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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THE CYCLE OF RESCUING

anger_couple

A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
    rescue them, and you will have to do it again. (Proverbs 19: 19)

Whether you’re rescuing a person with a hot temper, an irresponsible money habit, or an alcohol or drug addiction – rescuing is a trap.  Don’t get caught in it. It only makes a situation worse.  You’ll be repeating the rescue over and over.

People learn by consequences.  If you don’t pay the power bill, the electric company turns off your lights.  If you’re mean to people, you’ll become isolated because folks withdraw from you.  If you’re hung over and don’t show up for work, the boss is going to be cranky and may even give you a “launch into new career opportunities.” It’s by consequences that you learn, “This isn’t working out for me. I’d better do it differently. I need to change.”

When you are constantly rescuing a person, you deprive them of the benefit of learning from consequences.   You feel the impact, but the person who needs to change does not.  You try to fix it all for someone you care about, but in the process, you either cripple him or you provide the resources and means for her to continue the same way. (In addiction circles, they call that enabling.)

In addition to the failure to “help” the person become more healthy and responsible, you destroy your own health in the process. The longer you remain in the rescuer role, you become more and more frustrated as you rescue some more and some more.  The other individual is slowly getting worse, and so are you.

No wonder King Solomon warned about rescuing!  If you saw yourself in this message, ask God for the courage to show caring with limits.  Allow the individual you care about to feel his or her own consequences and thus to have the opportunity to learn. Love deeply, but love tough.  Refuse to be a “helper” who actually hurts the person you love.

God, please give me Your wisdom in my dealings with people I care about who are less than responsible individuals.  Holy Spirit, sound an alarm in my spirit when I am trying to do Your job.  Forgive me when I unintentionally support in others the patterns that are destroying them.  Rescue me, Lord, from being  “rescuer.”

 

 

TALK, TALK, TALK – AND THEN CRICKETS

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14: 23)

“I’m writing a book.”

Really?  Is your behind planted in the seat in front of the computer, and are your fingers moving on the keyboard? Or are you just thinking about it and talking about it? (A personal example. Fill in your own.)

Is it any wonder that we hear “crickets” when listening for outcomes that we hope for but aren’t diligently working for?  How smart is it to think that somehow your business will succeed on its own without intense sweat and elbow grease?  Are you magically believing that wishing – even praying – without working can make it all happen? James reminded us that faith without works is dead.

If you want to get it, you have to get on with it.  You can’t do it all at once, but you have to start.  Overwhelmed?  Then break it into small sections and start that.  Once you start, it gets easier.

I’m working on cleaning out my house, for I plan to put it on the market. I had thought about it, talked about it, and procrastinated for months, though it was something I really wanted to do.  Correction.  It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it was something I wanted to have done.

Finally, I broke this overwhelming task into smaller bits, hired some help, set aside some bits of time, and began.  Guess what?  It got easier.  I began to see progress, and that was encouraging.

At this point, I’m not finished.  (Still have the attic to do.  Gotta break that big, bad boy into some sections.) But the bursts of actually doing it instead of just talking about it and dreading it have made all the difference.  Surprise, surprise! I’ve actually been able to hear the birds of accomplishment singing instead of the nothingness of “crickets!”

One last thought.  How can you complain about what you didn’t get  from the work you never did?

Lord, You know that sometimes I get overwhelmed with so much on my plate.  Give me the wisdom and the determination to tackle each thing with action, guided by Your wisdom and empowered by Your energy.

 

 

 

THE PERILS OF PRIDE

Handsome Happy Man Pointing Himself

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18: 12)

 

I’ve just finished a study of Proverbs in preparation for our Sunday class.  Though I’ve read the Proverbs many times, I’m fascinated all over again with the great wisdom they contain.  May I mention here that there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs – just perfect to read a chapter every day, each and every month?  (O.K., read 2 chapters on some days in some months.)  I highly recommend doing this as a delicious dessert for the rest of your Bible study in order to increase your wisdom quotient!

So I’ve decided to take a couple of weeks in New Morning Devotionals in the Proverbs.  We’ll reflect together on ten very practical pieces of wise advice.  Today let’s think together about the most pervasive of all maladies, and one that undergirds almost any sin you can imagine.

The topic is pride. After all, it was pride that launched this whole sin problem, for Satan tempted Adam and Eve with, “And you shall be as gods.”  You’ll be on top.  You’ll be in charge. You will know better than others – even God. And so, they “bit.”

