Love Well

I have lots of people in my life who are very different from me. I have friends who are professional, starched, button-down, pressed & who have life wrapped around their little finger mostly. I have other friends who are a little more like me, less polished & borderline bohemian.
But loving well is the bridge that connects me with people regardless of our differences. And here’s the truth that needs to reside in the marrow of our bones: people don’t have to be like us to be loved by us. Indeed, Jesus loved a wide spectrum of people, including cheats, hustlers, liars, whimps & wannabes. Loving people is an internal decision & this doesn’t need to be dependent on who they are, what they do or how they behave. Let’s be committed to loving well!

Skin in the Game

It’s easy to be a spectator, watching from the sideline, making comments & suggestions. It’s an entirely different experience to participate rather than spectate. This principle rings true in all kinds of contexts:

  • attending church in contrast to being an active participant,
  • watching people struggle with problems in contrast to helping people with prayer & presence,
  • only reading the Bible rather than applying what the Bible says.

Let’s never forget that God put skin in the game for humanity by letting Jesus become God in the flesh. So let’s be sure that we continue to imitate Jesus in our daily living by being active conduits for God’s presence wherever we go & in whatever we do!

Can’t or Won’t

I’ve come to realize that the stuff God asks me to do requires God’s help. Whenever I try to do God’s assignments without God’s help, I fall short. In this learning adventure, I’m also realizing that when I say, “I can’t”, it’s usually rooted in, “I won’t”. The difference between can’t & won’t relates to both ability & willingness.
So when God asks us to do something that we lack the ability to accomplish, let’s be careful not to be unwilling. The right answer to God is, “With Your help, I’m willing & I’ll try!” Let’s have a willing heart to walk in the Spirit!

One Decision

What do you want? Are you interested in having a better education? Do you want to exercise more? Do you want a healthy marriage? Do you want a vibrant & growing relationship w God? What do you want?
Desires that we don’t achieve can become frustrating & discouraging. So it’s important to think about what we want, our end goal, in smaller steps like one decision at a time.
When we consider what we want & align that to our decisions, then we can make progress towards achieving our desires & goals. Les walk towards our goals & desires one decision at a time.

Coaching the Mental Game

We frequently think of the mental game in athletic terms – mental toughness, endurance, winning and the likes. If you watch a highly successful athlete before their game / competition, they’re often 100% dialed into the event before them. Sometimes, an athlete will even mentally go through the routine, for physically practicing what they will do for the event.
There’s a lot to be said for this mindset in our daily living. But the essential requirement for coaching our mental game is to have the right Coach. Bad coaching equals bad execution & outcomes. So who is your mental coach?
Let’s actively decide & allow the Holy Spirit to be our mental coach, setting our minds on the Holy Spirit & not stuff that would poison, distract or compromise our outcomes!

Attention Deficit Disorder

While we often think of ADD being diagnosed in childhood or related to schoolwork, I’d suggest that all of us wrestle to varying degrees with keeping our attention & focus. We even have fidget toys to help our mind stay focused! Do you ever struggle with being able to focus? It seems like there are always interruptions, distractions & time stealers, to say nothing of the mental & emotional tendencies that can be challenging.

I’ve been really meditating and on the whole attention & distraction conundrum for a few weeks now. While it’s essential that we pay attention to what’s happening around us, our work, school, to-do lists, etc. I think we also have to consider what we think about & what our emotions focus on – internal focus & not just the outside.

If Elijah had been only focused on the external, he would have missed the still small voice. When Peter became scared (emotions), from looking at the wind, he began to sink in the water that he had just been walking on.

Be careful with your attention because it’s an essential ingredient for your destination!

Bad News

I hate bad news. I don’t like bad reports from the doctor, I don’t like getting bad report cards from my kids & I don’t like hearing discouraging stuff. But it happens, no matter how much we plug our ears, distract ourselves or attempt to deny what we hear. So what to do?

