Monday, May 15, 2017

Horizontal Repentance: 3 Signs of Worldly Grief

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Cor. 7:10

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

New York State has annual regents exams. Like all tests, they have strict guidelines. If a student asks directions on how to answer, teachers were instructed to say, "Read the question and do your best."

One question asked students to write a letter for a specific purpose. The instructions asked them to only write the body of the letter. However, the kids had been taught through eleven years of schooling that letters had return addresses, business addresses, salutations, and closings. For this test, we'd told them--let's round the number up to the closest guestimate--a billion times to answer this standard question like an essay: intro, body, conclusion.

While proctoring, a young woman raised her hand. I went to see her need.

"Do I use my address? They didn't give me their's" she said.

"Read the instructions." I can be trained to respond appropriately.

"But I don't have all the information..."

And around it went, until my normal teaching habits kicked into automatic responses. "No. Remember? It's just the body. Beginning, middle, end." 

Of course, my department head caught me. Turned me in for cheating. Got me written up.

Never had I been disciplined in my work. I believed my integrity had been assaulted, and I spent months (literally) in tears and sorrow.

A good friend Barry comforted me. One phrase he said knocked into me the realization about my melodrama. "Are you sorry for what you did, or that you got caught?"

Insulted, I couldn't admit to him he was correct. Not admitting it prolonged my grief.

I didn't want to cheat. Never intended to do so. I couldn't admit it then, but the grief of having a formal reprimand drove me out of my mind.

This is horizontal grief. Worldly repentance. 

Not godly.

Signs of Worldly Grief

  1. I'm sorry if... I'm sorry you... Do you cast your apology in terms of the other person disapproving. "I'm sorry if my actions offend you." "I'm sorry you didn't like that." It's not about you being wrong. It's about the other person being offended by your actions.
  2. If you weren't caught, would you be sorry or feel the grief? In my example, I knew instantly that I goofed, and I would have striven to never make the mistake again. In that sense, my grief was godly. However, even though I couldn't admit it, Barry was right. Had I not been caught, my sorrow would not have overcome me.
  3. Did it effect raw emotions only or did it prompt change? Emotions change. If you haven't given your wrongdoings to God, Satan will buffet you with them. If you've confessed and striven to change your life, then it's godly repentance.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Strawberries and Religious Works: Three Ways Works Deceive Us

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but the (person) who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I sliced into a strawberry. The red fruit was large and perfectly formed. It lay in a container with other berries identical to it. My mouth watered with the promise of the sweetness of summers past.

Those berries had been small. My daughter, Sarah, and I would crawl along a friend's field and pick. The juice stained our fingers (and our mouths--we never deceived Louise, the owner of the field, that the berries we weighed were the only ones we took). Not able to wait until we washed the fruit, we gobbled the irregularly shaped strawberries with bits of sand still clinging to them.

This morning I dug into my huge berry-laden bowl of cereal. And the promise of the outward appearance deceived me. Strawberries had gone the way of tomatoes and become beautiful, tempting cardboard. 

That's us and our works.

Too often, I'd been deceived by the promise of ministry. I wanted to work for God and the bigger the better.

Little did I know how skewed my perception was.

Sitting on the vine soaking in the sunshine of God's Being, being rained on by His majesty and His perfect ways is what God wants of us.

Priscilla Shirer in Discerning the Voice of God says, "Often we seek to know God's direction more than we seek to know God. We bypass the relationship because we would rather have answers about us" (67).

Your works are deceiving you if:

  1. You want the BIG gifts--pastorate, missionary, teacher because of the glory they bring to you. Too many Christians are impressed by these gifts. I met a woman, typical of many Christians, who, when she learned my husband was a pastor, turned her whole attention to me. Then she discovered he'd retired. She no longer would look my way because a retired pastor held no glory. Too many want the works so they can boast.
  2. You believe God will only accept you if you work.  In April 24th's blog, we explored how works are a natural outflow of love, not a way to earn it.
  3. They interfere with sitting down and knowing God. I can cook, clean, and gift my husband, but if I don't sit in his presence and know who he is, my marriage isn't going to make it. I do the above because I know him and love him. I don't do it to earn his affection or respect.
Works, too often, are about us, not about our relationship.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Proof of Christianity: Chronic Repentance

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Newly divorced with a young child, I started life over again in Malone, a tiny town in Northern New York. Here I met some lovely people who attended a charismatic church. One woman, Colleen, befriended me as she witnessed to me, and the Holy Spirit began His final work in bringing me to salvation.

