Strength and Courage

It has been just over one month since my life took quite an unexpected turn, changing what I had envisioned as an amazing bucket list first trip outside of the US and Canada.  5 surgeries, 4 ambulance rides, 3 hospitals, 2 additional surgeries on the horizon, all from one slight loss of balance from the path I was on.  I have experienced a vast array of emotions and have had a lot of introspection during this past month of looking at walls of hospital rooms.

The kindness and concern of people, from the closest of friends, to people I have never met in person is so very overwhelming.  It’s incredibly humbling for someone who loves to help and serve others to be so helpless and to be on the receiving end of blessings when you need them most in your life.

”Be strong, and let your heart take courage all you who wait for the LORD!”
Psalm 31:24 ESV

I’ve had so many people tell me how strong and courageous I have been through this experience.  I would be lying to you if I said that I have faced this without moments of “Why me?”, having some hard conversations with God, and days where I just was so tired of pushing through that I just want to cry and give up.  You truly find out who and what is important to you during times like this to push and encourage you to stay strong and positive.   Sometimes the best thing for a friend is to get in your face and tell it like it is in a loving way so that you cannot choose any other option but to be strong, keep the faith and push through.

Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.  Let’s see how inventive we can be encouraging each other and helping out not avoiding worshiping together as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:23-25 MSG

Comforting and encouraging someone can come in many ways…  Shepherdess, never be afraid to speak truth to your flock when they need it during hard circumstances.

Cara

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Packing…

I hate packing…  It does not matter how excited I am for a trip, the thought of packing is daunting and the fear of forgetting something important is the thing of nightmares for me!  I struggle with having to plan out the future of what I would need to have and to wear!  So, how do I deal with packing?  I don’t deal with it well.  So I put it off, in which then I’m scrambling to pack last minute, when I’m absolutely forced to, and the chances of forgetting something exponentiates and robs me of taking in the excitement of even going on the trip.

The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
Proverbs 12:24 (ESV)

Why do we procrastinate on the hard things, that make it worse when we actually have to face the facts?  We all do it, whether it’s packing, or dealing with a sore tooth to avoid the dreaded dentist, or ignoring a tough conversation we need to have with a friend or loved one…  I think human nature is to avoid painful things, but are we truly avoiding it when we know it needs to be done?  God wants us to be diligent with all actions, big or small and not be slothful, as when we get to the point we need to do it, it becomes forced labor.

He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (ESV)

This verse in Ecclesiastes refers to sitting around and waiting for the most opportune moment to do what is needed.  But if you wait, that time may very well pass you by, and can be very painful if it does.  Especially when it comes to having those hard conversations or mending relationships by asking for or granting forgiveness.  Packing is a piece of cake compared to those!  But letting those feelings steep because we don’t want to face what God wants us to mend can hurt us and the ones we love worse than the actual action of just doing it and getting it over with.  We may miss that moment altogether, and even if you don’t miss it, how much time have you lost in the waiting???

Shepherdess, I encourage you to get packing!  The most opportune time is right now.  Don’t procrastinate on the things that must be done today, whether it’s a physical job, or relationship mending, especially with those in your flock.  Just get’er done and reap the joy and peace once it is complete!

Cara

Crisis mode…

I will be the first to admit.  I am NOT a patient person, especially when it comes to issues that require “solving” or things that may shake my world.  We’ve all gotten that email, phone call or text at some point that throws you into a crisis of some type, be it work, friend or family centered.  My natural inclination is to go into get’er done mode and work to solve or mitigate the crisis as much as possible on my own, shutting out much of the rest of the world while I tend to that crisis.  How do you react to a crisis?

In going through the miracles of Jesus at church, a statement resonated with me that our pastor shared.  It come from the story of the miracle of healing Jairus’ daughter after Jesus had crossed the Sea of Galilee (read Mark 5:21-43 for the full story).  The crisis…  Jairus’ daughter was on her death bed, and knowing that Jesus could heal her, approached Jesus within a large crowd, begging Jesus to go with him to lay hands on her.  If you had the power to heal a young child from impending death, wouldn’t you hurry to do so without stopping, entering “crisis” mode?  That’s where it gets interesting…

Jesus is not hurried or anxious during crisis. 

With a great crowd pressing in around Jesus, He was still aware that something had happened when the woman touched his garment.  Jesus chose to stop and help the woman with a crisis of her own.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well;
go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34 (ESV)

Jesus made the contact personal by calling her “daughter”, and affirmed that her faith had healed her because she believed He would.  He then sent her off, no longer unclean or to be considered an outcast.  And Jesus continued on and healed Jairus’ daughter – in His timing.

There are three points that this story makes me step back and think about…

1.  I think of how I handle crises and if I put off other people at their time of need because of something I deem a crisis (big or small) in my life when something might be as profound as to help another in their need.  What opportunities are we missing in crisis mode to minister to others that may need us more than our crisis needs us?

2.  It also makes me think back to the training a few weeks ago in Dallas and how I jumped to making decisions without slowing down because of the crisis (even for a split second) and thinking things through, especially tools I had just learned that I should have put into action.  Our instructors kept repeating that we need to be thinkers before doers.  It highlights that we should always think before we act (or speak) in anything we do, or we may regret our actions or words.

3.  Finally, we are at our most vulnerable (physically and emotionally) when we are in crisis.  It narrows our focus and attention from full awareness around us.  Some crises require that focus, especially severe ones (death, sickness, etc..), and when that kind of crisis is in your life Shepherdess, you need to surround yourself physically with members of your flock that can watch your back to keep you safe, but also be your arms and feet to hold you up in a time where you may not be able to stand alone.

By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)

Shepherdess, tend your flock well, and in times of crisis, allow them to tend to you!

Cara

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

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

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

 

 

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).