Monday, July 11, 2016

God Is Love: What Does That Mean For Us?

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.1 John 4:16

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Two years ago my daughter discovered what she thought was menopause wasn't. A pregnancy test delivered the news that baby number three would arrive in August.

Sarah didn't need another baby. She had two phenomenal kids (even if I say so myself). Caroline (don't you like her name?) was twelve and David nine. Sarah's job was secure and daycare expenses finally ended. Time had come to retire the 2000 Honda and maybe get a minivan.

Luciana changed their plans.

It didn't matter a mite.

From the instant we knew L was on her way, we loved her. Seeing Luciana as she breathed her first, confirmed and solidified that love. Unconditional.

A (grand) parent's love is the closest we can approximate God's. He didn't need us. Jesus had the Father's entire love before any of us came around. The Apostle John  says in John 17:23, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." (emphasis mine).

God the Father and His Son needed no one. Their world was complete. Yet the Triune God has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). 

Before we did anything good, even while we sinned, He loves us. It doesn't change. Ever.

This does approximate L's mess.
Sarah still loves her.
Jesus loves you--mess and all.
At eighteen months, little Luciana discovered markers. The other day she covered a paper with blue in. She covered her blankets, bed, wall, legs, arms and mouth with it too. Her mamma didn't stop loving her--as a matter of fact, Sarah took photos and posted them for the world to see.

We serve a proud Father who loves us just the way we are. Just as Sarah bathed her daughter and washed her bedding, Jesus will clean us up and then brag about us.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Three People to Blame When Saying No

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Friends called my daughter.

Being a good mother, I understood her need for privacy, so I washed dishes while I listened. (I don't think the ploy fooled Sarah). They wanted her to go to a party. Everything in her body language indicated stress: she twirled her hair with her fingers, frowned, licked her lips, tensed her shoulders.

After five minutes, Sarah asked, "Mom, can I go to a party tonight?"

Being the indulgent mom I am, I gave the only answer possible. NO.

Instantaneously, her body language changed. Sarah relaxed, flopped back in her chair, and a smile played around her lips.

Her voice defied the apparent relief when she resumed her conversation. "My MOTHER said no!"

When she hung up, she hugged me. Peer pressure made her want to turn down a party that would've involved no adult supervision. In addition, alcohol and boys would be involved. She had an excuse all teens understood--an unreasonable mother.

From this incident, I've learned key lessons in saying no:

Blame it on someone else.

How to say no:

  1. Blame God. In all your endeavors, you need to pray. That is understood in all my blog posts. However, if God has called you to do something else, or to forgo this particular request--tell people, this is not God's direction for you. This isn't a cop-out. It's obedience.
  2. Blame a spouse or parent. Of course, I'm not implying that you lie. My husband always admonishes me to stop taking on too many activities. Because my first priority is Neil, I listen. He's wiser than I give him credit for most time, and more correct than I. Sometimes I can turn down an activity because "my husband would be unhappy."
  3. Blame yourself. We all have gifts. Mine are with youth--birth to early twenties. I love working with this age group. Although everyone says I'm extroverted, I'm not. It's the teacher in me who can push through discomfort being on display and enjoy interacting in an extroverted manner. I'd rather sit on the sidelines. Choose ministries that enhance your personality.
Probably all of this comes back to "blaming God."

Remember: we are not saved by works. Jesus admonished Martha for overworking even though every thing she did was good. Mary was "lazy." She only sat at Jesus's feet. That's all we have to do.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

How To Know If It's God's Perfect Will

Neil made this guitar with Dave Nichols--
a guitar builder for Gibson Guitars
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. I Cor. 12:18

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

How this recovering perfectionist envies her husband, Neil. He plays bass and loves all sorts of music. He gets to play in our church's worship band and for Celebrate Recovery. Part of his ministry is in the set-up and take down of the music systems. Seeing as he owns enough equipment to start a recording studio--it's no big deal.

Actually, he finds it quite enjoyable.

Recently we had a church meeting to look at ministries to meet the needs of the community. One woman said we needed to visit shut-ins and take food to them. I wholeheartedly endorsed the endeavor.

Except my heart sunk with the thought of this introvert who spends hours in her own mind writing her fantasies on a computer screen. Cooking? Yuck. That's why they invented pizza and Chinese food. So cook AND visit? 

It is definitely a need someone should do. It sounds like a cop-out, but that someone is not me.

In my former authoritative church, condemnation would be hurled at me. If this became a mission of the congregation, everyone would be required to do it with joy. If you didn't perform happily, you wouldn't be eligible to do what you love. That is NOT God.