One thing Colleen told me was that we'd all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We needed to repent.

In my naive mind, I examined my conscience and struggled to discover my sins. Somewhere, back a week or two prior, I may have cursed. Once, perhaps, I gossiped. After a quick prayer, I resumed my normal life.

One day I realized God is real. Christianity is true. I needed to be saved.

Suddenly the truth of my life opened up to me, and I saw my true spiritual state. When the Bible said to pray continually, I knew why--we had to cover the chronic sin in our lives.

Matt Chandler in Recovering Redemption says, "The proof of Christianity isn't perfection. In fact, one of the key ways you can tell you're saved--as backward as this logic may feel or sound--is when your faith continually leads you toward repentance, and Jesus continually brings about change."

Proof of Christianity

  1. We understand God is gracious--not cruel. He doesn't call us sinners to degrade us. It's the truth in love. As a mother, I'd correct my daughter, not to be mean--although I'd never convince her that kindness led me to correct her. My correction occured to improve her life.
  2. God doesn't give us more than we can bear--even though it doesn't always appear that way. Many people face horrible circumstances--death of loved ones, disease, loss. However, God's grace always gets us through. He always provides a way to carry our burdens.
  3. We don't see our sin until our character is capable of dealing with it. In my life, I'll grow like a toddler. Parents see a child putting on a belly and know their baby is about to grow.  My "belly" is contentment in my character. I look at my life and know I've got it all together. At that point, I know growth is coming, and when it does, I don't believe I'll ever be good.
  4. Every day, we improve. Growth is never observable in the day to day. We don't see a tomato plant grow its blossom. One morning, through, a yellow flower appears on it. That's us. Slowly, our sins fade. We mature and produce the fruit of the spirit. As we look back over our lives, the changes for the good amaze us.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Religion and Potatoes: Six Differences Between Religion and Faith

There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. Mark 7:15

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


Neil, bless his heart, loves potatoes.

Yuck.

No meal is complete without the spuds.

Have I said yuck, yet?

Every night, whether I eat them or not, he gets his potatoes. Why?

Not because he demands them, nor because he's difficult or obstinate or surly. Anyone who knows my husband understands the gentleness of his spirit. He gets them because I know how little he asks of me and how contented he is after a dinner of meat and potatoes.

No law of marriage makes me cook something I don't care for. No brutal demands from my spouse compel me to throw a tater into the microwave. I'm a good wife in this one area. For one reason only do I cook them: I love my husband, and he loves potatoes.

This aptly illustrates the difference between religion and faith.

Religion/Faith

Religion puts on from the outside. You do it because it's a rule.
Faith emanates from the inside. You do it because you want to.

Religion barters for something. "I'll do x if you give me y."
Faith gives without expecting anything back.

Religion looks for tradition and moral loopholes.
Faith looks at the spirit of the law. It works out of love.

Religion looks at the surface. You do the activity, therefore you're unclean.
Faith looks inside. You are unclean, ergo you did what you did.

Religion creates status, puffs one up--I'm better than you.
Faith knows we're all lost sinners saved only through Christ's redemption

Religion condemns
Faith loves

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Four Hints You Are Religious Rather Than Spiritual


All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Is. 64:6

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

For most of my Christian life, I belong to a lively church that eschewed "religiosity." We never would've condoned it.

The only problem was--this house of worship was, unwittingly, quite religious.

For example, worship band would start. The chairs got folded, and we danced. First note...the ritual began. Never did it vary. If someone felt uncomfortable worshiping in this manner and was not an invalid, her salvation was questioned.

In order teach adult Sunday school or join the worship team or become a deacon--anything only a "mature" Christian could minister in,  a long span of time had to pass where you proved your sincerity. Did you participate in all work bees, attend every meeting, pay beyond your tithes, etc.

