Read the Ingredients

I discovered a power bar that I really like, for the simple reason that I can read & understand the ingredients.  There are no complicated words, chemical compounds, multi-syllable mysteries nor contrived nutritional concotions.  These power bars are really straightforward:  egg whites, almonds, dates and peanut butter (or something to that affect).  It’s nice to recognize the ingredients on a package instead of trying to decipher words & find the commas ,)

In the same way, we would be wise to consider what’s inside of each of us:  what we think about and allow into our hearts affects what we do & say.  When we ruminate on being selfish, allowing judgment & unforgiveness to reside in our thoughts / heart, when we let bitterness & resentment to run amuck in our emotions, let’s be abundantly clear that such hurtful ingredients will taint our external behaviors / interactions.  Maybe this is why it’s so important that we do what Paul says in Phil 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

What Trumps Judgment?

 

I’ve been around the church world for most of my life, so I’ve met some very interesting people, seen unusual things and experienced a plethora of human and supernatural events.  Many people in the church world are nothing less than pure pleasure and altogether phenomenal.  Some people, not so much and that’s the rub.

It seems that we want Christians to be consistently kind, loving and prefect.  When we get to heaven, I’m sure our flaws and foibles will be smoothed out, along with our dysfunctions, shortfalls and sins.  In the meantime, how should we deal with being judgmental, hostility & intolerance, not only in the church, but also in the world where we live?

This morning, I read James 2:15 and the end of the verse was a sobering confrontation for me in how I deal with the judgmental stuff:  Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Of course I want all the mercy I can get, but I would be wise to be liberal with mercy because judgment has a way of coming back like an abrasive and hurtful boomerang 🙂

Some food for thought in the middle of our week 🙂

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 🙂

The Highwire Forgiveness Journey

Forgiveness seems to get lots of approval, affirmation & acknowledgement. It’s generally held that we need to forgive & that’s a good thing. The tricky part of forgiveness isn’t the theory or “ought to” part but the actual implementing & “practice”. Let’s keep in mind that we should be forgiving & then consider a few thoughts:

*being proficient with forgiveness requires practice
*theres no lasting close relationship that doesn’t have some forgiveness worked through the fiber of the intimacy
*forgiveness can be a journey – consider Joseph’s behavior with his brothers who sold him into slavery
*constructive communication can be a helpful ingredient in the forgiveness process
*sometimes forgiveness happens one decision & even one thought at a time
*forgiveness is far better than poison, bitterness & isolation that come from unforgiveness. 

hot topic: Ferguson Protests

Most of us are aware of the decision of the Grand Jury yesterday with the case related to Michael Brown’s death, along with the resulting rioting, demonstrations and violence.  I’ve been thinking and praying about this for quite awhile & I’m extremely concerned about what is happening in St Louis.

  1. I’m concerned because there has obviously been a problem that’s been growing there for quite awhile and Michael Brown’s death and the resulting Grand Jury decision is possibly  the match that has ignited such a violent outburst of anger and frustration.
  2. I’m concerned because our nation has had a tumultuous journey in resovling ethnic conflicts.
  3. And I’m concerned to my core because the idea that violence can solve injustices has never proven to be a constructive road for progress and resolution.

mlk-2 When you look at history in the last century, some of our best leaders who were catalysts for constructive change in very unjust situations include:  Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  As we commit to pray for Ferguson and the construtive resolution to this area, let’s consider the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate;  only love can do that.”

May Jesus help us to bring peace where there is strife, love for hate, restoration for destruction and reconcilation for isolation.

