Archive for December, 2011

Strength for This Day

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

“As your days–so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25


This promise which ensures us suitable and sufficient strength for all future days–is made by One who loves us dearly. Loves us–but who shall describe, who can suitably represent His love!
It is Infinite love–and cannot be comprehended!
It is Eternal love–and cannot be measured!
It is Unchangeable love–and cannot be diverted from its objects!
It is Sovereign love–and was fixed on them without anything in them to attract or draw it toward them!
It is Divine love–
deeper than a father’s love;
more tender than a mother’s love;
stronger than a husband’s love.

This Divine love is . . .
a fire that cannot be quenched,
an ocean that cannot be exhausted,
a sun that will never set!

James Smith, “Strength for the Day” 1859

Lying in a Manger

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Luke 2:12: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I remember the excitement of being pregnant. Friends and coworkers gave me a baby shower. My mom sent money to buy a new crib. I bought other items to decorate the baby’s room.

When my mother visited to see her first grandson, she brought two suitcases full of clothes and things for the baby.

She had only the clothes she was wearing. We had to go to the mall to buy her clothes.

Yet the King of kings and Lord of lords did not have a beautiful new crib and lovely new clothes.

Verse seven tells us there was no room in the inn for Mary and Joseph. When Jesus was born, Mary placed him in a manger.

Do we make room in our hearts for Jesus Christ? Do we make room for him in our daily schedule? Do we give the Lord our best or our leftovers?

Dear God, help me make room for Jesus in my life. Amen.

Application:  What will you do this week to make room for Jesus in your schedule?

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

Christimas Spirit?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Christmas arrives in two weeks, and I’m having trouble finding today’s word-of-the-week…

SPIRIT

You know, that wonderful glowing Christmas Spirit—lights and shopping and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This year for some reason it’s
just not happening.

I thought about it a bit over the weekend and wondered if perhaps it’s not such a terrible predicament. Maybe missing that warm, gushy feeling isn’t a bad thing.

I’m trying—and struggling—to learn that a quality life isn’t about reacting to feelings. Anyone can do what’s right when it feels good, but the real test happens when those fuzzy feelings aren’t present.

And let’s be honest—that cultural “Christmas spirit” often masks the true meaning and purpose of the season. It’s awfully easy to get caught up in parties and food and tinsel. It’s easy to allow the wrapping paper to hide more than gifts under the tree.

Christmas is about Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us. And Jesus isn’t a feeling.

Jesus is a person. He chose a stinky stable, not because it felt nice and cozy like the shiny nativity scene on the mantle, but because it was the only way. But how often do I respond to Him based on my silly temporary emotions?

Maybe my missing “Christmas spirit” is a reminder to celebrate when I don’t feel like it, to be grateful because I am grateful rather than responding to a marketing strategy.

Maybe I’ll find the real Christmas spirit by not feeling the Christmas spirit.

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

Living in the Present – An Advent Focus On Today

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Live in the present.

That’s the conventional wisdom. How often have you heard that advice? Looking back leads to regret, looking forward results in worry. TODAY is all we have, it’s what we can control, it’s the only place we can live.

Pretty good guidance, right? Except—living exclusively in the present can lead to an awfully shallow existence. How to we learn if we ignore the past? How do we prepare if we ignore the future? I pondered this dilemma a few days ago as I wrote What Would You Change? and my latest newsletter article about anticipating Christmas.

My friend Jon Swanson is currently doing a wonderful Advent series over at my second-favorite blog, 300wordsaday. His reflections reveal Advent as a wonderful solution to my dilemma.

Advent is the practice of using the days prior to Christmas as a time of preparation. We remember the stories and the characters that surrounded Jesus’ birth, and we look forward to the hope He promised.

What’s cool, though, is that there’s no sense of reliving the past or rushing into the future. The whole point is to savor each day by bringing greater meaning to the season. The recollection and anticipation of Advent actually calls attention to the precious nature of each moment.

That makes a lot of sense to me. I want to live in the present as fully as possible. That means learning from experience, preparing with hope, and treating each day as a treasured gift from God.

How can you use the experience of Advent to focus on today?

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

What Would You Change?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

If you could go back, what would you change?

