great personal example)
  • form is important to prevent injury: fully trusting Jesus yields better results than just trusting with pieces & parts

Have an awesome weekend & don’t fight the urge to pass this along to your friends 🙂

Let’s Pretend

Honest truth, I’ll never be Martha Stewart, no matter how hard I try or how much I pretend (nor do I want to be Martha, but that’s for another blog). But here’s something to think about:  sometimes pretending can be a helpful way to start making changes that we want. For example, if I wanted to be more patient, it would help me to think about how that might look in my life. “Sarah, if you pretended that you were more patient with Benji (my 11year old son), you would smile rather than snap when he blurts out something without thinking.” Then I can choose to start acting on that “pretend scenario” to make it more real & concrete. 

Or if I wanted to be more physically fit, it would look like I exercised with weekly regularity (rather than yearly) & my eating choices would have fewer “fake” foods.  So yesterday, I went jogging outside for the first time in forever.   

Consider that our ability to pretend can be a God-given gift to help us along the path of personal progress 🙂