 

hot topic: Mars Hill Church closing

Recently, the controversial pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from being the lead pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Yesterday, the church announced that it was disbanding and dissolving all of its satellite campuses, giving each location freedom to chart it’s own path for the future.  Being a pastor’s kid and having lived in church for most of my life, this announcement saddens me for various reasons:

  • as humans, we often fall into the trap of following people more than we follow Jesus
  • oftentimes the people we think are leading us closer to Christ are made of the same flawed flesh in which we live and breath
  • we struggle with how to keep each other accountable without being judgmental, intolerant or divisive
  • we are susceptible to many internal deceptions that stroke our flesh and poison our passion for Jesus
  • somewhere it talks about striking the shepherd and scattering the sheep

So here’s my point:  there are lots of hurt, confused and disillusioned people from all of this fallout with Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, many of whom have followed Jesus because of Pastor Mark’s leadership and influence, as well as the communities that had formed around the satellite churches connected with Mars Hill.  In 1Cor 12, Paul talks about the how the body of Christ functions together, diverse parts and pieces working together in complementary more than competitive ways, promoting Jesus in all ways and opportunities.  In Galatians 6, Paul talks about how we should bear each other’s burdens, restoring, assisting and being part of Jesus’ redemptive work.

So as members of the body of Christ, let’s be devoted to pray for this situation and moreso for the people who may find themselves floundering from all of these changes.  Let’s pray:

  • that the enemy does not make progress with this opportunity for strife, dissension and conflict
  • for the body of Christ that has been a part of the Mars Hill fellowship – let’s pray for their hearts
  • that God redeems this hardship and struggle

 

hot topic: Israel, Gaza, Palestine & Hamas

If you’ve been watching the news of late, you’ve probably heard about the recent escalation of tension between Israel & Palestine.  Over the last month or so, the hostilities in this region have become increasingly deadly to the point that Israel is considering the use of ground forces to move into the Gaza strip.  Regardless of your political opinions or persuasions, let’s join together & pray for peace in this region.  Indeed, all of the Middle East seems to be in a state of tremendous upheaval & in desperate need of prayer.  Please join me with a few quick actions:

  1. pray that the leaders in Israel & Palestine will have wisdom
  2. pray for the general population to say “yes” to peace & “no” to violence
  3. pray that each person may have the grace & power to forgive others for the pain that they’re experiencing
  4. pass along this blog to your friends to increase the awareness & prayer level for this very strategic area in our world

extra

It seems like we all want the “extra” perk – we buy the shampoo that has 25%more for the same price, we look for the value meal, we look for the guy who serves ice cream with a little extra on his scoops, . . . . extra time, more roi, . . . . extra.

Let’s also look at the little ways that we can add some “extra”:

  • extra patience with the person learning to use the new computer system,
  • extra grace for the phone agent with the heavy accent,
  • extra forgiveness for our mate who unknowingly said something hurtful,
  • extra time on the parking meter for the person who will take our spot,
  • extra friendly to the cranky check out person at the grocery store

Let’s go the “extra mile” 🙂

boomslang

Boomslang-G09490

Happy Monday to you!  So you don’t think I’ve taken up cussing as my side hobby, a boomslang is a poisonous snake in Africa.  When it bites it’s victim, it’s venom is highly toxic and disables any blood clotting.  As a result, if a boomslang bites you, unless you receive a healthy dose of anti venom, you’ll die from bleeding out within probably 24-48 hours – gory & gruesome!

In my thinking, the devil is alot like a boomslang – slithery, slippery, sneaky & cunning.  I think that one of the primary “bites” the devil uses to poison us isn’t like the overt attack of a lion or a bear making an outright offensive leap.  Instead, I think the devil more often attempts to use a boomslang poison on us, someone offending us.

People can say / do things that can be very offensive (both intentionally & unintentionally).  What people say & do to us isn’t nearly as important as our reaction.  Ingesting unforgiveness is like letting the boomslang venom pump through our veins without any anti-venom.  Eventually, we bleedout & our relationships fall apart.  Forgivness is the anti-venom that we need to readily & generously apply.  Don’t let the venom of unforgiveness settle into your heart!

do you need help to forgive?

