Archive for April, 2010

When Faced with Tough Choices

Friday, April 30th, 2010

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

With the recent release of the first two books in my new Extreme Devotion fiction series, plus working on three other novels with similar themes, I can’t help but be focused on the message of losing one’s life for Christ’s sake. In addition to the four-book series based on true-life accounts of modern-day martyrs of the faith, I have written a stand-alone third-century historical novel with Susan Wales, based on true events and titled Valeria’s Cross. However, the original title was First Allegiance, which so aptly summarizes the heart of all these books. It should also summarize the heart of all believers. But does it?

The above passage of scripture from Matthew has always been a hard one for me, particularly the part that has to do with family. The concept of laying down my own life for the sake of the gospel isn’t all that difficult to grasp; it goes with giving my life to Christ. Because I know that I no longer live once I’m His, but rather He lives in me, makes the commitment to self-sacrifice a given. But my family? A bit tougher, don’t you think?

Yet Christians around the world face not only personal persecution but persecution of loved ones as well. Can you imagine being a parent faced with the choice of denying Christ or condemning your child to prison or torture—or even death? Admittedly that’s far beyond our personal ability to comprehend, let alone yield to in our own strength. But the Scriptures promise that through Christ we can do all things—even the unthinkable.

I pray we are never faced with such a choice, but I also pray that today, right now, in whatever situation or circumstance we find ourselves, we will make a commitment to hold fast to our “first allegiance,” regardless of the price to do so—and to trust God for the strength to do it. “Well done, good and faithful servant” will surely be our reward.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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”

Her new novels:
No Greater Love
More than Conquerors
The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

What’s the Hardest Thing You’ve Had to Do?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?

wheelchair-stairs

Have you ever wished you could gracefully get out of a situation? That’s how I felt when I arrived at my last speaking engagement.

The small church invited me to their men’s group, the sort of experience I usually anticipate and enjoy. I love the opportunity to connect and share in an intimate setting.

But that night I wanted to escape. The elevator was broken; ten imposing steps stood between me and the meeting room.

The man who invited me apologized profusely. He’d contacted me earlier to explain the situation and offer the opportunity to re-schedule. I replied that if they were willing to help me, we’d go ahead as planned.

Now, facing those ten steps, I regretted my false bravado.

I hate being carried; I especially hate being carried in public by strangers. I can’t adequately describe the horrible feeling of helplessness that arises when I’m hauled like a piece of baggage.

People stare—I know they’re only concerned for my welfare, that they don’t mean to be rude. And the guys carrying me—why do they get to be strong and helpful? Why do I have to experience this degrading dependence?

But it was too late now, so I leaned back and allowed four strangers to lift what felt like a useless, lifeless body up those ten steps.

As I tried to calm my heart and prepare for my presentation, I thought about this incident in Jesus’ early ministry.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. [Mark 2:1-4]

I know exactly how that man felt—friends carting him around, creating a spectacle, calling even more attention to his pitiful plight.

What right did this guy and his buddies have to demand access? Why couldn’t he just accept his place on the edges? He was making everyone uncomfortable, interrupting their dinner as well as Jesus’ teaching.

And they destroyed the roof! I can only imagine the disruption, the mess, the mixture of pity and outrage.

So I began by referencing this story, thanking the men who helped me, and joking that at least they didn’t have to create a makeshift skylight in the church ceiling. Everyone chuckled

My prepared remarks went well, and then it was time for discussion and questions.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?

I could have answered safely, offered an example of some trivial physical accomplishment. But that’s not what he was asking and this gathering wasn’t about being safe. So I answered honestly “The hardest thing I’ve had to do … was to let you carry me up the stairs.”

Men are supposed to be strong, independent, self-sufficient. We stand tall. We don’t watch things happen, we MAKE things happen.

That not how life feels in a wheelchair.

In a wheelchair you ask for help with simple tasks that everyone else takes for granted. The item you need at the grocery store is always just out of reach. The single step into a friend’s house is an insurmountable obstacle.

In a wheelchair you quite literally allow others to wash your feet—along with other, much more personal, acts of service.

In a wheelchair you learn that humble, humility, and humiliating all originate from the same root word.

I’m not thankful for being in a wheelchair, but I can be thankful in a wheelchair. I am not grateful for my injury, but I am grateful for the lessons it’s taught me. One of those lessons is the humility to allow others to help.

