Archive for January, 2011

INPUT

Monday, January 31st, 2011

I’ve been pondering the issue of impact, and it occurred to me that I ought to turn the question around and ask, “Who’s impacting me?” That question prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

INPUT

We’re immersed in input. It’s a 24/7/365 world in which more voices than ever compete for our ears and eyeballs and attention. That’s not news.

With endless choices, we make a lot of decisions about who gets our attention. Some are deliberate, many are passive. Either way we’re subject to an endless stream of input that impacts us in obvious and subtle ways.

Computer programmers use an acronym—GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. It’s true for computers, and it’s certainly true for us.

Here’s Jesus’ version of GIGO:

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:44-45

Since the heart (kardia) is my essence, my fruit reflects what I choose to place there. Whole-hearted living (good output) requires a heart filled with love (good input).

My input, the stuff I choose to read and listen to, fills my heart with connection-building joy, forgiveness, and gratitude, or with divisive judgment and hatred.

Who’s filling my heart? How much of my input is garbage?

Some observations:

Discernment is more essential than ever. I need to choose intentionally and consciously the voices I allow to fill my heart.

Clear core values must guide my choices. When conflicting ideas appear, I need to know the ultimate indicators of True North. For me those are Agape, Courage, and Grace & Truth. I stand (so to speak) on those above political positions, national rhetoric, and any other allegiances.

Too many choices means I can get too narrow. One can spend the entire day reading and listening without encountering a single contrary idea. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

A wrong idea, repeated frequently and loudly, is still a wrong idea. Lies re-labeled as truth are still lies.

I welcome opposing views, but I filter their impact through discernment based on core values.

Input is data, not information. We need to carefully choose and be aware of who’s interpreting the data. Danger lurks when we grant a single voice too much access, especially if that voice has an agenda. And ALL voices have agendas.

It’s easy to lose the value of humor. Occasionally we need to chuckle at the stuff that seems so important but really has little eternal significance. We need the perspective to take ourselves and our ideology a bit less seriously, to know what really matters and what doesn’t matter so much.

What are your inputs? Are they too narrow or too broad? Are they filling your heart with love?

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

Prove Your Love for God

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11, NKJV).

I am an avid follower and supporter of the Voice of the Martyrs and other such ministries that support believers around the world who suffer for their faith. As I read the stories of these courageous brothers and sisters, I am struck by the motivation for their courage: their great love.

To a person, those who stand strong for their faith in Christ despite persecution are marked by the depth of their love for God and others—including their tormentors. That sort of unwavering, selfless, forgiving love can flow only from a grateful heart that has first received the unconditional and undeserved love of the Father and the sacrificial gift of His Son. When we truly begin to grasp the enormity of God’s love for us, we can do nothing but respond with a thankful spirit and an outpouring of love for everyone we meet.

We all know people who seem unlovable. (This may be hard to believe, but there may even be some who consider us the unlovable ones!) Seriously, if God limited His love to those who deserved it, none of us would be able to receive it, would we? The Scriptures tell us “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). God didn’t wait until we cleaned up our act or earned our way into His presence to make the supreme offering of love on our behalf; He did it while we turned our back to Him and went our own way, wallowing in the pigpen of our own making and proclaiming our own goodness each step of the way.

First John 4:8 proclaims the great truth that “God is love.” Apart from God, there is no love; all else that masquerades as such is a sham—lust, need, desire. God’s love is selfless, and that’s the sort of love He calls us to model to others. Not only is that a difficult thing to do, but it’s actually impossible in our own strength. Only the One who loves us without measure can flow that love through us to others. Immerse yourself in His boundless love today, and then prove your love for God by allowing it to flow from you to those who may be the most unlikely candidates and yet need it just as desperately as we do.

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 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

No Greater Love

More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

A Reluctant Optimist’s Code

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Is faith optimistic or pessimistic?

I’ve admitted that optimism isn’t my default approach to most situations. Relentless Grace certainly tells of a tug of war between intellectual faith and gut-level despair.

