choices

Health and Sanity Check

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic thing has come to the US and lots of us are required to stay at home for at least a few weeks. Yesterday, we had a family meeting with my three teenage kids to discuss what the stay at home requirement means to us.  As you would expect, the extroverts were a little jittery and the introverts were reflective.

As I type this, I’m concerned for each reader of this blog because you are forced to navigate this abrupt change and I suspect it could be difficult for you for various reasons, such as financial struggles, health challenges, social dynamics, future uncertainty and probably more reasons than I could list.  I also think that we might generally be ok with this stay at home requirement on some days and on other days, it might not be so good.  In order to stay healthy in these weeks, here are some key areas to consider:

  • Mental Hygiene – In Proverbs 23:7, it says, “As a man thinks, so is he.”  To this end, we would be very wise to consider not only what we think about (taking an inventory of our thoughts), but to also be careful about what we watch and listen to, since the stuff we give our minds and emotions is what they will absorb and digest.  To upgrade your mental hygiene in this season, consider memorizing Philippians 4:4-8 for some life-giving nutrition.
  • Rental Hygiene – This is a little similar to mental hygiene, but still important because this is a proactive step we can take, to help us come out of this temporary situation with some good results.  What I mean by rental hygiene, is what we allow to rent space in our soul.  It can be tempting to do some Netflix binging, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings Marathons.  But maybe we could make some constructive decisions for this season, like learning a new skill.  What have you always wanted to learn or explore?  Maybe this is the time to drill down into some YouTube lessons for that skill, hobby, or side interest that you’ve wanted to explore.  Let’s also stay physically active with some situps, pushups or some kind of exercise regime because our bodies of the temple of God, so let’s take care of God’s rental property    Additionally, since we’re in Spring, rental hygiene could also include Spring Cleaning (windows, clutter clearing, refrigerator cleaning, culling through the closet, etc).
  • Dental Hygiene – Let’s remember to floss daily, along with brushing our teeth.  In addition, let’s pay attention to our words, what we say and talk about with neighbors, co-workers, friends and family in this season.  What we say is a good indicator of what’s going on in our heart, emotions and thoughts.  Jesus says this in Luke 6:45c, “’. . . . , for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.’”  To this end, let’s fill our hearts with life, genuine love, hope, truth and more than anything, the Lordship of Jesus.

With the unique opportunity that COVID-19 is giving us, let’s make active choices with our daily routines to grow and come out of this with stronger faith and greater confidence in God’s power and love!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, COVID-19, dental hygiene, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, YouTube, 0 comments

What Are You Doing???

“What are you doing here?”  This was the question asked by the angel of God to Elijah, as he hid in a cave, gripped with fear, anxiety and uncertainty.  Seems to me that maybe some of us might relate to Elijah, given the recent collection of corona virus (COVID-19) events: shut downs, alarming news, hoarding, toilet paper shortages, contagion and empty shelves at grocery stores.  When we add on the government telling us to keep social distance from anyone, stay home as much as possible and pay attention to your temperature, life can feel a bit apocalyptic.  So maybe we want to hunker down in our home caves and do the Elijah technique, escaping the panic that pervades our society.

To be fair, Elijah’s life was being threatened by the Queen of Israel and she was definitely a formidable and scary person.  So I recognize that I’m not comparing the same stimulating factors for the run and hide behaviors.  Nevertheless, I’m sincerely convinced that we can apply some fantastic and profound takeaways from Elijah’s experience, in 1Kings 19.

In this chapter, while Elijah hid in a cave, he observed lots of tumultuous events outside of his cave: a wind so strong that it broke apart rocks, an earthquake and a fire.  In verses 11-12, it says that God wasn’t in the wind, God wasn’t in the earthquake and God wasn’t in the fire.  But when Elijah heard a small whisper, a gentle blowing, he came to the entrance of the cave to listen to God, Whose first question was, “What are you doing here?”.

