focus

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

Next Level Spirituality

I hear lots of talk about going to the next level in a variety of contexts, such as: exercise, cooking techniques, snowboarding proficiency, work commitments, teenage adventures, etc.  It seems to me that when people use this terminology, it’s to emphasize an improvement,  increase intensity or make something more extreme.

So what could going to the next level look like with spirituality?  Maybe “next level spirituality” first requires an honest assessment of our current level.  Who am I now?  What are my present comfort zones?  What do I naturally gravitate to?  It’s hard to go to the next level if we don’t even know what our current level is.

This makes me think about the first time Jesus met Peter, in Luke 5, when Peter was mending his net after a discouraging night of fruitless fishing.  While Peter was net mending, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat & preached to a big crowd.  When Jesus finished, He told Peter to put his boat out to catch fish, which Peter did & caught a boatload of fish!!  I think Peter recognized a stark contrast between Jesus’ teaching & his own spirituality because of how he replied to Jesus after the miracle catch of fish.  Peter said to Jesus, “Away from me, for I’m a sinful man.”  And I love that Jesus invited Peter to the next level of spirituality, by answering, “Follow Me & I’ll make you a fisher of men!”

Peter responded to Jesus’ invitation by dropping his net, leaving his boat & following Jesus for almost three years.  I’d venture to say that Peter’s spirituality went into hyper-drive, getting to spend 24/7 with Jesus for these years.  In Peter’s next level spirituality, he had some incredible experiences like walking on water, distributing miracle provision bread & fish, seeing innumerable healings, along with some resurrections and heaps more.  At the same time, Peter’s next level spirituality also included some defeats, such as arguing with Jesus about denying Him, sinking into the water when he was distracted by the winds & waves, falling asleep in Gethsemane when Jesus most needed him, along with cutting of a servants ear when Jesus was arrested.

But I would suggest that the best way we can evaluate our spirituality and go to the next level is seen in Jesus’ conversation with Peter, in John 21, after His resurrection.  This conversation happened within a few days of Peter vehemently denying Jesus, Peter failing to keep watch with Jesus in Gethsemane because of being sleepy & after he cut off somebody’s ear.  Shortly after these failures, Jesus shows up on the shore of Galiee.  When Peter knows it’s Jesus, he  throws himself into this sea, so he can swim to Jesus, who is waiting on the shore with a toasty fire, fresh cooked fish and bread, a ready breakfast for hungry fishermen.  The subsequent  conversation that occurred between Jesus & Peter was all about genuine love.  And in my thinking, the highest level of spirituality is rooted in living genuine love.  I say this because of Jesus’ words in John 13:35, “People will know that you follow Me by your love for one another.”

Let’s be careful to appreciate that miracles are cool, character is vital, but genuine love is essential for next level spirituality.

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Posted by sarahbowling in fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, 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

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

Solutions, Provisions & Answers

Sometimes life can be very challenging. We can go through seasons when we don’t have enough money, time, energy, etc. We can also get birraged with problems & pummeled with questions. It seems to me that everyone goes through difficult times when it feels like we’re drowning & when we desperately need a life jacket, not just a life hack.

If you, or someone you know, is in this kind of a season, I pray that this blog would be helpful. In this kind of season, it’s been soothing to realize & embrace that God has more:

  • Answers than I have questions,
  • Solutions than I have problems,
  • Provisions than I have needs.

Let’s keep our eyes on & trust in God today, even hour by hour. God is helping us & these experiences can train us to know God better & trust God more!

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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

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

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

Tuck Away

It’s nice to have a few minutes of unexpected pause, when you’re having a busy day. If you’re a Hugh achiever, these unexpected pauses can be wonderful opportunities to get more stuff done!  And of course, that makes us feel good & it’s wonderful to be highly productive!

But here’s another possibility to consider for an unexpected pause:  an invitation to tuck away with Jesus for a few minutes. In these moments, it can be very helpful, soothing & even healthy to take some minutes to engage with Jesus. Here could be some ideas for briefly engaging with Jesus in such pauses:

  • gratitude – express thanks for something real-time in that pause;
  • acknowledge: “Jesus, I know You’re here & im present with You;”
  • help!! consider that a pause could be a time to re-fuel with Jesus for what’s coming next 🙂
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Posted by Sarah in busy, fasting, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Short Supply

“Can I borrow some milk?” My former neighbor & I used to always borrow ingredients for cooking. Both of us were always busy, so it was abundantly helpful that we could text each other & have one of our kids run over whatever was missing (eggs, flour, sugar, milk, cumin, celery salt, etc). And we would often talk about how we had run out of patience, or run out of time, so it was very nice to have a friend who could sympathize with the “short supply” challenge.

Sadly, she moved a few years ago and my cooking has never been the same 🙂

And I’m super grateful that Jesus is never in short supply of everything I need! Indeed, Jesus has an oversupply of patience, grace, wisdom, time, energy, faith, genuine love, help, strength, . . . . To be sure, Jesus is the ultimate Provision for everything we need for all of this week and beyond!

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

What is Wisdom?

There’s lots of stuff in the Bible about wisdom, even a whole book, Proverbs, that’s devoted to the topic.  It’s also mentioned in the NT a fair amount, like in James 1, where it says that we should ask for wisdom.  So given the frequency of this topic, perhaps it would be helpful to think about what it is, along with what it is not.

In the “wisdom is not” column, here are some things to remember.  Wisdom is not:

  • merely information;  facts, formulas, information and details
  • advanced degrees, memorization or books read

In the other column that defines wisdom, based on the Bible, here’s what we can say.  Wisdom is:

  • grounded in “fearing God”;  this means that having a healthy and robust respect for God in our lives is the pathway to facilitating wisdom
  • discerning the times and seasons in our lives
  • appreciating what is appropriate and helpful in various situations and events
  • recognizing when to speak and when to listen

Lets always be ready to get more wisdom & let wisdom be active in our daily living!

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