genuine love

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

New Day, New Year, New You!!

“I got a new car!!!”  I’ll never forget my first new car nor my enthusiasm and commitment to take very good care of my new car!  I was massively devoted to doing the regular oil changes, using good fuel, doing a routine fuel injector and driving to loud music and the sunroof down to accentuate the cool factor.  This car was really special to me because I had a chance to do everything right that I’d done so wrong with my first car.

The first car I bought had about 65,000 miles on it and was more than ten years old.  It was a stick shift and the color was burnt orange – pretty ugly, but good for a sixteen year old.  On this car, I learned about grinding gears because I’d never driven a stick shift before.  I had no clue about fuel choices nor regular oil changes.  I accidentally drove over a concrete parking stop but didn’t know enough to look at the oil pan for a possible leak, which of course became a costly repair after most of the oil had drained through the leak.  I learned a lot about car maintenance on my little burnt orange treasure and I’ve put my mistakes and lessons to good use ever since.

I’d like to suggest that we could use the same strategy from last year’s lessons for this new year.  Before we leave this year and close the chapter on this decade, we would be wise to ask Holy Spirit to teach and show us lessons and mistakes so that this upcoming year and new decade can be better or at least different.

When I think about a new start, it reminds me about Jacob in Genesis 32 and his experience of leaving Laban (his father in law) after working for him for twenty years.  In this chapter, Jacob is making a fresh start in his life, having closed out the preceding two decades.  In his fresh start, Jacob had an all night wrestling match with the Angel of God.  Jacob was overpowered in this wrestling match, having his hip dislocated, but he refused to let go of the angel, who changed his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (one who wrestles with God).  With this name change, I’d propose that Jacob became a new person, in a new place and settled in his homeland.

Looking at this new beginning for Israel, I see that he deeply valued God’s presence even at great physical expense to himself.  I also see that he let go of Laban and any expectations or links he had with him – he totally closed that chapter of his life.  When Israel looked forward into starting a new chapter, he came to terms with the wrongs he’d done to his brother twenty years earlier and we see him walk in a steady commitment with God for the rest of his life, no matter the twists, pains, joys nor losses.

There are lots of lessons we can learn from the past and good lessons, if we let Holy Spirit be our teacher.  But if we don’t let Holy Spirit be our teacher and just settle for self-education, it’s very possible that we could learn the wrong lessons.  Additionally, no one knows you better than your Maker, so letting Holy Spirit teach you is essential to being your true self – the real you!    As we finish out this year and decade, let’s make two resolutions:

  1. To let Holy Spirit be our teacher, being committed to learning lessons from Holy Spirit
  2. To stay committed to God, no matter what the future has. We can do this by taking one day at a time.

Feel free to share this blog on your social media stuff to help others have a great new start!

Happy new day, Happy New Year, New Decade and New You!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

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

Not My Home

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of ministering in Baltimore at my friends church. As I’m sitting in the airport now, waiting for my flight back to Denver, there’s lots of things here that are different from my hometown. They seem to really like crab here & that’s pretty uncommon in Denver. There’s also the prominence of Baltimore Raven football clothing, a huge melting pot of ethnic cultures, way more diverse than Denver & i don’t see the marijuana thing here that’s so pervasive at home.

I’m familiar with my home culture, so the contrasts stand out here. Maybe we could also say this for our heavenly home. Perhaps we know in our hearts our heavenly home & this earthly existence sometimes feels foreign to us. And maybe some of the reason for our earthly life is to bring the culture of heaven to earth, letting our relationship with Jesus define our outlook, attitudes, conversations & priorities. Let’s not forget that heaven is our home & let’s be committed to bringing  heaven to earth, genuine love in our daily living 🙂

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

Watching People

One of the things I really enjoy about traveling is watching people. It’s interesting to see the seasoned traveler, organized & generally relaxed in contrast with those who don’t travel as much & maybe a little more anxious. And of course there’s the ever enjoyable TSA adventure that makes all of us do the carry-on jig, not very pleasant.

When I travel, I see a beautiful variety of God’s creation, in all shapes, sizes, colors, political affinities, ages & expressions.  This reminds me that God loves each person wholly bc God is love.  So no matter how a person acts or what they look like, when I remember God is love, it helps me appreciate each person uniquely since they’re fearfully & wonderfully made in Gods image!

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Being Exclusive

There’s lots of appeal to being exclusive, particularly when we’re included in something “exclusive.”  But if we’re excluded, it’s not very pleasant.  For example, remember the middle school cliques?  Or how about the “process” to be included in a fraternity / sorority?  There’s lots of good feelings to being included & lots of bad feelings when we’re excluded.

I’ve been thinking about the words “include” and “exclude”.  In latin, include literally means to shut in while exclude means to shut out.  I’m bringing this to your attention because God wants to include you in the family of God – to adopt and graft you into the family.  And I think this inclusion can make us all feel warm, fuzzy, loved and accepted!

To this end, if we’re in God’s family, then as a family member let’s continue this value and include people instead of exclude them.  Maybe this would be an authentic way to express genuine love: to be more inclusive than exclusive 🙂

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

That’s INCREDIBLE!!!

We have a seemingly insatiable appetite for stuff that’s spectacular, miraculous, outrageous, unexplainable and supernatural.  To this end, we are often mesmerized by miracles, scintillated by supernatural, fascinated by phenomenal and entranced by enigmas.   We revel in God’s supernatural intervention in the impossible and rightfully so!

At the same time, let’s also have awe and gratitude for stuff in our lives that’s not quite so riveting, but essential nonetheless.  When we’re patient, forgiving, encouraging, selfless, . . . . demonstrating genuine love, let’s celebrate that God has done something supernatural in and through us!  God’s work deserves gratitude, recognition and applause even when it’s not quite so scintillating or dazzling!

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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

The Encouragement Factor

You can do it!!”  When we do difficult stuff & go through challenging seasons, receiving encouragement can be really helpful!  I see a great example of the power of encouragement when Jonathan went out to David, when David was discouraged & really pressed to the wall. Jonathan’s dad, Saul, was chasing David & trying to kill him, so I suspect that Jonathon’s encouragement was all the more helpful to David. Basically, Jonathan told David that David would become king & Jonathan was very supportive of David.

When someone is in a tough spot, seems discouraged, going through a challenging season or is experiencing setbacks & hardships, let’s be committed to encourage them!  Speaking life & giving hope is what God does for us & can do through us as well!

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

3 Mistakes to Avoid with Friends

As I write this blog, I’m painfully aware that I’ve made more than my share of mistakes with friendships.  I’ve fallen short in terms of being consistent, not expressing myself well, being impatient, insecurity struggles & loads more.

And because I’ve been reading Job for a few weeks now, I’m watching his friends and their interactions with Job, noting some stuff to avoid.  Here are some things that might be helpful to you:

  1. Listen to understand more than reply:  Job’s friends sat with him for 7days before they ever said a word.
  2. Presence trumps absence:  Job’s friends didn’t run away when his life went into a cataclysmic meltdown.  Let’s be careful that we’re not fair weather friends
  3. Compassion is better than criticism:  Job’s friends looked for his secret faults as a cause for his suffering, but they were skinny on compassion.  When our friends go through horrendous experiences, it’s more loving to be compassionate than look for & point out their flaws & failures.

Here’s to friendship & how God helps us grow in “iron sharpening iron” friendships, based on Prov 27:17 🙂

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