Here are some helpful suggestions for when you get bad news:

  • Face it – denial of bad news only makes it worse. Romans 4:19 says that Abraham faced the reality of his aged body, but didn’t weaken in his faith
  • Get wisdom – life improves with wisdom but deteriorates with the absence of wisdom. So ask God for wisdom on how to handle the bad news – James 1:5
  • Faith focus – bad news can become debilitating if we don’t keep our focus on God & His ability to do the impossible – Luke 1:37
  • Pray more – when I get bad news, it’s easy for me to worry. Let’s encourage each other to pray more than we worry – Ps 55:22

Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who’s struggling with bad news!

Sunny Side Up!

My dad always ordered his eggs over easy & I remember hearing waitresses say to him, “Sunny Side Up!” As a kid, I didn’t understand what they meant, but later learned that this phrase was kind of a synonym for over easy. Now whenever I hear, “sunny side”, everything inside me smiles & I feel warm all over. Maybe this is because I remember my dad sharing his breakfast with me or maybe because the sunny side feels friendly, inviting & open!
I’ve been thinking about this sunny side thing lately because of some plants I’m attempting to keep alive. Even yesterday, I moved a tomatoe plant out of the shade & into the sun – to keep it on the sunny side 🙂
This is pretty cheesy, but we also have to keep ourselves on the “Sonny” side in our thoughts, conversations & decisions for each day. Following Jesus, God’s Son, means that we actively chose to stay on the “Sonny side” of life, sharing encouragement, hope & genuine love with the dark world around us. Indeed, let’s stay bright by letting God’s Son shine through us!

Going Opposite

Being rebellious usually gets the thumbs down reaction from the Christian crowd. We tend to find those verses that talk about being respectful, obedient & compliant & there are heaps of Bible verses to support this mindset.

However, being a person who finds herself sometimes at odds with many societal norms, let me highlight some ways that Jesus went the opposite of the culture & society of His day.

  • Unexpected: Jesus didn’t cater to what people expected from Him. Consider in His first miracle that He told His mom to “chill out” (my slang for “Woman, My time is not yet come”)
  • Forgiveness: when all the religious leaders of His day wanted Jesus to condemn the woman caught in adultery, Jesus forgave her & the intolerance / judgment evaporated
  • Genuine Love: one of my favorite quotes from Jesus: “He who has been forgiven much, loves much; but he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
  • Miracles: Jesus defied conventional thinking by frequently doing miracles: multiplying food, cleansing lepers, restoring promiscuous women, healing the unclean & driving out demonic forces, just to name a few.

If we are followers of Jesus, then we must go the opposite of our flesh, religious intolerance, demonic influences & cultural trends. Most of all, let’s personify genuine love because of the Holy Spirit working in our mindsets, conversations & actions!

periscope vision

I’ve been enjoying the Spring weather & trying to take a daily walk to improve my physical & mental health.  It’s nice to enjoy some sunshine, fresh air and feet on the ground.  While my body is definitely grounded during these daily walks, my mind tends to wander to various topics:  kids, work, schedules, prayers, writing, etc.  Some of my thoughts can be healthy & constructive, but some of my thoughts not so much.

I was reminded today about setting my mind above and not below from Colossians 3:2 & Philippians 4:7-8.  I think our thoughts can be kind of like fish:

  • bottom feeders who scavenge off the dirt and refuse at the lowest levels
  • horizontal eaters who forage through their daily living, focus set throughout this horizontal world
  • flying fish who sail above the average existence and get to see things from a vertical rather than horizontal perspective

Let’s keep our minds fixed above & not dwelling on the average or below average existence!