In a wheelchair, you get carried by strangers. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus … [Philippians 2:5(a)]

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

Do You Think He Has Forgotten You?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010


“Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning He came to them, walking on the water.” Mark 6:45-46, 48

Jesus did not come immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He came, and the disciples had been struggling all night in the storm. Yet He had not been indifferent to them meanwhile. From the mountainside where He was praying–He kept His eye upon them. “He saw that they were in serious trouble.” All that dark night, He kept a watch upon that little boat that bore His disciples in the midst of the waves.

There is something very suggestive in the narrative. This ‘boat in the storm’, is a picture of ‘Christ’s friends in this world, in the storms of life’. Sometimes we think we are forgotten–but from His place in glory, Christ’s eye is always on us! He sees us struggling, battling with the waves, beaten, and distressed. He has full sympathy with us in all our struggles. It ought to be a great strength and comfort to us in trial, to know this. Jesus intercedes for us in our distresses!

It may not be best always to deliver us immediately–but His prayer continually ascends, that our faith may not fail in the struggle. This also should encourage us.

Then, He always comes in time. He may delay long–but it is never too long. If we call upon Him in trouble–we may be sure that He hears and sees us, and knows just how hard it is for us to endure; that He prays for us that we may not fail, and that He will come at the right time for our deliverance!

J. R. Miller, “Miller’s Year Book–a Year’s Daily Readings”


A Life Of “Yes”

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

SELF-CONTROL

Is Jesus about “No” or “Yes”?

y

I know this guy who used to have a really distorted picture of Christianity. I—er, he—thought it was all about “thou shalt not.” Being part of the church group meant resisting temptation, giving up all of the fun stuff, and generally approaching life with a bit of a scowl.

My “friend”

Early in his adult Christian life, this guy visited a church where a stern, austere pastor in a black suit and black tie talked for twenty-five minutes. He never smiled, not even during the punch line of his obligatory canned joke. He must have learned in pastor school that you’re supposed to say something funny during a sermon, but he clearly didn’t approve.

The title of that message: The Joy Of The Lord!

Obviously “joy” meant something different to church people.

My “friend” understood that following Jesus meant identifying anything that might be remotely fun and staying away. It was all about denial and fasting and being serious, sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches, and resisting temptation.

And he quickly learned that following Jesus meant labeling, separating good from bad. Good people did good things; bad people did bad things. Following Jesus meant identifying the bad people and staying away from them. It was easier to be good if you hung around with the good guys.

Low-lifes

See, people were generally a bunch of selfish, lustful, greedy low-lifes who wanted more than anything to live in depraved immorality. Self-control meant never giving an inch, staying so far away from temptation that you couldn’t possibly slip up. Any crack in the façade, any brush with sin or sinful people, would give the devil his opportunity. And before you even realized what happened, you’d be coveting and lusting and stealing.

You needed rules—lots and lots of rules. Some of the rules told you what you should do, but mostly the rules were “thou shalt not.” Following Jesus meant a life of “No.”

He kept hearing about the freedom we have in Christ, but he couldn’t see it.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? [Galatians 5:16-18 The Message]

“Live freely?” What could possibly be “free” about an existence devoid of passion, lived out in an exclusive club devoted to avoiding and resisting? Self-control meant building solid walls and hiding behind them from everything you really wanted to do.

Not much “freedom” there.

My friend understood that a life of “No” is a losing battle. Even when he succeeded in his self-denial he resented and sought loopholes. When he managed to do something right, it was for all the wrong reasons. His life of “No” constantly pitted head against heart, and heart frequently claimed victory.

He tried and failed to master his heart, and became convinced that he just didn’t have the self-control to follow Jesus. But then something miraculous occurred.

An invitation

In the aftermath of a life-altering injury, He found himself wandering in darkness and despair, so completely lost that He actually believed God couldn’t reach him. In his weakness and desperation he asked Jesus for help, not really believing anything would change.

But something did change. It wasn’t the clean, instant transformation from an inspirational made-for-TV movie, but he began to hear a calm, quiet invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11: 28-30]

He looked at Jesus’ life—you know, the guy he was supposed to be following—and noticed that He adhered to a single, simple principle: Agape. And He didn’t love out of obligation, He loved because that was His heart’s inner-most desire.

He didn’t avoid temptation, He embraced it. He didn’t do right and avoid wrong because of a bunch of rules. He did those things because that’s what He wanted to do.

Jesus’ life wasn’t about “thou shalt not.” His life wasn’t one of “No.”

