reflect

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

3 Ways to Grow from Feedback

In the recent days, I’ve had lots of feedback on sermons, writing, clothing, makeup, communication styles, etc.  In general, I much prefer the positive affirmation in contrast to stuff that’s more critical.  But alas, my potential to grow and improve is higher with the critical feedback more than only positive affirmation, with a few important ingredients:

  1. Be committed to growing & improving.  In darwinian speech we evolve through change or we become extinct with stagnation.  And no, I’m not a Darwinist so don’t get jittery 🙂
  2. The motive for feedback isn’t the main issue.  Sometimes people have good motives and sometimes people are trying to hurt us with their feedback.  What you do with the feedback is more important than the motive in which it’s given
  3. Don’t let the communication style distract you.  The way in which some people communicate is prickly on a good day.  But no matter how something is delivered, we can almost always find something helpful to grow and improve.

Finally and most importantly, stay in love with Jesus & stay true to His divine purposes.  Doing these two things aligns us for God’s participation in our lives to make lemonade out of lemons, based on Romans 8:28 🙂

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

Truth Serum

Did you ever see a movie where they used truth serum to interrogate someone?  Supposedly, the truth serum  thing is a hoax or urban legend but wants to find out??  So no matter what you think about truth serum, truth is massively important!

  • Truth guards us from deception & ultimately destruction.
  • Truth helps us make healthy decisions.
  • Truth is a beacon of light when life can seem foggy, murky, unclear or even dark.

To this end, Jesus calls Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth & Jesus tells us that Holy Spirit leads us into truth. So let’s remember that Holy Spirit is our best truth serum!

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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

The Accidental Hypocrite

I’ve never met a person who willingly nor joyfully self-identified as a hypocrite.  Indeed, hypocrite is a label we give other people, as we are grateful to not be “that kind of person.”

But I can’t help but feel, sometimes, that I am an accidental hypocrite.  I see this in myself when I:

  • judge someone for being intolerant
  • am disdainful of someone who seems insincere
  • allow myself to be critical but reject constructive input

There are lots of ways that we can be a hypocrite, whether purposeful or accidental.  And I would propose that an effective antidote for hypocrisy is humility.  While hypocrisy can flourish in the comparison fertilizer, humility is the truth serum that helps us appreciate that we are each struggling in unique ways and it’s better to encourage than compare.  Just a little food for thought for your wonderful weekend 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, 0 comments

Lessons from Softball :)

The snow was sifting slowly to the ground and my breath was forming mini-clouds to welcome the tiny flakes on their descent.  This is a friendly way to say that last night was very cold for playing softball.  To make it even more thrilling and chilling, we had a double header & our final game concluded just before 10pm.  I felt like a popsicle as my feet shuffled me to the car.  I learned some very good lessons from last night’s adventure:

  • have FUN!!  Despite the cold, snow and losing both games, it’s fun to get outside, banter, encourage and move my aging body for a little exercise!
  • look to serve:  our team joined a rec league, so it’s not highly competitive.  This makes it all the more enjoyable to serve the other team and look for ways to be helpful – carrying gear, collecting foul balls, sharing equipment, etc
  • be encouraging more than competitve:  this is a big one for me.  If I go down the competitive trail (which is more my natural instinct), it’s less enjoyable than when I stay in an encouragment groove.

God can teach us many wonderful lessons, using a variety of contexts and circumstances.  Let’s be willing and eager learners!

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

Are You Ready for Easter?

Easter is just around the corner & maybe you’re scurrying to finish up this week, to get a few things done before the festivities of Good Friday & Easter.  Here’s a helpful resource to prepare for Easter.  This is short & really good to share with your friends!  🙂

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

Command Sabbath

“Shalom Sabbath!” Having recently returned from Israel, the whole Sabbath thing, taking a day of rest once a week to honor God, is relatively fresh. In Israel, the Sabbath is super important! They organize their elevators to comply with Sabbath regulations, there’s meal guidelines, work closes down for a day & it seems like the entire nation takes a pause. I found the whole experience to be curious & refreshing.

So yesterday, I experienced kind of a “command Sabbath.” We had a really big snowstorm here in Denver, so my kids were home from school & I rested for much of the day. Since I don’t often pause for an entire day, it was an interesting experience. I appreciated getting some extra sleep, along with forcing my mind to disconnect from work stuff. It was nice to enjoy some quiet reading and even catch a great college basketball game!

The “command Sabbath” reminds me that what I do is never as important to God as who I am. And having a day of rest makes me want to be all the more productive today!! 🙂

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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

Not Ready

The week between Christmas & New Year’s feels like a “not ready” week, maybe because of all the festivities, bustle & frenzy leading up to Christmas, . . . . . And then we pause 🙂

And for such a pause, I’m abundantly grateful. I don’t have to get ready for anything – no dinner guests, no events, no sermons, no parties, no gift wrapping or last minute presents to buy. In this week, it’s ok to be “not ready.” So I appreciate the opportunity to lounge in pjs, take time for reflection, watch birds and squirrels eat berries off the tree outside my window, get my vacuum into the shop for a much needed tune-up, sleep in a little bit and be entirely comfortable with being “not ready.”

Maybe this idea goes back to the concept of Sabbath, when we pause from our work and take a day of rest. I sincerely believe that such a pause is an essential ingredient for growing in our intimacy with God 🙂

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

What is Wisdom?

There’s lots of stuff in the Bible about wisdom, even a whole book, Proverbs, that’s devoted to the topic.  It’s also mentioned in the NT a fair amount, like in James 1, where it says that we should ask for wisdom.  So given the frequency of this topic, perhaps it would be helpful to think about what it is, along with what it is not.

In the “wisdom is not” column, here are some things to remember.  Wisdom is not:

  • merely information;  facts, formulas, information and details
  • advanced degrees, memorization or books read

In the other column that defines wisdom, based on the Bible, here’s what we can say.  Wisdom is:

  • grounded in “fearing God”;  this means that having a healthy and robust respect for God in our lives is the pathway to facilitating wisdom
  • discerning the times and seasons in our lives
  • appreciating what is appropriate and helpful in various situations and events
  • recognizing when to speak and when to listen

Lets always be ready to get more wisdom & let wisdom be active in our daily living!

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