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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

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

Get Some Air!!

It’s really exhilarating to get some air & stick a landing when I snowboard.  In regular language, this means I do a jump and land without getting hurt.  How often does this happen for me?  This is almost never because I’m injury averse having experienced too many medical adventures with snowboarding.  But getting air isn’t only exhilarating, it’s also very healthy & I contend, necessary for vibrant living.

I say this from learning about King David’s son, Absalom in 2Samuel.  I’ve been reading about Absalom this week and I’m coming to see him as the poster child for death by slow suffocation, the absence of air.  Lots of bad things happen to and around Absalom.  I would suggest that he didn’t express or give air in a healthy way to the pains and wounds that he experienced from these bad things.  Here are some examples to demonstrate the lack of air or expression from these bad things:

  • Tamar, his sister, gets raped by her half-brother, Amnon.  Absalom tells her to live in his house and never says anything to Amnon for two years
  • Absalom is so angry with Amnon that he kills him, never talking with his dad about Amnon’s violence
  • Absalom is estranged from his dad for more than two years and no connection with his dad
  • Upon being reconciled with his dad, Absalom proceeds to steal the hearts of Israel whenever anyone comes to get justice from his dad, the king
  • Absalom connives for some years and covertly plans to overthrow his dad and become King of Israel, even publically sleeping with his dad’s concubines

There’s no documented conversation between Absalom and his dad to clear the air on all these injuries, nor have I read that Absalom sought to communicate his hurt to receive healing and positively resolve these many wounds.  Should he have talked with his dad and expressed his hurt and anger?  Should he have made efforts to communicate with Amnon, his half-brother who raped his sister?  I’m not convinced that talking with either his dad or brother would have been helpful to Absalom, but he needed to talk with someone and get some air around these wounds.  But instead, Absalom ingested his pain and didn’t give any air or expression to these injuries.

When we’re hurt, it’s important to give some air and expression to the wound or injury.  Similar to a cut on our hand, we need to clean out the cut before we cover it.  So does this mean that when someone hurts our feelings that we make hurtful posts on social media and let the world know about our injury?  When we’re hurt by someone, should we tell everyone including the injuring person about our pain?  What should we do when we’re hurt?

Here are some helpful tips for wound care and healing:

  1. Wash out the wound:  bring the wound to Jesus and express your pain;  it can often be helpful to share with a person about the wound and open up about the pain, giving some air to the wound
  2. Forgive the person:  you can do this to their face or in a letter or conversation; but at the minimum forgive them in your heart so the wound doesn’t get infected
  3. Cover the wound:  ask Holy Spirit to help you cover / protect the wound from stuff getting inside and making it fester with more pain
  4. Keep the wound aerated:  from time to time, it’s helpful to uncover the wound to look at the healing progress, ensuring that your forgiveness stays fresh and you’re giving Holy Spirit access for continued healing

In this human experience, I’m learning that it’s important to give air / expression to wounds and injuries so that Holy Spirit can bring healing and redemption for the hurts we encounter in life.  Get some air!

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

The Ambition Factor

Are you ambitious?

That’s a really loaded question.  If we answer “yes” then we run the risk of being perceived as selfish, driven, neglectful, insensitive, demanding and lots more.  If we answer “no” then we might be perceived as unmotivated, lethargic, non-productive, aimless and inert.  No matter what your answer is, the external perceptions aren’t as important as your internal motives.  To this end, if insecurity, fear, selfishness, pride impatience, anxiety, etc drive our ambition, then the chances for a trainwreck and hurting others skyrocket.

I’ve been thinking about ambition as I’ve been reading about David being anointed to be king & then running from King Saul for ten years, just to stay alive.  In these ten years, David has some opportunities to kill Saul & take the throne which would be ambitious and easy to justify because Saul was a jerk & David was anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s replacement.  But David kept his ambition in check because he valued God’s anointing.

Furthermore, when Saul & Jonathon were killed in battle, David didn’t promote himself as king to save the day for Israel.  When David heard that Saul & Jonathon were dead, his immediate reaction was to grieve and write a lament about the loss of these important men.  In relation to David’s possible ambition to become the next king of Israel, it’s very insightful look at David’s words and action in 2Samuel 2:1, “Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.”