Jesus lived a life of “Yes.”

He listened and learned until His thoughts were the Father’s thoughts. Then He vigorously and passionately pursued His deepest desires. He wasn’t imprisoned by rules and fears. He said “Yes.”

Jesus did precisely what He wanted. He was completely, totally, free.

Self-control?

So what about self-control? How does that fit with freedom?

In The Message he saw a different twist. “Self-control” was translated “able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

And even as a member of the slow-learner class, my friend started to get it.

Self-control isn’t about mastering the heart—it’s about changing the heart, and that was a change only Jesus could accomplish. Self-control isn’t about saying “No” to the things you really want, it’s about changing the things you want so you can say “Yes” with joy and enthusiasm.

My friend is still pretty messed up—apparently heart-changing is a long, slow process. But he’s gradually experiencing the freedom of a life of “Yes.”

I’m glad, because I’m not very good at “No.” I can resist just about anything except temptation.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. [Galatians 5:23-24 The Message]

Have you experienced following Jesus as a life of “Yes”?

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

Strength

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I don’t normally associate paralysis with strength.

When I recall twenty-two years of adjusting to life in a wheelchair, it’s as though I’m programmed to greet difficult circumstances with: I’ll never be able to …

A wise physical therapist named Leonard once encouraged me to look at my circumstances from a different perspective. As I complained endlessly about the tasks I couldn’t accomplish with my damaged body, he sat beside me and drew this diagram. Seeing the confused look on my face, he explained.

2000

“Look, you need to make a decision. Before your accident you could do ten thousand things, and now you can only do eight thousand. It’s horrible, and it’s not fair. But now you get to choose. You can spend the rest of your life griping about the two thousand things you lost, or you can focus on the eight thousand that remain.”

I’m not a fan of Pollyanna, and I don’t advocate denial or naïve blindness to challenges. Understanding and grieving the loss of the 2000 is necessary and important.

But as I’ve worked with Leonard’s 8000/2000 principle, I’ve come to understand that it really applies to everyone. Every individual has strengths and weaknesses. The key to success involves capitalizing on strengths and discovering ways to compensate for weaknesses.

We move forward only when we turn our attention to the promise and possibility of the 8000. It’s a principle I call realistic optimism: acknowledging challenge while focusing on opportunity.

Don’t allow what you can’t do to interfere with what you can do. John Wooden

What are the strengths with which God has blessed you? How can you capitalize on them as you move into this new week?

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

You are a New Creation in Christ

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I had the joy and privilege of speaking to a Celebrate Recovery group last night and, as always, came away blessed. What a group of Jesus-lovers! I believe one of the main reasons for that is that they live out the truth of Jesus’ words about those who have been forgiven much also loving much.

These people know about the power of walking in newness of life. We talk about that a lot in the church, but do we really understand or practice it? When I first became a Christian, I was so full of joy—and it showed! No one accused me of having been baptized in vinegar, I guarantee you! But as time went on, I found myself getting caught up in an ever growing to-do list. You know the drill: memorize more scripture verses; attend more Sunday school classes and Bible studies; volunteer for more ministries; above all, learn and utilize the language of “Christianeze” (i.e., “anointing,” “unction,” “rapture,” etc.)

Nothing wrong with any of these things, of course; in fact, I highly recommend them (though I’d go easy on the Christianeze if I were you!). The problem is that I began to substitute the true newness of life that had initially given me so much joy with activities that sapped that joy and damaged my testimony. Can anyone relate?

When God says that we’re “new creations,” He means it. We don’t have to find ways to “act” new; we simply have to “be” who God has already declared us to be. And that, of course, only happens in His presence because as new creations we are now living His eternal life, not our own temporal ones. We now choose to walk as He walked, which included lots of time spent with the Father.

Do you want to be assured that your joy will remain full to overflowing? Do you want to exhibit that new life that God has already given you? Spend time with the Father. Cultivate your love relationship with Him. That’s the only real “activity” that is required of us as new creations. And remember, when God says that “old things” have passed away and “all things’ have become new, He means it. We don’t have to work or strive to earn newness of life—we received it when we received Jesus as Savior. And that’s a truth that enables us to rest and rejoice, no matter what trials or circumstances come our way.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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

Why Bother Helping People Who Hurt You: Puppies & Porcupines

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Yesterday I asked How Do You Help An Injured Porcupine? Today I’m thinking of a different question:

Why bother?

