Archive for February, 2010

Take Time to Play!

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

IMG_0081

This week’s word:

PLAY

I don’t play enough. Too busy, too many important, serious, adult-type tasks waiting for my attention. Who has time for play?

That’s one of many things I like about having a dog. If I get too attached to the keyboard, suddenly a nose appears, pressing on my forearm and rendering typing impossible. He has some inner sense about the right time for a Frisbee or a slobbery old tennis ball. Even though I grumble about being interrupted, I’m refreshed after a few tosses and some minutes spent chuckling at his intense pursuit. It’s always time well spent.

My goofy-looking dog understands the importance of taking a break to play. I need to learn from him.

Join me this week in taking time to play.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Jesus is the Only One: Cast Your Cares Upon Him

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”  1 Peter 5:7 King James Version

When all hell comes against us and we are hurting so badly that not even the love that our families and friends have for us can comfort us, it is then that we need to cry out to our precious Saviour.  Jesus is the only one who can see into our hearts.  He sees the pain and hurt that we keep hidden from our families and friends.

Why don’t we share what is in our hearts with people?  I think it is because we are afraid of being ridiculed, criticized and judged.  Even worse than that, we are afraid that if we do share what is in our hearts that people won’t care.  Jesus not only cares when we are hurting, He also feels our pain.

Our Scripture tells us to cast all our care upon Him because He cares for us.  I can tell you from personal experience that Jesus really does care when we are hurting.  When we cry, He weeps with us.  He is so faithful to comfort and encourage us as He tenderly dries our tears with His compassionate kisses.

If you will be still and listen with your heart, you will hear Him saying to you “I love you.  I care when you are hurting.  You are precious to me and I want you to be happy.”  There is no friend like Jesus!  No one loves us like He loves us.  Yes, Jesus is the only one who can heal our broken hearts.   Allow Him to comfort and encourage you today.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

JoanneCopyright 2009 by Joanne Lowe, all rights reserved.
Used by permission. http://joanne-freedominjesus.blogspot.com/
http://christians-in-recovery.org

Who is “They”?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. Gandhi

they

Do you ever look at something really familiar and see something you’ve never seen before?

I admire Gandhi; this is one of my favorite quotes. I get his point, but a closer look causes me to wonder: who’s “they”?

A teacher friend once accepted a non-classroom position as a central office administrator. He used to joke about how he’d instantly become part of “they,” as in “they need to do something about …”

We started calling him The Man From They. We even bought him a t-shirt with THEY printed on the front.

It was a fun little running chuckle that exposed our tendency to draw lines dividing the world into “them” and “us.” Simply by changing offices, my buddy switched sides and became part of an amorphous, undefined they.

DISTINCTIONS

In a sense, I suppose this sort of distinction is inevitable. Any time you form a circle, some folks choose to enter and some don’t. Us is whichever group I’m in, the other is them.

I’m not into being Pollyanna and pretending that divisions and groups are nonexistent or irrelevant. We’re not all one big, happy family. But there are some dangers in viewing people and events strictly through the lens of we and they.

I invite you to think about an important personal circle—religious faith, political affiliation, nationality, ethnicity, disability, cause—and think about how that particular circle influences your perceptions of they.

They are a convenient target. When someone isn’t part of us, it’s easier to discount their rights, discriminate in some fashion, or simply have a bit of innocent fun at their expense. Cruel jokes are a little more acceptable, inadvertent offenses a bit more excusable.

They are often defined by an overly-simplistic label. We are a collection of rational, free-thinking individuals who happen to share common (positive) values and goals. They are robotic ideologues marching with single-minded devotion, dedicated fanatically to irrational (destructive) causes.

They are blind to their leaders’ true purposes. They follow a manipulative, dangerous demagogue, while we listen to reasoned guidance from well-intentioned, visionary leaders.

They are easy to dismiss or dehumanize. You tend to notice folks from your own circle, but you can look right through one of them. At the other extreme, you stare because they are a curiosity.

They are easy to blame. Whatever went wrong, it can’t be our fault. And since they don’t share our values, convictions, and altruistic motives, it’s a small step to making almost anything their fault. They always want more than their fair share. They only care about themselves. They are too easily offended.