When I think about forgiveness, you don’t have to convince me that I need to forgive – I’m already on board with that.  The tricky part for me is the actual forgiving.  Here are some tips that might help you:

  • forgiveness isn’t a feeling.  Consider the Corrie Ten Boom quote, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
  • forgiveness in the greek means “to let go or release”:  when we forgive, we release the hurt, bitterness, judgment & pain
  • proficient forgiveness requires practice
  • forgiveness must be kept fresh – stale forgiveness can grow putrid in our emotions and thoughts
  • Here’s a cool & short video that could be helpful:  forgiveness

hurtful words

At various times in our lives, we are all the targets & recipient of hurtful words.  In elementary school, kids can often say things without thinking of how their words can be received.  Then in Jr & Sr high school, it seems like we get more sophisticated with our ability to use piercing & hurtful words.  By the time we’re adults, many of us have become very proficient at integrating sarcasm with our cleverly cloaked words so that we can slice & filet someone with very crafted and deadly words.

So what do we do with hurtful words?  Here are a couple of helpful thoughts:  

  1. forgive – whether the words were intentionally hurtful or not, forgiving must be your first & continual action
  2. dial down the emotions & see what could be truthful with the hurtful words
  3. make a constructive decision to get better & not bitter – let the hurtful words give you motivation to make some healthy changes rather than letting them fester in your emotional memory being nursed & rehearsed
  4. repay mean words with a smile rather than trying to craft a come back or pay back
  5. take the hurt to Jesus & let Him bring His healing into that pain

Pain isn’t always the main issue.  But what you do with pain will determine it’s results 🙂

ever feel impatient?

 Recently, I’ve been somewhat frustrated with one of my friends because they’ve made some very silly decisions that have had some fairly negative consequences.  I find myself being impatient with my friend & wanting them to change.  I’m trying to watch the words that I say to my friend, so that I don’t hurt their feelings due to my impatience.  So far, here’s my impatience insights:

  • if impatience is left unchecked, it can be very destructive
  • impatience isn’t only related to our words, but it also can affect our attitudes & actions, so that even if we don’t say anything, we must still remain vigilant against even its subtle expression
  • sometimes it helps to talk about how we feel, but its important to be responsible for our own feelings & not give someone else control of how we may feel or act
  • sometimes the best antidote to impatience is a slow, intentional & methodical application of patience
  • James 1:4 – let patience have her perfect work so that you may be mature & complete.  Give patience permission to work in your life 🙂

things that help relationships to grow

  Over the last few weeks, I have had some interesting conversations with various friends about different ways to improve relationships  One such way is by doing things together – so today, my husband & I are going to buy a dishwasher.  Of course we have different ways of approaching this project, but the point is that we work together to get something that will be reliable & helpful to our family for a reasonable price.  I’ll keep you posted on how this adventure turns out ,)

Some other ways to help a relationship grow include:

  • trust:  not only do we want to be able to trust the other person, but we, ourselves, must also be trustworthy
  • forgiveness – the deeper the friendship, the greater the quantity & deeper the quality of forgiveness;  shallow friendships can often reflect limited forgiveness
  • time:  listening, doing things together and other things / ways that require time
  • sacrifice:  preferring the other person’s desires & needs over our own is a good way to not only grow a relationship, but to also grow as an individual
  • communication:  honesty & diversity (through lots of different ways – written, non-verbal, dialogues, to name a few ideas)
  • affirmation:  looking for creative ways to say, “you is kind, you is wise & you is important” is always important to grow relationships
  • common purpose:  it’s important to understand that different relationships have different purposes (friendships can be for a reason, a season but only a few are for a lifetime)

Ultimately, I see my relationships as a means to express genuine love – letting God love through me.  This is the goal in which I want to always be improving.

Were you ever nervous about a meeting?

