Archive for February, 2011

He Cares for You

Monday, February 14th, 2011

1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Sometimes when we feel anxious, we withdraw from people and from God. We think we can solve our problems all by ourselves and don’t want anyone to see us feeling anxious.

Years ago, my tendency was to hold everything in and pretend everything was fine. I learned that solved nothing.

Now I tell God what I think and feel. Anyway he knows. When I cast all my anxiety on God, I feel better. Right now I’m working on my taxes. God knows I dislike paperwork and tend to worry about getting the taxes done on time.

I cast all my tax anxiety on God, and he has shown me how to work on my taxes one section at a time.

I thank God I followed this verse because 1 Peter 5:8 tells us “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I’ve concluded that either I cast all my anxiety on God or the devil will devour me.

What will you do with your anxiety?

Dear God, help me believe you care for me. Amen.

Application: When will you cast all your anxiety on God?

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

Please Don’t Make Me Start Over

Friday, February 11th, 2011

How do you escape the fate of Sisyphus?

One of my first “real” jobs as a kid was a two-week gig at the Iowa State Fair. Each morning I showed up at 6 a.m. A supervisor handed me a sealed metal can with a slot in its top and assigned me to one of the carnival attractions to collect tickets. Twelve never-ending hours in the sweltering Midwest humidity, grabbing tickets and stuffing them through that slot.

My dad got me that job. Every morning he’d deposit me at the gate and say, “Hey, it’s a new day.” I think he wanted me to understand why I needed to study hard and go to college. It worked.

Endless, mindless, purposeless effort, each day exactly like the previous and the next—those two weeks offered a glimpse of the horrible eternal fate to which Sisyphus was condemned.

Renew…really?

The Bible is filled with promises of renewal. Paul writes (2 Corinthians 4), “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

He also encourages renewal (Romans 12): Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And I say: please, anything but that! Please don’t make me start over. Please, not another day just like the last, filling the same can with the same tickets from the same faceless, sweaty hands.

I don’t wanna!

If “renewal” literally means going back to the beginning, count me out. I agree with Nicodemus:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:3-4

If renewal means starting over, I’d prefer another option. I do not want to do junior high again!

Of course Jesus wasn’t speaking literally. His continued conversation with Nicodemus clearly shows that He’s describing spiritual re-birth.

Circle or Spiral?

Spiritual renewal doesn’t mean going back to the beginning, starting the same journey from the same place. That’s the pointless life of Sisyphus, an endless circle leading nowhere.

God offers the opportunity to start fresh without starting over. Spiritual renewal does involve a new beginning, but it also means starting from an improved foundation.

God’s renewal isn’t a circle; it’s more like an upward spiral. I get to release my biases and regrets, but retain new insights. Jesus invites me to develop increased wisdom and improved discernment—while always approaching God with childlike wonder.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Following Jesus means embracing the mystery of becoming like little children while putting aside the ways of childhood.

Renewal—a new beginning without starting over—I’m in!

How about you?

Which is harder for you—becoming childlike or setting aside childish ways?

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

Sisyphus: Are You Pushing a Rock Up The Hill?

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Do you know the story of Sisyphus? He’s a character from Greek mythology who offended the Gods. As punishment, Sisyphus was ordered to push a rock up a hill. Each time he reached the top, the rock rolled to the bottom. He was condemned to an eternity of pushing the same rock up the same hill. Over and over, up and down—forever.

Does your life ever feel like that?

I heard an interesting reflection a few weeks ago. A speaker said he was feeling a bit burned out and offered this characterization of his life:

I feel like I go to work to get the money to buy the food to give me the strength to go to work …

Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of struggle without meaning.

Seems to me that the work wasn’t the problem. The real punishment was a complete lack of any sense of purpose.

God didn’t promise you and me a life of ease and comfort. We’ve all got our own rocks to push up the hill, and it’s tempting to turn it into senseless routine.

God does promise that our work isn’t meaningless. He’ll never ask us to roll a useless rock up a pointless hill. Romans 8:28 assures us that He’s always working for good, even when we can’t see it.

Let’s not live a life of Sisyphus. Let’s not waste the incredible gift of each moment, the new beginning God gives us.

Let’s make sure our moments mean something, that they’re filled with relationship and service and grace. In the words of Mother Teresa:

We cannot all do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.

I’m trying to make sure my efforts this week mean something. How about you?

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 BOOK you are writing

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

“You ought to live holy and godly lives.” 2 Peter 3:11

The only way to have a stainless and beautiful year at its close–is to keep the days, as they pass, all pure and sweet, with the loveliness of holy, useful living.

It is thus, in little days–that our years come to us. We have but the one small fragment to fill and beautify at a time.

