love

What Is Love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do you remember the Valentine’s Day parties in Elementary school?  I’m not sure why, but these parties stand out in my memory, not only for the candy or sugar hearts or oversweet punch, but for the cards and feelings that ranged from warm fuzzies to disappointment or indifference.  I also enjoyed getting the themed variety mini-valentine cards that I’d carefully select to be friendly and lite, but not too sappy.  I figured if I wanted to add any emotional content I could sign, “Love Sarah” and not just “Sarah.”   Of course I had classmates who were very emotional and they always signed, “Love _________.”

I always wondered what these classmates meant when they signed Love with their name.  Did they mean that they loved me?  Did they mean that they loved everyone?  Did they mean that they had warm and fuzzy feelings?  Did they sign love with their name because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do on Valentine’s Day?  And why sign your name with “Love” if you don’t mean it?  Clearly, I had a lot of thoughts about the “love” stuff and felt that this word had an immense amount of weight and importance to it.  Consequently, I was very careful about using the “love” word.

I still feel strongly about this word, regardless of it’s popular usage on Valentine’s Day or how it can be casually used for stuff like chocolate, Chuck Taylor shoes, coffee / tea, reading, Chris Pratt, flowers, NCAA basketball, fireplaces, beaches, Chik Filet, fast cars, etc.  I’m also not overly enamored with the general celebration of Valentine’s Day constricted to merely a romantic perspective of love.  Indeed, this holiday is named after a Christian priest in the 3rd century who was martyred for his devotion to Jesus.

So if Valentine’s Day is when we celebrate love, it seems appropriate to ask, “What is Love?”  I’d propose that Genuine Love is Who God is, based on 1 John 4:8 and Genuine Love is the core motive in God’s choices, priorities, actions and outlook.  To that end, God’s essential mindset toward you is grounded in love, full stop.  This says to us that the original and most accurate love story is experienced in God loving you.

So here are some interesting questions for you to consider for Valentine’s Day:  Do you let God love you?  Do you hide from Genuine Love or see yourself as disqualified or unworthy?  Do you believe that you deserve for God to love you because you’re good or because of your successes and achievements or because you haven’t screwed up too much?

Maybe Valentine’s Day is when we allow God to fully be Genuine Love to us, not allowing ourselves to receive calibrated love by our actions or “goodness.”  This reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

So let’s choose to celebrate Genuine Love on Valentine’s Day!  You are deeply loved and treasured!!

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Posted by sarahbowling in fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, values, watch, 0 comments

Unconditional Conditions

Happy Superbowl Victory to the Chiefs!  I wanted to add my congratulations for a great game!

On another subject that’s not quite as celebratory, I have some friends who have pre-existing physical maladies, that make it difficult and even impossible for them to get health insurance.  It’s extremely challenging and discouraging to them for lots of reasons, like managing the day to day health struggles, getting healthcare that’s helpful and say nothing of figuring out possible remedies or cures, along with proper diagnosis, etc.  The health insurance system in America is fraught with dysfunction, loopholes, service gaps, frustrating policies, endless bureaucracy and enough paperwork to choke a horse (since horses eat so much paperwork).

Ultimately, I’m a very simple-minded person when It comes to health care.  If I’m sick and I need medical attention, I want informed care so I can get better.  And it’s true that I have lots of pre-existing conditions that could include mental deficiencies, forgetting to take my vitamins, some residue from previous injuries and bad eating decisions during international travel that can make my digestion and adventure from time to time.

I think the same is true for each of us in relation to God’s unconditional love for us.  We each have pre-existing conditions that could disqualify us from receiving horizontal love in human expression and confines.  But God’s love for each of us is unconditional and we don’t have pre-existing conditions that disqualify us from God loving us.  There can be physical conditions that a health insurance company or doctor won’t treat.  But there’s no human condition that God won’t love, for the simple and profound truth that God is love.  You can’t have a pre-exisiting condition that will exempt nor exclude you from God loving you.  While it’s possible that we might agree with knowing that God loves us, but living in this reality might be a totally different life.

When I think about this for myself, if I was convinced of God’s love for me, infused into my very essence with God’s love, perhaps some things would be different.  Maybe I would have a different outlook on life, maybe my words and attitudes would have more grace, forgiveness and patience, maybe I would be more generous and maybe compassion would be more instinctual rather than purposeful and conscientious.  Possibly the most soothing reality of living in total certainty of God loving me is being still with and receptive to God’s presence, without condition, qualification, calibration, breathless activity or wearisome striving.