 I had coffee with a friend the other day & this friend can be a little cranky from time to time & I was concerned that our coffee gathering was going to be “one of those times.”  I didn’t feel like I could cancel the coffee date but I was kind of jittery about what path the conversation would take.  So I thought about some different strategies I could use for this potentially volatile coffee time & here were some of my thoughts:

  • I could endeavor to keep the conversation shallow & discuss the weather, sports & all things surfacy.  I decided against this option because she would know that I was being disengenuous.
  • I could arrive late & have to leave early before anything dicey could come up – again, that would be disengenuous
  • I could just brace myself for whatever might be said & keep a tough shell so that nothing she could say would zing me.  With this option, I would guard myself from being totally present in the conversation
  • I could pre-forgive her – making the decision ahead of time to forgive her no matter what she might say, regardless of if she was trying to be intentionally hurtful or not.  I decided for this option 🙂

So here was the outcome – our coffee time went well, we had a great conversation & there was nothing too zing-y that I had to work through & forgive.  I liked the pre-forgiveness strategy so much that I decided to share it with you & use it again in other situations that have any hurtful potetial 🙂

what should I say???

We all have had the experience where something has happened or someone has said something & we were left speechless.  Sometimes, we’ve had people say things that have been really hurtful.  Sometimes, we are in a situation that is very difficult to know how to respond.  Sometimes, a conversation goes in a direction that can be uncomfortable.  These are just a few examples of when we might be left “speechless”.  Thankfully, I’m starting to learn to say less than what I think – whew!  But what should we say in difficult situations, conversations etc?

Here are some thoughts:

  • be encouraging – look for something positive if you’re expected to make a reply
  • wisdom, the leading of the Holy Spirit, helps us to know when we should speak & when we should remain silent;  there are appropriate times to be vocal & there are times when silence is golden
  • listen to what God would want to achieve through the interchange – getting on God’s page is more helpful than pushing my personal agenda
  • speak life – acknowledge shortcomings, be forgiving & affirming
  • Jesus said that people who are peace makers are a blessing because they’re called the sons of God – making peace isn’t the same thing as rolling over & playing dead, but it also isn’t about escalating a conflict.
  • trying to resolve conflict through email, facebook, text messaging, voicemail, linked in, etc is really difficult & sometimes impossible.  Be mindful of what you’re trying to accomplish if you bring up difficult conversations in these settings because there is HUGE AMOUNTS of room for misunderstanding 🙂

tips to help with forgiveness

 I’m a big fan of being proficient with forgiveness – after all, we get to practice almost everyday! ,)

There are LOADS of benefits that go with maintaining a lifestyle of forgiveness, but the point for this blog is to refresh a few tips & to give you an opportunity to share some effective tips you’ve learned as well.  So here’s a quickie sarah forgiveness primer:

  • be ready to forgive more than you’re ready to take an offense – sometimes it helps to have a forgiveness mindset
  • fast forgiving is easier than elongated forgiving:  anytime I’ve nursed a hurt, the forgiving process gets quagmired & almost moribund before I know it :/
  • some people require more forgiveness than others;  some of us are proned to the foot-in-mouth syndrome so please don’t make us squirm as we try to get better
  • forgiveness is about personal liberty: for those of us who are Americans, its hard for me to understand why we are so adamant about our external freedom, but we can be virtually oblivious to our internal incarceration
  • I want to be super generous with forgiveness because Lord knows He gives me more than I can comprehend;  people who are stingy with forgiveness are usually mean & lonely 🙁
What are some more suggestions?

i love people


If you’re like me, you probably like people to varying degrees based on what’s happening in your life. But here are some reasons why I love people. I love people because:

  • I see God’s creative genius that is never-ending. People are a great reflection of God’s vivid imagination 🙂
  • I sense joys & pains in them that far exceed my own experiences
  • I feel God’s love through people, at various times, that is nothing short of breathtaking
  • I sense God loving people through me & this experience cuts me to the core – so humbling
  • I see strength, courage, valor & sacrifice – such grace & nobility
  • I see the same struggle in others that I experience with choices between shortcuts & long-term investments
  • Many times God works on me, using people, to grow patience, grace, humor, discipline, gentleness and other things
  • I’m continually amazed at people’s patience & grace toward me as I strive to grow & mature
We are all clay in God’s hand, for His sculpting & purposes, so let’s celebrate God’s touch of love in our lives individually & collectively 🙂

