Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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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

TRUST ME!

trust

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. (Proverbs 11: 13)

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Proverbs 12: 22)

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master. (Proverbs 25: 13) 

And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16: 12)

“‘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)

This weekend at National Speakers Association, I was privileged to sit in rapt attnetion as David Horsager, renowned researcher and speaker on trust, expounded on this critical topic. I’ve been pondering it ever since. David said that at the core of our greatest problems and our biggest expenses is the lack of trust.  Every good relationship and everything of value are built on trust.

Horsager pointed out what I have observed and experienced over and over.  Trust takes a long time to build and a minute to lose! Every interaction cumulatively builds or diminishes trust.

So I’m often asked in my clinical office, particularly in working with couples, “How can you ever rebuild trust?”  No easy answers for that one exist, but I can tell you that it is possible.

One step toward answering that is to understand what trust is. Over time, I’ve personally come to define trust as, “positive predictability.”  If I believe that I don’t have to be second-guessing you all the time – I trust you.  Though  you may not doing it all perfectly, if I’m convinced you have my best interest at heart and have my back – then I trust you.  If the pattern of my experience with you has been positive over time – then you’ve earned my trust.  Trust is a belief of the mind and heart that brings down guard walls, builds open connections, and makes room for mutual “risk.”

So what happens when trust is seriously violated?   Oh, I’m not talking about the day you learn that the idealized paramour, leader, or friend is not perfect. No one is, and mature relationships learn to accomodate that fact. No,  I’m referring to a serious violation of trust, one that sucker-punches the core of your being and calls into dire question the very foundation on which your relationship is built.  Then what? Can the relationship survive?  Not without some work – on both sides. One person cannot do it.

You can sometimes  rebuild trust over time.  You do that in three ways:  1) proximity, 2) consistently reliable and positive experience, and 3) open communications.  And such rebuilding of trust is a dual responsibility! Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

However, this morning I want to leave you with a few questions for your own prayer and reflection time.

  1. Based on experience, what do people predict in their interactions with you?
  2. Do you do what you say you will do?
  3. Do you “deliver” within the time you promised?
  4. Can the people you interact with tell from all your encounters that you’re considering their needs as well as your own?
  5. Do you speak the truth – in love?

In other words, are you perceived as a trustworthy person? Even dig a little deeper.  If you are generally seen that way, are you harboring secrets that would change all that if people discovered what was in your heart and your closet behaviors?

If you are trustworthy, do everything in God’s power and your power to keep it.  If you don’t have it, ask God to give you the patience and character to work diligently to develop it and regain it.

Living trustworthy is priceless!

God, I know that I sometimes fail those I love.  I have good intentions, but at times I don’t follow through on what I say I will do.  Sometimes my selfishness gets in the way of choices that recognize and consider the needs of others.  I want to be more trustworthy, Lord.  I can’t do that without You.  Be Yourself in me and through me, for You can totally be trusted.

 

DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

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Direct my footsteps according to Your Word.  (Psalm 119: 133)

Could it be that on this day, you have in store some divinely-arranged appointments?  Will you cross paths with people, with situations, or with “eureka!” flashes in your spirit that teach you?  Are there individuals you know or don’t even know who are searching for a word or a touch that you might be privileged to give?

I’ve just returned from several days with my fellow speakers at National Speakers Association in Orlando.  I had a strong sense that I was going to be hearing more from God about a new direction and vision to which He’s been calling me.  His messages to me about this new mission have come in prayer times in which I’ve been still to listen,  through my recent inspirational readings and scripture studies, and from deep people needs I have observed over time.  I knew the what, but I needed greater clarity about the how.

I suspected that God would use other people to “elaborate and further explain.” I eagerly anticipated inspiration hrough the motivational speakers and teachers on the stage and through the ma-ny conversations one has at NSA.  (This is, after all, a group of speakers. You have to go hide in your room to get away from conversations!)  

On the plane to Orlando and early each morning, I prayed Psalm 199: 133. I asked Him to order my steps, not only according to the principles of His Word but also according to His immediate plans and divine appointments for me.  I asked Him to direct me to people and conversations in which I could be a blessing and be blessed at the same itme.  I asked the Holy Spirit to give me an elbow nudge when a certain conversation was more than a causal exchange of pleasantries.  And boy, did He answer my prayer!

On the plane back, I was pondering all of this. I made a list of conversations that stood out and what I took from them – as well as how I hope I may have been a significant blessing in their lives.

While I talked to LOTS of old friends and new friends, about 8 conversations came into my mind’s eyes and ears. Why did they stand out?  For one thing, God’s Spirit indeed had nudged me in the middle of them: “Pay attention!”  Second, each of these individuals unknowingly supplied a piece of the answers for which I was seeking from God. Coincidence?  Think not!

