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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DON’T SABOTAGE YOUR DREAMS

Now unto Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.  (Ephesians 3: 20)

Do you dare to dream? Or have you choked out the dreams that God Himself placed within you? Let’s explore that.

You’re never too old or too young, too experienced to too inexperienced, too injured or too innocent to dream! God-given dreams give rise to goals, and goals motivate actions.  Step-by-step actions mixed with a hefty dose of divine intervention lead you places you never thought you’d go!

Your mind probably has numerous fleeting fantasies that float in and out of consciousness.  Unless they “stick” and won’t leave you alone over time, those may not be divinely inspired but rather simple fun human “what ifs?” It’s O.K. to have those.  However, if certain dreams keep popping up in your mind, if reminders of them come from every direction, and if in your most intimate times with God, He whispers them – you just may be onto something big

God is The Creator, and since we are made in His image, we, too, have creativity planted within us.  However, that God-given creativity for dreaming can be stifled in at least 3 ways:

  1. Focus on the have-not’s.  Your belief in possibilities is limited when you consider only your own current resources, and in particular, when you zero in on what you don’t have.  Listen, the fulfillment of God-given dreams is not about your resources, anyway.  It’s “according to HIS power that is at work within us!”
  2. Belief that your past determines your future.  Oh, sure, the experiences of your past can affect your future.  However, they do not determine your future unless you allow them to blind you to some very important things.  One is God’s miraculous power to transform even the negative experiences of your past into raw material for a more positive future (Romans 8: 28).  Another blinding element can be the limiting lies you have come to believe about yourself.
  3. Dismissal of God-given thoughts as foolishness. I’ve made this initial mistake before and later come to realize, that “foolish notion” was, in fact, God letting me in on something “crazy” He wanted to do.  Don’t dismiss it and push it away. Listen some more, pray about it, seek trusted spiritual counsel, and become willing to take the risk of any first step He shows you.

The ability to dream is a precious gift from God.  Relish it, meditate on it, and dare to step into God’s unfathomable plans for you!

Lord, I don’t want to miss a thing You have in mind for me to achieve and experience.  Forgive me for and heal me from my self-limiting beliefs.  Grant me courage to wade in and then step into the deeper waters of Your plans.  I’m willing, Lord; just show me.  Plant YOUR dreams in my heart!

REFLECTIONS ON MY BIRTHDAY

Make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4: 5)

Be very careful then that you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.  (Ephesians 5: 15-16)

Yesterday was my birthday, and I alwRays do some reflecting on my birthday. I look back over the past year (and what a year!) and over the last years. I do have some regrets, but at this point, I’ve made peace with most of them. I just want to make wise decisions from here out and make the most of every opportunity.

Social scientists have studied the thoughts that people report about their reflections on their lives.  The research found a fascinating distinction between individuals’ short-term versus long-term regrets related to action and inaction. In the short run, folks wished they had not taken certain actions, made certain mistakes, or “missed the mark” in something they chose to do.  They regretted what they did more often than what they didn’t do by 53% as compared to 47%.  However, the scientists observed a significant shift in the data as the years of life ticked on.  Over the long haul, 84% of people regretted what they did not do versus a mere 16% remaining focused on foolish actions they had taken. Interesting.

This day, this week you will be bombarded with a cacophony of voices vying for your attention, each trying to pull you in their direction like a mad street vendor.  Some “voices” will insist that their urgency and importance demand the investment of your time and money.  The problem is, each choice you make has two sides to it.  There’s only so much of you to go around.  You can’t do it all.  You are chosing to do something, but in the choosing, you are also electing not to do something else.  The hidden price tag, often ignored, is the opportunity cost.

So one aspect of that regrets problem is the unfortunate human tendency to plan to do that later on, as soon as –  the rush dies down, when I get these few things out of the way, or when I’m more certain it’s what I’m supposed to do.  Tick, tick, tick.

Another contributor to missed opportunities is the failure to distinguish “urgent” from “important.”  Many activities that cry out to be tackled right now have no long-term significance.  On the other hand, investments of more long-term importance may wait on the sidelines, growing more impatient by the week and month and year because they are passed over again and again. Tick, tick, tick!  The ingredients are being mixed to cook up long-term regrets of the 84%.

A third culprit is the failure to see and embrace a great opportunity when God presents it to you.  It looks good, and something stirs within you.  Could this be a divine nudge?  But then the negative voices from your past, the raspy one whispering from your own emotional throat, and the voice of the enemy of your soul all chime in together.

