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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Choose Your Pharisee: So Many Judges, So Little Success

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 5:20

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

They surround us. They live among us and infect us with our inferiority. In the faculty room, the churches, the government, social groups, advocates...

Not the zombies.

The Pharisees.

If you don't meet our standards, you are worthless.
I remember sitting at lunch in the faculty room. "Glory" was complaining about the lack of ethics of her students. "I'd NEVER dream of cheating," she said.

I cringed, remembering my high school physics regents. Stuck on one question, I peeked at my neighbor. He had put down the answer I had guessed at, so I down that answer.

It turned out, I had gotten the second highest score in the class on that regents, so my answer could have been incorrect. Whether or not I got it right would not have changed the end result. It did, however, color my pride and sense of achievement. I'm ashamed to say, it's not the only time I got "extra-help" on an assignment.

Worse than my immature lack of ethics is the guilt I've carried from my sin--forgetting that all I did had been washed clean by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Never could I say, I would never do something. My righteousness would never exceed that of the Pharisees.

Beware of the Pharisees. Who are they?
  • Judgmental coworkers--even when they're good people (as Glory was) who work hard. If you don't put in their hours, work to their ethical standards, you are found wanting.
  • Church leaders--my first church was extremely legalistic. In order to teach Sunday school,  or minister as a deacon or serve in any form of leadership, you had to "pass a test." This was never anything formal, always vague, and you'll never make the grade.
  • Parents--so many parents are dissatisfied with a B on a report card or a chosen career in retail. If you're not a Harvard trained lawyer, you have failed.
  • Teachers--work of ten hours on an essay, and she'll show you every typo you overlooked. (I never want her to read one of my novels. Even after an infinite number of edits, those pesky errors make it into print.)
  • Bosses--they insist the job comes first, count the minutes you're late, call when you're off, but never find you worthy of promotion.
  • Essentially, anyone who condemns and judges and finds you wanting.
Jesus says our righteousness must exceed the above people. Here's how you do it:
  • Accept the righteousness of Christ by being born again.
We don't need to be perfect. Jesus already is, and that makes our righteousness greater than that of the Pharisees.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

What Is Perfection? I'll Show you: Photo Expose

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Luke 12:27

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

One of my favorite spots in the Montreal Botanical Gardens. If you ever want to see perfection, go there--especially from now until early summer.

On an ordinary day, this piece of paradise will awe you. In 2013 they offered a Mosaicculture. The work could stun an archangel.

Who, in her own ability could match the above floral arrangements?

And far better photographs than mine can be found at:

Galax--hand-polished by the Creator

Friends and I love to hike the Smoky Mountains. Unlike the stupendous Adirondacks, they don't offer a non-stop sweeping vista. As we walk, we hardly ever look up. But down? A world, insane to see is there for our viewing.

Pat, Marcia and Annie Margaret taught me to look closely and discover a beauty that rivals the grandeur of botanical gardens. Crawling under leaves to get a shot, I discovered Dutchman's Pipe.

Tucked along the path are the inspiration for Georgia O'Keefe's Jack-in-the-Pulpits.

In the Galax, God, Himself, bowed down and polished each leaf to a high gloss.

And Cinderella's glass slipped never rivaled the Lady Slippers we discovered.

So, too, in our lives, we don't have to be mosaicultures. As wild flowers, we offer the world the perfection of God.
Unexpected, we discovered
over 20 pink Ladies' Slippers

the Dutchman's Pipe, found by looking under the leaves
Cinderella in all her glory was not arrayed like this

More beautiful than a Georgia O'Keefe

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Even Solomon couldn't rival these. Click to tweet.
Don't strive. You are perfect in Christ. Click to tweet.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Perfection Changes

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Cor. 13:12

Veruska, you look good
By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Aside from God, perfection changes.

Or the idea of perfection.

My mother, who birthed five children, always battled her weight. However, her mother would decry, "Verushka, you're too skinny."