With pure hearts and good intentions, many churches become as religious as the high churches they condemn. Like religions consisting of rituals and rules to prove your worthiness, this adherence to the outside appearance chains us down.

Four Hints You May Be Religious And Not Spiritual

  1. Do you put on your faith? Is it on the outside--something you do like going to church on Sunday or Easter? 
  2. Do you barter with God? I'll go to Wednesday night prayer meetings if You...
  3. Do you work for approval? Is your volunteer activity for the sheer need of it or for the approval of men?
  4. Is your faith a series of rules to prove your intent? I won't listen to rock music. I won't drink. I won't stint one penny on my tithes. I will dress in a rigid, prescribed manner rather than simply modestly.
We live by faith, not by our works of righteousness (Eph. 2: 8-9). Religion is a cruel task master--and never allows any of us to be good enough. And should we attain respect--then we feel free to boast.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

No Matter How Small--YOU Change the World

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 1 Cor. 12: 17-19
Lin is as glorious as the Smokies at Cades Cover

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

On Saturday, a good friend and an AMAZING author Lin Stepp had a book launch for her newest novel . Being a stellar author myself, I wanted to support her. After all, I've sold my books at book fairs, signings, and festivals. I KNOW the struggle.

To my amazement, the place was packed. She sold more books in one day than I sell in a year (and have I told you I'm amazing? Check out The Poison We Drink rather than taking my word for it.

The old Carol, the one before God began working on my perfectionism and my need to work our my salvation (I know the Scriptures that tell me to work), would have been bummed that she had done so much better than I.

Unable to even find a minute to chat with Lin, hubby and I went off to explore Cades Cove--a world I love, and Neil doesn't get to see.
I am not much more than a teeny dogwood.

The next day at church, another friend Ann--one I'm friendly with, but our paths cross only at First Baptist, went out of her way to approach me.

She told me how much my posts on the Smokies blessed her. They brought back memories of the wonderful times when she and her late husband explored the mountains. She didn't refer to the blog I spend hours on or my books available in the church library--just my humble pictures of hikes with friends.

Once more God showed me not all of us are the eye of the body. In the natural, it's one of the body parts we find most beautiful. Neither are all of us the hair or fingernails--and believe me, my hair and fingernails need work. Still each of us, like the phacelia (see last week's post) or the humble, Southern dogwood, add a beauty and a function to the body  no one else can give. This world would not work the way it should without us.

You change the world.

  1. Only you can fulfill your purpose. What is your talent? Lin is a gifted marketer (and that doesn't detract from her writing skills). Others are accountants and others handymen. All are needed.
  2. God called YOU according to His purposes. Some of us are showy, giant hibiscus. Some are lowly phacelia. Some of us are bees, chased away when the blooms are cut. All of us have a reason to be here.
  3. You are a light on the hill reflecting God's glory. Only you can reach the people God brings into your life. Most of the time we're not aware of the effect we have. This is good. God gets the glory.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Strength in Weakness: Lessons from Phacelias



 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Heb. 10:25

And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. Lev. 26:8
Silver-leaf Phacelia, White-leaf Phacelia
non-descript single phacelia

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


When someone mentions the Great Smoky Mountains, most people think of sweeping vistas and giant bears.

At this time of year, different sightseers hunt the wilds. Wildflowers abound in spring. This week I fell in love with the lowly phacelia which come in both purple and white.

Bueschelschoen, Blossom, Bloom, Violet
a purple variant
Walking Old Sugarlands, we found a few. In this area, they were white phacelia growing in single clumps. Bending over to examine them, I discovered a beauty I could never have imagined, and of course my camera couldn't capture them either.

Tiny white, cup-shaped flowers were topped with a fringe that reminded me of a ballerina's tulle tutu.

Then we hit the Chimney's Picnic area. Here the fields were white with them, and no longer could any of my friends and I breathe because these flowers stole our breath.


Sweeping vistas of flowers carpeted the ground like snow. As a group, no one could deny the beauty each individual added to the scene.




