Archive for May, 2010

Don’t Be Afraid

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The disciples were sitting in a boat. [Matthew 14:26-32] After a long night battling the wind, they saw a man walking toward them on the water. Tired and bleary-eyed, they imagined that a ghost approached from the mist. They cried out in fear.

walk-on-water

It was Jesus, and He said, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Don’t be afraid.

Really?

Wouldn’t you be afraid? Did Jesus seriously expect them to suddenly stop feeling fearful?

Jesus invited Peter to come to Him. Peter stepped out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus—he was walking on the water!

But then he looked around, realized where he was and what he was doing, and became fearful. He began to sink, and cried out for help. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

But look carefully at Jesus’ next words.

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Peter’s fear didn’t cause him to sink. His doubt, his reaction to fear, was the problem.

When we perceive a threat, we experience fear. That’s normal, and Jesus wasn’t telling us to deny that feeling. He was instructing us about how to respond to fear.

Fear is our strongest emotion. If it’s allowed to rule, fear overwhelms every other thought and desire. Fear squelches love. As Peter discovered, unchecked fear even trumps faith.

So if fear is so normal and so powerful, what’s our answer? Look back at Jesus’ words when the disciples saw him and cried out in fear.

“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Take courage.”

Courage is not absence of fear. Courage means doing what is right in the face of fear.

Our natural reactions to fear are flight, fight, or freeze. We doubt, make excuses, become angry or frustrated. We blame, become silent in denial, or simply run away.

Jesus says, “Take courage.” Face the fear. Acknowledge it, and then don’t let it control you.

It wasn’t easy for the disciples. It still isn’t.

What’s your typical reaction to fear? How can you acknowledge that behavior and change it?

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

Feeling Inadequate

Friday, May 14th, 2010

“Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

If there is one thing I wrestle with more than anything else it’s feeling inadequate to do what God has called me to do. Can anyone else relate? Just about everyone? That’s what I thought.

Today, for instance, I’ve been asked to do a radio interview on an extremely controversial hot-button topic. My first thought was, How in the world did they decide I was an expert on this topic and had something meaningful to share about it? And why is this happening more and more these days?

So I picked up my Bible and began to read one of my favorite sections of Scripture, Isaiah 6, and it all began to fall into place.

Somehow I think Isaiah felt more than slightly inadequate to do what God called him to do, don’t you? So how is it that he came to do it?

First, he saw God in all His glory: I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). Second, he responded by realizing the depth of his own depravity and sin: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Anyone who hasn’t been overwhelmed/devastated by his/her own sinfulness has not beheld the glory and purity of God. There is nothing like coming into the presence of a sinless God to bring out our own selfish, sinful nature in stark contrast. But Isaiah’s response of helplessness to deliver himself from his own sin brings about a response from God that changes everything for Isaiah: Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7). Only God can remove and purge sin, and He stands ready and willing to do so the moment we acknowledge our helplessness to do it ourselves and appeal to His mercy.
The best part of all is the response that follows that cleansing process.

When God asks, “Who will go in My name?” Isaiah declares, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). And so, though I feel totally inadequate to do what God has called me to today, because I have beheld God’s glory and received His forgiveness, I can respond as Isaiah did: “Here am I! Send me.” May you do the same, beloved.

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

Compromise: Left, Right, Or Something Else?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Which are you—left, right, or somewhere in the middle?

spectrumWe’re apparently programmed to think of nearly every aspect of our lives in terms of a linear continuum.

Politics provides the most obvious example. Left/right, liberal/conservative, red/blue. While most of us don’t reside at an extreme, we’re certainly conditioned to think of ourselves at least on one side or the other of center.

But it’s not just politics. I’m struggling to come up with an example of a choice or behavior that doesn’t convey the implication of a continuum on which you’re either toward one end or the other or closer to the center, but everyone occupies some position along the line.

One of my friends holds a strictly literal interpretation of the bible. Another claims that scripture is conveys principles—the details aren’t important. I know a pastor who maintains that the bible is God’s complete revelation and another who says that “humans shouldn’t put a period where God placed a comma.”

