Storms & Other Disturbances of the Soul

Storms can be windy places, can’t they?  The wind can stir things up that only yesterday were extremely peaceful and beautifully untouched.

The ferocious and relentless blowing that accompanies a twister often threatens imminent destruction with no thought of what should be off-limits to the powerful storm.

The gale force winds terrorize everything in their pathway … relationships, hopes, dreams, stability and finances.

And then there is the rain of the tempest that drenches everything without respect to value, significance or longevity.

The perpetual precipitation of the downpour often overpowers preparation and minimizes emotional insurance.

What storm is brewing off the coast of your life today?  Do you see it coming on a bull’s eye path in your direction?

Is it the hurricane of difficult finances or of a challenging health situation?  Perhaps the disturbance that is impending your borders was stirred up by fractious relationships or by continual disappointment.

Storms can be windy places, can’t they?

What should a believer do during the dark and discouraging days of storm-tossed living?  Should you just try to just ride it out?  Or, is it advisable to prepare wisely and then simply hope for the best?

Perhaps what you have tried in the past is to scream for help and then desperately claw your way away from the storm?

Is it possible to make it through a windstorm of circumstances without encountering any life-threatening damage?

Is it possible?

I want to talk to two groups of people today – those who are not in a storm and those who are in a storm.

First of all … if you are not in a storm today …trust me on this … different seasons of life often bring massive and oppressive gusts of wind and downpours of disappointment.

If I were you, I would prepare thoroughly and wisely for any future storms that crawl up the coast of life and head in your direction.  I am not a prophet of doom nor am I a storm-chasing meteorologist, but I have lived long enough to know that the rain will fall. 

Eventually … the rain will fall and the winds will blow on all of us.

So, if you are not in a blizzard of difficult circumstances and troublesome conditions today, this is what you can do to prepare for the storms of tomorrow.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24 & 25

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Build your life on the Rock.  What does that mean, you say?!  I am so glad that you asked …

Have a daily quiet time when life is serene and constant.  Read your Bible even when the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the birds are singing.  Dig deeply into the truth of the sacred page even when your heart is singing with joyous contentment.

Memorize a scripture every month … or even a well-loved verse each week. Hide God’s Word in your heart when you don’t have a care in the world.

Develop the Godly and strengthening habit of cultivating a daily prayer time.  Spend time just thanking God for Who He is and for what He has accomplished in your life.  Make a list of blessings and give God abundant praise for each one.

Come to the Father boldly with your prayer requests and trust that He is listening to you and that His answers are on the way.  Don’t just pray for yourself but cultivate the joyful practice of praying for others as well!

Sing. Out. Loud.  Sing at the top your lungs!  Lift your hands in the air and worship God loudly on the happiest days of your life!  Don’t miss one day of this celebratory, enriching and deliberate practice! Out-sing the lies of the enemy and join in the gorgeous harmonies of those who sit around the throne of the Father.

Attend church … tithe your finances … give above your tithe … join a Bible Study … invite people into your home to pray … support a missionary or go on a mission’s trip … volunteer to serve at your church … encourage someone in need.

All of these vital practices will ensure that your house has been built upon the Rock of Jesus Christ.

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As I watch coastal areas prepare for horrific storms, I realize that people are willing to spend money on sand bags to keep the water out, on lumber to board up their windows and on gallons of bottled water to ensure drinking safety.

What are you willing to spend in order to prepare for the next unmanageable storm that threatens the safety of your life?

And now, if you are currently in a severe tempest in life, wise advice to you is this: Dash for shelter and cry out to the only One who is able to save you!

For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” – Isaiah 25:4

Jesus is your shelter!  Money will not protect you … people will often mistreat you … food will betray you … and your career has no saving power.

Snuggle up into the protective arms of Jesus and allow His presence and His power to be all of the safety that you need during the worst hours of your life.

Call on His Name … declare His authority … remember His promises.

There is no storm that is too formidable for Him and there is not blast of wind that is a match for His great power.

When you are in a storm of impending destruction, don’t make things more difficult than they already are.

Run to Jesus … cry out to your Savior … declare the promises.  It is in that place that you will find all of the safety that you need. Remind yourself that you are in the boat with Him and that He is in the boat with you! You are in good hands with Jesus!

“He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm.” – Matthew 8:26

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a hear that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Embracing Change

I always associate the month of September with new beginnings … with a fresh start … with life-altering resolutions and a sort of “Here we go again!” attitude.

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved the first day of school, did you?! I adored the freshly sharpened pencils, the clean notebooks, the new shoes that pinched my toes and the possibility of a new friend or two!  I couldn’t wait to find out who my new teacher would be and was beyond excited to carry my new lunchbox to school.

I remember distinctly not being able to sleep the night before school began for a new year.  I vividly recall tossing and turning in my pink canopied bed with butterflies dancing through the hallways of my stomach!  And I wasn’t just in kindergarten when this happened … my first-day-of-school insomnia was an annual occurrence all the way to my senior year in high school.

As I was pondering the availability that September produces of a fresh start, I suddenly realized that in order to have a fresh start you must prepare for it! I didn’t enter a new school year as a child without being thoroughly prepared for it.  It took weeks of preparation so that all of the required details were accomplished that would guarantee a successful start to the new year of classes.

Perhaps what you have been ignoring in your life is the required preparation to have that amazing fresh start. You will never accomplish a powerful change in your life until you spend time in the preparation that it requires.

Let me just encourage you today to prepare for a fresh start!  Make a plan so that you can begin again!  Plot out your new course or you will forever be stuck on that unending hamster wheel of living.  Who wants that?!

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“Behold the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” – Isaiah 42:9

Here are a few solid choices that you can make in order to embrace a new and innovative change in life –

First of all, this question, “What do I want to change?” 

Do you want to change your income level?  Or your weight?  Or your health?  Or the way in which you parent?

Do you want a better marriage?  Do you desire to have a healthier relationship with your parents?

Do you want to work less?  Read more? Waste less time on social media?  Reconnect with old friends?  Spend more time with family?

Write out your desired change and keep it continuously in front of you.  Write it out on a sticky note and put it on your dashboard of your car.  Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Write it on a 3x5 card and put it in your wallet.  Attach it to the refrigerator door with a magnet.

You must be constantly reminded of that which you wish to change otherwise you will never get around to it.

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The second question you must answer in order to enact life-altering and long-term change is this, “Why do I want to change?”

Motivation is a grand determinate in order to accomplish desired change in one’s life.  Conversely, lack of motivation is like throwing water on your slowly burning embers of desire.

If you don’t know why you want to change, then you will never change!  Figure out the “why” before you determine the “how”.

When I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago, it was because I had battled cancer and I knew that I had to change my life in order to live a long time!  Talk about motivation!  When death stares you in the face, suddenly you get your motivation on!

I didn’t lose weight to fit into a size 6 or to look good in pictures, I lost weight so that I could live and serve God wholeheartedly.  That is my motivation … what is yours?

And the third question that you must confront is this one, “How am I going to make the desired change?”

Answering this third question is where that infamous rubber meets the road to change.

Do you need to meet with someone to help you establish a budget?

Do you need to join a gym? Do you need to get a library card? Do you need to put a lock on the refrigerator door?!

Plot out a few practical steps that will actuate your desired change and then discipline yourself to embrace new habits.

New habits are nothing to be dreaded but they are the freedom that you have been longing for!

“Discipline” is not a dirty word but it is the word that champions build a life upon!

All successful change requires diligent work and a little bit of sweat!  If you long for a fresh start in life, prepare to be the newer, better version of yourself.

What do you want to change?

Why do you want to change?

How will you make the change happen?

It’s up to you, my friend, but I believe in you! I believe that this is a brand new season for you and that a fresh start is just one choice away.

“Yet one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 & 14

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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New Beginnings

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I have always loved “new”.

I have always been inspired by freshly-sharpened pencils … a never-been-used notebook … a new, stylish dress … and crisp sheets on my bed.

What “new” things do you delight in?

I have always been rejuvenated by a bouquet of freshly-picked flowers from the garden … a book with an unbroken spine … the sparkling possibility of a brand-new friendship.

There have been stellar and unmatched moments in my life when I embrace the glory of the “new” just like a two-year old splashes in the puddles of a spring rain!

My adrenaline jumps when I experience the glee ofa pair of spotless white tennis shoes … a red, ripe tomato still warm from the sunshine in a summer’s garden … and an empty calendar ready to be filled with the activities of a new year.

As a mother, I’ll simply never forget one of the greatest “new” moments in my life.  I, in fact, have experienced this particular “new” 5 times over. 

As long as I am living and breathing this side of heaven, I will always sweetly remember the sensation of holding a newborn baby in my arms … so fresh from heaven … so untouched by the world … so miraculously unblemished.

5 times I have experienced the gift of a new life … a red, wrinkled face and 10 perfect little toes … clear, innocent eyes ready to explore the life that was ahead.

When I placed my nose up to the perfection of their little mouths, I could almost smell heaven in their baby breath.

There is absolutely nothing that compares to the gift of a new baby.

However, there is another “new” that brings unexplainable joy to my heart!

This unforgettable, too-good-to-be-true, “let’s change the world” celebratory experience is the “new” of a fresh start!

A do-over! A second chance!

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I love the crystalline possibility that comes with being able to start over again … to begin again … to take a deep breath and to set my gaze toward tomorrow in spite of what lies behind me.

A new day … an untouched tomorrow … a pioneer spirit.

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” – Isaiah 42:9

I was talking last week to a young woman who is about to jump off the diving board of safe and protected family life into the pool of exciting collegiate living.

I said to her, “Tori!  You can be anyone you want to be!  Decide who you truthfully are in the deepest part of your soul and then be that girl! Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back from being the person you have always longed to become!”

And as I spoke those words over her novice life, I realized that the same possibility was just as true for me as it was for her.

It doesn’t matter that she is a fresh 18 year-old and that I am a seasoned 62 year-old.

It doesn’t matter that my body has been marked by wrinkles and with stretch marks and that she is beautifully young.

It doesn’t matter that Tori has more of life in front of her than behind her while I have more of life behind me than in front of me.

It doesn’t matter that Tori is about to become a college co-ed and I am a grandmother 7 times over.

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” – II Corinthians 5:17

Christ loves to give fresh starts to wrinkled, spotted and tired bodies

He loves to speak new life over the dead, barren places in our hearts.

