outlook

Window Washing

I’ve been thinking about some Spring cleaning around our house and this includes some hefty window washing, which isn’t my favorite cleaning activity.  Nevertheless, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me, as I look out the picture window by my morning quiet time chair, our windows desperately need some cleaning attention.

From my point of view, window washing is double work.  When I look at my smudged and dirty picture window, I see the smudges on the inside as well as the dirt and dust accumulated on the outside from the Winter weather.  This also reminds me about some windshield cleaning that I should work on in my car with the same principle.  I’m frequently using windshield washing fluid to clean the outside of my windshield.  But when I take a towel to wipe down the inside of my windshield, I’m often appalled at how dirty the inside can get, although I’m often unaware of the dirt.

This window cleaning necessity can be a parallel with my soul and how my interior can affect my perspective or point of view.  Jesus gives a perfect illustration of this challenge in John 8:1-12, when the Jewish leaders brought Him a woman caught in adultery.  They interrupted Jesus’ teaching in the temple by throwing this woman at Him, shaming and accusing her, demanding that Jesus answer the Mosaic Law, which required that she be stoned for her sinful behavior.  These Jewish leaders were publicly exposing the dirt on this woman (but not the man who had participated in her adultery).

Jesus’ quiet reply to these leaders was a loud depth charge, requiring them to assess their own souls. “He who is without sin can throw the first stone.”  With these few words, Jesus confronted the interior dirt in the souls of these leaders.  In essence, Jesus was requiring the accusing men to take an inventory of their souls before they could externally throw rocks at this “dirty” woman.  In Jesus’ reply to the woman, after the leaders had walked away from recognizing the dirt in their souls, He said that He didn’t accuse her and that she could go free and stop sinning.

This exchange between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, along with her accusers, has caused me to think about my soul and how I see people around me.  For example, I was playing pickleball at a public rec center and found myself thinking critical and judgmental thoughts about some of the players.  I was thinking about how some of them are mean, snooty, aggressive and even hostile.  Suddenly, I felt Holy Spirit confront me with the question:  Is your point of view distorted or dirty because of what’s in your soul, or are these players really as bad or evil as you think?  This question has been echoing in my soul and helping me question the clarity of my perspective.

It seems to me that Jesus is the only “human” who has lived with clear and truthful perspective and He sees us through the lens of genuine love, because Jesus is love.  So if I want my perspective to be clear, clean from the dirt of accusation, deception, condemnation and fear, I need Holy Spirit to help me walk together in truth (because Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth) and I can ask Holy Spirit to pour into my soul genuine love (Romans 5:5), so I can see people around me accurately through the lens of love.

Window cleaning is reminding me that my soul need love cleaning, to wash off the dirt that my humanity can accumulate, unknowingly from listening to the enemy whisper lies and accusations.  Here’s to window and soul washing!

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

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

Why Be Grateful?

I can appreciate that you might think it’s a stupid question to ask, “Why be grateful?”. Obviously, we’re in Thanksgiving week, so it’s season to be thankful and it’s our annual tradition. So Thanksgiving is when we’re supposed to be thankful and it’s easy to go through the customary gratitudes and “check the box” moving along into the Christmas frenzy. But I think we would be wise to pause and do some thinking about being grateful, not just because it’s Thanksgiving.

Why do we need to be thankful?

In one of my all-time favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning, the author tells about one of his experiences in the Holocaust, in a Concentration Camp. Clearly, life in a Concentration Camp was nothing short of an hellacious existence that was inhumane and depraved beyond even animal existence. But in the midst of such depravity, death, deprivation and sheer degeneracy, the author describes an experience where a fellow inmate beckoned his bunkmates to come outside at the end of a torturous day to see the beautiful sky from a glorious sunset. There was gratitude in the author’s mind in this observation, no matter his daily hell. Every time I read this experience, it causes me to pause and reflect. It’s possible to be grateful even in the most barbaric existence.

Furthermore, I’m reminded about the ten lepers Jesus cleansed in Luke 17:11-19. In these verses, we see that this small and tragic community yelled to Jesus from a distance, asking that He’d heal them. These men weren’t allowed to mingle with regular society because leprosy was contagious and incurable at that time, hence the distance. Jesus yelled back to them, that they should go and show themselves to the priests and as they went they were cleansed, according to verse 14. This is a really cool story, even if we stop there. But we see the real gold when one of the ten lepers returns to Jesus and expresses his gratitude. It’s noteworthy that the only healed leper to express thanks was a Samaritan, the group who was looked down on by proper Jews. And Jesus’ reply shows us that He’s disappointed that the other nine lepers didn’t return be express gratitude. Based on Jesus’ response, I understand that God expects me to be grateful, full stop.

So what would hinder us from being grateful? Here are some gratitude obstacles that could be hindrances for you:

  • What I deserve: if you think you’re entitled, then gratitude is often overlooked
  • Negative outlook: if your glass is half full, then you’ll struggle to find things for which to be grateful
  • Too much: when we’re overwhelmed with pressure, demands, abundance, leisure, . . . it’s easy to forget to be grateful
  • Life season: we can grow through really tough seasons when it’s easy and natural to forget to be thankful

So how can we avoid these pitfalls and cultivate gratitude as a lifestyle and not just a season? Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:

  • Make a “Thankful List” everyday with at least 3-5 different things from the preceding day
  • Real-time gratitude: say thank you when people do something nice (even if they can’t hear you) and thank you to God for the daily helps (avoiding a traffic accident, scheduling help, wisdom for a problem, unexpected money or a decrease in a bill, transportation to work, encouragement from a friend, an energy boost when you’re tired, grace in a tense situation, . . . .)
  • Seeing and hearing beauty around you in people, birds, trees, worship songs, Bible verse, clouds, snow, sunset, tasty food, . . . .
  • Thank people for who they are and not just what they do ☺

To that end, I have a great friend who frequently reminds me that gratitude makes everything enough! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 2 comments

3 Keys to Stay Vibrant!!

Yesterday was a very active day for me and super enjoyable!  I had some of the regular work stuff like meetings, emails, phone calls, etc.  But later in the afternoon, my husband & I joined a pickle ball boot camp, beginning to learn some fundamentals of this really fun sport.  And during the evening, I played softball with my church team (we lost but had heaps of fun)!  When I fell asleep, I was very tired and deeply content.  As I reflect on yesterday, here are some keys that could help you to live vibrantly and wholly content:

1 – Keep Moving!!  This applies not only for exercise, but in all areas of our lives.  Exercise in communicating, spiritual growth, community engagement, reading / learning and LOADS more helps us stay vibrant!