Who wouldn't love ministering to little ones like this?
For me, my love is babies. I volunteer in nursery. Holding infants, changing diapers, playing on the carpet is a piece of heaven for me. When the new schedule comes out, I count the days until I get to play.

Can you imagine my shock when the youth minister said no one seems to have any interest in serving in nursery?

That's the glory of God. Our gifts are a joy--first to us and then to others.

Yes, there are times I serve in the kitchen or work at a fundraiser. They're sacrifices I make for a church body I love. However, true ministry serves you as much as anyone else.

Don't be cowed into works. (click to tweet) God wishes to bring you life, and that more abundantly.

Three criteria to know if you're moving in God's perfect will  

  1. Do you love doing it?
  2. Is what you're doing Biblical?
  3. Do you and others benefit from it?
If you said yes to all, that's God's will. No to any one of those, you need to re-think your ministry.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

God Is Your Friend: 5 Qualities of Good Friends

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:13-14

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I've recently moved to a new state--one foreign in all ways to New York where I've lived my entire life.

One of the first things on our agenda was to find friends. And we did find them--plenty of friends to augment the wonderful people we know in Malone.

And what were the qualities that made a friend? How do they compare with God's friendship with us?

Not only His sheep, but His Friends.

Qualities of Friends:

  1. They find you. Of course this is reciprocated. During one of our first forays into forming friendships at a fellowship meals at church, Wilma introduced herself. She took us under her care like Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker Suite. Because of her, we settled into First Baptist.
    1. So, too, God finds us. If He draws us to Him because He loves us, He's not going to ditch us if we do something wrong.
  2. They enjoy your company. Shann and Ann invite us out all the time. We explore restaurants and concerts in the park. We share stories and conversation and life histories simply because we enjoy each other's company.
    1. So, too, God enjoys our company. He spoke to Moses, "as a man speaks with his friend" (Ex 33:11).
    2. God is no respecter of persons, Acts 10:34. If Moses and Abraham and the disciples were deemed friends, then we are, too.
  3. A friend speaks the truth to you in grace.  A good friend tells you when you have lettuce in your teeth or your skirt is tucked into your pantyhose--without mockery or disdain. She, too, will tell you when you've done wrong or hurt her.
    1. God loves us too much to keep us on a life path leading to destruction. Therefore, when corrected, it doesn't mean we've failed. He's simply "getting the lettuce out of our teeth."
  4. Friends are trustworthy. My friends do what they say they are going to do. If we're going to meet at a restaurant, my friends show up. If told I will be invited to a party, the invitation comes. I leave my purse with them when I head to the ladies' room.
    1. "In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed" (Ps. 22:4-5). Like a good human friend, if something doesn't work out the way we planned, there is a reason.
  5. Friends are supportive. When my Tennessee friends discovered I was an author, they bought (and read) my books--just as long-time Malone friends had. As new friends here face sickness, we go to the hospital, cook meals or attend funerals. In the good and in the bad, friends support us.
    1. God is the ultimate cheerleader of our lives. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" Rom. 8: 35-8
A friend loves at all times. Prov. 17:17
And of course, in the interest of time I let off many qualities--some probably most dear to you.
If God is our friend, then we don't have to be perfect. We love lose closest to us--friends, husbands, children--even though we are well aware of their imperfections.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

How To Be God's Friend

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:13-14

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Sometimes I think I should have been a lawyer, I can find the loophole in anything. As a recovering perfectionist, the last part of John 15:14 drove me into a frenzy of self-flagellation and overwork. The only way to be God's friend was to do his commandments. So I did, and did better, and did more, until even the Pharisees were ashamed of their sloth.

But truly, what are His commandments? According to Jesus, God has essentially two:

...“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandmentAnd the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 35-40).

And if that's all it takes to be a friend of God--life is a breeze.

Fans of my blog are generally Christian, and love God with all their hearts. It's one the reasons we recovering perfectionist work so hard--we want to please God. Unfortunately, we look at the word "do" in John 15:14, and we translate that work.

It isn't. It's a natural outcome of love.

You don't have to be a
Martha doing it all.
My marriage is a good and happy one. I cook, although it's not my favorite chore, because I love Neil and want him to be healthy. Seeing as he power washes anything that sits still long enough to be cleaned, it's the least I can do.

I don't squish spiders or remove snakes from my bathroom. Those fall into man realm.

I do clean up cat hairballs, because those gross upchucks defy all of Neil's sensibilities. However, he makes the bed and puts away his laundry, and he allows me to spend hours writing or working in my glass studio.

We are friends and love each other as ourselves. We work according to our gifts and don't expect anything more.

If we keep in mind that all we're required to do is to love God and others, then we've kept God's command. He loves us regardless. And we are his friend.