Christ came to make us new … He knew that there would be seasons in life that would just wear us down with weakness and worry. He came to give new power and new strength.

Christ came to make us new … He understood that discouragement and disappointment would age us into decrepit versions of ourselves long before He was done using us.  And so He came to give fresh hope and renewed joy.

Christ cares not what the date on your birth certificate is, how many wrinkles you have accumulated on your formerly newborn skin, or how much of life has past you by.

He came to make you new! He longs to hold you in His arms and gaze at your potential.

His heart is overwhelmed with the complete joy of giving life to you whether you are 18 or 82.

He loves gazing into your eyes and celebrating all that is yet ahead!

So today is your day for a fresh start … for a new beginning … and for a divine make-over.

You see, the God Who is an expert at making all things new, has made you!

He is the God who is making all things miraculously new … and that includes YOU!

“And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” – Revelation 21:5

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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What to Do When You Have a Broken Heart

A broken heart …

Have you ever had one?

It seems that so many things have the power to disappoint … to discourage … or to confuse … but that’s not exactly what I am talking about.

I am referring to something so much more ravaging than a broken fingernail, a lost job promotion or an unexpected bill in the mail.

Have you ever had your heart truly broken? 

In pieces?  Shattered beyond recognition?

Have you ever wondered if your heart would eventually have the strength to beat again?

A broken heart …

Some people possess hearts that are more fragile than others. Some folks are the owners of hearts that are made of that nearly indestructible stuff that is not easily destroyed or fractured.

There are some hearts, however, that are, indeed, delicate and are able to be shredded at the smallest possible jarring.

And honestly, some of us have allowed our hearts to be broken by that which should have no demolition power at all in our lives. There have been moments in my life when I have needed to repent over the petty, miniscule events and circumstances that I have allowed to mangle my formerly healthy heart.

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If I allow mere inconveniences to break my heart, I will never have the vibrant capacity to walk in God’s destiny and desire for my one-in-a-million life.

However, there are experiences and people that will indeed break one’s heart this side of heaven.

Serious illness … childhood rejection … unkind and undeserved words … early or sudden death … infertility … abuse … divorce … addictions …

What has broken your heart?

If you have a broken heart, there is nothing of which to be ashamed

I actually believe that when the throbbing abates a bit, a broken heart can actually be your finest hour.

Why in the world would I believe that?  I believe that your broken heart has the potential of becoming your finest hour because of something that the Bible says …

The Bible tells us an extraordinary detail about what comes with a broken heart.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Isn’t that an amazing piece of truth?! 

If your heart has been broken due to horrific human pain, the Lord is hovering close to you.  He has not left you to deal with the trauma or injury alone.  He is beside you, tending to you, gently caring for you in the most painful and devastating moment of your life!

God knew that there would be things, events and people this side of heaven that would have the ability to shatter a human heart and so He had a healing answer for those grim experiences.

The answer is Him!

The answer is always Him!

The answer has always been Him!

The answer will always BE Him!

He is our Healer –emotionally, spiritually and physically!

The mistake that many broken-hearted people make is that they run away from the Father rather than toward Him in their moment of deep and excruciating pain.

Many people whose hearts have been crushed by catastrophe or by hardship build walls between themselves and the loving Father.

If your heart has been broken, snuggle into His presence and stay there until the healing begins.

Read the sacred pages of the Psalms and allow the powerful Words of Life to do open heart surgery on you!

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

Allow the Father to do what He does best … allow Him to be your Healer.

Chocolate won’t heal you … shopping has no intrinsic healing power … bitterness will only increase the pain.

People, as wonderful as they are, can only lead you toward or away from the Great Physician.

People don’t heal … Jesus heals!

It is His presence that will restore your ruptured and pounding heart.

Lift your hands in worship and sing to Him even in the midst of unremitting and appalling misery.

It’s o.k. to cry … just keep your hands in the air while you cry.

It’s o.k. to weep … just worship while you weep.

It’s o.k. to mourn … just sing a melody to the Father while the tears roll down your cheeks.

Worship doesn’t stuff your pain … it heals your pain.  Worship doesn’t ignore emotional brokenness … it soothes human brokenness. Worship doesn’t numb internal bleeding … it regenerates and repairs the damage that has been done.

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“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.” – Elisabeth Elliot

God is intimately close to a person who is dealing with the awful and consuming reality of a broken heart.  But, He doesn’t want you to stay in that place of ashes and pain.

He longs to heal you so that He can use you.  He wants to mend you so that you can mend others.  He wants to restore your heart so that it can beat in sync with His heart of compassion.

A broken heart may be part of your story but it is not the end of your story. Allow Him to embrace your brokenness so that He can fill you with all that He is and all that He has.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Victoriously and Joyfully Ever After

I am a bona-fide, diagnosed read-aholic!

I read absolutely everything that I can lay my hands on.  (It’s actually everything that I can lay my eyes on but let’s not quibble over body parts here.)

I read new children’s books and classic literature.  I devour biographies and gobble up historical fiction. I am captivated by theological volumes and can’t put down self-help books. I am addicted to devotionals, commentaries and even antiquated novels.

However – I must tell you.  I always read the last chapter first.  Always.

Now, before you groan and throw rotten tomatoes at me, let me explain my thought processes to you.

I don’t want to waste my time reading a book that doesn’t end well or that is filled with illogical and unacceptable conclusions.

I only have so much time in a given day to drink from the books that satisfy my thirsty soul and so I selectively choose to read published works that come to a well-written, Biblically sound and victorious completion.

You can roll your eyes at me if you would like to do so … but this method of “knowing the end before the beginning” works for me.  It simply works.

And, the truth is … this is exactly what we all desire in our individual lives as well.

We all yearn for our lives to come to a satisfying and peaceful conclusion.

Deep within each one of us, we long for our lives and for our circumstances at long last to reach that “happily ever after” attainment that seems to work in fairy tales.

Certainly not one of us hanker for a tragic ending … or for an incomplete life … or for a worst-case scenario!

We all deeply desire that our prayers are answered, that our battles end in victory and that peace has the final word.

When you know the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the World and the power of the Holy Spirit, all of your life’s events are going to be better than “happily ever after …”

You might naively wonder, “What in the world could be better than happily ever after?”

I am so glad that you asked that impossible question because I am here to answer it for you today!

When God writes your story, every conundrum and each challenge in life is going to wrap up with the exclamatory reality, “And they lived victoriously and joyfully ever after!”

How is THAT for too-good-to-be-true news?!

Now … I don’t want to give you a spoiler here but I must. I absolutely must put you out of your life-long suspense. Here comes the spoiler…

Are you ready?  We are going to read the very last chapter of your life … here we go … this is how it reads…

Everything is going to be o.k.!

Everything is actually going to be better than o.k. … it’s going to be great!

How do I know that?  I know that because when you allow God to write your story – He is into happy endings.  He types, with indelible ink, victorious, joyful, hopeful conclusions to all of our stories!

Hallelujah!  “And they lived victoriously and joyfully ever after …” is not a phantom dream but it can be a reality in all of our lives.

However … there is a key variable that shifts this phrase from a wish to a guarantee.

The unavoidable and important phrase is this:  “When you allow God to write your story …”

I have come to the realization that God is a much better author than I am and I must partner with Him in the unfolding of my life story.  There are people, situations and events over which I have no control and I must give each one of those difficulties to Him. I must allow His goodness to deal with each fractious person, with each volatile situation and with each unwanted event.

I must resist the urge for revenge and for bitterness and I must allow Him to fight for me.

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In case you didn’t know it … He is much better at fighting and at winning than I am or than you are. We can fight on our own terms if that’s what we insist upon … but victory is not a guarantee in the self-fought scenario.

Victory is only guaranteed when you allow the Lord to fight your battles!

It is His delight to lead you in triumph but you must allow Him to do the leading while you do the following.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” – II Corinthians 2:14

The more that I demand my own way … the more that He will sit back and let me have my own way. 

When I tell God what I think that He should do … I have a suspicion that He sits back with a knowing smile on His grand face and says, “Well … let’s see how that will work for you.”

And invariably, it doesn’t.  My ideas generally don’t work. Father really does know best.

I never have had a better idea than God.  Never. Not in 62 years of living have I found myself even one time to be as smart as or as wise as my Father.

He is the expert at brilliant, innovative, creative solutions to all of my life’s problems.

He has been to my future and it is good because He is good! He is already there, in all of my future days yet to be lived, writing my story with words of victory, with sentences of hope and with the exclamation point of joy!

His conclusion for all of my life’s events end with the words, “And she lived victoriously and joyfully ever after!”

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10 Ways to Live the Life of Your Dreams

I know it … sometimes you think of me as Pollyanna with a Bible or as Mary Poppins on a mission.

I know it … sometimes you think that my blogs are too sugary sweet and that my words drip with Holy Spirit honey.

Not today, my friend! Today I am coming at ya’ as Oscar the Grouch … as the Grinch personified … and as Scrooge! Today … I am going to give it to you from a different point of view!

Today … I am going to talk to you about 10 ways to guarantee that you will live a perfectly awful life!

“10 Ways to Guarantee That You Will Live a Perfectly Awful Life!”

1 – Spew your opinions, political views and disappointment with life over everybody all the time

Make sure that your Facebook page is filled up with whining and complaining. Alienate the younger generation with your “I know more than you!” attitude. Verbal vomit is your middle name and you can’t wait to audibly barf over everyone in your unsuspecting pathway.  Oh … and while you are at it … cloak it in Christianity. Frame your verbal drudge with your faith. Count your troubles … name them one by one!

2 – Be too busy to pray. 

Involve yourself and your family in temporary activities that ensure that church attendance is not consistent, that devotions are sporadic and that prayer is ignored unless there is an emergency.  Let me know how that works for you …

3 – Set some time aside every day just to worry.

Worry about the economy. Worry about the political climate of America.  Worry about your family. Worry about your health. Worry about retirement. Worry before you go to bed.  Make sure that you worry before you get out of bed.  Worry in the shower and in the car. Worry out loud and worry privately. Live a life of full-blown worry!

4 – Belittle or ignore people who are supposed to be serving you

Complain about your waitress to her manager.  And don’t you dare leave that sorry waitress a big tip. Tell the person at the drive-thru window what a terrible job they have done of filling your order. Be curt with the single mom who checks you out in the grocery store line. Complain about the price of milk, the cleanliness of the store and how they never have what you need.  Give it to her without taking a breath!