I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable, or maybe out of place, with the notion that everything in life is represented by a left-right continuum. I think I finally understand why.

Continuums are about debate and compromise.

But compromise is inherently values-neutral. Compromise is about what’s possible, not what’s right. In order to “get things done” we take some of the good—and some of the bad—from each side. Everyone gets a bit of what they want and swallows some distasteful medicine. It’s the price of doing business in a democracy. I get that.

But the “muddled middle” of compromise doesn’t define truth. The center of the continuum may be the place of consensus, but that doesn’t make it right.

I believe in truth. I don’t claim to always—or even mostly—know what that truth is, but not being known doesn’t prevent truth from being, well, true.

And since I believe truth exists, my goal ought to be to discover as much of it as possible.

If that’s REALLY the goal, a lot of my behavior needs to change. I’d like to spend this week looking at some of that, but today I’d like to get your reaction to this idea:

Truth may not be anywhere on any continuum.

I’m thinking that the lines are human creations, expressions of our need to make sense and order from apparent chaos. But as long as we seek truth along a continuum, we’re always thinking in terms of debate and compromise.

TRUTH or RIGHT isn’t on the line at all.

I think that might have been Jesus’ message. Perhaps He was saying that the gospel isn’t left or right but a different thing entirely. Perhaps He was so radical precisely because He didn’t fit an existing category.

He wasn’t liberal or conservative or anywhere in between. He was something else altogether, something that didn’t fit into any human preconceptions. Some folks rejected Him, some followed Him. some tried to kill Him. Didn’t matter—He was still I AM.

What would change if we tried to simply know Him rather than boxing Him into the corner that makes us most comfortable?

How about you? What’s your response to the idea that TRUTH may not be anywhere on our lines?

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

The Rose Taught Me a Lesson

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


“Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless.” Psalm 119:37

We must be always turning–if we would keep our life true and according to God’s commandments.

There are some flowers which always turn toward the sun. There was a little potted rose-bush in a sick-room which I visited. It sat by the window. One day I noticed that the one rose on the bush was looking toward the light. I referred to it; and the sick woman said that her daughter had turned the rose around several times toward the darkness of the room–but that each time the little flower had twisted itself back, until again its face was toward the light. It would not look into the darkness.

The rose taught me a lesson–never to allow myself to look toward any evil–but instantly to turn from it. Not a moment should we permit our eyes to be inclined toward anything sinful. To yield to one moment’s sinful act–is to defile the soul. One of the main messages of the Bible is, “Turn from the wrong, the base, the crude, the unworthy–to the right, the pure, the noble, the godlike!” We should not allow even an unholy thought to stay a moment in our mind–but should turn from its very first suggestion, with face fully toward Christ, the Holy One.

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing!” Psalm 101:3

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

Clarity

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Does your life ever feel out of control, too busy, too far to go and not enough time to get there?

I suspect the problem isn’t “busy.” I like being busy, having lots of interesting, worthwhile stuff going on.

I think the problem is what Chris Brogan calls “blur.” It’s not that we’re doing a lot, it’s that we’re doing a lot all at once. We never focus on one thing long enough to really enjoy or appreciate it because we’re juggling a dozen other things at the same time. It all becomes a blur.

I’ve always believed that “multi-tasking” is really “no-tasking.” It’s an illusion, pretending to do several things at once while really doing none of them well. Each task takes longer, and frequently needs to be re-visited.

If whatever you’re doing is worth doing, then it ought to be worthy of your full attention. If you’re doing something else while trying to listen, you’re not really listening at all. If you’re talking on the phone, cooking dinner, and herding kids, I suspect you’re not really doing any of those tasks well, and you’re certainly not enjoying any of them.

What if we decide to really DO whatever we’re doing at the moment? What if we cut out a few unnecessary distractions? What if we shut out some of the noise in the background, eliminate some of the inputs that bombard us from every direction?

I know it’s tough, and probably not always possible. But I also know we have more control of our time and attention than we think. If we eliminate some of the blur this week, perhaps we’ll find a bit of the clarity we need to do well the stuff that really matters.