As I said in Tuesday’s post, I naturally default to a feeling that The Half Empty Glass Is Leaking. Jesus’ teaching tells me something different. Many days I’m not sure which end of the rope I’m pulling.

My investigation of optimism, some conglomeration of research and personal experience, leads me to a list of affirmations that might guide me toward a more optimistic outlook.

I’ll share my list today. Tomorrow I’ll try to apply what I’ve learned specifically to life as a follower of Jesus.

Please understand that these are goals, not achievements. Each statement represents the positive end of a continuum on which confirmed pessimists occupy the opposite extreme. I state them (optimistically) in first person with the hope that writing them as affirmations will help me internalize them.

Like any continuum, most folks probably reside somewhere between the extremes. The direction we’re moving matters more than where we are along the line. With those disclaimers, I offer:

A Reluctant Optimist’s Code

Influence: I believe in my ability to influence positive outcomes in any situation.

Context: I view events in a larger, and generally more positive, context.

Life impact: Positive events impact my overall life in a positive way. Negative events are limited to a single aspect of life.

Trends: Positive events are likely to recur as part of a beneficial trend. Negative events are isolated and less likely to become patterns.

Individual worth: Others have innate value and can contribute in positive ways.

Long term/short term: I look more at long-term consequences and outcomes than short-term results.

Judgment: I judge behaviors, not people.

Change: I am responsible for, and capable of, analyzing and developing my own character.

Present: I learn from the past, anticipate the future, and live in the present.

Experience teaches me that even my unnatural, reluctant optimism makes life easier, happier, and more productive. I’m trying to work on the attitudes above.

How about you?

What are your thoughts about optimism in general? Does it come naturally for you?

What aspects of an optimistic attitude would you add to the list?

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 Still a Little Savage?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me!” Psalm 51:5

Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered: he wants what he wants–his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toys, his uncle’s watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty; he has no morals, no knowledge and no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, but all children are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free reign to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want–every child would grow up a criminal, a killer, a thief, and a rapist.”
~ Reb Bradley, “Biblical Insights into Child Training”

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Remember that children are born with a decided bias toward evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong. The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be–tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish–all is uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty–he will have a corrupt and sinful heart! It is natural for us to do wrong. Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread–let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds!”
~ J. C. Ryle

“Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” Genesis 8:21

Application: Prayerfully consider in what ways you remain selfish or self-centered. Ask God to open your eyes to see yourself as you really are and then ask Him to bring you healing.

Wisdom and Hope

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Proverbs 24:14: “Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (NIV)

We describe a cake or cookies as sweet, but we don’t think of wisdom as being sweet. However, God’s Word says it is sweet to our soul. But what if we lack wisdom? What if we need it to make a major decision in our lives? James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” When my son was a toddler, I sensed God’s call on my life to be a speaker for him. My son was in diapers and still breast-feeding. Wisdom told me that was not the time. I enjoyed the years at home with my son but never gave up hope that one day God would allow me to speak for the kingdom of heaven. God used those years to prepare me for the future. God promises a future hope for all of us, and he promises that it will not be cut off. We can have hope in this life and hope for an eternity with God in heaven.

Dear God, please give me your wisdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: Will you talk to God today about your future hope?

?Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2011, 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

Whole Hearts

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Do you think you live whole heartedly?

God must want me thinking about how we connect to each other. Seems like everywhere I look during the past few days I encounter the issue of vulnerability.

Vulnerability—the willingness to permit others to see us as we really are. It’s the key to human connections, and it’s one of the hardest things we do.

Where’s the center?

If I asked you where your soul lives, where your essence resides, I’ll bet nearly everyone would point to the same place. Intellect sits between your ears, but our souls live in our hearts.

The New Testament Greek word for “heart” is kardia, and it means more than the physical organ that pumps blood. It’s the center of life, specifically spiritual life.

If you want to be connected, really, truly, deeply connected—you have to be willing to let others see your heart—your whole heart.

Living whole-heartedly is risky. You have to be willing to let go of who you think you’re supposed to be, drop the masks behind which we hide. You have to be willing to be authentic, to allow others to see who you really are.

