Archive for September, 2010

Relationships: Stories Worth Telling (Part 3)

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently with a young man who’s on a difficult journey. He wants everyone to learn from his experiences.


He’s doing his best to be vulnerable and transparent. He’s not looking for attention—I believe he genuinely wants to help.

I’ve been talking about “Stories Worth Telling,” advancing the idea that we all have worthwhile stories to share. My friend desperately wants to share the lessons he’s learned, but it’s not working. He’s alienating listeners and isolating himself from potential sources of encouragement.

So what’s the problem?

He’s missing an important element of sharing—he needs to …


In this context, permission means more than “Is it okay if I tell you my story?” It means investing the time and effort to create a relationship.

It’s one of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that I can’t impose my story on others. In fact, I’ve pretty much adopted a personal policy that I don’t talk about my injury unless someone asks. And even then, I often respond with some sort of clarifying question to be sure I understand the request.

In my classroom, I didn’t begin the year by telling new students about my injury. I learned that the issue would eventually arise in the course of our interaction. When they asked, I figured they were ready to listen.

Teachers talk about something called a “teachable moment,” a circumstance in which the stage is set for an important lesson. Great teachers work hard to create such situations, and they also learn to recognize them when they appear without prior notice. Such moments are priceless and fleeting; they must be seized, but they can’t be rushed.

That’s how story-sharing works. You need to be ready when the opportunity arises, but you can’t force it before its natural time. And the very best, most helpful, stories are shared in relationship.

That’s how God designed us. Jesus didn’t grab random people off the street and demand that they listen. He gathered a group of friends, spent time with them, and let them know how much He loved them. He taught in the context of their everyday struggles and questions.

I want to work like Him. I want to listen, understand, and share when it’s appropriate. I want it to be about the audience and what they need.

It’s not MY story anyway. It’s not about me.

I wonder how many times I’ll remind myself of that lesson before I truly learn it.

See: Part 1 | Part 2

Are you ever tempted to push your story into a setting that’s not quite ready to hear it?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

What is Your Martyrdom?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

I was reading St. Augustine’s “Confessions” recently. Included in that book was an introduction reflecting on the life of Christians in those early days. Though it was beginning to change at the time of Augustine, what is most memorable about the early Christians was the persecution they had to endure. They were taught that it was indeed an honor to die for Christ. Martyrdom has always been lifted up as the greatest price a person can pay for their faith in Christ.

I live in a culture that accepts Christianity. I can worship freely. I can openly share my faith without fear of being arrested or beaten. I remember so well the words of Jesus when He had confronted Saul on the Damascus road. He later told Ananias in Acts 9:15: “He (Paul) is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and the kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My names sake.” Wow. Put that in the context of some of the gospel preaching you hear today about health and wealth.

I have to beg the question: am I suffering for His names sake? Definitely not. I might have noticed a shunning from some friends about my faith over the years, but in no way does that cause me to suffer.

In this forum of CIR I have reflected on Romans 6 in a variety of situations and circumstances. It is a chapter I go back to time and time again. The theme of this chapter is about dying to sin; or dying to self. In 6:11, Paul writes: “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Verse 12 becomes a glaring and articulate summation of what our response ought to be to that teaching: “Do not let sin reign in your moral body so that you obey its lusts.”

It is my choice: either I let sin reign or I don’t let that happen. It is up to me.

I can presume that when I die it will be by natural causes. In other words, I won’t die by execution because I am a Christian. But, I can die right now. I can die to sin. I know what Scripture teaches: that I am dead already (6:2) because of the Cross of Christ. My old self died with Him on the cross and my new self rose with Him at the resurrection (6:6 and 8). Old self: dead. New self: alive.

Here is my “martyrdom.” Here is how I can die for Jesus: to put aside my own selfish needs and desires; to put Him first and me second; and to actively deny sin – particularly the sin of sexual impurity. What this means is that every time I deny that sin I am dying for Jesus. I am doing this because of what He did for me. It is possible to do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact it was the Holy Spirit that gave me this teaching.

So, my martyrdom is every day. Every day I choose to die for Jesus and live for Him. I choose to put aside my self-gratification but to do so in His name.

