Archive for August, 2013

Are You Sharing the Road?

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Becky and I made a spur of the moment trip to Iowa last week.

Twenty-two hours staring through the windshield at I-80 provided a lot of time to think. I found myself observing how I treat other drivers.

I don’t always slow a bit to let them change lanes. I don’t purposely give truckers room to gain momentum before uphill stretches. Many times I insist on my own speed at the expense of others’ progress.

Fundamentally, it’s pretty much all about me. I don’t think a lot about those with whom I share this concrete ribbon.

I’m not very proud of what I observed. Frankly, I travel to get where I’m going. Those other folks—they’re in the way.

When I tried, I could change my behavior. I yielded a little more, gave the truckers a bit more room, tried to make it less about me.

I have a feeling I drive like I live—it’s mostly about me.

Jesus doesn’t want a grudging change in behavior. He wants a changed heart.

He doesn’t want me to act a little less selfishly. He wants me to be less selfish.

The other folks on the road have places to go. Everyone’s journey is enhanced when we share the road and help each other.

It’s not about me.

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<i>Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.</i><br>
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: <a href=”http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&p=1015079&item_no=219581″><img src=”http://graphics.christianbook.com/g/display/2/219581.gif” class=’alignleft’ /><br>
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance</a>. Visit his web site <a href=”http://www.relentlessgrace.com”>www.relentlessgrace.com</a></div>

 

What If It’s Not Complicated?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

“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 22:36-40]

A couple of weeks ago, Becky and I visited a gorgeous historic hotel in the Colorado mountains.

Designers restored and modernized this majestic treasure, including remarkable accessibility, while maintaining its unique charm. In one spot a small patio sits at the bottom of a steep slope with stunning views of surrounding landscapes. At the top of the slope, neatly hidden from sight, is a modern parking lot. The challenge: how to allow visitors to change levels without destroying the beauty of this secluded oasis.

A simple set of steps solves the problem for most folks, but they’d be an intrusion on the natural environment and wouldn’t allow easy access for all. Instead, architects created a curving, gently-pitched path that winds down the hill. Benches, trees, and strategically-placed colorful plants guide visitors to the bottom along a series of small pools connected by bubbling waterfalls. The solution is simple and elegant and enhances the space.

It’s the perfect answer to a difficult problem. Someone worked hard to create this unobtrusive, peaceful complexity that almost disappears into the background.

Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.

In the scripture above, Jesus is asked for the first priority in His teaching, and I don’t think the first word He spoke was an accident. “Love …” The answer is so simple. Like that gentle path on a steep hillside, He distills centuries of scholarship into a single word. “Love …”

And we reply, “Yeah, but …”

You can almost hear their response. “Love? You want us to solve everything with love? You have no idea how complicated our lives can be. It’s just not that easy!”

And He smiles gently and says, Really? You think I don’t understand?

When we encounter adversity, pain, grief, and unbearable despair, life seems much too complicated for such a simplistic response. We need a pragmatic answer, something that works in the real world. When the past covers you with a blanket of shame and guilt, the present spins out of control, and the future looms in darkness devoid of direction, Jesus doesn’t seem to get how impossible it all seems.

And He smiles gently and points to the cross. He gets it.

When God first greeted Adam and Eve in the garden, He pointed to the wonderful complexity of all He’d created. His command was simple. Live in loving relationship with each other and with Me. Enjoy it all, but don’t mess with this one tree.

Their disobedience cluttered the world with the complications of sin and polluted God’s simple design. He made it complex—we made it complicated.

Jesus gets it, and He still stands and points to the cross.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]

Easy? Light? Rest? What about all of that theology and religion, the books and the study? And what about all of the junk that the world dumps on us, not to mention our own mistakes and failures? What’s so light and easy about any of that?

And He smiles gently. The religion, theology, and sin aren’t His stuff. That’s all ours, the product of our own silly attempts to do it our way. In fact, I love the way this passage is expressed in The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus lived simply, but His message certainly isn’t simplistic. He doesn’t promise an easy life; in fact, His life was hard precisely because He chose the simple truth of love.

But my way’s hard too, and seems only to surround me only with more and more levels of complicated, tangled messes that become ever more snarled as I struggle to free myself. Jesus didn’t design this jumbled confusion, but He does understand it. He lived it, and He knows the only effective escape strategy.

The simple question isn’t whether He understands. He does. The only question is whether I believe enough to trust His elegantly uncomplicated guidance.

And I echo the man from Mark 9: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:13]

Faith, hope, and love. Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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’s an aspect of your life that seems overwhelmingly complicated? Does any of this make sense in that circumstance?

What Do You Count?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

We count stuff.

We count money, blood pressure, and the number of trips we’ve made around the sun. Some folks count pounds lost, hours wasted, books read, or golf balls lost. Others count miles cranked on a bike or progress toward some other elusive dream.

