hot topic: Memorial Day

Memories are important ingredients for learning & sometimes the lessons we apply from various memories aren’t very helpful.  For example, I remember an occasion as a kid when my dad came home from a later afternoon walk with our new puppy & my dad was sobbing & totally busted up.  I could barely figure out through his broken words & tears that our new puppy had been run over by a car & was dead.  My dad explained that our puppy had darted in front of a car into a busy street during rush hour traffic and was run over.

To this day, the place where my dog was hit still has negative associations for me & I find myself subconsciously avoiding that intersection.  That negative memory has shaped my behavior & I’d venture to guess that you may have some similar memories that shape your current behaviors & values.

I think it’s super important that our experiences and memories teach us valuable take aways, but let’s be sure that we choose the right lessons.

Some important memory lessons could include:

  • mistakes and failures are merely practice and lessons for some great success, likely just around the corner
  • communion: Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  – may we never forget the infinite love Jesus expressed in His sacrifice for us
  • forgiveness – practice makes perfect
  • fond memories can be helpful motivations for endurance & perseverance 🙂
  • don’t forget the babies of prostitutes (the least of these) who need genuine love 🙂

winning

FinishLine   I love to win & I hate to lose – in pretty much everything.  So I automatically like all of the Bible verses that talk about me winning, being victorious, more than a conqueror, etc.  On the opposite end, the Bible verses that talk about sacrifice, losing my life, crucifixion, pain, . . . . these aren’t nearly as appealing to me as the winning verses.  But life seems to have both the winning and losing experiences wrapped into each day:  driving, competing at work / school, controversial conversations, competing against myself, etc.

I think that it can feel much better to win than lose, but let me throw out a few perks that can happen from losing:

  • losing can reveal our character when we might be at our lowest
  • empathy seems to grow better when we lose rather than win
  • winning can be sometimes be an impediment to connecting with someone
  • losing can be a place where strength, endurance and roots can grow
  • sometimes humility grows better in the soil of losing more than winning

Please don’t take this blog to mean that losing is everything.  On the flipside, winning isn’t everything either.  Maybe “everything” boils down to genuine love 🙂

#selah

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 🙂

Hot Topic: Stress – the Good & Bad

If you live in America, the deadline for filing our taxes is next week.  Maybe that’s kind of stressful for you.  If you’re a pastor or highly committed church volunteer, you probably just survived a stressful season called Easter.  Some of the upcoming events and holidays might have some stress potential for you – Mother’s Day & Graduation / Commencement.  Despite our best efforts, I don’t think that any of us can immunize ourselves from stress.  But how we deal with stress is a different issue & there’s some potential for good outcomes with stress.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • relax & take a deep breath:  I’m learning from my physical therapy from shoulder surgery that getting tense & uptight doesn’t help my muscles.  When I relax & trust the therapist (aka Helper), we make better progress
  • let stress put some fuel and motivation in your efforts:  Sometimes I need deadlines and pressure to help me be more productive – smile 🙂
  • the lifestyle question:  stress as a lifestyle is entirely unhealthy and can cause us to make poor decisions in our health, relationships, priorities and time management;  consider that you might be addicted to stress and maybe it’s time to actively choose peace over stress  #selah

3 Important Things About Love

I know that Valentine’s Day was Sunday, but I’ve been musing about love & what that means for us with God. So here are a few things for your consideration:
*Measure – in our human experience, we unknowingly measure everything, maybe because we are finite. But genuine love has no measures – no start, no stop, no ground, no lid, no wall nor limit. Genuine love is immeasurable
*Pleasure – genuine love is very pleasing to not only the recipient but also the Giver; we bring God great pleasure because we are God’s treasure
*Treasure – you are God’s supreme treasure; you are so highly valuable to God, that He sent His one & only son to die in your place so that you & I could walk in daily sweet communion & fellowship, reminiscent even of the Garden of Eden God taking a stroll with Adam.
You are God’s pleasure & treasure with no measure 🙂

hot topic: grammy awards

Last night, the Grammys were awarded to lots of very talented people who have achieved some incredible things, some admirable & noteworthy.  Despite all of these accomplishments, let’s remember what’s even more important than achievements – people.  People are important because they’re people and not only for what they can achieve. So here are some ideas to affirm & encourage people in your life today:

  • tell someone why you like them in relation to their character – I like that you’re: compassionate, patient, passionate, creative, fun, thoughtful, etc
  • be liberal with compliments & stingy with criticisms
  • look for ways to encourage someone:  I saw that you went the extra mile;  I see that you’re trying to improve in this area, I appreciate your creativity, etc
  • affirm differences rather than shaming for conformity 🙂
  • let the Holy Spirit encourage you today & this can help us encourage people around us!

