Saturday, February 28, 2009
"...let me tell you how they catch monkeys in Africa. The natives take a coconut and at one end cut a hole just large enough for a monkey's hand to enter. The other end of the coconut is attached to a long rope. They then carve out the inside of the coconut and put a few peanuts inside. They place the coconut in a clearing and hide in the trees with the end of the rope. The monkeys come around, smell the peanuts, and reach inside to grab a fistful. But now, with a fistful, their hand is too large to retract through the small hole. Then the natives yank on the cord and haul that silly monkey to captivity because the monkey will not let go of those few lousy peanuts that he thought he wanted."
How does this story relate to fear? By not letting go of our fears we are like the monkey not letting go of the peanuts. We could be free, but instead we allow ourselves to be captured over a few peanuts. The peanuts are representative of our fears.
What are your fears? Are they "what if" questions that you cannot answer, fear of the loss of social status, fear of the loss of loved ones or friends,...? These fears are a hindrance, and they will cause your life to become stagnant. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, definitions for the word stagnant are: 1) stale and 2) not advancing or developing. So, while life may be predictable as you hold onto these fears, the stagnation that is occurring in your life is slowly causing your soul to die. Your personality, your joy for life, is slowly fading...
In other words, like the monkey, because you will not let go, you are stuck. The irony of being stuck is that the hope you have of becoming a better you or of living a better life stands before you. Yet, this hope/wish/desire cannot become a reality until you let go of your fears. Paraphrasing what someone told me, "If your hand is closed, you are holding onto something. Yet, at the same time, you can't receive anything." Learn to let go of your fears.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 KJV)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I'm not denying that it's hard to change. Nor am I suggesting that you ignore the negative feelings/emotions that will come concerning your change during your time of change. Feelings of:
-- "Is it worth fighting/struggling against those that feel they know what's best for me?"
-- "I'm tired [physically and emotionally drained] of struggling against others. Maybe I should end this changing process and return to my life of 'normalcy'."
-- "Am I crazy for wanting to change?"
I've found that the responses towards these feelings are yes, no, and no.
Yes, it is worth the struggle to go against what others think is best for you, because most of their desires for your life are based on their perceptions of you. Also, some of their desires are based on how they would handle things in your situation. Therein lies the problem: that person is not you and you are not that person. On a continual basis, you cannot have their thoughts or reactions because you do not live in their body--and they do not live in yours. Besides, it is hard trying to live your life based on others' expectations for you if those expecatations run counter to or run beneath the expectations you have for yourself.
No, you should not go back to your life of "normalcy". Granted, interacting with those around you was easier, so was getting things done day to day, but were you satisfied as an individual? There is more satisfaction in changing into the person you've wanted to be compared to being the person who was living just to get along or living just to get by.
No, you are not crazy for wanting to change. Jeremiah 29:11 in the Good News Bible translation states
"I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for."
God has a plan for each of our lives, whether we believe in Him or not. In other words, if you are not living the life you're meant to live, there will be a nagging desire, suspicion, or restlessness in you that there is something else in your life you should be doing. Therefore, no, you are not crazy for wanting to change.
Change isn't for the weak. Yet, the fact that you're on your path to change (or that you are taking the initial steps to change) proves that you are stronger than you think.
Friday, February 20, 2009
(Note: In this entry, I go back and forth between you and I. It's to show that we're all in this together.)
Why should we speak positively? Because positive words create positive actions. Consider when someone asks you to do something or vice versa. Which are you quicker to respond to: harsh words, demands, and criticism or requests made pleasantly? Most people respond more quickly to the latter.
Now, take that rationale and apply it to yourself. Are you more likely to carry out a desire, goal, or plan when you tell yourself that you can do it or when you tell yourself that you're a failure, a screw up, you can never get anything right, or whatever other negative thoughts come to mind? It may sound Pollyannish, but positive words generate positive reactions.
When I go around saying, "I can't do that because...", "I'm not capable of that because...", or whatever else comes to mind, it is highly unlikely that I will try to do whatever's before me. What causes me to say I can't do it? Am I afraid of failure? Am I afraid of success?
The fear of failure is reasonable. There aren't that many people that want to fail. Yet, failure is okay. (For more on this, read the entry "Failure Is An Option".) What about the fear of success? Do I simply not want the responsibility, do I think the success will change me as a person, will I be able to handle the responsibilities that come my way...Well, you won't know until you try.
Instead of saying, "I can't, " or, "I'm not able," speak positively. If you can't find positive examples from your life to draw from, tell yourself, "I may not be the best at what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do what I can and see where it takes me." Then you will learn that your negative thoughts were wrong, because whether you fail or succeed,
you did the very thing you told yourself you could not do.
