Violence…when will it end?

Each day when we watch or read the news, it almost always highlights some crime, criminal case, or murder.   But I was taken aback when I opened up my devotional today and the topic was “Violence”.  It started with a grim statistic, that every 68 seconds someone died at the hands of another man as a result of violence (1,270 per day), and that statistic is not from today, rather it is from 1820 to 1945.  Not what you would have expected, right?  Today that statistic is at 60 seconds.  Yes, watch a ticking clock for a minute, and each click of a minute in this world today a life is needlessly taken through violence, 1,440 people each day according to the World Health Organization.

Violence isn’t new to this world.  It only took the 2nd generation from the Garden of Eden for the first violent crime to be committed when Cain killed Abel.  Violence has existed nearly as long as man has, and to extreme levels.

“Forge a chain! For the land is full of bloody crimes
and the city is full of violence.”  Ezekiel 7:23 (ESV)

Violence is a choice that someone makes of their own free will against another for some gain.

You have condemned and murdered the righteous person.
He does not resist you. James 5:6 (ESV)

We cannot become numb or insensitive to the evils of society.  The context for the verse above is from many wealthy men who began to use their influence in courts of justice, bringing death to innocent men who did not resist them.  This means that we will still be disheartened with each act of violence (we must resist becoming numb), and that we need to be diligent in preparation in case we are caught up in an act of violence (we must resist the act).  That is a large premise of The Good Shepherdess, to help educate and prepare people in case the worst day of your life happens.

Shepherdess, it’s so easy to become numb and avoid the news or think that it doesn’t happen here in my town or area with or to people like me, until it does.  We encourage you to not wait for an incident that is close to home, but to actively ensure that you are not part of any violent incident by being proactive in protecting you and your flock.

Are you interested in learning more?  We host a free seminar on learning about how to protect you and your flock against a violent crime?  Reach out to Jamie or myself directly to experience this unique training.

Cara

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Your Story……

One of the sweetest gifts I received for Christmas this year was from my dear friend Toni who lives halfway across the country from me (this great distance in no way daunts the wonderful friendship we have).  The gift was a book titled 100 Hundred Things God Loves About You.  I read something from the book several times a week (I’m making it last……).

Today I re-read some of the pages searching for inspiration and the very first one simply states “God loves your story”.  Wow!

God loves my story?  Has He read all of the pages I have written?  When I review my book as written so far, I certainly see a few pages I would like to remove.  I, the imperfect human, have written some good and some not so good pages.  There has been drama, sorrow, tears, fear and uncertainty.  There are some pages where I questioned my faith, some where I was certain I didn’t have the strength to move forward, but mixed in with those I also find pages of happiness, excitement, and pure joy.   There is a true fascination for me knowing that He knew the beginning, middle, and yes, He knows the end of my book.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:16

While I have no idea when my story will end, I do know that it’s up to me to make good choices and strive to be the best I can be.  I would like the last chapters in my book to be a joy and hopefully an inspiration to others.

Shepherdess, I hope your story is full of good things and happiness!  Try to tend your story as you tend your flock.

Jamie

Always learning…

I’m a firm believer that we must always keep learning, whether that’s in the workplace or our personal life.  Part of learning may require tests or testing of ourselves.  This past weekend I had the privilege to experience some very intense training scenarios to learn skills on how to better protect myself and my flock (and to gain knowledge that I can pass onto other ladies like you).  This training involved a lot of thinking skills, but also adrenaline and the unknown.  Then add in being with peers who are there watching you through the process. When the scenario was done, I didn’t live up to my own expectations, and not just once.  After one of these scenarios late in the training, I couldn’t hold it any longer.  My frustration at myself and grading myself with an “F” became apparent to one of the other ladies that I was on the verge of a meltdown.

Have you been there?  I had not in a situation like that.  I’m a strong person.  I typically don’t show feelings like that to anyone other than my husband.  Failure is a hard pill to swallow for myself (and probably many of you as well).  But then something beautiful happened.  My flock came around me there and reminded me of three very important things…

First of all, no one was grading me.  There was no pass/fail.  We were there to learn and experience.  I was grading myself.  Ladies, we need to learn to stop putting a measuring stick up to ourselves.  The only measure we need is of God’s fullness in our life.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Secondly, the purpose of the intense training was to set us up for failure so we could learn from it.  How better to learn something than to fail at it?  Pick yourself up again and go back at it, learn from it and grow.  These quotes sum it up pretty well…

“A failure is not a loss. It’s a gain. You learn. You change. You grow.” – Unknown

“Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.” – Arianna Huffington

Finally, I learned that your flock is anyone around you that cares enough for you to stop everything going on and encircles you to protect you from Satan taking hold of negative thoughts.  Most of the ladies in this group I have only met one or two other times.  Yet, they hugged me and encouraged me.  If you are in a similar situation and see another Shepherdess struggling, even if you don’t know her well, jump in to help protect her and build her up.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

Shepherdess, remember to never stop learning, even if there is a risk of failure. Push forward with courage and surround yourself with your faith, and your flock to support you as you go!

