Monday, January 31, 2011

Growing butterflies

I was a Fiddler on the Roof this weekend. Well, not really. But I did feel like an honorary member of the Anatevka community as I spent several hours learning about their traditions. My son's high school had their production of the play and I had the privilege of seeing it...twice. I loved it!

In the musical the papa, Tevye, deals with coming of age daughters and the spouse they choose for themselves. While that was unheard of in their culture, papa eventually bends and allows the girls to choose to follow their heart instead of tradition. His love for his daughters won out in the end.

As I watched the story unfold I began thinking about the actors in the play. These were kids we have been watching for years. I remember seeing some of them in their very first production. Now look how much they've changed and improved. For years these students have been 'cocooned' with their director as he gives them instruction, allows them to try new things and helps build their confidence. Just as Tevye allowed his daughters to express themselves, their director has encouraged these actors for years. In the end, both the daughters and the students became beautiful butterflies ready to take on the world.

Our heavenly Father 'cocoons' us as well. He holds His arms around us creating a safe place where we can learn His ways, experience new things and become strong and courageous. When we allow God's hand in our life, we become the radiant butterfly He intended us to be. Delicate and beautiful, strong and resilient. A perfect masterpiece!

Do you recognise your current situation as a 'cocoon' to allow you to grow? Still feeling like a worm with no hope of becoming a butterfly? Remember that it takes a little time, a little patience and a lot of willingness to allow God to give you wings. Soon, you'll be the most beautiful butterfly of all!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's your sign?

While driving through a construction zone the other day, I noticed one of the workers directing traffic. This particular worker was holding the sign that said 'Slow'. I looked into his eyes as I drove by and noticed that he seemed to have a defeated look (perhaps because he drew the short straw and was on the traffic detail). I thought to myself, 'Oh, that's too bad. You're holding a sign that says you're slow...' then giggled to myself at the silly idea.

But it's not a silly idea, really. We hold up signs all the time. Ever seen someone who holds a 'Worthless' sign? What about an 'Afraid' sign? Or an 'Angry' sign? Of course we don't physically hold up the sign, but all too often we will let these characteristics precede us. Some signs not only not only express what we feel but who we feel we are. 'Unemployed', 'Divorced', 'Adulterer', 'Alcoholic', 'Drop out'...the list goes on and on. Our signs are as diverse as we are.

The places we've been and the choices we've made play a part in the kind the people we are. But that's not where the story ends! Our experiences may set the stage but they do not define us. Having a failed marriage does not make you a failed person. Losing a job doesn't mean you're just a loser. These are signs we hold ourselves. God didn't create us to have a spirit of failure and regret, He created us to glorify Him. How do we do that? By allowing God to be strong in our weakness. Despite our failures, God will still use our bad choices and silly mistakes for His good. He will replace the sign that you hold with a banner that reflects His truth. 'Chosen'. 'Loved'. 'Worthy'.

So, what's your sign? Are you letting bad choices and insecurity define you? Or are you holding high the banner that God has given you? If not, maybe it's time for a change...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dog Fight

Have you ever seen a mean dog? You know, the kind that growl and bark at you for no reason. They bear their teeth and lunge toward you when you get too close. A dog with such a mean spirit that you couldn't love on it if you wanted to. It won't let you. It refuses to receive kindness and love.

I've recently had an encounter with a 'mean dog' personality. This 'mean dog' was a self-proclaimed atheist that was determined to disprove my faith in God. I was not expecting the assault as the 'mean dog' inserted himself into a conversation I was having with someone else. But as I heard what he felt he needed to say, I recognized the 'mean dog' attitude and behavior. Before I drew my sword to counter attack and to prove my faith, I prayed asking God to give me His words to equip me for the fight. Lord, how can I best glorify you? I was a little surprised when God instantly gave me the Scripture that is listed below. I hadn't thought of that Scripture in years and new immediately what God was instructing me to do. Don't argue.

You see, God already knew that 'mean dog'. He had been dealing with him for years. God knew that his heart was not ready to accept the truth of God's word. The 'mean dog' was still barking a bearing teeth, just waiting for an unsuspecting believer to try to come too close so he could rip them apart. God knew what had made that dog mean and He knew how He planned to soften the 'mean dog's' heart. God didn't need me to hit Biblical high points with him, He needed me to obey even if I didn't understand why.