5 – Believe that the world revolves around you, your pain, your needs, your desires and your time schedule

Everyone else should bow to you, consider you and revere you. You, after all, are the known center of the universe and everyone else should act as such! Be completely self-absorbed.  No one matters but you.

6 – Always look out for Number 1!

Make sure that your rights are loudly heard and always met. Ignore what other people desire or need … after all … you have your own life to live. So live a life in which you know that you deserve every benefit, every blessing and every ounce of attention that others can give.

7 – Don’t ever exhibit any compassion to anyone … anytime … anyplace … anywhere.

After all, if you get involved with other people’s troubles, you may neglect your own.  If you show one iota of mercy or understanding, the world is sure to walk all over you!

8 – Do not be faithful.

You can promise things but there is absolutely no good reason to actually follow through. Quit every job before it is completed. When you get bored with something to which you have made a commitment it is probably time to move on to the next big thing. If something is too difficult for you to finish – go and do something much easier. Overpromise and under-deliver is what I always say!

9 – Only be committed to things that are visible or tangible.

Things like reading your Bible, spending time in prayer or worship are irrelevant to the world in which we live.  Instead, play computer games, be captivated by your cell phone, spend loads of time on social media, watch endless YouTube videos, Netflix should be your best friend and make it a practice of not talking to anyone when a sporting event is on TV.

10 – Don’t ever forgive anyone ever

Allow bitterness to be a full-blown part of your life. Talk more than you listen. Let every person in your world know every single detail of what you think, feel and believe. When you are angry – let it show. When you are offended – make a big deal about it.

And now you know how to live the life of your worst nightmare!!

We have had some fun this week, haven’t we? 

Have you seen yourself in any of the “10 Ways to Live a Perfectly Awful Life”?! I hope not … but if you did … perhaps it is time for a change.  Perhaps you could be committed to a few different disciplines instead!

“10 Ways to Live the Life of Your Dreams!”

1 – Encourage one another day after day while it is still called today! – Hebrews 3:13

2 – Pray without ceasing! – I Thessalonians 5:17

3 – Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

4 – Know that you live in a Kingdom where serving others is the greatest thing that you can choose to do. – Mark 10:43

5 – Remind yourself that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. – James 3:16

6 – The only way to live a life of fulfillment is to live by the motto that, “He must increase and I must decrease”! – John 3:30

7 – Put on a heart of compassion and keep it on! – Colossians 3:12

8 – Exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is known as faithfulness! – Galatians 5:22

9 – Walk by faith and not by sight! – II Corinthians 5:7

10 – Never, never, never let the sun go down on your anger. – Ephesians 4:26

And that, my friend, is the life of your dreams and the life of God’s dreams for you! So choose that abundant and joyful life today!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Ban This Word From Your Vocabulary!

Have you ever heard of the word “humdudgeon”?  That’s what I thought! I had never heard of the word “humdudgeon” either but I innocently happened upon this word recently in one of my favorite devotionals.  The author says that this word means, “a loud complaint about a trifle.”

I have tried to find “humdudgeon” in several respected dictionaries but it is just not there.

However – I do like the word.  I like it very much. So, let’s assume that it is, indeed, an actual word and that its meaning is correct.

Humdudgeon: a loud complaint about a trifle.

Do you know anyone who is in the habit of allowing a humdudgeon or two to come out of his or her mouth?

Perhaps your children are known for loud and scratchy humdudgeons.  Perhaps that person that you work with … or your mother-in-law … or your neighbor is well-acquainted with this archaic, yet useful word: humdudgeon.

Nearly every person that I know has at one time complained about something that is merely a trifle! People are upset about politics, the economy, the weather, their sports teams, traffic, their health … and the list goes on and on and on.

Humdudgeon.  What a great, awful word!

Perhaps we should all consider taking our emotional temperatures this week and writing down every complaint that comes out of our powerful mouths.  Don’t be easy on yourself, but be painfully honest … write down each word of whining that you verbally express.

May I tell you a few stories about people who refused to complain and whine? These noble characters certainly deserved to throw a humdudgeon or two in the direction of history but they remained pure and resilient in their approach to life

Read about this man’s life story:

He failed in business as age 22.

Defeated for political office at 23.

Failed in business again at 24.

Fiancée died when he was 26.

Defeated for political office again at 29, 31, 34, 39, 46, 47 and 49.

Married at 33 to a very difficult woman.

Only one of four sons lived past age 18.

His name, of course, is Abraham Lincoln and he is one of the greatest presidents to ever have lived. He didn’t allow his enormous disappointments in life to hold him back from his destiny. When I read about Abraham Lincoln’s life, I sincerely wonder if I have ever had a problem worth mentioning!

Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroines of the faith.  These are a few highlights from her life:

She never married.

She was always overweight.

She always lived at home with her parents.

She was arrested and taken to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in the family home during World War II.

Her entire family died in the concentration camp.

Corrie didn’t know the meaning of the word, “humdudgeon”!  Every morning in the German concentration camp, Corrie jumped to her feet and enthusiastically sang, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!”

Wow!  What an extraordinary woman! She actually thanked God for the fleas in her bed because it kept the German guards from coming in!

There was not a humdudgeon in Corrie’s vocabulary of choice!

Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas? When they had been beaten and thrown into a Roman prison cell, these men didn’t utter one humdudgeon but instead they sang songs of praise to their loving Father!

And what happened due to the unbelievable choice of these wounded and imprisoned men? Well … God sent an earthquake to loosen their chains and to set them free.  If God did it for Paul and Silas, I have a feeling that He will do it for you as well!

There is also a sad group of people in the Bible that complained loudly and often! These people defined the very word, “humdudgeon”. Let me remind you of their woeful tale –

The Israelites were miraculously set free from the Egyptians, they were guided by the cloud of God’s presence, they walked through the roaring Red Sea on dry ground, they ate supernatural food and yet still they whined.

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased, for their bodies are scattered in the wilderness.” – I Corinthians 10:5 – NKJV

When a child of God chooses to whine rather than to worship, it leads that precious believer into a wilderness experience that is hard to escape.

What will indeed lead you out of the wilderness and away from spiritual death is the determinate to worship and then to embrace sweet contentment.

Worship + contentment = trust.

God’s goodness and His mercy really are following you all the days of your life regardless of what your circumstances might be.

Even God’s “no” has His heart of goodness stamped upon it!

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” – I Timothy 6:6.

Perhaps the opposite of the word “humdudgeon” is the word “contentment.” Maybe the very things about which we are tempted to whine and complain are actually a miraculous opportunity for us to embrace contentment instead.

Perhaps the true value of difficult circumstances in life is not in verbalizing them but is found in choosing to die to them and then determining to trust God instead.

Every difficult circumstance in life brings with it an opportunity to die to self and to trust in the goodness of God.

No more humdudgeons for me, my friend! This singular word will never be found in my dictionary of life!

Rather, I am compelled by the amazing power of the lives of Abraham Lincoln, of Corrie ten Boom and of Paul and Silas to trust rather than worry, to worship rather than whine and to refuse a spirit of complaining and embrace a spirit of contentment.

Be gone with you, humdudgeon! My days of complaining about the ridiculous are over and gone!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

* Portions of this blog were influenced by the writings of Elisabeth Elliot in her book, “Keep a Quiet Heart.”

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Keep a Tender Heart

This world is such a harsh place at times, isn’t it?

That is why it is so important to keep a tender heart.

Social Media is cruel … people’s expectations are exacting … and the news is tormenting.

Oh! How I long to keep a tender heart.

Tongues are vicious … events are alarming … and politics are confusing.

That is precisely why you and I should keep a tender heart.

A tender heart is a heart that God can work with … a tender heart knows the joy of loving beyond measure. A truly tender heart is well-acquainted with the benefits of caring beyond reason.

A tender heart doesn’t deny the truth but lives in a town by the name of “Mercy”.

A tender heart is a warm, caring and honest heart.

A tender heart is a heart that understands that life is hard but longs to offer a helping hand, a heartfelt hug and unconditional love in spite of differing opinions.

A tender heart listens and never demands.

A tender heart is not a weak heart … but it is a heart that perseveres when someone is in pain.

If you are a parent, cultivate a tender heart in your children.  Teach them to care for the needs of others. Please don’t minimize or ignore the deep feelings of the little people under your charge. I know that it is important to train children not to whine … but when they are feeling the depth of compassion for a person or an event … allow them to feel.

When a mom or a dad refuses to allow a child to express valid emotions in a healthy manner, not only will the little heart become hard … but so will the parental heart. Parents … keep a tender heart toward your children.  Listen to their tears … give them an opportunity to ventilate … and then embrace their sweet little frames.  When the intense time of emotion has passed, spend some valuable time coaching the child how to express pain, how to deal with emotions and how to banish disappointment in a healthy manner.

Stifling the feelings that are in a tender heart is never a healthy choice. A tender heart goes to the pinnacle and to the plunge of compassion and chooses to linger there when others move on.

A tender heart has cultivated Godly and appropriate responses to life. When you discover a friend with a tender heart, you have also found a tongue that blesses, a mind that understands and actions that are solely kind. 

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

When a heart is soft and tender, it is a heart that forgives quickly.  When a person decides to remain tender rather than become hard and unfeeling, the person with the tender heart is exhibiting the characteristics of God the Father and of Jesus the Son.

What an amazing possibility that is!  To be like Jesus in the harsh, severe and cold world in which we live!

You know, we are not all “wired” alike, are we? Some of us are able to contain our emotions in a heroic manner while others among us seem to sob, giggle and exaggerate our way through life.

Perhaps there is a healthy balance to which we all need to aspire and it is called having a tender heart.

A tender heart is aware of the needs of others and lovingly understands pain.

A tender heart cares less about self and more about the joy that a sacrifice might deliver to a friend’s life.

A tender heart looks to God for leadership and is always ready to walk beside a person who is going through a valley.

However, a tender heart doesn’t allow a loved one to remain in that valley of despair, in the swamp of discouragement or in the desert of self-pity. A tender heart lovingly, gently and powerfully leads a comrade toward the health that is found in on the mountaintop of hope.

