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Month: April, 2015

Cinderella…More than Just Another Fairy Princess Story

by Dawn Aldrich

cinderella shoeElla stood before her dying mother, frozen with fear. “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer,” whispered her mother. “Have courage and be kind.” Choking back tears, Ella nodded and sealed the secret between them with one last hug.

Little did she know, but this little secret would see Ella through life’s toughest trials.

While we know Cinderella’s story well—the beloved daughter of an English merchant who, after the death of her mother, is forced to live with her abusive stepmother and selfish, spoiled, homely stepsisters until she finds Prince Charming—Disney turns us on our heels in the 2015 remake of this childhood favorite.

Yes, all of the original fairy tale stays intact with its magic and transforming powers, but goes beyond the “happily-ever-after” ending, leaving us with four key lessons:  (1) What you’re called is not your doing, (2) Kindness begets goodness, (3) Goodness begets “magic”. (4) Forgiveness precedes freedom.

Lesson One: Have courage – what you’re called is not your doing

Cinderella and Prince Charming first meet while riding on horseback in the woods. After exchanging niceties, the prince asks Cinderella, “What do they call you?” Embarrassed by the truth, Cinderella plays coy, “It doesn’t matter what they call me.” And the prince, seeming to understand her secret, states, “I’m sure it’s none your doing.”

We all carry labels, you know, those names others slap on our backs that distort God’s image of who He created. What we’re called is not our doing, not our true identity. God holds our true identity, our true name. Throughout the Bible, God renames His faithful ones to match His purpose for their lives, signifying the death of their old identity and the birth of their identity in Him.  For example: Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of many), Genesis 17:5,  Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (God contended), Genesis 32:28, and  Saul (prayed for) to Paul (small, humble), Acts 13:9. Living that transformed life, living by the name God intended for us rather than the labels by which others call us, takes enormous courage because we’re constantly bombarded with the lies.

 Lesson Two: Kindness begets goodness

Cinderella repaid her bossy, demanding step sisters with humility and kindness over and over again. And in her weak moments, when she wanted to reply with anger, she bit her tongue and recited her mother’s words, “Be kind…be kind…Have courage and be kind.”

Both kindness and goodness are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), an outward sign of a Jesus-follower and the evidence of the Holy Spirit within. Jesus said if you know me, you know the Father who is in me. Certainly, Jesus shows kindness to all who know him, a characteristic of God the Father implanted in each one of us when we place our faith in His Son, Jesus. Kindness shows God’s goodness in us and through us.

Lesson Three: Goodness begets “magic”

Weary of living courageously and overwhelmed by her stepmother’s cruelty, Cinderella cries out for her Fairy Godmother. Surely, with a wave of her magic wand, her ugly rags will turn into something new and beautiful.

Isn’t that just like us? When we grow weary of the world’s cruelty, find we’ve reached the end of ourselves isn’t that when we cry out to God? Isn’t that when we wish He’d just wave a magic wand over our situations and make our lives fairy tale beautiful?

I know in some Christian circles the word magic is taboo, so let me clarify. Here, magic refers to God’s miraculous transforming power in our lives; that power that makes all things good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Oh, God isn’t meant to be used like Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother. No. But for those truly repentant hearts, God’s goodness will restore all the years (situations) that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).

Lesson Four: Forgiveness precedes our freedom

Upon leaving her childhood home with Prince Charming, Cinderella turns to her stepmother and says, “I forgive you.”

If you walk away with anything from this new version of the classic Disney film, it’s this: forgiveness precedes our freedom.

I could write an entire article (an entire book) about freedom in forgiveness. It’s not my idea or Disney’s, either. It was God’s idea since the Fall. God, in his mercy, grace and love for us–His creation–has given us the way to freedom; freedom from sin, but also freedom to live fully whole. Our pronounced faith in the salvation bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus frees us from sin and offers us life eternal in God’s presence, yes. But it isn’t something just for the future, it’s so we might live in complete freedom NOW! By repenting and accepting God’s forgiveness, we in turn are asked to offer forgiveness to those who offend us–give at it has freely been given to us. It’s not easy. It takes great courage. Courage to let go of our pain and loss. Courage to release the hold our offender has on us. Courage to let God heal. And when we do offer that forgiveness? That’s when heaven’s floodgates open wide and blessings flow and we truly become who God created us to be.

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Extravagance

by Wendy

extravagance

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!   2 Corinthians 9:15

“It’s too much,” my husband said, shaking his head in that predictable “no” way of his. My shoulders drooped and I looked down, part dejected, part defiant as I imagined my gift idea withering, evaporating into the atmosphere. My friend was no better. “It puts people off,” she scolded. “They feel like they can’t measure up.”