"...for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45 KJV)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Same verses with the Good News Bible translation:
You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say.
What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Living With Passionate Purpose
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV)
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Change takes time. Period. It would be nice if change would occur as quickly as other things we are accustomed to, such as fast food meals, microwaveable dinners, etc. Yet change is a process, and processes take time. The growth of a tree, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly…it all takes time.
Be patient during your time of change. Be patient with yourself, with others, and with the process itself. Be patient with yourself because your change – in personality or characteristics – may not occur as quickly as you would want. Be patient with others because they may not understand the person you are transforming into. It will take them time to get adjusted to the person you are becoming. Finally, simply be patient with the process.
It is the process that will require the most patience. There will be times when you will feel as if you and/or your circumstances are changing drastically. Then there will be a period of time in which absolutely nothing seems to be happening. This is when you need to be the most patient. Just because nothing is occurring to the natural eye doesn’t mean that changes are not taking place. Relate this period in your life to the season of winter. During winter, nature appears dormant, even dead, but something must be happening in order for life to occur in the spring. It’s a time for rest, building up muscles and nutrients, and revitalizing the soul for the growth that is yet to come.
Change takes time. Be patient with yourself, others, but most of all the process so that you will get a chance to experience the development that can occur in yourself and your life.
Check out these articles on change taking time and having patience:
Do You Need A Change?
Waiting For Patience
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. (Psa 42:5 KJV)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Every plan will not work out well. Just because your plan failed does not equate to you being a failure. According to Merriam Webster, one definition for failure is lack of success. So then, why are you not a failure if your plan was not successful? For two reasons:
1. You were successful in creating the plan
2. You were successful in taking steps to carry out the plan
In other words, you were successful in making a step. How many do you know or how many have you observed who had an idea or a thought but did nothing to try and make it a reality? How many allowed the fear of failing to stop them from moving forward with that thought or idea? How many will never know how successful their thought or idea could have been because they are afraid of failing?
So, while a person may try and fail, at least that person knows they have what is in them to move forward...and to try again. Failure is an option.
For some reading on failure:
How to Rid Your Fear of Failure
Fear of Failure - What Does Failure Mean to You?
To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of:
to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Friday, February 13, 2009
A father was teaching his little son to be less afraid, to have more courage, by having him jump down the stairs. He placed his boy on the second stair and said, “Jump, and I’ll catch you.” and the boy jumped. Then the father placed him on the third stair, saying “Jump, and I’ll catch you.” Though the boy was afraid, he trusted his father, did what he was told, and jumped into his father’s arms. Then the father put him on the next step, and the next step, each time telling him, Jump, and I’ll catch you, and each time the boy jumped and was caught by his father. And so this went on. Then the boy jumped from a very high step, just as before; but this time the father stepped back, and the boy fell flat on his face. As he picked himself up, bleeding and crying, the father said, “that will teach you."
There is more than one way to interpret this, but let's focus on this interpretation: change will not kill you. It may end life as you currently know it, but it will not end your physical life.
In the story, the little boy would jump as long as he expected for his father to catch him. Until a change happens in your life, you will continue to do those things that are comfortable--those things that have predictable results. There is no need to try anything new or that will rock the proverbial boat. Life is stable, and you know what's expected of yourself and others.
Back to the story. When the little boy fell his world changed, because he learned that falling would not kill him. The fall did hurt, and he was definitely bruised, but he was still living. Through the fall, the boy became more alive than he was before it. Before the fall the little boy would only jump if he knew his father was there to catch him. As long as his father was there, he was assured that he would not get hurt or hurt in such a way that it would end his physical life; after the fall, he realized that although the fall was painful, it did not end his physical life.
How does this relate to changes in our lives? Some of us will not "jump" unless we are sure of the outcome. We continue to live life cautiously, doing no more than what is expected of us. However, when we make that jump that could cause us to fall, we learn there is more to us than even we expected. Our fall could hurt current relationships, how our peers see us, our current income, etc., but through the fall we realize that we are able to do those things we never thought we were capable of doing.
Here's an article for today:
What is Stopping You From Living Your Dream?
[A different note: Starting today, each entry will end with a scripture that may or may not relate to the topic. Hopefully it will be encouraging.]
And look out for one another's interests, not just for your own. (Philippians 2:4)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This is a chance for you to expand your horizons by trying different things. While reaching out for new experiences, things may not go as planned or you may fail. Once again, that's ok. You overcome your fears through both success and failure. The difference between the two is that failure has a tendency to cause people to shy away from attempting the new or unfamiliar. Yet, it also has the ability to let you see that what you were afraid of isn't so scary after all.
