Archive for May, 2012

The Tyranny Of Nice

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock. ~Will Rogers

Can you really “kill them with kindness”?

I’ve never considered the notion of literally harming someone with kindness. But recently I’ve encountered some folks who’ve caused me to wonder. As I analyzed their frustrating behavior, I concluded that they’d developed the ability to deploy “being nice” as an interpersonal weapon.

Have you ever encountered someone who’s so nice that it’s nearly impossible to disagree with them without feeling guilty? They say and do outrageous things, but no one can confront them because they’re just so darned nice.

These folks use nice to control and manipulate. Sometimes it does seem as if they’re literally trying to suffocate others in niceness.

KIND VERSUS NICE

Kind and nice are sort of innocuous words. Everybody knows that kind and nice are good things, right? Be kind to animals, play nice in the sandbox. We seem to use them somewhat interchangeably.

I felt silly consulting a dictionary about such common words, but what I found surprised me a little.

kind: of a sympathetic or helpful nature; of a forbearing nature; gentle

nice: pleasing, agreeable; socially acceptable

Apparently kind and nice aren’t exactly synonyms. Kindness is more concerned with others. It’s associated with gentleness, forbearance, sympathy, helpfulness. In contrast, niceness is about getting along, being social and agreeable.

WHAT’S SCRIPTURE SAY?

I examined the well-known passage listing the fruits of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23]

No surprises there, so I looked at some other translations. In place of kindness the KJV uses gentleness. In The Message it’s stated as a sense of compassion in the heart.

There it is again—kindness connotes compassion and gentleness.

What does scripture say about nice? In a keyword search in my online bible (NIV) kindness appears dozens of times—not a single instance of nice.

AGAPE

I’m thinking that kindness is an expression of agape, the self-sacrificing love Jesus demonstrated. If I’m right, then “killing with kindness” isn’t really accurate.

The goal of authentic kindness isn’t guilt or manipulation. Kindness seeks the interests of others, which includes gentle, loving confrontation when it’s appropriate.

Kindness involves an attitude of service centered on the other person’s needs. Niceness potentially disguises selfishness behind concern for social convention or propriety. It’s doing the right thing, but possibly for the wrong reason.

I’ve always liked thinking of myself as a nice guy, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It’s generally good to be pleasing and agreeable.

But I hope I always integrate nice with kindness. I hope I’m a steward who beings an attitude of agape to my interactions.

I want to value transparency, open communication, and a desire to understand. I want to be aware of the times when I’m tempted to meet my own needs at the expense of others through pleasant, skillful coercion.

I hope I can avoid relationships smothered by “the tyranny of nice.”

Do you encounter occasions when someone (or maybe you) attempts to camouflage control behind a veneer of nice?

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

Strong, Firm and Steadfast

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I Peter 5:10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Sometimes I feel as if I suffer a long time, not “a little while.” I long for God’s promised restoration and wonder when he’ll make me “strong, firm and steadfast” again.

The anniversary of my son’s homegoing, his birthday, and Mother’s Day all occur in May. I told God I wanted to sense his presence, power, and love this month. I didn’t want to feel abandoned or depressed.

God used his “neighborhood angels” to power wash my driveway and sidewalk, to wash the “tiger striping” off my gutters, and to paint a rusty spot at the top of my chimney. A neighbor’s daughter and granddaughter brought me big hugs and dinner on Mother’s Day.

The day after Mother’s Day, a former co-worker and I went out to lunch.

Perhaps you also face painful anniversaries or suffer in other ways. God promises to restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. As you suffer, remind God of his promise and hang onto it.

Dear God, help me remember you will restore me. Amen.

Application: What suffering will you endure “a little while” this week?

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Copyright 2010-2012, 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.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Restore

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Today’s word-of-the-week…

RESTORE

Restore: return to a former place or condition.

I wrote a while back about The God Of “Re” and all the “re-” words associated with God. There’s a long list of God-related words with the common “re” prefix.

“Re” means again (repeat) or new (refresh). God is all about new beginnings. The God of “re” offers renewal, reconciliation, resurrection …

Restore is definitely a God word.

So my handcycle’s “restored”—returned to its former place in my garage. I’m happy for that outcome.

But I begin the week with gratitude that God’s entire story is about sending His son to restore us to right relationship with Him. Thanks to Jesus, we can be back where God designed us to be.

Have a great week.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

Fear

Thursday, May 10th, 2012
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6, NKJV).


Fear. Sometimes its identity is terrifyingly clear; other times it is but an unnamed, vague sense of unease. Either way, it can be a formidable enemy, one that may drive us to make unwise choices or to stand paralyzed, unable to move in any direction.

God hasn’t purposed for fear to control us in any such manner. Fear does not come from God; it is a tool of the enemy of our soul. And our faithful Lord has provided all we need to defeat it. “Be strong and of good courage,” He calls to us. “Do not fear nor be afraid.” Why? Because there is NOTHING in our lifetime that we will ever have to face on our own. The Lord our God, He is the One who goes with us, who stands with us, who fights for us, and who carries us when we are too weak to stand.

