Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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New Morning Devotionals promotes deeper spiritual understanding, meaningful living, and practical Christianity at work and home

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OUT THE REST OF THE WEEK DUE TO FLU

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I’m “down for the count” right now. I’ve been very sick, and I found out today it’s the flu.  I hope you will understand my taking some time to rest and heal.  I hope to be back Monday.

Blessings and love,

Dr. Bev Smallwood

THE COMPETITION IS LOOKING BACK AT YOU IN THE MIRROR!

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Give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. (Romans 6:13b NLT).

We talked not long ago about the destructiveness of judging your worth by comparisons with others.  Satan tries to deceive you into the belief that you must somehow measure up on all traits as compared to anyone who crosses your path – else you are tragically “less than.”

God does not hold you accountable for someone else’s gifts or attitudes. You’re only responsible for what you havee been given to use.  Use your body. to do the moving.  Call on  your creativity to do the brainstorming.  .Recall lessons learned from your  experiences and carry those principles forward.

God has put you together in a unique way. You were given a constellation of abilities  primed for development.  Nobody but you has had those exact experiences (even the most difficult ones prepare you).

So the big deal is, all you can legitimately monitor is whether you are growing, whether this current effort took you an inch or a pound further than last time.  When I go to the gym (not enough!), I’m not looking across at the big, burly guy grunting and slinging sweat.  Neither can I afford to check out the curvacious 20-plus-year-old cutie pie.  That’s not where I am.  I am where I am.  And wherevee I am is my launching pad for my next step.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God talked about learning His Word – line upon line, precept upon precept.

 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Isaiah 28: 10)

It’s no accident that this is how real human beings learn and grow – just a little at a time!

Growing, Lord.  I always want to be growing.  You know all the spots in me that need developing. You know where scars from the past have skewed my thinking.  May I always measure my growth by what YOU want for me and assign to me at this time!

IT’S PAINFUL NOW, BUT GOD IS WITH!!!

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Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7: 14)

But for you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free…(Malachi 4: 21)

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5: 4)
So many folks are struggling right now.  We’re in the season in which “Joy to the World” rings out in the mall or from the church choir, but many believing folks have heavy, heavy hearts. I walk through this valley with clinical clients every year.  We experience this great sense of loss in my own family throughout the year, but it’s especially hard in the holiday season which also contains my grandson’s birthday.. Living with the loss of someone deeply loved is very difficult.
There’s something about this season that has the (often unearned) reputation for being the time when all family gather, and we somehow (foolishly!) expect that everything is supposed to be just perfect.  When there’s an empty chair at the table, the feeling of loss is palpable.  Everything is a reminder of a beloved person who has passed on into eternity and the memories of experiences once shared that will not happen again on this earthly plane.
Can I pronounce a few words here and make all the pain go away?  Surely wish I could.  However, what I can tell you on the authority of God’s Word and from personal experience is that God will never, ever leave you.  He will hold your hand and embrace you when you can’t see anything but foggy darkness.
I love that when Jesus’ birth was prophesied by Isaiah, He was called Immanuel, “God with Us.”  Let me write that more accurately. “God WITH Us.”  That “WITH,” even in all caps, cannot capture His Withness.  When you open yourself to the experience of His intimate Presence, you come to know that even in and through the pain, you have hope because you have The Hope.
In the familiar 23rd Psalm, David used that word:  “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art WITH me.”  David knew as we can know, God is right there.  The experience of God’s Presence in our pain holds even greater promise than it did for David.  The Lord is not only by our side, He is INSIDE the believer in Christ.  It doesn’t get more intimate than that.
So this message is for those who feel as if during this holiday season, you’re not walking through life but the “valley of the shadow of death. ” Someone beloved is missing, and it’s hard to feel the joy.  Take heart!  Take courage!  Take the blessed Hope that your God-given life is not over. Until you breathe your last, you have a purpose here.  God’s Spirit will empower you to fulfill it.  Because He lives, you and I can face tomorrow.
Immanuel has come!
Jesus, You said that we are blessed by You when we mourn and that You will comfort us.  We rest in You, Immanuel.  WITH You inside, we will keep on walking.

THE COLOR OF YOUR SOUL

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For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.  (Proverbs 23:7)

Here’s an interesting one-question quiz for you.  Your answer will reveal a great deal about your habits of thought.

Here’s the question:

If you could pick one color to describe your mind and your emotions, what would that color be?

Come on.  What’s the first color that popped into your mind? And for you, how does that color feel?  What does that hue suggest about how you usually think?

I started pondering this question when I read a thought-provoking quote by Marcus Aurelius:

“A man’s thoughts dye his soul.” 

What kinds of thoughts do you dwell on? What types of wonderings and ponderings occupy most of your mental space? You see, the way you think has everything to do with how you feel.

Are you in the habit of worrying?  Worry is negative rehearsal for the things you fear. Worry dyes the soul (the mind, will, and emotions) – dark red, negative and on high alert.

Is depression your most common emotional experience?  Depression involves obsessing over the worst in your life circumstances, your worst faults, your predictions of a dire future. Depression colors your soul dark gray approaching black, like gathering storm clouds.

Maybe the color you thought of was yellow like sunshine, bright orange like fiery hot, or a beautiful blue like serene water.  Well, cool!

Your thoughts dictate your emotions, and you have the power in each life situation to choose where your mind will focus. Will you zero in on what is wrong in your life, or will you opt for optimism? Will you focus on your inadequacy or His “more than enough?” Will you look for what you can do or obsess about what you can’t?

Dye your soul” with the beautiful colors of a sunrise or sunset – pinks, lavenders, yellows, oranges, and soft blues. I love those colors, and I love the peace and joy that fills me when I choose the kind of thoughts that produce them.