Sometimes change is smooth and at others it is messy, but if you continue to move forward, step by step, sometimes inch by inch, maybe even milllimeter by millimeter, your situation will change.
[On a different note: I've found it to be amazing how God can lead two people in two different places to speak or write almost the same things. While the article I mentioned on 2/10 has yet to be reviewed by Ezine, you can find read it here on goarticles.com
Change Isn't Easy...But It's Worth It
The listed examples about change in that article are similar in nature to the list presented in today's devotional "Unexpected Treasure" by Amy Carroll. (You can read the remainder of the devotional here):
Are you a broken or crushed pot today? Are you suffering because of the loss of a job or the current financial crisis? Are your emotions broken and bruised because of the rejection of a friend or husband? Are you experiencing crushing loneliness because of the loss of someone dearly loved? Is your heart torn and bleeding for a wayward child? If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, He says even in catastrophic times He is not only with you but longing to pour out through you. God’s Word that you have been storing away in the quiet times with Him can be revealed through your brokenness. He sees your pain, and His heart breaks with your every hurt. You are dearly loved. Hold on to His promise that your brokenness is not wasted but releases His Spirit to do works of perseverance, power, character and hope.]
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
You can sit there and allow questions to stop you from taking further action in your life, or you can move forward one step at a time.
"Okay," you might say, "I would do that if I knew how to take the next step. Where do I go from here?"
There is a blogger by the name of Laura Caldwell whose blog is called "Faith Fuel". The address for her blog is http://championyourdreams.blogspot.com. At the start of my life's journey involving major change, I had some of the same questions of where and how to start.
Below is Laura's blog on "What Do You Want" published on 1/4/08. Throughout it are thoughts that I recorded while reading it. The thoughts (comments) are in italics. The purpose of the comments is to show that figuring out your next step may not come quickly, and how the excuses we make keep us from moving forward. Maybe Laura's blog and my comments will give you an idea(s) of where or how to take your first step.
What Do You Want?
“I think I’ve been avoiding this question this afternoon. I opened this document around 1 p.m. today—3/6/8—but I’m just getting to this. Time to stop procrastinating and answer the question.”
I'm beginning to see a pattern here: the new year starts and I am sleeping less. Every night there are obstacles that get in the way of a sound night's sleep. I'm not really perturbed by this. I'm mainly curious as to whether God is trying to tell me something, such as- "you sleep too much or too long", or "it's a myth that you need 7 or 8 hours a night" or "Talk to me, Lauren". If God is trying to talk to me, I'm just wondering why we can't have our chats in the day time.
“While I’ve been sleeping like this all week, that really sounds like last night. God led me to pray, and I started, but how did I finish? By nodding off. I could use the excuse that it was too cold for me to get on my knees and I was concerned about aggravating my allergies, but really? Why try to make an excuse?”
Last night Bill snored and coughed all night. Alex didn't get to sleep till after 1am because he was studying for a test today. I heard him in the hallway, opening kitchen cupboards looking for snacks, running water in the bathroom sink. I hear every single noise, the mice scratching in the walls (when they decide to visit) ,and every creaking sound the house makes- but I apparently am not hearing God.
I flopped in bed last night, fully spent- and happily spent- from teaching the LIFE workshop at church. I expected to drift off to sleep, but it was more of a drifting in and out of sleep that occurred- all night long.
There is only one thing I do hear God saying to me. It's a very unsettling question. I know God is speaking this because of the book I just happen to be reading. It's an older book (2000)by an author who is quite popular now. This is John Eldredge's book, The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We've Only Dreamed of. I knew this book was for me; expressly for me to read at this point and season of my life. I opened the book up this morning and continued on. And then I read it. I read the question that has been haunting me. I see this question now, here in the pages of the book.
“I purchased this book after reading this blog for the first time. How far have I gotten in the book? The 2nd or 3rd page. I will try to use as an excuse that I’m trying to read five or six other books as well! (I think one is overdue and the rest are due by next Thursday.)”
"What do you want?" That's the question. That's what God has been asking me for a while, now. And since I have not fully answered God, I think He is waking me up at night so we can discuss this lack of response on my part. It's very easy for me to get frustrated with my life and to lament that I am not progressing or that I am not fruitful enough. But then I have to face the question of "What do you want...specifically?" That's when I slowly start to back away from the question. I thought I had answered that years ago.
“What do I want? To glorify God in my life living. Yet how? I see myself as a speaker...speaking is a desire that still “haunts"...me. Yet, how do I get to there from where I am now?”
