Archive for September, 2012

What Do You Think About?

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

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

Becky said something to me the other day that’s been bouncing around in my brain. We were talking about some issue and she said, “You know, everything’s not about politics.”

Here’s what bothers me about that observation: I’m not an especially political guy. I don’t like politics or political discussions. Yet apparently I’ve developed the habit of running my thoughts and ideas through a political filter.

Where did that come from? How did I become “that guy” who seems to see things through the distorted lens of political rhetoric?

What you think about shapes what you think about.

Okay, so that’s a “duh” statement, except maybe it’s not. Maybe I could expand it a bit.

What you intentionally think about shapes how you think about everything else. And if you’re not intentional, others will happily fill the void.

SELECTIVE PERCEPTION

I’ll bet you don’t take note of ramps, curb cutouts, and steps. They’re likely part of the background for most folks, things they see without really seeing. But for me those elements are front-and-center, often the first things I notice in any new situation. We see the same environment through different lenses.

Advertisers work hard to direct our attention through their particular funnel. We’re bombarded with messages designed to focus our thoughts on body image, fashion, economic woes, celebrity gossip, sex, health concerns—it’s all designed to fixate our attention on a “problem” their product will solve.

Becky’s comment indicates I’m listening too much to the current barrage of political rhetoric.

Of course, I don’t have to be a passive victim. I can choose my own lens, but that doesn’t happen by accident. Changing my focus requires intentional decisions about my inputs.

Fortunately, I have some wise guidance about a remedy.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9

A friend once asked, a bit cynically, why God needs my attention. “Why does an all-powerful God need you to constantly give Him credit for everything?”

I don’t give God the glory because He needs my worship or affirmation. I do it to remind myself of His presence, to center my thoughts on His peace. It’s not about what God needs from me.

It’s about what I need from God.

Is there a particular lens that shapes your thinking, either in helpful or not-so-helpful directions?

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 Was The Last Time You Said “Wow!” ?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Yesterday I commented on Blessings. I heard someone say life was so amazing he just stopped and applauded. Literally, he paused right in his tracks and gave life a one-man round of applause.

I’ll bet God appreciated that. It’s not that He needs our recognition, but He gets a pretty steady stream of complaints, worries, and requests for changed situations. I’m thinking He’s pleased when His work moves someone to a genuine, spontaneous expression of emotion because life’s just really cool.

I tend to get all wrapped up in finding something deep and thought-provoking. I’m always looking for patterns, connections, and insights. I suppose that’s mostly a good thing.

But I don’t recall the last time I just looked around at all God’s given me, did a fist-pump, and said, “Wow!”

I wonder why.

Have you ever felt like giving God a one-person ovation? What was happening? Did you do it?

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

He Heard My Voice

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Psalm 116:1-2: “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

Most of us have dear friends who listen to us often. Some of us have spouses or other family members who also listen to us frequently.

However, the Lord hears our every cry. He always listens. Unlike man, he never fails us. When he hears us, he turns his ear to us, not away from us.

God never tells us to hurry and get to the point. He never asks why we return to him over and over to talk about the same things we’ve already cried to him about.

He is the perfect listener. Whether we cry to him about health, finances, family, friends, responsibilities, disappointments, mistakes we’ve made, goals or dreams, we have God’s attention.

No matter what happens, God is there for us. He wants to hear from us. Verse 5 says, “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

Verse 7 tells us, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.”  I don’t know about you, but rest sounds good to me.

Dear God, help me cry to you as long as I live. Amen.

Application: When will you call on the Lord this week and cry to him for mercy?

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

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

Blessings: We don’t “have” to. We “get” to.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

I’ve been working on the latest edit of the new book manuscript. The process has provided the opportunity to re-read, and vicariously re-experience, the story that unfolded exactly a year ago as we rolled along the Mississippi River. I’m overwhelmed as I understand how incredibly fortunate I am.

I trap myself a lot with “I have to…” I found myself saying things like “I have to finish these edits” or “I have to do a long training ride.”

Have to?

I get to do those things. I get to communicate with an amazing circle of folks (that’s you). I get to share an amazing story. I’m surrounded by blessings.

