Archive for the ‘Pastors & Recovery Pros’ Category

Christmas in the Hospital

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

“Wasn’t it hard to spend Christmas in the hospital?”

CHRISTMAS IN A HOSPITAL might make a good title for an inspirational story or a heartwarming Hallmark movie, but it wouldn’t be my choice for personal experience. I didn’t choose permanent paralysis as a Christmas gift. Intensive Care wasn’t the ideal backdrop for an idyllic Christmas memory.

In real life, Christmas in the hospital was terrifying and lonely and incredibly sad. Decorations draped on beeping monitors in a sterile room provide a poor substitute for stockings hung on the mantle. Doctors and hourly vital signs can’t replace the joyous chaos of kids flitting from new toy to new toy.

The Night Before Christmas loses most of its rich imagery in the context of medical equipment and nurses wearing Santa hats. In place of a magical sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, that Christmas Eve brought claustrophobia in an MRI machine and fears of advancing infection.

But Christmas isn’t all about gifts and decorations and feasts. As much as we all cherish our particular family traditions, Christmas is a time when life softens a bit. Apart from the mad rush of shopping and travel and preparation, Christmas affords an opportunity to focus, however briefly, on what truly matters to us. Family and friends, love and peace, health and joy–these remain long after lights fade and gifts are forgotten.

That’s how I recall my Christmas in ICU. In the midst of fear and pain, I discovered that Christmas really does involve something deeper and more lasting than tinsel and toys. I discovered a connection to a child born thousands of years ago in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty. I learned something important about authentic hope from a horrible experience.

Hospitals, hospices, prisons, and rehab centers don’t close for Christmas. Overwhelming financial uncertainty doesn’t recognize holidays. Loneliness and depression don’t take a week off.

For all those who spend this Christmas in difficult situations, I wish a special sense of hope. I pray that they’ll experience the true meaning of Christmas. I pray that they’ll be touched by the baby whose birth in troubled circumstances signaled glad tidings of great joy for all of us.

Who do you know that might need some special hope this Christmas?

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Dixon
Copyright 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 Power of Gratitude

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Ephesians 5:20

~ ~ ~ ~

One day, Johann Tauler of Strosbourg met a peasant and greeted him, “God give you a good day, my friend!”

The peasant answered briskly, “I thank God that I never have a bad day!”

Tauler, astonished, kept silent for a moment. Tauler then added, “God give you a happy life, my friend.”

The peasant replied composedly, “I thank God that I am never unhappy!”

“Never unhappy!” cried Tauler bewildered, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” came the reply, “When it is sunshine–I thank God; and when it rains–I thank God. When I have plenty–I thank God; and when I am hungry–I thank God. Since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases God pleases me–I am never unhappy.”

Tauler looked upon him with awe. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am a king!” said the peasant.

“A king?” Tauler asked, “Where is your kingdom?”

The peasant smiled and whispered softly, “In my heart!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Thank you consists of just eight letters that form two of the most meaningful words in the English vocabulary.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Counting up our mercies and our every-day reasons for gratitude, looking at the hundred little things and large things–we do not know where to end the list. The only thing to do, is to live always in an atmosphere sweet and vital with thanksgiving!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Be thankful for the small things–the trivial things and the mundane things!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to happiness–he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Have an attitude of gratitude. Don’t wait till Thanksgiving.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Everything short of Hell is mercy!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“God is glorified, not by our complainings, but by our thanksgivings.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“We can always find something to be thankful for. There are reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“A cheerful heart has a continual feast!” Proverbs 15:15

“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name!” Psalm 100:4

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What About That Setback?

Friday, November 18th, 2016

bumpA friend experienced a setback.

A “speed bump” is how he described it. I’d say it was more like a major detour, but either way, things aren’t exactly going his way right now. This is a guy who’s had his share of struggle along the road, and things were starting to look a bit brighter. This particular speed bump wasn’t part of the plan.

So what do you say? What’s useful, helpful, to someone in a circumstance like this?

First, let’s hold off on the Christian one-liners. It’s God’s plan. Everything happens for a reason. God will use this for good. Even if you believe something like this, it’s simply not helpful to toss a simplistic conclusion into a complex, painful situation. Mostly these are designed to make the speaker feel better; they’re not going to help someone who’s already experiencing confusion and doubt. Let go of your need to offer an easy answer that likely doesn’t exist.

It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Following Jesus doesn’t mean pasting a permanent fake smile on your face. When you acknowledge and accept your feelings, you don’t have to be controlled by them.

Want to help? Offer a safe space for her to express these perfectly normal emotions.

Hope is a decision, not a feeling. Hope is confidence in the future based on faith that God keeps His promises. It’s possible to choose hope and feel hopeless…I don’t know how that works, but I’ve been there. You can decide to choose hope, and hold on no matter how you feel.