Mount Hope is a powerful place from which to view life! And, you will find, that every sweaty climber who reaches that zenith point has a heart that is beating wildly yet tenderly.

Unfortunately, the rugged pathway to Mount Hope is littered with the excuses of those who refuse to care … who are immune to generosity … and who choose to judge rather than understand.

Predictably, the furrowed route that leads a weary traveler to the crest where hope reigns is filled with the empty opinions of hard-hearted travelers who never learned the value of tenderness.

Opinions harden a heart … so do unrealistic expectations. Refusing to care for a fellow traveler and ignoring the power of forgiveness will cause a heart to crack with brittle crevices.

A tender heart is a healthy heart because it is a reflection of the heart of Jesus. It is a virtue, indeed, that we all must choose while living in the traumatic conditions of earth.

I am praying for you today … as you endeavor to keep a tender heart.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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It's Time To Take Your Pulse

If you could accomplish one “great” thing for the Kingdom of God, what would it be?

If you could be known for a singular yet stellar accomplishment, what would it be?

If you could leave a lasting legacy, what would it be?

The truth is this … you do, indeed, have this one-of-a-kind opportunity!

You, as a package of frail humanity, have the opportunity to do something so miraculous and so extraordinary with your life that heaven will stand to its feet and roar in approval!

You, as a mere parcel of weaknesses and doubts, of strengths and quirks, of talents and imperfections, have been given the grand probability of making a difference at your moment in recorded history.

We all have a calling upon our lives that is beyond anything we could ever dream or imagine. 

We all have been made by the Creator of the universe on purpose … with purpose … and for purpose!

You have not been left out of this remarkable plan! Your life matters … your heart matters … you time matters … your choices matter … YOU matter!

I believe that it is vitally important every so often to assess the “pulse” of our passions in life.  In assessing your pulse, let me ask you some thought-provoking questions today -

What is it that causes you to get out of bed in the morning?

What is your last thought at night as you are drifting off to sleep?

Have you determined to make your minutes matter for eternity?

There is a scripture, nestled into the pages of the Book of Acts that has totally undone me for the past few years.  I discovered this powerful verse when I was in a wretched battle with cancer. I don’t know what battle you are in today … but I have a feeling that you need to be introduced to this verse!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay.” – Acts 13:36

God has a purpose for you in your own generation, just like He did for David!

God has something for you to accomplish that is not on anyone else’s “To-Do” list!

Knowing that God has a purpose for an ordinary life and knowing that our days are indeed numbered, how do we discover the purpose for which we have been created?

Do you, like me, long to live in that sweet spot of God’s purpose for life? However, often it seems that “purpose” plays a perpetual game of hide and seek with me!

This is what do I know even when “purpose” is nowhere to be found … God has a plan for my life that surpasses my wildest dreams!  Of that one thing I am sure!  Of that I am convinced!

And so – I will spend all of my days serving Him, loving Him, enjoying Him and trying to match His heart of purpose.

I won’t give in … I won’t give up … I will only give all I have for His call on my life!

You know, I have been thinking lately how I raised my children to dream big dreams and to climb high mountains.  I taught them that they were pre-wired to live an unprecedented life.  And all of that is true, isn’t it?

But what if I had taught my children how to be servants instead?  What if I had taught them, by word and by example, that in order to live a truly great life you must discover the joy of serving others?!

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” – Matthew 20:26

What if, rather than challenging my children to earn degrees, to hit home runs, to write best-selling books, or to compose great pieces of music, I had simply taught them the uncommon value of humble servanthood?

You see … perhaps we have it all wrong.  Maybe those of us who live in the Western world in the first part of the 21st. Century have been hoodwinked and lied to by our culture.

Our culture places great value on entertainment, on championship rings and on political prowess.  Our culture esteems business acumen, notoriety and Ivy League degrees.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Grammy Awards, college scholarships or running for political office.  But it is not any of those things that has the power to make a person “great” in his or her heart.

Earthly accomplishments are not the stuff of which a great life is made.

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A great life is always built upon the foundation of servanthood.  Always.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to serve those who are in need … to love those who are difficult … and to be patient with those who are prickly.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to call your mother or grandmother … to listen to your children’s jokes … and to say an encouraging word to your pastor.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to go about doing good just like Jesus did!

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good …” – Acts 10:38

If “doing good” was “good” enough for Jesus … then it is good enough for you and it is good enough for me!

So, today, my dear friend, don’t get lost in the quagmire of success, of accomplishment or of notoriety … simply find someone who needs a helping hand and then offer it.

You will discover your great purpose when you determine that Jesus has called you to be just like Him … and He turned His 33 years of earthly living into a grand-slam demonstration of the goodness and power of God!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Good, Good Father

What does the word “Father” mean to you?

For some, it brings back warm feelings of safety, provision, wisdom and laughter.

I always knew that I was supremely safe when my father was around … that no verified need of mine would ever go unmet … that I had a grand source of wisdom at my beck and call … and that when Dad was home there was always something to be happy about.

I had a rare father … a one-in-a-million Dad

He was a general of the faith, a student of the Bible, a missionary-supporter, a lover of my mom, a gardener and as steady as they come.

My dad’s name will never be in a history book for discovering the cure to some dread disease, for establishing world peace or for making millions of dollars. But in my book, there will never be anyone like him.  No one will ever come close to the man that my dad was. No one at all.

You see … a man’s name is never recorded for growing the world’s tastiest tomato, or for planning unforgettable family vacations that were filled with fun and adventure, or for teaching the Bible to the adult Sunday school class for nearly 40 years.

The world doesn’t deem it of value to know that my dad was never in debt, he only used a tender tone of voice in the home and that he supported an entire family of missionaries. 

My dad was an expert donut-maker, bicycle rider and was the consummate Jack-of-all-trades.  There was no plumbing problem that he was unable to fix … no toy that he was unable to put back together … and no vegetable that he was unable to can or freeze!

If a “Hall of Fame of Fathers” existed … my dad would deserve the number one spot.  Year after year after year.  Every year.  To infinity and beyond!

And so, when I hear the endearing word, “Father” … or “Dad” … or “Daddy” … my heart swells with a sweet pride and with a deep gratitude for the man who raised me and loved me.

He was a general … a giant … and a champion.  And he was my dad.  I was his little girl.  Even now, although he has been in heaven for 15 years, my heart expands at knowing the blessing of being raised by a truly great man.

However, for other people, the word “father” stirs up emotions of dread, displeasure and disappointment. My heart breaks for you if you don’t have the same memories of your dad that I do of mine. How I wish that I could turn back the hands of time and invite you, as a child, to join in the benefit of living under the same roof with me and my dad!  There was nothing like it.  Nothing like it at all.

Since I am unable to share my earthly dad with you … this Father’s Day … I’d like to share my heavenly Father with you!

You and I do indeed share a good, good Father.  He is compassionate beyond understanding and generous beyond measure; all of the wisdom of all of the ages begins and ends in His vast storehouse of knowledge.

Your Daddy’s heart is filled with great joy over your life and He can’t wait to spend time with you! He is never too busy for you and is never preoccupied with sports, technology or finances.  Isn’t that a rich comfort to your soul that has been desperately longing for a date with your Dad?!

Our Dad is infinitely patient and is never critical.  He believes that you are the masterpiece of His creation and loves watching your life unfold. 

He cheers for you when you are weak … sings to you when you are afraid … and believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

He is quite a Man, that Dad of yours!

Your Dad is slow to anger … and even when He does get angry it doesn’t last very long. It’s His favor that lasts for your entire life. 

When you feel alone, He gets your older Brother in on the family action.  Your older Brother always joins in the cheers, always is praying and always sings the songs the loudest that are meant for you and for you alone. Your older Brother’s Name is Jesus … perhaps you have heard of Him?

Your Dad loves to take long walks with you on this journey known as “life” and refuses to allow you to walk alone. He knows that there are dangers ahead, mountains to climb and dark valley’s to travel through; He holds your hand and whispers in your ear words of encouragement and hope - no matter what the topography of your life looks like.

Your Dad is quite the Man! You have that one-in-eternity kind of Father. So, this Father’s Day, rather than being filled with regret over what your childhood home was lacking, perhaps you could stir up some gratitude for the best Father of all!

Spend time with Him because He is just one prayer away. Listen to His voice because He has oceans of wisdom for you.  And please remember to just jump in His lap and enjoy His arms around you.  There’s nothing else He would rather do than to simply snuggle with you … not only on Father’s Day but also on every day of the year!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God, and all that He is!

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If I Had a Do-Over (in Parenting)...

Oh! If I could only travel back in time and do it all over again! Does your heart ever feel that way?

I know that I am supposed to leave the past behind and trust God with my memories. I know that. And I try to do it … I really do.

But there are just some moments in life when the past comes roaring upon me like a fast-moving and powerful train … and there I stand watching it all fly by me.

I see all of my yesterdays – the good and bad of it all. I see the successes and the failures. The sweet and the challenging. The yummy and the distasteful.

I see precious memories of childhood and the safety of my parents’ home. Birthday parties … Christmas morning … and just the joy of an ordinary dinner around the kitchen table with the people who laid the foundation for the woman I am today.

I remember being at the altar and giving my heart to Jesus and praying for the Holy Spirit to fill me with power. Even as a child, I remember just wanting more of Jesus.

I remember as a teen-ager and being caught at the crossroads of right and wrongof sin and morality … of Jesus and the culture. Oh! How I wish I could have a do-over in that moment.

I recall like it was just yesterday leaving for a college that was over 1,000 miles away from home and family.  I was caught in the bittersweet excitement where yesterday and tomorrow meet. It was my very first plane ride and upon takeoff it took me so much further than only 1,000 miles away from home.  It took me from childhood to adulthood … it flew me from dependent to independent … it transported me from being a dreamer to becoming a doer. That plane ride on that August morning in 1973 didn’t just take me to Tulsa, Oklahoma … it landed me exactly in my God-ordained destiny.

I remember the moment when I knew that Craig McLeod was the one for me. I felt the generous favor and love of God wash over my undeserving heart.

And how I remember holding my first baby in my arms!

There is no joy like the joy of new life.  A baby … so fresh from heaven … had been entrusted to us.

We were only ordinary people and yet God, in His grand plan, had given us a miracle in the flesh to hold … to love … to raise … to train … and to let go.

