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Divine Provision

“What do you need?”

Last week, I returned from a whirlwind journey to Thailand and Bangladesh with Saving Moses.  It was a phenomenal trip, getting loads of things accomplished, meeting new people, catching up with established friendships, seeing the work we’re currently doing and looking at possible new places.  The trip was very successful in the sense of accomplishing lots of work.  In terms of the physical and emotional grind for me, it was a very difficult trip, with lots of overnight flights, significant time changes, funky food (which I LOVE) and seeing and experiencing very horrific things relating to babies and toddlers.  By the time I landed back in the US, I was entirely exhausted, having travelled non-stop for more than 30 hours, 5 flights and navigating a 12 hour time change.

This isn’t a “poor me” blog, but rather I hope to give you some fresh perspective on God providing for us.  When we think about the question, “What do you need?”, it seems to me that we’re often quick to answer with some kind of money response.  In our answer, it’s often  automatic that we think about paying off various loans, paying our bills, buying something necessary or helpful.  But if you asked me what I needed last week, I would have immediately replied that I needed time and rest.

I needed to catch my breath and that’s exactly what God gave me last week.  When I landed in the US, my schedule was organized such that I had two nights away from my home to accomplish some important business meetings, which weren’t long or grueling.  This time was massively helpful for my body and sleep to make some initial adjustments for getting back into my home culture and time zone.

In relation to divine provision, it says in Philippians 4:19, “God supplies all of our needs, according to His riches in glory, . . . “  This verse can encourage us in several ways.  To begin, it’s very helpful to establish and remind ourselves that God is our provider and the ultimate source for everything we need.  To this end, we must consistently remember to see God as our provider and not our paycheck, job, intellectual abilities, relationships, physical strength, etc.

Additionally God can give us what we need in lots of different ways: money through our job, wisdom through a conversation, book, blog, podcast, time through a cancelled appointment, creative solutions to a problem and inner strength to carry on.  How God supplies our needs is best left in God’s hands for God’s methods.

Finally, it gives me great confidence and comfort to recognize the divine timing element for divine provision.  I bring this to your attention because of God providing a ram in the thicket for Abraham at the exact moment of his greatest need, in Genesis 22:10-13.  The timing element was very clear to me last week, when God gave me some breathing room to recover from a very intense and effective trip.

Regardless of what you need, make the decision to keep your eyes focused on God and choose to trust that God is good, timely, creative, loving and abundant in divine provision!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, nightcare, prayer, relationships, saving moses, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

The Jesus Thing

Now that we’ve entered December, the Christmas festivities are in full swing.  There are parties to attend, cookies to bake, packages to wrap, trees to decorate, concerts to enjoy, potlucks to cook for, school programs to assist with, . . . .  and it seems to me that the list is endless.  The truth be told, when I hear the word, “Christmas” it makes me tired before anything starts, maybe like Pavlov’s dogs who salivated when they heard a bell chime.   To make it more challenging for me, I have lots of friends and family members who love the Christmas festivities and countdown the days until the frolicking can commence.  I watch my friends and family with curiosity, perplexed and awed by their ease and grace to enjoy this season.

From their point of view, sometimes they think I’m like the Christmas Grinch, as it may seem like I’d prefer to find a quiet cave and disappear from the noise, obligations, hubbub and seasonal delicious treats.  And it’s not that I don’t like the yummy food, beautiful music or serene snow that can christen this season.

My deal is that it’s easy for Jesus’ birth to get swallowed up in the season’s bustle, hustle, duties, celebrations, cookies, wrapping paper, gifts, decorations, glitz and glam.  So I find it challenging to stay focused on Jesus in the midst of this hectic season.  In the past, I’ve tried to keep this season less hectic so I could focus on Jesus better.  That’s been a really constructive tactic to help me keep Jesus in the Christmas crosshairs.

For whatever reason, this year seems different.  I was looking at my December calendar to find some empty space for lunch with a friend and I was disheartened to see almost every day booked.  How did I let this month get away from me and it’s just the beginning of the month?  Where did Jesus go for me in this month?  Maybe I should call this month my Jesus Month instead of Christmas, as a purposeful reminder for my focus.