Ever cuddle a puppy? They curl up in your lap and lick your face. Everything about a puppy is somehow warm and soft and fuzzy.

Cuddling a puppy is fun and rewarding. Puppies do cute stuff—even their mischief elicits smiles. They appreciate and respond to kindness. They trust. If you get angry they forgive.

Even non-dog-lovers have a soft spot for puppies. If hurting people were like puppies, helping them would be easy. Folks would line up for the opportunity.

Now imagine cuddling a wounded porcupine. I’ve never tried, but I suspect it might not be the same sort of cozy experience. I’d speculate that most people would do just about anything to avoid close proximity to a porcupine.

Ever notice that those who are hurting the most are also the most defensive and difficult to help? They isolate themselves behind self-constructed barriers. They’re easy to dismiss and avoid because everything about them says “LEAVE ME ALONE.”

And if you persist and reach past the shell, they bristle. Razor-sharp quills stand ready to repel any approach. Your intent is irrelevant—some sort of physical, emotional, or spiritual injury conditions them to perceive everyone as a threat. Like a porcupine, their entire existence seems focused on isolation and defense.

Most of the time, the nasty, menacing appearance is sufficient. Why bother trying to help a wounded creature who does everything imaginable to intimidate and frighten?

Occasionally, compassion overcomes discomfort. You ignore the warnings and take the risk of stepping beyond your comfort zone. And how does the ungrateful creature respond?

He lashes out. He bites, or scratches, or launches a barrage of harmful quills. You immediately retreat, convinced that any contact will only result in further personal injury.

If the stupid animal wants to be left alone to suffer, that’s his choice. Why risk further harm to help someone who responds to kindness with anger?

Why bother?

After my injury, I spent more than a decade behaving like a wounded porcupine. Friends and family finally succumbed to nastiness and left me alone.

Fortunately, a small group of folks refused to walk away. They endured the painful quills of anger and responded to ungrateful biting and scratching with patience, compassion and love. Those people saved my life. That’s the story of Relentless Grace.

JESUS IN JEANS AND A T-SHIRT

I spent ten years complaining that Jesus didn’t show up when I needed Him the most. I expected flowing white robes, angels, and trumpets, so I missed Him. He was right there, dressed in a nurse’s scrubs, a therapist’s white coat, and a friend’s blue jeans.

They weren’t “spiritual.” They didn’t spout scripture or offer comforting platitudes. They just showed up and refused to leave.

They stepped past the barriers, ignored the defenses and barbs, and cuddled a wounded porcupine.

It’s easy to help someone who’s appreciative and cuddly, who responds appropriately to our kindness and makes us feel good. But most hurting folks aren’t like that. As my friend Jeff Lucas says, “Hurt people hurt people.”

So … why bother?

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:5-8]

Hurting people, and a hurting world, scream at Jesus to leave us alone. I think if I were Him I might think “Why bother?”

Instead, He adopted an attitude of humility and service. He ignored the pain and the rejection. He sacrificed everything to cuddle a world full of nasty, ungrateful, wounded porcupines.

That’s the attitude to which we’re called.

That’s the answer to “Why bother?”

Who are the wounded porcupines in your life? How do you get past their defenses?

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

Overcoming vs. Defeating Our Addictions

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!” 1 Samuel 17:50-51

If he had not cut off the giant’s head–the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!

A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world–only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the ‘old giant’ again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same halfhearted way–and thus on and on, to the end of our life!

Most of us have had just such experience as this, with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often, and think each time that we are through with them–but soon again they are as active as ever.

We need to learn a lesson from David–and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!

There is no other way of killing sins!

The life is in the head–and the head must be struck off–or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!

The only way to get a real victory over vices–is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

“Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!

~ J. R. Miller, “Miller’s Year Book–a Year’s Daily Readings”

How Do You Help An Injured Porcupine?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

How do you respond when your life gets interrupted by—well—life?

This isn’t the article I planned for this morning. I’d already written something insightful and thought-provoking—a certain masterpiece (at least in my mind). All it required was a few finishing touches and it would have been here to greet even the earliest risers.

And then—life happened.

I’ll spare you most of the humiliating details. Create your own mental image if your wish from an overview involving a shower, equipment failure, and a short fall to the floor in a somewhat “compromised” position. I was hopelessly wedged into a spot I don’t even know how to describe.

No matter what we tried, Becky and I were never going to extricate me—at one point I think I visualized a crane and the “jaws of life” device used to free auto crash victims.

