Monday, April 17, 2017

Four Hints You Are Religious Rather Than Spiritual


All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Is. 64:6

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

For most of my Christian life, I belong to a lively church that eschewed "religiosity." We never would've condoned it.

The only problem was--this house of worship was, unwittingly, quite religious.

For example, worship band would start. The chairs got folded, and we danced. First note...the ritual began. Never did it vary. If someone felt uncomfortable worshiping in this manner and was not an invalid, her salvation was questioned.

In order teach adult Sunday school or join the worship team or become a deacon--anything only a "mature" Christian could minister in,  a long span of time had to pass where you proved your sincerity. Did you participate in all work bees, attend every meeting, pay beyond your tithes, etc.

With pure hearts and good intentions, many churches become as religious as the high churches they condemn. Like religions consisting of rituals and rules to prove your worthiness, this adherence to the outside appearance chains us down.

Four Hints You May Be Religious And Not Spiritual

  1. Do you put on your faith? Is it on the outside--something you do like going to church on Sunday or Easter? 
  2. Do you barter with God? I'll go to Wednesday night prayer meetings if You...
  3. Do you work for approval? Is your volunteer activity for the sheer need of it or for the approval of men?
  4. Is your faith a series of rules to prove your intent? I won't listen to rock music. I won't drink. I won't stint one penny on my tithes. I will dress in a rigid, prescribed manner rather than simply modestly.
We live by faith, not by our works of righteousness (Eph. 2: 8-9). Religion is a cruel task master--and never allows any of us to be good enough. And should we attain respect--then we feel free to boast.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

No Matter How Small--YOU Change the World

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 1 Cor. 12: 17-19
Lin is as glorious as the Smokies at Cades Cover

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

On Saturday, a good friend and an AMAZING author Lin Stepp had a book launch for her newest novel . Being a stellar author myself, I wanted to support her. After all, I've sold my books at book fairs, signings, and festivals. I KNOW the struggle.

To my amazement, the place was packed. She sold more books in one day than I sell in a year (and have I told you I'm amazing? Check out The Poison We Drink rather than taking my word for it.

The old Carol, the one before God began working on my perfectionism and my need to work our my salvation (I know the Scriptures that tell me to work), would have been bummed that she had done so much better than I.

Unable to even find a minute to chat with Lin, hubby and I went off to explore Cades Cove--a world I love, and Neil doesn't get to see.
I am not much more than a teeny dogwood.

The next day at church, another friend Ann--one I'm friendly with, but our paths cross only at First Baptist, went out of her way to approach me.

She told me how much my posts on the Smokies blessed her. They brought back memories of the wonderful times when she and her late husband explored the mountains. She didn't refer to the blog I spend hours on or my books available in the church library--just my humble pictures of hikes with friends.

Once more God showed me not all of us are the eye of the body. In the natural, it's one of the body parts we find most beautiful. Neither are all of us the hair or fingernails--and believe me, my hair and fingernails need work. Still each of us, like the phacelia (see last week's post) or the humble, Southern dogwood, add a beauty and a function to the body  no one else can give. This world would not work the way it should without us.

You change the world.

  1. Only you can fulfill your purpose. What is your talent? Lin is a gifted marketer (and that doesn't detract from her writing skills). Others are accountants and others handymen. All are needed.
  2. God called YOU according to His purposes. Some of us are showy, giant hibiscus. Some are lowly phacelia. Some of us are bees, chased away when the blooms are cut. All of us have a reason to be here.
  3. You are a light on the hill reflecting God's glory. Only you can reach the people God brings into your life. Most of the time we're not aware of the effect we have. This is good. God gets the glory.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Strength in Weakness: Lessons from Phacelias



 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Heb. 10:25

And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. Lev. 26:8
Silver-leaf Phacelia, White-leaf Phacelia
non-descript single phacelia

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


When someone mentions the Great Smoky Mountains, most people think of sweeping vistas and giant bears.

At this time of year, different sightseers hunt the wilds. Wildflowers abound in spring. This week I fell in love with the lowly phacelia which come in both purple and white.

