Monday, December 26, 2016

Others Can't Fix You

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.  Ex. 20:2-3

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My Christmas was wonderful--just Neil and me and Facetime with Sarah and family. Of course, Neil got me the most perfect gifts. For those who follow me on Facebook, you know I got a toilet seat and brush--asked for in serious jest and happy to be received.

Still, Christmas time is always hard for me, as it is for many people. For many, now that it's over a new desolation sets in.

This is often the hardest time because we've put our faith in others. And, as always, others have issues and turning to them to fix our own problems never works.

This past Christmas proved it for a lot of us. Arguments broke out, white elephant gifts were exchanged, the ham dried out, Uncle Marvin got drunk and you were left to clean up the Christmas mess.

Worst of all: Everyone left. You're alone. The excitement's gone. Anticipation has ended. Nothing remains except for New Year's and resolutions you're going to keep this year.

Yep. You will keep them.

Only God Can Fix You

  1. Others don't know you the way He does.
  2. Others don't love you the way He does.
  3. Others are broken--how can the broken fix the irreparable?
  4. Others will leave you alone. God never will.
  5. Others change their affections. God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow.
I beg you all, enjoy Christmas (and Valentine's Day and St. Patty's, and...). Make your resolutions.

But to find true happiness, to fix your broken lives, only one person can save. I hope you've met Him.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Gifts: What We Got For Christmas

And I will put enmity 
            Between you and the woman, 
            And between your seed and her seed; 
            He shall bruise you on the head, 
            And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Gen. 3:15

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Most important thing about Christmas? What we got.

Christmas presents are a lot like us--wrapped up bright and shiny. Beautiful bows and trinkets adorn the packages. They glitter under the Christmas tree.

Then we unwrap them and find a Christmas sweater two sizes too big, a waxy candle shaped like a Santa or a glow- in-the-dark toilet seat. We've all gotten the white elephant disguised as a pretty gift.

And that's pretty much a metaphor for us. Or at least me.

I can wrap myself up with Christian words. I smile and agree to wash dishes after the church dinner. I volunteer my time to work on the Board of Habitat for Humanity. However, inside, something's broken.

For most of my life, I've struggled with the white elephant stomping my soul--even during my years as a Christian. Something in my life made me believe I still had to earn God's favor. Maybe it was my Catholic faith that taught me no sin could ever be erased and thus we spend time in Purgatory. Maybe it was a dysfunctional childhood and my unwillingness to talk to others and discover the world didn't function much better. Or my mistaken concept of humility--put yourself down whenever complimented?

From the very beginning of time, God prepared His Christmas gift. Last week, I said Psalm 103 should be part of the Christmas cannon. This week, it's Genesis 3:15

God's Gifts to Us:

  1. We are redeemed.
  2. We are forgiven.
  3. We do not have to do anything to earn it except unwrap the gift and claim it as our own.
If we accept this gift, guilt, suffering, condemnation--all the things humankind struggles with--will be healed.

I guarantee it.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Gifts: The True Blessing of Christmas

Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Ps. 103:4-5

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Christmas. The only thing that matters is gift-giving.

Yep. That's not a typo. I mean every word of it, but probably not the way you're thinking.

It's the gift given to us. Again, not as you're thinking.

Like everyone else, I've made many boo-boos in my life. How many? 

Blogs are supposed to be short, so I can't enumerate them (however, inventorying my sins would give me blog topics for the rest of my life.

Some sins have been small. Still, despite their size, they're quite damning. Those are probably the things I'd tell you about. Others have shamed me, and I spent my long and grace-filled life hiding them from the world at large.

But now, Christmas comes, and I recall the true meaning of Christmas--getting gifts: 

  1. Jesus pulled me out of the pit. I wholeheartedly believe I would have been a suicide had I not given my life to God. Lately, He's been healing the core of my soul, and it is divine.
  2. God gave me a wonderful life. I have a loving family, terrific friends, and interests that fill my days. Sometimes, they're too full. For the first time in my life, I have to turn down social engagements.
  3. I find joy where I'm planted. My home in northern New York sat among some of the most beautiful scenery the United States offers. In East Tennessee, the beauty and the climate and the economic benefits make each day a joy. Can you imagine waking up each morning and seeing the glory of where God planted you?
  4. My youth is restored like an eagle's. Although chronologically I'm older, I feel like the youth I share my Bible study with. Everything is exciting. I'm learning new things. My youth is definitely reanimated.
Psalm 103 has been my meditation and the above two verses are only a fragment of the psalms richness. It's one I believe should be part of our Christmas message.

Truly, we've got the best gift of all. What gifts has Jesus given you this year?

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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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Monday, October 10, 2016

Phony Uniformity: Modernity's Perfection

"If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" 1 cor. 12:17

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Do you ever wonder if you've lost your skill at observation?

Every time I watch a new TV series with actors unknown to me, I wonder if I'm entering the world of dementia.

An actress breezes onstage who looks familiar. She's an anorexic blonde with silicone breasts and buttocks, because if they weren't enhanced, her thin frame would reveal no shape. Her lips are collagen filled, her nose refined, cheeks heightened and her blonde hair probably has extensions.

Enter actress number two. If she has blonde hair, I'm not sure whether it's a new actress or the same one. Until I get to know the nuances, she's the same protagonist.

It's sad.

Maybe my eyes need laser surgery or my mind needs aricept.

More than likely, society needs to understand reality and paint a world populated with un-doctored humans.

The world holds a standard of perfection perfection we cannot meet. (They've totally wrecked moral perfection--but that's another blog post). We look at ourselves and know we missed the mark.

It's not so with God. He created us--big noses, thin hair, slow metabolisms--and He calls us beautiful. He created us in His image (Gen. 1:27). Although our appearance wastes away, he renews our inner beauty daily (2 Cor. 4:6).

Think of those you love. Do you see them as ugly? As fat? As big-footed? Too short?

No. We see the inner woman, and she glows with the beauty of character, not silicone.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Step 2 Overcoming Perfectionism: Let It Go

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men" Col. 3:23.

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I hate to break it to you. But being the mentor I am, I will do my duty and let you know.
Let go and let God.

You can't be good at everything.

Nor should you attempt to do everything your heart desires.

Lately, the urge to paint has hit. I love the smell of oils and turpentine. The feel of paint gliding on a canvas delights me. I'm not especially good at it--primitive would be a kinder way of describing my painting skills.

However, my two passions--writing and glass--consume my time. My gifts lie in these two areas. To expand my skills into painting or quilting or working the sound room at church would only dilute my time and everything will suffer.

What is your passion? What grabs your attention and drives you forward? Where do your talents lie?

Don't feel guilty in indulging your free time in these endeavors--be it serving in church, running marathons, volunteering in the Lions Club, visiting neighbors or restoring antiques

You are not called to be excellent at everything

  1. Find your passion
  2. Narrow your focus
  3. Enjoy your activity
  4. Do it well, but don't worry about being as good as someone else
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. 

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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: 
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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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