Maybe God would ask us the same question in this season, when the world around us seems to be upended and foundations unraveled.

What are we doing?

I’m absolutely a proponent for prudent and wise choices in this turbulent season.  However, I’m not a proponent of panic, fear, anxiety, worry nor apprehension.  Maybe you don’t like the panic or anxiety normal response to this COVID-19 crisis either.  So what can we do, in this unusual time?

First, let’s recognize that we have a unique opportunity given to us, that has never happened to this magnitude in human history.  We get to choose our actions, what we focus on, our attitudes and perceptions.  If we allow the media and gossip around us to be our focal point, then we could be letting our lives overflow with panic, fear, stress and worry.

Second, if we find ourselves “stuck at home” because of a quarantine or government edict to shelter in place, we will likely have some extra time on our hands.  If you’re like me, in the not so distant past, I was bemoaning my lack of time and the hectic pace of my life.  So now that we have more time, what will we do with it?  Let’s be purposeful about this gift of extra time and use it constructively rather than letting the media amplify whatever fears or anxieties we might lean into by not regulating our focus. Here are a few suggestions:

  • do some Spring cleaning, house / apartment projects,
  • read a book that you’ve been wanting to read,
  • do some family games / interactions to take advantage of the extra time together
  • go through your clothes and donate what you don’t wear / what doesn’t fit
  • text your friends and elderly people you know to stay in touch
  • be creative:  write, paint, cook, organize, dance to some fun music 🙂

Finally and most importantly, this crisis affords us an opportunity to snuggle into God, to deepen our intimacy, connection, awareness and strength.  When Elijah heard a gentle whisper, not being distracted by the noisy earthquake, wind or fire (alarming news or corona crisis), he grew in his awareness and recognition of God’s presence, voice and the future that God had for him.  Let’s allow this season to be a richly intimate time and deepen our connection with God!

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

Virus Alert!!

It seems to me that much of the world has been taken by storm with the Corona virus.  I say this because of the mass quarantines in several countries, travel restrictions, stock market impact, event cancellations, grocery store raids and the general chit chat on the street with total strangers.  We are wearing masks, buying unfathomable quantities of toilet paper (even though it’s not a digestion virus), scouring our hands and maybe adjusting our work location, as I think about the personal impact this virus is making on our daily living.

To be fair, Corona is highly contagious and way more concerning for older people with health issues than younger people who are healthy with strong immune systems.  So there’s definitely some wisdom in paying attention to our health and being prudent about our interactions.

At the same time, I would suggest that there’s a more lethal virus than Corona spreading throughout the world at lightning speed.  This virus is even more contagious and changes our actions, conversations, attitudes and outlooks.  Furthermore, every human is susceptible to this virus no matter the precautions we take by drinking extra water, avoiding human contact, beefing up our vitamin C intake and regardless of where we live or the access to modern medicine.

This is the fear virus and left unchecked, without observation or awareness, fear can leave us debilitated, lifeless and constrict our lives to hermit existence.  Fear can also distort our perceptions and warp our decisions such that we don’t live out our divine blueprint.

One of the best biblical examples of the mutating and minimizing power of fear can be seen in the life of Saul, the king of Israel that preceded David.  After Saul was anointed by Samuel to be king in 1 Samuel 9, Saul had some initial successes as Israel’s king.  However, in a short time Saul let fear constrict his leadership in ways that prevented him from leading Israel to defeat the Philistines on several occasions, caused him to lie to Samuel and Saul attempted to kill David many times.  When I look at the entirety of Saul’s life and his tragic conclusion, I see a man increasingly controlled by fear which grew to infect every part of his life including his family, leadership and his relationship with God.  Saul died in battle against the Philistines in contrast to Samuel’s initial anointing on Saul to be king and defeat the Philistines.