It seems like we count everything. Jesus even advised us to count the cost.

As a teacher I learned a lot about assessment. At least a million times I heard, “Will this be on the test?”

It’s not a silly kid question. Skilled teachers know it’s the key question: What will we measure, and how will we measure it?

The answers determine everything that happens in class. Assessment guides every important decision about learning and instruction. I learned that when I talked to students about the test they asked better questions and took more control of their own learning. The questions got harder and the kids did better.

The key to better teaching, it seemed, was writing better tests.

Same choice in life.

What you measure determines the quality of your life. And the cool thing is—you get to decide!

Lots of folks give this power to someone else. They measure life by the size of a bank account, number of Facebook friends, or past failures. They allow someone else to decide what will be on the test, and they’re pretty sure the test is supposed to be mysterious and difficult.

It’s not.

I suggest we begin this weekend by writing our own test. Let’s ask what’s truly important and make that the stuff we measure.

What’s on the test?

When Jesus talked about counting the cost of following, I’m pretty sure He wasn’t talking about keeping score.

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted. Albert Einstein

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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

Have You Seen Many Troubles?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Psalm 71:20: “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again.”

That verse brings comfort to know God will restore our lives again. Perhaps you have lost a job or a home because of the economy. God will restore your life again.

Maybe you’ve suffered physical or sexual abuse as a child. God will restore your life again.

Through death or divorce, you may have lost a spouse. God will restore your life again.

Stress or worry may have brought you health problems. God will restore your life again.

No matter what the trial is, God says he will restore our lives again. The second part of verse 20 says, “From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

Through grief or trauma, we may have sunk into the depths of the earth emotionally.

Verse 21 says, “You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” What a joy to read all these verses. God loves us.

Dear God, I’ve seen many bitter troubles in my life. Please help me. Amen.

Application: When will you trust God to restore your life again, increase your honor, and comfort you again?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2010-2013, 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

How to Make a Decision

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

1 Kings 22:4: “So he [the king of Israel] asked Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?’”

“Should I marry him, Ms. Yvonne?” Carrie twisted the shoulder strap of her purse. “He’s a good man, and he loves me.”

We sat down, and I told Carrie about King Ahab of Israel. Ahab wanted to take Ramoth Gilead back from the king of Aram. He asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah to join him in the battle.

“Did Jehoshaphat do that?”

Jehoshaphat told Ahab, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.” I asked Carrie if she had sought the counsel of the Lord in regard to the marriage proposal.

With her eyes downcast, she admitted she hadn’t.

I suggested Carrie seek the Lord’s counsel. I warned her that Ahab found false prophets who told him what he wanted to hear: to go fight, and he would win the battle.

Carrie sat wide-eyed.

She too could find people who would tell her to marry the man. If that marriage weren’t God’s will, it could turn into a nightmare.

With raised brows, Carrie asked, “What happened to Ahab?”

I told her a real prophet warned him in verse 20 he would go to his death. Ahab disguised himself and went anyway (verse 30).

“Did he return alive?” Carrie sat on the edge of her seat.

“No, he died as the prophet of God said he would.”

Carrie bit her lip and sat in silence for a minute. “I better seek the counsel of the Lord before I marry,” she said.

Dear God, please don’t let me rush into any situation against your will. Amen.

Application:  When will you seek God’s counsel this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2010-2013, 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

How Can God Care About Little Stuff?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It was a feel-good article titled The Mystery Man At Miller Park.

Brief summary: a mom thanked an anonymous young man who went out of his way to make her son feel special during a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. The article included this blessing:

When my wiped-out children were tucked into bed last night, I took a few minutes to thank God for you. I asked that He bless you and draw near to you wherever you were. I prayed that the Lord would encourage you and honor your kindness by bringing joy to your heart.

The story itself was a nice, heartwarming reminder of the impact we can make with simple acts of kindness. Then I scanned the comments.

Isn’t god lovely, ignoring the vast suffering in the world to focus solely on you? I mean, who cares about sex trafficking when there’s a baseball game in progress and a kid wants a ball.

Ignoring the snarky cynicism, the comment got me thinking about God and how we tend to put Him in a box. Ever thought, “God’s got more important things to do than listen to my petty problems”? I have.

We’re putting God in a box.

God doesn’t have a limited amount of attention. He doesn’t have to choose between you or me or the kid at the baseball game or human trafficking. He’s omnipresent—everywhere, all at once. I don’t know how that works, because He’s God and I’m not.

God’s not ignoring anyone else to focus on you. He’s focused on everyone, and everything, and He’s not in a hurry. And if that seems impossible, I think you’re starting to get it. It IS impossible—for us.

One form of idolatry is making a god from what you can explain and quantify. I suspect we all do that to some extent. It makes things more comfortable.

