Monday, December 5, 2016

Relieve Holiday Stress in God's Eden

A distant view of Angel Falls before we walked out on the rocks
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; (Gen. 2: 8-10)

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

In this crazy season, we need to find a Garden of Eden--a place where we discover peace and the wonders of God.

For my friends and me, hiking the Smoky Mountains or the Big South Fork bring us to God's doorstep.

My hiking buddies love the little things--the smallest of wildflowers, a "face" in a rock or a funny shaped shelf fungus.

I'm a big picture, sweeping vista sort of gal. Perched on a rock face with a bird's-eye view of vast valleys or tumbling water is as close to heaven as I'll get in this lifetime. Top it off with the sun on my skin and wind ruffling my clothing, I feel God.

Take a chance. Climb out on the rocks and see what God has done
God created a perfect world--in the beginning. 

Man messed it up with sin. Not only do we destroy our habitat with our destruction of one another, but the material lust, best exemplified during Christmas.

Take time, both in this season, and in life, and find the world God created for us to love and enjoy. It doesn't have to be in the grandest of mountains or the vastest of beaches. It can be on your front porch, snow-shoeing through the Adirondacks, a walk through an arboretum or along a boardwalk.

Find your Garden of Eden
God created healing in nature.

Take a moment. Explore. Feel God in the brush of wind on your cheek, the nip of cold on your nose, the fragrance of frost and woodsmoke.

Where is it that you find God in nature? 

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Four Ways to Love Your Job

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?I've been there, and I know. Work is a gift from God. Eccl. 3:22

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I had about fifteen years to go as a high school English teacher before I could retire. I was forty, and chances were, I could die before retirement.
Still I trudged into school chanting to myself, "I hate this job."
Changing careers wasn't possible--I'd lose too much. Plus, as I've told so many people, I lack imagination. I can't imagine being anything other than a teacher (unless it is a best selling novelist--do check out The Poison We Drink due out Dec. 1).
One day, the proverbial light bulb clicked on in my head, and I discovered how to love my job.

Four Ways To Love Your Job:

  1. Tell yourself you love it. As I walked into school, I apologized to God for the "lie" I was about to tell. I said, "I love this job." Every time I groaned about it, I repeated my thanksgiving. It didn't take long before I loved going to work.
  2. Tell yourself about the benefits it produces. In my case, the benefits were obvious. Students learned, graduated when on to college and careers. Aside from the educational value, I often spoke into the emotional and personal lives of my charges. For your job, do you produce a service? Do you help others? Do you like life more enjoyable? Each job carries a special fulfillment.
  3. Tell yourself the benefits it gives you. Do you get health benefits? Fellowship? A salary? Do you like it? I do stained glass because I love it. Look for the personal benefits you obtain through your work.
  4. If all else fails, look for a job that gives you at least one point of satisfaction. Life is short, too short to hate the gift God gave you before the fall from grace.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

It's Your Job: It's God's Gift

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?I've been there, and I know. Work is a gift from God. Eccl. 3:22

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Work is a gift of God. Love your job/love your life.
I've always joked and told friends I had no imagination when it came to work. My mom stuck me in school, and I stayed there until I was too old to work any more.

Being a retired teacher is harder than it sounds. I miss my students and the challenge of learning new curriculum. No longer collaborating with peers, many of them much younger than I, left an empty spot in my psyche.

It wasn't always so. For years I trudged into work, and like you chanted, "TGIF" when Friday rolled around. Soon, praising the weekend wasn't enough. Someone recognized Wednesday as the half-way point to the weekend, so we rejoiced in "Hump Day."

The years to retirement were counted down.

I wished my life away.

And that is a waste of a life. 

The secret to happiness isn't leisure. British Philosopher Alan W. Watts said it well, “This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” 

And it's scriptural. God did not make work the curse. When He created Adam, God put him in the garden of Eden to tend and to keep it (Gen. 2:15). Adam didn't lounge around all day eating grapes from the vine, or olives from the tree. He worked. And it was paradise.

Results of Hating Your Job

  1. If you die tomorrow, what then? Who knows the days of your life. Why not live it playing in the things you love.
  2. We'll hate our lives. Most of our lives are spent laboring. If we despise our work, most of our living is ruled by drudgery.
  3. We miss our calling. Christians often think their ministry must be purely spiritual--lead music, watch Sunday school, head off to Bunga-Bunga and be a missionary. It's not. It's your daily living.
  4. We'll ruin our witness. This is the least of the consequences. Everyone watches people. All love gossip. In proclaiming Christ but denigrating our careers, all will see we don't do what we say.

Work is part of our redemption

We were given dominion over the fields and the creatures long before we fell from grace. Work is part of the joy of living.

So what can you do if you hate your job?

Of course, I have solutions. Tune in next Monday.

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Work is God's gift to us. (click to tweet)
What is the result of hating our jobs? (click to tweet)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ending Perfectionism Step 4: Life Is an Experiment, Not a Test

Cast your bread upon the water. Eccl. 11:1

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Life for me is about commitment. If I volunteer to do something or I decide to try a new endeavor, something inside of me compels me to keep with it--even if the act makes me miserable.

My first church underscored this trait. It taught God wanted a committed people. Of course, I took it to the extreme.