They frequently get cast in the role of enemy. They didn’t choose our circle, and we’re only seeking good stuff. With a little prodding, it becomes all too “obvious” that those who don’t choose our circle are a threat. From that perspective it’s too easy to impugn motives and intentions and conclude that they are dangerous.

LIES

I think we become consumed by differences until we’re blinded to commonalities.

One sure way to solidify our circle is to create a common adversary. Controversy and conflict attract attention, sell products, and advance causes.

The most effective, insidious lies often contain a significant element of truth. It’s pretty easy—and tempting—to intertwine lies and truths until they’re practically indistinguishable.

It’s also tempting to focus on the parts you like, especially when they’re repeated again and again in a loud voice.

Sometimes they are an enemy intent on harming us. Something about them is different, or we’d all be in the same circle. Some of them are selfish or mean-spirited.

The problems happen with a subtle shift from some to all.

Once upon a time a group of students said, “Teacher, it is impossible for you to ever really understand us, for our world is so different.”

The teacher replied, “Once there were two villages which occupied the same land at different times; a Pueblo Indian village and the Los Alamos Atomic Research Village. The people who lived in one village were sometimes hungry and thirsty, strived for power, loved, hated, got tired, and felt others did not understand them. And, of course, it is obvious which village I describe.  Jan Rye Kinghorn

They shoot horses, don’t they? Horace McCoy

Who’s “they” in your circle?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

In All things Love

Monday, February 8th, 2010

three

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, love.
~ Augustine

Yeah, but what are the “essentials”?

Yesterday I asked the question Who’s “They”? in the context of our propensity to draw lines and categorize ourselves in terms of we and they. Then I ran across this familiar Augustine quote.

It made me wonder why, as followers of Jesus, we’re so quick to point out distinctions and differences.

It’s awfully easy to imagine that we have a corner on truth, that our interpretation of scripture is flawless, and that our customs and traditions are just a bit superior to others. We’re a culture of competition. We’re taught that success demands that we stand out and differentiate ourselves from the crowd.

ESSENTIALS

I’ve used Augustine’s three-line admonition as a discussion prompt in several settings. I can count on the conversation taking one of two general directions.

What are essentials? This question initiates a process of articulating shared, central doctrines. It directs our focus to the places we agree rather than the differences that usually consume our attention. It’s a way to think about THE CHURCH rather than our local or even denominational churches. This sort of discussion reminds us that traditions around worship styles and liturgy don’t really divide us.

What’s the difference between essential and important? It’s interesting to define pressing issues on which committed followers of Jesus may disagree. Some political or public policy issues might fall into this discussion. While we may advocate passionate positions on these kinds of matters, this discussion reminds us that sincere Christians don’t always subscribe to a monolithic view.

THE THIRD LINE

Both are interesting topics, but what I find curious is that the third line almost never receives much attention. We become immersed in list-making, intent on defining and defending a particular list of absolutes or understanding someone else’s choices.

Doctrines, customs, and traditions are the color, texture, and flavor that articulate identity and give character to individual communities. They’re the spice in an otherwise bland, vanilla world, and they’re wonderful tools for defining and growing individual churches and attracting those who share our preferences.

Political debates, policy decisions, and community involvement give relevance to our faith in the world. We must always advocate powerfully and effectively for the poor and the marginalized.

But what about the third line? I’d maintain that without the third statement, the first two become largely irrelevant.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13]

Essential, non-essential, important, non-important—without love, my lists and debates are just so much meaningless noise.

That third line is the center. It’s THE essential, the single defining characteristic of the circle.

Agape—self-sacrificial, unconditional love—is what keeps my work and prayer and effort from becoming empty, unimportant nothingness.

I invite you to join me in focusing on the third line.

Are you like me? Do you ever get so intent on doing stuff that you forget the third line?

When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, the first word He uttered was, “Love … “ [Matthew 22:36]

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Are You Tired? Sick? Discouraged?

Friday, February 5th, 2010

“…he whose might is his god” (Habakkuk 1:17, ASV).

It isn’t often that such a short phrase of scripture so impacts my heart, but since running across these six words in my reading of Habakkuk earlier this week, I haven’t been able to put them out of my mind.

