Dr. Beverly Smallwood

601-264-0890

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

"This Wasn't Supposed to Happen to Me" Group Video Series

IT’S ABSOLUTELY AMAZING GRACE!

Amazing_Grace_1
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (I Corinthians 15: 10)
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. (II Corinthians 6: 1)

 

I was reflecting this morning on a conversation I had with a friend who had experienced God in an astoundingly fresh way.  This had happened in what she would have believed was the most unlikely of revival times – a period in which she had no doubt that she deserved God least.

(News flash!  We NEVER do!)

You choose an action that by repetition becomes a path, a road that leads away from God. Anyone taking bets would lay odds on your ultimate destruction. Then God “does His thing,” and the turnaround gradually unfolds.

Without getting too specific, this girlfriend had made some mistakes that haunted her, and she feared what would happen if these came to light.  Well, they did, as they often do.  At first, all of this struck terror in her heart.  She feared that her life and her future were over.  Though she was remorseful and even self-condemning for making the mistakes in the first place, she desperately threw herself into the merciful Arms of God and gave the situation and herself to Him.  (This is key!)

One by one, she talked with the people involved.  She thought of ways to rearrange her life to accomodate the challenges she would face. This intense, prayerful reflection brought to mind ideas and possibilities she would never have thought of in calmer, more self-confident, and less chaotic times.  Sometimes crisis is the catalyst for the boot out of ruts and for the vision of life at a different angle.

Over a period of months, some amazing things have occurred.  “Coincidences” too strange to be such have popped in.  The unmistakable signature of God is written all over the progression of events.  As I marveled with her at all that had taken place, we agreed.  Only God could take a potentially “fatal” situation and turn it around so that my friend will not only “make it.”  She will even be better that she was before she lost her footing and headed down the slippery slope.

My girlfriend’s situation is not a fluke.  I’ve seen it happen over and over, and I’ve experienced it myself too many times to count.  The turnaround will not happen overnight.  Sometimes it even takes years of perspective to see it.

However, the beautiful news is, when you genuinely and totally yield yourself to the God of mercy and grace, something miraculous happens.  You don’t go under; you go through and over to the other side.  You’re not destroyed; you’re renewed in God.  That which the enemy of your soul gleefully intended to destroy you is upended.  Instead, God uses even that to build within you a new strength of character, an intense thankfulness for His grace, and a determination to fully invest your life for good.

Can you testify from experience to this?  Do you need to experience it now?

O God, when I think of all the times Your “crazy” Grace has lifted me up out of my hard-headed ways, I am astounded at Your Goodness and Your LOVE.  I even thank You for the consequences You’ve allowed me to feel because You want better for me.  Thank You for not giving up on me and on Your plans for me.  Thank You, Lord, for your amazing Grace!

 

BETTER WITH AGE

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Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing.  (Psalm 92:  13-14)

I cringe when I hear someone talking about being too old to dream, to begin something new, or to step out and take a risk.  Baloney! It ain’t over ’til it’s over! And the ages at which people decide they’re over the hill amaze me – 60, 50, even 40. They think old, they feel out of the loop, and the body falls in line with how they think and feel.

The scripture says that “trees” that are planted deeply in God will continue to flourish, even as the years pile on.  When the prophet Joel was discussing the New Covenant, he was clear about old men and women dreaming dreams.  It’s never too late to commune with God, hear His Voice, and stand ready to act on your world.  It matters not how small or how large your assignments. God know what you are capable of in Him when He schedules divine appointments and allows you to feel the breeze from open windows of opportunity.

When you think about it, the latter half or even the final quarter of the life of  a believer IS prime time.  You have more experience than you’ve ever had before.  You’ve made many mistakes and hopefully learned from them.  You’ve gained greater perspective and understand more about what’s really important.  You’ve gone through enough struggles in your life that you’ve learned to pray, and you’ve learned Who to trust.  You have a growing network of people you’ve met in all the seasons of your life.  All of that, surrendered into God’s Hands, can be used significantly to make a difference.

About three years ago at a family reunion I encountered a third cousin who made such a difference to me in our brief conversation in a swing on the deck of my uncle’s house.  I had been in a period of fervently asking God for direction for my  season of advancing years in my life.  I’d never met Cousin Mary Margaret, an attractive and energetic woman in her late 70’s who’d had an intriguing history working in education overseas.  She was in the process of making a geographic move to live near her daughter in Mississippi.  In the course of our conversation that went deep in a short span of time, Mary Margaret told me, “You know, I believe life is like a football game.  In the first quarter, the players run onto the field, eager and ready to beat the other team.  They play hard, and then it’s second quarter.  They keep up the momentum, trying their best to rack up those needed points.  Then it’s half time, and they stop and assess with their coach where they are.  They come back out and try again.  They might actually be a little tired and not do so well in the third quarter.  But that fourth quarter!  That’s when they come out full force, give it their all, and hold the field tightly and advance the ball boldly.  The fourth quarter is the time to pull out all the stops and give it all you’ve got.  That’s what I’m doing with my fourth quarter.”