When Jesus stood before His persecutors, He did not explain Himself or defend His faith. Jesus knew the 'mean dogs' weren't ready to receive the truth He came to share. Please understand, there is a difference between sharing your faith testimony and feeling that you have to DEFEND your faith. God equips us for spiritual battle but also gives us discernment to know when to fight.

So did I chicken out by avoiding the fight? Not at all. I showed grace and mercy to the barking dog and didn't bark back. I would reply with a few words to acknowledge that I heard him, but would not argue. By the end of the week the 'mean dog' was bored with me because I wouldn't fight and chose to walk away. I don't know how his story will end, but God does. I did my part...I obeyed God. God told me not to fight it out with him but to hold my tongue instead no matter how irritated I may have felt. Then He equipped me to do it. Sometimes we can glorify God more by not saying a word.

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sometimes we bite

Her eyes showed a mixture of anger and fear as she lunged forward and sank her teeth into the hand of my 14 year old daughter. Our terrier mix, Daisy, has bitten before but she had never bitten my daughter Paige. Paige was stunned in disbelief and the next several hours were filled with throbbing pain and a broken heart. Daisy is her most loyal friend and Paige adores her. The feeling has always been mutual. But this wasn’t about whether or not Daisy loved Paige. This was a physical response to Daisy’s emotional state of mind.

Sound familiar? Are you a biter? Or do you keep getting bit? The things we feel and think in our hearts and minds inevitably find their way out. They become our actions. You’ve probably heard it said, ‘hurting people hurt people.’ I remember watching Steel Magnolias when Sally Field’s character, M’Lynn, just buried her oldest daughter, Shelby. In the graveyard she tells her friends “I just want to hit somebody ‘til they feel as bad as I do!” M’Lynn was a gentile southern woman and such a suggestion was completely out of character for her… but it was honest. How many times have we wanted to make other people feel as bad or as angry as we are but we can’t admit that to ourselves?

Daisy lashed out at Paige. As a result, Paige was hurt. More emotionally than physically (her hand is doing better). Yes, I understand she’s a dog but the nature of the action is the same. Sometimes we bite. We hurt those around us because we’re hurting and most of the time it will be unintentional. If we can’t acknowledge our own pain, doubts, disappointments and grief it is bound to ‘bite’ the people closest to us. We lash out, draw blood and then we feel terrible. Daisy was shocked to find her teeth in Paige’s hand. You could see it in her face. She had no idea what she was doing until it was too late.

Do you have some thoughts or emotions you need to deal with so that you don’t bite? Or are you the one that has been bit and now is dealing with your own emotions? Do you need to forgive the one who bit you? Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen. The first step is going to God and sharing what you’re feeling. Allow Him to bring the help you need. God is able to calm even the most savage of beasts…

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:2-4

Monday, January 3, 2011

From A to Z in 3 steps

It's the third day into the new year and I'm already sick of all the 'self improvement' commercials. Each one telling me that I need to look better, be smarter and have more in life. I do have an interest in having 'more in life' but not in the way they're talking about. Like most of you, I have personal goals and dreams that I want to make a reality in my life. Fortunately, God has taught me a 3 step process to reach those goals.

Step 1: Talk about it. If I'm not willing to share my goals and dreams, maybe I don't believe in them. My prayer warriors know my heart and the goals I'm striving for. Every time I have shared my goals, God has blessed me with a word of encouragement. He has opened doors for me through other people who catch the vision. Admitting our dreams is just as powerful as admitting our weaknesses, they both allow God to be glorified.

Step 2: Know your motive.
What is driving the goal? Why do I want it? Have I prayed over this? Do I see God's hand in it? God blesses our efforts when we seek the dreams He lays in our hearts. Knowing that your dreams align with God's will allows us to persevere through the tough times. I can promise that if your goal is something like wearing your high school jeans just to catch your spouse's eye, you'll grow weary of the goal and probably resent them for it!

Step 3: Be flexible. I've heard it said that God laughs when He hears our 'plans'. There's nothing wrong with setting goals you've prayed over and feel God is prompting you for. Just remember that God's timing has never been our timing. He may lead you from A to Z, but the journey may look completely different than you would have imagined. Keep praying and stay encouraged, if your dream comes from Him you will get there. If I had my way, I would have already accomplished more of my goals by now. I guess God has a few more things for me to learn first.

Are you ready to admit some of your goals and dreams? Do you know why you want them? Are you ready to be flexible to God's plan in your life? Grab one of your closest friends and share your heart with them. Let them hold you accountable and be an encouragement to you. Trust me, the results are invigorating!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

I know I've referenced it before, but it's God's promise to us:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11