Monday, September 26, 2016

Step 1: Beating Perfectionsim: Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection

"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

For many years, a man I'll call Quinten attended our church. Life damaged him. Not only cognitively impaired, Q suffered many emotional abuses. Drugs compounded the issues, and then he gave his life to Christ.

To the judgmental, Quinten had little to offer. In reality, not a person who knew him didn't love him. When he moved to live with family a distance too far from church, as a whole, the body of Christ cried.

Back in town one night, Q attended a CR meeting (Celebrate Recovery, a Christian variation on AA). The man who was supposed to give his testimony didn't show up. Our director, dismayed over the situation, asked for volunteers from those who attended.

As you can guess, Quinten was our only volunteer.

His testimony, which should have lasted about thirty minutes, went something like this:

"I'm Quinten and I had a problem with drugs. But I found Jesus Christ. Now I'm loved. That's all." He headed toward his seat.

Obviously, this didn't give us much information to work with when we'd break down into small groups. To the audience, Quinten's ability to testify didn't matter--only his success did. The group determined to give him a victory for volunteering to talk when no one else would.

A woman raised her hand, "How did you find the Lord?"

Quentin answered.

A man asked him a question, and Q answered. Then another person asked, and another, and another.

Fifteen minutes later, Quentin sat after receiving a standing ovation.

Not a perfect testimony or presentation, but he gave sacrificially all he had to help others. His humble pursuit in obedience to Christ's calling ministered as much as any polished preacher's sermon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sacred Pathways: How to Observe Your Quiet Times

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" Matt. 6:6

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

In my early faith and my idealistic church, emphasis was placed on prayer and worship. However, because the leadership prayed one way, we were encouraged to find God in the same manner.

Regular readers of this blog understand my reaction to this: 
Thumbs down icon
Thumbs down icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just as God has given us different personalities, there are different ways we, "go into (our) room to pray."

In his book Sacred PathwaysAuthor Gary Thomas contends we each find God best according to the unique personality God gave us.

Photo of an Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae...
Fritillary Butterfly
For me, God manifests Himself while I'm walking, I'll note a goldfinch or the light hitting a cumulus cloud or a fritillary butterfly--found only in a few states around Tennessee. Upon seeing this, my soul soars, and I know God has shined His love on me.

How do you find God?

Here are the nine common pathways Thomas points out:

  1.  Naturalists: We find God best while interacting with His creation.
  2. Sensates: We need to use all our senses--sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing
  3. Traditionalist: (Here my idealistic church would groan) We find God in liturgy and tradition.
  4. Ascetics: Solitude and a simple life makes God's touch palpable. Think of John Michael Talbot  who became a Catholic monk and recorded beautiful music in the 80s.
  5. Activists: God is found in fighting for justice--just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had.
  6. Caregivers: Like Mother Teresa, we find God in meeting other's needs.
  7. Enthusiasts: My idealistic church loved this. God had  to be celebrated in dance and shouts of victory or abundant weeping at the altar.
  8. Contemplatives: These are those who go into their closet and pray. It's that quiet, silent, traditional prayer.
  9. Intellectuals: These people find God in the sermons and Bible studies and actively pursuing him rationally. I see C.S. Lewis in this category

What Is Your Sacred Pathway?

Don't let anyone cow you into one mold. Each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made. Being unique, we each display a facet of God others cannot see.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Celebrate Your Strengths: Skip the Drudgery

My yoke is easy and my burden light Mt. 11:30

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Don't Do What You Hate

Good deeds are good: but they don't mean you have to do them.
Work your area of strength.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt compelled (read condemned) into doing good works you just don't like doing?

The Scripture from Matthew 11:30 always showed me how unsaved I was. Until recently, never was my yoke easy or my burden light.

A church I once belonged to would have a work day. Everyone was expected to show up. We'd rake lawns or spring clean or paint. All worthy activities, but things I hated--especially painting.

Then a need for evangelism would be emphasized. We'd go to a new program and then like good little robots, go door to door. Not a bad activity, but it gave me ulcers. Small groups would mean I would have to get a baby-sitter I couldn't afford and show up.

In my current church, we had a missions' conference. About fourteen women attended and virtually all of them loved every minute. I, once again, stood outside the circle of the "good people" and didn't like it. Condemnation overwhelmed me because missions are good.

The feeling of not doing something that is good and worthy, makes me feel inadequate. I see the joy others have in evangelism or cooking for the church or visiting shut-ins, and know I'm letting God down.

I'm not. 
And neither are you.

Do What You Love

Do you love children like I do? Time in nursery or youth events can fly by.
Do you sew or knit? Creating blankets for the Linus Project is no problem at all.
How are you with social media? Can you write a blog, retweet uplifting resources?
Do you love people one on one? (my favorite) Then mentor, take a friend to lunch.
Gardening? Do it and share it.

Max Lucado says in Cure for the Common Life, "The devil is determined to bump you out of your strengths."

The devil certainly bumped me out of strengths and had me riding the Merry-Go-Round of Misery.

Sometimes we get so busy doing good, we forget we're allowed to enjoy it.

Scroll down to last week's blog and see some resources that can help you determine your gifts.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

What are your strengths? Three free tests to find out

ž"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” 1 Cor. 12: 4-6.

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My Family

My Mother, Marianne and Janine
Ottawa, Canada during one
Sisters' Week
Every year, my sisters and mother come to my house and we celebrate "Sisters' Week." It's seven days of the four of us celebrating the relationship we have with each other.

Every year, I learn what I'm not and get to celebrate the strengths of the three women I admire most in the world.

