Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God Never Hurries: And It Benefits Us

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

Have you ever known God to be in a rush for anything?

I'm not asking facetiously. Scripturally, He waited four days to go heal Lazarus. He let a storm rise on the Sea of Galilee before waking up to calm it. He didn't run to heal Jairus's daughter. Abraham and Sarah waited. Hannah, too. Always, He took His time.

And always it was perfect.

We've heard of people who get their answers almost instantly. They marry quickly, have kids easily, find a job, a home, success.

But don't despair if it takes time.

God is never in a rush. God is always on time.

This is especially true for me--a woman who had to get it done yesterday.

Effects of Waiting in My Life

  1. I waited twenty years as a divorced woman before I met my husband. Neil would never have been free to marry me any sooner. I remember one time, God sent me off on a mission trip to Romania. I think He had one purpose--so I wouldn't make a play for a man, new to our church fellowship, who ended up falling in love with one of my closest friends. He wasn't meant for me. Neil was. And he is God's perfect gift for me.
  2. I waited many years before I got published. Now, in a new home, I've found a devoted audience who loves my work and encourages me continually. Will I make it as an author? Read my works, especially The Poison We Drink and you'll see that I should. However, if not, God's perfect timing will allow my work to fall in the right hands at the right time, and He will receive the glory. 
  3. The first house we bought in Tennessee, fell through on the day we signed the papers. It was a divine place on five secluded acres in Fentress County. If we moved there, we wouldn't have the wonderful church family and friends we have here. Our home in Jacksoboro has all we need and want--and we're able to minister to family and friends in a way we never would have in the first home we tried to buy.
  4. Our ministry will bring us joy. Once more, I'm teaching Sunday school. Seems since the day I'd gotten saved, this is where I always end up. It took two years and a "trick" by God to get me back into kids' church--but at the right time, I was available. The same with our guest house. We tried to rent it seasonally to friends. I considered renting it to a young couple who needed a home. Instead, we waited. Then two dear friends, our new 40-year-old children, found themselves homeless--with four animals no landlord would ever allow in her rental. And we had a place for them.
In my life, by waiting on God, I never lost a thing. I only gained.

Be patient. Wait.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Like It or Not, Some Sins Are Relative

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving ... 1 Tim. 4:4

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

A friend of mine hated  rock music. In his youth, the lyrics led him to drug use and immorality. As a Christian, God convicted him. This form of music drove him to sin, and he could not listen to it any longer. Being a godly man, he obeyed.

The only problem this created, though, was the idea that if rock music was sinful to him, it was sinful to everyone. 

We belonged to a church that believed 1 Cor. 8:9--that our liberty could never be a stumbling block to the weak. Ergo, if my friend could not listen to rock music, none of us could. Furthermore, none of us should ever disagree with him.

This became a problem for me. If he didn't like music, I couldn't. enjoy it or admit I did. 

Things snowballed. Another person thought dancing a sin. Therefore, no one danced. However, dancing before the Lord was mandated. If you didn't, you were sinful...

On and on it went.

These good-intentioned self-denials were another form of legalism. The only thing God asked of me was to not blare my Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston music in his presence. I could talk about it, admit going to the concerts, etc.

I come from a long line of alcoholics. God convicted me early about drinking, and I don't. It doesn't mean my Christian friends can't drink. The Bible forbids drunkenness, but not the consumption of wine or beer or a Cosmo. I have no right to demand everyone adhere to my conviction.

The truth is, some sins are relative. (click to tweet)

Some--like drunkenness or immorality are absolute, yes.

But long ago, I learned sin is sin for only two reasons:

 If a particular addiction hurts you or others--we must abstain.

Are there things you abstain from because of personal reasons?

Monday, June 26, 2017

House Cleaning and Sin: How We Justify Our Self-Hatred

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

We invited friends over to the house at the last minute. I looked over my home and knew I only had time for what I called "lies and deceptions." I had to clean, but a real cleaning wouldn't happen. The fake one would have to do.

I ran a dust rag over the furniture. Vacuumed fast. Shoved dirty pans in the oven. Closed the door to my study. I was set.

Of course, my house wasn't clean, but my image was.

If my friends opened the closed door, if they checked the oven or looked in a cabinet, they'd find how truly awful I was.

Sort of like sin in our lives.

We confess to God but hide our weakness from our peers. If they really knew our neurosis--like sitting up all night knowing the little lump on our calf was not from hitting the end table, but a ravenous cancer--they'd think us mentally deranged, lacking faith. Maybe we're hiding our disinterest in worship or of Bible study in fear they'd think we're not spiritual. Perhaps our bursts of anger would make them question our character.