Mary Margaret’s metaphor was just one of the ways God spoke to me at that time to assure me that He had much more for me to do in His Kingdom.  The same is true for you.  If you’ve been questioning whether it may be all over for you – no matter what your chronological age – take heart! You may be at a short break, but you’re not at the end unless you have quit breathing.

Make up your mind, which is where much of “feeling old” germinates, that you are going to live while you’re living and refuse to “die” before your time.

God’s not through with you, not at all!

O God, I thank You that life in You is never boring! You always have a surprise delight, a new challenge, or a faith renewed up Your sleeve.  I praise You that You are at work in my life and through my life at every age and in each advancing season. I will continue to allow You to plant me firmly in Your soil, to provide the needed water and nourishment, and to cause me to flourish.

 

 

THAT MOMENT WHEN…

you realize that you stumbled to the kitchen and pushed the coffee pot button, then you are gonna rest for JUST A MINUTE while the coffee brews.  You have a gradually breaking awareness that it’s daylight outside – not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.

I have to rush around now and get to the Mississippi Coast to spend the day in jail (doing criminal evaluations).  Hopefully, they’ll let me out one more time, and I’ll actually wake up and stay awake at the 4: 15 alarm tomorrow.  When all of that happens, devotionals will resume tomorrow.

Sorry!

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Knowing When NOT to Quit

Move-Forward

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6: 9

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5: 3-4)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  (Hebrews 12: 1)
Someone out there is saying, “O.K., Bev, make up your mind!  Yesterday you told us there’s a time to quit.  Today you’re saying we need to persevere.  So which is it??”
I don’t have the answer for you about a particular decision or situation in your life.  That is between you and God.  But this I know.  Sometimes when you believe you don’t have an ounce of  personal energy left, you have to hold on! You have to draw on a Strength that is not your own and breathe in the Oxygen of the Spirit and put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.  Yes, there’s a time to let go, and there’s a time to persevere.
So how do you discern which is which? When is perseverance wha’ts essential to the building of your character, to your positive influence of another individual, and/or the fulfillment of God’s plans?
1.  When life has crashed around you.  Believe me I know from personal experience, one day you can be on top of the world, and the next day the world can be on top of you. Your emotions or your body or both are shattered, and you don’t know how life can ever be the same.  (It won’t, but God will bring you through and restore meaning and a strong sense of purpose.)  Suffering doesn’t go away quickly sometimes.  But I learned that as you cling to God when everything else is shifting, He is so, so faithful to His Word. When it does not feel as if you can take another step – don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  He will bring you through this if you trust Him.
2.  When you’re working toward a God-given goal. God calls us to stretch! As in the physical, our spiritual and emotional muscles are strengthened by resistance.  Saying yes to the challenge rather than the comfort chair is how we grow.  As we mature, we’re called to longer-term visions that don’t manifest overnight.  The skill of breaking the calling down into smaller steps, each challenging but not overwhelming, is an important component of outlasting frustration. Staying completely attuned to God’s “next steps” and fully plugged into the Power Souce is essential to refusing to quit until you’ve completed the mission God gave you.
3.  When the Lord has not released you. It’s this key point that prevents me from being able to discern for you when it’s time to let go or when you need to hold on.  In your regular, intimate time with God, has He given you His Peace about the release? Or when you honestly open your heart to His will and His Word, is His whisper to you, “Stay in there.  I’m at work.  It’s not time to quit.”
And may I make one final point?  Even when certain chapters of your life close, your life has not ended! As long as you are still breathing, you have purpose.  Though the landscape of your life may appear unfamiliar to you, God’s not scratching His Head.  God is lighting a new path for you as you trust Him. Though at times you may quit a method or even leave a person who is toxic to your life, you don’t quit life!
Though soul-shaking earthquakes may occur, and you may experience (or choose) changes you never imagined, our God is constant.  Listen, trust, and walk!
O God, I need discernment from You about all the decisions and investments of my life.  I know that nothing can happen to me that stumps You.  I trust that You are guiding my steps, even when it’s so dark I can’t see.  When it’s not time to let go, God, please infuse Your Strength so that I can keep going another day.  I want only Your will in my life, Lord. I trust You.

KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT

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Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3: 13-15)

Over and over I hear it.
I’m not a quitter!”  

Well, good – IF you understand what being a quitter really means. However, misinterpreting that concept can keep you in destructive situations or activities that have outlived their usefulness, eons after you should have been long gone.

Being a quitter does not happen because you make a  correct judgment call and quit doing something.  It does not happen when you wisely observe a depressing pattern and decide to leave there and seek a more helpful environment.  Addiitonally, when you leave behind a poisonous relationship in a determination to fulfill your God-given responsibility of taking care of yourself – that doesn’t make you a quitter.

