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

PRESS ONWARD AND UPWARD!

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But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3: 13-14)

This passage is so rich with practical advice!  At times each one of us gets knocked down, sometimes through no choice of our own and often due to our own foolishness.  No one is immune.

However, the ultimate outcomes of the setbacks for various people are completely different.  One stays down, adopting the victim mentality.  As I described in my book, This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me, there’s a big difference in being victimized and actually “becoming a victim.”

People with the victim mentality have 4 traits in common:

  1. They complain more than they act.
  2. They have pity parties.
  3. They look for someone else to blame.
  4. They believe that in order for their lives to improve, someone else needs to change.  Somebody else needs to fix it.

Yikes!  I pray that I didn’t just describe you or someone you have to deal with on a regular basis! People with these habits steadily regress in life, and they wear out their support systems. Unfortunately, then they feel like more of a victim because their lives are moving backward and downward, and people don’t want to be around them.

Paul talks about a different approach, one with a very different result.

1.  Forget what is behind. Every person has a past.  Yours may be checkered with mistakes.  I have lots of those.  That’s not what counts today.  On the other hand, your past may contain plenty of victories.  Great!  But you can’t rest on those now.  You have to keep moving.

2.  Reach for the future. Paul encouraged the Philippians to reach for what is ahead. No matter what it looks like right now, God has a future laid out for you if you will but seize the opportunities that open up before you.  Don’t give up, just because you’ve experienced some difficulties.

3.  Answer God’s call to move upward. Paul reminds his readers, and I remind my readers, “God’s calling you up!”  No matter how poorly or excellently you’ve managed your past performance, I can hear God saying, “You still have another chance.  Come on!  I’ll show you how.  Surrender to My Spirit within you, and gradually you will become more and more like Christ. Here, take My Hand, and let’s move upward!”

Lord, I thank You that You don’t give up on me and that You always have a plan, even after I mess things up.  I choose to follow You upward, no matter what!

IN NEED OF REFUELING AND A TUNE-UP?

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So repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day].  (Acts 3: 19, The Amplified Bible)

What a beautiful passage of scripture for those like me who are in need of refreshing!   Every just get tired?  I do.  I confess, I am.
Peter shared four steps to renewal of your energy for what you do.  He was actually talking with people who were not yet believers, and if that includes you, please hear and make that decision..  However, as I read his words this morning, I find nourishment in them, too.  As followers of Christ, you and I can also be in need of this four-part process. The Amplified Bible, which does a beautiful job of spelling out meanings, helps us grasp it.
1.  Repent.  Change the way you’re thinking.  We talked yesterday about worry rather than rest and trust in Him.  Have you begun to rationalize choices that will lead you nowhere good?  Have you mentally taken on responsibility for people and situations over which you have no control?  (That’ll wear you out!) Have you told yourself, “Who will do it if I don’t,” while taking on responsibilities for which you are not gifted or called?
2.  Return. Get back on track with God’s plans for you.  Have you said yes to too many “good things?”  Have you veered off God’s ways for you and found yourself in a sinful situation in which you thought you’d never be?  In either case, return to Him!
3.  Refresh.  Spend time in the presence of the Lord, and begin to experience His refreshing.  Open yourself to Him for  “tune-up” and a “fill-up.”  Anchor yourself in who you are in Him.
4.  Restore. Allow the Lord to put your life in order.  He wants you living in His purpose for your life.  Even good things out of His timing can be problematic.  Shhhh!  Listen, adjust, and be restored to your best self.
Lord, thank You for Your constant readiness to help me to get back on track with my life, to rest in You again, and to be restored to Your design for me.  I sit in Your presence, Lord, and I listen.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF WORRY

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Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55: 22)