Vulnerability requires courage, the courage to be imperfect. You have to believe you’re worthy of being loved, just as you are, just because you are.

Vulnerability is at the core of guilt and fear and shame. But once we understand that, it’s also the place where joy and gratitude and true connection can begin.

Fear

When we give in to the fear, we do a number of self-destructive things to dispel it. We medicate with alcohol and drugs. We blame. We create false perfection and turn mystery into artificial certainty.

But researchers know that it’s not possible to selectively suppress feelings. When we squash fear and guilt, we also banish any possibility of connection and love.

God’s response

God knew all about our fear of vulnerability. He knew that on our own we could never truly live whole heartedly. He knew that we all have an empty spot, a God-shaped hole in our hearts.

He wanted us to experience love and connection, and He knew we’d never get there on our own. So He sent Jesus to fill that hole. He sent agape into the world to live in our hearts.

God gave His only Son so we could know we’re worthy. Jesus risked ridicule and humiliation, the vulnerability, of life as a man. He exposed His heart so we could know it’s okay to expose ours.

Jesus is God’s demonstration that each of us is worthy of love and connection. He came so we could always know we’re connected.

Earlier I said that we can’t selectively banish emotions. Embracing vulnerability means embracing fear, but it’s the only way to open our lives to joy and gratitude and love.

If we want connection—and we all do—we must be willing to be vulnerable.

We have to risk living with our whole heart.

What do you need to release in order to live whole heartedly?

Learning God’s Purpose for Your Life

Friday, January 21st, 2011

But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves,
not having been baptized by John (Luke 7:30, NASB).

We hear a lot about the importance of “purpose-driven lives,” but is it enough to follow any purpose… or does it matter whose purpose we choose to follow?

The above verse in Luke tells us that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God’s purpose for their lives. Why? Because they hadn’t been baptized by John. What does that have to do with it?

John the Baptist preached repentance. He was all about getting in people’s faces and warning them to repent. Simply put, he was telling them they were going the wrong way—their own way—and they needed to turn around (the meaning of repentance) and go the right way—toward God, rather than away from Him. Because these supposedly successful Pharisees and lawyers had not repented, they were headed in the wrong direction—away from God—and therefore they couldn’t help but miss God’s purpose for their lives because they had willfully chosen to reject it.

Are we any different? Of course not. We all begin our earthly journeys on our own paths. We may or may not consciously realize we are rejecting God and His purpose for us, but whether we are aware of it or not doesn’t change the fact that we are doing so. At some point, if we don’t want to end our lives being separated from God, we need to turn around and head in the right direction.

Fellow author and dear friend Susan Meissner posted a “Yogi Berra-ism” on Facebook that said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” I love Yogi’s statements and always get a chuckle from them. This one, however, is deeper than I’m sure he realized. In fact, it has eternal implications. If we have chosen to live like the Pharisees and lawyers spoken of by Luke and continue on our own way rather than repenting (turning around) and heading back toward God, we will indeed miss out on His purpose for our lives. And when we breathe our last, regardless of how many supposed successes or accomplishments we may have accredited to our name here on earth, we will have nothing to show for the gift of life that our great Creator has bestowed on us.

If we are to fulfill God’s purpose for us, we must first understand where we are going. If our path is taking us away from God, rather than toward Him, it’s time to turn around and go the right way. We certainly don’t want to “wind up someplace else” now, do we?

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 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

No Greater Love

More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

We Begin at the Lowest Grade

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Learn from Me–for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

All of Christian life is a school. “Learn from Me,” said the Master. We are only beginners when we first become Christians, and enter Christ’s school. We begin at the lowest grade. We do not have to wait until we know a great deal before we begin to attend school. School is not for finished scholars–but for the most ignorant. We may come to Christ when we know almost nothing. He is the teacher–and all believers are learners.

“Learn from Me–for I am gentle.” Gentleness is a lesson which we are to learn. It will probably take us a good long while to learn this lesson–but we must learn it because it is in Christ’s curriculum for all His students.