For me to live out genuine love in my daily horizontal existence, it’s very helpful, even essential, to continually come back to God loving me for my default existence.  Neither you nor I have pre-existing conditions that will ever exclude us from God’s love, based on Romans 8:35 which says that nothing separates us from God’s love!  When I think in this way, it helps me lavishly live love, unlimited and unconstrained!  Let’s not let our pre-existing conditions be hindrances for unconditional love since this is Who God is – Genuine Love!!  We can see examples of this in Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4, the woman caught in adultery in John 8, Zaccheaus the tax collector in Luke 19 and lots more!

 

 

 

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, thought life, uncertainty, values, 1 comment

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

Celebrate Genuine Love!

Being that today is Halloween, the last day of October, it’s a great day to celebrate genuine love!  I say this because Halloween was always a scary holiday to me, with all the skeletons, tombstones, ghosts and macabre images.  When I was a kid, this day often left me fearful.  In contrast, 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear.  So instead of accentuating fear, today I choose to celebrate genuine love!

Here are a few suggestions that might help you celebrate genuine love today:

  • Look for people to encourage throughout today – what they’re wearing, nice hair, friendly smile, beautiful eyes, witty wisdom & LOADS more
  • Let Jesus love you throughout today – reject the enemy’s lies that say you’re inadequate, have no hope, going to fail, or that you’re a mutant
  • Smile & watch for gratitude opportunities – clean air, warm sun, nice coffee / tea, clean water, beautiful trees & HEAPS more!!

Happy Genuine Love day to you!!

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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, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Learning to Love Well

Hello from Dubai!  What an interesting city & diverse population!  Our guide told us that about 85% of this city is not local & only 15% are native born. So I’ve been here less than 12hours & I’ve met folk from Bangladesh, Greece, India, Afghanistan, Egypt & lots of other places!  With such diversity, it’s helpful to be friendly, smile & be a learner. It seems to me that when I’m open to learn, that often helps me to love & in particular learning from people who are very different from me. 

Some thoughts for loving well:

  • See people & not objects, projects nor  functions 
  • Serve & smile
  • Flexible let’s me adapt to enjoy & thereby love better

Here are some interesting pix from Dubai today 🙂

 

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

Shock Value

There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking.  It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.

And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut.  For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day.  Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:

  • He ate with sinners.
  • He associated with tax collectors.
  • He kept company with the irresuptable.

All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens.  And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love.  Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂

Have a happy weekend!

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Posted by Sarah in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, Jesus Chix, listen, living, missions, nightcare, prayer, relationships, saving moses, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

Those Yucky People

“Why is He eating & drinking with sinners and tax collectors?”  This is what the scribes of the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples in Mark 2:16, when Jesus got all cozy with these less than upright scum.  The tax collectors and sinners were considered “yucky people” by the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day.  So no wonder they questioned Jesus’ decision to not only associate, but also get cozy with such reprobates.

And I’m so thankful for His reply in Mark 2:17, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick;  I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Thankfully, Jesus has never required us to get everything clean and pristine in our lives before He would hang out with us.  Not only does He accept us as we are, but He makes us better because of His genuine love for us.  In the same way, let’s be certain that no one in our lives gets the “yucky” treatment, being ostracized, belittled or shamed.  Indeed, Jesus loves us and wants to love through us!

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

911

For many Americans, today is a memorable day because of the events from 2001.  I suspect that many of us remember where we were & what we were doing when the two planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC. There are probably several other monumental events in your life that various triggers that evoke various memories & feelings.

While it’s important to keep these national events memorialized, let’s never trivialize the eternal work that Jesus does in our lives.  His work includes not only our eternal salvation, but also the daily experience we can have with God’s genuine love not only to us, but also through us.  Let’s be certain to remember God’s continuing work in our lives, so that God can express genuine love through us to the people around us!  The world is living in a continual state of 911, making emergency calls that only God’s genuine love can answer & resolve!

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

Who Is Different?

When I was growing up, my dad would take me to garage sales, art galleries, museums, estate sales, hospital visits, nursing homes, etc with an occassional stop at Arby’s for a jamocha shake & potatoe cakes – yum!!  So during my childhood, I was around lots of people who were very different than me.  It helped me a lot that my dad was very personable & never knew a stranger because I was realtively quiet & reflective.

As an adult, I also have the privilege of getting to meet lots of people from all walks of life.  I meet poor folk & prosperous folk, educated & uneducated people, polite & rude folk, insightful & obtuse . . . . Some people are alot like me & we see life from a similar perspective.  In contrast, I’m also around alot of people who are very different from me & I love this!!  What is wonderful about each person that I meet, is that they are deeply valuable, highly esteemed and massively loved by our Heavenly Father.  Let’s be intentional that we cultivate connections with people are different from us & make the committment to express genuine love regardless of our commonalities or differences!

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