“You failed before.  What makes you think you could do it this time?”

“Whoa!  This is way over your head!”

“This is too risky.”

“What will people think?”

If you listen to the voices, you can talk yourself right out of the amazing opportunity God has placed right in front of you.  Saying no, either directly or through procrastination, can result in a lifetime of, “What if…?”

Has God been speaking to you about something He wants to give to His world through you?  Sure, it’s more than you can do.  But God’s definitely not in over His Head! In addition, anyone who ever did anything worthwhile has also experienced failure.  Setbacks are only the catalysts for comebacks when God’s in control!

And the opinions of others?  How much can that matter in comparison to your fulfilling God’s given dreams and significant assignments?   Jesus didn’t please everyone either.

Has this e-votional spoken to you about a particular “something important” that you’ve been pushing back or neglecting?  This day, this week, what are you going to do about it?

O God, it seems now the years tick by in fast motion.  At the end of my life, I want to know that I have said YES to Your vision which most often has in it assignments over my head.  I have learned that’s when I must get my pride out of the way and rely on YOU.  I know I’ve missed many divine opportunities in the past, but I don’t want to miss a one from here on out.  Lord, You know that I try to cram too many items into my to-do list.  Help me to slash it down so that I focus and invest in what matters most to You! Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours!

TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW – BUT WE CAN

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

In these days of the deep divisions Jesus warned us about just before He ascended to heaven, I deeply desire that we get back to the Biblical models for our attitudes and behaviors in all our relationships.

Romans 15:7 gives us a good start on that. Other translations substitute “receive” or “welcome” for “accept.” Either way, the standard for our attitudes toward each other are “as Christ did for us?” Whoa!

So let’s think this through. How did Jesus Christ accept us? Remember, each of these is a challenge to you and me.

  1. He loved (loves) us unconditionally. The love of Christ for us was never contingent on performance or status. On the other hand, how often do you and I cherry-pick our associations and expect folks to clean themselves up before we can befriend them?
  2. He welcomed everyone; He didn’t discriminate. Jesus caught a lot of heat from the religious people because he hung out with “sinners.” Why do we separate ourselves from those with different beliefs – spiritually or politically? We’re here to be the salt of the earth. How can we influence others if we don’t get out of the salt shaker and in contact with those who need some good news?
  3. He was willing to give up His rights to provide for you and me. Jesus was God. Yet he took on the form of a human and endured the worst so that we could experience God’s best. How petty we must sound to the risen Savior when we are whining about our perceived “rights” rather than thinking about practical ways to love our neighbors as ourselves!
  4. He always deeply desired all that was in our best interests. Jesus never behaved selfishly. Yes, He took care of himself – resting and replenishing – but He never developed habits of ME-first. As He related to all flavors of others, He always tried to bring out the best in them.
  5. He was persistent in mercy and grace. The Lord has never given up on you or me. He didn’t throw us away when we messed up the first time (or second or third….). He’s been patient and faithful, even when we haven’t. I ask myself, “How do my attitudes measure up to that? Am I faithful, even when it’s inconvenient? Do I judge others who think differently from me? Do I ooze mercy and grace or judgment and hostility in all my relationships?”

In short, Jesus welcomed every person who came to Him in Love. Furthermore, He went out searching for those with spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. By the power of the Holy Spirit – the same power available to every believer – He touched them, and He restored them.

I’m challenged as I ponder Christ’s model for my own interactions with all people n these troubled times of contentiousness, distance, and anxiety. Are you?

Lord, when I think of the enormity of this challenge, I remember that I operate by the same Holy Spirit as You did when You were here in human body. Everything I do successfully is in You and You in me. So I surrender my ego and ask you to infuse me with Your power so that when others interact with me, they experience You.

IF YOU REALLY GET HONEST WITH YOURSELF…

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  (Spoken by Jesus, John 8: 32)

True or false?  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

Oh, so false!  What’s going on is going on, whether you recognize it or not.  The creep of consequences is advancing, whether you stop and assess and take action or not.  Facts are facts, whether you are wise enough to see them or not.

Denial has ruined many a person’s life.  It’s the rare person, for example, who has not been touched by denial-ridden addiction in self or a loved one. Ignoring or explaining away marital problems until it’s too late has wrecked too many families.  The habit of blinding yourself to your own faults while pointing the finger at others has robbed too many of the opportunity for people connections, personal growth, and the learning essential for success.