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (I Peter 5: 7)
Oh, my!  Read I Peter 5: 7 in The Amplified Bible.
Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. (I Peter 5: 7)
Breathe that in for a moment.  What if you could unload the burden of all of your anxieties, worries, and concerns onto God, releasing them to Him once and for all?  I do the first part on a regular basis, but for some weird reason, I keep reaching out and taking some of them back.  Does this sound familiar to you?
Consider just how foolish that method is.
1.  I am weak, but He is unimaginably strong.
2.  I am clueless about what to do, but God knows the beginning from the end.  He possesses infinite wisdom.
3.  I mess things up and stress myself out when I try to control it all. Almighty, all-powerful God makes no mistakes.
4.  I mean well but don’t do well when I’m trying to operate over my pay grade.  God’s amazing performance always matches His Loving intentions toward us.
5.  I am inconsistent in my emotions and my actions.  God never changes.
6.  I spend time worrying about things over which I have no control.  God never stresses because He already knows, and He has an amazing plan for those who seek Him.
7.  I am created, and my limits as a human are vast.  He is Creator, and He is limitless in His Love, His wisdom, and His power.
So…
What conclusion about our anxieties and worries should you and I draw from those seven facts?  Is it smart to carry around our own cares and stew over them?
Hmmm…you tell me.
God, thank You so much for the way You deeply care for me!  Forgive me for the lack of trust in You that I sometimes show by my worrying.  I want to cast my anxieties on You and LEAVE them there!

YOU ARE GIFTED

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We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 6-8)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1: 17)

I’ve had folks say to me, “I don’t have any gifts and talents.  I don’t play an instrument or sing.  I can’t draw.”  Hold on a second!  Those are certainly wonderful abilities, but they are a long way from being all there is! In fact, not one of those is listed in any Biblical list of spiritual gifts.

First of all, the nature of your particular gifts earns no bragging rights.  All are grace gifts, and grace is unearned.  God has distributed your gifts as He has determined the needs to which you will be called to minister.  The talents and abilities you’ve been given are equipment for your unique purpose.  As you develop them over life’s experiences, you’re being prepared for each successive assignment.

I don’t need your gifts because I don’t have your life or your calling.  Comparisons are useless and non-productive.

The gift list in Romans 12 above is especially useful, for it reveals what “lights the fire” of various individuals.  Some have called these the motivational gifts.  The urge to move in your gift will come naturally.  In a given problematic situation, one person will give straightforward instructions about what to do (prophecy).  The person with the gift of serving goes straight for the provision of practical help.  Yet another individual begins to give systematic teaching to help people understand what happened. Still another encourages and “exhorts,” positively helping the folks involved to learn a better way for the next time. While we are all called to be givers, some have a special talent for acquiring resources and giving them away.  Others have the gift of leadership and administration, and in a stressful situation, they take charge and organize to get things done.  Then some will gently try to soothe the hurts of the people involved.  They show mercy.

Which is the best gift?  There’s no one answer.  It depends.  The best gift is the one that’s needed at the time!

In what category did you recognize yourself?

Lord, thank You for the gifts of grace that You have give me – actually, have given us all.  Help me to use all that You’ve entrusted to me in order to build people and to build Your Kingdom.

 

 

HOW TO GET THE COURAGE TO TALK ABOUT IT

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Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him Who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 15)

If you’ve been caught in any of the traps we talked about Friday, you don’t have to stay there. Take these five steps out of avoidance and into courageous conversations.

1. Identify what needs to be addressed, with whom. What are the feelings you’ve been holding back from someone with whom you’re in a significant personal or work relationship? Is this harming your relationship, long-term? What results are you looking for? Do you just want to be heard and understood? Are there changes (on both of your parts) that could make your relationship stronger?

2. Confront your fears. What’s holding you back? What would you do if your fears were realized after this courageous conversation? What are the costs if you let it go and it gets worse? Can you get needed support from friends or even a professional?

3. Practice. Write out what you plan to say. Read it, tell it to the mirror, say it to a trusted friend. Have your friend respond in all of the ways you fear the other person will react. Better to be hit with it now so that you can practice.

4. Choose your time. Don’t pick a time when the other person is busy, cranky, or exhausted. Don’t hit the individual with it unexpectedly, as he or she is almost sure to get defensive. Make an appointment, naming the topic. Set a courteous, collaborative tone when you ask for the discussion.

5. Just do it. Do it with kindness and respect, but do it.

It’s tough to do, but it’s the thing to do. “Speak the truth in love.”

Lord, sometimes it’s hard for me to bring up difficult topics.  I’m nervous about their reactions, so sometimes I just procrastinate and hope it will get better by itself.  I always want to honor Your timing, but I believe that sometimes I call it waiting on You when really I’m waiting on me.  Show me, Lord.  Empower me, Lord.  Help me to bring about restoration.  I draw on Your strength, my God.

TIME FOR A COURAGEOUS CONVERSATION?