God often uses everyday people to teach, confirm, and challenge.  I am astonished when I look back and add it all up to equal clarity of renewed purpose and the all-important how-to’s of action.

I believe that often God speaks through others, but we discount it or glaze over in the middle of it.  We dismiss the “coincidence” as random. Thus, not only do we miss what God is trying to tell us, we miss the wonder of it all!

You don’t have ot be at a special place like a convention to walk aware of the divine appointments God arranges.  Sometimes, you simply get to observe a real-life example of something He wants you to understand.  Other times, that person you “just happen to” start talking to has something to share with you that you need – and vice versa.  In other instances, you make a connection who’s a link to a link you’ve been looking for but had no idea how you’d find it.

When your heart cry is to walk in God’s way and God’s will, He will gladly oblige by putting the people and the pieces in place that allow you to be a blessing and be blessed at the same time.  What an exciting way to live!  It’s the path of faith and expectation that who and what you need to fulfill God’s callings on your life will be there as you pray, listen, and walk.

As you go your way today, don’t miss seeing and showing up for the appointments God has set up – just for you!

God, walking with You is so exciting and comforting.  I know that what You have called me to do, You will show me how and provide the resources I need.  Lord, I don’t want to miss a a person or anything You have assigned to me! Holy Spirit, keep giving me those big elbow nudges.  I always want to say, “Yes!”

 

 

 

 

 

THE SORELY NEGLECTED PART OF PRAYER

hearing God

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman names Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet LISTENING  to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help.”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)

Oh, my, there are so many insights in this brief anecdote!

First, let’s look at Martha – a wonderful woman with a spirit of service and hospitality but one whose strengths in that area got out of balance. (That’s where most of our problems come in, too. We do or use too much of our gifts, and when that happens, our strengths can become weaknesses. Can you relate to that?) Anyway, we see that Martha warmly welcomed at least 13 people into her home who had “dropped in.” Well, yes, that would be a challenge, wouldn’t it? She was a trooper for taking that on. So far, so good.

But then Martha got off track. No, she didn’t get off track by any “traditional sin.” The scripture says she became distracted by the preparations that had to be made (or at least she told herself that she had no choice but to do them). To really understand this phrase, we need to go to the Greek (which I don’t purport to know myself, but I have some great reference books).

“Distracted” in this passage doesn’t just mean that her attention was diverted, although that could be part of it. The world actually means “to cumber, drag all around, distraught with care.” Have you ever felt weighed down, put upon when you felt like you were doing something all by yourself and others should be helping? Martha wasn’t just bustling around, whistling a happy tune. I can hear her making just a lit-tle too much noise with her cooking and cleaning tasks. She was a somewhat ticked off.

But what was it that she was actually doing? What does the word “preparations” mean in the richness of the original language? This is where it gets very interesting. This world doesn’t just mean cooking and cleaning. Her work was described by the Greek word as “serving, ministering in divine things.” Who among us would not commend her for spiritual ministry? Shouldn’t we always be doing that? What could possibly be wrong with do, do, doing for the Lord? (Ahem! Listen up, all of us who fall into this category! Jesus is about to reveal something extremely important to us do-gooders.)

It is entirely possible to be so busy about good things, spiritual things that we neglect the practice that is critical to successful living. That spiritual discipline is taking the time not only to talk to God but to be quiet before Him and listen. Don’t rush in, give Him your laundry list, and rush out.

Be still, and know!  Learn to hear and recognize His Voice.  You familiarize yourself with it by hearing it so many times, it’s like answering your phone and hearing the voice of your son or daughter.  You know that Voice!

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by so many good things that you miss God’s best!

Lord, I want to focus on You.  I want to stop talking and listen. Sharpen my discernment so that I never miss hearing Your Voice when You are speaking to me!

HOW TO BE TRANSFORMED!

transformed-renewing-mind

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove that good and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12: 1-2)

The apostle Paul shared a secret about life change with the Romans. He told them that the way to “be being transformed” (actual verb tense) was by the renewing of your mind.” In other words, as we discussed last week, your thoughts hold the front line of the battle.  The way you think gives rise to your attitudes and your actions.

The problem is, many of our negative and destructive thoughts are so habitual that they are out of our conscious awareness. You know how it is with a habit. Let’s take brushing your teeth or putting on your clothes. You don’t consciously think about each tiny step; you just do it. The process is there, embedded in your thinking because it has been repeated so many times it has gone underground.