As wise King Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

God, You’ve told me that You are working on me to give me the mind of Christ.  I want to think like You think about myself, my situation, and my future.  Renew my mind, Holy Spirit.  

WHAT WILL THEY SAY ABOUT YOU?

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (II Timothy 4: 7)

When I am working with groups on how to identify and more fully live their purpose in life in the NOW, I ask a question that sums it all up:  “What would you like people to say about you in your eulogy?” I’ve had two recent experiences that have brought this question front and center in my mind.

I was a participant in a beautiful memorial service for my dear Uncle Cecil a few weeks ago.  Various people spoke glowingly of my sweet uncle’s impact on their lives.  As one of the people who spoke, I took that assignment from him as seriously as any task I’ve ever tackled.  My, my, I loved my Uncle Cecil. He left a part of himself with me – with all of us.

This week I attended the funeral for one of our community leaders and father of 5.  I sat in rapt attention to people from his school years, his football career, his work life, and his family – including each one of his children.  Each told how he had left his mark of influence on them..

During both of these occasions and in my reflections in their afterglow, I just kept thinking, “Who would come and talk about the difference I had made in their lives?  What would they say?  Would they tell about how I had been used by God to bring out the best in them? What legacy would I leave?  What am I doing today that will outlive me? These are all questions every person should be asking each day.

Steven Covey in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” gave a powerful piece of advice.  He encouraged, “Begin with the end in mind.”  The Apostle Paul talked about finishing his race.  What does that mean to you?  Are you clear about the course of your race?  If you were writing your eulogy or the testimonials at your memorial service with words that are consistent with your past actions,  what would you want them to say? If you keep doing what you’re doing right now, would your wishes about that come true?

Don’t think me morbid.  I’m not talking about dying.  I’m talking about LIVING – living on PURPOSE! Today!  Don’t keep telling yourself, “I’ll change that when…”  “When” never comes.  Be intentional and deliberate now about making your significant imprint upon the world.

God, when my race is over and my purpose is complete, I know that I will be with You.  I want to leave it all on the field here on earth – and I want the influences and legacies I leave to have a lasting impact on people – on Your Kingdom!  

 

 

 

THE POWER OF NEXT

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But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…(Philippians 3: 13)

When you are confused, and you can’t see where you are going – do what’s right in front of you. When you’re in action, your next thing may be right around the corner.

When what you thought would happen didn’t, and your carefully-laid plans are in disarray – focus your sights on the next thing.

When you’re disappointed in yourself because you didn’t live up to your best – learn the lesson, turn the page, and do it better next time.

When you finally get up the nerve to approach that dream prospect, and she blows you off – refine your approach and go on to the next priority prospect on your list.

When someone else seems to have it easier, and you’re tempted to fall into self-pity – resist, and do your own next thing.

When you feel overwhelmed because there are too many items on your to-do list – prioritize, and start on the most important next thing.

When one dream dies, keep on dreaming your next God-given dream!

There’s no way around it; life’s tough. However, it’s a lot easier when you don’t expect yourself to know the future, when you understand that things often go awry, when you can forgive yourself and keep moving, and when you look in front of YOU and not across at someone else.   And – when you don’t get stuck in what isn’t working, and you are fueled by the courage to reach for the season that’s next!

Whatever disappointment happens today, shake it off! “NEXT!”

God, I thank You that You always have another plan for me and that nothing can happen or not happen to stump You.  Teach me to seek to learn my “next!” in You!

WHAT IF??

overstuffed-suitcase

 

God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  (I Corinthians 1: 9, NLT)

For with God, nothing will be impossible.  (Luke 1: 37)

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 1: 20)

As much as I’ve traveled, I still have not been able to shake free of a certain back-breaking habit.  I do “what if” packing!  “What if the weather changed?  I might need this.”  “What if  the zipper in this one broke?  I love the outfit and want to take it, but how reliable is it, really? Better take another, just in case.”  “What if I put this on and felt too fat in it?  Better get a back-up.”

This pathological tendency of mine popped in my mind as I talked with a client recently about the mental worry habit of “what if?” Fear conjures up all kinds of what ifs. The demonic merchant of fear takes your mind to this catastrophic circumstance, that unwelcome outcome, another experience of being blindsided.

If you can be persuaded to not only visit there but sign up for extended stay in all the possibilities, you’ve just opted in for a torturous lifestyle of worry.  Some parts of your brain cannot discern the difference between imagination and reality, and your body and feelings stay activated in  overdrive.  They’re revved up to confront or run from the imagined threat.  You live physically and emotionally as if those things are actually happening already!

Overstuffed, back-breaking suitcase! And you’re carrying the doggone thing on every leg of your journey!

Well, I propose to you a new set of what ifs!  

What if you served a God Who is never blindsided, Who never sleeps, and Who Loves you infinitely?

What if  you’ve been promised grace and strength for this day – and each day thereafter, no matter how circumstances shift?

What if your God possesses infinite wisdom, despite your own inability to see your way through right now, and He is oh, so willing to share it with you just when you need it?

What if  the Senior Partner and Founder of it all is committed to you, and in Him, nothing is impossible?

What if, indeed!

If you are a child of God,  and if you turn to Him instead of stuffing that anxiety suitcase to back-breaking size – you will experience strength and solutions beyond your own human comprehension.

Your worrisome what if becomes God’s rock-solid WHAT IS!

God, I trust You.  You know that I haven’t always been able to say that with confidence.  I’m not completely free of what if’s, but I cling to You in faith.  I rest on Your promises, and I cling to Your Word.  You are so faithful, O God.  You are so worthy of my trust.

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