Bueschelschoen, Blossom, Bloom, Violet
a purple variant
Walking Old Sugarlands, we found a few. In this area, they were white phacelia growing in single clumps. Bending over to examine them, I discovered a beauty I could never have imagined, and of course my camera couldn't capture them either.

Tiny white, cup-shaped flowers were topped with a fringe that reminded me of a ballerina's tulle tutu.

Then we hit the Chimney's Picnic area. Here the fields were white with them, and no longer could any of my friends and I breathe because these flowers stole our breath.


Sweeping vistas of flowers carpeted the ground like snow. As a group, no one could deny the beauty each individual added to the scene.




This is us.


  1. No one can deny the beauty of the individual. No matter how insignificant each of us feels, how hidden in the recesses of life, we are beautiful.
  2. There is strength in numbers. By ourselves we may not seem strong or noticeable. As a group, no one can deny our strength.
  3. It's not good to be alone. It's then that we get trampled or lost in the grand views of life. Together we can change our world.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Four Ways You Are Beautiful: God's Wildflower

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Eccl. 3:11

You ARE Beautiful: A Wildflower in God's Kingdom

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


Looking out on Cades Cove off Rich Mountain Loop

Three friends and I spend as many Saturdays as we can walking the Smokies.

Me--give me a sweeping vista or a roaring waterfall and my jaw drops, my camera comes out and I never want to leave. Position a photogenic structure in front of it, and my dreaming mind swims with awe-inspiring ideas. John Oliver's cabin, pictured below, is the quintessentially picturesque scene for me.

Can you imagine living in this environment? John Oliver's cabin, Cades Cove
The other three keep their eyes down and discover a world I never experienced until I met them.

It's a world of the tiny, and the overlooked. It's a world many people call weeds and trample underfoot. A world so magnificent, we rob ourselves of infinite beauty and intricacy by not noticing--by not celebrating. It's the world of wildflowers.

Last week, we walked the Rich Mountain Loop off of Cades Cove. Here we discovered a teeny flower familiarly called Pussytoes.

Here it is from a human-eye view, rather nondescript. (And I'm sorry for the blurry rendition).

from a distance--antennaria solitaria--aka pussyfeet

Alone, it does little for the human eye. However, it spread into a beautiful polka-dotted carpet that captured our attention. None of us had seen this flower before and we knelt to examine it.
Antennaria solitaria--aka Pussytoes

I leaned in close and studied it. How magnificent. Look at the multitude of petals, the contrasting pistils and stamens, and the complexity of the flower.

This is us. So few of us in life make it as a giant hibiscus or bird of paradise, let alone a common, but exquisite and fragrant, tea rose.

That doesn't mean we aren't beautiful, complex, exquisite. It doesn't mean we don't add beauty to the world.

You are beautiful

  1. You are complex and intricately made. Look at your hand--the delicacy of the bones, the ability of the fingers to grasp, the opposable thumb and fingers that move independently of each other according to our whim. That's only a teeny portion of your intricacy.
  2. You create a world of beauty. Your smile encourages others. Your covered-dish at a pot luck feeds the hungry. Your family is comfortable in the home you establish. The world is bland without you in it.
  3. Gifts would be lost to creation without you. Scientists can stop a bridge from being built because a worm resides in that environment. How much more important is your existence to that of the smallest member of the environment?
  4. In unison, with like-minded believers, you carpet the world in love. There is strength in numbers.



When I look at the vista of the Smokies, I don't see the millions of Pussytoes or galaxes or trailing arbutuses carpeting the region. I only see the end effect.

So, too, in the church and in your life, you are a part of the splendid vista of God.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Your Ways--Not Everyone's

Regardless, each one should lead the life that the Lord has assigned him and to which God has called him. This is what I prescribe in all the churches. 1 Cor. 7:17


By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Neil and I sat in a little Italian restaurant in Spain. The waiter brought out a complimentary aperitif.
Drunkenness is sin; drinking is not. 

Early in my salvation, God directed me to not drink. I come from a family of alcoholics, and if you judged my inability to abstain by my coffee and chocolate consumption, you would understand why alcohol is a big no-no for me.