Hiding sin from trusted peers enslaves us to our image. It justifies our self-hatred or depression or loathing of others as we project our sin onto them.

Repentance must be two-directional:

  1. We must confess to God, first and foremost. Implied in this is the fact we've acknowledged the sin to ourselves. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, He will forgive us. Therefore, we know we are clean. Still, guilt cloys. We need to get rid of its stench.
  2. We must confess to others. This doesn't mean we tell any old person even if that person is a devout believer. I made the mistake of confessing a boredom with my Bible reading to a Bible study group. Within days, I received a nasty letter from one member questioning my salvation. It did nothing for my self-esteem. However, we all have, or should work to have, a trusted friend or spouse or family member with whom we can confide. We should belong to a church with a loving pastor.
    1. They can give us insight to the reason for our guilt.
    2. Their continued love reassures us we're treasured just as we are.
    3. We discover our perfect compatriots are as sullied as us.

Confession is good for the soul. (click to tweet)

Repentance must be two-directional. (click to tweet)

Hiding sin justifies our self-hatred. (click to tweet)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Celebrate Your Weirdness: You are wonderful, no matter what you think

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Ps 139:14

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

English: President Barack Obama writes at his ...
Great people  have what had been considered oddities.
President Obama was left-handed.
My brother Art is left-handed. Back when we were in grade school, left-handedness was considered a trait to be corrected. So many lefties were forced to convert to right-handed writing.

When that failed, they still faced tribulation.

My granddaughter, too, uses her left hand. Spirals in notebooks get in the way. Ink smudges over her hand--even when using a ball point pen. Scissors? Not designed for her.

So sad that we couldn't celebrate our diversity then, but we know now, lefties are a creative crew--right-brained, different-thinking. They have solutions no one else does. Gifts God created especially for them.

English: Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges...
English: Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges, chapter 3. Eglon assassinated by Ehud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It reminds of Ehud, a hero from the Book of Judges. As a left-handed warrior, he had to design a special two-edged sword because standard ones wouldn't work for him. Unlike other fighters, he hid the shortened blade on his right side, not his left. When he approached the evil king, Eglon, the monarch kept his eye on Ehud's left side--where a sword should have been.

Because he had to design a special sword, because it was on the opposite hip that everyone else used, Ehud was able to assassinate the fat, wicked Moabite ruler.

Think of your own uniqueness--you're not weird. 

  1. Do you suffer from mental illness? God can use your focus and pain. For those with Asperger's or OCD, you have concentration that could make Bill Gates envious. Perhaps the mental stress of other issues disturb you. You can understand the pain other people face. You can nurture them. Mental illness is the same as chronic physical illness. You're not weird.
  2. Do you see odd shapes in trees and rocks when others see trees and rocks? I hike regularly. Pat is always pointing out boring rocks to me. "Look, a duck!" or "There's a rabbit holding a rifle." I'd look, and, sure enough, in the erosion of the stone, a duck face or gun-toting bunny would have formed. This imaginative mind makes a fanciful world out of the mundane.
  3. Does a physical illness plague you? A woman in our church must go on dialysis three times a week. Those long, tedious days are not spent glued to a TV. She spends hours in prayer.
  4. Are you single in a married world? God can use the time to build your creativity, your ministry to others or develop your talents. You can work to your full potential in ways married people can't.
If we're honest, all of us are weird.

The strength comes in acknowledging it and calling it for what it is: we are fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made.

Each of us has our own strengths.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

6 Ways to Conquer Depression

All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Num. 14:2

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

When it comes to conquering depression, many of my friends will laugh and say, "She's hardly the expert on conquering sorrow."


My life often resemble the lives of those recalcitrant Israelites newly freed from Egypt. "Oh that we could've eaten the leeks and melons of Egypt." "God, have you brought us here to die?"

I may not crave an onion, but I'll often look at what's gone wrong and throw my life into despair. However, I do NOT wish to be like the Israelite nation who, as a result of their attitude, were forced to wander around for forty years.

I think a week of melancholy is too much.

If depression is more than temporary. If you can't point to a situation that catapults you into despair, see a doctor. Medical issues like thyroid or cholesterol levels can be at the foundations. Good medications exist that help brain dysfunction.

For the normal episodes, try the following.

