Do You Ask Questions You Can’t Answer?

December 19th, 2014

I wish I could talk to the baby in the Nativity scene.

I know–it’s only a wooden carving, and conversations with babies tend to be sort of one-sided anyway. And it’s Jesus, so I can talk to Him whenever I want.

It’s just that when I look at the baby I wish the man He became would walk into the room, sit in that chair, and have a real-life conversation.

Someone said the early Christians struggled to believe Jesus was fully God. They had first-hand evidence of His humanity, because He lived and walked among them.

We likely have the opposite problem. We believe He was God, but struggle to accept Him as a man with the same limitations we deal with.

At Christmas, I want to know what it was like to go from limitless to limited, from all-powerful to dependent, from eternal to time-bound. I’d ask how He dealt with existing everywhere in the universe one moment, and then being confined to Mary’s womb the next.

What was it like in Heaven at the instant when all of God was concentrated into one location in space and time in a backwater country with no Internet or cell service?

I can’t imagine how any of that worked, but it must have been confusing for the human part of Him that had to figure it out with a limited human brain. Did He always know He could speak water into wine? If not, what was it like to gradually understand who He was?

Some folks dismiss these questions, because they don’t matter or because the answers can’t be known for sure. But for me, wondering about the baby is an important part of knowing Jesus.

And I’ve never believed questions don’t matter just because I don’t know the answers.

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

No Christmas Family Reunion for Me

December 16th, 2014

“I don’t want to go to the Christmas family reunion, Ms. Ortega,” Julia told me in my counseling office. Her hands trembled as she spoke and unbuttoned her sweater.

“What makes you say that?” I asked as I looked into her blue eyes.

“My mom and dad will argue most of the day. My aunt Mary won’t speak to my aunt Dorothy, and each will act as if the other one isn’t there.”

Julia’s facial muscles tightened as she discussed the family dynamics. I waited to hear what else she might say.

“That’s only half of the story.” Julia sat in silence for a minute and stared out the window. “My sister expects everyone to do what she wants, or she will get angry, curse, and cut them out of her life. My uncle Charlie will get drunk and misbehave.”

In my experience as a counselor, I’ve heard similar stories. Perhaps you feel like Julia and don’t want to go to your Christmas family reunion either.

You can write a list of the pros and cons of attending and then decide. You can consider other ways to spend Christmas day.

If your family members want to know why you won’t attend the family reunion, tell them you want a peaceful Christmas or have other plans.

You can invite good friends and neighbors to your home for a peaceful Christmas dinner.

Psalm 34:14b: “Seek peace and pursue it.”

Dear God, I want Christmas to be peaceful not hostile. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to “seek peace and pursue it”?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright by Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Holiday Or Holy Day?

December 15th, 2014

I just realized I haven’t written much about Christmas…makes me wonder what’s going on.

A few days ago I googled “Christmas” just to see what would appear. After the obligatory Wikipedia entry, nearly the entire first page of search results dealt with stuff for sale. I started shaking my head in self-righteous judgment of those people who commercialize Christmas.

I started shaking my head…and stopped when I realized WHY I haven’t written much about Christmas. I looked in the mirror, afraid I might see one of those people staring back.

I haven’t focused on Christmas, on the birth of Jesus, because I allowed other things to be more important.

I didn’t intend for the books and jerseys to show up in mid-December. In July, delivery was promised before Thanksgiving so we’d have plenty of time for the whole pre-order/book launch process. I never meant for the first weeks of advent to disappear from my consciousness under an avalanche of excitement and promotion.

See–IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

Well, actually, it is my fault. I choose what gets my attention, or I let someone else choose for me.

I continue to learn: it’s all about balance. I’m not apologizing for selling my books. I believe in my work, and if I don’t promote it, who will? So I hope you’ll visit the store. I appreciate your support.

I also don’t regret the gifts and traditions and decorations that help make Christmas such a magical season. I like food and football and Christmas cards.

But when selling becomes the focus, when presents and parties become the reasons for the season, it’s time to reassess and rebalance.

Jesus didn’t leave heaven and become a helpless baby so I could sell stuff.

Someone’s going to tell me not to beat up on myself. I’m not doing that, I hope.

