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Walking and Talking

I revel in the experiences with God that have lots supernatural experience, demonstration and high octane impact!  It’s phenomenal when God does supernatural things like healing someone, giving a precise word of encouragement or insight, providing a supernatural funding or a colossal coincidence that could only be orchestrated by God.  I love these kinds of supernatural engagements and experiencing God’s fingerprints in our human existence!

At the same time, there’s much to be said for what could seem mundane in the simple walking with God.  I’m thinking about this in relation to my day yesterday that had some interesting walking in it.  When I think back over the walking I did yesterday, it had some very helpful experiences:

  • Destination – I walked a lot to get to various places like showing up for interviews, meeting with people, getting lunch, catching airplanes to get home and walking to my car in the snow. Let’s appreciate that walking with God is the incremental progress we experience with God, as we walk out God’s purposes and blueprint in our lives, one step and one day at a time.  Walking with God can lead us through all kinds of environments and encounters
  • Supernatural – in the midst of walking yesterday, I bumped into a guy whom I’ve never met and he proceeded to speak to me from God, telling me things that I’d only talked about in my solo quiet time with God. It was a really powerful experience for me, in the midst of walking to my next appointment.  I’m very grateful that God does supernatural stuff in the midst of what can seem mundane.
  • Communication – there’s much to be said for walking and talking, which I’ve found to be one of the best contexts for dialoguing with God. Indeed, when I was growing up, we used to sing a hymn with these words, “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, . . .”  As I age, I find these words to resonate in my soul as a counter-point to the cacophony of noise and activities that try to overflow the divine limits in 24 hour increments.  There is much value for walking and talking with God throughout each day!
  • Heat – it was snowing and cold yesterday when I was waiting to catch the bus from the airport back to my car. The longer I stood in line, immobile, the colder I became.  So I decided to pace up and down the sidewalk as I waited for the bus, keeping warmer than standing still and turning into an icicle.  In a similar way, I think walking with God can keep us warm, active, compassionate and agile.  When we aren’t moving with God, maybe we can get cold, rigid and dull.

When we think about walking, it can seem to be something dull and easy to overlook.  However, let’s remember that walking and talking with God in our day to day living is a really powerful way to grow in knowing God better and more deeply!  Let’s keep walking and talking  🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, 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

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

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

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

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