The same is true with most negative, peace-stealing thoughts. You’ve learned to think the way you do, sometimes through the negative voices of others, sometimes through traumatic life experiences, sometimes simply by natural inclination. In any case, they have often been with you so long, they are automatic. Further, you take for granted that they are credible, for you’ve lived with them as “your reality” for many years.

The “danger” you perceive all around you may have even been real at one time, but this is another time and place. When you superimpose on the present the “rules of the game” from a negative past, you rob yourself of a positive future.

The process of becoming and of growing into the potential that God has placed in you requires that you bring into the light those negative thoughts that steal your effectiveness and your joy in life. Satan’s work thrives in the dark.

So the first step in renewing your mind is to actively tune in to what you are telling yourself. Though your negative thoughts have been silent killers operating clandestine, you can expose them. You can hear them if you intentionally listen.

When you “feel bad,” let this be a cue to listen and to record. Pretend that you are clicking a recorder button in your brain, hear what you are saying to yourself about any situation or person in your life, and write it down. Yes, write it. Don’t even try to change it yet. Just keep a few days of records.

Nest, go back and read what you’ve written about your thoughts after they have “gotten cold.” Look at them in black and white and observe your patterns. What are you habitually telling yourself, and (this is IMPORTANT!) compare that to what God says about you, your situation, and His faithfulness and provision for you.

Your mind instructs your actions. Be sure that the calls to action heralded by your thoughts are leading you to a life worth living. Test the thoughts you uncover by the following criteria to determine their source: are they from your spiritual enemy, or are they from God?

The thief (Satan) comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I (Christ) have come that they might have  life and have it more abundantly. (John 10: 10)

If a thought habit steals your peace, kills your effectiveness, and destroys your hope – it is definitely not from God. You have the divinely-bestowed power to say a resounding “NO!” to those thoughts and to receive and focus on the thoughts of hope, love, and freedom that lead you to success, God’s way.

The old admonition for safely crossing the street, “Stop, look, and listen,” is not bad advice. Stop, look at the results you are getting, then tune in to the thoughts that are driving those results. If you are not getting the performance you want, put some better fuel in the tank!

Lord, I want my thoughts to be aligned with Your thoughts about me, my life situations, the people I encounter, and my future.  Renew my mind, O God, as I study Your Word.

THE PERILS OF PROCRASTINATION

tomorrow

Now is the accepted time; behold, today is the day of salvation..  (II Corinthians 6: 2))

 

I’ve known I needed to write this e-votional for some time, but I’ve been putting it off. (Haha)

I admit it!  With the best of intentions, I can be a procrastinator.  I mean to get around to it, really I do.  But I want to find the perfect block of time.  I search for all the right pieces to come together and make it clear.  I’m just too busy right now, but as soon as….

Does this sound familiar?

It’s true.  I do have too much on my plate.  Like you.  So maybe what we need to is declutter, prioritize, and act now!

  1. Declutter.  As we have made (are making) the recent move to our new office, I have become keenly and disgustingly aware of my tendency to clutter.  So much stuff that I’ve held onto for years – papers, objects, all manner of “might-need-this-someday” stuff!  As I was praying this morning, I saw that the material things are symptomatic of my life things.  I’ve held on to too many to-do’s, which clutter up and choke God’s best-to-do’s. In my “stuff” and in my “life stuff,” I’m working on decluttering.  Is that goal resonating with you at all?
  2. Prioritize.  Decluttering makes it possible to prioritize, an essential habit of the people who are most productive in fulfilling their purpose.  Prioritizing declutters some more.  Not long ago, I read an important book on setting and working on priorities, The One Thing, by Gary Keller.  A chronic multi-tasker, I’ve been wrestling with the God-messages in that book ever since.  (Highly recommend the book.)  Too often, I’m guilty of trying to get all the little things done and out of the way so that I can “really focus” on the most important priority.  By the time I’m done with the less important, I’m bushed, and – you guessed it – I’ll get to that priority thing tomorrow, this weekend, when I get a big block of time – etc., etc., etc.

 

Procrastinator-procrastination-273885_400_388

3.  Act now! The cure for procrastination?  Do it now!  Take a small step on the most important thing.  NOW! Doing that brings light for another step, and another, and another. That’s how the right things get accomplished.

No time is going to be perfect.  Something else will be screaming for your attention then. Declutter and prioritize, then ACT NOW!

What priority have you been putting off?  What will you do about that TODAY?

Lord, You know that at times procrastination can be a destructive habit in my life.  I need Your power to change that!  Point me to Your priorities, and give me the courage to take bold small or large steps of action!

PUSH THROUGH THE MENTAL BARRIERS

mental health challenge

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 26)

I know that the quote at the top is a little rude.  However, it’s not nearly as rude as the mental saboteurs who would like nothing more than to convince you that your dreams and goals are impossible – and SO you should just forget about those dreams! LIES!

