Archive for December, 2010

How To Find Faith

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Have you ever noticed that some things are hard to get unless you already have them?


We’re spending Christmas week on a snowy Midwestern farm. Yesterday the kids were preparing for a sledding expedition and one of the little guys realized his boots were in the car. A foot of icy, wet snow covered the ground between the back door and the car. In frustration he exclaimed, “I need my boots so I can go out in the snow to get my boots!”

I feel like that a lot. It’s kind of like looking for my glasses when I can’t see without my glasses. If I already had them it would be easy to find them, but then I wouldn’t need to look.

Faith seems to work that way. When I had none, I couldn’t seek it since I didn’t believe I’d find it. It takes a lot of faith to look for faith.

Now that I’ve found it, faith seems to be everywhere.

I’m not sure how I found it in the first place. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t find it at all. I think faith found me. On a dark night nearly thirty years ago, faith whispered to me and pointed me to a better way. That’s the story that guided me to Relentless Grace.

That’s an amazing aspect of walking with Jesus. He brought what I needed, things like love, grace, truth, hope, light—all the essential stuff I could never find on our own. To one who had nothing, He brought everything.

I’m not sure how it works. I don’t get how love becomes human and reaches across the divide between faith and no-faith. The Bible says, “For we live by faith, not by sight” [2 Corinthians 5:7].

I’m not sure how we get that faith, but I don’t have to understand it.

I have faith. I’m glad.

Do you understand how one finds the faith to seek faith?

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

Finishing And Beginning

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

What are you doing this week?

This is a strange week in our cultural calendar. For many folks, today means back-to-work. For others it’s returning or exchanging, taking a break, or wrapping up family visits. Lots of emails generate automatic “out-of-the-office” messages during this week.

I have two main tasks for this last week of 2010. One involves returning from over the river and through the woods, which means a scenic drive across Nebraska. The other is a brief look back at 2010 and getting goals in order for 2011.

2010

I intentionally avoid a lot of looking back. I try to set up my major goals to include a lot of continuous monitoring, so I’m pretty clear about where I succeeded and places I fell short. I’ll do some thinking about the big picture, but mostly about how that relates to moving forward.

I’ve been sort of a drifter for much of my life. One month blends into another and things sort of float along, and suddenly I realize that a lot of years haven’t had much of an intentional purpose. I think many of us operate in that mode. If that’s you, I invite you to join me in making things a bit more targeted.

If you’re curious, I invite you to read one of my absolute favorite metaphors: Lessons From The Jar.

Core Values

I believe in knowing and reminding myself of my core values. Perhaps you need to spend some time defining these for yourself. For me, this is a time to review, revise and recommit. Whatever I do must point me toward the True-North principles that form the foundation of my life. For me these are:

2011 Focus

My major focus for 2011 is expanding the circle. That means getting the words to a wider community through broader, deeper, and more diverse connections. So I intend to focus on:

  1. Attracting more people to the circle.
  2. Making tighter, deeper connections with people in the circle.
  3. Doing something meaningful with the circle.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean I’ll devote every waking moment to this single objective. Life’s just not that simple. But it does help me as I make monthly and daily choices. As I fill my calendar and begin projects, keeping this focus in mind provides a reference point for saying yes or no.

Key Words

I like the practice of choosing a single word to signify a goal. Each word means something to me, and helps me keep the goal in my mind.

For 2011, my three words are: Readers, Workshop, and Ride.

Readers: I want to focus on you during 2011. I want to attract more of you and find ways to make our connections more meaningful. This includes speaking opportunities, free ebooks, and perhaps some online workshops or other types of interactions.

Workshop: This is a continuation of a 2010 goal. I want to refine the workshop/seminar I presented in 2010 and find more audiences.

Ride: This is the big project for the year. I want to do a 1500-mile hand cycle ride (Nine Miles An Hour) during the second half of 2011.

Just The Beginning

These three words are reminders of big ideas or dreams. They’re not goals yet, because a goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. So now I need to do the work I wrote about last week (Next Year Is Nearly Here).

I created the simple diagram with free XMIND mind-mapping software. I’ll expand each word and transform it from a dream to an achievable, measurable goal. And I’ll share some of the results, and how you can help, next time.

Are you in? Want to join in setting the sails for 2011?

Are you setting goals for the coming year? Want to share?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Are You Wasting Your Life?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

“So teach us to number our days aright–that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

What is it to number our days?

One way is to keep a careful record of them. That is a mathematical numbering. Some people keep diaries and put down everything they do–where they go, what they see, whom they meet, the books they read. But mere adding of days is not the numbering that was in the thought of the Psalmist.