Mom knew it was time to diet when Grandma said to her one day, "Verushka, you look good. Healthy."

We hold super (anorexic) models as a standard of perfection, yet we ooh and ahh over Rubens' heavy ladies.

Thinness is a today's standards. Not yesterday's.

How has our perception of perfection changed?:

Do you see what God sees?
  1. Tattoos. As a child, those covered in tattoos were relegated to circus side-shows. Now everyone has a "sleeve" of multi-colored tattoos. Even among the tattoo aficionado, what constitutes a perfect tat? A skull? A rose? Pooh-Bear?
  2. Fat Lips. Yes, I'm dating myself. As a child, Kewpie-doll lips were the standard. Sweet, bow-shaped lips. Today we stuff them with as much collagen as our pocketbooks afford.
  3. Tans. In the 1800s women used parasols to protect themselves from the sun. A dark skin would indicate they had to work outside. Today, even in the South in summer, women hit the tanning beds in order to have a dark, glowing skin.
  4. Weight. My grandmother immigrated from Belarus. Poverty denied people enough food. Therefore, being chubby became a sign of beauty.
  5. Clothing styles. Is it cool to wear jeans falling off your hips? Low cut blouses? Flouncy bows? Pleated skirts?
  6. Multi-colored hair.
  7.  Acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
  8. Endorsement of abortion.
  9. Being able to wear jeans to church.
  10. Organ and hymns in church.
  11. Church services three times a week.
  12. Female ministers
Everyone's ideal looks different.
Everyone has a different standard of perfection. As I said in prior posts, I could never attain my legalistic church's ideal--and I learned then that I lacked.

You don't need to meet anyone's expectation of perfection, because we all see through a glass darkly. Striving for perfection is a thief of joy.

How have you seen society's or the church's standards change through the years?

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Say No: Handbags Are Heavy

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matt. 11: 28-30

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Full Handbags

Say no or your bag gets heavy
I've switched out my handbag. To do that, I had to say goodbye to my favorite wallet. Other essentials hit the trash bin. I'm carrying some in my hands because they don't fit. 

I had to. I can't say no, and my husband, Neil, doesn't like to carry things. 

Keys? In my bag.
His wallet? In my bag.
Phones? You've guessed it.

I quickly discovered, the bigger the bag, the bigger the burden. I had two choices--say no to Neil (but he's so sad, so pathetic when he pouts, that it's easier to say no to a crying infant than him) or get a smaller bag.

"Look, honey," I can now say with my sultriest smile, "it won't fit." 

That's our lives. If we don't say no--our baggage gets heavier. I'm sure you've heard the adage, "If you need something done, ask a busy woman." That female is the one who can't say no.

Need: a ride to the market? a Sunday school class taught? clean-up after fellowship meals? babysitting for the grandkids? chaperone for the third grade field trip? boy scout leader? volunteer for roadside cleanup? customer for the Pampered chef party? a visit to an invalid?

Which of the above is your gift? What do you feel led to do? Which resonates with you?

Say yes to that. No to the rest.

Not long ago, my daughter exploded (no, not literally, that would be gross). Some little thing unleashed the A-bomb in her--maybe the need to pick up bread for lunch? She does everything, especially when it comes to her kids. Sometimes everything becomes a bit too much.

I wonder where she learned it?

I've apologized to Sarah many times for teaching her the inability to say no.

Say no. When you do, you'll discover:
  1. God's burden is easy and light. How I used to hate that scripture. My life used to be frazzled with activities--most out of my realm of giftings.
  2. It's easy and fun to volunteer for those few sacrificial things we all need to do--like picking up roadside trash.
  3. We'll have time to use the gifts God's given us. I resigned from choir because I can't sing. Now I have time to get home and write.
  4. Another Hiroshima won't be unleashed. It's never fun being around a balloon that bursts--let alone the atomic bomb.
God always answers prayer. We've heard this adage, too. Sometimes yes, sometimes wait, and sometimes God says no.

If God can say no, why can't you?

What holds you back?

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