“It is better to make a thousand failures than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything.” – Clovis G. Chappell

Cara

Baby It’s Cold…………….

Yes it is cold here in Arkansas, and I know that many other parts of the country are immobilized by the sub-zero temperatures (and that doesn’t count the wind chill factor).

I do not like cold weather…….I repeat, I do not like cold weather.  Add to that a sunless day and it equals gloom and doom.  Will the winter never end?  We have had virtually no snow, not really any ice, and only short spans of the really cold temps, but I am so ready for Spring that it’s like a small child waiting for Christmas.  Will Spring ever arrive?

As I grumble and complain about being cold, I do feel a prick of conscience that I truly have nothing to complain about.  I do live in a warm home, my vehicle has a great heater, I have warm clothes, etc. so I really should grow up and stop complaining.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

So to remind my heart to be joyful regarding cold weather I tried to think of at least one good thing the cold weather does for us.  Here are four things I found – Narcissus, Hyacinth, Tulips and Crocus.  Each of those Spring flowers has a needed time of cold temperatures to become a thing of beauty when they bloom.  A time of dormancy in the cold, damp, dark ground creates shapes, colors, and aromas that we struggle to equate with the environment it is born from.  If a tiny small flower can be born from such a place, then who am I to complain about a little cold weather?

Shepherdess, keep your flock warm this winter and find joy in your heart as we wait for Spring to bring forth its beauty.  Remembering always to be aware and stay safe.

Jamie

 

 

Walking in security…

Do you walk in security?  Okay, maybe security is a vague word, how about, do you walk daily in confidence of yourself?  What’s the first thing that crossed your mind when thinking about that question?  If you are a regular reader of our blog, you might have thought in regards to keeping yourself and your flock safe, which is great if that’s what first crossed your mind!  There’s no wrong answer.  We’ll come back to that thought shortly…

Beyond learning and training together about self-protection, Jamie and I also work through daily devotions together to lift each other up and ensure that we stay sharp and strong in His word and our faith, as Proverbs 23:17 commands “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV).  We work through topics that are relevant to one or both of us to improve ourselves.  The latest topic we have gone through together is about insecurity.  Am I good enough (fill in the blank)… I would guess that many of you ladies struggle with insecurity currently or have struggled with insecurity at some point in your life.  It is a daily struggle for me personally.

Today’s devotion really struck a chord with me and put things in perspective that correlates our insecurity with self-protection.  It focused on the Armor of God passage in Ephesians 6:10-20.  If you are not familiar with the passage, take time to read the passage now before moving on.  I know it’s long, but bear with me…

How do you feel when you are insecure in yourself?  Do you walk in confidence around your family and friends or in public, or do you walk like you want to go unseen, not noticing others and hoping they won’t notice you?  Insecurity is the devil’s snare.  If we are not standing strong and confident in ourselves (because that’s how God sees us), Satan takes the opportunity to take hold of the insecurity we are grasping onto and grow it.  Do you ever notice if you are insecure, how your mind can continue to build that doubt and discouragement into epic proportions?  When that happens, we are pushing God and how He values us further away.  God commands us to protect ourselves with His armor (verses 14 – 18), and that it must be “daily attire” for us.  Each morning we need to consciously prepare ourselves for battle because we do not know when we will encounter doubt, and the devil is ALWAYS prepared for when that happens and will take advantage of us when it does if we don’t have God’s armor on and Him in focus.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

So back to walking in confidence…  We may sound like a broken record by talking about being aware of your situation and being prepared for protecting yourself from being a victim of a crime, but it’s a similar struggle we face daily.  We stress to our students to walk confidently as predators typically do not prey on people who outwardly display confidence.  Don’t stumble by having your head down looking at your phone or being in the zone focusing on a specific task in public.  There is no shame in walking with your head up, with a purpose, looking people in the eye and intentionally people watching.  It needs to be a conscious, daily decision to put on our “armor” when it comes to self-protection.  When we let our guard down we become easy prey for criminals, just as if we turn our eyes from God, we become easy prey for Satan in our insecurity.

Shepherdess, you are fearfully and wonderfully made just as Psalm 139:14 states.  He knitted our very being together.  God wants us to be strong in the face of evil, whether it is allowing Satan to control our thoughts and feelings about ourself, or if it’s protecting ourselves against the physical evil of this world.  His strength is never ending, and if we trust Him and guard ourselves with His armor, tapping into His supply of strength, we can rest in His confidence and reflect the confidence He has in ourselves to others!

Cara

 

 

How small is…….

How small is your dream Shepherdess?  I am working through a short devotion written about C.S. Lewis and the call to create.   The devotion explains that the idea for the Chronicles of Narnia began when Lewis was 16 after he visualized a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood (Mr. Tumnus in the series).  When he was forty he decided to see if he could make something of the Faun.  The end result was a literary series about Narnia.  When you research information about the series, it mentions that Aslan (paralleling Jesus) is the central character and the only one to appear in all 7 installments.  Wait – Aslan wasn’t what Lewis saw in his mind, the Faun was the picture.  He relates that as he began to write the story, Aslan suddenly came bounding in (figuratively of course) and the rest is literary history.