Some people rarely stick with anything. At the first sign of discomfort, they’re ready to bail.  When it’s time to step up and do the right but difficult thing, they turn and run.  Commitments habitually mean nothing to them.  They are quitters! 

I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not you because you’re reading a devotional to try to learn and improve yourself.  That’s not the typical M.O. of a quitter.

God often tells us to leave something behind to reach for what He has for us.  Letting go frequently requires holy courage.  Moving on to the next divine assignment involves letting go of where we were last focused.  Growing into a new season requires leaving the old.  Quitting can be a very godly thing to do.

Is God tapping you on the shoulder and pointing you in a new direction?  To go somewhere new, you have to leave somewhere old.  A wise saying is, “You can’t steal second base with your foot still on first.”

There’s nothing shameful about quitting.  The wisest people know how to do it.  Don’t let the myth that quitting something applies the accurate label that you are a quitter. It just may be that you’re the one with your ears most attuned to God’s fresh instructions.

In Mark Batterson’s excellent book, Chasing the Lion, I was captured by a thought-provoking statement:

“If God has released you, then continuing to do what you’re doing isn’t faithfulness.  It is disobedience.”

In irder to “press on,” you have to be willing to leave something behind.  You have to know how to quit.

Lord, empower me to persevere when You still have me there, even if it’s hard.  But also teach me to let go when it’s time.  Deliver me from falso notions about “being a quitter” and from foolish pride that keeps me hanging on when a season has passed. You know Your plans for me, O God!  Help me to be sensitive to and courageous about following them!

 

 

ONE DAY, WHAT WILL YOU REGRET?

What If

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)

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO REBUILD TRUST

(Sorry for the lateness of the hour!  FATIGUE insisted that my finger keep turning off that alarm.  It happens occasionally.  Please forgive me!)

Rebuilding-Trust

“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ (Luke 19: 17)

Yesterday we discussed how it takes time to build and earn trust, but trust can be devastated in a minute.  But what happens after major destructive choice(s) come to light, and trust has been decimated?  Can trust ever be rebuilt?  Maybe, if two people are willing to be patient and work at it over time.

So how do you do that?

1.  Proximity. In order to rebuild trust, you have to begin to have some contact with the offending individual.  You won’t be able to do that in a vacuum.  However, interact wisely and with boundaries.  Trust must be re-earned, and its “privileges” should not be provided indiscriminately.  If the person is still doing the same thing over and over again, back away further. It may be necessary to completely remove yourself at some point and in some cases.  However, if you believe the relationship has a reasonable chance, the rebuilding of trust requires observation and wise contact.

2.  Consistently positive and reliable experiences. If you are the person who is trying to re-establish your trustworthiness in another person’s eyes, you must work hard to be consistent in your words and behaviors.  You don’t have much room for error here because a “violation” sets the rebuilding process back significantly.  And in the eyes of a hurt person, what seems like a small setback can surely look like a big one.  Recovery and reconnection take time.  Don’t get resentful or impatient about it.  Just be sure your heart is right, your thoughts are on track, and your actions speak loudly about your desire to change.

3.  Open communications.  Unfortunately and fortunately, healing requires talking about it.  You can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened.  If the incident has been a “serious” one, one conversation probably won’t do it  However, the more constructive, honest, and action-oriented those conversations, the shorter the “rehashing” time should be. Greater accountability will be a part of the solution, though “policing” is a role that is frustrating for all.  The open communications must become the new norm – not just about the “offense” but about the interactions of life.  Refer to Number 1 –  consistently positive and reliable experiences – for the two-way standard for the communication process.  And that brings us to the final principle for rebuilding trust.

4.  Dual responsibility. We’ve been talking about the hard work of positive consistency and open communications over time on the part of the individual who is trying to re-earn trust.  However, the offended person must also do some hard work.  This means tolerating some discomfort and refraining from assuming that cop role.  It involves “dealing with your own stuff,” maybe injuries from your past that are exaggerating your reactions today.  It includes keeping your own communications honest but respectful, though you feel you’ve been disrespected.  And yes, it involves forgiveness and ultimately the willingness to take some risks.  Healing takes two.

I like the graphic I posted yesterday, and I think it sums up the process we’ve been exploring.

trust

Lord, I want to be a trustworthy person, but sometimes I make mistakes.  Help me to be honest  with those I’ve offended and show that I am genuinely sorry by changing my actions over time.  When someone hurts me, teach me to engage in a healing process, forgive as You forgave me, give up to You any inclinations to get even, and refuse to allow the actions of others to change me into a person I’m not.  I also want to be wise and honor myself enough not to allow someone to abuse me over and over again. As I trust You, O God, I will be forgiving, trustworthy, and wise.

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