There are days in some lives–that add nothing to life’s treasures, and that leave nothing in the world which will make it better or richer. There are people who live year after year–and might as well never have lived at all! Simply adding days–is not living! If that is all you are going to do with the new year–you will only pile up an added burden of guilt.

Why do people not think of the sin of wasting life?

If you saw a man standing by the sea–and flinging diamonds into the water–you would say he was insane. Yet some of us are standing by the sea–and flinging the diamond days, one by one, into its dark floods! Mere eating and sleeping, and reading the papers, and going about the streets, and putting in the time–is not living!

Another way of numbering our days, is illustrated by the story of a prisoner who when he entered his cell, put a mark on the wall for each of the days he would be incarcerated. Then each evening he would rub off one of these marks–he had one day less to stay in prison.

Some people seem to live much in this way. Each evening–they have on day less to live. Another day is gone, with its opportunities, its privileges, its responsibilities and its tasks–gone beyond recall.

Now, if the day has been filled with duty and love and service–its page written all over with pure, white thoughts and records of gentle deeds–then it is well; its passing need not be mourned over. But merely to have to rub it off at the setting of the sun, leaving in it nothing but a story of idleness, uselessness, selfishness, and lost opportunities, is a sad numbering!

What is the true way of numbering our days? The prayer tells us, “So teach us to number our days aright–that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” That is, we are so to live–that we shall get some new wisdom out of each day to carry on with us.

Life’s lessons cannot all be learned from books. The lessons may be set down in books–but it is only in actual living–that we can really learn them.

For example, patience. You may learn all about patience from a sermon, from a teacher, or from a book, or even from the Bible. But that will not make you patient. You can get the patience–only by long practice of the lesson, in life’s experiences.

Or take gentleness. You can read in a few paragraphs what gentleness is, how it lives. But that will not make you gentle.

Take thoughtfulness. You can learn in a short lesson what it is and how beautiful it is. But you will not be thoughtful, the moment you have learned the definition. It will probably take you several years–to get the beautiful lesson learned.

“So teach us to number our days aright–that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

~ J. R. Miller, “Numbering our Days“, 1912

Aftermath

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Do you feel a letdown after big events?

We’re in a small farmhouse with grandparents, kids, grandkids, great-grandkids. Toys are broken, parts missing, movies already watched. Cultural Christmas is over. Now what?

This week shouldn’t be just about driving home or preparing for the next party. It’s more than time to return gifts and spend those gift cards. That’s all part of the cultural aftermath.

This morning I’m thinking about what Mary and Joseph were doing two days after their son’s birth. I’m wondering what the shepherds’ conversations were like.

What was happening in that village? How many people had no clue that a miracle had occurred while they were doing their ordinary stuff? Did they see the family with the new baby? Did they notice anything special?

Life went forward, just like it’s moving forward today. Nothing seemed different, but everything had changed.

Just like today.

Wherever you are, travel safely and have a great last week of 2010!

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

Wanting Less For Christmas

Monday, December 27th, 2010


Today I’m thinking about wanting less.

That’s a bit odd, given that we’re heading over the river and through the woods to my in-laws’ house filled with gift-crazed kids from four generations. We’re preparing for the annual unwrapping frenzy loosely inspired by ancient offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

I love opening my surprises as much as everyone else. I enjoy the over-the-top Christmas at the farm. Piles of wrapping paper, wonderful food prepared by loving hands that could feed a small army, squabbling children, squabbling adults, football games between teams I’ve never heard of.

I love playing new games, doing jigsaw puzzles, figuring out new electronics, searching for lost directions—it’s just all a great, warm, chaotic few days.

So why am I thinking about “less.”?

Jesus had it all. And He let go. He took less—much, much less—so I could have it all.

How do you do that? How do you volunteer to leave the splendor of Heaven and the perfect intimacy of the Trinity? How do you willingly exchange the worship of angels for the scorn of those You created?

I know the words, the theology, the answers we’ve discerned from His words and actions. I understand, as long as I don’t think about it too deeply. I can wrap my mind around a nice story from the two-thousand-year-old past.

But when I remember that it’s not just a nice cuddly story, when I remember that He knew the link between the manger and the cross, I can’t make it make sense. I know He did it for me, for love, but I cannot claim to comprehend what’s behind that kind of sacrifice.

Would I make that choice? As much as I’d like to say I would, it’s just not true. I don’t want to surrender what I’ve got. As much as I know better, the fact is that I want more.

I’m thinking about wanting less. I’m grateful that Jesus chose to want less. I want to want less.

For this Christmas, I guess that’ll have to be enough.

Do you think you understand what Jesus gave up? What do you feel as you consider His choice to want less so we could have it all?

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

Scrambled Christmas Signs

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I hope you’re enjoying the last-minute hustle and bustle as we prepare for that most magical of holidays.