And then two years later there was another adorable son to love … and then a third son who was ever so wanted … and then the gift of a sweet little girl … and then one more daughter as the grandest surprise of all!

And … if I could do parenting all over again … there are some things that I would certainly do the same while other things I would change drastically.

I think that wanting a “do-over” with parenting perhaps is the greatest emotional challenge of all, isn’t it?

Somehow, as our hearts look back over the panorama of the parenting years, we tend to linger more on the mistakes that we made rather than on the battles that were won under our watch.

I have to train my mind and my heart to remember the victories and not merely the failures.  I must call forth the wonderful memories to rise to the top of the treasure chest known as my heart.

And so in this moment – I feel compelled to share with especially the parents of the next generation – some of the things that I would do differently if I could do it all over again. 

Will you indulge me in a brief and tender lesson coming from an older mom’s heart?

I would laugh more and scold less.

I would keep the minor things minor.

I would snuggle more and let the dust bunnies multiply.

I would let go of outside interests and activities so that I was better able to focus on the best activity of all – raising a family for the unshakable Kingdom of God.

I would read to them more and put away the distraction that screens presented.

I would rock longer and kiss away the tears.

I would listen to every joke … every story … and every heartbreak with rapt and undivided attention.

There will always be dishes to do … bills to pay … and laundry to fold.  But there won’t always be little people who just want me.

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I would give them more of me.

I would keep laughter ringing in every corner of my home.

I would teach them how to sing through the hard days of life! There is nothing like a song in your heart to wash away the disappointment of life.

I would memorize the Bible with them. Every day of every week of every month of every year … I would place the Word of God in their hearts.

I would discipline … but I wouldn’t yell. I would train … but I wouldn’t send them on guilt trips.

I would try to remember that their little hearts had been loaned to me for such a very short time and so I would treat each heart as a fragile and valuable commodity.

I would let them splash in mud puddles and not worry about dirty, wet shoes.

I would read an extra story rather than declaring that it was too late.

I would stop by the side of the road and let my children giggle at the cows wandering in the field

I would let them catch fireflies on a summer’s evening … I would let them play with play dough on a rainy afternoon even though it made a mess … I would let them stay up late and wait for Daddy even when it was past their bedtime.

I would let them help me bake cookies … I would take them to Gramma’s house more often … and I would just listen to the sound of their laughter.

That’s what I would do if I could do it all over again.  So young mom … young dad … if you are listening … I hope that you will turn my wishes into your reality.

Life flies by at the speed of light so don’t miss your moment to sing … to read … to hold … to giggle … to pray.

This moment will never come again.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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You Cannot Be...

As you all know by now, one of my lifetime goals is to live perpetually in a place of enthusiastic joy.  The choice to live in close companionship with joy is not always an easy task for a woman like me who also has a warped bent toward depression.

Often I write about the things that bring joy into my life … but lately I have been thinking about those areas in life that keep me from joy.  I have been pondering decisions, disciplines and habits that often deny me from that which I need so desperately.

I need more joy.

And so … for this week … on this day … this is what I have learned …

You cannot be selfish and joyful at the same time.

Selfishness always smothers any joy that is living in my heart. When I am more concerned about me … and my agenda … and my preferences … and my opinions than I am of the needs of others … joy always gets up and walks regretfully out the door of my heart.

Joy and selfishness are mutually exclusive. 

If I long to embrace a massive joy with reckless abandon, then I must also die to self and live for others.  I must.

Selfishness stifles joy in a way that nothing else does. Selflessness is the miracle fertilizer that causes joy to grow abundantly and causes that same joy to flourish in every season of life!

Selfishness has to go if my heart is to maintain its fervent level of joy.

Be gone, selfishness … be gone!

You cannot be ungrateful and joyful at the same time.

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When I teach on the extraordinary topic of “joy”, oftentimes people stare at me with blank faces and with absolutely no understanding at all! As I look out into a sea of confused and vacant stares, I often boil it down to this one thought:

If you don’t understand joy … then just be thankful.  Thankfulness and joy are not so very far apart.

If you choose not to be thankful for your life, your friends, your family and your daily blessings … then you will never fully experience joy.

When I feel the sludge of depression begin to inch its way into my life, I often choose to sit down and begin to write down all of the things for which I am grateful.

When life overwhelms me and people frustrate me, I being to thank God for the sweet gift of a new day … for green grass and for the gentle breeze that is quietly intruding through my open windows … for vibrant health … and for the Bible.

As I quiet my soul and stir up gratitude, joy returns home and joins in the eager conversation.

Thanks for coming back, joy.  I missed you! I am thankful for you, joy!

You cannot be fearful and joyful at the same time.

Fear is that monster that lives under the bed of quietude and threatens to come out during some unknown day in the nebulous future.

Of course … whatever you fear never comes out … it is only a creation of your imaginative fear.

Fear exists when I refuse to trust the Father and when I refuse to humbly acknowledge His care for me.

Fear creeps out of its dark hiding place when I allow worry to have the last word in a heated conversation with my soul.

When fear puts its dreaded stamp on my thought processes, joy is forced out of my heart … yet not by its own choice.

Joy wants to stay but fear tells it to go.

How do I win against fear and worry? 

That’s an easy question … I win with trust.  I win when I choose to trust the Lord who is all-powerful and all-loving and Who is intimately concerned about my life.

Trust once again opens the door and puts out the welcome mat for joy!

You cannot be jealous and joyful at the same time.

When I want someone else’s life more than my own … joy regretfully leaves.

When I compare what I have with what others have been given or have earned … joy packs its bags and lingers longingly outside the door of my heart.

There is no room for joy in a heart that is filled with envy or unbridled infatuation for the gifts that someone else possesses.

Joy maintains its steady presence in my life when I am sweetly satisfied with what I have been given by the generous hand of God...

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Joy and contentment are cherished roommates living in a compatible relationship.

Hello contentment … hello joy!

You cannot be angry and joyful at the same time.

And finally … anger will obliterate any chance of joy ever taking up residence in the heart of you.

Angry words … volatile thoughts … enraged actions … furious attitudes … all send joy flying out the door of your life!

And then annoyance slams the door while rage throws away the key.

Anger not only denies you of any hope of maintaining a sense of joy in your life … anger actually despises joy.

The flames of white, hot anger incinerates joy and only leaves the charred remains of a formerly joy-filled life.

Anger blazes with a ferocity that cremates the very last buds of joy in a person’s life.

I have never known an angry person who was joyful and I have never known a joyful person who was angry.  Have you?

Thoroughly drench your anger with the peace that passes understanding … and it is with the saturation of peace that joy will be revived.

Peace will blow new life back into the smoldering remains of joy.

Today is your day!

Today is the day for joy to be restored in your life!

Shoo selfishness, ingratitude, fear, jealousy and anger out the door and prepare to be inundated with the joy that is peculiar only to Christ-followers!

Today is your day for joy!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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The Joy of an Ordinary Day

How I love life! 

The raw rays of sunshine that creep into my windows and gently nudge me awake are the first gift of a new day. It is a fierce sunshine that defiantly foils the ability of the window shades to prevent its cheerful entrance.

I love those early moments of a day so fresh from heaven when everything and anything is a rare possibility!

As I convince my 60-something year old body to crawl out of its warm cocoon, I wonder what God will do in me and through me that bright new day. What a delight to dream about the plans that He has created just for me!

And then … there is coffee!!  Who can start a day without a cup of dark-roasted, milk-lightened caffeine?!  “Heaven in a Cup” is what I have affectionately dubbed it!  Whew … it’s good stuff to get one’s body and soul in motion on a day that is filled with the promises of God!

Sometimes I think that I could just live off of coffee and sunshine!  It’s a winning team every day of the calendar year.

But what comes next in my early morning routine trumps all other human delights.

It is the joy of all joys and the peace that passes understanding.

The ambrosia that captivates me and calls me by my name is a delectation too delicious not to share with you! It is infinitely better than coffee or earthly sunshine!

It is the time that I willfully spend lingering in the Word of God.

How I love my Bible!

I hunker down in the early morning hours, before the rest of the world has awakened, to hear from God, the Creator of the universe.

Imagine that!  God wants to talk to me!  It’s an incredible invitation, isn’t it?! Who would ever refuse this sweet request?

“The Father requests the honor of your presence at the start of each day!”

As I open the sacred pages that have brought such wisdom and joy to me over the course of my life, I begin to weep. 

He cares for me. 

He talks to me. 

He is interested in me.

He has thoughts that He longs to share with me.

The innocent and pristine morning moments, with my Bible open at my desk, are among the most valuable moments of every day. 

I am the treasure chest and He is the pearl of great price!

I am the empty one and He is the Fulfiller.

I am the student and He is the Teacher.

I am the disciple and He is the Discipler.

It is the decision to accept the invitation into His presence that gives me the strength that I will need for all of the challenges that are lurking in the life that I love so dearly. I have been endowed with power from on high and there is nothing too difficult for the Christ that lives victoriously in me!

Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

Christ in me the hope of glory!

I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me!

He will always lead me in triumph in Christ Jesus.

How would I know those eternal truths if I didn’t open my Bible?! How would I ever be able to carry on unless I had His strength to carry me?

Life is a vacuum of shrill demands, unending stress and perpetual pain unless you have Him to deliver joy to your spiritual mailbox each day!

Delivering joy to an ordinary day is what He does best!

After reading His sweet words, I think that it is time for another cup of morning coffee so off I go to the kitchen to fix a cup of that which wakes me up.  It is a cup that overflows with patience, straight thinking and energy!

After throwing in a load of laundry, smiling at my husband and wiping the kitchen counter, I go back to His presence and begin to pray. 

I listen and He talks.

I talk and He listens.

I worship and He smiles.

I ask and He understands.

I beg and He holds me.

Prayer is the rigorous and strenuous work of my day.  Some people dig ditches, some people teach little minds, some folks deliver mail … I pray.

The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.” – James 5:15

Can you even believe it?! My fervent prayers get the job done!  The work to which I have been assigned is a mountain-moving, Red Sea-parting, storm-calming, death-raising, Satan-scaring, bread-multiplying assignment!

Wow!  And I got the job! No wonder I love this life so much!

But now the time has come! This is the moment for which I have been created!

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The morning has evolved into a glorious day filled with rare and precious possibilities.

