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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

Some Sherpa Help :)

A few years ago, I read a book about a guy climbing Mt Everest & what really caught my attention wasn’t the significance of his achievement. Instead, I found myself very interested in the sherpas that make such expeditions possible. Sherpas are individuals who carry the mountain climbing gear along the way, to enable a climber to make it to the top.

From reading that book, I began to think about how God wants to carry my burdens in my daily living. In Ps 68:19 it says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.”

Let’s allow God to be our daily Sherpa as we go through

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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, 2 comments

Through, Around, Avoid

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

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

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

Doing Difficult Things

Life seems to throw difficult things our way, such as dropping off a child at college, health challenges, relationship struggles, financial crisis & lots of other stuff as well. Sometimes the stuff we face is a surprise & sometimes there’s a cumulative process the winds up being a significant difficulty.

In these experiences & seasons, I find it helpful to remember that Jesus is walking with me & doesn’t leave me to navigate alone. And when Jesus is with us, it’s good to ask Him for strength, comfort, wisdom, help, endurance & for His love to overflow our hearts. I also appreciate remembering Ps 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined to me & He heard my cry.”

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

Where We Begin

This is a picture of the pool where I took swimming lessons when I was 5. I walked past it just now & had lots of fond memories like: Marco Polo, swim freeze tag, races, wrestling matches & lots more. To this day, I still love to swim & this pool was my introduction to a lifetime of enjoyment!

In a similar way, when we get introduced to Jesus, we can experience a life of enjoyment, fulfillment, strength, grace, wonder, forgiveness & best of all, genuine love. May this blog remind you to go back to your first live with Jesus, no matter the circumstances of your life, things you’ve messed up, wounds you’ve experienced, misunderstandings, etc. Let’s allow Jesus to love our hearts back to the deeply fulfilling relationship He so intensely wants with us!

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