And maybe it would be helpful to think about Mary, Jesus’ mother, this month as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  She was obviously the key player for Jesus’ birth, after she was overshadowed by Holy Spirit, nine months earlier.  So when I think about Mary giving birth to Jesus in this month, I’m reminded about what it was like for me in the last month of pregnancy with my three kids.  I was tired and trying to keep my focus on the finish line of giving each of my babies a healthy and safe delivery / introduction to their separate existence.

I suspect that Mary, being away from her family to register in Bethlehem with Joseph her husband, maybe she was a little jittery or possibly overwhelmed with the unknown (child birth) looming in her immediate future.  Or maybe Holy Spirit helped her all the way through her pregnancy, so that she didn’t deliver Jesus in a completely frazzled and unraveled experience.

So when I think about Holy Spirit helping Mary through her pregnancy to deliver the only begotten Son of God, it encourages me to focus on Holy Spirit to help me through this season to stay focused on Jesus.

This is my prayer for you, as you finish this blog.  May Holy Spirit overshadow you throughout this season so that Jesus’ birth is fresh in your heart and outlook, not just on Christmas day, but for each day that leads to December 25th.  Let’s remember that Christmas is the Jesus thing 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Christmas, cooking, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

The Recipe for Answered Prayer

If you’re reading this, then you might have some questions or challenges about some prayers you’ve made that are unanswered or unresolved – so we’re in this together 🙂

To this end, I was recently asking God to change someone & make them more flexible.  This could translate to mean that I want that person to be more compliant to my preferences and it could mean that God might want to work on some control issues in my heart, which is certainly food for thought 🙂

As we think about the prayers we make to God, it’s interesting to think about how God answers prayers.  I say this because of recently reading two exchanges between David and God in 2Samuel 5, when David asks God about attacking the Philistines.  In the first exchange, God tells David to attack in response to his first enquiry.  David obeys God’s direction and successfully defeats the Philistines.

On the heels of being defeated, the Philistines attack a second time.  And David asks God again about confronting the Philistines.  In response to David’s second enquiry, God tells David to circle behind the Philistines, wait for the sound of marching in the tree tops and then attack.  David obeys God’s instructions and defeats the Philistines the second time.  From my point of view, these are very explicit instruction & a stark contrast from the first battle.

So here are some ingredients for the recipe to Answered Prayer:

  1. AFDI:  Ask For Divine Input rather than depending on your own brilliance or willpower
  2. Unlimited obedience, served up with daily consistency
  3. Trusting God more than a method:  yeast goes with flour like trust goes with God;  God seems to work uniquely in each situation, so trusting in a method isn’t as helpful as trusting in God 🙂
  4. DBS:  Don’t Be Surprised when you have to repeat something, but with a different method

In addition to these ingredients, it’s also important to consider how these ingredients go together, some possible marinading time and what happens when heat is applied over a length of time.  To this end, when I asked God about changing someone and making them more flexible, like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I received an interesting reply.

I felt God say to me, “Sarah, maybe the answer to your prayer is a combination of that person becoming more flexible and you being less controlling.”

I had to sit with that feedback and let that marinade for a little while.  And truth be told, I’m still ruminating on what God said to me.  Maybe I’m a little similar to meat marinating in a sauce.  Maybe it takes God a little time to break down the fibers of my resistance and self-deception so that God’s truth and loving flavor can influence my thoughts, attitudes, words, decisions and action.  Ultimately, this is what I want.  This is the ultimate answer to my prayers, even in the heat and fire of daily living.

In our quest to get our prayers answered, let’s be committed to allowing God to change us and help us grow.  Maybe the tasty outcome of God’s culinary efforts in our lives is the expression of genuine love, as we are wholly dependant on God’s presence yeasting into our core identity 🙂

Selah 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, cooking, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Be Explicit!!

“*&$)%^#@*&)^#**!!”

I’m using these symbols to replace the actual words spoken to me in an extremely coarse exchange I had with a person who was upset with me.  Initially, I was a little taken aback with the vocabulary, but at the same time the explicit words helped provide abundant clarity for what this person was expressing.