Denial comes at several levels.  Some totally deny the existence of a problem. Others may acknowledge there’s “a little problem,” but they may minimize its impact.  Still others deny that change is possible and believe that the options for change do not apply to them.  Even more insidious is the final level of denial.  An individual may have even acknowledged that there’s a significant problem, that it needs to be addressed, and that there are some possible ways to advance it.  However, they deny the time urgency.  In other words, I’ll make a change – when – I’m not so busy, things settle down, it’s not such a stressful time, etc.  Well, exactly when would that be?

Jesus said, “You will know the TRUTH, and the Truth will set you free.”  Of course, He IS Truth. However, it’s also TRUE that he people who are most productive and growing in their lives are aware. They make it their business to be aware of their own actions and attitudes and how these are affecting themselves and others.  They actively gather factual information when moving into a new realm or operating in a challenging situation that increases their chances of effective problem-solving. In short, they open themselves to and pursue truth, and they act accordingly.

How about you?  Are you operating in destructive denial, or are you living effectively in reality?  This is a very important choice!

Living in denial is like having a weak or dead battery in your smoke alarm.

I leave you with an intriguing question:

What are you pretending not to know?

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O Lord, I want to be free from habits that bind me, from attitudes that sabotage me, and from work habits that rob me of success.  Show me TRUTH in these areas, O God, and open my eyes and my heart to Your ways of overcoming them. Help me to become the best version of myself and to be a healthy servant in Your Kingdom.

GROUND YOUR ATTITUDE IN GRATITUDE

Now, our God, we give you thanks and praise Your glorious Name. (I Chronicles 29:13)

Not long ago when I told you about my computer crash, we talked about giving thanks in all things. Well, now I’m doing a happy dance of thanksgiving to God because I heard from the the data recovery specialist in Wisconsin, and they were able to retrieve my files! Praise be to the Lord for this blessing!

I am becoming more and more convinced that one of the most important secrets of surviving adversity is an enduring spirit of gratitude. Scientific studies have proven that journaling each day, three things for which you are grateful, will have a measurable impact on depression. Why? Because when you know that you’ll be writing about 3 things that night, your awareness of the blessings is increased. When you change your focus to what’s right, what’s good, what’s helpful, what progress has been made, then your emotions follow suit.

Today, you will experience the circumstances of your life in one of two ways. You’ll notice and obsess about what’s gone wrong, what you don’t have, and what you can’t do. Or, you’ll peel your eyes for things for which you are thankful.

When negative circumstances happen to you, you make that choice. In the devotional on this subject last week, I provided some examples of finding the nuggets of thankfulness in the midst of problems. You may not want to be going through it all, but I’ll guarantee that if you look, you’ll see aspects that could be worse, that can provide a step of building back, and that are almost-hidden rays of light.

So as I’m rejoicing in the blessing about my computer, why don’t you begin this morning determined to look for what’s right in every situation and every person today? I promise, gratitude will make a big difference in your life!

Lord, You are so good and so gracious to us. Open our eyes to see You at work, even within the events the enemy throws our way. We know that nothing can happen to us that separates us from Your Love or Your watchful eye. I give thanks with a heart that overflows with gratitude for You and Your work in my life.

DON’T TEAR YOURSELF DOWN!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

I know, I know.  Maybe you’re like me.  When you have read the Psalm 19: 14 scripture, you’ve thought about cleaning up your inappropriate thoughts and your secret little “cuss words.”

However, I believe this passage takes the sincere seeker much farther than even that.  It plunges you headlong into a confrontation with one of the enemy’s most clever and destructive schemes.  If Satan can convince you that you are defective, beyond hope, disqualified, less than, or over the hill – he has effectively paralyzed you.  And oh, how he loves that! The devil does not want the talents and Love God has placed in you to be used in implementing God’s plans for reconciliation and salvation in your world.

To make matters a lot worse, the enemy does all of this in sneaky disguise.  He convinces you that the messages he whispers in your ear are either your own or those of people who matter. Either way, if you buy into the concept of your pervasive ineptness, you’re a goner.

Your thoughts about yourself are some of the deepest and most pervasive “meditations of your heart.”  If these are to be “acceptable in God’s sight,”  they must be aligned with what He says about you, the thoughts He thinks about you, and how He deals with you in His grace.