Today, whether fear whispers your name or screams its threats, stand strong, beloved, for underneath are the everlasting arms, strengthening and holding you, fighting for you and declaring victory over you. Be strong and of good courage, for God has promised NEVER to leave or forsake you. And that’s a promise you can believe in.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2009-2012 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 au

Hearts And Wineskins

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Jesus often rebuked those with “hard hearts.”

Our pastor used the phrase “hard hearts” in a message this weekend. He suggested that we should strive to cultivate a “soft heart.” I wondered exactly what he meant.

My dictionary defines softhearted as “tenderness of heart, capable of pity or other kindly affection.”

I’m not sure that’s exactly what Jesus had in mind.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins. (Mark 2:22)

I once saw a time-lapse video demonstration of this principle. A fresh new wineskin is pliable and elastic, so it can expand to accommodate the gas emitted as new wine ferments. The new wine can literally burst a brittle old wineskin.

That’s a picture of how Jesus viewed soft and hard hearts. A soft heart is like the new wineskin. It’s able to listen, assimilate new ideas and truths, and accept those who think and behave differently. A soft heart is characterized by tolerance, an open mind, and the ability to accept correction. It values people over ideas.

A hard heart demands conformity. It’s a “my way or the highway” attitude that insists on strict adherence to rules at the expense of liberty. Hard hearts refuse to acknowledge any alternative custom or opinion. Their interpretation, their revelation, is the final word in any discussion.

Hard hearts create rigid, joyless religion. They reduce Jesus to regimented lists of ideas and single-issue arguments. They value winning and being right.

Jesus condemned hard hearts by comparing them to brittle old wineskins. He came to bring a new truth that values people over rules and tolerance over blind conformity.

Jesus told us to keep our hearts flexible and open, willing to listen and be led by His spirit in surprising new directions.

I hope my heart is a new wineskin. You?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

I Love A Happy Ending

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The Stolen Handcycle Chronicles rolls to a happy ending.

Friday morning a Fort Collins police detective called with the happy news that they recovered the bike. Thanks to diligent work by law enforcement—supported by a huge circle of prayer—this episode offered about the best possible conclusion.

(If you’re unfamiliar with this saga, check out When Someone Steals and Adversity And Opportunity.)

This whole story exemplifies what I said along RICH’S RIDE. Media and political interests too often portray us as selfish, bitter, and divided. But we encountered nothing but generosity, support, and eagerness to help.

I’m committed to turning off the negative voices with a vested interest in highlighting and promoting divisive messages.

My community—and the world in general—aren’t characterized by one person who made a poor choice.

I choose instead to see the hundreds of folks who jumped on Facebook to publicize and help secure the bike’s return. I choose to see police officers who might have filed this as one more insignificant crime, but instead pursued leads and took great personal joy in reporting their discovery. I choose to see reporters who worked to tell the story and showed up today to document the happy ending.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18)

I perceive those who offered prayers, encouragement, and financial assistance if I had to replace an expensive machine. I’ll focus on the opportunities, the added exposure this incident generated for our upcoming ride from Cincinnati to Washington, DC.

Who knows how many people will become aware and perhaps even donate to support the important work of International Justice Mission? (That’s a not-so-subtle hint if you want to click this link and check out the details.)

We’re invited to perceive the new things, the good, abundant things God’s doing all around us. That’s the city—and the world—in which we live.

Becky and I are sad for the person who took my bike. Even before the bike’s return we expressed our hope that this event becomes a catalyst for change and restoration.

But I refuse to allow one mistake to become a distorted lens through which I see my neighborhood, my community, or my world.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

Adversity and Opportunity

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m dwelling on a relatively minor incident, but this week’s handcycle theft provides an opportunity. Bouncing Back is, after all, partly about confronting and overcoming adversity. If we learn from small bumps, perhaps we’ll do a little better when something really big happens.

Some  observations:

“Why” would someone take a handcycle? That’s probably the most frequent question, and I asked it as well. But the search for “why” is a fool’s errand and one of the enemy’s most powerful tools.

First, there probably isn’t an answer. Likely it was a random crime of opportunity, as senseless as most other crimes. “Why” seeks rationality where it probably doesn’t exist. Accidents happen. People make foolish decisions. Mostly it’s just the way it is.

More importantly, “why” doesn’t matter, and an answer wouldn’t help. Suppose I could know the thief had a good reason for his act—would it really help? It’s like demanding a reason for a senseless disease or for my accident. If God explained why those occurred, would the pain or loss or grief be reduced?

“Why” also implies “why me” or “why you.” Those questions subconsciously point at someone else and ask “why not him instead.” I didn’t deserve to have my bike stolen, but I also didn’t deserve immunity from the consequences of a broken world. Maybe a better question is “why not me.” I haven’t earned any exemptions.

“Why” keeps me focused on the past. Better, I think, to lean on God’s promise (Romans 8:28) that all things work together for good. It won’t eliminate the grief process—nothing can do that. But it does allow us to move forward with authentic hope, a confident expectation based on faith.