Contentment is another lesson which we must learn. When he was well along in life, Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” It was a long and difficult lesson for him to learn.

Patience is a lesson that has to be learned. An impatient person is not a complete Christian.

Thoughtfulness is a necessary lesson. There are a great many thoughtless Christians. They are always blundering in their interactions with others. They say the wrong word, they do the wrong thing. They are always hurting other people’s feelings, giving pain to gentle hearts. Yet it is all from thoughtlessness. “I didn’t mean to offend him. I didn’t mean to be unkind. I just never thought!” There are few lessons in Christian life that more people need to learn, than this of thoughtfulness.

We have to learn to trust. Worry is a sin. It is probably as great a sin as dishonesty or profanity or bad temper. Yet a good many Christian people worry–and one of the most important lessons in Christ’s school, is to learn not to worry.

Kindness is a lesson we must learn. It takes many years to learn the one little lesson of kindness.

Joy is a lesson to be learned.

Peace is another.

Humility is another necessary lesson.

Praise is a great lesson.

All of life is a school
, and it is in learning these lessons–that Jesus says we shall find rest for your souls. Christ Himself is our teacher, and with Him we should never fail to learn, though it be only slowly. Then as we learn our lessons, our lives will grow continually more and more into quietness, peace and Christlikeness.

~ J. R. Miller, “Devotional Hours with the Bible”

Completely Calm

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Matthew 8:26: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

As I’ve observed others’ lives and reviewed my own, it seems we are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or about to go into one.

Like the apostles in the boat with Jesus in verse 25, we can respond in fear and say, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” That is a natural response. No one would fault us for that.

However, Jesus Christ has power over the winds and the waves in our lives. He is bigger than any crisis we face. Nothing is impossible for him.

Perhaps that storm comes to test our faith and to refine us as silver. Maybe it’s simply part of life, but our response to it makes the difference.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid. He wants us to lean on him and trust him to bring complete calm to our storm.

Dear God, thank you that Jesus can rebuke the winds and the waves in our lives. Amen.

Application: When will you turn in faith to Jesus to calm the storm in your life?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2011, 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

Blues

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Do you ever get “the blues”?

I got a sudden attack of the winter blues last week. I just slipped into a funk where everything got a little foggy and overwhelming. The worst symptom is low energy, a sense that all I can do is sit and stare at mindless television. Or perhaps mindless television was the cause. It felt like I was wearing solid black and viewing the world through dark glasses.

Not sure why—maybe post-holiday letdown, or the stress of confronting a new year and its challenges. Seems like I’m not alone, since I’ve recently heard similar comments from other folks.

This isn’t clinical depression or intense grief. I’ve been there, and you don’t just get over it. We all know about the power of maintaining a positive attitude, but “think positive” isn’t much help.

Experience reminds me that there are some keys to getting myself going again. I’m working on these, so I thought I’d share them. Maybe they’ll help if you, or someone you know, is immersed in the blues.

Exercise. I’ve allowed my in-the-garage spinning sessions to lapse due to cold weather, travel, and just general laziness. Skipping a day makes it easier to skip the next until not-exercising becomes a mini-habit.

Sleep. Strangely, winter makes it easier for me to stay up later and I realized that I’m sleeping an hour or so less than normal. Not a big deal one night, but the cumulative effects wear me down.

Get outdoors. When weather turns cold I almost hibernate. Lack of sunlight and fresh air has me feeling like Punxsutawney Phil waiting to see my shadow. (Who knew there was an official web site for Groundhog Day?)

Laugh. Not easy when you’re a little down, but intentionally seeking some silliness helps me out of the doldrums. Posting something goofy on Facebook, or visiting the Groundhog Day web site, seems to lighten things a bit.

Eat better. My diet is never particularly healthy, but holidays and lots of indoor time bring excessive delicious snacks. I don’t need, or want, outright denial of culinary evils, but moderation is a good thing.

We all get “down” occasionally, and there’s no magic, instant cure. But I know that, for me, working on these will help me make this a better, more positive week.

How about you? What are your keys to banishing the blues?

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