I get a kick out of stories from children’s Christmas programs. I’ve no clue whether either of these is true, but they’re cute anyway.

While singing “The First Noel,” four kids in the front row held cards with letters spelling N-O-E-L. Unfortunately, as often happens with kids, things got a bit scrambled. Everyone in the audience wondered if LEON was an obscure character in the Christmas story.

In a different program the children held cards spelling a more complicated song title, “Christmas Love.” This time everyone was in order, but the young lady holding the “M” managed to get her card upside-down. At first it looked like just another mistake, but those who looked carefully saw an even more profound message. The inadvertent reversal produced an eternal truth:

C-H-R-I-S-T-W-A-S-L-O-V-E

This year I’ve been struck by the notion that we’re really celebrating two different events. One is a cultural holiday marked by parties, family gatherings, festive decorations, and gift-giving. This part of the celebration is one part traditional excitement and one part spending frenzy. It’s a lot of fun, and turns most of us—no matter our ages—into children-at-heart.

We’re also marking the most amazing gift ever offered, the moment when God sent His Son into the world.

Both events are causes for joy and wonder, times to stop and reflect and count our blessings. Certainly it’s possible to acknowledge and celebrate both events, or to enjoy one and ignore the other. But let’s not confuse them.

One is a fun cultural event. The other changed the world.

Wherever you’re spending the holiday, I hope it’s a time of peace, joy, and love. And If you see Leon, say hello for me.

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

Who’s your hero?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

I recently heard a surprising, thought-provoking response to that question. A critique group gathered to practice their public speaking skills. They challenged each other to do a two-minute impromptu talk answering the question, “Who is your hero?”

The last speaker began with an attention-grabbing opening line: I am my hero.

Sounds a bit self-centered, doesn’t it? I wondered immediately whether the guy had trouble getting his big head through the door.

But his explanation made a lot of sense. He’s right, and I really admire the unique look at a common question. Based on his thoughts, here’s my take on myself as my own hero.

I’m a Hero?

A hero doesn’t need super powers, a cape, or a mask. If I look at my life as a story, I’m the main character. The principle character in a story is—the hero. I know—hero is technically male and heroine is female, but you get the idea.

Each of us plays the principle role—the hero (heroine)—in our own life story.

So what do you do if your hero doesn’t seem all that heroic? What if the hero’s life is mundane, routine, even boring? Well, that’s the really cool aspect of this perspective.

It’s YOUR story.

You write, direct, and produce. You create the sets and the costumes, choose the supporting cast, and select the locations. You’re the editor.

So if you don’t like the story, you can change it!

This is a great time to consider some editing. As I think about goals for 2011, I’m looking at God as my audience. Here are a few things I think God wants from my story. (Next Year Is Nearly Here) (God’s Plan For My Life)

God wants a story about pursuing God-sized dreams. Perhaps that means doing something big, or doing something small in a big way. A friend is volunteering for “children’s story time” at a library, and she’s taking a class in storytelling so she’ll be interesting and compelling. She’s doing a small thing in a big way.

I hope my dreams don’t reflect a small view of God.

God wants a story about the future, not the past. He’s about new beginnings and fresh starts. If the story seems pre-determined by regret, mistakes, bad choices, or someone else’s actions, maybe it’s time to tear up that old script.

Jesus did not come so we could live in chains forged in the past. He invites us to follow Him into a future of freedom and new life.

God wants a story of courage. One of the most frequent directions in Scripture is Don’t be afraid. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experience fear. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, He said: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” [Matthew 14:27b]

As I think about my goals, the story I wish to write in 2011, I picture Him saying those words. He invites us to face the fear, trust that He walks beside us, and write a courageous story.

God wants a story of joy. Too often Christians engage with wider culture in negative, angry ways. God is portrayed as a cosmic killjoy and believers are recognized primarily for what they oppose.

My pastor tells a story of attending a parents’ meeting at his kid’s school. Some controversy was anticipated and a man who didn’t know him leaned over and whispered, “This should be entertaining. The Christians are here in force.” Asked to explain why that would be entertaining he replied, “They only show up when they’re mad about something.”

I like Rick Warren’s quote: I love Jesus. I’m just not angry about it.

God wants a story of stewardship. He doesn’t want me to hide my light or bury my talents. He intends my gifts to be used wisely and responsibly, but also extravagantly in God-sized ways.

Delight the audience

That’s the objective of a great storyteller. I believe God’s pleased when we use His gifts to compose big stories of growth, courage, joy, and energy.

In an interesting story, the hero doesn’t sit on the couch and complain. My hero’s got some work to do.

How will you edit your story to delight the audience?

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

With All Your Heart

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Most of us have probably played the games, “Hide and Seek” and “I Spy.” If we were the ones who hid, we struggled to stay hidden and not make a sound. If we were the one who sought the others, we listened for any sound and strained our eyes to detect movement.