First, Mom:
She's supportive, generous and has never been one to show favoritism. She celebrates each of our strengths. Whenever I'm faced with a decision, I ask, "What would my mother do."
For those of you who know Vera, you understand she is an empathetic rock.

Second, Marianne:
There is nothing artistic this woman cannot do. Ukrainian Easter eggs? Exquisite doesn't come close to definining them. Photography? I told her she should sell them. They rival Nat Geo. Painting and card making? No one equals her.
I have to watch that jealousy doesn't consume me everytime she posts something on facebook.

Third, Janine:
There is no great or more tender mother in the world. Six kids call her Mom. Each of them is nurtured. Each loved for who they are--and she'd be the first to say, they are unique and sometimes difficult because of their individuality. She works long hours to provide for them. At home, she makes sure they have what they need. She's my baby sister--and sometimes I wish I had the privilege of being her mother.

Your world

You, too, have family and friends like these. People who sometimes make you envy. Remember, though, God has made you with special gifts and callings. Just as I cannot be like my sisters, you're not supposed to be like others. They can spur you on to improve your life--but don't envy them.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Theodore Roosevelt (click to tweet)

Discover your strengths

Here are three personality tests that can help you discover your uniqueness. Have fun and discover yourself.
Four Temperments

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Links to three free tests to discover your strengths. (click to tweet)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Perfectionism: The Original Sin?

For who is God, except the LordAnd who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. Ps. 18: 31-33

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

If others love us unconditionally?

How could this man not love me unconditionally?

I know you will find this unbelievable, but sometimes I drive my husband, Neil, nuts. Hard to absorb, huh?

Every night, I curl into his arms and purr into his chest. Why do you love me?

With exasperation, he sighs. How can he articulate what he feels in the deepest core of his being?

Neil has no reason, no explanation. He loves me because he does. I don't have to do anything or be anything other than myself.

Still, I insist on driving both of us crazy rather than dwelling in the unfathomable, unconditional love of my husband.

And so it must be with God when we refuse to accept the pure and complete pardon He's given when we try to atone for past sins and current mishaps.

Then what about God?

In Psalm 18, verse 32, the psalmist clearly tells us GOD makes our way perfect. Not us, not religion, not other people. Only our God and Savior.

The serpent deceived Eve when she ate of the forbidden fruit. He told her she'd be like God (Gen. 3:5).

I posit that when we try to make ourselves perfect to earn God's love and His forgiveness and acceptance, we are making ourselves like God.

Not good.


Bask in His love, and if you abide in him as the fruit abides in the vine, He will make you holy.

Quick Tweets

Perfectionism is the original sin. (click to tweet)
Do nothing and be loved. (click to tweet)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Imperfections Don't Matter: Lessons from a Bad Solderer

My daughter claimed this was my best piece ever.
He has made everything beautiful in His time. Eccl. 3:11

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

With fear, I showed my teacher the stained-glass piece I needed help with. At a distance, it was gorgeous, but my soldering--the reason I took this class--needed work.

She raved about its beauty. Of course I grimaced and noted the unprofessional lead work.

"No one notices that," she said. "People only see the colors and the texture."


No one's ever accused me of being positive and non-sarcastic.

A fellow student, though, worked on a fabulous window piece. It would fill in a large half-circle window in her guest room. To say it was intricate, complex, and exquisite would be an understatement. Each week we applauded her work.

As the class neared the end, this woman experimented with a paste flux (used to make solder adhere). We gathered around since we all used liquid flux. Because of the attention we had to pay to her detail work, I noticed, for the first time, that her solder lines were no better than mine!

My teacher was right. No one notices the flaws. They notice us.

Lessons from Soldering

  1. We all have sinned. All have erred. Yet we have to remember, God has forgiven. Nothing has to be done to earn our forgiveness except to accept it.
  2. God doesn't see our flaws. He displays the colors of our lives. The texture of our character. We mus emphasize those and forget the flaws.
  3. With consistent practice (Bible study, prayer and good company), our flaws will lessen and the colors of our lives will only improve.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Stained Glass and Being Perfect

By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Heb. 10:14

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Stained Glass and Imperfection

I confess. I'm an addict.
The lighting is off,
but my latest stained glass

A couple of years ago, I discovered stained glass making. Now it's my obsession.

I love the colors, texture and transparency of glass. Years dabbling in all art forms have given me a good skill on composition and color. 

Soldering on the other hand?

Let's just say it's far less than perfect. And it's funny, people don't seem to notice. I sold a piece at a craft fair that displayed my strength--color and light. That's what the buyer noticed. We held it up to the sun, and she oohed over the play of light. Not only that, the customer praised my skill.

My skill?

You'd be proud of me. I did not point out the uneven soldering, bumps, or foiling faux-pas.

However, stained-glass perfection wasn't coming on my own, so I signed up for a class with an expert. She gave me little tips. They improved the things I did well, and the soldering. It looked good.

It's not going to win an art show. Yet. However the improvement was tremendous. My gift with glass is being made perfect as long as I continue to practice and learn from those better than I.

And that's the same with God's holiness.

How To Become Holy

We haven't arrived at holiness on our own. 
  1. It's already done for us by Jesus's sacrifice on the cross. 
  2. And our character in the world? That's being made holy (Heb. 10:14). With tips from the Master, giant strides can be made, and we will be better people today than we were yesterday.
  3. What does God consider holy? The only way to know is to read his word, spend time in prayer, fellowship with strong Christians and rest.
None of the above is any different than learning any other skill.

I will never be a Louis Comfort Tiffany. Never will I be Jesus Christ, either. That's okay. In Christ, I'm becoming more like him and in the day that I meet Him, I will be like Him. (1 John 3:2).

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