I am Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in Recovery.

Hope: Stories Worth Telling (Part 2)

Friday, September 10th, 2010

I believe your story might be your greatest gift.

We all live in stories. God reveals Himself through stories. Your particular story incorporates a unique combination of experiences and relationships. It’s a gift, and the highest use for any gift is to enjoy it and share it in service to others.

This is #2 in a series called “Stories Worth Telling” that’s looking at some principles to consider. Last time I suggested Tell The Truth. Today I’m encouraging us all to…


Why are you telling your story?

I’m thinking that there are a few reasons. Among them:

  • To ask for help.
  • To seek attention or approval.
  • To offer hope.


For a long time I told the story of my injury in a desperate search for relief. From a very dark, lonely place I reached out for anyone who might make sense of senselessness. I imagined that somehow, if I told it enough times, completely irrational circumstances might assume some sort of logical organization.

When you’re hurting and lost, it’s good to share, to express the pain and disappointment and hopelessness. A counselor named Pete encouraged me to write in a journal, and the process really helped me to find a way out of the darkness.

I learned that telling my story—to the right people—helped. I honestly cannot retrace the precise process. I only know that, through time and tears, the darkness subsided and light gradually appeared where I’d been certain it could never shine again.

The journal slowly revealed subtle patterns I’d missed in the swirling chaos of grief. Telling my story allowed me to take an honest look at my choices, to gain perspective, to view myself as a character in a play of which I was the author. As I learned that I could write better scenes, a tale of pain and loss pointed the way to growth and possibility.

Please don’t misunderstand—I am NOT thankful for the injury or the pain. I don’t believe God intended or caused them. They were evil, but God used them for good.

I discovered that my story was an incredible gift—to myself. God used the twisted horror of my injury to show me a new life of possibility. He invited me to hope.


Sometimes our stories become a competition, a way to see who can cast themselves as most pitiful or most heroic. Sadly, I’ve been guilty of screaming, “Look at me! Feel sorry for me! None of this is my fault!”

Or, even worse, “You should admire me for enduring the most horrible life ever!”

Okay, maybe I’ve never been quite that blatant about it. But I’ve certainly worked hard at times to gain sympathy or to somehow justify bad behavior because of the unfairness of my situation. (My Pain’s Worse Than Yours)

Everyone endures pain, grief, and injustice. Life isn’t a contest to see who can be most pathetic.

Attention, pity, admiration—they’re all rationalizations, weaknesses, signs that I’m wasting the gift of my story.


Every story can be a source of hope and encouragement, because that’s how God works. He uses ordinary events to reveal extraordinary possibilities.

And there’s the subtle twist—as soon as I forget that God’s at work and pretend that somehow I’ve done something remarkable, the process falls apart. I fall into promoting ME and MY accomplishments. I do it all the time.

Relentless Grace is a story of hope, but it’s not my story. As the subtitle explains, it’s God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. That’s what I learned through those long nights writing in the journal. As difficult as it is to admit, …

It’s not about me.

My story, and yours, are gifts. We can open them, look past the exterior wrapping of temporary pleasure and struggle, and savor the opportunities inside. We can learn from them, and we can share them with others.

Every story contains the possibility of deep, intimate relationships with self, others, and God. That’s the purpose for which we were created, and that’s why it’s important to share our stories.

Tell your story in a way that encourages yourself and others to see the hope of love and authentic intimacy.

How about you? Do you struggle with finding and telling a story of hope?

See: Part 1 | Part 3

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

How To Respond To “One Of Those Days”

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]

Ever had one of those days?

Well, I’ve already had one today, and it’s only 9:30 am.

Nothing catastrophic; my spinal cord injury decided to remind me of its ability to disrupt plans and make even the simplest tasks rather unpleasant. But I got past the nastiness, everything’s okay, and hopefully the injury’s done with finding ways to assert itself.—though it IS only 9:30.

So I’m sitting at the keyboard, but I don’t really want to work. Don’t want to write, plan, or even return emails—I’m frustrated that this happened, that I had to skip my ride this morning, that the day isn’t unfolding as I’d envisioned. My feelings tell me that I’d be perfectly justified if I just blew off the rest of this miserable day.