Be like Mary, not Martha. God will still be your friend. (click to tweet)

Monday, June 6, 2016

30 Days to Less Guilt

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

The flip side of perfectionism is guilt.
I have a quarter. On the front is a picture of George Washington, and on the back, a buffalo. I cannot keep my quarter if I throw out the buffalo just as I can't ditch ol' George and admire the big beast. To be cliche: they're two sides of the same coin.

So, too, are guilt and perfectionism.

Guilt is a product of the law. We feel guilty because we've done something wrong. The law tells us we've done a no-no. So when we strive with perfectionism, guilt is going to stick around. (click to tweet).

And how do most of us attack perfectionism?

  1. trying harder
  2. not trying at all
  3. rebelling
Beyond that, we haven't got a clue. 

But there is help.

According to research, we develop neural pathways from habits of thinking. Our brains wire themselves to using these patterns when assessing a situation. Thus, if you're anxious, your first line of thought would be that everything will go wrong because you've trained your brain to think this way.

How about if you feel guilty? You enumerate over and over how overcome your guilt or how to make amends or...whatever your go-to whipping post is.

Same, too, with perfectionism--which by the way has no positive synonym. For me, I try harder, but then I see my failure, so I work harder. When everything falls apart, I quit. 

And I know how to rebel.

But mostly, I work harder.

However, I've, too a large degree, overcome this striving for perfection after reading a Washington Post article on transforming neural pathways.

  1. Every night use a journal and list three good things about yourself. Maybe a friend said your hair looked good. Write it down. Don't argue with her. Don't give excuses about why she said it. Just believe it. Do you make a good cup of coffee? Write it down. Are you helpful? Did you compliment someone? Exercise? Write down. 
  2. Every morning review your good things. Do not question them. Do not compare yourself. Yes, few of us are the best in the world, but all of us have good attributes: physical, mental, emotional, artistic, practical. We've got them.
  3. Do this for thirty days. It takes about three weeks to create a habit. For some, it's less, for some more. During this exercise, you'll find yourself asking, "What am I doing well?" or "What will I write tonight?" In that process, you'll be transforming your mind.
Transformation is an active state, not a static. We never arrive, but we must work on it.

Believe me, if it worked for me, it can work for you.

Do you struggle with being a perfectionist? What are your pitfalls?

Have you overcome? Can you share them, so others can transform and renew their minds.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Want To Acheive God's Perfect Will? Make Mistakes

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I love stained glass.

I also adore anything complex. Simple bores me, and if I'm bored I lose interest.

My first solo glass
Therefore, my first solo stained glass piece was my own design of my Springer spaniel, Callie. Happily I cut and foiled and ground the glass. I'm very good at colors and textures, and my progress delighted me.

Everything fit together on the individual pattern until...

I put the whole piece together and began the soldering.

Suddenly gaping holes appeared in my design. Some potholes I could fit with small pieces of glass--others were too tiny to grind and foil and fill. My gorgeous, complicated depiction of Callie looked like it'd had a severe case of acne--pock-marked and miserable.

So I had choices to make:
  1. smash my piece to smithereens
  2. quit
  3. finish the work and move on.
  4. learn from my mistakes
Fortunately, I chose the last two.

later work
I filled in the holes with solder and it hangs in my studio--never to be sold or displayed, but a panel that delights me.

Today, my glass fits together better. My soldering is acceptable. My panels complex and beautiful, intrigue me.

But I haven't arrived.

And that's us in finding God's perfect will.

If we don't take risks, we'll never achieve God's perfect will for our lives. (Click to tweet) His path for us isn't straight--seeing as we've all sinned. Those detours, though, give us compassion and faith and understanding. We learn, grow and walk in the ways of God.

The following people prove I'm not an anecdotal example of success through failure. All of the following failed royally:

  1. Jonathon Adler. The famous potter was told he'd never make it. Therefore, he tried all different fields and failed. Finally, he decided to be a potter selling wares at craft shows. Today, he has 28 designer stores around the world that I cannot afford an item from.
  2. Walt Disney. He was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination and good ideas.
  3. Oprah Winfrey. Had been fired as a reporter because she was too emotionally vested in her stories.
  4. Steven Spielberg. The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts rejected him several times.
  5. Vera Wang. She failed to make the 1968 Olympic Figure Skating Team so she got a job at Vogue. The hierarchy there passed over her for the job of editor-in-chief.
  6. Thomas Edison. One of his school teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything. He went on to be fired from a couple of jobs before the light bulb went off.
  7. J.K. Rowling. Lived on welfare until she made magic with Harry Potter.
And too many others exist to name in one blog.

Don't quit. Don't fear mistakes. As Edison said about the invention of the light bulb: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." click to tweet