These mental culprits are inspired by the enemy of your soul, the father of lies, and they have been verbalized in your history by negative people in your life.  They work hard to prevent you from moving forward.  They throw in enough of the truth to sound convincing.

This is way beyond anything you’ve ever done or could do. 

Remember when you failed? You’ll fail again.

What will people say? People are going to think you’re crazy!

YOU?  Are you kidding me?

The dreams God has impregnated in your heart may, in fact, be bigger than you or your experience can handle.  But they’re not too big for God.

Sure, you’ve made some mistakes in your past.  You’re human.  Everyone has.  But God can take even what He’s taught you through your failings and use it for good.

People won’t always understand.  They criticized Jesus, even killed him.  What makes you think you can please everyone?

And YOU?  Why not you?  It’s not about you, anyway.  This is all about how big and how worthy God is!

Listen, when you are walking with God and listening to His Voice, you’re going to find yourself in over your head more often than not.  That’s when you learn to depend on Him totally.  That’s how you learn to trust.  Peter can tell you first-hand.  When you’re out in the deep water, and the storms are raging all about you, you have no choice but to lock eyes with Jesus and keep walking.

That’s the beauty of venturing out of comfort and into the fantastic adventure of partnering with God to make a difference in this world. That’s how you learn to seize God-sized opportunities and run with them.  That’s how you stretch and grow, and that’s how you develop the skill to lead others to do the same! God’s the Brains and the Power behind it all.  You simply have to be a willing vessel.  And what a ride that is!

But I must repeat the caveat.  You can be tricked into missing it unless you tell that negative committee in your head to sit down and shut up!

God, I don’t want to miss any opportunity You have for me.  I want to pay attention only to YOUR Voice, and in response to The Voice, I say a heart-deep, “YES!”

 

 

SEIZE THAT GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITY NOW!

 

opportunity

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 10)

I believe that at the end of our lives, our greatest regrets will not be this or that mistake we made.  Rather, at the top of the regret list will be opportunities God offered us, but we left them on the table. We will regret conversations we could have had, “risks” we could have taken, steps out of comfort we could have dared – all of which  that could have changed our lives or someone else’s.

Maybe the excuse was busyness.  Maybe the deterrent was caution and fear as we assessed our own resources and discounted God’s.  Perhaps the culprit was “one day, when…” But for whatever reason, we either said “no” or “later.”  And by the way, “later” is most often a “no.”  The window of opportunity closes.  You know what road to where good intentions pave.

If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll always find one.  However, if your eyes are peeled for opportunity, you’ll always find one! Where will your focus be?  Will action or inaction be your choice?

God has uniquely prepared you for this moment.  He gave you the talents and innate abilities, and He’s given you learning experiences along the way that have developed your skills. But do NOT be surprised if many of the assignments He gives you are WAY over your head!  Sure, God wants you to use what He has given you on a routine basis.  But He does not want you to become confident that “you’ve got this!”

You see, if we work hard and pull it off ourselves, we are likely to congratulate the person in the mirror.  However,  when the situation looks humanly impossible, but God shows up and miraculously pulls it off, He gets the credit.  When your dream or opportunity is much bigger than you are, great!  You’re about to learn that it’s not bigger than your God!

Mark Batterson, one of my favorite authors, says, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.”  When is the last time you stepped out and said “yes” to an opportunity that scared the bejeebers out of you?

Somebody reading this is on the cusp of a decision that could change the trajectory of his or her life, influence, and legacy.  That someone might be you.  Oh, it could be a “tiny” opportunity, but the ripple could become a positive tsunami in your future and that of many others.  Or, you may be standing at a crossroads between business as usual and a giant shift toward the Kingdom way of doing business.  Your “cautious common sense” says “no,” but your spiritual sense knows that God is tugging at your heart, and He just won’t leave you alone about it.

If it’s God, you will never be happy, no matter how “safe” you try to stay.  Playing it safe is risky when it comes to avoiding those regrets. Do your homework.  Honor God’s principles in the process.  Seek His wisdom.  But remember that being bold is wise when God has a plan, and you are in the flow of it.  It’s a privilege to be chosen to be a part what He’s doing in this earth!

So if you know deep down that God is calling you, you are currently giving Him your answer.  Inaction is an answer.  Don’t miss this God-given opportunity!

Don’t look back on this time with regret and wonder, “What if…?”

God, give me discernment when You are speaking to me about a new assignment,  I want to tell you in advance, “Yes.”  Just let me know clearly what it is, and I’m Yours to use in service to others.  Thank You for the blessing of being in the flow of Your unbelievable plans.  

 

 

 

 

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