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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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).

Courage to move past fear…

Accomplishing a goal should be a great experience, right?  You’ve decided what you’ve wanted to do, worked hard to get to your goal, and you’ve made it!  Time to announce it and celebrate, right?  Well, not always…  I have experienced lots of fear in the past couple of weeks in culminating a goal of starting my own business doing training.  Starting a business is scary, and completely out of my comfort zone.  Even though the goal was prayer driven and rooted in faith, I was frozen in fear of putting myself out there for criticism and rejection of my peers and clients.

The fear of human opinion disables;
trusting in GOD protects you from that.
Proverbs 29:25 (MSG)

I literally felt disabled, crippled to move forward.  Oh, how we allow our fellow humans to dictate what we feel and do!  I’m guilty of this each and every day.  And social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to either discouraging people or encouraging them, but is the very best marketing tool out there for advertising a business.  It was easy when I was just working with a small group of people and and just throwing a few bones out to let people know what I was doing, but not really pushing forward to the goal.

Today, I was struck with encouragement from posts of others in Facebook groups, not directly pointed to me.  I knew God was speaking to me and that I was letting fear be an idol, pushing my trust and worth in God aside.  Yes, I said idol.  We can allow the opinion of others be an idol in which we look to for our worth, but for those who believe, your worth is entirely judged by our Savior, and our worth is far beyond what any human being can show or comprehend.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7 (ESV)

God values us so much more than any other creature on earth.  We are NOT to fear.  He cares for us, no matter what anyone else thinks.  But why do we allow this to happen so often in our lives? I believe it has to do with how our culture is driven around success and the meaning of success.  Thus why the below post struck me so hard.

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We let the fear of failure cripple us, and we turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and are unsuccessful because we let fear win.  We have become the Joshua that God commanded multiple to be “strong and courageous”.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

If what you are doing is God ordained, rooted in prayer and done in faith, God will direct and make it all for His good, so there is no failure in His eyes.  If we do what He commands, we will always have met success.

Shepherdess, don’t let fear cripple your goals and dreams or even the desire to protect yourself.  Stay fast to Him and want what He wants in your life and you will soar!

Cara

We. Are. Blessed.

I’m trying a “through the bible” devotional this year as I have never tried to go thru the bible in one year.  One of my challenges this year is to read more and seek His word for me.  The authors of the devotional use different translations of the bible based on the theme for the day and are very particular in using different versions if one version is worded for impact a bit more than another.

Today was a revelation for me as one of the passages we looked at was the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave.  It’s that familiar “Blessed are the…” passage, where Jesus looks at people and explains why they are blessed.  Ironically, before today, I never really put myself in those categories that Jesus was talking to me personally about being blessed.  It was always about they or them, “others”.  The devotional had me look at the passage in The Message version and WOW…  Jesus wanted the Sermon to speak to US and how WE are blessed with God in our lives!  Take a read…

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.
That’s the moment you find yourselves
proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care.
At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.
Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Matthew 5:3-12 (MSG)

There’s an entire blog post tied up in each one of these separate blessings!  I’m betting that at least one of those statements hits home with you today.  I know it did for me.  Especially verse 5.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Matthew 5:5 (MSG)

Do you ever find yourself thinking and feeling like you are not measuring up, or are lacking, or insecure in other’s eyes?  Maybe some of us do more than others.  It’s something I struggle with on a daily basis and God states right at this point that if we can be content with who we are, we have everything that matters.  We have Him and His love, what else do we need?  Gulp…  So much of our lives revolve around what “others” think, but do we allow ourselves to bask in how He made us.  Remember, we are made in His image.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 (ESV)

Ladies, I know this is a struggle for us (again including me), but we are loved and cherished by Him.  Don’t look past Him to look at what your peers think and try to measure yourself up to them.  I’m well aware that this is a constant daily battle, but know that you are not battling alone.  The ladies you are measuring up to, are most likely trying to measure up to you as well.  Take the first step and let the one who you are trying to measure up to know that you love them just as they are, and remind them that God does so as well.  They have already obtained the most valuable gift.

Tending to our flock includes supporting our tribe of other Shepherdesses around us so that we can all be successful with our flocks.  Love well ladies!

Cara

Evil in today’s world…

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you know that a couple of days ago Jamie posted a very disheartening article regarding the Parkland, FL shooting (read her blog here) last year.  We ask why do these horrific events happen?  And as Jamie eluded to, it’s due to the wickedness and evil in today’s world.  Today let’s not focus on that one event, but what the bible says about those who seek to do evil and what the bible says we need do about it.

Psalm 36 is devoted in it’s entirety to wickedness and God’s protection of His believers.  In verses 1 through 4, David recorded an oracle he received from the Lord.

[1] An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
[2] For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.
[3] The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good.
[4] Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course
and does not reject what is wrong.
Psalms 36:1-4 (NIV)

The wicked referenced here are evil because they have no fear of God, no dread of the Lord and sense no terror because of their actions, thus they proceed with their wicked deeds.  Verse 2 even goes to say that the wicked are proud of act of evil they commit because they cannot see from God’s viewpoint.  Yes, proud.  And who else may be proud of wicked acts?  No other than Satan himself.  And just like the serpent we all know from Genesis, his words are deceptive and wicked and for evil purposes, as David states in verse 3.  And as we know of most people who have committed the heinous acts, they understand their own lives to be worthless, and thus have no inclination to reject the evil, to the point where verse 4 says that even while they sleep, they plot evil!

You would have thought David would have written this yesterday, and not back in biblical history.  The bible shows evil has been a part of history since Adam and Eve decided to ignore God’s commands in the garden.  And Psalm 36 goes on to reiterate that we need to cling to God’s unfailing love for us and that He is protecting us, like a mother hen with her chicks, or even… as a shepherdess protects her flock.  We may be disappointed or even mad at a spouse, child or friend at times, but we ultimately still love them and ensure their protection.

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Psalms 36:5-9 (NIV)

It’s so easy to get caught up in the yuck of this world and allow it to bring us down and spend days frustrated, angry and questioning God on…WHY?  When we do that, Satan gains a foothold, and we begin to doubt and fear.

[10] Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
[11] May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
[12] See how the evildoers lie fallen— thrown down, not able to rise!
Psalms 36:10-12 (NIV)

But the Lord wants us to continue to trust His love and not allow the wicked to come against us as in verse 11 says.  Remember the wicked are proud of their acts, and the more we allow evil events to push us away from God, it is victory for Satan and his evil.  David prays specifically for God to help him with that in verse 10 and that should be our very prayer as well, that we continue to look to God and seek him even during these trying times.

There will always be evil in this world until Jesus comes to restore creation to its glorious splendor, but our purpose is to seek Him alone and trust in His steadfast love for us and our flock.

Cara