Monday, September 27, 2010

The Cocoon of Transformation

In all my readings about the theories of leadership for grad school, the theory of transformational leadership has resonated with me. It seems to me that the people I look to as leaders in my life are the ones who have helped to transform me in some way. And the leadership experiences that have been the most satisfying for me are the ones where I have witnessed a transformation occur in the group. Transformation truly is a beautiful thing!

While beautiful, transformation is also a difficult process. A caterpillar does not transform into a butterfly in the blink of an eye. When you really think about it, it’s not a comfortable transformation. Trapped in a tight and uncomfortable cocoon, the caterpillar waits in darkness as time and biochemical reactions systematically change its physiological and anatomical structure. The result of this long and arduous process is a stunning and fragile butterfly.

So often, when I think of the process of transformation, I think of the beginning and the end, the caterpillar and the butterfly. Rarely do I dwell on the most important part—the cocoon, the place where transformation actually occurs. Without the cocoon, there is no butterfly. For this reason, the ability to learn from adversity is critical to the development of not only leadership, but to personal character development as well.

Jesus’ words in Mark 8 reflect this transformational process as well when He calls to the crowds and disciples to take up their crosses and lose their life for His sake. If we want to be transformed we have to let go and die. Just like the caterpillar has to let go of being a caterpillar and take on a new identity as a butterfly, we are called to die to our old way of life and thinking. But again, I am focusing on the beginning and the end and not the process of transformation itself.

This avoidance is natural for me, I think, for all of us really. Personally, I do not possess the discipline of reflection. I have tried so many times to make reflection a habit, but I still am not able to. I keep trying to think of reasons why and I think that fear has a lot to do with my dislike of reflection. I fear what conclusions I’ll come to as I think through past circumstances. I fear that I won’t be able to change no matter how determined and disciplined I am. I fear that I’ll fail and have to keep reliving that failure again and again.

The truth is that I let fear keep me from transforming as a person. I keep hoping and pushing to become a butterfly, but I don’t want to get in the cocoon to make it happen. Transformation cannot happen without a cocoon. But it’s clear, if I want to follow Jesus, if I want to be a better leader, if I want to grow as a person, if I want to be a butterfly, I must transform. I must enter the cocoon. Slowly, but surely, my desire to transform is overwhelming my fear of failure.

What’s the answer to the problem of fear? John encourages the believers in his letter 1 John writing that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (4:18). God is love and God casts out fear. Paul reminds the Roman Christians that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31) Nothing, not even fear can separate us from “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).

I am beginning to be convinced that the fear in my life is a direct result of me misunderstanding the character of who God is or of believing the lies that the enemy tells me about myself and about God. We often fear what we do not understand. Reflection and meditation on truth and past experiences can help us to understand better the truth about ourselves and about God. This is why reflection is such an integral part of the transformation process. Like the cocoon, the reflection does not happen overnight. It takes time for transformation to take place.

Now the question is whether or not I’ll enter the cocoon and allow God to transform me more. To change my systems of thinking, to change what values are important to me, to change my dreams, and to change my heart. The heart is the real crux of the matter. For the transformation to be real, it must take place in the heart. Perhaps this is why we must pay careful attention to the state of our hearts and allow God to transform them into His image.

I’m always amazed at the power of God’s love to transform. For me, the most encouraging stories to hear are the stories of transformed lives. Real and good change can happen when God takes us through the cocoon and transforms us into more of who He made us to be. So if you’re ever feeling down on yourself and wonder if you will ever change into a butterfly, remind yourself of the power of God to transform. Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, He has transformed into His sons and daughters and He continues to transform His children into clearer and brighter reflections of His good and loving nature. So, let us not be afraid of the cocoon of transformation and trust Him to be faithful and good to bring us through to the end.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This thing called LIFE.

I feel like I’ve been learning quite a bit about the nature of life in these past few weeks. Granted, all I’m able to share are observations, not answers, but I wanted to process what I’ve observed a bit, thus this blog post should help to do that. And I’ll admit, I’d like to hear your thoughts too. I mean, we are all in this pretty awesome thing called “life” together, yes?