Want to help? Continue to talk about hope while showing you understand how hopeless it feels.

You are not your circumstances. I am not a wheelchair. My friend is not his “setback.” That’s not how God sees us. We’re defined by how He sees us through Jesus.

Want to help? Show (don’t tell) him that he’s valued as a person beyond his circumstances. The show part is, by the way, hard.

God is long-term. Hope is long-term. Love is long-term. Most of the stuff we focus on…isn’t.

Want to help? Hang around long-term. Do long-term stuff, the things most others won’t do because it’s frustrating and they don’t see results and often they’re not even appreciated.

Hang around when the short-term folks lose patience. Don’t judge them.

That’s what Jesus does.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright 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

Is Worry Overwhelming You?

Monday, November 14th, 2016
The Bible forbids us to worry. Our Lord Himself speaks of it as foolishness and sin (Matt. 6:25-34). Peter tells us to cast “all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Worry and faith do not go together; they are, in fact, in contradiction to each other. To worry is to lack faith.
Consider this: God cannot worry. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and all things therein. All things were made by Him, and all things are under His omnipotent hand and control. Moreover, as James declares, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Not an atom can ever escape God’s government and control.
This means that God has nothing to worry about, because everything is under His full control and accomplishes His purpose. If the Lord be our Lord, then Romans 8:28 is true for us: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If the worst that happens to us is made to work for good in the Lord, we cannot lose.
This is why anxiety and worry are a sin. They mean a distrust in the Lord. They mean, moreover, that we insist on playing god and on trying to run our lives according to our plan. We then sinfully refuse to take hands off our lives to commit them to God’s keeping.
When our Lord says, “Take no thought for your life” (Matt. 6:25), or “do not worry, or be anxious, about your living,” He is summoning us to faith. If we refuse to have faith in the Lord, how can we expect Him to care for us? And if we refuse to have faith and insist on worrying, then we will have something to worry about: having denied the Lord, we will not have His care or providence. Take your choice: God’s care or your anxiety.
Taken from A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 7.
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Waiting for God to make the first move?

Friday, November 11th, 2016

A challenging story from a wonderful speaker brings today’s word-of-the-week…

WAITING

waitAre you waiting for God to make the first move?

Mark Batterson, best-selling author and pastor at National Community Church in Washington D.C. was guest speaker at our church this weekend. He talked about prayer. He asked, “If you’re praying for something, do you trust God to answer or are you waiting for Him to make the first move?”

He told a story. A new campus location was about to open, and they needed a drummer. So everyone prayed, but no drummer appeared. They began to wonder if perhaps this location wasn’t meant to have a worship band.

Then someone observed that the campus didn’t own a drum set. Another person asked, “Why buy drums before we have a drummer?”

Mark said at that point he suggested a different perspective. “We’re asking God for a drummer. Perhaps we need the courage, or the faith, to step out and buy a drum set and trust Him do what He chooses with it.”

The worship leaders were waiting for God to make the first move.

How often do we do that? How often do we essentially offer God a deal: we’ll be happy to step forward as soon as you (God) do your part.

It’s called faith because I don’t get to know step #2 before I take step #1.

Go ahead and pray for just the right drummer. But buy the drums.

What’s the first step you need to take while you pray?

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Copyright 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 You Fully Recognize the Hand of God?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

We are to fully recognize the hand of God in whatever trials and sorrows may be appointed for us. And if we see God’s hand in them, we shall . . .
find that our cares and sorrows give us fresh errands to the throne of grace;
see redeeming love in them all;
be assured that Divine wisdom has ordered all for good;
believe that a Fatherly discipline and a tender regard for our highest welfare, have in some way seen them to be needful. So we shall trust and not be afraid.

One day a mother’s hand brings to a child a present of a toy.
At another time, the same hand gives the necessary food.
At another time, the same kind hand dries the child’s tear, and lifts it up when it has fallen.
At another time, the mother brings to the child, a cup of bitter medicine.
All of her dealings with the child are ways of showing her love, and perhaps the last in giving the medicine manifests her love the most.

Is it not so with our Father above? With far more than a mother’s love, He cares for His children.
Sometimes He bestows a temporal gift that greatly adds to our happiness.
Sometimes He gives the necessary provision for our life.
Sometimes He raises us up when we have fallen, and dries the tear of penitence or sorrow.
But it is equal love–yes, perhaps greater love–when He sends to us some distressing providence, or appoints some bitter cup of suffering or bereavement. It is for our highest good. It is the healing medicine which is to overcome some sinful propensity, or to preserve us from some temptation.