I would suggest that fear can work in our lives in very insidious ways. When we let insecurity be a deciding factor with decisions, be certain that the fear virus is active in your life.  When we over-achieve to make up for weaknesses or shortfalls, maybe fear has infected our perceptions.  When we refrain from engaging with people (and not just from being more introverted or being super busy), it’s possible that fear is influencing our social interactions.

There are lots of ways that the fear virus infects our decisions, interactions and outlooks.  We can be afraid of failing, getting hurt, making a mistake or poor decision, being rejected and heaps more.  So it’s important to pause, from time to time, and ask Holy Spirit to help us take a fear inventory in our lives, looking at possible decisions that are fear based as well as perceptions that could be fear infected.  Let’s never forget that perfect love casts out fear!  So wherever we sense fear in our lives, let’s nestle into God, Who is perfect love and let God’s love immunize us yet again from the fear virus.

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

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

That’s Disgusting!!

“That’s disgusting!!”  This can be a common reaction when we see, hear or experience stuff that’s not in our regular grid or comfort zone.  So when I posted some videos from Cambodia where we ate dried frogs, grasshoppers, grubs and beetles, I had lots of feedback about how gross it was that I’d eat “that kind of stuff.”

I’ve also recently had to wrestle with and navigate my own reactions of appall and shock having walked through a city in Thailand, almost entirely devoted to sex tourism.  The reason I’m doing this is to look at the possibility for opening Nightcare here with Saving Moses.  Nightcare is our way of expressing genuine love for the babies and toddlers of sexworkers, caring for these precious treasures while their moms work.  You can read more about this on the Saving Moses website – totally love our nightcare work!

So having walked through very large areas devoted to sex work in this city, I found myself struggling with the disgust factor, at least initially.  But I also find myself feeling lots of compassion as well, so I’m wrestling with these seeming disparities.  And as I type this blog, it’s helping me to think about Jesus and if He had any disgust factor as He walked in human existence.

As I ponder Jesus, I remember His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, who had 5 husbands and she was with a different guy at the time of that conversation.  I’m reminded about Jesus talking with the woman caught in adultery and His response to her accusers, along with His final words about not condemning her and tell her to be free and stop sinning.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ faithfulness to Peter, despite Peter’s frail humanity and denial failure at the time of Jesus’ trial.  And I think about Jesus leaving applause and human adulation to meet the naked lunatic, oppressed and tormented by demons.  That guy was super crazy and probably disgusting to the townspeople near the graveyard where he lived.

I’m bringing up these people with whom Jesus engaged because they demonstrate to me that Jesus’ compassion factor is far more weighty and compelling than the disgust factor.  And because I’m a Jesus junkie, I want to be more motivated by compassion and genuine love rather than disgust and revulsion.  So how could this happen?

For starters, I think it’s helpful to pay attention to our reactions, how we feel and what are we thinking.  Once we have a sense of our thoughts and feelings, then I think we can bring these to Jesus and ask for help.  Additionally, I think it’s extremely important to take some time to sit in Jesus’ love for us.  Maybe we struggle to be loving and compassionate because we don’t have experience or knowledge of being genuinely loved by Jesus.  Or maybe our awareness of Jesus’ love for us is kind of stale or a perfunctory and distant memory.  Maybe if we rest in Jesus loving us, maybe we’ll find it easier and more natural to love others and overcome the disgust factor with compassion and care.  Let’s both enjoy and express genuine love!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Cambodia, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, nightcare, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, 0 comments

In the Moment

Yesterday, I enjoyed my first day of snowboarding for this season. I really like snowboarding because it’s the sequence of lots of exhilarating moments strung together over the course of a day. Yesterday was particularly enjoyable because my drive to the slopes was filled with interesting podcasts and I could sense Holy Spirit’s presence in the car and talking with me through these podcasts. The enjoyment continued when I strapped on my board and pointed it down the slope, reminding myself that this is a warm up run and not the Olympics. I had a quick adrenaline rush when I made a sharp turn, caught an edge and almost biffed it, but I caught myself before the crash! I found more moments of pleasure enjoying the spectacular scenery, breathing crisp and fresh air, going really fast without getting injured, along with some quiet reflection on the lift going up the mountain for another run.