This morning’s events are especially poignant because I’ve been writing this week about maintaining an abundance mentality and an attitude of gratitude. (How To Discover Gratitude, How To Relate In Abundance)

It’s almost as though the enemy says, “Okay, you think it’s a world of abundance with lots of stuff for which you’re thankful. Well, let’s see how thankful you’re feeling after THIS.”

And you know what? I’m NOT thankful for the way this morning unfolded. I don’t like the discomfort and embarrassment and loss of control over my situation.

I almost fell into the trap.

Thankful isn’t a feeling. Gratitude isn’t an emotion. God doesn’t expect me to fake it, to pretend that I welcome the events that greeted me this morning. The bible doesn’t ask me to say I’m thankful for pain and sadness and grief. Read this passage—what’s the key word?

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]

I believe the important word is “in.” It doesn’t say “give thanks FOR all circumstances.” So while I’m emphatically not feeling thankful for the way my day started, I can still choose gratitude.

I am thankful for:

  • The simple fact that I got past an episode that likely would have landed me in the emergency room a few years ago.
  • The short ride I was able to do with Monte once things calmed down. I missed my normal workout, but we got outside and enjoyed the cool weather. He got to sniff around and trot three or four miles; I got to calm down and get some perspective.
  • A reminder of the abundant blessings that remain. All of the good things I noticed yesterday (How To Discover Gratitude) didn’t disappear just because I experienced a setback.
  • The will to write this article, even though I don’t feel like doing it. And, in fact, I actually feel better than I did when I began. I believe that’s a blessing from the Spirit, a result of believing and acting in abundance and gratitude even when I feel something different.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful for new beginnings.

I’m thankful that I’m not a product of my past, that the events of this morning don’t define the rest of my day unless I choose to allow it. I’m grateful that Jesus wiped the slate clean, and that I get to start over.

My friend Dick Foth was once asked to summarize the gospel in non-church language. I love his response:

Jesus left his place and came to our place.
Then He took our place, so He could take us to His place.

I’m grateful for that.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. [Philippians 4:8-9, 11-13]

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

One of the Most Important Questions

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, is what God thinks of us.

One has pointed out that in every man, there are four different men:

the man whom the neighbors see,

the man whom one’s family sees,

the man whom the person himself sees,

and the man whom God sees.

The community knows us only in a general way, superficially. What people think of us, we sometimes call ‘reputation’–what we are reputed to be. It is a composite made up of all that people know about us, gathered from our conduct, our acts, our dispositions, our words, the impressions of ourselves we give to others.

The knowledge the community has of a man, is only superficial. It is evident that the world’s opinion about people is not infallible, is not complete, is not final.

A person may be better than his reputation; his external manner may do him injustice. Some men, by reason of their shyness, their awkwardness, or some limitation in power of expression, fail to appear at their true value. The world knows only a man’s outward life, and there may be good things in him which it does not know.

Then some people, on the other hand, are worse than their reputation. Their photograph flatters them! What they pretend to be–exceeds the reality. They practice tricks which give a glamour to their lives, so that they pass in public for more than they are. They wear veils, which hide defects and faults in them, and thus they seem better than they are.

Hence we cannot accept the judgment of the community, regarding anyone–as absolutely true, fair, and final.

But there is another man in us–the man GOD sees. And this is most important of all. We do not even know all the secret things of our own hearts. There is an Eye that sees deeper than ours! It is pleasant to have people commend us, when we have tried to do our duty. It gives us great joy to have the approval of our own hearts. But if we do not have the commendation of the Master, human praise and self-approval amount to nothing! “What does God think of me?” is always the final question.

Men are cruel. They judge often harshly. They know only part of the truth concerning us. They are not patient with our infirmities. But we are safe in the hands of God. He knows the worst in us–but He also knows the best. We may trust our lives, therefore, to God’s judgment, even if they are full of defects and flaws. He knows all, and will bring to light all the hidden things.

~ J. R. Miller, “What God Thinks of Us” 1909

Truth: Stories Worth Telling (Part One)

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Do you think your story is worth telling?

I believe the answer is emphatically “Yes!”