What can you do to being a little more clarity to your 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

What perception do you cling to?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

What do you think when you see this little blue guy?
blue guy

I asked some middle school kids that question. Hands went up, signaling a number of insightful comments. The sign reminded some of friends or family members. A few said they wondered about the people who needed those parking spaces. One appreciated that we care enough to provide this simple aid for folks in need.

After they seemed about finished, one boy who might have been a stand-in for Dennis the Menace raised his hand.

“Technically, the little guy’s white. The background is blue.”

We all chuckled as he protested that he was just being observant.

As I mentally de-briefed the presentation, I was reminded why I liked working with kids. And I also wondered if he understood how much insight he’d demonstrated.

I’ve looked at that symbol hundreds of times in dozens of different settings, and I always think of “the little blue guy.” I never noticed that he’s not really blue.

How often do we all do a similar thing with our perceptions? We get an idea in our heads, and that’s just the way it is. We react so automatically to the perception that we no longer even see the details.

I think that was one of Jesus’ central messages, especially to the religious leaders. They “knew” so much that they couldn’t see Truth standing right in front of them. They felt so threatened by His fresh perspective that they killed Him.

How often do I become so entrenched in my thinking that I fail to see simple Truth right in front of me? How many times do I persist in convoluted logic to preserve my treasured ideas?

How many times do I fail to hear the beauty of Jesus loves me, this I know because I’m too busy being smart and sophisticated?

God promises a new beginning, a fresh start, a cleansed heart. But to really experience that promise, we need fresh thoughts as well.

What perception do you cling to? Maybe it’s refusal to forgive, a grudge or an old wound. Perhaps it’s a prized political or social viewpoint, or a pattern of thoughts you’ve carried since childhood.

What about those most dangerous notions, the ones so close to the target that they keep us away from genuine center? Are you focused on something almost-but-not-quite true north?

I’ll likely continue to refer to “that little blue guy.” It’s a bit more lyrical somehow than “that little white guy.”

But I’ll never see the blue guy quite the same. A twelve-year-old pointed to simple truth I couldn’t see with my educated eyes.

I have a feeling that Jesus is inviting us to look—and see—more frequently with twelve-year-old eyes.

Do you cling to any perceptions that might keep you from seeing the simple Truth?

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

Why Am I Here?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

larger_cartoon_classroom

Whenever I talk to a group, I usually begin with some version of that question. Yesterday I visited a group of middle school students. Their answers reinforced my conviction that I always learn more from kids than they learn from me.

Kids are less inhibited than adults, which is mostly a good thing. So when I asked ”Why do you think I’m here?” it didn’t take long for someone to suggest it might be because I’m in a wheelchair. I was pleased that nobody suggested lack of hair as a reason.

I agreed that the wheelchair was at least part of the reason I’d been invited. I told them the story of my injury and the struggle to re-learn the simplest tasks.

We talked about despair and hopelessness. I shared my months of certainty that life no longer had any meaning or purpose.

Then I said, “So maybe the reason I’m here is because I got out of bed this morning.”

They asked how I got past the hopelessness, so I told them about the people in the story of Relentless Grace. I explained that these folks refused to let me drive them away and toss my life in the dumpster.

We talked about the difficulty of helping friends who repay kindness with anger. I asked them to think of someone they knew who might be feeling lost and challenged them to stay with that person even if it was hard.

Then one little guy raised his hand. “So the reason you’re here today is because a bunch of people didn’t quit on you when you were being a jerk.”

I would have hugged him, but middle school boys don’t like being hugged in front of their friends.

As I drove home I pondered the simple power of his observation.

Why am I here today?

– Because I’m in a wheelchair.

– Because I got out of bed this morning.

– Because a bunch of people didn’t quit on me when I was being a jerk.

I’m here today because God loved me and sent His Son for me when I didn’t deserve it.

That’s why we’re all here today.

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

Don’t Make Me Your Project

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. Saint Augustine

“I hate feeling like I’m someone else’s project!”

I’d just finished sharing part of my story with the group. I expressed my gratitude for the people who wove the story of Relentless Grace and my belief that God sent this small circle of folks who refused to let me quit on life.