This is why we prepare. We know adversity’s going to happen, somehow, sometime, in some form. When I get to know God and understand His character, when I practice walking with Jesus, I’m training. An athlete trains for the trials of competition so he can face them well. This sort of spiritual trial is similar.

Anyone can coast downhill, just as anyone can be thankful during easy times. When the hills come and adversity stares us in the face, we have the greatest opportunity to live out difficult principles.

Being real and transparent is part of this circle’s covenant, and I’m not pretending to be Pollyanna. Of course I’m angry and frustrated. Of course I feel violated and a bunch of other emotions.

But this is an opportunity to choose intentional response over reflexive reactions. It’s not about denial, it’s about acknowledging and trying to make better choices.

I want to forgive, though I don’t feel forgiving. I want to be thankful even in the places that don’t feel like it. I want to believe God will use this for good, though it sure doesn’t feel very good right now.

I want to love the person who took my bike when “loving” is about the last thing I feel.

I want to act on the hope that God will use this poor choice to soften a heart, even if I never see any evidence in the form of a returned bike.

That’s the cool thing about hope. Hope allows you to believe, despite the evidence, and then watch the evidence change.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

When Someone Steals

Friday, May 4th, 2012

It’s a shock.

I went to the garage yesterday morning and noticed an empty space. My first thought was, “Where’d I put my handcycle?” as though I might have simply misplaced the seven-foot-long, bright yellow machine. It took a moment to assimilate the fact that someone stole my handcycle.

Then there’s some anger, that someone would walk into my garage and steal something so meaningful. Of course the thief didn’t think about what the bike meant to me, but that’s what I wondered.

Then there’s fear. A person bold enough to go to the back of the garage and maneuver such a conspicuous item around obstacles and out of our neighborhood…while we watched TV a few yards away…what else might have happened? It’s a real sense of vulnerability and violation.

There’s frustration, at the thought of replacing such a customized machine. I thought about ordering, sizing, fitting, waiting for manufacture, and then getting it all adjusted and dialed in. With a ride scheduled in a little more than two months, I wondered whether I’d be able to honor my commitment.

But then there’s perspective, once the police left and there was time to reflect. It’s just a thing. Yeah, it’s a special thing, but it can be replaced. Nobody got hurt, no permanent damage to anything that really matters.

I remembered something I wrote during the ride: Life’s determined more by choices than by feelings.

I want to choose gratitude, even though I don’t feel entirely grateful. I’m thankful the thief just took a replaceable thing rather than entering the house and perhaps doing something much worse. I’m glad he escaped without detection, avoiding a potentially dangerous confrontation with us or our neighbors.

I’m grateful for supportive friends and neighbors, for a community where this sort of occurrence isn’t the norm.

Mostly I’m thankful for the perspective to value people more than things. I’m sad for the thief, for whatever internal demons led him to steal. I truly don’t wish him any harm or bad karma or whatever else people call it, because I suspect he’s already fighting plenty of personal battles.

I hope he realizes his mistake and returns the bike. I’d love the opportunity to thank him for reconsidering. I know it’s unlikely, but God touches hearts in unlikely ways.

And if it makes sense, I’m grateful for the ability to choose thankfulness over bitterness, even when that’s not how it feels right now.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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 Doing Justly? Loving Mercy? Walking Humbly?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)

I’ve always loved this verse, but lately it’s been rolling around in my heart and mind a lot, stirring up thoughts and feelings I hadn’t considered before.

First, I’ve been impressed by the opening words: “He has shown you.” That’s God speaking to us, isn’t it? He has shown us. But what has He shown us…and how did He do so?

He showed us that He requires three things of us: to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with Him. And, of course, knowing that we are unable to fulfill those requirements on our own, He sent His Son to model and live those requirements for us.

If you consider the life of Christ as depicted in the gospels, I believe you can find that every act or deed falls into one of the three categories of God’s requirements for us. Isn’t that amazing? Another proof that God is righteous and requires righteous behavior from His children, but also another proof that He is merciful and provides a way for us to fulfill those otherwise impossible requirements.

The next time you read through the gospels, I challenge you to consider each scene of the Savior’s life and ask yourself which of God’s three requirements Jesus models in that scene. I believe it will give you a fresh appreciation for the amazing life of our beloved Lord and Savior during the time He walked this earth.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2009-2012 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

Comfortable Or Miserable Or …?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Last week (Are You Avoiding God?) I wrote about some guys who feared listening to God because He might ask them to do something they don’t want to do. I think they were afraid God would invite them out of their personal comfort zones. They were right.

I thought about security as I watched some families commit to difficult, dangerous missionary work. They chose to abandon comfort and safety—and they actually seemed excited about it!

I believe they discovered God’s invitation to serve in their sweet spot, that wonderful intersection of passions, gifts, and service.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

To me, the point is that God doesn’t call us to drudgery and misery. He invites us to discover how to use our gifts and passions in service to others.

A full, abundant life involves hard work, sacrifice, and risk, because that’s where we experience excitement, joy, and authentic fulfillment. He absolutely invites us to leave our comfort zones, but it’s not because He wants us to be miserable.

He knows a quest for comfort at all costs is a waste of life.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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