In other words, when words you’ve heard from hateful others echo in your mind, just know that these are not from God. He would never inspire hate nor the words that vomit from it because He is Love.  They are not acceptable to Him.

That self-criticism that turns an experience of failure into, “I AM a failure?”  The accusing sound of thoughts focused on your setbacks?  No, not divinely inspired.  That’s not what the God of a second, third, and infinity chance has to say about you.  At all.

Your secret thoughts about yourself come forth in what you say and how you say it.  Habits of self-condemnation reveal themselves in your words and actions, and prophetically, success becomes elusive.  Conversely, “humble confidence” is attractive, and such an attitude will take you where God wants you to go.  (Yes, I said humble confidence.  That’s not an oxymoron.  Humility is not weakness but “strength under control.”  It’s founded on the confident knowledge that alone you won’t make it, but in Christ you can do all that He assigns you to do.)

Mental confidence and resilience show up on the outside.  If your habitual thoughts are pleasing to God, your words and behavior are likely to follow. That most certainly includes what you say to yourself about yourself.

God conceived you long before you were humanly conceived.  You are here for a reason. People are placed in front of you who need God’s Loving touch from you.  Adversity can’t rob you of it, and mistakes can’t disqualify you from it. Nothing can take away the purpose God has placed in your life.  However, if you hear the enemy’s lies about you, meditate on them, and ultimately believe them, you’ll choose to pull back from expressing your purpose.  That would be tragic for you and a loss to God’s world.

When it comes to your thoughts about yourself, may the meditations of your heart and the words of your mouth be acceptable in God’s sight.  He Loves you so much.  He wants you to rise up and keep going, knowing that He is not through with you at all.  You are beautiful in His sight.  You have purpose. Don’t mentally agree with the enemy of your soul.  Choose to agree with GOD!

Lord, I want to continue to renew my mind so that I think Your thoughts about myself.  You know me, Lord.  I can get super-critical about me.  I can spend too much time looking over my shoulder at my past.  Spiritually, I know that You don’t.  I choose to reject demonic lies about me.  Teach me Your ways, O God.  May I always meditate on Your thoughts and speak Your words.

BECOME A MERCHANT OF HOPE!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5: 11)

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  (Matthew 12: 34)

HOPE – it’s one of the most powerful forces God ever spun into motion.  Today I want to talk about your power as a merchant of hope – or as a purveyor of its nemesis.

Every encounter, each communication, every experience that people have with you will either lift them up or tear them down.  They will leave your presence either more encouraged or discouraged.  Every person you touch will feel more like embracing hope, or they will lose a little belief that life can improve for them.  This is no exaggeration of the effects of your words and your attitudes on others..

In my corporate work on customer service, I call these “magnetic moments.”  Every encounter is magnetic; you will either attract or repel. Momentary perceptions accumulate, and their effects can be lingering.

Relationships and reputations are created one magnetic moment at a time.  How are you seen by the intimates and the strangers in your life?  Do they brighten up when they see you walk in the door or hear your voice? Are they drawn to your smile, encouraged by your words?  What “fragrance” is left when you leave a room? If you invest positively in the magnetic moments you share with others, not only may their lives change, yours will, too.

What’s in your heart comes out your mouth and shows on your face.  (“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”)  If this message has given you pause about your own “magnetic moments,” begin with asking the Lord to refill your tank with an overflowing supply of His hope and His grace.

Lord, I want to be an influence for hope this day.  May all individuals I encounter leave me feeling better about themselves, their lives, and You. I want to make a difference, God – moment by moment.  

WOULD YOU EAT THE MARSHMALLOW?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23)

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Of all the fruit of the Spirit, one of the most difficult to implement is self-control. Yes, the Holy Spirit supplies the power when you ask, but there’s a reason it’s called SELF-control. You and I have to learn the skills necessary to win the battle with thoughts, triumph in the struggle with emotions, overcome the war with impulses, and keep ourselves on track with the performance of our goals. Tall order!

A famous psychological study by Walter Mishel involved four-year-olds who were left in a room, each with a marshmallow on the table in front of him or her. The experimenter instructed the youngster, “You can eat this marshmallow. It’s yours. But if you won’t eat it until I return, you’ll get two marshmallows.”