Is there anything more tragic than making our own limited strength, or “might,” our god? And yet the Bible tells us that many do. To be honest, nearly everyone who doesn’t depend on God ultimately resorts to depending on his own strength. How foolish can we possibly be? The verses surrounding Habakkuk 1:17 tell of the destruction of those who make such a poor choice.

Ever been tired? Sick? Discouraged? Weary? Depressed? If so, you know the limits of your own strength. Each time we experience once of those negative emotions or physical conditions, we reach the limits of our own might, the fallacy of our god if indeed we have not placed our faith in Christ. Wisdom calls to us at that point to reach beyond such earthly limitations and grasp the infallible, eternal, omnipotent might of a faithful and limitless God. And that, beloved, is the choice laid before all mankind. Will we wisely rely on the might of the one true God, or foolishly try to stand upon our own feet of clay?

May the joy of the Lord be your strength today, as you make the right choice each step of the way!

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Macias
Copyright 2009 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books. Her newest books are:
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”


and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”
(New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

I’m Sorry

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]

sorry I’m sorry.

Those words don’t always come easily, and sometimes really meaning them is harder than saying them. But what happens once you’ve mustered the courage to apologize?

In thirty-five years of working with adolescents, I learned that they often perceived “I’m sorry” as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. “Why do I have to stay after school? I said I was sorry.”

I can’t imagine how many times I explained that, while I appreciated and accepted the apology, that didn’t automatically eliminate the consequences of a poor choice.

“But can’t you just forgive me?”

“Of course I forgive you. But that has nothing to do with you hanging around until you finish that incomplete assignment.”

“But if I do that, will I still get full credit?”

“No, you know there’s a penalty for late work.”

“But why do you have to punish me?”

And it seemed that no matter how I explained it, they could never quite acknowledge that it wasn’t about punishment. Mistakes have consequences, and sometimes those consequences can’t be repaired or erased no matter how sorry you feel.

Every conversation ended with some variation of the universal adolescent mantra: “That’s not fair!”

A MISTAKE

I’m thinking about this because recently I made a mistake that diminished my credibility with a valued colleague. I didn’t intend any harm; it was an “honest mistake.” Lack of judgment and inexperience resulted in a poor decision.

I wanted to defend my choice, or blame someone else, or discount the seriousness of the offense. But after some rather convoluted mental gymnastics, I had to face the simple fact that I was wrong.

So I swallowed hard, closed my eyes, and uttered the dreaded words: “I’m sorry.”

I wanted that to be the end of the matter. After all, it was an honest mistake, and I said I was sorry.

But my apology doesn’t wipe out the consequences of the offense. Like my students, I needed to fix what I could fix and acknowledge that some damage couldn’t be repaired. “I’m sorry” doesn’t magically restore trust or heal physical or emotional wounds.

I’ve also been wondering about another aspect of this incident: Does my apology entitle me to forgiveness?

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. [Luke 6:37]

I’m not entitled to anything simply because I made an error and confessed. Forgiveness is the prerogative of the offended party. It’s not earned or deserved.

Forgiveness can only be granted by grace.

Sometimes I forget that. I’m so accustomed to believing that my sins are forgiven through Jesus that I lose sight of the fact that forgiveness isn’t a right. It isn’t automatic, it isn’t free, and I certainly don’t deserve it. And yet, there it is. Each time I go to God and confess that I’ve fallen short, He forgives freely and completely.

So, while I hope my friend forgives my error, when I apologize to God I don’t need to wonder how He’ll respond.

CONSEQUENCES

How many times have you and I had the same conversation with God that I had with my students? How often do we equate His unconditional forgiveness with our selfish desire to avoid facing our own consequences? How many times have we cried, “It’s not fair”?

He turns the page, glues it shut, and grants us yet another new beginning. And then He walks with us through whatever mess we’ve created. He doesn’t magically wipe away the tears and the pain, but He does promise that they won’t be wasted.

He redeems them. He works for good in even our most sordid circumstances. And He never quits, no matter how many times we repeat the cycle.

We don’t deserve those new beginnings, and we’re not entitled to them. But they’re ours, through grace, because He loves us.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Whatever it Takes

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

What

Does your cause justify “whatever it takes”?