In the game, “I Spy,” we probably giggled as we yelled, “Cold, colder” or “Hot, hotter.”

The greatest thing about our heavenly Father is that he doesn’t play games with us. He promises that we will find him when we seek him with all our heart.

God doesn’t yell, “Cold, colder” or “Hot, hotter.” He waits with open arms for us.

I received a precious letter from a female resident at a correctional center. In talking about daily prayer and Bible study, she said, “It makes me feel a lot closer to God and he lets me know he’s listening.”

This woman is not someone who was raised in church, but she sought God with all her heart, and she found him.

May this Christmas season be the one when we seek God with all our heart.

Dear God, help me seek you with all my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: What will you do to seek God with all your heart 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

When We are No Longer Invincible

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

The older I get, the more I become aware of my own frailties. When we’re young, particularly if we’ve been blessed with good health and strength, we fall into the trap of thinking we’re invincible: someone else may step into the street and get mowed down by a truck; someone else might get cancer and die before their thirtieth birthday; someone else may drop dead of a heart attack in the middle of shooting hoops with friends. But not us.

If the One who numbers our days also grants us a long life on earth, all that faulty thinking and phony bravado will change. At some stage in our aging process, we come face to face with the fact that we most definitely are not invincible after all. The Scriptures make that perfectly clear in Hebrews 9:27, declaring that each of us has an appointment with death—and after that, the judgment. Of course, for those of us who have received Jesus as Savior, we don’t have to fear that judgment because Jesus has already paid the price for our sins and washed away our much deserved guilty verdict. As a result, when the appointed time comes that our flesh and heart fail, we need not fear, for “God is the strength of [our] heart and [our] portion forever.” What an encouraging and eternal promise!

A bonus to that promise is that we don’t have to wait until the moment of our death to rely on God’s strength; it is ours for the taking now, today, moment by moment, as we continue our homeward pilgrimage on earth. When we are physically weak or sick, we can depend on God to hold us in the palm of His nail-scarred hand as we rest in Him. When we are challenged beyond our physical or mental or emotional endurance, He stands ready to step in the moment we call on His Name.

Whether you’re facing challenges in your finances, your relationships, your health, or anything else, let the promise that “God is the strength of [your] heart” carry you through today…and always…until at last we pass from this life into His glorious, sweet presence.

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 does God have in mind for 2011?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I haven’t a clue, but I thought that question might get your attention. I doubt that God makes resolutions. I’m quite confident that whatever He’s planning will occur exactly as He wishes. I’m a bit less certain about my own plans.

I’ve never been inclined toward “New Year’s resolutions.” They always seemed sort of frivolous to me. So many people join a gym or buy expensive exercise equipment, and by February the gym is empty and the exercise machine becomes a high-priced storage rack.

Last year I decided to develop a goal-setting process, and I like the results. So this year I’m refining the steps to make it more effective. If you’re frustrated with the notion of resolutions but would like to set some big goals, perhaps some of this will help. Here are some basics to get us started.

  • Choose a single word, or perhaps a two- or three-word phrase, to describe the goal. The word doesn’t need to mean anything to others. It’s a code to keep the goal accessible to you. As an example, one of my 2010 words was workshop. You can have more than one. Personally, I’m shooting for three each year.
  • Write the word and a clear description of what accomplishing the goal will look like. Be specific. Workshop meant that I would develop and present a multi-session workshop based on Relentless Grace.
  • Make it positive. We’re a lot better at going toward rather than running away. Adding something positive is easier than taking something away. “Get healthy” beats “lose weight.” “Drink x ounces of water” is better than “stop drinking soda.” “Walk twenty minutes per day” sounds easier than “stop watching television.”
  • Unpack it. Take it apart and list things that need to happen. Most goals involve multiple steps or processes. Be specific. Write them down, figure out where to begin, and maybe revise previous steps.
  • Use frequent small steps to make progress. Plan something daily. Set intermediate timelines. You can’t do it all on January 2nd.
  • Track it. Come up with a way to track progress. This might be a chart or a dated checklist, but we’re much more likely to stay on track if the progress is right in front of us. The more frequently you review progress, the better.
  • Tell someone. Explain the goal and your plan. Ask them to check in frequently to keep you accountable.
  • Don’t let perfect destroy good. You’ll make mistakes, miss deadlines, and fall behind. It’s not a failure until you quit, so start again.

I’m sure there’s more, but this will get us going. I’m working on my three words for 2011—I know two of them, and have one sort of rough-drafted. I’ll share more later, but now’s the time to start planning.

I want 2011 to be a year of growth, service, and passion. It won’t happen by accident.

Are you in?

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