The joy of living is found in simply taking Jesus to my world.  The eternal delight that is sandwiched between demands and stress is tasted when a common man or an ordinary woman decides to be Jesus to the world.

When others are impatient … I am called to remain patient and forgiving.

When people gossip and complain … I am challenged to smile and encourage.

When the economy crumbles and the nation is divided … I decide to trust God and to offer His presence, which is an olive branch like no other.

When people are sick … I choose to pray.

When friends are in lack … I am invited to give!

No wonder I love life so much!  Life, at its very core, is the call to be like Jesus.

Life holds the constant satisfaction of discovering the joy in an ordinary and uneventful day.

No day is ever to be wasted in discouragement or in disappointment.  There is a world out there that needs what only you can give! 

There is an entire culture that is void of purpose, of hope and of strength … the culture in which you live needs the Jesus that lives in you!

So go discover the joy!  And while you’re at it … invite a friend to coffee!! 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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The Fertile Ground of You!

I remember the feeling of the warm, damp earth under my bare toes and the sweet thrill of companionship as I walked up and down the garden rows with my father.

The memory lives on in the picture book of my soul although the years have quickly passed.

My short and bouncy steps were always frustratingly trying to equal my Daddy’s long and steady steps.  We were quite the pair!

Every spring it was our tradition.  He planted and I watchedHe taught and I learnedHe talked and I listenedHe led and I followed.

I giggled and he smiledI stumbled and he caught me. I looked up and he looked down. I lost interest and he encouraged.

We carefully prepared the soil for the seeds that would soon be nestled in the safety and comfort of the spring earth.  My dad taught me how to remove the weeds and the small stones that could potentially harm the growth of that which was soon to be carefully and lovingly planted.

After the planting had been completed, it was then that we would retrieve those little packets that had initially held the seeds and then attach the seed envelope to a small stake.  My patient father would then pound the stake into the ground so that we would know as the days and weeks passed what we had planted in that garden row.

Radishes.

Carrots.

Onions.

Green Beans.

Tomatoes.

The weeks of sunshine and rain … weeding and watching … made my mouth and my heart water for the harvest.

I wonder what stake you have planted in the rich and expectant soil of your heart.  What do you intend to grow in that fertile ground that is known as “you”?

I determined long ago that the character stakes planted in the open ground of my life would be labeled “integrity” and “kindness”.

I long to be known as a woman of unmatched integrity. 

My word is my bond and I will be faithful to complete that which I have committed to do.  I will not lie, exaggerate or take that which is not mine. Honor has been planted in the deepest part of me and I refuse to allow the weeds of compromise, deceit or corruption to mar the harvest that integrity provides.

Do you see it?  Do you see the stake in my life labeled “Integrity”?

I know that often I have a long way to go and much to learn yet that stake serves as a reminder of what I intend to grow in the earth of my soul.

When I am at a crossroads, I look at the stake marked “Integrity”.

When I am tempted, I remember that stake with the word “Integrity” on it.

When the world crumbles around me, I whisper, “Integrity”.

When I have failed, I cry out for “Integrity”.

“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity and works righteousness, and speaks truth in His heart.” – Psalm 15:1 & 2

The second stake in the garden of my character is one with the virtue of “Kindness” emboldened on it.

It is my desire and delight to be the kindest woman in my generation

I will not ignore what kindness has called me to accomplish.

I will not forget that the simple deeds sown in kindness will often reap a gargantuan harvest of blessings.

If spite is the weed … then kindness is the flower.

If impatience is the stone … then kindness is the fertilizer.

If selfish living is the problem … then kindness is the answer.

If gossip is the virus … then kindness is the cure.

“She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” – Proverbs 31:26

Preparing. Planting. Receiving.

In a garden the gardener must prepare the ground to receive the seed; then, that same gardener skillfully and purposefully plants what he or she intends to harvest. 

And finally, the gardener is the recipient of bounty! Of an unmatched harvest! Of a multiplication that only God could have planned!

What stakes have you set immovably in your life?  Have you labeled that which you intend to grow?

I hope that today you will plant a garden with your loving Father and that you will listen to His wise words as He prepares your heart for a greatness and a harvest that only He will accomplish.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on your life.” – Hosea 10:12

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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A Lot of Living to Do

As I sit here writing today, my windows are open and the music of the birds is floating into my home and into my heart. There is currently a sweet springtime shower drenching the soil that used to be hardened by winter, however, earlier today I heard the welcome sound of the grass being mowed all throughout my neighborhood.

The sounds and aroma of this time of year have always been a delicious balm to my winter-weary soul.

But for some reason, this year, the delight that generally accompanies the arrival of spring, has been mixed with a quiet sadness. I, who have fought depression for so many years, am careful to keep my fingers on the pulse of my emotions.  And so, I am quick to recognize a malaise of the soul when it quietly creeps unsuspectingly into my heart.

Why am I sad?  What is it that is causing this muted pain?

Yesterday when I pulled into my driveway after a full weekend of speaking and ministering to women, the neighborhood children were out in full-force.  There was a raucous soccer game going on across the street with little legs chasing down the ball accompanied by giggles that were echoing across the lawn and up the driveway. As I exited my car and stretched my cramped legs, I waved to a group of parents who were watching the miniature soccer extravaganza.  I couldn’t help but smile.

Next door there was a group of sweaty, loud teen-age boys who were playing basketball with no reserve.  You would have thought it was the Final Four happening right there on the driveway asphalt!  The father who lives next door was serving as the single ref and you could tell by the grin on his face that he loved every minute of it! He winked at me as he tried to keep the boys from being too rough.

As I pulled my luggage from the car, I saw a young couple pushing a double-stroller that carried a talkative toddler and a crying baby.  They were obviously high-tailing it for home, so distraught was the little one, but I loved the sight of this precious family enjoying the first Sunday of spring.

For so many years, as I anticipated the blossoming days of spring and then looked forward to the long, hot days of summer, I was surrounded by a clan of children! 

How I loved the sidewalk chalk that decorated my driveway and the Popsicle sticks that littered my front porch!

There was nothing like hearing a knock or two on the front door and knowing that one of the Snapp boys had come over to play baseball in our front yard. 

I adored looking out my front window and watching the Cox girls slowly strolling up our long driveway with their dolls in their arms to spend the afternoon with Joy and Joni.

And then, as my children grew, and went away to college, summertime was the season when they still came home

Their knees were under my table at dinnertime.  Their laundry was piled high in my laundry room. Their laughter was still a part of the fabric of summertime in my life.

Now, all five McLeod children are grown and gone and have established wonderful lives in cities and states far away.  Summer no longer calls them to come home.

There are no soccer games in my front yard nor is there a masterpiece drawn in chalk on the sidewalk that leads to porch.

There are no sweaty boys in my driveway arguing over the ref’s call.

The strollers have all been given away and Popsicles are no longer a summer staple in my freezer.

Springtime no longer invites my children to come home.

Summer stretches before me with no welcome interruptions by those little people who so quickly grew up.

And that is why I am sad.

I think that all women who know the reality of the empty nest can relate to the ache of my heart.  What used to be … no longer is.

However, I refuse to be consumed with the past.  I am determined that as a woman my best days are not behind me but there is still a lot of living to do! I will always cherish the days when my nest was full and my house was messy but today I purpose to fully embrace the work that God has set in front of me.

And so while the birds are chirping their vibrant song, I will sing as well! 

While the neighborhood children are out playing and sweating and laughing, I will remind their parents to enjoy every minute of childhood!

While the grass is being mowed, I will not only savor the aroma of summer but I will breathe in the fragrance of heaven as well.

Although my home might seem empty, my heart is filled with the joy of tomorrow and all that God has called me to do in His Kingdom.

And who knows?! If a neighborhood child or two happens to wander into my yard, they might discover a friendly woman who has a Popsicle or two waiting in the freezer as a treat on a hot day! And, I might just ask the sticky urchins to wait for a minute while I find my sidewalk chalk … because, after all, every driveway needs a summertime masterpiece!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Seasons of Change

Seasons. 

There is nothing like the change of the seasons to stir the smoldering coals of expectation in a human heart

What season are you in today?  Now … I am actually not talking about fall … winter … summer or spring.

I am referring to a season of change … or a season of challenge … or a season of contentment … or a season of nothing but happy … or a season of hard.

I have found myself in a season of surrender … and … honestly … it has been nothing but sweet.

Sweet surrender. 

Not every season is a season of surrender, however.

There are times in life when God calls you to go after your giant with the five smooth stones that you have found in your hand.  He calls you to be relentless and bold and audacious as you come against that monstrous and mountainous thing that stands in your way.

We all have a Goliath, don’t we? 

Goliath was that behemoth of a man that taunted the armies of the living God.  He was too big for his britches and he wore some mighty big britches!  Goliath and his buddies were a blood-thirsty gang of hoodlums who were looking for a fight with the people of God.

What is your Goliath? 

What is that thing that has smack-talked to you for the past season of your life?  Your Goliath may not carry a sword or a shield but he brandishes weapons of life-killing intent in every encounter.  Your Goliath might charge at you with unemployment, infertility, sexual abuse, loneliness, depression, divorce or rebellious children.

A Goliath usually seems bigger than you are … it stalks you day and night … and never ceases its incessant chatter.

“Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” – I Samuel 17:26

The more experienced and older soldiers had run away from the threats of Goliath, but not the boy David! He knew that His God was bigger and stronger than any giant would ever be!

The shepherd boy started telling the giant Goliath what his fate was going to be before one blow was even taken.

“This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.  And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” – I Samuel 17:46

When was the last time that you did that?  When was the last time that you told your Goliath exactly where he was going?!

You are chopped liver, unemployment!

You are under my feet, cancer and diabetes!

My children will serve the Lord, you demon of rebellion!

The true victory was won before David even put the little stone into his boyhood slingshot.  When David began to declare the power of God over his enemy, all of the appointed heavenly host came to the shepherd boy’s aid.

“Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.” – I Samuel 17:50

David didn’t need a sword in his hand because the sword was in his mouth!  David took down the enemy the very instant that he began talking about the Name and the power of God.

I have killed some giants in my day.  I have charged situations and challenges; I have been known to declare victory before the battle even had begun.  I have stormed the forces of hell and fought the good fight of faith with nothing but worship and the Word of God.

My middle name is “Bold”. 