This guy (I’ll call him Don) limped toward me, shook my hand, and thanked me for my willingness to be vulnerable. Don explained his own physical challenges and said he understood my reluctance to accept help (The Hardest Thing).

He related some uncomfortable incidents in which well-meaning people tried to help but he felt like he was their “project.”

Don described feeling like he represented a task to accomplish, an item on their checklist. We chuckled as he compared himself to a household job like a broken pipe that needed repair. He said that some people acted like they had to “fix” him so they could move on to the next entry on the to-do list.

“Does it always feel like that when others help?” He shook his head. “So what’s the difference? What’s missing when accepting help makes you feel like a project?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I just know that it feels like they’ve decided I’m broken and I need to be fixed.”

After a few minutes of discussion, I proposed this summary: “I wonder if that means that they care more about helping you than they care about you. I wonder if it’s about relationship.”

I have a good friend named Jim who really gets this. Jim loves to do things for people, but even more than that he loves the people. When he does you a favor, you feel like he’s the one being served. He just has a knack for doing a project and never making you feel like a project.

Jim helps others because he loves Jesus—he’s my image of “Jesus in blue jeans.” But those he helps never feel like they’re part of some organized ministry. He sees a need and meets it without losing sight of the person behind the need.

As I think back on the story of Relentless Grace, I see people who cared about me, not about what was wrong with me. Their help wasn’t a project—it was an expression of love.

I wonder about my own efforts to help others. Do I unintentionally treat them like a project? Do I take the time to care for the person, to listen, to genuinely value relationship?

Do my actions reflect gratitude for the opportunity to serve?

Does this distinction between “caring about helping” and “caring about people” make sense? How has either notion played out in your experience?

Unanswered Prayer?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


“But we prayed to our God–AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat!” Nehemiah 4:9

We are in danger of making prayer a substitute for duty; or of trying to roll over on God, the burden of caring for us and doing things for us–while we sit still and do nothing! When we pray to be delivered from temptation–we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack–we must also labor to earn God’s bread, and thus make it ours honestly.

A lazy man came once and asked for money, saying that he could not find bread for his family. “Neither can I!” replied the industrious mechanic to whom he had applied. “I am obliged to work for it!”

While we pray for health–we must use the means to obtain it.

While we ask for wisdom–we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure.

While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit–we must also strive to overcome the habit.

Prayer is not merely a device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility. When there is no human power adequate to the need–we may ask God to work without us, and in some way He will help us. But ordinarily WE must do our part, asking God to work in and through us, and to bless us through faithful obedience.

“I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!” Colossians 1:29

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

Are You Mindful?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Are you mindful?

I thought that was sort of an interesting question, even though I had to think a while about exactly what it meant. I guess the opposite would be mindless, which seems like a pretty accurate description of how I stumble through life.

I think a lot about living more intentionally, living “on purpose.” But I guess you need to be aware, or mindful, before you can be intentional.

I ran across this short questionnaire, the “Mindful Attention Awareness Scale,” as part of a paper by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan, The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and its Role in Psychological Well-Being.

The idea is to answer “yes” or “no” to each question. I’ll give you my results and an interpretation guide at the end.

  1. I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.
  2. I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else.
  3. I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.
  4. I tend to walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.
  5. I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.
  6. I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.
  7. It seems I am “running on automatic” without much awareness of what I’m doing.
  8. I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.
  9. I get so focused on the goal I want to achieve that I lose touch with what I am doing right now to get there.
  10. I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.
  11. I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time.
  12. I drive places on “automatic pilot” and then wonder why I went there.
  13. I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past.
  14. I find myself doing things without paying attention.
  15. I snack without being aware that I’m eating.

Well, how did you do? No really special answer key—the more “no” responses, the more mindful you are.

Personally, I answered “no” to #2 and #8. Ouch!

The benefits of mindfulness are obvious, but I thought the questionnaire also pointed out some possible areas for improvement. (#15—anyone else?)

So—what did you discover? Please leave a comment and share your insights.

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