“Waiting for life to start…”

I was babysitting last week and the kids were watching the Sound of Music (one of my favorite movies!). Of course, we watched the “I am 16 going on 17” scene with Leslie and Rolf. The part where Rolf sings “waiting for life to start” caught my mind. I had felt like after coming home from the Institute this summer, I was waiting for my life to start. It was the same feeling I experienced after leaving JBU and returning home after graduation. Life would start when I got a job, was on my own, married and started a family, and a number of other “grown up” things. Needless to say, I was getting a little bit frustrated being home, just waiting for life to start. However, the more I dwelled on that phrase sung by Rolf, the more I realized that it wasn’t true. Life has already started. I don’t need to wait for it. The more humbling thought that followed is that life doesn’t wait for us either and if I don’t start living, I’m gonna miss a lot of great opportunities to live.

So, what is this thing called life?

Before sending us off after the FLI graduation, two of our professors, the Lees, talked about life and what it is—a series of mountains and valleys. They reminded us that most of life occurs as we live in the valleys. We will have mountaintop moments and we should remember and celebrate those moments, but we also have to move on. We can’t live on the mountaintop forever. God calls us work among the people who live on this earth. I’m learning that the valleys are not always of “the shadow of death”. They can be mundane at times, but that’s life and, in a way, it’s a sort of beautiful mundane.

Life is a choice.

All this thinking about life brings to mind a verse that my high school teacher was passionate about—Deuteronomy 30:19. “I have set before you life and death… therefore, choose life so that you and your children may live.” Life is a choice; one that we must make everyday. And what is the life being described in this verse? In this context, life is loving the Lord and obeying Him with your whole heart. At first this sounds like such a “Christian” answer, but stop and think about it. It’s so true! Loving God and obeying Him brings such freedom. Freedom that frees us to truly live life to the fullest!! Isn’t that awesome?!? The only catch is we gotta choose to obey and to love Him and that’s not always a natural thing to do. At least, that’s been my experience. Sometimes, I have to work really hard at choosing life. But I know the times where I have followed and obeyed Him have been so full of satisfying life. Isn’t He so good to us?

So, summary of observations: 1) we don’t need to wait for life to start, it already started a long time ago, 2) life is a series of mountains and valleys and most of life happens in the valleys, and 3) we have to choose to live. Well, there you have it, that’s what been going through my mind as of late. Now, I want to pose a question to you: what are your thoughts on this incredible topic of life?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Introduction- Ebenezer

I've been intending to post to this blog for a while now, but simple intentions don't get the job done. :) Here's the post I worked on about a month ago when I was at the Focus Leadership Institute- just my thoughts on this blog and what I hope that it will be.

"Starting a blog is a subject that has been repeatedly brought up among my friends and me and quite a few of my friends have begun blogs post-graduation. After our women’s retreat at Glen Eyrie a few weekends ago concerning the concepts of an Ebenezer, I felt like God was gently telling me that a blog can be an Ebenezer. It’s a concept that I have chewed on for quite a while, turning it over and over in my head. Finally, I asked God, “Should I start a blog?” His response? A gentle whisper of “Proclaim my Word.”

What is an Ebenezer? Here’s an excerpt of the Sunday Summary that I sent out about it:
On Saturday, we had a women’s retreat at Glen Eyrie, a beautiful castle by Garden of the Gods. The theme of the retreat was “Ebenezer—thus far has the Lord brought us.” Introduced in 1 Samuel 7, “Ebenezer” is a term for something that reminds us of what the Lord has done in our lives and of the faithfulness that He has shown. So often, we forget God’s faithfulness in our lives. I know that I do. We need “Ebenezers” to remind us of how God has worked in faithfulness and mercy towards us. At the retreat, we spent time reflecting on the Ebenezers in our lives and sharing them with one another. There were amazing stories of God’s faithfulness in tough times! I would encourage you all this week to reflect on your Ebenezers. What are some things that remind you of the faithfulness of God and how can you better remember God’s faithfulness when times get tough? Celebrate the times in which God has revealed to you His loving character and remember who He is!"

So, that's my hope for this blog, that it will help us to remember God as we go through life.