This refrain was not new. As far back as elementary school I would hatch big plans. Like a hungry animal eyeing a tempting large morsel of food, I latched onto “THE” new idea — the bigger and better birthday gift, the glossy front cover of the school report (complete with hand-drawn illustrated cover); the roadside stand to sell my cherry tomatoes; whatever it was, every new notion captured my imagination and I could not let it go.

Here I was again, shamed and disappointed to see yet another brilliant proposal shot down. Yes, it cost more than it should have. Yes, it was “more” than we had agreed upon. But still, something niggled at the back of my brain. The thought refused to be silent. I couldn’t hear its words, but something… something wasn’t right.

Tired and frustrated, I resorted to friend therapy, dumping my resentment and defensiveness in a verbal garbage heap at my girlfriend’s feet. “He just doesn’t GET it!” I moaned

All day, I muttered. A bit less intensely, but I muttered nevertheless. “I know I have to learn to do less, but what about generosity? What about abundance? They don’t understand!”

“No, they don’t,” a voice whispered. Wait… what? I knew that voice.

“Extravagance.”

Ahh, there it was. The word I was looking for, and coming from the Holy Spirit’s nudging, it had a holy overtone.

Unutterable, unfathomable abundance, more than I could ask or imagine. Heh. GOD spoke my language of lavish giving and huge schemes.

He didn’t skimp on creation (He made how many kinds of trees and leaves??); nor on the salvation story (“you want to save the whole world???”); nor on the birth of Jesus (He sent an angel to Mary to tell her what?); nor on His amazing death and resurrection (“He gave His only Son to be killed just to make an Easter miracle for us?”)

In fact, perhaps His Jesus gift was His biggest coup.

The biggest scheme in the universe unfolded, not watered down, not compromised. We didn’t see its grandeur until the resurrection, but oh, it was there, and even the stars in the universe sang in wonder.

Extravagance. God gave everything, a very part of Himself, to communicate His love. He cloaked it in humility so we wouldn’t be intimidated; He gave anonymously so we wouldn’t compare. But He gave in such huge measure that no one in the universe could trump His gift.

Extravagance. He didn’t mind the excess, and He wasn’t pressured to conform.

He got it. His language of giving was always big, if quiet. He knew I had bits of His image in there (“in the image of God He created them…”). He knew why the ideas took hold. He understood. His generosity leaped all over creation from the beginning of time, and He was not ashamed.

Smiling, I quietly put the castigated gift idea aside, bidding it goodbye. There would be other ideas, more appropriate ones. The Creator left a hint of His glory inside me, and the extravagant giver would not be silenced.

In Darkest Night, the Brightest Light

by mymorethanme

woman looking out windowHe reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him. Daniel 2:22

In the upstairs room where I daily go, I closed the door behind me and sat cross-legged on the floor. Cross-legged, cross-eyed, cross. A promise had been released, a promise had been received, a promise had been rescinded. What the hell? And I mean what the hell. I hurt like hell.

I wasn’t really angry. My heart had sunk deep in my gut and was sick. I felt abandoned, rejected, alone. Betrayed. Lost. I had felt the whisper breeze of freedom blow through my body and suddenly, rudely, felt the wind knocked out of me as the cell door clanked shut in my wake.

So I sat, staring out the smudgy window, searching wispy white feather clouds for sacred answers through eyes streaming tears the clouds weren’t shedding.

Deluged by dismay, a mudslide of emotion spilled from the pain pit I had struggled to stifle in order to be holy.

Shoulders sagging, wracked with soggy sobs I whisper-shouted at the sky, “WHY?”

The sky stayed silent.

It was day, but it was night.

And then, a new day dawned.

As I was giving into all-consuming darkness I felt, in the pain place, a stirring. A faithfully flickering flame still fighting for air. Dead center in deepest darkness I found love alive, still lit. I sigh-breathed on it and felt it grow. I felt its warmth. I saw its dance.

In the pain, hope lived. In the pain, life lived. In the pain, love lived. In the pain, promise lived. In the deepest, darkest night, light lived. My Promise had not deserted me. My Promise was devotedly mine.

Woeful whys turned to vehement cries as washed by weeping I lifted head and hands and laughed and praised and sang.

Wishy-washy doubts drifted away as bold declarations of goodness, faithfulness and love poured forth.

Muddy waters ran clear; I was cleansed.

In my body pain remained, however, my heart was healed. Still fractured, I stood whole. Feather light, I pulled open the door and walked out.

I was free.

A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push. -Ludwig Wittgenstein

Overcoming Fear

by Rob Dunne

fear

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Growing up, I adored my paternal grandmother. She doted on me and in her eyes, I could do no wrong. The two hour commute from Connecticut to Brooklyn kept us from spending more time with one another. At the end of every visit, I would cry knowing that distance was going to separate us once again.