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Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him Who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 15)

Life imitating art; it often happens.  Some years back the movie Runaway Bride later took real-life form in Jennifer Wilbanks. This bride-to-be went jogging near her home in Duluth, Georgia, took a taxi, boarded a Greyhound bus, and headed to Las Vegas. After a few days she took another bus to Albuquerque. She finally called her distraught family and fiance and talked to police, claiming that she had been abducted by a Hispanic man and a Caucasian woman. In a few short hours, her story unraveled. The bride, who had been scheduled to marry John Mason in a swank ceremony with 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen, had left on her own. She said that she had “concerns” and that she “needed time alone.” When she made her public apology, she did not say what those concerns were.

My question is, why wasn’t she addressing those concerns with her fiance and family rather than involving the police, her community, and people across the country who prayed, searched, and hoped against hope? How much distress and money would a “courageous conversation” have saved?

And in our own worlds, how many problems escalate and how much stress is caused from being afraid to talk about it? When you look at your life, do you see examples of the same principle? Do you carry fears and resentments inside because you just don’t have the courage to address your concerns? Maybe you hint or act them out, but they don’t get resolved.

Yes, experience has proven that when you don’t talk about real issues, they tend to get fester and get worse. So why would avoidance be such a popular coping mechanism? I believe that there are three primary reasons.

1. You don’t want to hurt feelings. Are you a person who wants to keep everyone happy? Do you assume that if you bring up the other person’s problem behavior, you will hurt him or her? Do you have the habit of ignoring significant violations of your own rights and feelings, hurting yourself?

2. You want to avoid conflict. Do you want to keep the peace at all costs? Have you had negative experiences with conflict in the past, so you want to avoid it?

3. You are afraid of the results of the conversation. Are you afraid you’ll lose the relationship? Do you fear that you might open a can of worms that calls for change on your part? Do you wonder how you will follow through if the person refuses to listen?

So you avoid the conversation, and that doesn’t “keep the peace” at all.  Either one day all those resentments will erupt in an explosion, or you’ll gradually detach.  Sometimes those resentments get acted out in some unhealthy ways.  None of that keeps peace or preserves a real relationship.

I don’t usually carry a subject over a weekend, but I will this time.  Monday, we’ll talk about how to break through that avoidance and hold a courageous conversation that has the chance to making a positive difference.  Stay tuned.

Lord, teach me how to speak the truth in love, and give me the courage to do it.  Show me Your timing.  Help me let go of any bitterness so that I can do my part in creating a constructive conversation.

 

A DIP IS NOT A DESTINY

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The One Who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.  ((I Thessalonians 5: 24)

Not one of the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.  (Joshua 21: 45)

Yesterday afternoon after work, for “some strange reason” I was prompted to call a certain friend.  I had no knowledge of the fact that he had gone through what felt like a major setback that very day.  I know that the Lord reminded me to give him a call because He knew that this friend needed encouragement, right then and there.  God is so like that!  I was able to remind my friend that the same God Who had spoken a dream into his heart knew all about all the roadblocks he would encounter.  Each step leads to another and another, and it’s not over. God is not stumped, for He already knew.  And He has a plan.

A dip is not a destiny! The ability to handle those dips of discouragement is critical for anyone, but especially for those who are willing to hear God, step out from the crowd, and work on significant endeavors.  Following through on a divine assignment often takes years of active perseverance interspersed with a whole lot of waiting.  Abraham received the promise of an heir, but he thought it was all over before he learned it wasn’t.  David was chosen by God and anointed as king, but he spent a great deal of time running for his life and sleeping in caves.  Moses said yes to God’s call to lead millions of Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, but this leader circled with the unruly people to whom he had been assigned for 40 years.

OK, are you getting it?  Anything worthwhile is usually not a quick process.  There are victories and defeats, but those defeats are not permanent.  Sometimes the achievement of milestones fuels your motivation, and sometimes the happenings and choices of others knock the wind out of your lungs.  However, if God has called you to it, remember that He is not caught off guard by any of it.  He sustains you when you’re feeling weak, and He helps you stay dependent when you’re feeling strong.

His promises do not fail!  He does not fail!  Trust that, and keep on walking.  In the Lord, you can definitely come back after a setback!

God, I trust You.  I know that You are never caught off guard, and when You called me, You already knew about the challenges I would face.  I don’t know all Your plans, but I trust that You will reveal my next steps when it’s time to take them.  You are in control.  I breathe, and I relax into your peace.

 

 

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