I’m simply reminding us to keep priorities in order. Let’s celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

But first, let’s remember why it’s a holy day.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

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Copyright 2008-2012 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What was the First Advent Like?

December 11th, 2014

TheNativityIf Advent’s about anticipation, what was that first Advent like for Jesus?

I look at the helpless baby in the manger and wonder what it was like as He waited. Because He wasn’t always a baby.

Time had never been an issue, but now there was this moment in time when everything would change. He would somehow empty Himself and enter His creation, become one of the created.

Did He anticipate that moment?

He’s God, so it’s tempting to brush it off and assume it was easy for Him. But Paul says it was a big deal.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

What was it like to know what was coming–not just the cross, but the helplessness, the dependency, the limitation? It’s hard to think about, because as a baby He couldn’t know, but as God He did, and somehow that all fits together.

We’re a self-centered bunch. For us, Advent’s about what we await.

I look at that baby and realize He waited, too.

What does it mean? – “Follow Me.”

December 10th, 2014

“Follow Me.”

It’s the invitation of eternity. I believe Jesus wants to end our striving, seeking, and searching. I believe He wants us to accept His invitation—that’s obvious.

Last time I argued that the path is about more than Avoiding The Mud. Following the path is active—it must be something more than removing the bad stuff.

Last weekend I got a hint as I watched some close friends at a party. I realized God surrounds us with Unlimited quantities of the things we need most.

Grace, love, hope, forgiveness—they’re everywhere, and they’re gifts. You can’t buy them or strategically seek them. But if you give them away, generously and with no strings attached, they wash back over you like waves from an endless ocean.

I wonder if the way to follow the path is to serve others by giving away these things God has given to you.

What if following the path is all about service, and following Jesus means giving away love, grace, forgiveness, hope, courage, mercy, light, justice, and the other gifts God planted in your heart?

What if choosing to give those gifts is really the way to follow the path and avoid the mud? What if you don’t have to focus on the mud at all?

Don’t mistake this model for “easy.” Simple doesn’t mean simplistic. Following this path involves hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

However, here’s a hard truth—walking in the mud ain’t all that easy, either.

“Follow Me.”

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

How To Avoid The Mud

December 8th, 2014

“Follow Me.”

Early Christians were called Followers of The Way. It’s easy to visualize following Jesus in terms of the metaphor of a path.
path1
Sadly, that path is frequently mischaracterized in ways Jesus never intended. Right versus wrong, good versus evil, moral versus immoral, the underlying message is often one of coercion and threat—you’d better get on the path and stay there or God’s gonna zap you!

I don’t see any of that in Jesus’ life. His words are all about invitation and opportunity. He points to a path that offers penetrating light in a world of otherwise all-encompassing darkness.

Jesus says, “Follow Me. Let’s walk together on this path of light, on an incredible adventure of love and hope.”

The thing is, even though the path is well-marked, it’s pretty narrow and surrounded by muck. On our own, we tend to wander. We seek shortcuts, perhaps to validate our comforts or rights or political perspectives, and we end up in darkness with mud on our boots.

Human guides focus a lot on avoiding the mud. Our rules and laws are mostly aimed at punishing those who step in the mud. We seem to believe not-doing bad stuff will get us on the path.

But following Jesus is more—much more—than the absence of negatives.

Jesus didn’t come just to show us how to stay out of the mud. He came to guide us on the path.

“Follow Me.”

I think there’s something unique about Jesus’ invitation—more about that tomorrow.

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Don’t Make Mountains out of Molehills

December 5th, 2014

“All the days of the despondent are miserable–but a cheerful heart has a continual feast!” Proverbs 15:15

There is a class of little annoyances such as we make for ourselves by a complaining, or an overly fastidious temperament. There are some who make such a fuss about trifles, tormenting themselves, and worrying others by a perpetual fault-finding and discontent–as every trifling irritation is magnified to a mountain–that all pleasure is spoiled by their presence!

It is a good rule in little things, as well as great things, that “what can’t be cured–should be endured”–and endured cheerfully!

I am not advocating slovenly and careless endurance of little vexations which may be remedied–let them be set right by all means, and the more quietly as well as quickly, the better. But I have observed people who were most ludicrously discomposed by trifles which neither they nor anyone else could remedy, and which should have been overlooked with a smile, if noticed at all.

