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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Monday, August 1, 2016

7 Attributes of God's Love

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. I John 4:16

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My husband loved me before I loved him.

God's love is greater than man's.
Don't get me wrong, from our first date, I knew Neil was a man I could marry. We shared core (and not so core) values.

  1. We loved God.
  2. We loved art.
  3. We were low-keyed and enjoyed home and nature and quiet things.
  4. He was a good-looking man with beautiful straight teeth and this head of silver hair that begged for fingers to run through it.
Guess which of the above weren't core values?

He wanted to spend time with me. Flowers regularly showed up at my house. Gifts were purchased as he wooed me.

When he proposed, I was shocked. It wasn't that I didn't want to spend my life with him. I needed a little more time, a little more faith, a little more courage to make that leap. 

If a human can love like Neil when someone's love wavers, then God's love is MUCH greater.

God loved us before we loved Him.

Seven Characteristics of God's Love

  1. Has no limits. There's nothing we can do or have done that will limit God's love.
  2. Has no expectations.
  3. Is not dependent on us.
  4. Has our ultimate good in mind. It's life changing.
  5. Can't be earned.
  6. It's sacrificial
  7. It's eternal. Nothing's ever going to separate us from his love.
Neil expected nothing from me. He loved me as I was. I never earned his love. And in two weeks we will have been married for twelve years.

If a man can love so well but imperfectly, how much greater is God's perfect love? Quit trying to be perfect. Perfection will come on its own--through natural responses to God's love.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Shattered Lives and Stained Glass

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

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

The art of stained glass

Stained glass--who doesn't love it? 

As a child when bored in church, I studied the vivid colors and the play of light through the brilliant windows. Sunday by Sunday, the glass transformed itself into different incredible pieces of art. I told myself stories about the pictures, moved my head to watch the changes and studied the shifting color.

shattered lives yield great beauty
I do have to admit, any stained glass--Tiffany style or simple panes of color--still mesmerize me. So I learned to do it myself.

To make a piece, I'd choose and exquisite piece of glass--one with texture and color and swirls. Always, the sheets were too big. Cut and ground, I lost much of what I savored.

Little pieces left over went into a box, and later be recreated in a sun catcher. Smaller piece become mosaics.

Hundreds of works of art are resurrected from shattered glass.

God makes all things beautiful in his time

Last week a wonderful woman graduated from a half-way house for recovering drug addicts. This is a monumental achievement--if you know anything about addiction, you'd understand how hard it is to achieve and how few make it.

She graduated with honors--only the second woman to do so in the history of the home. She has much to be proud of. Still, one more battle awaits her.

With addiction comes unrelenting guilt. The shame of:
  1. Time wasted
  2. Families destroyed
  3. Health compromised
  4. Sins committed
We can't undo the past. It's one of the primary principles of AA, NA or CR (Celebrate Recovery). We know God has forgiven, and He has thrown those sins as far as the east is from the west. Still our wrongs dog us.

But God will make all things beautiful in His time.

Out of our shattered lives, our pain and regrets, He will create a work of exquisite art:
  1. God will cut the pieces and solder them into place. 
  2. He will compliment the "faults" of the glass with other textures. 
  3. Taking the leftover pieces, the Lord will create more gifts and more talents, until every scrap of our lives has been made beautiful.
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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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