In this verse and the succeeding verses, I see several helpful keys for being ambitious:

  1. Seeking God:  raw ambition is often impulsive.  As a result, seeking for God’s input and direction is a very effective way to prevent the fallout from hasty, impulsvie and raw, unchecked ambition.  After mourning the death of Saul and Jonathon, David’s first action was to seek God.
  2. Clear Direction:  David had two questions for God.  The first was about action and the second was about location.  When we seek God, that helps to neutralize the impulsive nature of ambition.  Once we have some input from God, it’s helpful to pause for more clarity, direction and input from God.
  3. Be committed:  once David had God’s input and direction, he moved to Hebron, took his wives, kids and all of his loyal followers to settle down and reside in Hebron.  If we are driven by raw ambition, it can be very difficult to put down our roots and be committed in a community, in relationships, a church job, marriage etc.
  4. Get confirmation:  once David, his family and followers moved to Hebron, we still don’t see David being pushy, assertive, demanding nor self-promoting.  On the contrary!  In 2Sam 2:4 we read, “Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David king over the house of Judah.”  From my perspective, David waited for Judah to come to him.  Maybe we could say that ambition pursues but anointing pauses and waits.
  5. There’s more:  even though David was anointed to be King in Judah, the rest of Israel didn’t accept David to be their king until seven years later.  Unfortunately, human ambition settles for less than God’s best and fullest promise. Patience can vaccinate our human ambition so that we receive the full potential of God’s promises.

If God puts a dream in your heart for your life, let your highest priority be to walk with God even more than achieving God’s goal or dream. Walking with God will get you to the dream God puts in your heart, along with shaping your character, deepning your relationships and most importantly, knowing God with ever increasing intimacy.  Let’s make our life’s ambition to revolve around knowing God and letting God be known through our lives!,

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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, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

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

3 Benefits to a Saul Grinder

Ever feel like you’re going through the ringer, like life is just hard & almost nothing is going right?  I’ve been reading about David in the Bible & how he spent more than a decade running away from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Maybe a little like a meat grinder, David was in the Saul grinder for a long time. When you read the Psalms that he wrote in the Saul grinder season, these Psalms are overflowing with David crying out to God to be his shield, comfort, strength, shepherd, provision & so much more!!

Maybe David went through the Saul grinder to help us today, when we go through various difficult seasons. Let’s allow Holy Spirit to encourage us in the grinder times that Holy Spirit is with us, walking alongside us.  These seasons can have tremendous benefits for helping us:

  1. grow closer with God,
  2. develop stronger trust in God,
  3. see God do miracles & sharpen our focus on God rather than the challenges  & problems that seem to be so difficult.
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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, 0 comments

5 Values of Process

I like to achieve goals & accomplish stuff. And I recently read about David killing Goliath which was a huge achievement!!

Sometimes I think we can get so goal oriented that we miss or neglect the value & maturation that we gain in the process to achieve such goals. Indeed, David went through lots of process to culminate in the Goliath victory: 

  1. he killed a lion & a bear: don’t belittle “small” victories 
  2. he became super proficient with a slingshot: sometimes what is a hobby or “play” has powerful application in our future 
  3. he knew that Sauls armor didn’t fit a shepherd persona: don’t be anyone but yourself 
  4. he was scrappy with his brother & most importantly: feisty can helps us confront bigger giants
  5. he was confident in God:  let’s not trust anything nor anyone more than we trust God

Let’s value the process & journey not just the outcomes & destinations!

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

Having Jesus Relationships

I just finished a really wonderful phone call & I’m enjoying the settled & exciting residue of that conversation. As I’m thinking about it now, I’m recognizing God’s fingerprints on both the chat & this friendship.  To recognize & appreciate God friendships, here are a few pointers:

  • differences are delightful but conformity is bland.  Enjoy the journey to discover different perspectives & ways of doing things!
  • trust and transparency are interdependent.
  • communicate for depth & connection, not just information
  • keep forgiveness as a core priority, fresh and authentic
  • pray over your friendships to discern God friendships and natural friendships

David & Jonathon are a great model for a God friendship!  Feel free to read about this friendship for some interesting insights – 1 Samuel 18-20.

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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, spiritual, values, watch, 0 comments