In contrast, I’ve also had exchanges with people whose communication was super unclear and vague.  In these kinds of interactions, it can be challenging to know exactly what’s being said.

What style of communication would you prefer?  Do you like explicit and overt?  Or do you prefer indirect and maybe obscure?

I think it’s important to think about communication in these ways, not only for our human to human interaction, but moreso for the communication that happens between God and us.  I say this because it’s very natural to assume that God communicates with us similar to how we communicate with each other using words, conversations, dialogue, etc.  Thankfully, God has given us the Bible for some concrete words to help us know and recognize God not only in human history but also in God’s character and heart.

However, we would be wise to pause and consider that God is Infinite and we are finite.  To this end, communication from and with God does not always follow the same patterns and expressions that we experience in our human to human dialogues or communication.

For example, in 1Kings 19, there’s a fascinating exchange between the prophet Elisha and God.  This exchange happened after Elisha had seen God move dramatically in 1Kings 18, confirming God’s power and judgment against the idolatry of the King and Queen of Israel.  After this dramatic demonstration, the Queen of Israel threatened to kill Elisha and he fearfully ran for his life.  God sent an angel to provide food and rest for Elisha, who then ran into wilderness where he was hiding in a cave for the culminating events of 1Kings 19.

In this chapter, Elisha looks out from the cave and sees a massive wind that is strong enough to smash rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind.  Elisha sees an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake.  Elisha sees fire, but God isn’t in the fire.  When Elisha hears “a still small voice” he recognizes this is God speaking with him and heads out of his cave.

If you’re like me, I want God to speak to me in clear, explicit and direct ways.  I would like it if God would dialogue with me with definite words, clear discussion, obvious interactions and overt engagement – maybe not quite as extreme as an earthquake or rock crushing wind.  And to this end, I’m massively grateful for the Bible because it gives me God’s Word in black and white.

Let’s appreciate, however, that God communicates with us not only in explicit and definite ways, but also in ways that are more subtle, like the gentle whisper or still small voice.  God can communicate with us as a gentle whisper, a tender reminder, the beautiful sunrise or sunset, through the comment or hug or a friend, in a sermon or blog, in a dream at night and many other ways.  Consequently, we would be wise to ask God to help us recognize the massive variety of ways that God communicates with us everyday, appreciating that Infinite has innumerable expressions for communicating with us who are finite.

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Posted by Sarah in enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Through, Around, Avoid

Jesus’ humanity seems really clear to me when He asked His Father take take the cup of crucixion and suffering away from Him in Gethsamane.  And His humanity seems to get even more accentuated when He sweats drops of blood and wants His friends to keep watch with Him in this ordeal.  But Jesus didn’t avoid the cross nor did He go around the suffering, or escape it.

Sometimes going through hardship is the path that we walk, even when we want to avoid, escape, go around or get delivered from the struggles.  If you find yourself walking through a difficult season, here are some things that might be helpful (and feel free to share this blog with your friends who might be struggling):

  • be mindful of your attention & where you focus:  sometimes we focus on the hardship & that can make it bigger / worse;  sometimes we focus on a distraction & it can be helpful temporarily;  no matter what, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus because He’s well acquainted with our journey
  • keep walking:  sometimes the only thing we can do is to put one foot in front of the next & keep going.  There is much value in being persistent
  • stay in love with Jesus because Romans 8:28-29 says that God works everything to our benefit as we stay in love with Jesus & true to His design / purposes in our lives
  • keep steady with spiritual inputs:  being consistent with daily prayer & Bible time gives God opportunity to speak into our lives, strengthen & guide us, along with heaps more
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Posted by Sarah in Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

3 Tips for Tense Conversations

Yesterday, I had some very heated discussions & I didn’t enjoy them.  They were challenging to me & it took me awhile to let my emotions unwind & settle down. When I look at Jesus’ life, he had some heated exchanges not only with the religious leaders of His day but also some of His immediate followers. Here could be some helpful tips for these kinds of conversations:

1 – Why? What’s the purpose of the conflict? To be right? To reconcile? To understand the others perspective?