God tells us about Himself through stories. Most of the Bible is stories about real people in real circumstances who struggled and failed and got it wrong more than they got it right. God’s own story comes to us through tales of people and their relationships. (How Important Is Right Theology?)

I’m thinking there’s a message there, that God’s choice to reveal Himself through human stories might be telling us about the best way to tell others about Him. Maybe people learn best about God through the stories of His people.

I operate from the premise that a story is worth telling if it brings people closer to Jesus. In a non-church setting it’s worthwhile if it helps listeners embrace His principles even if no religious terminology is involved. I can talk about love, respect, and forgiveness in any context.

If I’ve learned anything through talking to people about the story of Relentless Grace, it’s that “everyone has a story.” And I believe those stories are worth telling, if …

I’d like to spend a few posts talking about the “if,” because I think we can tell our stories in ways that are more or less helpful to others.

Today’s focus:


A story that’s a lie won’t be helpful to anyone. That might seem sort of obvious, but apparently it’s not. I’ve heard, and told, stories that include intentional and accidental untruths.

Many Christians seem to believe that they can only talk about the victories, the good stuff, and the instances in which things turned out just right. They fail to acknowledge the struggles, failures, and weaknesses. These folks seem intent on portraying life as an endless progression of roses and sunshine.

Even tragedies are quickly transformed into celebrations. These stories are Hollywood movies—in one scene a horrific loss occurs, and in the next scene everyone’s happy. Injuries and illness miraculously disappear, grief and pain are compressed into a few seconds, and then the violins reach a happily-ever-after crescendo.

No one benefits from stories that relate this sort of impossibly false perfection. Reality includes conflict, pain, and doubt. Look at the heroes of the Bible—God didn’t tell us only their triumphs. In fact, we often learn more from the struggles of people like King David.

I’m not suggesting that we ought to manufacture problems, because the real ones are all to plentiful. But you do no one, including yourself, any favors by hiding behind a freshly scrubbed, Sunday morning façade.

A more subtle deception happens through an unintended choice of words. An example: “I’m thankful for the experience of cancer and chemotherapy.”

I don’t believe that. I’ve watched both of my parents and my best friend struggle through horrible deaths from cancer. I don’t believe anyone is thankful for that kind of pain. I’m certainly not grateful for the “opportunity” to watch their suffering, just as I’m not thankful for the pain and loss associated with my injury.

I am, however, abundantly grateful for the many things God has taught me through those experiences. I do not believe my injury was necessary for me to learn, but I believe God works for good even within tragedy (Romans 8:28)

My principle for story-telling is Grace And Truth (John 1:14). If you tell the truth with grace and love, then I believe you take a step toward a story worth telling.

What’s your take? Have you found that telling your true story helps others?

We encourage you to share your story with us!

See: Part 2 | Part 3

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

How Important Is Right Theology?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Does theology matter?

Short answer—yes, of course theology matters.

Do I believe that some elements of Christian theology are black-and-white, right-or-wrong? Yes, I do, though I imagine we might disagree on some of them.

That said, I’m wondering how many folks encounter Jesus by reading a theology book. My guess would be “not many.”

I’ve been mentally de-briefing my retreat experience, considering the experiences that made what feels like a lasting impact. None of them involved debates about the fine points of theology.

I felt impacted by two elements: stories and relationships. Interesting that God chose to reveal Himself through those same elements, since the Bible is primarily a collection of stories about real people and real relationships. Maybe that’s how He wants us to talk to others about Him.

A few guys at the retreat weren’t sure about the whole “God thing.” They had a lot of questions, and I sat on the outskirts of a few of those conversations. Very little discussion centered on theology—it was mostly about stories and relationships.

What about end times and Satan and hell? Where was the discussion of Calvinist versus Arminian views on predestination? Shouldn’t they have at least enumerated the Ten Commandments to ensure that there was a clear understanding of sin and its horrible consequences?

None of that happened. Instead, men shared transparently about failures and struggles and their simple, life-changing relationships with Jesus and His followers. There were tears and prayers and sometimes just the silence of mountain nights.

I looked in my Bible for the place where Jesus says, “Therefore go and teach the details of your theology, debating into submission those who disagree with you.”