Eldredge recounts the biblical story of the disabled man lying by the pool of Bethesda, in chapter three, "Dare We Desire?" He speaks about Jesus asking the man, "Do you want to get well?" and how Jesus was probing for more than just the response, "Of course I do." Years of longing for something- and then not seeing it happen- had changed the man, had caused him "to lose any vital heart-connection to what he wanted."
Later, Eldredge discusses the story of the prodigal son and his return home to a feast and celebration, while the son who had dutifully remained sulked and stormed over receiving no party in his name. "He tells his father...that all these years he hasn't gotten a thing in return for his life of service. The father's reply cuts to the chase: 'All that is mine has always been yours.' In other words, 'You never asked.' "
I'm almost thinking that God is allowing my sleep to be interrupted so that He might get me at a weakened state, unguarded and vulnerable. What will I tell God in those midnight hours? Will I voice the dreams of my heart, and then brace myself to be disappointed again; that I must wait, and then wait longer? Or will I tell God it's too late that He asks me what I want because I'm older, less energetic, not wanting to take risks as quickly as I used to, and that in my mind, it's as if Lazarus is dead. If Lazarus is dead, why is Jesus visiting me? What comfort could He offer me if the one I love, or the thing I long for, is dead?
“I’m too familiar with this feeling. About two years ago, that’s how I felt regarding my life with Christ. In 2000 I was holding to Jn 12:12 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” However, by 2006, those dreams were dead. Yet some of the young people went to a late night prayer ...[and the dreams were revived]. Now, it’s not a matter of if the dreams will happen, but how will they come about? Will I take the right steps so that they can be manifested in my life?”
"But even now...." Yes, that's what rises to my lips in stubborn faith- as it did to Martha's lips. She told Jesus, "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." (John 11:22) Even now, in spite of what I see, or in spite of the stench of dead dreams or of delayed dreams- dreams delayed so long that they are moldy and lifeless- even now, I will believe You, Lord. I will believe you to the point that I am ruthless in my eagerness to tell you all I long for, to tell you again what I once told you years ago.
I refuse to be like the third steward who hid his one talent while the others went out, risked, and multiplied what they had. I refuse to be suspicious of God handing out talents and think He is somehow trying to get me to dare to dream- only to rip the dream out of my hands. The third steward who hid his talent thought he knew the master's heart, was convinced the master was hard and mean, not extravagant in grace if the steward had fallen while trying to fly.
"There is this hurt and angry place inside, a very old wound... Life has not turned out the way we want, and we know God could have handled things differently. Even though we may profess at one level a genuine faith in him, at another level we are like the third servant. Our obedience is not so much out of love as it is out of carefulness. 'Just tell me what to do, God, and I'll do it.' " (Eldredge).
Yes, I want to be so careful. Desires I’ve had in the past didn’t turn out the way I expected when I knew it was an easy thing for God. (Actually, anything is an easy thing for God.) I’ve often thought of how I would go down one path only to hear the Father say, “That’s not the path I meant for you to go down. It’s time for you to come off of it.” Then I’d have to struggle with not wanting to let the path go as well as questioning why the Lord let me go that way when I’d been asking Him all along which way I should go. Lord, I just want to do your Will. Even in my lazy and slacker ways, I still want to do your Will. Or maybe I don’t want to do it enough b/c I won’t overcome my lazy and slacker ways? Or maybe I need to stop allowing the enemy to cause me to think there is something unknown hindering me—something I can’t place my finger on—and simply obey the Lord? It’s time to let go of excuses. You love me and I must learn to walk in that love. Even if I don’t like myself or my ways, You love me. Help me to see myself as You see me.”
God is refusing to hear my request, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" as a genuine request spoken out of eager love and faith. He sees that I'm just being careful and cautious when I ask God what He wants next from me. Perhaps God sees that it's time I answer His question, "Lauren, What do you want?". My reply will be telling. It will indicate how big of a heart I think He has, how much grace and overcoming power I believe He doles out to His children.
My reply will tell God more than just the specifics of my dream. It will tell God that I believe Him for more. That I believe Him to be generous and giving and so forgiving of any botched up steps I take on my way to living out a dream...a dream that that He planted in me in the first place.
For now, the focus is on the word change. I've submitted an article about change to ezine.com, but I'm waiting for it to be reviewed. Until then, why not check out these articles (on the same site) regarding change:
Coping with Change - Develop Your Personal Strategy
Affirmations and the Power to Change
Change and Transition - 10 Steps to Surviving Change Elegantly
Stop Looking Back!
Looking at Life Through Your Rearview Mirror