The year is a book, and for each day–one fair white page is opened before us.

And we are artists, whose duty it is to put something beautiful on the page.

Or we are poets, and are to write some lovely thought, some radiant sentence, on each leaf as it lies open before us.

“That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:2
~J. R. Miller, “Counsel and Help” 1907

Drift Or Decide?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Do you ever feel like your relationship with Jesus is just sort of drifting along?

Simply put, drift is the decision you make when you don’t decide (Gretchen Rubin). It’s what happens when you ignore Lessons From The Jar.

Ever driven a long stretch of straight, deserted road? Attention fades, and suddenly you’re not focused on choosing your course. But the car doesn’t stop moving. Other forces take over, and you move gradually off course. You’re drifting.

Mostly the results of drifting aren’t positive.

Someone chooses

We forget, maybe because it’s so obvious, that someone chooses where we spend our time and energy. If we don’t consciously decide, others are happy to do it for us. We face a spiritual enemy who relishes the opportunity to encourage even a small bit of drift.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between trying and training. Maybe the danger of drift is another reason to focus on training.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Training is intensely purposeful. Every detail matters, every activity is carefully scripted, catalogued, measured, and analyzed. When discipline fades, even for a moment, you’re drifting.

An example of drift

Becky’s been struggling with an issue at work that’s become all-consuming. In eternal terms it’s an insignificant speck, but that’s not how it seems at the moment. We’ve talked a lot about how the enemy is using events to divert our focus. It’s so tempting to allow others to decide what’s important, how we need to react. We’ve both become discouraged, frustrated, and angry with people we don’t even know!

We’re not making disciplined choices about our thoughts and responses. Others, people who may not seek our best interests, gladly fill the void. We’re drifting into places we don’t want to go. By not deciding, we’re deciding.

Here’s the Bible’s antidote to this deadly emotional drift.

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Philippians 4:8

I’m learning that following Jesus doesn’t happen by accident or osmosis. Drifting along on the winds of the world, letting myself go with the flow, takes me on a romantic-sounding path to isolation.

Like that car on the deserted road, people and events move forward. They’ll carry me along if I choose to allow it. I’ll end up somewhere, and I’ll live with the consequences of my decision to avoid deciding.

Following Him requires will, intentionality, and disciplined training.

The cool thing is that I’m training for a life of authentic freedom, mercy, grace, and infinite love.

That’s worth a little sweat, huh?

What’s an area in which you’re drifting? What can you do to be more intentional about your course?

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 Angel of His Presence

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Isaiah 63:9: “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them.” (NIV)

What comfort to read that when God’s people are distressed, he is too.

No matter what our distress—health problems, financial woes, the struggles of addiction, prodigal children, a marriage in trouble, elderly parents in the hospital or in a nursing home, the loss of  a loved one—the angel of his presence is with us and saves us.

We have the head knowledge of how much God loves us and extends his mercy to us. When we know it in our hearts, we will run to him for his love and mercy.

When my son unexpectedly passed away within weeks of my mother’s home-going, the angel of God’s presence saved me from depression and despair.

The angel of his presence lifted me up and carried me through my son’s Celebration of Life service and through his military interment with full honors.

Whatever you face today, read Isaiah 63:9 and claim it.

Dear God, help me believe you care about all my distress. Amen.

Application: When will you allow the angel of his presence to lift you up and carry you?

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

Stop trying. Start training.

Friday, February 4th, 2011

A while back I heard a catchy little phrase that’s been bouncing around in my brain. A speaker said:

Stop trying. Start training.

Do you ever get frustrated with trying so hard and not getting results? Ever thought it’s not fair? Here’s a tough question: Have you done the required training?

Want to run a marathon? You probably can’t, at least not today. Doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll most likely fail.

But you can train for a marathon. And if you train well, you will be much better prepared for the desired result.

Want to know the Bible? No matter how hard you try, you won’t know the Bible tomorrow morning.

But what if you train to know the Bible? What if you read a bit every day, study and pray and listen?

We look at the big stuff at the end of the journey and it seems impossible. But the important outcomes are usually built on smaller stuff—habits, simple daily acts that make up the training. And we find out that when we do those small things faithfully and consistently, they add up to something big.

Most important results are like that. Trying hard might not get you much. But if you stop trying and start training, you change yourself.

The thing about training is that you can’t do it all at once. It takes a long time, and it’s boring, and sometimes you can’t see any progress.

Training requires faith. You have to believe that all of those hours will add up to something important, even when you can’t see it. It takes perseverance and determination.

What’s that big thing you want to do? What training needs to happen—today, this week—to get you on the road?