That first commandment was about a lot more than golden calves.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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

How big is God?

Monday, August 19th, 2013

How big is God?

Whatever your answer… He’s bigger than that. A lot bigger.

Human minds don’t deal well with infinity. As a math teacher, I talked to calculus students about infinite processes, and mostly they thought of “infinite” as “really, really big.” Honestly, I’m not sure I understand it myself, but “really, really, really big” isn’t even close.

I once heard a pastor say “man is to God as a single-cell amoeba is to Albert Einstein.”

I understand his point, but I think that pastor was well-intentioned—and completely wrong. If the amoeba could perceive, Albert Einstein might look like a god from its perspective. But both are limited.

God’s not.

God’s not just a bigger, more powerful version of us. He’s something altogether different.

It might be good to start the week by asking yourself if you have an idea of how big God is. If your answer’s YES then you’ve put Him in a box. It might be a really, really, really big box, but still…

Maybe it’s time to remove the box.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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

Do we keep God in a box?

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Do we keep God in a box?
Is He a wily fox we keep caged
Unengaged
Trapped in the prison of our understanding?

Are our prayers really snares
Limiting God
Through the walls of our imagination?

If we cease to assimilate,
Rather, subordinate
To the unassimilable…

We may slip the subliminal
Escape the ephemeral
Engage the seminal Source of Life

Be separated
Reassembled
Rekindled
By His knife.

~ * ~
Copyright 2008-2013 by Roadrunner.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
See more works at Roadrunner’s web site
Furtherreaches.com

 

What To Do When You Mess Up

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Apparently it’s the season for public scandal.

Politicians, athletes, and media figures seem to be lining up to provide the latest highly visible lapse in personal or professional judgment. Personal indiscretions, performance enhancing drugs, political cover-ups—if not for the tragic consequences, the stream of indignities would be laughable.

It’s like a reality TV competition—How Low Can You Go?

Several days ago a relatively unknown Philadelphia Eagles football player named Riley Cooper joined the parade. A video hit the Internet showing Cooper, a young white man, using the “N” word at a rock concert.

There’s no defense or excuse for Cooper’s behavior. His words were reprehensible. But I’m drawn to the incident by the way Cooper, his coach, and his teammates handled a hurtful, difficult, potentially divisive situation.

I think we can learn from the way this young man dealt with a humiliating mistake.

He owned his behavior. No lies, no excuses, no hiding, and no blaming. He stood up, admitted what he did, and took responsibility for his actions.

He acknowledged the harm he caused. No attempt to minimize or deflect, he accepted responsibility for the impact of his words on teammates, parents, and fans.

“I realize how many people I’ve hurt, how many families I’ve hurt, how many kids I’ve hurt,” Cooper said. “That’s what we talked about, the severity of it, and I completely realize that and I take full responsibility for it.”

He apologized, corporately and individually. Facing his teammates—many of whom are black—man to man must have been difficult. I’m sure some of those conversations were uncomfortable and even angry. But he didn’t hide behind a group apology.

He didn’t demand forgiveness. “I told them, ‘I don’t want you to forgive me because that puts the burden on you,’” Cooper said. “I want it all on me. I told them that and I told them I apologize.”

He realizes there’s no quick fix. “It’s going to be tough. No doubt it’s going to be tough,” Cooper said. “I’m going to live with this every day for the rest of my life.”

He can say all the right things now, but ultimately this incident will be resolved based on how Riley Cooper conducts himself over months and years.

I’m in no position to judge. Personally, I’m glad nobody followed me around with a camera phone while I was in my early 20’s.

We all mess up. Mostly life’s not about the mistakes, but about how we deal with them and what we learn from them. Riley Cooper took some good first steps, but he’s got a long way to go.

Personally, I’m rooting for him.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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 Happens When You Pray?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

There’s a conversation.

I know I talk and God listens. I believe God speaks. I try to listen. I don’t know how that works. Not really.

In worship last weekend I heard a familiar phrase: “Jesus, we invite you into this place…” and I thought, “Why are we inviting Him when we know He’s already here?”

I realized He doesn’t need the invitation, but we need the reminder of His presence. I think that’s sort of what happens when I pray.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:29-31)

I used to think prayer was about asking for stuff, which seemed silly since God knows what I want, and what I need, before I ask. It was like God wanted me to endure some prayer ritual of asking the question anyway.

God doesn’t need my prayers. He doesn’t need anything. He wants me to be in relationship with Him because He loves me and He knows it’s good for me. Prayer, conversation, interaction, don’t help God. But they’re essential for my spiritual peace.

So I think prayer’s about asking for stuff and telling Him how I’m doing and asking Him to make me part of what He’s doing. It’s about inviting Him to be part of everything, because He already is and because the reminder helps me. And it’s about listening.

I don’t think my prayers change God.

I know they change me.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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