It’s so easy to focus on the struggle, the grind, the stuff that doesn’t go smoothly. I get so zeroed in on what’s wrong that I lose sight of all that’s good and right.

Life’s got its struggles, for sure. No sense denying the difficulties. But there’s also no sense in ignoring the joy that exists even in the midst of sorrow.

I’m blessed with amazing opportunities. So are you.

Let’s look around this week and see the blessings. And let’s say thank-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

Are We Accountable?

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

An obvious question follows my two previous posts. (Afraid Of God? and Does God Punish?) If we reduce fear of punishment, won’t people do all sorts of crazy things?

Can we have accountability without fear of punishment?

Of course a broken world needs laws to regulate behavior. Society can’t function without at least minimal limits and prescribed punishments for exceeding those limits. But we all know that obeying every law isn’t enough.

Laws and rules force (at best) grudging compliance with minimum requirements. Marginal adherence to traffic laws doesn’t make me a safe driver, because safe driving is a matter of respect and attitude. Laws translate moral issues into a legal game of catch-me-if-you-can in which satisfying the rules or not getting caught become more important than doing what’s right.

Good citizenship, strong communities, and authentic relationships can never rest on a list of rules. A healthy society depends on people who develop and act upon higher values of character and integrity, people who go beyond what’s required.

I believe that’s God’s model. He didn’t send His Son so we could be tied to a list of Laws. He doesn’t want us to be people who seek only to follow the rules

God isn’t about meeting minimum requirements. Listen to Jesus’ words:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

Jesus calls us to a higher standard of accountability, one we can’t meet but to which He wants us to aspire. He calls us to be accountable not to a list of rules but to our relationship with Him.

God calls us to follow and live in relationship with a person. He knows that as we invite Jesus into our hearts we’ll experience authentic freedom that can’t be found in rules. And He knows seeking that freedom creates an inner desire to follow more closely.

God’s way is simple, but it’s not easy.

He calls us to be accountable to love.

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

A Meal of Vegetables

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Proverbs 15:17: “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.”

Some people seem obsessed with their savings and investments. Others have a goal of becoming a millionaire, which takes precedence over everything including God.

Savings and investments are important, and so are goals.

However, when we place an emphasis on material wealth at the expense of our relationship with God, family and friends, we risk its deterioration.

Most families want to be comfortable, but they value love more than wealth. They prefer a meal of vegetables in a loving home rather than a fattened calf with hatred.

How does a child spell love? T-I-M-E

How does a woman spell the love of her husband? T-I-M-E

When a person strives for “the fattened calf,” he may resent the time his spouse and children ask of him. His resentment may turn into hatred. If he isn’t careful, he may end up turning his back on God and justifying an affair.

Dear God, please keep me focused on love for you and family. Amen.

Application: When will you enjoy a simple meal with your family this week?

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

Practice Patience (Awaiting Miracles)

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Practice patience this week by seeking not to pursue control in one particularly vexing portion of your life, and ponder whether it’s indeed your problem to solve in the first place.

Start by remembering the miracle of how God got your attention and delivered you, and his promise that the great work he began in you will not remain incomplete, no matter how long it takes.

What miracle will be next? Wait and see.

“You will know that I am the LORD; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 49:23).

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

Copyright 2010-2012, 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

Afraid Of God?

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Are you afraid of God? Last time I asked a provocative question: Does God Punish?

It’s a tough question. One of this blog’s purposes is to talk about confronting adversity and moving forward in hope. It’s difficult to do that if you’re afraid of being punished.

Punishment is all about fear, power, and control. If I have enough power I can threaten you with a punishment that’ll make you afraid to step over my line.

God’s got all the power. If He wanted to intimidate me into mandatory-or-else compliance, I’ve no doubt He could drop an unmistakable “or else” that would leave me frozen in fear.

So the real question is: Does God want us to be afraid of Him?

For me, the answer is perhaps wrapped into a single verse from scripture:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I’m certainly no bible scholar, but I don’t think I’m taking that verse out of context. Earlier (verse 16) John writes, “God is love.” And now he clearly states that perfect love (God) drives out fear.

Someone asked Jesus the question as plainly as possible.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

Here was His opportunity. He could have pointed to politics, security, finances, patriotism, family values, or any of the topics on which we fixate. But when asked directly about the #1 priority, the first word Jesus uttered was “Love.”

