Archive for November, 2010

How Will We Leave Our Mark?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Have you ever wondered whether Jesus has a sense of humor? I’m pretty sure He does—a bunch of close friends who traveled together for three years must have shared some laughs.

Humor is a great way to make an important point. With that in mind, this poem is a marvelous parody of the famous poem, “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson (Zangare).

“Butt Prints In The Sand” (author unknown)

“One night I had a wondrous dream,

One set of footprints there was seen,

The footprints of my precious Lord,

But mine were not along the shore.

But then some strange prints appeared,

And I asked the Lord, ‘What have we here?’

‘Those prints are large and round and neat,

‘But Lord, they are too big for feet.’

‘My child,’ he said in somber tones,

‘For miles I carried you along.

‘I challenged you to walk in faith,

‘But you refused and made me wait.

‘You disobeyed, you would not grow,

‘The walk of faith, you would not know,

‘So I got tired, I got fed up,

‘And there I dropped you on your butt.’

‘Because in life, there comes a time,

‘When one must fight, and one must climb,

‘When one must rise and take a stand,

Or leave their butt prints in the sand.’”

Let’s not leave our butt prints in the sand.

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

Right Or Not Right?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Do you ever struggle to know what’s right? (I see you nodding.)

This video made the rounds on the Internet this week. If you haven’t seen it, take twenty-seven seconds to watch. (If you can’t see the video, click here.)

If you’re not a football fan, the kid figured out a way to trick the opponents and walk unopposed through the line. Pretty funny, right?

This silly video sparked a surprising amount of commentary.

Depending on perspective, it’s either a model of inspired resourcefulness or evidence of the impending decline of civilization.

Some folks see a shining example of “outside-the-box” thinking and clever, creative problem-solving. It’s an illustration of the benefits of seeking unconventional approaches to common situations, the sort of ingenuity we should applaud, reward, and seek to emulate.

Others perceive a shocking model of poor sportsmanship. By encouraging trickery and deception, the coach sets a deplorable example. His impressionable young players learn dishonesty, immorality, and a lack of integrity.

Seriously?

IT’S A GAME—a kids’ game. Nobody died or got injured or went to jail. The player apparently didn’t break any rule. He (or more likely his coach) devised an unconventional trick that caught everyone by surprise and provided some laughs and a one-time success. I doubt that anyone learned much other than games are supposed to be fun and it’s okay not to take them so seriously.

In a game there’s a huge distinction between deception (exploiting the rules) and cheating (intentionally breaking the rules). Deception within the rules is an acceptable strategy.

A game is an artificial environment defined by rules. If you choose to participate, you follow the rules or accept the prescribed penalty—or you cheat. Without its rules the game can’t exist. It wouldn’t make much sense to play basketball or Monopoly if everyone insisted on making up their own rules.

In a game, the rules define right and not-right. But I think we tend to lose sight of an important reality:

Life isn’t a game.

Next week I want to look at rules, games, and life. For today, I encourage you to consider that sometimes games are just games—no life-or-death consequences, no eternal lessons.

Games.  Fun.  Enjoy.  Sometimes that’s enough.

Willing To Be Willing

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger… [Ephesians 4:21(a)]

Do you cling to any traces of bitterness?

Last week I wrote about talking to a younger version of me (Teaching Me). As I re-read my account of learning a scarcity mentality, it felt like I wrote a bit dispassionately. My words seemed somewhat cold and academic; I think I told the story but scrubbed away the raw emotions.

Fact is, I still harbor some bitterness toward my dad. I’m not proud of that, but there it is.

He did what he knew—there was no evil intent on his part. And he’s been gone for more than a year. Why am I still bitter?

Sometimes bitterness is right out in the open. Someone harms me and I want to strike back. I want vengeance. I want to get even.

That sort of acrimony can bury me in hatred, but at least it’s apparent. I see the danger, and I can choose to confront and resolve it.

I think the nastiest form of bitterness sneaks into the dark corners of our hearts. It hides behind old hurts and almost-forgotten struggles and festers within accumulated, unacknowledged slights. This subtle bitterness secretes venom in nearly imperceptible doses until our hearts harden and crack from long-term toxic exposure.

Bitterness also seems to create a cycle like the steps in the picture. The poison engenders more anger and an escalating desire for vengeance, leading to even greater bitterness. It’s an endless death spiral, every downward step leading inevitably to the next.

I have a sense that there’s no such thing as a “little” bitterness. One taste of “getting even” leaves us wanting more and still more, and down the steps we go.

Antidote

The encouraging aspect of the steps is that they lead eternally down—or up. I think we get to choose which direction we travel. So if bitterness destroys like poison, what’s the antidote? What’s the secret to stepping upward?