my gracious family

  No seriously, you’ve gotta read this one 🙂  I recently had a cooking fiasco & I want to brag on my family.  Lately, I’ve been trying to get more fish into our diet as a means for low fat protein consumption.  The honest truth is that I can’t cook fish to save my life, but that doesn’t stop me from trying – hence the fiasco.  So here’s how it went down:  I went to the fish part of the store & was looking for the cheapest & freshest fish they had, which was flounder.  Flounder is a really weird looking fish – it’s skinny and flat with the eyes on the top of its body.  Because it’s so skinny, its hard for a fish monger to de-bone (which I discovered after their kind attempt to honor my de-boned request).  So I bring home these thin strips of fish & try to cook them – it was AWFUL!!!!  But here’s the beauty of this disaster, my family ate the fish with absolutely NO COMPLAINING!  No one said a word – we all suffered in silence 🙂  I will not be cooking flounder again, unless Jesus visits our home personally & has a nice chat with all of our family on this topic.

So here’s a thought for your consideration & application:  my family was EXTREMELY gracious with me, I think mostly because they love me.  Perhaps a really effective way to express love is to refrain from complaining or pointing out failures and weakspots when they are so glaringly obvious.  Being gracious is a really inexpensive way to be loving 🙂

Spring Cleaning and Soul Cleaning :)

We could probably all do a bit of extra cleaning in this season, especially with all of the kids’ school stuff that’s presently occupying far too much counter space 🙂

Here’s another idea for some Spring Cleaning that I’ve been thinking about lately:  perhaps we could all do some “soul cleaning” with some fresh work on the forgiveness front.  Here’s what got me thinking about this – yesterday, I ran across a person with whom I had a very unpleasant exchange in January & I found myself being very frosty with this person, noticeably LESS friendly with them than anyone else.  This was a nice wake up call that I probably need to freshen up my forgiveness maintenance.  Maybe you’re not like me, but I find that I’m really keen to make the forgiveness decision, but sometimes I neglect the followup maintenance that forgiveness can require.  When I make the forgiveness decision, for me this means that I chose to not “punish” the person for our altercation by being unpleasant in any future exchanges.  Furthermore, when I forgive a person, I make the decision not to discuss their failure with anyone else (outside of a normal healthy disclosure).  Additionally, when I chose to forgive, I find it helpful to bless person & to “let go” of the offense – not remind them of their failure by bringing up the past.  Like I said on my fb post, forgiveness is a decision that can require ongoing maintenance ,)

Happy Spring Cleaning!

a gift you can give that doesn’t cost money

Christmas can sometimes be an expensive holiday, depending on how you celebrate it.  Given the economy this year, along with the employment situation for many of my friends, I thought I’d suggest a gift that doesn’t require money but is thoroughly invaluable to not only the receiver but also to you the person giving the gift.  Interested to know what you can give that’s expensive but doesn’t cost money? 

Forgiveness

See, here’s the deal:  we all have people in our lives that need our forgiveness.  Whether its the jerk that cut you off when you’re driving or the very hurtful remark someone said to you at work.  Or maybe you’ve been hurt by something your mate said to or about you without thinking of the sting it has left in you.  Maybe someone did something to you in your childhood that still affects you to this day.  The truth is, no one has to look hard for opportunities to forgive – our life is full of such opportunitites every day. 

So this Christmas, let’s give others the gift of forgiveness – to let go. 

  • Forgiveness is given when we don’t remind the person of their shortcoming. 
  • Forgiveness is given when we speak kind words without sarcasm (or do our best to be pleasant)
  • Forgiveness is given when we want what is in the offenders best interest (and not the getting even approach)
  • Forgiveness is given when we don’t have to always make the offender know that we’re forgiving them

I think that many of us don’t do the forgiveness because it takes alot of work & its much less work to not forgive, especially at the beginning of an offense.  But i’ve found that the longer i hold onto an offense, the harder it is to let it go & the more drained i become from maintaining the offense. 

So be generous this season without spending alot of money 🙂

Give the gift of forgiveness & go into the new year with greater freedom and liteness of being 🙂