I’m riding on a stationary trainer in my garage today because I want to do a 1500 mile ride in seven months. What are you training for?

What’s something you’re trying hard to accomplish? Can you see the value of “Stop trying. Start training”?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Don’t Like Where You are Planted?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.”
(Luke 16:10, NASB)

I was a brand new Christian when I first heard the saying, “Bloom where you’re planted; maybe God will move you to a bigger pot.” I smiled at the imagery but really didn’t get it. Now, nearly forty years later, it is one of my most often shared pieces of advice.

Because I teach at women’s retreats and writers’ conferences, I meet a lot of Christians at various stages of their spiritual walk who are up against some tough circumstances. (Yeah, I know. When I was a new believer I thought all that would go away too.) What I hear most often is, “All I want to do is serve God, but how can I do it when 1) I don’t have any money; 2) my family is falling apart; 3) my health is so bad,” etc.

My heart goes out to these people, and I totally relate because I’ve asked the same questions over the years—many times. But the bottom line is this: Those very questions imply that God has called us to serve Him and then allowed us to get mired down in circumstances that prevent us from doing so. If only He would get busy and blast us out of those negative situations and flood us with blessings and provision, THEN we could serve Him effectively!

Really? Probably not. As Jesus indicated in Luke 16:10, it is those who serve God under the most adverse of circumstances, often with little or no provision beyond their passion to reach the lost with the unconditional love of Christ, who would also serve God effectively if their problems suddenly disappeared and they were inundated with God’s blessings.

“Bloom where you’re planted.” Don’t like where you’re planted? Pot too small, too constricting, too invisible? Take it up with the Gardener who knows exactly what He’s doing—and why. Meanwhile, bloom in the Light of His love, regardless of how dark it seems around you, and others will be drawn to that Light. And isn’t that the purpose of all we do, no matter the size of the pot?

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

The Only Refuge in Sorrow

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

“Being in anguish–He prayed more fervently.” Luke 22:44

We see the Master at prayer in Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His Cross. We should notice that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow–was prayer; and that, as the sorrow deepened–the refuge still was prayer. Prayer is the only refuge in sorrow. The lesson from the garden prayer is that we should take all the hard things, the anguishes, the insufferable pains, the bitter griefs of our lives–to God in prayer. We may be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the suffering, He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on trusting and singing.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

J. R. Miller, “Counsel and Help” 1907

Dirty Hands – Clean Hearts

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

How can you guard your heart without living behind barriers?

I believe we’re called to engage with our community, so I don’t want to create a protective bubble in which I only interact with people and ideas that never challenge me. I don’t think it’s mentally healthy to hang out only with Birds Of My Particular Feather.

But I’m sensitive to the subtle manner in which our spiritual enemy uses apparently harmless cultural influences to fill my mind and heart with garbage. I understand the reality of GIGO.

How do I challenge my thinking and understand other viewpoints while holding to my essential core values? How can I avoid living in a protective bubble without polluting my heart?

Where’s the line?

It’s not an easy line to discover, and I’m sure I wander frequently in both directions. However, for the two cents it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts about my personal “birds of a feather” mentality.

I consciously seek out competing viewpoints. I follow blogs with which I often disagree. I try to understand different sides of important issues. I can think of nothing more dangerous than relying on a single source, or a collection of single-minded sources, for information and analysis.

Respectful listening doesn’t mean I agree, but I find value in trying to understand other perspectives. I believe Jesus calls me to build bridges rather than barriers.

I remind myself that, more than ever, media competes for my attention. The primary tactics are sensationalism, artificially-generated conflict, and controversy. Much of what I hear is calculated to provoke emotions.

It’s tempting to cheer those with whom I agree and boo the others. Since I’m a fan of something bigger and more eternal, I try to look past the hype.

I avoid those who rant and attack others personally. Whether I agree or not, I refuse to listen to the angry rhetoric. I will not attend to the talking heads who promote ideological extremes.

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Philippians 4:8

I try to affirm the dignity and worth of those with whom I disagree. I sincerely believe that what unites us is more important than what divides us.

I try to discount labels. Conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican, whatever—they’re words. Nobody’s evil or good based on the label. I try to understand what’s being said rather than accepting or rejecting based on some artificial category. I don’t believe God divides us based on such temporal criteria.

I try—and often fail—to assess based on my personal core values. I’m a follower of Jesus first. Politics, social mores, national allegiance—those are all a very distant second.

I cultivate close, transparent relationships with people who share those values. I share my heart as openly as I can with them and listen especially carefully to their counsel.

Those are some of my ways of resisting the temptation to flock only with birds who share my particular brand of feather. Your thoughts?

How do you keep this difficult balance?

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