Back to the question of how small is your dream.  Are you waiting for lighting to strike?  Are you waiting for the heavens to part and to hear a deep voice telling you to go forth and begin?  While it’s important to wait on the right time, to allow ourselves to be guided by God, it is also important that we begin.  We have to start somewhere with ‘the start’ being the most important part.  We may make mistakes, but those can be corrected.  If we do nothing, the dream may die, and we may miss out on blessing another with the outcome of our dream.  Most importantly, do not give up!

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.  Habakkuk 2:3

Two years ago the idea for The Good Shepherdess Ministry came to me just as the Faun came to C.S. Lewis.  Since my dream came much later in life, waiting 24 years to begin was not an option for me.  During these two years I have worked and prepared to make the start.  Is it happening fast?  Not as fast as I would like.  I would love to present safe living to hundreds of people every single month.  My hope is to educate women and their families about the many ways we can stay safe and protect those we love.  Is it happening in the way I would like?  I’m not sure I have that answer as I don’t have a clear picture of how this is all supposed to happen.

The one thing I do know is to trust, to keep moving forward, to share at every opportunity, and to let the dream grow to be what it should be, a thing that gives glory to the Father and is a blessing to others.  Who knows, Aslan may suddenly come bounding into the picture!

Shepherdess, tend your flock well, and don’t give up on your dream.  C.S. Lewis waited almost 25 years for his Faun and Aslan to come to life in the minds and hearts of children (and a few of us adults).

Jamie

The curse of social media…

I’m sure we’ve all seen it happen, or even experienced it ourselves on social media.  The rant, gossip, arguments and jabs in posts, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or even Twitter.  Social media has become a faceless sounding board, from you and me, to political leaders and entertainers.  It has made “going off” on someone or something so very easy, and so widely disseminated to the public, that it has quickly become a divisive tool in society.  Let’s talk about the effects of that and what God’s words of wisdom are for the situations we may put ourselves in if we choose to participate.

Rants and arguments on social media can bring out the worst in people, and it’s not just the initial post.  All it takes is for one person to start a slew of side-taking and back-stabbing to get some attention.  The Bible is very clear about responding to social media situations.  Just because we have the right to respond, and even to an opinion, it does not mean it is the wisest way to address the situation.  Many times those who respond don’t have a basis to even be a part of the conversation, but want their name to show up on the comments of a post, and for how social media works, the more people who feed on that negativity, the more “popular” the post gets… right, wrong or indifferent.

God built us to live in community with each other, to build each other up, and not tear down.  Yes, we can have differences of opinion, but does your opinion really matter to someone’s post who you do not know and would you never strike up a conversation over coffee to discuss the differences in your opinion civilly if you were forced to?  What would happen if we were required to sit down with the people on a post in a roundtable and discuss a topic the way many posts are?  I’m betting that out of 100 people who engage in a toxic post, that you wouldn’t get 5 to show up at the table to discuss it.  Just because it’s easy to respond to a post, is it meaningful and worthy of a response?

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4-5 (NIV)

What these two verses are saying in Proverbs is that one should not be drawn down to  someone’s level by responding, and secondly, sometimes it is wise to correct or discuss, but not in the same manner.  God directs us to correct others gently as in Galatians…

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression,
you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

That second part of the verse in The Message translation says “You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out”.  Thus we always need to consider during a conversation “do unto others as you would want done unto you”…

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you.
If he listens, you’ve made a friend. ”  Matthew 18:15 (MSG)

Let’s go deeper…  The first part of Matthew 18:15 says to work it out between the two of you, and not for the world to see.  The second part reinforces that you may never see eye to eye.  Remember, opinions are as unique as fingerprints.  Everyone has one.

It doesn’t just have to be rants or arguments that can hurt.  Seemingly harmless posts to the general public can harbor deep opinion/emotion to those who may be in the know on a topic or know the back story to the post.  Just because you prettied up the post and threw a few accolades out there doesn’t mean it made the post positive and edifying.  Women especially are talented in doing this.  Consider the consequences and intent of what you are posting and who you may be slighting or throwing in front of the bus with small innuendos.  Is it really worth making that small “harmless” jab to cut someone down, which can damage a friendship or even a relationship?  What if it’s a co-worker or a boss, is it worth losing your job over?

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:19 (ESV)

Shepherdess, please consider your use of social media in your life.  Are you building others up, or tearing others down?  Consider writing a draft of the post, and then stepping away for awhile and praying about your intent and purpose.  You may find in the heat of the moment of writing it, may not be the best intentions, and you can just delete the draft with no harm done.

Cara

P.S.  If you have children, please tend to them regarding their exposure to social media.  Set solid guidelines and stick to them (don’t cave to peer or child pressure).