This is us.


  1. No one can deny the beauty of the individual. No matter how insignificant each of us feels, how hidden in the recesses of life, we are beautiful.
  2. There is strength in numbers. By ourselves we may not seem strong or noticeable. As a group, no one can deny our strength.
  3. It's not good to be alone. It's then that we get trampled or lost in the grand views of life. Together we can change our world.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Four Ways You Are Beautiful: God's Wildflower

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

You ARE Beautiful: A Wildflower in God's Kingdom

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


Looking out on Cades Cove off Rich Mountain Loop

Three friends and I spend as many Saturdays as we can walking the Smokies.

Me--give me a sweeping vista or a roaring waterfall and my jaw drops, my camera comes out and I never want to leave. Position a photogenic structure in front of it, and my dreaming mind swims with awe-inspiring ideas. John Oliver's cabin, pictured below, is the quintessentially picturesque scene for me.

Can you imagine living in this environment? John Oliver's cabin, Cades Cove
The other three keep their eyes down and discover a world I never experienced until I met them.

It's a world of the tiny, and the overlooked. It's a world many people call weeds and trample underfoot. A world so magnificent, we rob ourselves of infinite beauty and intricacy by not noticing--by not celebrating. It's the world of wildflowers.

Last week, we walked the Rich Mountain Loop off of Cades Cove. Here we discovered a teeny flower familiarly called Pussytoes.

Here it is from a human-eye view, rather nondescript. (And I'm sorry for the blurry rendition).

from a distance--antennaria solitaria--aka pussyfeet

Alone, it does little for the human eye. However, it spread into a beautiful polka-dotted carpet that captured our attention. None of us had seen this flower before and we knelt to examine it.
Antennaria solitaria--aka Pussytoes

I leaned in close and studied it. How magnificent. Look at the multitude of petals, the contrasting pistils and stamens, and the complexity of the flower.

This is us. So few of us in life make it as a giant hibiscus or bird of paradise, let alone a common, but exquisite and fragrant, tea rose.

That doesn't mean we aren't beautiful, complex, exquisite. It doesn't mean we don't add beauty to the world.

You are beautiful

  1. You are complex and intricately made. Look at your hand--the delicacy of the bones, the ability of the fingers to grasp, the opposable thumb and fingers that move independently of each other according to our whim. That's only a teeny portion of your intricacy.
  2. You create a world of beauty. Your smile encourages others. Your covered-dish at a pot luck feeds the hungry. Your family is comfortable in the home you establish. The world is bland without you in it.
  3. Gifts would be lost to creation without you. Scientists can stop a bridge from being built because a worm resides in that environment. How much more important is your existence to that of the smallest member of the environment?
  4. In unison, with like-minded believers, you carpet the world in love. There is strength in numbers.



When I look at the vista of the Smokies, I don't see the millions of Pussytoes or galaxes or trailing arbutuses carpeting the region. I only see the end effect.

So, too, in the church and in your life, you are a part of the splendid vista of God.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Your Ways--Not Everyone's

Regardless, each one should lead the life that the Lord has assigned him and to which God has called him. This is what I prescribe in all the churches. 1 Cor. 7:17


By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Neil and I sat in a little Italian restaurant in Spain. The waiter brought out a complimentary aperitif.
Drunkenness is sin; drinking is not. 

Early in my salvation, God directed me to not drink. I come from a family of alcoholics, and if you judged my inability to abstain by my coffee and chocolate consumption, you would understand why alcohol is a big no-no for me.

However, God never told my (mostly) tea-totaling husband to refrain. He got my drink. One free drink wasn't enough at this restaurant. During dinner, the waiter brought two glasses of wine. Guess who got mine?

I leaned forward and watched my husband sip. Vicariously, I enjoyed the beverages.

It is biblically inaccurate to say everyone must refrain from drinking, if not done to excess. It's a gray area where each individual must hear from God.

Unfortunately, not every Christian believes in personal conviction.

Try telling an avid home-schooler you believe your child belongs in a public school (or vice verse). Do you enjoy rock music? Personally, I love the sound of Queen and the looks of Adam Levine. To some friends of mine, this love makes me a reprobate, and they let me know it.