While I’m grateful for lots of continuous moments of pleasure yesterday, I’ve also been reading about Absalom, the son of David. And reading about him, shows me a man who had lots of continuous moments of pain, anger, stress, dissatisfaction, disappointment and rejection. I’d encourage you to read about him in 2Samuel, to see a person who lived in continuous moments of pain.

We can observe these moments of pain in Absalom’s life in how he responded to his sister, Tamar, after she was raped by their half brother. Absalom told Tamar to stay in his house and he would look after her, but he never said word one to their half brother, Amnon, for two years. After these two years, Absalom threw a party as a convenient context to kill Amnon. Absalom’s behavior and choices show me a man who lived in continuous moments of anger and revenge.

These moments of pain continued for Absalom as he was exiled for two years from his dad, David, for killing Amnon. Upon returning to Jerusalem, Absalom still didn’t see his dad for another two years, likely perpetuating more moments of hurt, rejection and disconnection. Once Absalom was accepted by his dad, David the king, it’s still obvious that Absalom stays in his continuous moments of pain, because he plots for some years to win the heart of Israel and displace his dad as king.

I would suggest that the culmination of these painful moments happened when Absalom declared himself as king, David ran for his life and Absalom began a war against his dad to position himself as Israel’s king. The end of Absalom’s life of continual tragic moments is when he gets caught in a tree, swinging by his hair and David’s army commander throws spears into Absalom’s heart to kill him.

To me, this story is an epic tragedy, portraying a life stacked full of tragedies, pain, destruction, isolation and grief. While I’m sure that Absalom had some good moments over the course of his life, it seems to me that he became swallowed by the bad moments such that his life became a continuous bad moment and he perpetuated the bad with his hurtful choices.

When I think about how this applies to us, we will have good moments and bad moments in our lives. If we choose to live in the bad moments, we run the risk of getting sour and disillusioned, resulting in hurt to ourselves and others. Additionally, watching Absalom’s choices is a vivid reminder that I actively choose forgiveness whenever I’m hurt. I’m also grateful that God gives us good moments, like my snowboarding day ☺

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Posted by sarahbowling 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

4 Keys to Intentional Living

“Let’s Do It!!!”  This is my impulsive reply to the suggestion to go snowboarding today, even though there’s not enough snow, the lines are stupid long, there’s like one run open and I have more than enough work that needs to accomplished today.  So the intentional reply should be, “Man that sounds like a blast!  But if I wait, the snow will be better, more runs will be open and I’ll have more fun if I choose to skip my impulse reaction today.” And still, it sounds like lots of fun to throw caution to the wind 🙂

There’s a chick in the Bible whom I greatly admire because she was more intentional than impulsive.  This is Abigail, the wife of Nabal, the jerk.  When we first meet Abigail, she is purposefully gathering loads of provisions to bring to David because her foolish husband was self-absorbed and hostile.  Nabal had refused to give David & his men food and assistance, even though David had been kind to Nabal’s shepherds.  So David had determined to repay Nabal evil for his unkind reply.

Into this toxic mix steps Abigail, who intentionally brings supplies to David, acknowledges her husband’s foolish behavior and prevents David from making a disasterous impulsive decision.  Abigail brings heaps of provisions to David, without telling her husband.  And when she returns home, Nabal is drunk, so that could be the perfect time to tell him what she did!  But again, Abigail is intentional about how and when she communicates with Nabal, waiting until the next morning when he’s sober.  Once Abigail tells Nabal what she’s done, the Bible says that his heart is turned to stone, he dies shortly thereafter & David nabs Abigail to be his wife.