Then the internal battles were captured on video. Some gulped the marshmallow down right away. Others struggled, but then gave in and ate it. But many held out the entire 15 minutes, distracting themselves by checking out other things in the room and other ways of coping. They did not give in to their impulses but instead held out for a greater future reward.

Interesting study! But not as interesting as the information from the follow-up with these kiddos years later. The ones who exercised self-control and held out scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT. They were more popular with their peers and teachers. As adults, they had higher salaries. The ones with less impulse control, even in the same families, were poorer, sicker, and went to prison more often. (By the way, a recent replication of the study showed results in the same direction, but found that a few other factors gained greater influence after the teen years.)

How strong is your impulse control? When you want to achieve a goal, can you say no to the temptation to procrastinate, entertain distractions, or give up? How often do you deal with anxiety by eating, drinking, or shopping? Are you consistently able to keep the wolf of negativity away from the door of your mind? Do your emotions do a number on you? In other words, do you gulp down that marshmallow, doing what feels good at the moment but paying a price for it long-term?

Ask the Holy Spirit for some super-power to fuel your self-control. Heaven knows, we all need it! Am I telling the truth?

You will have an opportunity to practice this today, I promise. Don’t eat the marshmallow!

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Lord, I agree with the Apostle Paul that sometimes I do the very opposite of what I intend to do. I want my will to align with Your will for me, and I want my actions and habits to be in step with Your plan. Empower me, Holy Spirit! Please!

FIND STRANGE JOY IN YOUR TRIALS

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-4)

The year of 2020 has brought trials within trials within trials, hasn’t it? I don’t need to list the ones we’ve all shared, as well as the challenges unique to certain regions – e.g., fires, hurricanes, riots. Then each of us has experienced the tests of patience and endurance unique to our own lives. I won’t name all of mine, but I will talk for a moment about the recent one that has kept me away from the devotional blog for almost two weeks.

Suddenly, my computer crashed, taking with it two years of miscellaneous work and most painfully, chunks of the book I’ve been hard at work on for months. Before you write me a caring, private note advising back-up, believe me, I know. I had subscribed to a back-up service, paying them monthly for about 5 years. It’s not fun to learn they have not been doing their job. So, of course, I am enacting multiple personally-managed back-up systems.

In the meantime, local computer experts told me that all my files are corrupted and irretrievable. I got a recommendation from my book agent for a data recovery specialist, and I’ve mailed the old computer to this company. I await their findings.

So I’ve bought a new computer while the old one is in ICU. Finally, tonight, I’ve been able to get into my blog. My blog service, WordPress, has changed their blog creation and editing format, and I can’t get the illustrating picture in. I’ll figure it out. Done is better than perfect.

None of it fun; crises never are.

I try never to waste a crisis. I fully believe that nothing, absolutely NOTHING can happen outside of God’s miraculous ability to bring good from it. Romans 8:28 says it most clearly, and the principle is illustrated in Biblical story after story. I’ve experienced the miraculous hand of God in the tragedies of my life over and over. I’ll bet you have, too.

I also believe in the principle of thankfulness. So I’ve gratefully used this time of inability to post the blog as an opportunity for increased time and intimacy with the Lord. I didn’t realize how low on fuel I was, and how in need of rest and replenishment. But God knew it. For that, I am thankful. I am thankful that I had emailed some parts of the book to my agent and to the office for printing, so those were available. I am grateful that, as I determined to keep moving on the book, my digging revealed some very interesting research studies that supported what I was trying to communicate and revealed a whole necessary topic I had omitted. I’m appreciative that the Holy Spirit pointed out to me that the ferociousness of the enemy’s attack is only evidence of the degree to which he is threatened by what God is doing. I am thankful that I had yet another opportunity to practice trust in the Lord and, I am confident that He will show Himself strong on my behalf.

Some of you are facing problems much more serious than a computer crash. “Stuff” is nothing compared to human life. However, no matter what your circumstances, God’s principles are true. He will always, always, on His timetable, bring some good out of the worst situations. He also instructed us, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.” When you’re walking through the valley – hold an attitude of thankfulness, and keep on walking, clinging to the Hand of God.

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Lord, You are the Source of my everything. Nothing can happen that You did not know in advance, and You are always working Your plan for me. So I trust You, no matter what.

I will be out of commission for a bit

I am having major computer problems, and I’ve been told today may be up to two before it can be fixed. Please bear with me, and I will be back writing devotionals as soon as I can. Thank you for your understanding.
Dr. Bev Smallwood

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