Occasionally someone asks a question something like this:

So much good has come from your injury. Knowing that, if you could go back and change that day would  you do it?

I generally don’t like hypothetical situations. It’s too easy to take an extreme, non-negotiable position when you don’t have to deal with real-life consequences. But with this issue I’m absolutely certain of my answer.

Yes, I would!

Does that seem selfish?

The folks who ask that question usually seem surprised. How could I possibly consider tossing away all the great friends, the personal growth, and the people who’ve been touched and inspired by my story?

That response relies on a false choice. I can either have the wheelchair and the blessings that followed OR I can walk and lose the blessings. That’s not how it works.

God causes ALL things to work together for good (Romans 8:28). He doesn’t need human mistakes, senseless accidents, horrible diseases, or impossibly tragic deaths to create good results.

God didn’t “cause” my accident. I realize some people will disagree, but I don’t believe He needed this struggle to get my attention..

I can’t possibly know how my life might have played out if I’d simply suffered a broken arm or a few bruises. I’m sure things would be different. I’m also sure God would have caused those altered circumstances to work together for good.

I am decidedly NOT grateful for life in a wheelchair. There’s nothing noble or heroic about it.

But I AM grateful that God didn’t give up on me, that He created so much good in the midst of tragedy. I’m grateful for hope, for the ability to see possibilities and dreams in difficult circumstances, for the assurance that God works for good in every single life.

In the end, questions like this don’t really matter because life doesn’t provide do-overs. Just as well—I’d likely make an even bigger mess.

Life’s not really about events and circumstances anyway. Whatever happens, our path is determined mostly by our attitudes and responses.

We can choose to move forward with the certain hope that God keeps His promises–in ALL circumstances.

I’m grateful.

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

Regrets

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

“If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24, NKJV

Regrets. We all have them, don’t we? But one thing I’ve learned as we come closer to the end of our earthly life: ultimately it isn’t what we didn’t do for ourselves that we regret so much as what we didn’t do for others. I have absolutely no regrets over any kindness I’ve offered, any selfless deed I’ve performed, or any gift I’ve given. If I regret anything it’s those times I could have given but chose not to; times I served myself rather than others; times I spoke an unkind word rather than a healing one.

Billy Graham, in Nearing Home, writes, “Don’t come to the end of your life and look back with regret over a hurt that could have been forgiven or a relationship that could have been healed—if you had only seized the initiative and taken the first step.” Now is the time—right now, today, even this very moment—to seize the initiative and take that first step toward reconciling a broken relationship or encouraging someone in need or giving of yourself. How easy to put it off and tell ourselves we’ll do it “later,” but we aren’t promised later. This may be our only chance.

If we love God and regularly offer up praise and worship, prayers and thanksgiving to Him, then we need to heed the admonition in Matthew 5 to FIRST go to that one we’ve offended (or who has offended us) or from whom we are estranged for whatever reason—and do whatever we can to make it right. That person may or may not accept our efforts, but we will have gone a long way in ensuring we don’t reach the end of our earthly journey with a cartload of regrets following along behind us.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2011 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

Do we live in “an able-bodied world”?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Rich’s Ride provided countless rewards and a few challenges. One significant test arrived in the form of a question.

A Christian disability-advocacy group invited me to a meeting. I began as I often do with a small audience, by asking what they wanted me to talk about. After a short pause, a lady began the discussion with a statement/question I’m still processing.

“You’re doing this amazing project that inspires everyone, especially people like us. Can you tell us how you’re able to function so well in an able-bodied world?”

Before reading further I invite you to ponder those lines for a moment. What stands out for you?

Her question still challenges me on several levels, but one phrase honestly stops me cold: an able-bodied world.

What’s your immediate reaction? Do we live in “an able-bodied world”?

If so, I’m an interloper; I don’t belong. An able-bodied world might tolerate me, even make allowances for me, but I’m at best a resident alien. A guy who’s paralyzed below his chest cannot claim full citizenship in an able-bodied world.

This was a Christian organization, and they assumed God created the world for people who meet some arbitrary physical, mental, and emotional standards. I guess those of us who fall short ought to stay out of the way and feel grateful that we’re allowed to hang out on the edges.

