season

The Jesus Thing

Now that we’ve entered December, the Christmas festivities are in full swing.  There are parties to attend, cookies to bake, packages to wrap, trees to decorate, concerts to enjoy, potlucks to cook for, school programs to assist with, . . . .  and it seems to me that the list is endless.  The truth be told, when I hear the word, “Christmas” it makes me tired before anything starts, maybe like Pavlov’s dogs who salivated when they heard a bell chime.   To make it more challenging for me, I have lots of friends and family members who love the Christmas festivities and countdown the days until the frolicking can commence.  I watch my friends and family with curiosity, perplexed and awed by their ease and grace to enjoy this season.

From their point of view, sometimes they think I’m like the Christmas Grinch, as it may seem like I’d prefer to find a quiet cave and disappear from the noise, obligations, hubbub and seasonal delicious treats.  And it’s not that I don’t like the yummy food, beautiful music or serene snow that can christen this season.

My deal is that it’s easy for Jesus’ birth to get swallowed up in the season’s bustle, hustle, duties, celebrations, cookies, wrapping paper, gifts, decorations, glitz and glam.  So I find it challenging to stay focused on Jesus in the midst of this hectic season.  In the past, I’ve tried to keep this season less hectic so I could focus on Jesus better.  That’s been a really constructive tactic to help me keep Jesus in the Christmas crosshairs.

For whatever reason, this year seems different.  I was looking at my December calendar to find some empty space for lunch with a friend and I was disheartened to see almost every day booked.  How did I let this month get away from me and it’s just the beginning of the month?  Where did Jesus go for me in this month?  Maybe I should call this month my Jesus Month instead of Christmas, as a purposeful reminder for my focus.

And maybe it would be helpful to think about Mary, Jesus’ mother, this month as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  She was obviously the key player for Jesus’ birth, after she was overshadowed by Holy Spirit, nine months earlier.  So when I think about Mary giving birth to Jesus in this month, I’m reminded about what it was like for me in the last month of pregnancy with my three kids.  I was tired and trying to keep my focus on the finish line of giving each of my babies a healthy and safe delivery / introduction to their separate existence.

I suspect that Mary, being away from her family to register in Bethlehem with Joseph her husband, maybe she was a little jittery or possibly overwhelmed with the unknown (child birth) looming in her immediate future.  Or maybe Holy Spirit helped her all the way through her pregnancy, so that she didn’t deliver Jesus in a completely frazzled and unraveled experience.

So when I think about Holy Spirit helping Mary through her pregnancy to deliver the only begotten Son of God, it encourages me to focus on Holy Spirit to help me through this season to stay focused on Jesus.

This is my prayer for you, as you finish this blog.  May Holy Spirit overshadow you throughout this season so that Jesus’ birth is fresh in your heart and outlook, not just on Christmas day, but for each day that leads to December 25th.  Let’s remember that Christmas is the Jesus thing 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Christmas, cooking, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, 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, 0 comments

The Encouragement Factor

You can do it!!”  When we do difficult stuff & go through challenging seasons, receiving encouragement can be really helpful!  I see a great example of the power of encouragement when Jonathan went out to David, when David was discouraged & really pressed to the wall. Jonathan’s dad, Saul, was chasing David & trying to kill him, so I suspect that Jonathon’s encouragement was all the more helpful to David. Basically, Jonathan told David that David would become king & Jonathan was very supportive of David.

When someone is in a tough spot, seems discouraged, going through a challenging season or is experiencing setbacks & hardships, let’s be committed to encourage them!  Speaking life & giving hope is what God does for us & can do through us as well!

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

Too Much Gratitude

I don’t like cinnamon & this is only a recent development. Maybe I  don’t like cinnamon because at this time year, everything seems to have cinnamon: coffee, ice cream, apple cider, pies, smoothies, etc.
So it’s possible to overdose cinnamon, but I  don’t think it’s possible to overdo gratitude. Maybe we should think in terms of spreading thanksgiving throughout the year & not only a seasonal overdose. Feel free to leave a comment to express something or someone for which you’re grateful!