Oh, how often does pride cause you (and me!) to “bite?” You do good things, but the motive is to make a name for yourself.  You become secretly irritated when you don’t get the accolades you believe you deserve, and someone else is recognized.  If someone points out a way that you can improve, you quietly seethe or become openly defensive. You may even go on the attack.  You find it necessary to blame others for anything that goes wrong because it’s definitely not your fault. Someone offers to help, but you don’t want to admit that you need it.  You think you have all the answers, so you don’t listen. You just can’t let an argument go without having the last word. O.K., I could go on…

The scripture says, pride ultimately takes you down. That’s because sin ultimately takes you down, and pride is a corrupting sin.  Pride spreads throughout your spiritual and emotional systems, and it gradually alienates you from relationships.  You reject help from God and from others.  Pride will fuel determination for a season, but little by little, the enemy will use it to steal from you and to destroy you.  This is sad.

On the other hand, humility ultimately brings you the honor that a prideful person craves.  The scripture says that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  The godly, humble person has confidence, but that confidence is in God.  You respect yourself because the Lord has created you as a person of value, but you also respect the rights, feelings, and opinions of others.  You know that you always have a lot to learn, and you’re not too proud to recognize your need for help.  Humility does not mean that you allow yourself to be a doormat.  Setting healthy boundaries and not allowing yourself to be abused is in the repertoire of humility.  However, the humble person does not walk around with the proverbial chip on the shoulder.

Humility allows you to be who God created you to be, not threatened by others who are different.  You understand that you need to relate with, to learn from, and to touch lovingly all kinds of people God places in your path.

Conquer the pride issue, and you’ll experience improvement in so many of your other struggles. Battling this one on your own is way above your pay grade.  Recognize the many faces of pride in your life, and cry out, “Lord, help me!”  He will.

Lord, please help me!  I want to be in total submission to You.  You are God, and I’m not. I know that the complete acceptance of that fact is the most important step.

PLEASE PRAY WITH US

praying_together

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6: 10)

For me, it’s a morning of intense prayer, and I’m not going to write a full devotional.  Today is Day 1 of the Purpose Retreat.  Ten women will be gathering here in my living room at 8:30, seeking to know God more intimately and to learn and live their God-given purposes in life more passionately.

It’s a holy privilege God gifted me when He called me to do this purpose work.  I don’t take lightly the assignment to facilitate an experience with these seekers that creates a space for the Holy Spirit does transformational His work.

I ask for your earnest prayers for the Purpose Retreat in the next two days.  Please pray that barriers will be removed, and accusatory voices will be silenced.  Take authority in the Name of Jesus over any demonic forces that would attempt to interfere or disrupt.  Pray for insight and enlightenment for these 10 (13 with assistants and me).  Ask that each individual will see how God has been weaving the tapestry of their lives in a systematic way, even when life  has appeared to be nothing but chaos.  Intercede for the discovery and/or renewal of a deep sense of self-worth in God’s eyes.  Pray for clarity about future purpose-filled assignments and for a keen awareness of purpose in previously mundane daily routines.

Pray for us and with us, please.

 

DO NOT WORRY

Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles: It takes away t

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)

In this familiar passage, Jesus repeated it over and over, “Do not worry!”  But how often we do! We act as if by turning the worst case over and over and over in our minds, it will somehow come into control.  This makes no logical sense.

First of all, what you dwell on, your emotions experience.  They don’t know the difference between an imagination and the real.  In addition, the body arouses in response to the “threat.”  So worry keeps you in a chronic stress response, ultimately affecting your health, and it makes your life miserable.

Furthermore, Christ addresses a more subtle worry that leads to scurrying about, obsessively working to gain material things.  These don’t last.  They only satisfy for a moment.

Focus on what’s really important instead:  giving your number-one commitment to God.  When that happens, worry diminishes, for you come to understand that while you’re “taking care of God’s business,” He is taking care of yours. He will sovereignly move on your behalf, and He will also give you creative wisdom about how to handle those things that concern you and yours.

No wonder Jesus warned against worry.  Worry is the opposite of trust.  Jesus took his disciples and you and me to a reflection on nature and of God’s beautiful plan for His creation.  He reminded us of how God provides for even the birds and the flowers.  Why would He not take care of His highest creation, humans?  (That’s you and me.)  In fact, one of God’s Names is Jehovah Jireh, my Provider.