When the enemy sees me coming, he has been known to say, “Here comes one relentless woman!”

But sometimes … God calls us to an Abrahamic moment.

And that’s where I am today … in a season of sweet surrender.

Do you remember the story of Abraham and Sarah?  They had no children until she was almost 90 and Abraham was knocking on the door of 100 years old.  They were mostly toothless, forgetful and that honeymoon glow had long disappeared.

And yet God gave them a little boy named Isaac.  What joy!  What incredulity! What laughter!  What a miracle!

But when Isaac was a strapping young man, filled with potential and destiny, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar as a burnt offering.

What?!  Are you kidding me, God?!  You answered with a son … and then You require him of Abraham and Sarah?

One of the most breathtaking miracles of this story is that Abraham didn’t argue with God.  Abraham didn’t tell God all of the reasons why Isaac shouldn’t die.

The Bible tells us that early the next morning, after hearing the voice of God, that Abraham took Isaac up the mountain.

What an arduous climb that must have been!

Abraham loved God more than he loved his son.  Abraham had heard the voice of God and knew of no other way to live than to simply obey God.

Sweet surrender.

Abraham bound up his son, laid him on the altar and as the knife was poised in the air, ready to pierce the chest of Isaac, God intervened.

An angel of the Lord appeared on the scene and told Abraham that he had passed God’s test.

“The angel said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the land, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” – Genesis 22:12

What is God asking you to surrender today?  A dream … a relationship … a memory.

Maybe God is asking you to give up your vacation this year and go on a missions trip instead.

Perhaps God is requiring you to give a large sum of money to a ministry or to your church.

Maybe God is quietly whispering in your ear that it is time for you to surrender a habit, an addiction or an opinion.

I am in a season of surrender. 

God has asked me to lay down so many things during this season of change in my life that I have lost count! There have been moments when the pain has been enormous in the surrendering. However, there have been other times during my arduous climb up the mountain of surrender, when it has been so sweet that I could nearly smell the atmosphere of heaven.

Is God calling you to a David moment?  Is it time for you to charge your giant with the Word of God? If it is … do it with all of your might! You serve a mighty big God, my friend!

Or have you been called, at this season in your life, to an Abrahamic moment? Is it time for you to experience the sweetness of surrender?  If this is your calling today, I will see you there … on the mountain of surrender … inhaling the atmosphere of heaven.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Into the Storm

Storms.  Nobody likes them … no one would choose them … and yet still storms happen, don’t they?

Storms can be ferocious and lengthy … or they can be short and sweet. 

I can appreciate the predicted storm … the storm that I know is coming and for which I can make the necessary preparations in order to insure my safety.

There are, however, other storms that defy the forecast and come with no regard for preparation or for safety.  The storm that takes an innocent person by surprise is neither appreciated nor is it welcome.

Roofs are blown off houses … foundations at times shift … tree branches come crashing violently down in the most unwelcome places … and even leaves are all in a twitter. 

Rarely does a storm blow through a region without some type of damage being done.  Storms are often powerful and always make their presence known whether it is by rain, snow, wind, sleet or hail.

The truth is … call me crazy … but I love a good storm from time to time.  I love the preparation and the excited anticipation of what type of storm might be coming my way!  I love the hours or days when I am snug in my own home watching the tempest rage while I remain safe from the elements.  I do pity the person who is forced to be out in the storm and am always so thankful for my lot in life.

I don’t know what kind of storm you are in today but I do know that storms happen to everyone. 

One of my favorite storms happened in the Bible to a bunch of men who were just trying to obey their Master.  Jesus had just multiplied 5 little pieces of bread and 2 sardines in order to feed 5,000 ravenous men plus their wives and children.

What a miracle that was!

After these disciples saw that fantastic occurrence with their very own eyes, Jesus told them to get into the boat and to travel across to the other side.

“But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves for the wind was contrary.” – Matthew 14:24

A contrary wind that blows into an unsuspecting life has the frightening potential to accomplish some major “battering”, doesn’t it?

What contrary gust of circumstance has battered your life?  Is it finances or health issues?  Perhaps your battering has been caused by a relationship that is stormy or by a great disappointment that has drenched your hope.

“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.” – Matthew 14:25 & 26

Do you know what I find interesting to me about this particular storm?  The disciples were in this storm by divine instruction.  Jesus had sent them out in the little wooden boat knowing that they were in the direct path of a monstrous monsoon.

Do you know what I find comforting about this particular storm?  The disciples were not alone!  Jesus was coming to them across the raging and wind-tossed waters.

Let’s read a portion of this same story from the Gospel of Mark … told with a bit of a different twist …

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.  After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.  When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.  Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.” – Mark 6:45 – 48

This terrified band of brothers was about 3.5 miles from the land in their little storm-tossed boat. They were unable to see the hand in front of their pale faces in the middle of the night and in the midst of a colossal storm. 

However, my friend, take heart because when you can’t see Him … He can still see you! 

He knows exactly where you are and precisely how strong that wind is blowing across the waters of your life.  The natural eye is unable to see 3.5 miles in the inky black of darkness but God is able to see literally where you are and what the stormy circumstances of your life are like!

My inability to see Him does not stop His ability to see me!  In the middle of my crisis, He knows exactly where I am and how to get to me!

Jesus saw that the disciples were “straining at the oars.”  These men, in spite of difficult conditions and in spite of being drenched by salty water, were working hard and continuing to do whatever it took to get out of this storm.

My friend, if you are in a storm today, keep doing the next right thing!  Keep tithing … keep loving … keep working … keep hoping! Jesus sees you and He is on His way to comfort you!

Do not become discouraged due to the horrible conditions that are raging around you but just keep on rowing.  God sees what you are doing and He is on His way.

Never allow the presence of a storm to cause you to doubt the presence of your God!

Let’s ask the question, now, that all of us are wondering … “Why would Jesus knowingly send those that He loved the most into the path of a massive storm system?”

Why, indeed?!

Perhaps He did it to reveal Himself to them in a new and comforting way.

Perhaps He did it to show off His glory!

Perhaps He did it to perform a miracle!

Perhaps He did it to use the storm as the vehicle itself over which He would intervene in the lives of His dear children.

Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves but their heart was hardened.” – Mark 6:51 & 52

Don’t miss this detail that we learn from the writings of Mark … the disciples had forgotten the last miracle that Jesus had done for them!  The storm caused amnesia of the very worst kind … they had forgotten His power!

The next time that you are in a storm … rather than taking your pulse … how about remembering the miracles that Jesus has done in the past for you?!

I can’t remember what God has done for you but I can guarantee you that you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord in your life.  Remember the taste of the loaves and fishes the next time that you encounter a storm!

When your life is being threatened by a tempest of stormy circumstances, remember your last answered prayer and praise Him for victory even when the wind is blowing and the waves are crashing!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Expectant in Spring

Springtime has finally arrived!  And, if you live in a climate zone similar to mine, you are probably so grateful for the advent of this long anticipated season that you could nearly shout with glee!

Honestly, I try NOT to wish my life away but it is hard during the long, dark and frigid months of winter.  Believe me … I do honestly endeavor to be “content” in whatever season I find myself in … but winter is not my favorite … if you know what I mean.

I am a girl who was born for the sunshine.  I love hot weather, an abundance of sunny days and long walks accompanied by the sound of lawn mowers and bumblebees.

I love open-toed shoes, the smell of the earth after it rains and the longer days that are ushered in with spring’s coming.

I was made for springtime flowers, baby bunny rabbits and the birth of all that is fresh and new. 

There is something about springtime that raises one’s hopes and expectations. 

Suddenly, when the first whiff of spring washes over your soul, you know that you were made for more than winter. 

When spring has at long last sprung, hope begins to break through in the deepest places of your cold, winterized heart!

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Spring is a lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be.

Spring ALWAYS puts a new spring in my step, a fresh and lilting song in my heart and even an untried possibility or two in my soul.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19

As my calendar turned from March to April this year … and the view out of my office window changed from snow to the first blooms of spring … I felt that perhaps the Lord was speaking to me.  And, I have an inkling that He wasn’t just speaking to me for my sake but perhaps He was speaking to me for your sake as well.

We all ache for something new and fresh, don’t we? 

Who doesn’t love a new baby … or a new opportunity … a new book … or even a new recipe?  Whose heart doesn’t race at the expectation of a new friend … a fresh coat of paint … or a new place to go? 

We all love the feeling that a vibrant and unexperienced joy ushers into the humdrum of an ordinary life.

Women, especially, understand the expectancy of giving birth to something new!  Oh, the pregnancy is certainly not much fun and the birth experience is sure to be painful and bloody, but when a new mom holds a baby, so fresh from heaven’s wonder, suddenly life becomes an unpainted palette of rich possibility.

As the mother of 5 children on earth and 5 children in heaven, and, as the grandmother of 7 delightful little ones, I certainly know what it entails to be “expecting”.

As winter turned to spring this year, God spoke to me that He was about to birth something new in me and through me.  God actually said to me, Carol … you’re pregnant!”

What?!  God … certainly You know that the possibility of giving birth ended for me at least a decade ago!

What?!  God … you know I love babies … are you going to do for me what You did for Sarah … and Hannah … and Elizabeth?!

And then I heard God speak once again to my expectant heart, “Carol, you are not going to give birth to a baby but you are going to give birth to new dreams and visions and possibilities.  Carol … it’s time for you to allow Me to plant a seed of destiny in you once again!”

What are you expecting?  Has God birthed something new in you lately?  Perhaps you and I should begin to act like expectant mothers!  We should prepare for discomfort, for the birthing process and for the joy of impacting the next generation!

I believe that this new season of God-breathed pregnancy is not just for a younger generation but that the Father is including many Sarah’s, Hannah’s and Elizabeth’s in this outpouring of new birth.

In God’s Kingdom, age has nothing to do with the ability to give birth to a move of God that will impact the generations to come!  God is willing to use the young and the old; He is looking for women with a past and for those who have lived quietly and righteously. God will give birth through women who are tired and through those girls who are filled with new passion and energy.

The Lord desires that you would live with an attitude of unmatched promise and life-changing expectation. 

When you open your Bible in the morning, open it with the confidence that God will speak to you indeed through the sacred page. It is when we open our Bibles and read the powerful Words of the Holy Spirit that a new seed of destiny is placed in each one of us.