Let us believe this, and trust our Father’s love. Let us believe that He cares for us, and that He will remove the trial when its work is done. Let us commit our way unto Him, and roll upon Him the burden which oppresses us.

(George Everard, “Christian Living!” 1881)

What Jesus Didn’t Say

Friday, November 4th, 2016

A conversation at a new church inspires today’s word-of-the-week…

DIDN’T

truth1I met a new friend yesterday, and we talked a bit about things Jesus didn’t tell us.

For example, He didn’t tell us that people we love will always agree with us. Or that “enough faith” makes things turn out the way we want.

After our conversation, I made my own list.

He didn’t tell us that loving our enemies would make them stop being our enemies.

He didn’t tell us that people would appreciate our compassion.

He didn’t tell us that drug addicts would stop using drugs if we start programs for them or that prisoners would stop committing crimes if we visit them.

He didn’t tell us that a nonviolent search for justice would be met with acceptance and understanding, that others wouldn’t take advantage of us.

He DID tell us to love our enemies, have faith, help others, visit prisoners, and seek justice.

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Dixon
Copyright 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 Doors Won’t Open for Us

Monday, October 31st, 2016

A statement of frustration brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

OPENS

doorway“It feels like even when I’m at the right door it never opens for me.”

“Okay, tell me how it works.”

“It’s like I’m following my dream, doing the thing I think I’m called to do, but the door never opens.”

“So following your dream feels like you’re fighting yourself?”

“Exactly!”

“Well, here’s my theory. I think if you’re following your God-inspired dream, it shouldn’t feel like that. It may not be easy, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re fighting yourself.

“Can we try something?

“Sure.”

“Imagine Jesus is standing on the other side of that door, knocking. Please push the door open and let Him in.”

He reached for the handle. “You mean ‘Pull the door open,’ right? I can’t push it. It doesn’t open that way.”

“No, I’d really like you to push it. I believe that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.”

“But  can’t push it open.”

“Wait, are you telling me that if Jesus Himself was standing on the other side of that door you couldn’t push it open if I told you to?”

“Well, I could try, but that’s not the way it opens.”

“Do you think it’s possible that’s what happens with the doors of your dreams? I think sometimes we decide in advance not only WHAT should happen but EXACTLY HOW it should happen.

“Maybe you’re at the right door, but you’re absolutely certain you should push through it when that’s not the way it opens.”

The popular view says if the door doesn’t open, it wasn’t your door.

Maybe it simply opens the other way.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 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 Should You Seek Justice?

Monday, October 17th, 2016

roman jailPaul and Silas were beaten and tossed into prison illegally.

God intervened and used the opportunity to convert the jailer and his household. It’s a cool story until the following morning when the city officials try to get Paul and Silas to leave without making a fuss about their unlawful punishment.

Why not leave well enough alone? They’ve already been flogged and thrown into a dungeon. Why risk embarrassing the city leaders again?

But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” (Acts 16:37)

Paul wasn’t after retribution or vengeance. He didn’t demand a public beating or some sort of punishment for the officials who’d broken the law. But he also knew he needed to confront his persecutors.

Paul decided to set things right. He decided to seek justice, even at the risk of his personal safety.

The bible says the magistrates were alarmed when they learned Paul and Silas were Roman citizens and they came to appease them. Perhaps Paul used the opportunity, as he did earlier with the jailer, to demonstrate grace and forgiveness. I don’t know.

What’s certain is that it’s always the right time to seek justice, to balance the scales and set things right.

The trick, at least for me, is to make sure I’m balancing God’s scales rather than mine. It’s awfully tempting to get self-righteous about my personal USAmerican sense of justice which is usually about punishment or some version of getting even and doesn’t have much to do with what Jesus had in mind.

ALWAYS SEEK JUSTICE

Now all I have to do is be aware of injustice, understand what it means to correct it, and summon the courage to act regardless of risk.

That’s all. Sure glad Jesus is along in case I miss a step or two.

Your thoughts?

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Copyright 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 Given up?

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

A renowned international speaker said, “Yvonne, it took me 20 years to become an overnight success.”

I think of those words often and use them to encourage other speakers and myself. Have you given up on your dreams? Have you pushed your goals aside?

Go back in time with me to a fisherman named Simon. He and another fisherman had fished all night but caught nothing. They left their boats at the water’s edge and were washing their nets. They were done trying to catch fish.

Jesus got into Simon’s boat, sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he finished, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

Simon said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

If you had been Simon, would you have tried one more time? Would you have trusted the Lord enough not to give up?

Sometimes I work hard on goals and dreams my way and want results in my time rather than God’s. Can you identify with me?

Luke 5:6-7 says, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

Talk about results. I will wait, let the Lord direct me to the deep water, and haul in his overflowing blessings. What about you?

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