How about TV and movies? I'll watch an R rated movie because often the depth of the story--such as found in Rain Man--mitigates the foul language and racy scene where PG13 comedies are far too raunchy for my tastes.

Our God is a personal God.

Sin is indeed black and white (read Gal. 5:19-21). However, too many Christians are held in bondage to other believers and their values. We have to remember all of scripture, and 2 Cor. 3:17 is part of the canon. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Four Ways We Hear God's Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Do you hear God's small, still voice?
As most of you know, I'm an author. And anyone who has spent enough time with me has discovered I threaten to quit writing at least twice a year.

Okay. Twice a day.

Yet, God won't let me.

I know. This statement sounds cliche, but it's a fact, and here's one example.

My most recent book deals with a paramedic who needs to drop his Pharisaic attitude. The amount I know about medicine wouldn't enable me to pass a high school biology final. 

On top of that, the critique group I belonged to was falling apart. Along came Randy--a former paramedic. 

We worked together throughout this book. Once I finished The Poison We Drink (and my sister who is my beta reader claims it's the best one I've written), Randy stepped away from writing. We do entertain angels unawares--could Randy...?

More than likely, not. 

But it seems God works this way. He brings others into our lives to confirm what he's already been saying to us.

As we pursue God's purposes in our lives, how do we hear from God?

Four Ways We Hear God's Voice

  1. God's word--This is the most obvious. In scripture, we read His desires. We learn God's precepts. Then, in the stillness of our dreams, like the young prophet Samuel, we hear him speak.
  2. Desire--I've always been a dreamer, and have always dabbled in writing. Every time I "quit," within twenty-four hours, I'm back at the keyboard. It's not work. It's play.
  3. Circumstances--Like my relationship with Randy, odd bits of serendipity happen. We "just happen" to meet people who know someone who leads us where we need to be.
  4. Confirmation--We walk in the direction we believe God's leading us, and someone comes along with encouragement. During one of my recent periods of doubt, an acquaintance who never texts me did so. She said about Poison, "...Could identify on so many levels. Love how u bring emotion out of me..." Her few unexpected lines of praise renewed my spirit.
Live your dream--if it's wholesome, it's probably from God. Listen to his small, still voice and your footsteps will be established.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Conquer Perfectionism: Move Forward

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man 1 Cor. 10:13a

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Only one test with God--do our best and trust in Him.
In New York State education, we test our students at the end of the year with the regents. All students take the same test.

One common question for our English regents asked students to write the body of a letter. Throughout the year we told our kids the question only wanted the essence of the letter--not the addresses, the direct address the signature.

Every year while taking the test, the students would not remember.

One year during the exam, a girl raised her hand and asked me, "What am I supposed to write? What's the address?" In frustration, I told her to just write the body of the letter. Introduction. Body. Close. Then I slapped my hand over my  mouth. TMI.

Of course, our department head saw my boo-boo and turned me in for offering aid during the exam. The end result was that I was written up.

I made an honest mistake. However, because of my perfectionism, this error haunted me for years. I cried over having a letter in my file. I strove to be a better teacher. 

Worse of all, I harbored bitterness toward our department head. She had plenty of her own shortcomings, but the only real issue between God and me was my reaction to her.

What do you do when you sin?

You repent.

The case is closed.

However if you're a perfectionist, you obsess. You lose sleep. You try harder.

Only one thing is necessary--confess your wrong. Move forward. In an honest walk with Christ, you will fall into temptation. You will make mistakes.

YOU WILL BE FORGIVEN.

You must move forward.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

If you accept Jesus, you are complete.

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and [b]through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I was raised in a church tradition that never offered complete eradication of sin. Always a stain remained and sacrifices had to be made to cleanse myself.

Then I found Jesus. Unfortunately the church I joined enjoyed its own set of rules in its quest for holiness.

Did you have a gift of teaching? In order to utilize it, you first had to prove yourself. Try scrubbing bathrooms.

Were you a faithful member? Prove it. Sell what you have and give to the body.