So, to quote the wisest Teacher of all, “Do not worry!”  Just stay attuned to the Holy Spirit and take care of what’s in front of you today. He will take care of you in your tomorrows.

God, I trust You.  Free my mind of worry, and renew my mind with Your Word.  In the Name of Jesus, I come against the attacks of the enemy, who would like nothing more than for me to live defeated and in fear.  I choose to believe You, my God. I choose to live in Christ.

 

 

WORKING TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE

Thai soccer

 

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis 11: 1-7)

I was so thrilled yesterday to learn that all 12 young Thai soccer players, their coach, and the rest of the rescue volunteers were out of that cave.  Thank You, Lord, for answered prayers!

I have also watched with fascination and admiration as people from all over the world converged on that site, ready to work together and to collaborate to solve a seemingly impossible problem. They had one common goal, and they focused on every idea possible.  They worked tirelessly, day and night, knowing that what they were doing mattered much.  Many volunteered for the risky tasks of going into that flooded cave to lay the groundwork with ropes and oxygen, and one Thai Navy seal gave the ultimate, his own life. Some, including a physician, went and stayed there with the trapped boys, attending to their medical and psychological conditions.

What we witnessed was the kind of teamwork to which our countries, our workplaces, and our homes can only aspire.  Though literally some spoke different languages, they all embraced the languages of cooperation and commitment. Why doesn’t this happen more often in the arenas in which we live?

“Well,” you say, “because we’re not working on life-or-death matters.”

Really?  Though the issues that divide us may not possess the life-or-death time urgency of the soccer team entrapment, I would argue that the way we address our problems makes the difference between the breath of life or a slow, painful death. Relationships live or die on the ways we communicate, come together to address challenges, and respect our differences rather than judging them.

When God was talking about that project in Babel of which He disapproved, He summed it up:  “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Are we willing to set aside differences and attack problems, not people?

God, please teach us how to keep from sabotaging what You want to do in our countries, our workplaces, our families, and all our lives.  Lord, please grant us the humility to set ego aside, to focus on Your assignments, and to work with others well to achieve them.  Forgive us, Lord, for the meanness that has pervaded much of our culture.  Inspire the replacement of hatefulness with kindness, of destructive conflict with constructive collaboration.  I believe, God, that in You, we can accomplish the impossible.  

JUST AS YOU ARE

just as I am
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11: 28)

Back in my day, we had something called, “Come-as-you-are parties.” A car would show up at your home at an inopportune time – maybe 6:00 A.M. – with a party invitation – NOW.  You had to drop what you were doing and go to that party without any change of clothing or any improvement to your looks. That was fun – and often embarrassing.

God’s always giving come-as-you-are parties.  When He calls, the average human being says, “Wait!  Let me get ready! I need to clean up a bit.”  Or, “Hang on, God.  I have to get this or that under better control and put all the pieces in place (myself).”  But God says, “Come.  Come now. Come just as you are.”

The when of that Holy Spirit visit may seem inopportune.  You may believe that you’ve been reasonably successful keeping all your insecurities hidden from others. Your Facebook feed may give the appearance that you’ve really got it going on.  But the Holy Spirit is in no way fooled by all the trappings.  He knows the condition of your heart, and He deeply desires for you to be whole.

On the other hand, you may be in a place of dire distress or excruciating grief.  It’s difficult for you to grasp the hope that your life experience can improve.  “Come as you are,” says God.  “Healing and walking with the broken-hearted are My specialties.”

I hear someone protesting, “But you just don’t know where I’ve been and the stupid things I’ve done. My problems are of my own making.”  And the gentle Voice of the Lord comes back, “Come as you are.  You’ve done absolutely nothing that I didn’t take with Me to the cross.  The penalty has already been paid, and the way out has already been mapped out for you.  Just come.”

Last night on Facebook, my daughter Amy Barrett posted, “God meets you where you are, not where you pretend to be.”  Truth.

As I write this, my heart takes me back to a bazillion “invitations” I heard at the end of church services, and the most frequent hymn of invitation was, “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me. and that Thou biddest me come to Thee.  O Lamb of God, I come.  I come.”

Do you?  Just as you are?  Now?

Lord, I give myself to You all over again, right where I am.  That’s exactly where You always meet me.  When I get totally honest with You, You do Your best work in me and through me.  My heart is open to You, Lord, just as I am.

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