I think the antidote is forgiveness. I need to recognize my dad’s impact (done), acknowledge the pain (done), and then sincerely let go of the resentment (uhhh…apparently not quite done).

I don’t wish to be overly self-critical. Forgiveness isn’t an event as much as a process. As my friend Jeff Lucas says, the critical step is “to be willing to be willing” to forgive. Perhaps that’s the key to turning the cycle around and walking up the steps toward light and freedom.

It’s not about sprinting, or even getting, to the top. It’s about stepping up rather than down.

If my feelings are an accurate barometer, I don’t think I’ve completely forgiven my dad yet. But I am willing to be willing. Hopefully that gets me going up the steps, because I’m tired of trudging downward.

You? Any old resentments hanging out in the shadows? Are you willing to let go, or at least willing to be willing?

Bitterness imprisons life. Love releases it.
Bitterness paralyzes life. Love empowers it.
Bitterness sours life. Love sweetens it.
Bitterness sickens life. Love heals it.
Bitterness blinds life. Love anoints its eyes.
Harry Emerson Fosdick

I’d tell the younger version of me to choose love and forgiveness, to do his best to walk up the steps. The journey down isn’t all that satisfying.

How about you?

Self-defeating Cycles

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Is it possible that abundance is a self-created cycle?

The steps in this picture take the marchers perpetually uphill or downhill. Same steps—it’s all about which direction they choose to walk. I have a feeling the same sort of dynamic works for abundance and scarcity.

Last time (Teaching Me) I talked about learning to think in scarcity terms. I think it works something like the path in this diagram.

The path brings me to a POD (Point Of Decision) between abundance and scarcity. The first time I choose scarcity I begin to create a faint new path in that direction. The next time I encounter the POD I’m probably more likely to take the familiar path.

Each time I choose scarcity the path becomes more familiar and well-worn, increasing the likelihood that I’ll choose that path. Eventually it’s nearly impossible to perceive any other option. Even though the “Abundance” sign remains, it appears that there’s really only one possible path.

Can I break this self-defeating cycle? I think so. I think the process is pretty simple, but it’s not easy.

Breaking the cycle means stepping into unfamiliar, uncharted territory. I picture the path in a deep woods—one path obviously leads somewhere, and that’s comforting. Choosing abundance means wandering off where there’s no path. I might get lost, fall off a cliff, or be attacked by wild animals. At least the other path is safe, right?

But I know the familiar path takes me to an undesirable destination, so I have to choose. I can continue on the path to frustration, or take the risk of the untried direction.

Choosing the new path requires faith and courage. But the risk creates a new path. Each approach to the POD is an opportunity to mark the new direction a bit more clearly. And as I avoid the old path it will gradually disappear.

We can start over, change old habits, and make healthier choices. We can choose new directions.

I believe that why Jesus came to Earth. He saw us choosing scarcity. He saw the pain and sadness. He came to show us a better way. He walked the path of abundance and promised that He’d be with us if we’d follow in His steps.

I’d like to tell that teenage “me” to step out, take the risk, and choose abundance. How about you?

Do you hesitate to choose abundance? What’s one small decision you can make, right now, to begin following a new path?

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

Knowledge and Good Judgment

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Psalm 119:66: “Teach me knowledge and good judgment.”

As we approach Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, we may struggle with knowledge and good judgment. For some, this time of year means they eat more food than their body needs. Others may spend more money than they earn and ignore their bills. Still others may relapse on alcohol or other drugs during this party season.

Some people will camp in front of the stores on Thanksgiving evening to be the first in line for the Black Friday sales. Would they do this to be the first in line to enter their church service on Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Some people claim they cannot tithe at their church, but they will buy the latest gadgets and clothes on Black Friday. They will eat out without a moment’s consideration of the cost.

It’s time to ask God to teach us knowledge and good judgment. We can tell him we want to protect our physical, spiritual, emotional and financial health, but we can’t do it without him.

Dear God, teach me knowledge and good judgment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: How will you demonstrate knowledge and good judgment this week?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2010, Yvonne Ortega, , LPC, LSATP, CCDVC

All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.

She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.

Visit her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Pavement: What is Important?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

…isn’t all that precious.

Does it ever strike you that you treasure the wrong stuff?

This week I’m trying to focus on my belief in Abundance. I’m afraid that there’s a big space between my intellectual belief and my habitual attitudes. An objective observer might not conclude that I operate consistently from an abundance mentality.

I think I’m too much like the guy in this very bad joke:

A rich man is dying, and he’s depressed about leaving all of his stuff. He complains so much that God finally tells him he can being one bag filled with anything he wants.