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

Let’s Practice

Since we are really close to Halloween, that means that Thanksgiving is fast approaching. So let’s get an early jump on being thankful. By starting to practice gratitude now, we’ll be certain to have maximum proficiency by the time Thanksgiving lands. Another benefit to practicing gratitude now is that we increase our chances of creating a lifestyle of thanksgiving rather than the seasonal experience. Finally, the Bible tells us to be thankful, not only for the obvious & good stuff, but also for things that are difficult. Let’s be sure to practice Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God

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

Jesus at Work

  
Happy December to you!! This month can overflow with festivities, activities, pressures & responsibilities on the back drop of celebrating Jesus’ birth. So I like to have some fun with the premise of looking for Jesus, everywhere. 
With this premise in mind, I’ll be blogging about looking for & finding Jesus throughout this holiday season. Some blogs will be playful & kind of dorky, but the challenge I put before you & me is to keep looking for Jesus, a central priority, in this busy & demanding season. Love the reason, Jesus, and manage the season 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, Genuine love, grow, Holy Spirit, Jesus Chix, listen, living, prayer, relationships, saving moses, seeing Jesus, spiritual, travel, values, watch, 0 comments

Christmas cranky

Christmas brings out the best & the worst in us.  We tend to be more generous & compassionate but at the same time more impatient and cranky.  Christmas motivates us to see the needs of people around us, like Saving Moses, but because of the increased pressure & work that can come with this season, we can also be more self-centered and less flexible.  In the next few weeks, I’m planning to do some really practical & honest blogs about dealing with Christmas.  Below are a few ideas about handling cranky people in the Christmas season:

  • remember that Christmas isn’t an easy season for many people to navigate (deaths in family, difficult memories, loneliness, financial pressures, etc)
  • if someone is cranky, don’t let their behavior & attitude infect your words or attitude
  • plan ahead to be extra patient, gracious & kind (pre-planning our attitudes is a great tool to have available when the need arises)
  • gain satisfaction from being generous & kind, not from the person’s reaction (internal versus external fulfillment)
  • keep Jesus at the center – full stop.
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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, Genuine love, grow, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, saving moses, seeing Jesus, values, 0 comments

Attitude Effects Altitude

If the truth be known, I have to really mind my attitude in the holiday season. Unfortunately, I find it easy to get cranky, impatient & snarky. I tend to try & justify this stuff saying I’m tired, I have lots of extra work, etc. But I want to do better this year & I want to manage my attitude more than letting it manage me. For me, the best way to accomplish this is to ask God for help as frequently as possible, along w memorizing a few Bible verses. Attitude affects altitude 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Christmas, family, Genuine love, grow, Holy Spirit, listen, living, Martha, prayer, saving moses, seeing Jesus, spiritual, values, 2 comments

catching your breath

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve managed this week or if this week has managed me.  At this point, it kind of feels like I might be a victim of this week’s crazy, busy & seasonal madness but there’s a chance that I can still win ,)  

If you’re also feeling the similar seasonal pressures and demands, hopefully the thoughts below can give some peace:

  • God loves you and nothing can increase or decrease that love
  • Jesus, the Prince of Peace, still calms storms, heals hurts & provides essentials
  • there is no hardship or struggle that is bigger than God
  • not everything is mission critical ,)
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Posted by sarahbowling, 1 comment

’tis the season to be busy

 My husband & I were discussing our family’s schedule for the next 2 weeks & simply put, its a BUSY season.  When I looked up the word busy in the thesaurus, here are some of the words that I found & they seem fairly accurate:  occupied, active, engaged, unavailable, full.  My challenge is that when I get “busy”, I tend to become less present in my relationships & it seems like I can be very fragmented – little pieces of me spread everywhere.

But here’s my thinking about this season & a possible solution to the frenzy potential:  If I can make myself “present” to God (offer myself to Him as a gift / sacrifice), then I trust that He will structure my time, the things I need to get done & the energy to do His work.  It has been my experience that when I remain present with God throughout the various activities & demands in my life, I have more peace, I’m more productive & my relationships are less shakey.  I like the practice of integrating God throughout each day, activity, conversation & chore – seems like I’m less “busy” when I do this 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, Holy Spirit, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, 0 comments