6 Ways to conquer depression:

  1. Get exercise. Running for me always boosts my mood. If that level of aerobic activity is not possible, try something else. I joke and say I'm the good Antaeus. He got his strength from the ground, so Hercules had to strangle him by holding him off the earth. Put my fingers in the soil, and the dirt on my psyche is cleansed.
  2. Get sociable. The last thing you want to do when depressed is to be with people. That's exactly what you should do. Find a friend; go for lunch. Head to the beach. Hit the meeting you're supposed to go to and linger afterwards for conversation.
  3. Eat properly. In my despondency, give me ice cream and coffee. Or rather, coffee ice cream with a cup of coffee. Bad move. Eating (or for me when depression totally slobber-knocks me, not eating) is one of the worst things you can do. Get lots of fruit and veggies and low fat protein. Change out the banana split for banana and low fat yogurt.
  4. Count your blessings. Situations truly can hurt. We lose jobs. Our spouses leave us. Disease or death hits. The Israelites had just been freed from slavery. They saw the hand of God drown the Egyptians, still they despaired. Sometimes, knowing how ungrateful we are temporarily exacerbates our sorrow. In the end, where we focus is where we go. Keep a journal, count the good in your life.
  5. Get involved mentally. Work for me always eliminated sorrow. How could I dwell in blackness when 100 adolescents awaited my brilliant teaching? If you don't have a good work situation, find a good book or a hobby or a ministry or solve Sudoku or crossword puzzles.
  6.  Seek God.  First and last (He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega),  seek God. Memorize scripture that speaks to your situation. Pray. Find a prayer partner (see #2 above). God promises, "I know the thoughts I have for you, thoughts of good and not evil, to bring you hope and an expected end." (This is a Carol variation of Jeremiah 29: 11--see #5 and 6. Even I can memorize).

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Daily Repentance: Three Signs We're Following Christ

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. ... Rom. 7:14-23

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

May 31st marked my thirty-seventh year as a Christian. Prior to my conversion, a dear friend Colleen witnessed to me regularly. As the Holy Spirit drew on my spirit, I knew I needed to repent. I'd bow my head and search my conscience for something, anything, I did wrong.

At last, I remembered a moment when I got angry. "Forgive me, Lord," I'd pray. Then I'd blissfully live my life.

On Sunday, May 31, 1980, I knew the truth--knew I had to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Then I saw my wickedness. No longer did I have to struggle to find something I need to repent of. I'd ask for forgiveness. I'd work out my salvation according to what God showed me. Then I'd get to a point I knew I was living righteously.

It's at this pinnacle that God always intervenes, and shows me, once again, that I have sinned and need to change.

Daily Repentance Is Proof of Salvation

  1. God is gracious. He doesn't show us our sin until we can handle it.
  2. God doesn't give us more than we can handle. My brother gave up drinking the instant he got saved. Six months later, he realized he should quit smoking pot. We, as Christians, find the need to eliminate marijuana from our lives as obvious. My brother didn't. In repentance and obedience, he quit. The same holds true for us. God gives us one area at a time to improve. Even when we conquer it--say our pride or our anger or our envy--at a later date God will refine our character to further weed out the sin.
  3. Every day we improve. Like a growing child, we don't see our growth. However, when we look back on our lives, our progress will amaze us.
We don't get it perfectly when we "walk the aisle." But God continues to work in us for His good pleasure.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Marriage, Moving and Salvation--A Parable

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Col. 1:13

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

For twenty years, I parented alone.

No man visited the church I dedicated myself to, and I wasn't going to search among the unsaved for love or a father-figure for my daughter.

In my fifties, I met Neil. We married. We switched churches. Finally, we moved from New York to Tennessee.

Here no one knows me as a single mother. No one is aware of the sins I committed in my Christian walk or the missteps and misbeliefs of my life.

Here I am a mature Christian with abundant gifts. Daily friends and ministers remind me of how blessed they are by my life.

My sins have been covered.

This is a parable of salvation:

  1. Before we accept Christ, we live in sin and shame. Any single person who attends an organization filled with married people, know they are unintentionally ostracized. There was no "sin" in my singleness, but we can look at it as a metaphor. I felt alone and inadequate. With no mate, I knew (erroneously) I was  undesirable. Daily I prayed for God to cover my "shame."
  2. We become the bride of Christ. With my vows to Neil, my singleness had been erased. Just as with my vows to Jesus, all my sin had vanished.
  3. Salvation moves us from one kingdom to another.  No one knows me without my "covering." Here I'm married, and for all intents, had been married all my life. So many people enumerate my great qualities. They're impressed that I've published three books. They believe I do wonders in my mentoring of recovering addicts. They think I'm a Bible scholar. My move, like salvation, has removed my "sins of the past" and transferred me into a "kingdom of  glory."

Of course marriage and moving don't mirror the glory of salvation. But God, when we accept him as Lord and Savior, moves us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.

Think of the patriarchs. They all moved. Their marriages reflected the kingdom of God. Salvation doesn't care where you've been or what you've done. It creates a new creation.

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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.


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 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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