Believe in healing but didn't receive it? Check your faith. The healer, prophet, preacher wasn't wrong, you were lacking.

Silly me followed this dictate. It bled into my perfectionist tendencies. And I lost sight of the truth of the gospel.

If you accept Jesus Christ, you are complete. 


  1. You do not have to volunteer to work in a church. 
  2. You do not have to crawl up steps on your knees. 
  3. You do not have to run around making all things right. 
  4. You do not have to fast for days on end.

If you accept Jesus Christ, you are complete.

Of course, we cannot ignore the book of James. Christ will transform us. We will serve others. We will make things right. We will demonstrate our faith by our works. However, working doesn't make us whole because it's grace that saved us.

If we fall back on the laws of Moses and man and find our justification there, then the whole of the law becomes ours to carry out. Blood sacrifices and all.

I'll choose grace.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

God's Love--True Love: 7 Attributes

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 enduring 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. (Rom. 8:31-39)
  2. Has no expectations. (Rom. 5:8)
  3. Is not dependent on us.  (Jer. 1:5)
  4. Has our ultimate good in mind. It's life changing. (Rom. 8:38)
  5. Can't be earned. (Eph. 2:8-9)
  6. It's sacrificial. (Phil. 2-7)
  7. It's eternal. Nothing's ever going to separate us from his love. (Ps. 1360
Neil expected nothing from me. He loved me as I was. I never earned his love. For more than a dozen years, he's loved me through my foibles and strengths.

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, February 13, 2017

Love--Not Perfection: What God Expects

 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain


A young friend was expecting her first baby. Family prepared a baby shower on a Sunday afternoon and, of course, all those she loved were invited. This included her church family from the small congregation she attended.

The shower began, but no one from said church arrived. Someone explained they might not be able to make it because they were holding a meeting. 

Stamp, Rejected, Document, RejectA woman from the congregation had left her husband, and was going to marry her former boyfriend. On this Sunday afternoon, this church met to disfellowship her. Blacklisting a former member of their body proved more important than the celebration of life for a vibrant, dedicated believer.

Sadly, this was not the first time I'd seen the church do this--once, they "excommunicated" a man who spoke out against what he saw as wrong with the body. He was no longer a member, having left several months prior. His wife still attended faithfully. (I couldn't figure out how she, as a member, could have no fellowship with the husband she lived with). 

At least one other time, this church blacklisted a former member.

This body of believers loved to brag about how it was on the "cutting edge" of God's will. In order to keep this status it would:

  • fast regularly
  • expect perfect attendance of all members to all functions
  • expect members to adhere to every facet of its beliefs
  • strive for excellence in all things
On the surface, these are good things. However, God only expects on thing--love. 
  1. First, to love Him. After all, He created us because He wanted us. He loved us. 
  2. Next, we are to love others.
Aren't these the two greatest commandments? (Matt. 22: 36-40).


Love never fails.

Humans are sinful. They hurt us and betray their Creator.

However, God restored us through love and His bloody, torturous sacrifice of becoming human and dying on the cross. Only through love can we restore the people in our lives.



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Monday, February 6, 2017

7 Reasons To Not Compare Ourselves

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" Gal. 1:10.

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My latest glass:
My best--but can't compare to
God's glory
My sister Marianne recently resumed her stained glass construction. This doesn't bode well for my ego because everything she does is exquisite. You can guarantee her solder seams will be as straight as a computer generated line. Her cuttings and piecing, her foiling and patinas will rival Tiffany's. Color selection and design will create a work of art.

And there'll be no stupid white flux lines like the ones plaguing my finished pieces.

And that has thrown me into the comparison game once more. My work does not match hers--and only non-stop practice on my part and quitting stained glass on her end will every bring my talent up to her level.

This whirligig of comparisons destroys my joy and knocks me off the path God has chosen for me to walk. No good thing can come from it. It's stupid--see 2 Cor. 10:12).

Do you do this?

Comparisons destroy our joy. They cause us to forget that God loves us just as we are. It's not our works that bring us salvation or divine love or a coveted spot in heaven.

Instead, we must remember, God has given us enough to be pleasing to Him. Isn't that ample?