But, alas, I could find no such instruction. Instead, I encountered Jesus’ last words to His friends:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

I’m pretty sure we won’t make many disciples through theological debate. Whenever people find Jesus, I suspect we’ll find stories and relationships and tears and prayers and maybe silence.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

One Problem With A Weekend Retreat

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

One problem with a weekend retreat in the mountains is … it ends.

At some point you have to pack up your stuff, climb into the car, and head back to the real world. The challenge is to bring something back, to make sure the sense of renewal doesn’t fade before the garage door opens at home.

One image I brought home from my weekend is a memory of a man I didn’t know very well. His name was Doug—he was instrumental in building the men’s ministry at my church, sowing the seeds that sprouted into an amazing weekend. Doug would have been there, but he was killed in a motorcycle accident a few months ago.

Several guys talked about Doug—his booming laugh, long hair, and huge heart for kids and other men. They shared stories of how he always showed up when someone was feeling lost or alone, how he knew when to quote a scripture, when to cry, and when to laugh and reassure.

One of Doug’s friends wore a t-shirt created for the memorial service. It sported his treasured Harley logo on the front, and the back proclaimed:


Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [John 10:7-10]

Doug lived the full, abundant life for which Jesus lived, died, and lived again. He loved, he laughed, he served, and he didn’t waste the time God gave him.

His spirit was with us throughout the weekend. Even though I barely knew him, his presence brought a sense of peace and comfort.

I like the idea of a t-shirt for my own memorial. I wonder what it would say.

What would you like your t-shirt to say?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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


Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason
for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV).

Hopeless. Can there be a more depressing word? When our situation is truly hopeless, why go on living? Hopelessness is the most common reason that suicide is contemplated, attempted, or achieved. What point is there to life if we have no hope?

I’ve been reading the prophets again lately, as I do so often, and I see two primary themes stretching throughout. First, God’s judgment on unrepentant sin. Though God called out time and again to His people, begging them to repent of their sin and return to Him, they ignored Him and continued on their own way. The results were disastrous. But the second theme is the hope of restoration. Despite the people’s willful and ongoing rejection of God, the faithful Father promised that restoration would follow judgment. Even in the most dire circumstances, there was still hope because God was greater than the circumstances!

Isn’t that what a world steeped in sin and mired in rejection of God needs to hear? Yes, judgment is coming…but restoration is the final result. And those of us who have already received God’s forgiveness must ALWAYS be ready to explain that fact to anyone who asks. If people living in hopeless situations see hope as the hallmark of our lives, they are going to be drawn to us—and sooner or later, they’re going to ask about the Source of our hope. What a privilege to be able to answer their questions! Will they respond by receiving that forgiveness and hope for themselves? Some will; many won’t. Some will even persecute us for it. But what is that to us? People’s reaction to the reason for our hope does not change the surety of that hope because our hope is not based on the stock market or the headlines or the election results. It is based on the One who cannot lie and whose promises never fail.

May we walk in such a way that our hope is obvious to all who see us—and may be ALWAYS be ready to offer an explanation (“give a defense”) of that glorious hope that is in us!

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”


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

Her new novels:

No Greater Love

More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at:

Look up!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

It is good always to look up. Thousands of people dwarf their lives, and hinder the possibilities of growth in their souls–by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere earthly sights, and miss the glories of the hills that pierce the clouds, and of the heavens that bend over them!

A story is told of a boy who one day found a gold coin on the street. Ever after this–he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked, watching for coins. During a long lifetime, he found a good number of coins–but meanwhile he never saw the flowers and the trees which grew in such wondrous beauty everywhere; he never saw the hills, the mountains, the sweet valleys, the picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue sky. To him, this lovely world meant only a dusty road, dreary and unbeautiful, merely a place in which to look for coins.

This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their eyes off the earth! They live only to gather money, to add field to field, to scheme for power or to find pleasure. Or, if their quest is a little higher, it is still only for earthly things. They never lift up their eyes to God! There is no blue sky in their picture. They cherish no heavenly visions. They are without God in the world.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

(J. R. Miller, “Unto the Hills!” A Meditation on Psalm 121)