2 – Laugh Alot!!  More than anything, I laugh at myself and this helps me alot!  I don’t take myself so seriously and it helps me come to terms with my weaknesses & humanity

3 – Holy Spirit check-in’s:  throughout my day and evening, it was very settling to regularly check in with Holy Spirit for real time adjustments in my attitudes, outlook, conversations, internal audits & rich fellowship.

I sincerely believe that life with Holy Spirit is meant to be vibrant, challenging, fulfilling and transformational!

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

Living in Abundance

I’ve met poor people who are massively generous and I’ve met rich people who are super stingy. And I’ve met folk who are poor and stingy, as well as peeps who are wealthy and generous. So I would suggest that abundance isn’t based on the quantity of our money or size of our bank account.

Instead, let’s consider that abundance is more accurately a reflection of the state of our heart, or our perspective. And with God’s help, we can adjust our outlook to come from an abundant heart. Here could be some helpful actions to facilitate abundance in your life:

  • gratitude makes everything enough and even more! We can find things to be thankful for, regardless of the size or quality
  • be positive by watching for good things, beauty, helpful stuff around you and stuff inside you that’s wonderful
  • encouraging others with sincere compliments, generous and constructive words, along with affirming actions is a wonderful way to reflect internal abundance

Let’s choose to live from abundance today!

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

Project, Function or Person?

I came home yesterday from some travel over the weekend and had some rough interaction with one of my kids. I had reviewed some of their grades and had some email exchanges with a teacher which weren’t pleasant. So when I got home, I was prickly with my kid. And this child pushed back on my prickly with a sizable dose of snarky such that our exchanges weren’t constructive. Short story: I was really ticked off.

Thankfully, I’ve had a mental reset this morning. I see where I was treating my child as a project and function, expecting them to change, be productive and fix their grades. Instead, it would be better had I come home and started from a place of genuine love in my heart rather than treating them like an object or project. Let’s be committed to seeing people instead of outcomes, projects or functions. We can do this because this is how our Heavenly Father sees us, from a heart of genuine love, connection and deep affection 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, 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

A New BED!!!!!

I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!  We are getting a new bed today & this makes me happy for LOTS of reasons:  better sleep, not as stiff, more rest & increased energy.  Our old bed is tired, no pun intended.  We’ve slept on it for countless years, extending it’s life by flipping & rotating the mattress multiple times.  But it’s reached the end of it’s functional life.  I know this because I wake up stiff, often tired, it creaks & it’s saggy in the middle.

There’s lots to be said about sleep & rest.  Indeed, we spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping / resting, so it’s an essential ingredient God has baked into our practical existence.  Here are some things to consider about rest as we head into this weekend:

  • proper alignment:  our backs need to be properly aligned so that we walk without pain & distortion.  In the same say, when we rest in God, we can walk in our daily living, with less pain & distortion.  Sleep & rest is when our backs & walk have the chance to settle into proper alignment
  • better mobility:  with our old bed, I wake up stiff and sore everyday & it takes some time for my muscles to relax in the morning.  When we consistently rest in God, we can have better agility to flow with Holy Spirit throughout the day.  Better rest can mean increased agility 🙂
  • clearer thinking: when I wake up tired, this tells me that my sleep wasn’t restful & this affects my ability to think clearly on any given day.  When my thinking is murky, everything takes more work, my emotions are more challenging, I’m more prone to make bad decisions and my perceptions can be whacky.  But when I’m well rested in my body, mind and heart, everything is more clear & I’m better able to perceive truth, which is an essential ingredient for effective living 🙂

So here’s to getting a new bed!  I’m also hopeful that you’ll make some time this weekend to be at rest 🙂

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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, values, watch, 0 comments

A Little More

Traveling around the world, I get to see lots of distinct preferences. For example, in Bangladesh they tend to enjoy spicy food & sometimes it’s REALLY spicy! In Brazil, they prefer community over individuality & the German language prefers precision over approximation.
But there’s one universal constant: everyone craves genuine love & I suspect this is by Divine design.
So if the universal constant throughout humanity is the desire for genuine love, it begs the question about how we can express genuine love.
When I think about expressing genuine love, I almost immediately feel inadequate & incapable. But if I think about expressing genuine love just a little more, then I’m not as discouraged. Here are some possibilities for consideration:

  • Affirmation & encouragement: recognize & vocalize something good to total strangers with sincerity
  • Gratitude: expressing thank you is a polite essential for genuine love
  • I see you: not the exterior trappings of wealth, success, begging, poverty, dirt or broken
  • Listen: hearing someone, being interested & asking questions is a way to be present & express concern, attention & genuine love
  • Borrow love: there are always people who we find challenging to love. So think in terms of borrowing love from someone you know & letting that shape your mindset for the tricky people.
  • Ask for more love – let’s never believe that we have enough genuine love.  We exist, in part, for God to love not only us but also through us!
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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, nightcare, prayer, relationships, saving moses, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 2 comments