This is Black History Month, so my question’s motivated by thoughts of America’s struggle with civil rights for African-Americans. But it applies equally to questions of national sovereignty, disability issues, or gathering support for relief to earthquake victims in Haiti.

Is any cause so right, so just, so morally imperative that it justifies “whatever it takes” to advance its mission?

My answer is, “No.”

WHAT IF …

I’m not a big fan of hypothetical dilemmas. It’s far too easy to stake out a position when I don’t actually have to face the consequences of my choice. In a hypothetical world it’s too easy to manipulate or ignore important variables in order to justify a pre-conceived conclusion.

I’ve learned that “If I were you, I would …” is usually a good signal to stop talking. I’m not you, I don’t have to walk in your shoes (or, for me, roll in your tracks).

I respect those who’ve actually been there, fought the battles, and endured the trials. It’s just too easy, from my position of safety, to second-guess those who’ve really confronted a difficult choice.

I can’t claim to understand the frustration of those who are oppressed and brutalized. I can’t state emphatically what I would do if I confronted the desperation of starvation or the reality of a life-or-death battle. I know I haven’t always faced my own trials well, so I’m hesitant to pontificate about what I’d do in far more difficult circumstances.

We’ve all encountered these simplistic hypotheticals. In the late sixties I recall saying that if I were ever drafted and ordered to Viet Nam, I’d refuse to go. That was an easy position to advocate from the safety of my college deferment, but I doubt if my convictions about the war would have held quite so firmly in the face of an actual choice.

TRUE NORTH

Perhaps the best I can do is identify what I hope I would do when confronted with any dilemma. I’ve been helped a great deal in this regard by Gus Lee. Gus talks about identifying “True North” principles, those central values that serve as the compass during a storm.

Since I’m relatively new to this inquiry, I float my true-north principles as a work in progress, but here’s what I’m working with right now:

  • Agape: self-sacrificial, unconditional love
  • Courage: the willingness to act for right regardless of risk
  • Grace-and-Truth: a cyclical process of encountering truth, acknowledging my faults, seeking forgiveness, and then encountering truth once more.

I make no claim that these are the “right” principles or that I even approach living according to them. For me they represent an ideal toward which I can strive.

These principles are the basis for my belief that no cause justifies “whatever it takes.” I’ll close by throwing out three observations, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Causes come and go, while true-north principles endure.
  • It seems to me that it’s a lot harder to believe in and stick to principles than to causes.
  • In the long run, truly enduring principles are more effective than situational, whatever-it-takes approaches.

What do you think?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Only Slightly Evil

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22

Some professors are accustomed to think of some things as ‘only slightly evil‘, while other things are considered as most vile in their eyes.

They appear to think, that if they keep themselves from the worse kind of sins–then they need not be so watchful against the minor forms of evil. They will not lie, nor steal, nor swear, nor do other things which would brand them as ‘wicked’ in the eyes of the community. But meanwhile they are satisfied to be ungentle, unkind, selfish, bad-tempered, and worldly!

But Paul’s exhortation is, “Avoid every kind of evil.” We are not to pick out certain things and condemn these alone as evil, abstaining from them; meanwhile indulging in pet vices and sinful habits of our own. Whatever is sinful in even the slightest way–is to be avoided!

(~ J. R. Miller, “Christian Essentials” 1904)

The Secret of Development of Christian character

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The loss of all confidence in ones self, is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace! The Christian, conscious of his own frailty, will turn unto the Lord for strength.  “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak–then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

There must be consciousness of our weakness, before we shall turn to the Lord for help. While the Christian imagines that he is sufficient in himself; while he imagines that by the mere force of his will, that he shall resist temptation; while he has any confidence in the flesh–then, like ‘boasting Peter’–so we shall certainly fail and fall. The plain fact is–that of ourselves we are utterly unable to practice a single precept, or obey a single command that is set before us in the Scriptures! Apart from Christ–we can do nothing! (John 15:5). The promise of God is, “He gives power to the faint; and strengthens the powerless!” Isaiah 40:29

The secret of development of Christian character, is the realization of our own powerlessness, and the consequent turning unto the Lord for help. A consciousness of our powerlessness, should cast us upon Him who has all power.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble!” Psalm 46:1

(Arthur Pink, “Yhe Sovereignty of God