spiritual

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

Appetite Driven Consumption

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, there’s a good chance that you & I will be eating some tasty food, along with second’s & possibly third’s. It’s also likely that you’ll skip some food that’s not in your favorite list. For me, I’ll take a pass on the cranberry relish but maybe double up on my mom’s chorizo stuffing 🙂
With the quantity of food that’s available tomorrow, let’s consider that our flesh appetites, left unchecked, can be highly destructive.  As we are being thankful in this season, let’s also remember to cultivate or appetite for spiritual food, like daily Bible & prayer time!

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

Watch OUT!!!!!

Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.

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

periscope vision

I’ve been enjoying the Spring weather & trying to take a daily walk to improve my physical & mental health.  It’s nice to enjoy some sunshine, fresh air and feet on the ground.  While my body is definitely grounded during these daily walks, my mind tends to wander to various topics:  kids, work, schedules, prayers, writing, etc.  Some of my thoughts can be healthy & constructive, but some of my thoughts not so much.

I was reminded today about setting my mind above and not below from Colossians 3:2 & Philippians 4:7-8.  I think our thoughts can be kind of like fish:

  • bottom feeders who scavenge off the dirt and refuse at the lowest levels
  • horizontal eaters who forage through their daily living, focus set throughout this horizontal world
  • flying fish who sail above the average existence and get to see things from a vertical rather than horizontal perspective

Let’s keep our minds fixed above & not dwelling on the average or below average existence!

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

Going to the Dentist

I’ve got my kids at the dentist for their regular checkup. We’re all hopeful for a no-cavity report, but that’s a stretch with 3kids & 96 total teeth (I think). We do this wonderful appointment twice a year & we cross our fingers, hoping for good outcomes. 
Sometimes, people treat church like the dentist – a twice yearly visit, hoping for painless, quick & uplifting. Alas, dental hygiene is kind of like spiritual hygiene. Weekly visits, daily Bible time & occasional retreats often yield healthy spiritual growth. If plaque is like sin, then steady prayer & Bible time would be like daily flossing & brushing. Let’s stay the course until Christ be formed within us – Galatians 4:19!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, family, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, values, watch, 0 comments

Spiritual Therapy

In the last year, I’ve “enjoyed” two kinds of robust, daily therapy. Last year I did a few months of physical therapy to recover from some shoulder surgery. This year, I get to try brain therapy, which is helping me recover from a concussion a few months back. All of this has made me think about the whole concept of therapy (a word that comes from a Greek word for “heal”).  
Some of the things I’ve learned about therapy are super relevant for our spiritual growth & not just physical / brain therapy. Consider the following:

  • Consistent – doing exercises everyday is essential to getting better / well (growing in our spiritual life happens best when we are most consistent & daily)
  • Small victories – don’t belittle nor shame incremental progress; recovery is often a journey & not just a sprint (sometimes spiritual growth isn’t blatant & obvious)
  • Accountability – my wonderful family has been super encouraging to help me stay the course & not quit (church family & small groups come to mind in relation to spiritual therapy)
  • Constant improvement – seems to me that we either grow or we regress and the idea of treading water isn’t helpful

Let’s keep growing & doing our exercises, physically, mentally & spiritually!  
Our spiritual exercises include daily prayer & Bible time, along w consistent community / fellowship 🙂

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

jetlag

Oh the glories of waking up at midnight with complete alertness!  I’m currently in Ethiopia & it seems like this is a great opportunity for me to catch up with blogging, since my schedule presently is “unbooked” ,)  My internal clock says it’s around 4pm but the external clock here says its about 1am, or something like that.

With that being said, this trip to Ethiopia has really big personal significance for me.  It was here in Ethiopia about 5 years ago that God began to stir in my heart Saving Moses, having met twin newborn girls that had been abandoned on a field.  It has also been my experience that getting to minister in Ethiopia is an extremely unique privilege for me.  There’s something here that is deeply spiritual & personal for me so that whenever I get to visit here, I always seem to come away with greater awareness of God & God’s presence in my life.  So far, this trip has been very engaging & deepening for me with God.

I’ll try to keep you posted on what’s happening here, as the time & sleep allows, but in the meantime, as you read this, I pray that you will sense God’s deep and full love for you! 🙂

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Posted by sarahbowling in Ethiopia, Genuine love, grow, Holy Spirit, Jesus Chix, listen, living, prayer, relationships, saving moses, seeing Jesus, travel, watch, 0 comments

Calories & Consumption :)

While today is Thanksgiving in America & many of us will be consuming high volumes of calories in all kinds of different ways & at all times, I’m remembering that the fundamental purpose of eating is to provide energy. Ultimately, I eat so I can work, function & be productive.
Let’s remember in our high calorie consumption today that we must never neglect to feed our hearts. Indeed, an emaciated heart is unable to live out the purpose for which it was created. Heart food can include prayer, the Bible, spiritual fellowship, some solitude & pause. May your Thanksgiving be truly full of joy in all ways 🙂

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

call of the wild, call of the deep

Its interesting to take a step away & look “objectively” at our desires.  I think that we often get so wrapped up in achieving our desires that we neglect to consider what is motivating the desires that we have.  Sometimes, you can tell alot about a person by the things they like & desire.  For example, when I look at myself lately, I find that I’m very interested in deeper conversations & things that feel shallow to me at the present are very unappealing.  In fact, I had a very superficial & short conversation today w someone that I’ve known for a really long time.  When I got off the phone, almost the entire conversation felt like a slap in the face, I guess because I had been hoping for a discussion at greater depths.

So my take away is this: I think my desire for greater depths could possibly be a beckoning from God to move away from the shallows & into the depths w Him.  Maybe the call of the wild seems wild to my soul because it is God beckoning to the depths in my heart to embark on deeper adventures with Him.  I think that we need to be careful not to mistranslate our desires into shallow soul pursuits that distract us from genuinely spiritual destinations.

Probably one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ps 42:7 – deep calls to deep & Your waves have swept over me (sarah paraphrase).

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Posted by sarahbowling in enemies to intimacy, living, spiritual, 0 comments

the joys of history

I’m very excited about the inaugration of Senator Obama!  I’m excited on many levels:  the making of history, our 1st person to become President who was raised by a single mom,  the acceptance & recognition of the 1st African American to lead our nation along w many other firsts.  Let’s make it a priority to pray for President Obama.  The weight he will shoulder is extremely heavy, particularly in this year.

With that being said, living in 2009 is very exciting!  I believe that this year will be a highly significant year from an historical perspective.  Most importantly, let’s make this a massively signiciant year in our spiritual lives.  If you want something you’ve never had, you probably have to do something you’ve never done.  Be historical, be spiritual, be more filled w Jesus than any previous year.

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Posted by sarahbowling in living, 2 comments