Compensating for Stupid

There’s a chick in the Bible whom I admire greatly, Abigail. I like her because she’s wise, resourceful, humble & honest. She married an idiot, Nabal, whose name means fool & he personified his name to the maximum. I think that maybe Abigail was in Nabal’s life as God’s invitation for him to change, but Nabal refused this invitation & paid for it by living a short & fruitless life. In contrast, because Abigail made different decisions, she wound up becoming one of King Davids wives & lived a fulfilling life.
The pivot point for Abigail came from one of Nabal’s notoriously stupid decisions. Abigail compensated for Nabal, interceded with David for Nabal’s life & this positioned her for a huge upgrade.
Usually, I want to run as far away from stupid as I possibly can, hoping it’s no contagious. But Abigail made wise decisions by being respectful, humble & generous.
Just because there are stupid people in our lives doesn’t mean that we need to be stupid with them! Let’s be sure that we counteract the stupid around us with respect & wisdom!

What More??

Yesterday, I was sitting in the Angola consulate to finish my visa application & this is always a jittery experience. It’s stressful in lots of ways because it’s a really complicated process & even when I’ve done everything right, there has been an occasion when my application was denied.
So I can get stressed out as I wait or I can chose to trust God. These words, “trust God” are easier said than done. But when there’s nothing more that I can do, then I need to actively chose, even moment by moment, to trust God.

Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to coach our mental game & help us get better at trusting God 🙂

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 🙂

follow the leader

At some point, all of us have played Follow the Leader or Simon Says, most likely when we were kids.  The first few times, it took me some practice to get the hang of it, but rather quickly, I wanted to be the leader so I could make others do what I said.  That felt really powerful ,)

I remember one of my teachers telling me, “Sarah, if you’re going to be a good leader, you have to learn to follow well.”  Of course, this wasn’t the advice I was eager to hear, even though it felt right in my heart and I still hear these words bounce around in my heart & thoughts to this day.

I’ve been thinking of these words about following as they relate to Jesus following the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:1-2.  These verses describe how Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit around in the wilderness for 40 days as He fasted & He was tempted by the devil.  When I’ve thought of these verses, they don’t feel particularly alluring nor enticing.  I’d prefer to not wander around in a desolate wilderness and fast for 40 days, nor be tested by the devil.  Yet that’s exactly what happened as Jesus followed the Holy Spirit.  Later in Luke 4, we read about Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit, speaking gracious & powerful words and we see Jesus start to walk in the fullness of His earthly ministry.  But all of that came after His committment to follow the Holy Spirit.

When we follow our flesh, it can briefly make us feel good.  But following the Holy Spirit has far better & longer lasting results than any flesh adventure we could choose.  Let’s be committed every day to following the Holy Spirit.

Steep & Deep

  

Sometimes life feels steep & deep. When I snowboard sometimes I feel like this – the run is too steep & the snow is too deep so I get intimidated & I want to change my mind. But more often than not, I’m already committed & I have to make the best way I can. And truth be known, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

This is also true for me with God. I want my relationship to be supremely deep & steep:

  • Deep in that I want to know God’s presence in depths & contexts that exceed any human relationship
  • Steep in the sense of vertical awareness – God’s presence spanning any level of my thinking & attention. 

Who’s with me in the adventure of having a deep & steep relationship with God? Let’s commit such that there’s no turning back!!!

Just say NO!!!

There are lots of things in our lives that we should affirm.  It’s super great to be positive and optimistic.  It’s also really helpful to say, “yes” to job promotions, good grades at school, kind offers from friends and unexpected blessings from random sources.

There are, nevertheless, several things that need to always require a “NO” reply.  Here are a few ideas:

  • doubt:  pre-decide that doubt always gets a “no” answer and faith always gets a “yes” answer
  • unforgiveness:  meditating about hurtful words and actions done by others should get a consistent “no”
  • mean actions & words:  give yourself “no” permission to react hatefully or with snarky words to someone else’s mean behaviors or libel
  • insecurity:  sometimes a simple mental “no” is enough to jolt us out of that destructive thinking pattern laced with the poison of insecurity
  • destructive behaviors:  let’s be certain that we’re consistently saying “no” to addictive patterns, an undisciplined lifestyle, debilitating relationships, poor eating habits and unproductive usage of time, to name a few suggestions

What else should we be saying “no” to in our lives?  I’d love to read your thoughts & wisdom 🙂