Reasons we shouldn't compare ourselves with others:

  1. Egotists do this. Do you want to be in the same category as a narcissist? (Phil. 2:3)
  2. Whose approval are you seeking--God's or man's? (Gal. 1:10)
  3. Is your calling the same as everyone else's? (Rom. 12:2)
  4. Our talents are given by God. Do we rebuke Him because we're not on the same level as Mozart or Einstein? (1 Cor. 4:7)
  5. Our jealousy causes divisions. (Jude 1:19)
  6. What are our motives? Do we wish to lord it over others as the greatest? Jesus didn't, and He is God. (Luke 22: 24-27)
  7. Our arrogance will treat others with contempt. (Luke 18: 9-14)
I have to remember--I may never rival Marianne. She'll never equal Tiffany. He can't compete with the Creator of the universe.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Root of Our Issues--Us

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8


By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

The root of our issue: We're unclean.
My first marriage fell apart. I'd married a man with issues--totally unaware that he'd married a woman with issues.

Our fights became furious. I'd become the bread-winner and would return from work to find my baby's lunch still on the table, the house a mess and my husband ready to go out and party--often with my girlfriends.

Of course, it's easy to pass blame, nail the dissolution of our vows at his feet. Shamefully, throughout the many years since that marriage dissolved, I never saw my role in it. However, when a marriage fails, each partner plays a part in its demise.

I no longer remember the words I'd say when one of my ex's transgressions drove me to Hades to arm myself with the tools of hell. I remember he allowed me to punch him. Cuss words laced our screaming matches. Dreams of other men filled my lonely nights.

Then, after we divorced, I met Christians who told about Christ and His redeeming love. Blind to my own sins, I struggled to think of things I did wrong. I was a good person--raised my daughter well, worked as a teacher and did a good job, took care of family and friends. Still, I needed to fill the void in my soul, and the message of salvation drew me in like an addiction (a good one--like to coffee or chocolate).

Then, knowing how lost I was, I accepted Christ.

From that moment, I changed. I recognized my sin and no longer had to search for it. I quit the behaviors that disproved my assumptions of being the perfect mother, teacher, daughter.

The Root of Our Issues

  1. We are unclean.
  2. We are blind to the fact that all have sinned (which means us) and fallen short of God's glory.
  3. No one else is to blame for our transgressions.
  4. Trying to fix it through religion, others, self or the world is only stage make-up. It hides the blemishes, but cannot make them vanish.
In my life, that Christ died for me even when I didn't realize I was a sinner, is the greatest blessing of my life.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

To Forgive=To Forget--Part 2 The How To

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Without forgiveness, the hurts of our lives cling to us like the smoke wildfires.

We burn each time we finger the seared surface.

God knows our pain. After all, He forgave the unpardonable. Upon the cross, after brutal torture despite His innocence, Jesus said, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." If He forgave, so can we.

How?


Four Ways to Achieve Forgiveness


1.               Make the decision to forgive. Alcoholics and drug addicts must admit their shortcomings in order to find sobriety. Likewise, in overcoming unforgiveness, we must decide this is something we will do. The anguish won't necessarily go away instantaneously, but over time, it will fade.

2.               Every time you replay the offense say, "I forgive." At first you'll sound like a broken record. Eventually, you'll find you're "forgiving" less and the memories will distance themselves from your life.

3.               Don't expect the perpetrator to change. You are the one who needs to be healed. Other people are responsible for their own lives.

4.               Talk to a trusted friend. This person must be a proven confident, not simply anyone who is within earshot.

5.               Talk to a counselor. Broken friendships, insults, misunderstandings and other petty things can heal by themselves. However, for the monstrous issues, you need a trained professional be it a church pastor or a psychiatrist. Do not be ashamed to reach out for help.

6.               Use your experience to heal others. We've heard of people who have started self-help groups, inspired legislation or simply have become mentors to those suffering the same heartache. By giving to others, your own sorrow can be calmed.

I've used each of the above and can attest to their efficacy. With forgiveness, the welt of a scar might remain, but the pain doesn't.

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