Hot Topic: I have a dream!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!  In the US, today is a national holiday to honor Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a great leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was tragically assasinated in the prime of his life.  He’s famous for lots of things, but one of the things I love most about what we know of Dr King today is his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite facing atrocious, violent & barbaric opposition, Dr King persevered and overcame racial hatred, not with escalated violence, barbaric behavior & atrocious activism, but rather through exposing hatred, acrimony and injustice by contrasting behaviors and examples.  I think in each of us, God has placed a dream for something far greater and more powerful than our current living.  The dream that God has put in each of us is the beginning of something thoroughly divine, powerful and revolutionary.  If you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible – full stop.

presents and presence

I haven’t wrapped a single Christmas present yet & a few years ago, I didn’t wrap any until 11pm on Christmas Eve – what was the point in that?!???  I don’t think I’m generally a procrastinator, it’s just tricky to remember & find time.  Maybe this year, I’ll wrap our presents soon, maybe.  One question worth a little consideration is what will you & I be giving Jesus this year, to celebrate His birthday.  It seems kind of counterintuitive to give everyone but Jesus a present on Christmas, the day when we celebrate His birth 🙂

So going with the 5 Love Languages idea, here are some gift suggestions for Jesus:

  • affirmation – take some moments to sing one of your favorite praise / worship songs  directly to Jesus or make a brief list of reasons why you love Jesus and tell Him
  • touch – consider giving someone a hug that would appreciate that;  sometimes when we touch someone with genuine love it’s a nice way to communicate genuine love to Jesus (when you do this to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25:40)
  • gifts – think about giving a coat, hats, mittens, socks, etc to a homeless shelter or discretely helping a needy family in your church, maybe make an extra donation to a charity (Saving Moses is awesome – smile)
  • service – every church has extra services, usually, to support the Christmas season:  consider volunteering a little extra to share some love 🙂
  • quality time – consider dropping by a park and taking a brief walk with Jesus or waking up maybe 10min earlier just to give Jesus your presence, which is possibly the ultimate present He desires 🙂
  • coffee – that’s all I have to say on this one ,)

Merry Christmas!

un-grinch Christmas

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  The grinch was an evil villain and the antithesis of Christmas – no one wants to be a grinch, particularly at Christmas, bleck!  But there is a very ugly, mean, destructive and abhorrent grinch doing it’s level best to ruin Christmas for no one less than helpless & vulnerable babies.  This grinch is what the disease ebola is doing in three countries in West Africa (Guine, Liberia & Sierra Leone).  What makes this grinch so wholly abhorrent is how it has stolen the lives of moms & dads in these nations, stranding their babies often with no care, support, protection or food.

Saving Moses is conducting a campaign throughout December to raise anti-grinch funds to provide food, nurture, medical care & protection to these abandoned babies.  Please consider joining our anti-grinch campaign & give these babies genuine love, a chance to survive another day & thrive into the future.  Thanks so much for your prayers & consideration!

Killing Jesus

At Christmas, we don’t often think about Jesus dying, but rather about His birth. But let’s not forget that Herod looked for Jesus to kill Him as a baby but Herod’s plans were divinely interrupted when Joseph had a warning dream about Herod’s plans. Herod looked for Jesus with evil intent.
One of the reasons I’m so very keen about Saving Moses is because we are all about helping & saving babies where the needs are most urgent & the care is least available. When Jesus was a baby, despite being divine, He was vulnerable to Herod’s evil intentions but was divinely protected. With Saving Moses, I believe that we are God’s tangible hands to protect & preserve God’s most important creation, one baby at a time. Small & vulnerable doesn’t mean unimportant nor unvaluable #lookforJesus

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looking for Jesus

Happy December 1!  The beginning of every December, I remind myself that while I’m about to enter an extermely busy season, the whole point of all of these festivities, parties, frenzy & busy-ness is Jesus, full stop.  So I want to look for Jesus every day this month:

  • like the shepherds looking for a newborn in a feeding trough,
  • like the wisemen looking for a King guided by a heavenly anomaly,
  • even in all his perversion & tainted motives, like Herod looking for a newborn who would upend the status quo

Jesus said that if we ask we’ll get answers, if we seek we’ll find & if we knock the door will be opened to us.  So let’s decide to look for Jesus everyday during this season – let’s streamline our focus with the help of the Holy Spirit to look & watch for Jesus, who is daily with us 🙂

#lookforJesus

 

margin

I’m writing this post as a total hypocrite on this topic because I’m currently the absolute WORST at this, but the topic of margin is nevertheless really important.  When my kids write out a long paragraph, it helps me heaps when they leave some space around their writing so my eyes can get a break from the deciphering exercise 🙂

I think this is also true with our daily living.  When we pack each day to the uttmost with events, activities, appointments, responsibilities, demands, etc then it gets difficult to:

  • see where we’re going & ultimately achieve goals that are genuinely important
  • rest – even our sleep becomes fitful
  • listen – the clutter of an overfull life can easily drown out the still small voice from God that we so desperately need
  • be present & our relationships move into shallow mode – sometimes necessary but not healthy for the longterm
  • remain healthy

Dear Sarah, please keep some margins in your life 🙂

sit down but stand up

In the last few weeks, I’ve had some interesting challenges, most of which have been around taking a stand for some convictions that run deep in my soul.  Taking a stand can be kind of tricky – there’s a Japanese proverb that says, “the nail that stands up gets hammered down.”  Nevertheless, I think it’s important to take a stand and not just blend into the average, mediocre and mundane.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • be mindful of what you take a stand for:  sometimes I think we spend all of our time, energy, voice & equity on things that don’t really matter;  keep in mind eternity and the big picture when you stand up for something
  • be mindful of how you take a stand:  diplomacy and tact are helpful ingredients for taking a stand about one’s convictions;  be friendly and firm 🙂

Thinking about these things, consider a few videos & lyrics that could be worthy of some reflection:

street-babies

stand up lyrics

Intolerant

Our modern culture applauds tolerance with great conviction. We are strongly encouraged to tolerate all kinds of diversity (spicy food, GF diets, people with different ideas, age diversity, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicity, religion etc). In general, I think that tolerance is a nice idea but sometimes it’s application can get hazy. For example:

  • truth will never tolerate deception & vice versa (antonyms are inherently intolerant)
  • intimacy will never tolerate violence
  • genuine love will never tolerate indifference or apathy

While I think that tolerance is a nice idea, let’s not think that it should be the guiding principle nor conviction for our daily living. Tolerance should never replace genuine love 🙂

just keep going

“I’m resigning.”  I had someone tell me this last year and it was a really big deal to me because this person was doing lots of great stuff for Saving Moses.  When this person quit, I became really discouraged.  It was difficult because I already had a pretty hefty workload & now with this person resigning, I didn’t have anyone available to step into this position.  How would I get all of this work done?  I found myself kind of flailing and floundering, but over the course of a few weeks it became evident that I’d have to just be patient, pray & trust God to fill in this massively important gap.  And in the meantime, I gave myself to do the best I could with this gap.

Sometimes, I can get myself really wound up & uptight.  But over the course of the last year, God has been teaching me many things, including the valuable lesson of trusting God and not leaning on my own efforts.  Keep going my friend, one day at a time and even one step at a time 🙂

Feel free to share this with your friends & family who might be discouraged 🙂

Smarty Pants

I’ve made some really dumb mistakes in my life – one of which was overvaluing intelligence. I think it’s almost humorous that I would say that because I’m still a massive advocate for education probably because I love to learn. Nevertheless, here are a few things that could be more important than being intelligent:
*character & integrity – people who are smart but lack character & integrity can be extremely dangerous!
*compassion – intelligence without compassion is very cold & sterile
*hard work – this seems pretty self evident
*forgiveness – when we don’t forgive, our world becomes increasingly smaller & smaller
These are just a few things I’m learning in my journey 🙂

hip, cool & popular

Jesus had some interesting ideas about popularity & fame – He was, of course, quite famous when He walked on the earth for lots of different reasons:

  • healing sick people,
  • making religious leaders foam at the mouth with anger,
  • saying things that caused people to pause & think,
  • raising dead people to life,
  • giving thousands of people free lunch

Jesus was famous for lots of reasons but His popularity was a different story.  Jesus knew that His popularity with the crowds was at best fickle & fleeting.  When I watch how Jesus behaved & what He talked about when He lived among us, it’s very clear to me that He lived His life on earth to be “popular” solely with His heavenly Father.  He lived to make His heavenly Father known & attractive.  For our lives today, let’s understand that we are always “popular” with our heavenly Father 🙂

Glitz & Glam

Packaging & image are important ingredients in the modern world. It seems to me that we frequently make lots of snap decisions about situations & people based on our “first impressions.” The tragedy of this mindset is that we can easily overlook people and things that have great substance & investment. Perhaps the religious leaders in Jesus’ day made this mistake & didn’t take the effort to know Jesus beyond the superficial assessment they made of His ministry (not including Nicodemus).
What’s in our hearts has more lasting value than transitory & superficial images.

Seek & Find

It’s always a great pleasure to find things that we look for. One time, I lost my wedding ring for like 2years. When we found it, there was MUCH REJOICING!!
Be mindful of the things for which you seek.
If you’re looking for popularity, you’ll find it & probably be disappointed.
If you’re looking to be wealthy, you might discover that money isn’t everything you thought it would be.
If you’re looking for success, you might find that it’s nothing more than a cat-and-mouse chase.
If you’re looking for applause & affirmation, you might discover that it costs more than it’s worth
If you look for God’s kingdom more than anything else, then everything else will fall in your lap 🙂