There are many overly finicky people in the world, who groan over such trifling irritations. It is really ludicrous to hear the gravity with which some people will allude to the fact of the road being dusty, even alleging that as a reason for not going a walk; others are as much afraid of a shower; others of too much sunshine; some are terrified at the idea of being over-heated.

There is no end to these idle fancies and fears! If you laugh at these miserable people–then they think you are unfeeling. If you sympathize with them–then they multiply and increase their petty annoyances!

Let us all beware of making much of little irritations. Let us learn to laugh at them, remembering how very annoying such complaints are to others, as well as bothersome to ourselves.

A cheerful person who refuses to notice trifles or be aggravated by them–soon ceases to feel them! While to those who seem to find a perverse pleasure in dwelling on, and being daunted by them–these little discomforts will actually become real cares, and will eat out half the comfort of their lives!

(Henrietta Wilson, “Little Things” 1852)

How Quiet Is Your Life during Christmas?

December 2nd, 2014

Psalm 23:2b: “He leads me beside quiet waters.”

“December is already here,” Ann said. I need to decorate the house, mail the Christmas cards, and make cookies.” She stopped for a moment to catch her breath. She placed a hand on her forehead and said, “I haven’t bought a single Christmas present yet.”

I continued to listen to her as she enumerated her endless list of Christmas tasks. I finally stopped her and asked, “So when will you rest?”

“Rest? Are you kidding? With Christmas almost here?”

I assured her I was not kidding.

Ann stared at me as if I were speaking a foreign language.

With an open Bible, I pointed to Psalm 23:2b and read out loud, “He leads me beside quiet waters.” After a pause, I asked, “What will you do when the Lord wants to lead you beside quiet waters? Will you listen and spend time with him?”

She remained silent.

“You never mentioned the birthday of King Jesus. Will you take time to celebrate the birth of Jesus?”

With her head hung low, she said, “I almost forgot the reason we celebrate Christmas.”

What about you? Are you caught in the Christmas frenzy? Will you allow the Lord to lead you beside quiet waters?

Dear God, please help me remember to celebrate the birth of King Jesus. Amen.

Application: When will you allow God to lead you beside quiet waters this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright by Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

How Grateful is Your Spirit?

November 26th, 2014

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving should never be lacking in a Christian life. It is not enough to observe one day in the year for ‘Thanksgiving’ although that is a beautiful thing to do. Nor is it enough to put a sentence of thanksgiving into our daily prayers, although that, also, is proper.

It is the grateful spirit which pleases God, the spirit that is always full of praise. There should be a note of thanksgiving running through all our life.

Too many of us go to God only with requests, with our burdens, our worries, our troubles; while we but rarely go to Him with any word of thanks.

We are not to be thankful only for the pleasant and agreeable things that come into our days–we are to be thankful, too, for the things that appear to us to be adversities. “Give thanks in everything.” That means . . .

in the sad days, as well as in the glad days,
when clouds are in the sky,
as well as when the sunshine is pouring everywhere.

It is said here that this is the will of God for us. The Christliest life–is the one that is always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving.

~J.R. Miller, “Christian Essentials”

What Are You Thankful for? What Are You Doing About It?

November 25th, 2014

Psalm 95:2-3: “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.”

As I placed my Thanksgiving candle figures on the dining room table, I remembered how my son used to move the pilgrims, the ships, and the Indians around the table. I thank God for the precious memories of my son, who is in heaven now.

I also think of my mother who loved the holidays and used to cook and bake from morning until night for days to make Thanksgiving a feast for the family.

My son and mother are in heaven praising God with music and song. I thank God they are no longer in pain.

I also thank God, for you, my readers. Some of you have been with me since the beginning of my weekly devotions. Some of you have not, but you have encouraged me and prayed for me as the others have. Thank you so much.

As I look back over the past year, I thank God for the fall in my home. Although I was in pain, I spent time with “the Lord . . . the great God, the great King above all gods” in prayer, Bible study, and praise and worship. I sensed God’s presence, peace, and power.

Dear God, thank you for my family, friends, and you “the great God.” Amen.

Application: When will you praise God with music and song this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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Copyright by Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of
Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com