perspective

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

Divine Provision

“What do you need?”

Last week, I returned from a whirlwind journey to Thailand and Bangladesh with Saving Moses.  It was a phenomenal trip, getting loads of things accomplished, meeting new people, catching up with established friendships, seeing the work we’re currently doing and looking at possible new places.  The trip was very successful in the sense of accomplishing lots of work.  In terms of the physical and emotional grind for me, it was a very difficult trip, with lots of overnight flights, significant time changes, funky food (which I LOVE) and seeing and experiencing very horrific things relating to babies and toddlers.  By the time I landed back in the US, I was entirely exhausted, having travelled non-stop for more than 30 hours, 5 flights and navigating a 12 hour time change.

This isn’t a “poor me” blog, but rather I hope to give you some fresh perspective on God providing for us.  When we think about the question, “What do you need?”, it seems to me that we’re often quick to answer with some kind of money response.  In our answer, it’s often  automatic that we think about paying off various loans, paying our bills, buying something necessary or helpful.  But if you asked me what I needed last week, I would have immediately replied that I needed time and rest.

I needed to catch my breath and that’s exactly what God gave me last week.  When I landed in the US, my schedule was organized such that I had two nights away from my home to accomplish some important business meetings, which weren’t long or grueling.  This time was massively helpful for my body and sleep to make some initial adjustments for getting back into my home culture and time zone.

In relation to divine provision, it says in Philippians 4:19, “God supplies all of our needs, according to His riches in glory, . . . “  This verse can encourage us in several ways.  To begin, it’s very helpful to establish and remind ourselves that God is our provider and the ultimate source for everything we need.  To this end, we must consistently remember to see God as our provider and not our paycheck, job, intellectual abilities, relationships, physical strength, etc.

Additionally God can give us what we need in lots of different ways: money through our job, wisdom through a conversation, book, blog, podcast, time through a cancelled appointment, creative solutions to a problem and inner strength to carry on.  How God supplies our needs is best left in God’s hands for God’s methods.

Finally, it gives me great confidence and comfort to recognize the divine timing element for divine provision.  I bring this to your attention because of God providing a ram in the thicket for Abraham at the exact moment of his greatest need, in Genesis 22:10-13.  The timing element was very clear to me last week, when God gave me some breathing room to recover from a very intense and effective trip.

Regardless of what you need, make the decision to keep your eyes focused on God and choose to trust that God is good, timely, creative, loving and abundant in divine provision!

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

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

That’s Shocking!!

Getting a phone call from my kid’s school can be a shocking experience, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not so good.  It can also be shocking to hear about a friend going through a financial or health crisis, when you may have thought that everything with them was smoothy groovy. I like good shocking news and I dislike bad shocking news, much like you.  So I loved getting the unexpected news earlier this year about Saving Moses receiving some unexpected funding, but I very much disliked the shocking experience of dropping my daughter off for college this Fall and driving away from her in a puddle of tears.

 

When we receive shocking news, go through alarming experiences, or observe something that’s startling, how do we handle that?  How can we do this with grace and poise while seeing God’s sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty?

 

Stepping into experiences and situations that are unexpected can be massively challenging.  For some of us who enjoy adventure, maybe the unexpected goes through the “fun and new” filter.  For those of us who crave routine and stability, shocking news or experiences can be extremely difficult to navigate!  So no matter if you love adventure and new stuff or if you crave predictable and routine, I firmly believe that we can find help with Jesus, regardless of the preferences of our personality.

 

Consider for a moment, the shock that Jesus’ disciples experienced in John 4 from observing Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman.  Jesus’ behavior was totally unexpected because of the social norms of that day, keeping a strict separation between men and women conversing with each other unless they were married or connected in a familial context.  To add more surprise to the disciples’ observation, it was highly unusual for Jews and Samaritans to have casual conversations because of the hostility that existed between these ethnic groups.  The disciples were shocked by Jesus’ behavior!

 

Additionally, the townspeople were shocked to see the raving lunatic, who lived naked in the graveyard and was untamable, sitting fully sane and clothed talking with Jesus in Mark 5.  The townspeople were so stunned from seeing the crazy man made sane, that they asked Jesus to go away from their town (maybe also because the herd of pigs jumped off a nearby cliff and drown in the Sea of Galilee).

 

In both of these scenarios, Jesus is the common denominator for the disciples’ shock.  And in both of these scenarios, two people are drastically changed because of their encounters with Jesus, regardless of the spectators and bystanders who might have disapproved of Jesus’ choices.