God is love. There is no fear in love, because fear has to do with punishment. All the Law hangs on LOVE.

Those aren’t my words.

If you’re afraid of God, I think you’re listening to the wrong voices.

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

Does God Punish?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Do you think God punishes?

I don’t. I know people will likely disagree, and that’s okay. Let’s talk.

I recently heard a preacher declare with absolute certainty that God is punishing a particular group for a particular action. He offered Old Testament scriptural examples and the opinion of “every major Christian leader” as evidence.

Ever notice when someone pronounces God’s judgment on some group or action, it’s nearly always a political position with which they disagree? They’re absolutely certain God’s about to strike down that person or group or nation because of some especially heinous sin.

When those same folks acknowledge their own failures and sins, the conversation shifts. Suddenly it’s all about grace and forgiveness and God’s infinite capacity for new beginnings.

Apparently God has some sort of “sin hierarchy” that forgives some and punishes others, and somehow the speaker is always on the forgiveness side.

PUNISHMENT AND CONSEQUENCES

I taught math to adolescents for thirty-five years. I came to believe that nothing positive resulted from a bunch of rules and punishments. I believe I learned that from God.

My classroom operated on one simple principle:

This class is a circle, and in this circle EVERYONE gets treated with dignity and respect.

I would have preferred “everyone is loved” but that would have required far too much discussion in a classroom filled with young adolescents.

I did everything I could to avoid any notion of punishment. Punishment is rooted in coercion and threats, sort of a “Do it my way or I’ll hurt you” model. I decided it made no sense to try to instill a love of learning using that model.

I think that’s God’s model. He designed us for love, but love can’t be coerced.

Punishment and coercion are always artificial, and they’re about power and control. Here’s an example.

“If you cheat I’ll lower your grade” is a coercive threat based on my power to control your behavior. The punishment (lower grade) isn’t naturally connected to the act of cheating. It transforms cheating from a moral issue into a criminal act, and may in fact serve to create more efficient cheaters. The punishment, after all, depends on getting caught.

The punishment model is necessarily adversarial—you try to get away with as much as possible, and it’s my job to catch you. We’re no longer on the same team.

Consequences are entirely different. Remember my “dignity and respect” principle? If you choose to cheat, you’ve treated yourself, your classmates, and me (the teacher’s in the circle, too) disrespectfully. You’ve violated the principle, and as with any relationship, we have a conflict to resolve.

But if you continually choose to violate the single principle of the class, you’re removing yourself from the circle. Your behavior has natural consequences, obvious to everyone. No threats, no coercion. No punishment. I still care about you and treat you with dignity and respect.

I believe that’s God’s model.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

EVERYBODY in the circle gets loved.

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

Differences: a hurtful illusion

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Do you notice how invested our culture is in highlighting our differences?

Of course it’s election season, so we’re buried in ads promoting difference. But I think the election rhetoric only ramps up what’s become our “normal” environment. We’re literally inundated with messages assuring us “we” are different from “them.”

I believe most of this notion we hold about our differences is a hurtful illusion. I believe the messages are dangerous lies.

Media and politics are the most obvious investors in the illusion of differences. They need us to believe THIS agenda, person, country, ideology, perspective, or approach is different—and superior. The stakes? Power, control, and huge sums of money.

This insidious lie spreads to every corner of life. Those folks are different because of what they wear or the language they speak. That group is different because they’re disabled. They’re different because they choose an unfamiliar lifestyle.

Then it leaks into even the smallest places. The people in the church down the street are different because their music is odd, or they don’t say the same prayers, or some theologian four hundred years ago disagreed with another theologian so they formed competing denominations.

I believe our Enemy delights whenever we focus on what divides us. I believe he loves it when we seize upon opportunities to separate ourselves from others. I think he dances with joy every time we put ourselves in a little group and pretend we’re somehow different than those others.

Dividing us is the Enemy’s desire. He doesn’t want us to remember God created us for community, that what divides us is inconsequential compared to what unites us.

We all ride the same road. We don’t have to ride it the same way, but if we ride it together we have a much better chance of getting where we need to go.

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