So he shows up in heaven, and St. Peter asks him what’s in the bag. He proudly opens it and displays a bunch of gold.

St. Peter looks surprised. He chuckles and says, “God told you to bring anything you want, and you brought pavement?”

I seek the sort of eternal frame of reference that puts worldly concerns in perspective. The most precious substance on Earth—gold—is merely pavement in God’s presence.

I wonder what other “riches” consume my time and energy. What are the things that seem so important and really don’t matter much?

When it’s time to go home, will I be reluctant to let go of some silly worldly treasure?

I hope not.

What do you cling to that God might want you to release?

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

Teaching Me: Life-changing Lessons We Learned as Kids

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

When we are young or immature, right theology makes us feel superior, but when we are older and more mature, a study of theology makes us feel inferior and unworthy, undeserved, and grateful. Don Miller

Do you ever think about the life-changing lessons you learned as a kid?

I’m not talking about words and facts from parents and teachers because they mostly fade away. Words don’t really convey the important lessons.

I always felt sort of sorry for my dad. I didn’t understand it until later, but even as a kid I had this nagging sense that there was something sad about him.

Dad was smart—not educated, but really smart. He was a high school football star and state champion sprinter. He returned from Germany after WWII and worked his way into a successful career with a lot of responsibility. I think everyone liked him; if he spent much time in a small town he knew enough people to run for mayor and win.

He apparently had a full, successful life. So why did I find my dad’s life so sad?

He was afraid. I don’t think he ever took a step backward from anyone in his life, but Dad lived in fear.

Somewhere in my past there’s a teenage kid who learned to be afraid and to react to fear with anger.

Dad never thought he was good enough. In his eyes, other people were smarter, more educated, more capable, and more worthy. He believed strongly in his own inferiority, and he believed that’s what others perceived.

He feared showing any weakness or vulnerability and hid behind a “good guy” façade that kept everyone at arm’s length. His many friends mostly didn’t know him. Those who managed to see behind the mask never dared to get closer.

I learned to fear the temper that erupted without warning when his fragile pretense of confidence was threatened. I learned that acceptance could only be earned through accomplishment, that appearance mattered more than substance, and that self-concept was totally dependent on others’ perceptions.

That kid learned well. Everything he learned might be summarized in a single word: he learned an attitude of scarcity.

There was never enough. Achievement, acceptance, self-worth—you name it, there was never enough. Life was about working and striving for a goal I couldn’t reach and pretending everything was great. Above all it was about deception, making sure nobody saw the real me. Anyone who really knew me would surely reject me.

That kid worked very hard to appear superior because he knew he was inferior.

I wish I could talk to that teenager.

I’d tell him that scarcity was a lie, that everything he fought so hard to attain was already his in unlimited abundance.

I’d tell that kid about the outrageous things Jesus said. I want you to have a full, abundant life. Take courage. Don’t be afraid. Come to me and I will give you rest. You don’t have to earn self-worth—you are worth my life.

I don’t think he’d believe me, at least not right away. Those early lessons were pretty deeply ingrained. You don’t just shrug when everything you learned from your dad suddenly turns inside-out and upside-down. You do everything possible to pound a new round peg into an old square hole.

I suspect he’d resist and intellectualize and rationalize. He’d turn Christianity into another place to achieve, so he’d learn a lot about the Bible and theology. Even after he took in the head knowledge, he’d guard his heart because that’s what he’d learned. He’d run away. The facts wouldn’t change his behavior much.

I wish I could tell him to relax a little, let it go, and quit running. I’d tell him that all the stuff he’s so worried about doesn’t matter very much, that things usually work out, and that he can’t control most important things anyway.

I’d also tell him that running is useless, that he can’t get to a place where God can’t find him, and that God won’t give up on him. I’d tell him to stop trying to prove he isn’t worthy because he can’t mess up badly enough to drive God away.

I’d tell him to stop pretending to be thankful for what he earned and instead to be grateful for the abundance he doesn’t deserve.

He didn’t know about abundant love and forgiveness. He didn’t know about Relentless Grace. I wish I could help him understand—it would save both of us a lot of grief.

What would you like to tell a teenage “you”?

P.S.—I’d also tell that kid to be more careful installing Christmas lights. But since he thought he was invincible, I don’t imagine he’d pay much attention. Spinal cord injuries and paralysis happen to other people. **Sigh**

Eyes On The Prize

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Have you ever seen the sport of curling?

Curling, like most games, incorporates complex strategies and techniques, but the basic idea is pretty simple. The object, like other similar games (Crokinole and Shuffleboard), is to score points by getting your team’s markers closer to the target.