Abigail is intentional in lots of ways that could also be helpful to us in our modern living.  Here are some things for your consideration about doing life with intentionality:

  1. External assessment:  what is going on around you, in your immediate vacinity & the broader world?  How might these events and situations be affecting you?  Abigail assessed what was happening with David, along with determining what her husband had done.
  2. Internal assessment:  what’s inside you, what do you want and what are your motives?  Sometimes we’re unaware of our core motives and what we want.  This can cause us to make impulsive decisions without considering the results.  When we look at Abigail, she wanted to prevent destruction from coming to her house, as well as preventing David from doing something he would later regret. She sat with her motives before acting impulsively & maybe lashing out at her husband.
  3. God’s input:  what does God want and what would be God’s best for this situation or season in your life?  Although we don’t read of any explicit input from God to Abigail in the Bible, her actions reflect God’s heart of compassion, grace, forgiveness, intervention and generosity.
  4. Course of Action:  what actions could you take that would best support God’s design and character?  When I look at Abigail’s decisions:  she chooses to be generous, she chooses to interrupt David’s wrath and retribution, she chooses to communicate with her husband when he can best absorb her actions and she chooses to protect her household from Nabal’s foolish behavior.

These helpful keys, when applied into daily living, can prevent us from making impulsive & possibly foolish decisions.  These keys can help us be intentional and more thoroughly aligned with God’s purposes and designs in our lives.

So based on these helpful pointers, I’m deciding to not go snowboarding today.  Instead, I’ll get my board waxed and the edges sharpened so that when I go, I can have double the fun ,)

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

Stay-cation with Teenagers

For two years now, we’ve done a stay-cation so we could save our vacation dollars to do a strategic family vacation.  When we floated the idea to our kids last year, they agreed with our plans & definitely enjoyed the strategic family vacation we took earlier this year.

In the meantime, we are on year two of our stay-cation & it’s an interesting journey to stay-cate with teenagers, attempting to limit screen time & maximize family time.  Teenagers are wonderful people with strong opinions & developing individualities, so doing a stay-cation with them, aiming for happy campers, is challenging.

Here are some things we’ve done that are somewhat helpful:

  • get everyone’s input with at least 3 realistic ideas of things they’d like to do with the family
  • populate everyone’s ideas throughout the stay-cation, giving validation to each individual’s input
  • communicate the stay-cation schedule / events to everyone, giving them a chance to coach their own attitudes before participating in another’s suggestion that might be unappealing
  • communicate budget parameters when soliciting the ideas for activities
  • give ample space / time for individuality to balance family events with individual breathing room
  • pray alot 🙂

Vacationing with teenagers can be fun & challenging.  Most of all, it affords me the opportunity to lean into Holy Spirit to help me coach my internal narratives & attitudes 🙂

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

Routine or Monotony?

I’m a big fan of routines and daily habits because I’m entirely convinced that success can often be the result of daily habits added together over extended time.  I know this to be true from my dentist telling me to floss everyday, from making it a habit to write everyday and lots more!

At the same time, a routine can become mindless and mechanical muscle memory because of familiarity and practice.  This is the monotony quagmire where we get caught in the habit without getting our desired results.

The defining difference between mechanical muscle memory (monotony) and culminated success is attention and presence.  Just because we do something repetitiously doesn’t mean that we’re going to be successful with that activity.  I would suggest that we endeavor to be wholly present and attentive with our daily habits so they can have maximum impact and success.  To this end, let’s be careful to cultivate both intentional presence as well as daily habits!

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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

Including

play on a softball team & we aren’t very good. But we have HEAPS of fun & one of the things I like the most about our team is that we include everyone, full stop. Additionally, we’re really encouraging & help each other with sharing equipment, being patient with the learning curve & applauding effort not just achievement. I think anyone could play on our team & likely have a great time.

Would that we could take this mindset into our daily living to be a encouraging, inclusive, supportive & helpful!  Instead of being concerned about being excluded, maybe it would be better to work at being inclusive with gentle attention & care 🙂

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