When I was six or seven, my parents offered to let me stay with my grandparents. I was so excited at the prospect of having my grandmother all to myself. They had a big cast iron tub that I loved to play in. Even better was the swimming pool sitting in their tiny backyard. The house had a third floor with lots of nooks and crannies for hide and seek.

Things were going swimmingly when I first arrived. I put my things in the guestroom and placed Pooh on the bed. To this day, the smell of that old bear still reminds me of my grandmother and her house in Brooklyn. Suddenly, a thought niggled at the back of my mind. My parents are going to leave me here.

As darkness set in, I began to panic. The idea of being with my grandmother by myself sounded great when initially presented to me. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I was going to miss my family. Maybe having them around while visiting my grandmother wasn’t so bad after all. Fear began closing in on me like a vice grip. A quick phone call home failed to alleviate it. I wanted to go home immediately. The very next day, we were on a bus back home.

My grandmother successfully raised three boys of her own. What was I so afraid of? It was fear of the unfamiliar and unknown. Would she leave the light on in the hallway as I slept? What about noises that go bump in the night? Can she soothe my wounded knee if I scrape it in a fall? Regardless of the root, the fear was unwarranted.

Even now there are times when I allow fear to get blown out of proportion. It happens when God prompts me to pray for a stranger or share a word of encouragement with them. Concern about how they will react to my request may cause fear. The chance that the prayer will not work immediately also causes fear.

I believe that pride is at the root of most of these fears. Getting rejected or looking foolish overcomes my desire to follow God’s leading to pray for another person. Fortunately, the remedy for fear is love. The bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. When we say yes to God’s leadership of our lives, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills us with love which helps us overcome any fear that tries to hinder us. This in turn allows us to boldly follow God and cast aside our pride.

Are there times when we will reach out to someone and have them reject an offer of prayer? Yes. Most people, however, are genuinely touched when you offer to pray with them. Regardless of whether they receive healing in their bodies or their situation is changed in any way, someone took the time to reach out to them and selflessly love them.

Throughout your day, ask God if there is someone He wants to impact through you. Tap in to the spirit of love that God has given you and overcome your fears!

Find Your Voice 

by mandyade

find-your-voice-square-badge

find-your-voice-square-badge

I had a dream one night that I was in an arranged marriage – married to someone I didn’t know or love. In the dream I was very upset, but I assumed I had to go along with it. When I awoke I knew the Lord was speaking in the dream: The people who had arranged the marriage actually had no power over me to make it happen. The only reason I was silent was because I thought I had no choice. I didn’t realize that my ‘yes’ or ‘no’…my voice…carried authority and power that could alter my future.

 

This blog is not about arranged marriages it’s about our voice inside. Our ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Our will. Our will is our ‘decider’ created to steer and propel our lives in a certain direction. When we use our will to agree with God we see God’s power intercept our reality. Our inner voice is there to say ‘yes’ to God’s will as it is in heaven and ‘no’ to every other idea.

 

Most of us would never disagree with God intentionally, but we can disagree with God by default – when we allow our voice of agreement to become silenced. There are times when we may think we have to submit to a life of brokenness and confusion – all things earthly, not heavenly. The truth is, our inner voice is not only for directional decisions, it is there so that we can agree with God.

 

When we agree with God we open the channel between us and God from which His good desires can flow into our lives and circumstances. There are times when we give up our voice because it seems that we have no choice, but we have influence over seen and unseen things more than we realize when we permit our inner voice to agree with the voice of God.

 

The woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20) had a hopeless condition. She had a disease that made her ‘unclean’ so she could not even access Jesus for healing. She could not move in a crowd let alone reach out in her unclean state to touch the Rabbi Jesus. She could have thought that she had no choice except to watch the Healer from a distance, but this lady gave expression to her inner voice that cried out for justice against sickness.  She pushed through the crowds, past the rules of her time and her own fears and touched Jesus. The rest is history. 

Meditate on these and let your inner voice agree with God:

YES to moving ahead in God’s dream for my life.

NO to discouragement.

YES to peace.

NO to confusion.                                                                                 

YES to joy and expectancy.

NO to disillusionment and cynicism.

 

When you meditate on the ‘yes-es’ you will naturally verbalize the voice of your inner man. What your inner voice says will involuntarily spill out of your mouth and life (Matthew 15:18). If your speaking is continually negative or lethargic you’ve got a clue about your inner voice – make a decision to say ‘Yes God’ on the inside.

 

Now give expression to your inner voice by living your life according to your inner cry. If we don’t release our voices we will default into living a life that contradicts and silences our true inner voice.

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