Good news—a fire station and some very kind and understanding rescue professionals were only a phone call and a few short blocks away.

Bad news—two of the “firemen” who arrived were fire “persons,” which only matters when you recall that I was appropriately attired for a shower.

They actually managed to stifle the chuckles when they beheld what had to be an amusing spectacle. I did hear a muttered “How in the world …?” but I was sort of wondering the same thing.

After a minor bit of creative demolition, they managed to pry me from my embarrassing predicament. They hoisted me into my wheelchair, surveyed the damage, and discovered no injury aside from my severely bruised dignity.

NO HARM—NO FOUL?

A brief detour from my carefully planned itinerary. A relatively minor incident, quickly resolved with kindness and care. No long-term damage, no lasting injury.

No big deal, right?

Well, not quite. While I was justifiably embarrassed by the circumstances, I’m far more disappointed by my personal reactions.

Was I thankful that I wasn’t injured? Was I grateful that Becky called for help? Did I appreciate the prompt response and the gentle care of my rescuers?

Those are my responses now. But in the moment, I defaulted to old patterns of anger, frustration, and bitterness. Those folks—especially my wife—must have felt like they were trying to assist an injured porcupine. The more they tried to help, the more I lashed out in resentment.

I don’t understand why I responded in such a hurtful manner. This accident was nobody’s fault, but I needed a target for my frustration. Unfortunately, I chose those closest to me, those who only wanted to help.

Sadly, this probably won’t be the last occasion on which I vent my anger in the wrong direction. Old habits die hard, especially in times of stress.

But that’s no excuse. Anyone can respond with love when things are all roses and sunshine. I want to develop and nurture the inner strength and courage to choose calmness in the midst of the storm.

I seek the attitude of the One I claim to follow, who hung on a cross and said, “Father, forgive them …”

I’m not there yet, and I apparently have a long distance to travel. Fortunately, I don’t need to journey alone.

What’s your secret to responding better in difficult circumstances?

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

How To Escape The Roller Coaster

Monday, April 19th, 2010

No matter where you are, you look around and, sure enough, there you are.

NowDo you spend a lot of time and energy trying to be somewhere other than here-and-now?

I’ve noticed lately that my inner life seems to be a roller coaster. Past experience tells me that the valleys will eventually outnumber the hills, and when that happens I’ll settle into a low spot. Unless I take some sort of evasive action, my natural tendency toward depression will drag me into the shadows.

As I think about trying to level things out, I recognize that most of the negative emotions conspire to take me mentally and spiritually away from right here and right now. I believe in the notion of spiritual warfare, and it seems that one of the enemy’s most effective tactics involves diverting my attention anywhere other than the present.

Worry and anxiety almost always focus on past events I cannot change or imagined future events that probably won’t occur anyway. I’d speculate that 70%-80% of my worries fall into these two buckets, which means energy spent worrying about them is completely wasted. It’s a sinkhole that drains my ability to address those issues that might be within my control.

Feeling guilty forces me to dwell on pain caused by my mistakes and bad choices. Some of those mistakes have severe long-term consequences for me and for others, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change that unpleasant fact of life.

Regret dooms me to a life of “If only ___.”  Missed opportunities, squandered gifts, wasted time, for me the list seems endless. And then, in an ironic twist, I waste more time beating myself up about wasted time.

Not much point in continuing the list, because the point is obvious to me. Any time I refuse to live here-and-now, the root appears to be my lack of trust in God.

He sent Jesus to redeem and atone for the past; I’m forgiven, the slate’s wiped clean. He assures me that He holds my future in His hands. He gives me the precious gift of the present moment and promises to walk with me. But it’s not enough.

I don’t trust His promise of forgiveness, so I try to re-live the past. I don’t trust His plan, so I try to manipulate the future.

It’s an old, recurring pattern. I’m trying to take God’s place, trying to be my own savior. Somehow I act as though I can deal with the past and anticipate the future better than He can.

Of course, that’s precisely what the enemy wants. He wants me to play at being God and pretend that I really know best. He wants me to fuss about the past and fear the future—he’ll do anything to keep me out of right now, which is where I can encounter God.

I’d like your ideas on this. I’m wondering if the most effective thing I can do in my effort to even out the roller coaster is to focus on God, right here, right now. Seems sort of obvious as I read it, so why is it so difficult?

What are your thoughts on the notion that anything that takes us away from here-and-now also takes us away from God?

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