 

As we think about stuff that can be shocking in our lives, let’s do a couple of things that could make such surprises constructive.  Here are some helpful suggestions:

  1. Keep Jesus in the middle of your thoughts and feelings when shocking things happen. It helps me when I remember that nothing surprises Jesus.
  2. In the middle of anything that’s shocking, be sure to talk with Jesus, letting Him know of your surprise, feelings, uncertainty, etc.
  3. Decide to trust that Jesus can make seemingly bad or difficult things into fertilizer and something beneficial and/or beautiful

 

As you finish reading this blog, I pray that you keep your focus on Jesus regardless of whatever may be surprising to you.  And I pray that Jesus’ peace will guard your heart in mind, so that fear, worry, panic and stress don’t hijack your soul.  Remember, nothing catches Jesus by surprise J

 

 

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, listen, living, prayer, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, 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

4 Keys to Intentional Living

“Let’s Do It!!!”  This is my impulsive reply to the suggestion to go snowboarding today, even though there’s not enough snow, the lines are stupid long, there’s like one run open and I have more than enough work that needs to accomplished today.  So the intentional reply should be, “Man that sounds like a blast!  But if I wait, the snow will be better, more runs will be open and I’ll have more fun if I choose to skip my impulse reaction today.” And still, it sounds like lots of fun to throw caution to the wind 🙂

There’s a chick in the Bible whom I greatly admire because she was more intentional than impulsive.  This is Abigail, the wife of Nabal, the jerk.  When we first meet Abigail, she is purposefully gathering loads of provisions to bring to David because her foolish husband was self-absorbed and hostile.  Nabal had refused to give David & his men food and assistance, even though David had been kind to Nabal’s shepherds.  So David had determined to repay Nabal evil for his unkind reply.

Into this toxic mix steps Abigail, who intentionally brings supplies to David, acknowledges her husband’s foolish behavior and prevents David from making a disasterous impulsive decision.  Abigail brings heaps of provisions to David, without telling her husband.  And when she returns home, Nabal is drunk, so that could be the perfect time to tell him what she did!  But again, Abigail is intentional about how and when she communicates with Nabal, waiting until the next morning when he’s sober.  Once Abigail tells Nabal what she’s done, the Bible says that his heart is turned to stone, he dies shortly thereafter & David nabs Abigail to be his wife.

Abigail is intentional in lots of ways that could also be helpful to us in our modern living.  Here are some things for your consideration about doing life with intentionality:

  1. External assessment:  what is going on around you, in your immediate vacinity & the broader world?  How might these events and situations be affecting you?  Abigail assessed what was happening with David, along with determining what her husband had done.
  2. Internal assessment:  what’s inside you, what do you want and what are your motives?  Sometimes we’re unaware of our core motives and what we want.  This can cause us to make impulsive decisions without considering the results.  When we look at Abigail, she wanted to prevent destruction from coming to her house, as well as preventing David from doing something he would later regret. She sat with her motives before acting impulsively & maybe lashing out at her husband.
  3. God’s input:  what does God want and what would be God’s best for this situation or season in your life?  Although we don’t read of any explicit input from God to Abigail in the Bible, her actions reflect God’s heart of compassion, grace, forgiveness, intervention and generosity.
  4. Course of Action:  what actions could you take that would best support God’s design and character?  When I look at Abigail’s decisions:  she chooses to be generous, she chooses to interrupt David’s wrath and retribution, she chooses to communicate with her husband when he can best absorb her actions and she chooses to protect her household from Nabal’s foolish behavior.

These helpful keys, when applied into daily living, can prevent us from making impulsive & possibly foolish decisions.  These keys can help us be intentional and more thoroughly aligned with God’s purposes and designs in our lives.

So based on these helpful pointers, I’m deciding to not go snowboarding today.  Instead, I’ll get my board waxed and the edges sharpened so that when I go, I can have double the fun ,)

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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

Is It Better?

In Cambodia, every year I come to the same neighborhood to check in on some of my friends. Last year when I popped in, I was shocked to see the whole place had been demolished. Furthermore, all of my friends had been relocated several blocks away & now they are living in tin shacks rather than the wood lean-tos precariously perched on rotten wood planks & piers.

So this year, when I visited my friends in their tin shacks I was asking myself if this is a better arrangement?

When we think about change, some of us are more nimble with change & others of us struggle to navigate new stuff. But in order for something to be “better,” I would suggest that it’s helpful to consider our perspective.  If we stay anchored in the past, it can be difficult to see change as “better.”  If we look for the negative in the change, we will most certainly find negative. And maybe it would be helpful to consider that change is one of the methods God uses to help us grow.

Where my friends live now, in some respects, is much better than the past.  But they still face the daily choice to make the best of what they have. This holds true for us as well 🙂

After:

 

Before

 

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

Waiting for Change

I would like to see some changes in my life with stuff like losing some weight, being more steady with exercise, having more patience with my kids, being less skittery about meeting new people, etc.  With some of these things, I need to take the proverbial bull by the horns & get after it.

But some changes take time & require me to wait. With some changes, I’ve learned that when I meddle & tinker with the stuff that needs to change, my efforts only make things worse.  And if you’re a “make it happen” person, then “wait” is the very close relative to other four letter cuss words.

Here are some benefits to waiting:

  • Slow change often lasts longer than quick changes;
  • the Bible says, “In patience, posses your soul”;
  • Sometimes our wisdom grows in the waiting time

Have a fantastic weekend!

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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, 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