However, God never told my (mostly) tea-totaling husband to refrain. He got my drink. One free drink wasn't enough at this restaurant. During dinner, the waiter brought two glasses of wine. Guess who got mine?

I leaned forward and watched my husband sip. Vicariously, I enjoyed the beverages.

It is biblically inaccurate to say everyone must refrain from drinking, if not done to excess. It's a gray area where each individual must hear from God.

Unfortunately, not every Christian believes in personal conviction.

Try telling an avid home-schooler you believe your child belongs in a public school (or vice verse). Do you enjoy rock music? Personally, I love the sound of Queen and the looks of Adam Levine. To some friends of mine, this love makes me a reprobate, and they let me know it.

How about TV and movies? I'll watch an R rated movie because often the depth of the story--such as found in Rain Man--mitigates the foul language and racy scene where PG13 comedies are far too raunchy for my tastes.

Our God is a personal God.

Sin is indeed black and white (read Gal. 5:19-21). However, too many Christians are held in bondage to other believers and their values. We have to remember all of scripture, and 2 Cor. 3:17 is part of the canon. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Four Ways We Hear God's Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Do you hear God's small, still voice?
As most of you know, I'm an author. And anyone who has spent enough time with me has discovered I threaten to quit writing at least twice a year.

Okay. Twice a day.

Yet, God won't let me.

I know. This statement sounds cliche, but it's a fact, and here's one example.

My most recent book deals with a paramedic who needs to drop his Pharisaic attitude. The amount I know about medicine wouldn't enable me to pass a high school biology final. 

On top of that, the critique group I belonged to was falling apart. Along came Randy--a former paramedic. 

We worked together throughout this book. Once I finished The Poison We Drink (and my sister who is my beta reader claims it's the best one I've written), Randy stepped away from writing. We do entertain angels unawares--could Randy...?

More than likely, not. 

But it seems God works this way. He brings others into our lives to confirm what he's already been saying to us.

As we pursue God's purposes in our lives, how do we hear from God?

Four Ways We Hear God's Voice

  1. God's word--This is the most obvious. In scripture, we read His desires. We learn God's precepts. Then, in the stillness of our dreams, like the young prophet Samuel, we hear him speak.
  2. Desire--I've always been a dreamer, and have always dabbled in writing. Every time I "quit," within twenty-four hours, I'm back at the keyboard. It's not work. It's play.
  3. Circumstances--Like my relationship with Randy, odd bits of serendipity happen. We "just happen" to meet people who know someone who leads us where we need to be.
  4. Confirmation--We walk in the direction we believe God's leading us, and someone comes along with encouragement. During one of my recent periods of doubt, an acquaintance who never texts me did so. She said about Poison, "...Could identify on so many levels. Love how u bring emotion out of me..." Her few unexpected lines of praise renewed my spirit.
Live your dream--if it's wholesome, it's probably from God. Listen to his small, still voice and your footsteps will be established.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Conquer Perfectionism: Move Forward

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man 1 Cor. 10:13a

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Only one test with God--do our best and trust in Him.
In New York State education, we test our students at the end of the year with the regents. All students take the same test.

One common question for our English regents asked students to write the body of a letter. Throughout the year we told our kids the question only wanted the essence of the letter--not the addresses, the direct address the signature.

Every year while taking the test, the students would not remember.

One year during the exam, a girl raised her hand and asked me, "What am I supposed to write? What's the address?" In frustration, I told her to just write the body of the letter. Introduction. Body. Close. Then I slapped my hand over my  mouth. TMI.

Of course, our department head saw my boo-boo and turned me in for offering aid during the exam. The end result was that I was written up.

I made an honest mistake. However, because of my perfectionism, this error haunted me for years. I cried over having a letter in my file. I strove to be a better teacher. 

Worse of all, I harbored bitterness toward our department head. She had plenty of her own shortcomings, but the only real issue between God and me was my reaction to her.

What do you do when you sin?

You repent.

The case is closed.

However if you're a perfectionist, you obsess. You lose sleep. You try harder.

Only one thing is necessary--confess your wrong. Move forward. In an honest walk with Christ, you will fall into temptation. You will make mistakes.

YOU WILL BE FORGIVEN.

You must move forward.

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