I’m not blind to reality. I want to figure out how to follow Jesus in real life, and it’s clear that I face a unique set of physical challenges. There’s no point in pretending.

But words have incredible power to shape our attitudes. Description becomes perception, and perception becomes reality. I hope you’ll leave a comment here with your thoughts on some questions that challenge me.

  • What are my unspoken assumptions about who belongs and who doesn’t?
  • Where do my words and behaviors marginalize others?
  • Where’s the line between being realistic and simply catering to my own comfort zone?

Do we live in “an able-bodied world”?

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 Anniversary of the Day My Life Changed

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Twenty-four years ago today, December 5, 1987, I got out of bed and walked downstairs. That night I slept fitfully in a special ICU bed, my neck immobilized to prevent further spinal cord damage from three shattered vertebrae.

Today’s the anniversary of the day my life changed.

December 5th certainly isn’t an occasion for celebration, but it’s not a sad or depressing day either. It’s not a day for regrets or what-if’s or if-only’s. It’s just another day to move forward and focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

I used to believe it was better to ignore this date, but with time the date has become a prompt for counting my blessings and reflecting on how much progress I’ve made. The injury wasn’t good, but God brought incredible blessings from a senseless tragedy.

I don’t remember many details from that night twenty-four years ago. But I couldn’t have imagined teaching from a wheelchair, publishing a book, or cranking a handcycle 1500 miles.

We all have anniversaries of difficult events. We grieve, and life moves on. And if we’re lucky we perceive God’s perfect faithfullness in even the most painful moments.

I’m going to write some about the injury this week, because an anniversary is a time to reflect. If you struggle with a difficult anniversary, perhaps we can learn from each other.

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 Belongs?

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Note: as I process my experience from Rich’s Ride I’ve been writing some of my thoughts about accessibility and inclusion. Previous articles include Ain’t No Normal and An Able Bodied World?

One of the surprises we encountered during Rich’s Ride was a church with a designated seating area for folks with “special needs.”

We weren’t offered a choice. Although I could have moved a chair and easily parked anywhere in the auditorium, we were identified as “special” and guided to our proper spot. In this section we sat with other folks in wheelchairs, a few older people using walkers, autistic individuals, and others with less obvious challenges.

As guests, we chose to comply, but it felt really awkward. I wondered about the assumptions behind the conclusion that grouping us together— toward the back at the far side of the large auditorium—was a good policy?

I assume that whoever chose this arrangement meant well. I can only speculate about specifics, but I’m sure the intent was to be kind and helpful. Perhaps they wished to make things easier, to help us feel more comfortable or less conspicuous. Maybe they thought we might need extra assistance. I don’t know.

What’s your response to this arrangement?

Regardless of intentions, the moment I entered I received a clear message: YOU’RE DIFFERENT.

Without even speaking to me someone decided I wasn’t capable of choosing my own seat. I wasn’t allowed to interact with the “normal” people. I was categorized, labeled, and shuffled off to the side.

I clearly didn’t fully belong.

I’m sure that wasn’t the goal. Nobody meant to isolate us and give the impression that we were sort of “in the way.”

I couldn’t help wondering about a wheelchair user taking the risk to enter church for the first time. Would he experience a sense of fellowship? Would he believe that he has a purpose, that he’s uniquely gifted by God, that the church exists to equip and support him in using those gifts?

Or would he feel marginalized and unwelcome? Would he sense, as I did, that he didn’t fully belong?

Acceptance Comes Before Healing

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Acceptance comes when we step out of denial and judgment and are willing to see the present exactly as it exists in this moment.

Drama keeps us stuck in endless spirals of excuses that prevent us from moving in a new direction. If we’re caught up in our drama,we are no longer living in the present moment. We think we are responding to the challenges of our lives when in fact we are reacting to all of our unresolved pain.

We must realize that what is happening in this moment is calling us to heal what happened to us in the past.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !


Copyright 2011, Chaplain Michael Clark
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Chaplain Clark is a Speaker and Writer,
Addiction Counselor/Professional
as well as a Recovery Support Specialist
Shadows of the Cross Ministries, Prison and Recovery Ministry