These games typically involve three main tactics:

  • Slide your own stone as close as possible to the target
  • Place one of your stones strategically to block the target from the other team
  • Hit an opponent’s stone to move it away from the target

All three tactics are important, but inexperienced players tend to become obsessed with the last two—and especially with #3. They focus so much on the opponent’s moves that they lose sight of the objective.

The first requirement is getting your own stone near the target.

See the principle? We can become so involved with what others are doing (that’s mostly out of our control) that we forget to concentrate on our own skills, thoughts, and actions.

The game is complex, but the objective is pretty simple. Often, however, we over-think and add layers of complication. I think life’s like that.

I think it’s part of what Jesus was getting at in this familiar scripture:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” [Matthew 7:3-5]

Perhaps He’s telling me to develop my own character (which I control) rather than fussing about the character of others.

Does that mean I shouldn’t care about others?

No! I sincerely wish to encourage positive behavior and confront wrongs. But I think Jesus points to the most effective strategy for helping others to be their best.

Jesus was a leader. He knew His destination and His path. He didn’t force or coerce; He used words and actions that inspired others to follow.

What if:

  • I focus on doing right rather than changing others?
  • I help those who “get it” and stop worrying about those who don’t? (How To Expand Your Circle)
  • My life—thoughts, words, behaviors—sparks curiosity and inspires people to learn more?
  • I made sure I always looked through clear eyes?

I think I’d be a lot more effective. I think I’d be less frustrated and angry. I think I’d be calmer and more at peace.

I think life would be a lot simpler. Probably not easier, but simpler.

Do you agree? Where do you get so focused on what others are doing that you lose sight of the goal?

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 Most Basic of all Human Needs

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” -Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV

Human nature doesn’t change much, does it? Down through the ages and across all national and cultural borders and boundaries, we all long for the same thing: to be loved and accepted by someone who will not betray or abandon us.

God knows that longing in us, better than we know it ourselves. We can’t always identify it, but to one degree or another, that longing drives us—often to foolish choices. We put our hope and faith and dreams in the hands of other fallible humans (much like ourselves), and then wonder why we are disappointed, rejected, or heartbroken.

That longing was never meant to be met by another person (or a profession or success or drugs/alcohol or limitless possessions), but by the One who never changes and never fails us. There is only one place to turn when that longing for unfailing love drives us onward, and that’s to the very God of the universe Himself—who stands waiting with outstretched arms and nail-scarred hands.

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, I’ve chosen to focus this devotional thought on the most basic of all human needs…and the One who longs to meet that need. If you haven’t already run into the Father’s arms and received that everlasting love, I encourage you to do so today. If you have, then pray for someone else who also needs to experience that love.

We are entering the busiest season of the year. Stop often and listen. I guarantee you will hear His voice whispering to your heart: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Let Him wrap you in that love, where all the storms of earth and even the great divide between this world and eternity cannot separate you from that everlasting love and security. May God increase our longing to climb up into His lap, nestle against His chest, and listen to His great heart….

It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him! Genesis 4:5-8

See here, the fearful growth of the evil feeling in Cain’s heart. It was only a thought at first–but it was admitted into the heart and cherished there. Then it grew until it caused a terrible crime! We learn here, the danger of cherishing even the smallest beginning of bitterness; we do not know to what it will grow!

Some people think lightly of bad temper, laughing at it as a mere harmless weakness; but it is a perilous mood to indulge, and we do not know to what it may lead.

“Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you!” In His reproof of Cain, the Lord likens his sin to a wild beast lying in hiding by his door, ready to leap on him and devour him. This is true of all sin which is cherished in the heart. It may long lie quiet and seem harmless–but it is only a wild beast sleeping!

There is a story of a man who took a young tiger and resolved to make a pet of it. It moved about his house like a kitten and grew up fond and gentle. For a long time its savage, blood-thirsty nature seemed changed into gentleness, and the creature was quiet and harmless.

But one day the man was playing with his ‘pet’, when by accident his hand was scratched and the beast tasted blood. That one taste, aroused all the fierce tiger nature, and the ferocious animal flew on his master and tore him to pieces!

So it is, with the passions and lusts of the old nature, which are only petted and tamed and allowed to reside in the heart. They will crouch at the door in treacherous lurking, and in some unguarded hour–they will rise up in all their old ferocity!

It is never safe to make pets of tigers!

It is never safe to make pets of little sins!

We never know what sin may grow into–if we let it abide in our heart!

“Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!” That is what came of the passion of envy in Cain’s heart! It was left unrebuked, unrepented of, uncrushed–and in time it grew to fearful strength. Then in an evil moment, its tiger nature asserted itself!

We never know to what dreadful stature–a little sin may grow!

~ J. R. Miller, “The Story of Cain and Abel” 1908