When you enter into a personal time of prayer and worship, enter into it with the assurance that God will meet you there and that He will speak to your barren soul.  It is when we commune with God on a daily basis that the transfer of a new dream happens. 

My prayer is that you can declare, with Mary, with Hannah, with Sarah, with Elizabeth, and with me, "I'm pregnant!"

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It's All That Matters!

The cheering, worshipping crowd.A farewell dinner.

What kind of man betrays a friend?!

Prayers.  Desperate prayers.  Earth-shaking prayers.  Blood dripping prayers.

An trial rigged by the father of all lies.

A ruler in confusion.  He should have listened to his wife.

What kind of friend denies a friend?!

Beating.  Scourging. Bleeding. Whipping.

Did He scream?

A painful crown meant to ridicule not define.

A cruel walk up a triumphant hill. One. Agonizing. Step. At. A. Time.

The jeering crowd.

What kind of friends run and hide?  Were they only in it for the miracles?

Inhumane soldiers gambling for a piece of His clothing while He hung nearly naked.

Course jesting. Raucous laughter.

A mother’s broken heart. Heaving.  Remembering His little boy ways.

A desperate thief who believed at last. He breathed out earth and breathed in heaven.

A Centurion understands and believes.  Truly.

Darkness at noon.  The roar of the earth.  The ripping of history.

It is finished!  Complete!

A borrowed tomb.  After all, He wouldn’t need it for long.

A brilliant morning.  The day breaks and all shadows flee.

Nothing ... nothing ... absolutely nothing ... would ever be the same again.

An angel’s announcement, “He is not here ... but HE IS RISEN!”

Women who were told, “Go Tell!”

Some call it “Easter”.  That works, I suppose.  Easter, for me, conjures up a black and white picture of a blonde little girl sandwiched between 2 siblings.  This little girl, now her in her late-50’s, was decked out in white, ruffled socks, a pink polyester coat with a matching pink straw hat and lacy gloves.  Everyone in the days of black and white wore gloves on Easter Sunday morning.  It was requisite!

That particular little, blonde girl remembers those black and white Easter Sunday mornings as if they were yesterday.

We were always up long before dawn for the Easter Morning Sunrise Service.  It was the only day of the year I was out of bed before daylight began to slither its jeweled fingers across the inky sky.

The church smelled like pancakes, maple syrup and sausage when our sleepy family of 5 walked into the front doors.  My mom scurried to the organ and my dad got us settled somewhere near the front, left hand side.

Our Methodist congregation burst forth the news as the sun broke through, “Up from the grave He arose!  With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.”  I can still hear it.  I can still hear the voices of Duane Grehlinger and Shirley Green.  Bob Dix and Reverend Tauscher.  Although their voices broke on the high notes and struggled for pitch on the low notes, they believed what they sang.  That’s what counts about Easter...that you believe.

After breakfast in the cold church basement, warmed by the steaming pots of coffee and laughter of friends who had truly become family, we traipsed home across the yards of our neighbors for an hour or so before Sunday School and the 10:00 service.  During that sweet hour, we would find our Easter baskets, have our hair re-fixed and listen to the Easter story read by my general of a father.

Dad loved the Bible, he loved my mom, he loved the garden and he loved us.  He was quite a man.  Dad believed in Easter.  He taught me to believe as well.  Did I mention that he was quite a man?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; and He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” - I Corinthians 15:3-8

Paul, the one who was untimely born, calls Easter the event “of first importance” in anything that he has ever known or written about.  These are some pretty impressive words coming from one of the most learned men of the day.

Paul’s words echo through the ages, Nothing compares to the message of the Risen Savior.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing more important in your life than Easter. 

When you get to the end of your life all that will matter is Easter. 

There is nothing that deserves your earthly attention so much as Easter.

Oh ... I remember the days of white ruffly socks, little pink purses and lacy gloves.  I remember the thrill of finding the Easter basket and looking forward to the sumptuous dinner that was to follow.  I remember singing, “We serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today!  I know that He is living whatever men may say!”

What I didn’t know in those innocent days of celebrating a spring holiday was that someday ... I would believe, too.  And at the very moment that I believed, Easter changed from being a mere 24 hours in the early spring to a lifestyle of hope and joy.  I no longer refer to it, either mentally or verbally as “Easter Sunday”.  For me, it is “Resurrection Day!”  And, trust me, it is incomplete without that exclamation mark!

Jesus really was born in a manger ... He really did live among us ... He was put to death on the old rugged cross ... and He was buried.

But what happened next was the true miracle ... He rose from the dead!  He conquered death triumphantly! 

Jesus had the first Word ... the middle Word ... and the last Word!  Because death could not hold Him ... it cannot hold you either.

Will you stay in your world of black and white presumptions?  Or will you join the chorus of all the ages and sing with gusto, “Because He lives ... I can face tomorrow ... Because He lives ... all fear is gone!”

Because when you get to the end of your life ... the resurrection will be all that matters.  It was all that mattered to Duane Grehlinger ... to Shirley Green ... to Bob Dix ... and to Reverend Tauscher.  It was all that mattered to Paul and it was all that mattered to my dad.  He was quite a man.

And ... it’s all that matters to me.  It is my message of first importance.  Resurrection Day!

Please make sure that you don’t forget the exclamation mark ... while you’re at it ...let’s make it two!  It is, after all, the message of first importance.

Resurrection Day!!

This post was originally published on March 27, 2013.

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What Has He Entrusted You With?

We are approaching Holy Week

“Holy Week” is that sacred space between the roar of the crowd on Palm Sunday and the ugly mass of humanity who cried, “Crucify Him,” on Friday.

Holy Week encompasses the days that the Christian church sets aside to mourn the death of Jesus and to celebrate His resurrection! 

It is a week of wretched betrayal, of loud hosanna’s, of good-bye meals and of desperate prayer.

This is a week that never fails to sober me and annually causes me to evaluate my faith. 

During this week every year, I walk up Calvary’s mountain with Jesus and carry my cross beside Him.  Easter has a way of forcing me to examine the woman that I am and the course that He has for me.

Oh … don’t worry about me.  I will celebrate on Sunday!  I will shout with the crowds in triumphant procession but for today… as I contemplate the holiest week of all measured time … allow me to evaluate who I am and who I am called to be in the story of Christ.

Jesus took only three disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane who had also been with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Peter, James and John were the three that Jesus fiercely desired to stand with Him in prayer.  These were the three, Peter, James and John, who were closest to Him as brothers, friends and co-workers. 

This trio had heard Jesus laugh over the antics of children and had seen him cry at the tomb of Lazarus. 

They had celebrated glorious miracles with this Man Who went about only doing good. 

They called Him their Teacher, their Friend and the Son of God.  They knew Who He was … make no mistake about that.

“And Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” – Luke 9:20

But on this night, the lonely night spent in the Garden of Gethsemane … while Jesus prayed ... Peter, James and John slept. 

While Jesus sweat great drops of blood ... the great triumvirate snored.

While Jesus cried in agony ... the three friends, whom He trusted, slumbered and rested.

Peter, James and John all knew that Jesus was about to die the violent death of a criminal and yet they dozed and drooled.  Where were their hearts of compassion?  Were these men the faithful friends that Jesus hoped for or were they mere acquaintances prone to forget matters of eternal significance?

“Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” – Matthew 26:38

Three times Jesus came to the disciples ... and three times they were sleeping. 

They were unable to wipe the sand from their eyes and thus nodded into sweet dreams while Jesus fought in agony over His destiny and over His purpose on earth.

“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” – Matthew 26:39

Jesus was about to be brutally murdered so that Peter, James and John would be able to live forever with Him.  And yet these men of faith and valor couldn’t stay up past their bedtime for Jesus.  What kind of friendship is that?!

These men who had been appointed to carry on in Jesus’ stead, couldn’t even miss one night of sleep to pray Him through the coming ferocious days?

You know, as 21st. Century Christians, we become outraged at the seemingly careless actions of Peter, James and John, and yet, how often have I been caught giving into the twilight of lackadaisical behavior when Jesus calls my name?

        “Carol … could you spend time with Me?”

        I watch television when there are prayers to be prayed.

        “Carol … could you read my Word this day?”

        I read novels when there is wisdom to be attained.

        “Carol … could you feed My sheep?”

        I piddle around in wasteful behavior while people are going to hell.

        “Carol … would you worship Me?”

        I snore while my culture crumbles.

Just as the Savior needed Peter, James and John ... your Savior needs you and He needs me. 

My Savior needs me.  Your Savior needs YOU!

He has entrusted us with the power of prayer.  He has entrusted us with the Great Commission.  He has entrusted us with the life-changing Gospel message.

In this Garden, on this never-to-be-forgotten night, Jesus prayed, “Not as I will ... but as You will.”

Have you ever tried praying that powerful yet humble prayer when your life was crumbling?  Have you ever prayed, “Father, Your will be done”, when faced with cruel circumstances?

If we learn nothing else from this particular event in the life of Jesus, we should learn to pray while others sleep. We should also learn to desire the will of the Father above all else.

When Jesus finally roused his three buddies from their self-serving slumber, they had a view in the moonlight of a mob coming up the western slope of Mt. Olive. After the mob, led by Judas, had seized Jesus, Peter stayed in the courtyard of the high priest.  It was there that Peter denied Jesus three times.

“I don’t know Him.”

“I don’t know Him!”

“I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

And with each betrayal, Peter became more defiant and angrier. 

In the morning light, when Peter realized what he had done, he wept. 

Peter, a grown man, cried from the deepest part of his soul.

The opinionated Peter, a rugged and burly fisherman, couldn’t stop the sobs. 

Peter, a man’s man and a leader of leaders, was ashamed of himself.  He had betrayed His Savior and His friend.  What would his life look like now? 

You know, I have often wondered if Peter would have actually denied Jesus if he had prayed rather than slept.  I wonder if rather than snoring and slumbering, what would have happened if Peter had stayed on his knees in earnest prayer through the longest night of Jesus earthly life.

I wonder …

Do you know what else I wonder?

I wonder how different my life would be if I would pray ... rather than sleep.  I wonder if I would have more power to stand for Jesus If I would read the Word rather than read the twaddle of the day.

I wonder if I would humbly decree, “Not my will … but Your will be done, Father,” what glorious miracles would take place in my life.

I wonder.

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