Believing life's a test and not an experiment leads to two issues if  you struggle with perfectionism/legalism.

  1. You commit to nothing because doubts about being able to do a good job of it paralyze you.
  2. You find yourself laboring in areas that God does not want you to work in, and hating it.
For example, I love babies. I volunteered to work nursery because I longed to play with the children. The kids' director asked if I would work in the kids' worship. Being unable to say no, I agreed, but this wasn't God's path for me. While I loved the children, I began to dread the Sunday's I worked.

I had several choices:

  1. spend my limited time doing something I wasn't called to do
  2. learn to hate the second Sunday of the month
  3. believe I was a failure because I couldn't keep my commitment
  4. decide this wasn't my path, choose another and love my service to Christ.
I chose #4

Life's not a test. Experiences aren't a done deal. 

  1. Try different things.
  2. Be willing to change paths.
  3. Sacrifice when God is telling you to.
  4. Love the life God has given.
Are you struggling on a path you don't like? Is it of God? If not, how can you change your direction?

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Step 3: Overcoming Perfectionism--Ask For Help

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" Eccl. 4:9-12.

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Woe to woman when she is alone.
When I was a little girl in school, I'd never raise my and ask a question. Fear of looking stupid made me puzzle out facts until I understood. As a result, I struggled in areas, especially math, that could've been much easier had pride not gotten in the way.

My husband is this way as well since he is the quintessential perfectionist. If I suggest getting help with a project, he assures me he's fine and can do it on his own. Unless it's on YouTube, he'll puzzle it out--or not finish the chore.

As an adult, this bad habit still lingers in my life. Times, as a single mother, I'd be laid up with the flu or rib-breaking bronchitis (not an exaggeration), and I'd ask no one to help with a meal or to take me to the doctor.

As a result, bitterness set in. I belonged to a church that preached community, but no one reached out to me. They should've known, I'd moan. Other people who acted helpless on a regular basis were helped, but me? I'd lay on my couch, unable to move and still have to tend my daughter.

I was wrong--not mistaken, not self-sufficient. I was proud, and it was sin. Who was supposed to guess I wanted help? Last I asked God, none of us are mind readers.

Perfectionists don't like to ask for help. It shows they're human and flawed. Shows they can't do it alone.

Worse, it tells God we need no one but ourselves.

The Lord designed us to need others. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, a scripture I'd used to club those who didn't intuit my needs, convicts me. I cannot live my life alone. And neither can you.

Ask for help. You were not created to do it alone. 

Three steps in overcoming perfectionism 

  1. Strive for excellence--not perfection. Work all you do as unto the Lord. Do a good job, enjoy your labor. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's God's domain.
  2. Let it go. You can't do it all, nor are you designed to do so. Labor at what you love. Serve where you are able, but you're not required to do everything. Then let the rest go.
  3. Ask for help. Man was not meant to live alone. Adam struggled without Eve. God knew this--thus he made a helper for him. This isn't a license to nag the world to be your slave--but people love to feel needed and are more than happy to help their friends and neighbors.
As a recovering perfectionist, I can tell attest, these steps are hard, but you can do them.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

13 Scary Things About Perfectionism

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Trick or Treat? Perfectionism is no treat and will always trick you into missing grace.

No matter what you struggle with--service, household issues, art, work, family or church--striving for perfectionism will only make your life miserable. Here are thirteen scary things about perfectionism.
  1. You can't do it all. Believe me, I've tried.
  2. Someone is always better to you, and that person isn't even God.
  3. You'll feel awkward in social settings because everyone is better, happier or more adjusted than you.
  4. Someone's always going to judge you both for what you're working so diligently on--or for what you, by necessity, left undone.
  5. Everything else will fall apart as you obsess over the one thing you're trying to perfect.
  6. Someone's going to say, "That's perfect, but what about...?"
  7. Once you do it perfectly, pride will step in. The Pharisees were the ultimate perfectionists.
  8. Emotionally you will exhaust yourself.
  9. Physically, it will make you sick--raise your blood pressure, make you overeat.
  10. You'll fail to see all that you do well because you're so focused on your failures.
  11. Because you know you'll fail, you'll procrastinate.
  12. You'll avoid trying new things.
  13. You'll lose the joy of living.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Overcoming Perfectionism: You Can't Do It All

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Col. 3:23

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Our church has formed a woman's group we call Tea At Two. Our social was formed, in part, to create friendships among its members. In our socialization, we use our gifts to minister to our community.  It meets twice a month.  This week we're putting together goody bags for the police officers.

Tea At Two

I'm not going. 

And in my perfectionist state, I feel a little guilty. However, by attending, I'm spreading myself too thin (if only that resulted in weight loss!) I know my calling and am learning my limitations.

In some churches, my attitude would be condemned. (And in the past, it had been). The project is worthy. It's church sanctioned. Most of my friends--and certainly, those who form the leadership foundation--will attend.

Nevertheless, I'm not going.

We're each given twenty-four hour days and a limited number of gifts  Mine are in mentoring, writing and glass work. My calendar is full. To attend, even though it's a good fellowship and people want me there, would weaken what God has called me to do.

The above Scripture says "Whatever you do." It doesn't say, do it all.

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