2 – How? How did we get to this place of hostile exchange?  It helps to understand each persons journey up to that point

3 – When & Where?  What space is needed to facilitate a constructive discussion?  Sometimes a little bit of time & a neutral location can help reset the conversation for better resolution & less carnage.

And of course there’s the ever helpful forgiveness essential – a gift we give ourselves 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, values, watch, 0 comments

3 Keys to Stay Vibrant!!

Yesterday was a very active day for me and super enjoyable!  I had some of the regular work stuff like meetings, emails, phone calls, etc.  But later in the afternoon, my husband & I joined a pickle ball boot camp, beginning to learn some fundamentals of this really fun sport.  And during the evening, I played softball with my church team (we lost but had heaps of fun)!  When I fell asleep, I was very tired and deeply content.  As I reflect on yesterday, here are some keys that could help you to live vibrantly and wholly content:

1 – Keep Moving!!  This applies not only for exercise, but in all areas of our lives.  Exercise in communicating, spiritual growth, community engagement, reading / learning and LOADS more helps us stay vibrant!

2 – Laugh Alot!!  More than anything, I laugh at myself and this helps me alot!  I don’t take myself so seriously and it helps me come to terms with my weaknesses & humanity

3 – Holy Spirit check-in’s:  throughout my day and evening, it was very settling to regularly check in with Holy Spirit for real time adjustments in my attitudes, outlook, conversations, internal audits & rich fellowship.

I sincerely believe that life with Holy Spirit is meant to be vibrant, challenging, fulfilling and transformational!

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Posted by Sarah in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, Pentecost, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

The Steady Quotient

There are lots of factors that are important in our lives, such as our IQ, Emotional Intelligence, time management, financial wisdom, etc.  Sometimes the stuff that’s not so measurable or obvious doesn’t get the same attention as the stuff I just listed.  I would propose that being steady is one of those less sexy or noticeable factors but massively important nonetheless.

I say this because of what steady can accomplish:

  • less cavities with steady brushing and flossing
  • better weight control with steady exercise
  • deeper intimacy with steady presence
  • more awareness of God with steady / daily quiet times
  • better cooking skills with steady practice

As I write this and think about the value of being steady, it makes me wonder how many things in my life would be improved if I were more steadfast in my attention and energies in various areas.  Our daily routines / habits can predict our future 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Recognizing Jesus

On the heals of Easter, it’s tempting to move on to what’s next.  Stuff such as Spring cleaning, Mother’s Day, graduation prep, etc can require our attention so much that Easter could quickly be forgotten.  But let’s keep in mind that after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to folk unexpectedly.  And maybe it was difficult to recognize Jesus because there was lots of emotional intensity that made recognition more difficult.  Here are a few emotions that maybe cause us to struggle to recognize Jesus:

  • fear:  the disciples huddled together in fear after Jesus’ death.  Jesus appeared to them despite their fear
  • grief:  maybe it was difficult for Mary Magdalene to recognize Jesus in the Garden after His resurrection because grief was so overwhelming.  Jesus appeared to her, nonetheless
  • uncertainty:  on the road to Emmaus, some of Jesus followers were trying to figure out what had just happened after His crucifixion and “disappearance.”  Jesus walked with them on their journey and helped them understand what just happened
  • doubt:  Thomas was missing when Jesus made His first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection.  Jesus came back to untangle Thomas’ doubt.

Let’s keep looking for Jesus because we can find and experience Him everyday because He’s alive!

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Posted by Sarah in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, Jesus Chix, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

What’s Concerning?

I read this morning, in Jesus’ Sermon in the Mount in Matthew, about eating, drinking, clothing & time. Jesus raises some questions we often think about:

What will I eat?  What will I wear? What will I drink? What’s going to happen tomorrow?  

These questions seem to be timeless human concerns, regardless of your quantity of income or deficiencies.  So it’s interesting that Jesus says not to worry about these issues (food, clothing & time). Instead, He tells us to spend a life in pursuit of Gods kingdom & these concerns will get resolved. 

So let’s sharpen our focus on letting Jesus be the supreme authority / Lord in our life. Let’s live in intentional surrender to Jesus’ lordship & trust that He can look after the food, clothing & time concerns that might arise today 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments