Let There Be Joy - Day 13

God Is Always On Time

Elizabeth was too old to have a baby by human standards.  Her body had long ceased to exhibit the possibility of reproduction.  Even when Elizabeth was young and in her childbearing years, she had been unable to conceive a child.  Now, as a woman who had lived nearly 9 decades of life, there was no human possibility that this would ever happen.  There was not a sliver of hope that Elizabeth would ever hold a biological newborn baby in her wrinkled arms!

But God breaks all of the constraints of human standards.  His ways are higher than our ways and He is able to trump any limitation that we exhibit even in our strength. 

“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth ...” Certainly this “time” was not Elizabeth’s chosen time.  God has a chosen time for prayers to be answered, for His mission to be accomplished and for miracles to take place. Elizabeth’s chosen “time” had most certainly been when she was a young woman but God’s chosen time involved a miracle!  Do not for one second believe that God has forgotten you or that He has not heard your prayers.  When God’s appointed time comes in its fullness, you will give birth to all that God has planned for you.

“Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”

Many times I believe that the Lord says “Wait” as an answer to our desperate prayers so that His glory is revealed rather than the certainty of mankind’s function.  Most women are able to conceive and bear children in their teens and twenties and even into their thirties and early forties, but it takes the intervention of God for a woman to experience the miracle of birth when in her eighth decade of life! 

Can you imagine the rejoicing of her relatives and neighbors?  Can you picture the scene as the women danced in circles in the village streets?  Can you envision how her friends lifted their hands in praise to Yahweh?

As John nestled into his mother’s arms, and as the nearly 100 year old eyes of Zacharias looked into the newborn eyes of his son, God was glorified.  Prayers had been answered.  Their story had just begun.

The story of Elizabeth and Zacharias is the call to live a righteous life and it is the promise of what persevering prayer will certainly obtain.  God is more than able to accomplish all that concerns you.  His part is to perform the miracles ... your part is to pray without ceasing and to live a life that pleases His heart.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:57-80

Psalm 138

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What has been the greatest miracle or answer to pray that you have ever experienced?  Write it out and share it with your family this Christmas season.

Define the word “miracle”.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 12

Christmas Begins With Thanksgiving

One of my favorite benign addictions in life is people watching!  Now, I enjoy people-watching year round, but the time that it is most fascinating to me is at Christmastime.  When I am in the post office line, waiting to mail my packages and cards, I intently observe and even eavesdrop on holiday conversations and frustrations.  When I find myself at the mall, while trying not to be impatient, what brings pleasure to me is to focus my attention on others who are frustratingly focused on the buying of gifts and on the possibility of seasonal sales.  I often try to butt into conversations with words of encouragement or Christmas joy!

Would you like to join me in eavesdropping on one of the most glorious Christmas conversations in all of history?  I believe that this one celebratory exchange just may change your heart forever!

After the elder Elizabeth had blessed the Baby Boy in Mary’s virgin womb, Mary began to worship the Lord.  She broke out into a powerful response of worship and heartfelt adoration!  I have often wondered if, when declaring these words of praise, she fell to her knees and lifted her hands toward heaven!

"My soul exalts the Lord!”

This simple, exclamatory sentence were the first words out of Mary’s grateful mouth in Elizabeth’s presence.  Mary’s choice of words becomes especially beautiful when one realizes that the “soul” is the birthplace of passions, emotions, aversions and desires.  Mary’s soul was not in a state of confusion or denial but Mary was declaring the fact that regardless of circumstances and events that her emotions and desires would always take her to a place of worship.  Mary spent no time rehearsing what a difficult position God had placed her in or how embarrassed she was at what her family had to go through.  Mary took her emotions and her feelings to a place of genuine praise and worship.

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”  Mary’s soul and her spirit were joining in a beautiful duet of thanksgiving.  One’s spirit is the place in the human constitution that desires the Lord and all that He has.  The spirit is the place of walking by faith and not by sight.  In this spirit place of Mary’s life that was in constant communion with the Spirit of God, her response was identical to that of her spirit:  sincere and eruptive rejoicing!

How are you responding to circumstances or events that you don’t understand or perhaps might not choose?  What is your soul spending time doing this Christmas season?  Is your soul out of control with spending, eating and impatience?  Or has your soul observed the example of Mary and chosen to exalt the Lord?

My prayer is that your spirit and your soul will fall to their knees and that you will lift your hands and your voice toward heaven!  I pray that eavesdropping on this one holiday conversation will change the choices that you make not only at Christmastime but in every day of the coming year.

Bible Reading: (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:46-56

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Why is it so hard to rejoice in the Lord when our circumstances are difficult?

Make a list of 5-10 Scriptures that you can quote during difficult days of life.  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

The 60 Most Valuable Life Lessons

Well, it has arrived … the week and the month of my 60th birthday.  Although that may not mean anything to you … it means something immeasurably significant to me.

Turning the big 6-0 means that my life is about to become richer and even more impactful. 

Turning 60 doesn’t imply that I am an old lady … it simply means that the lessons that I have learned over the past 60 years are valuable.

To me … standing on the threshold of having lived for 60 glorious, irreplaceable, incomparable years is something to shout about! 

Turning 60 is a milestone worth celebrating, indeed!  And so, I celebrate with you today!  My gift to you is 60 of the most valuable lessons I have learned on my life journey.

  • 1 – Love your parents with your whole heart.
  • 2 – Always keep a song in your heart. 
  • 3 – People deserve kindness more than they desire your opinion.
  • 4 – Don’t take parenting too seriously.
  • 5 – Take parenting seriously.
  • 6 – The reason you are on earth is to love difficult people.  Think about that       for a minute!!
  • 7 – You can never say, “Thank you!” often enough.
  • 8 – Time spent reading is never wasted time.
  • 9 – Time spent playing is never wasted time.
  • 10 – Love your spouse with your whole heart. 
  • 11 – Wring the joy out of an ordinary day every day.
  • 12 – Introduce yourself to a stranger at least once a week.
  • 13 – Don’t shovel snow when you should be planting flowers.  Know what           season of life you are in and respond appropriately.
  • 14 – Go to church even when you don’t feel like it.  Think about it … God is         waiting to meet with you where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name!  I             wouldn’t miss that meeting for the world!!
  • 15 – Don’t get into debt.  Save more than you spend.
  • 16 – Call your grandmother.  And your mom.
  • 17 – Stay in touch with childhood friends.
  • 18 – Listen to more than one kind of music.  Include jazz, classical,                     worship, Big Band, oldies, country and Christmas music in your                   weekly choices!
  • 19 – Hang out with children every chance you can.
  • 20 – Hang out with older people every chance you can.
  • 21 – Make sure that your addictions are healthy ones.
  • 22 – Go to fireworks on the Fourth of July.
  • 23 – Listen to Christmas music starting on October 1.
  • 24 – Invite lonely people to your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • 25 – Hang up Christmas stockings even when your children are grown and           gone.
  • 26 – Watch football with your husband … or … go shopping with your wife!
  • 27 – Love your children with your whole heart.
  • 28 – Valentines are not just for elementary school friendships.
  • 29 – Keep a prayer journal.  Record not only your prayer requests but also        the answers to prayers that you have received.
  • 30 – Laugh with your kids once a day.  Tease them.  Tickle them.  Tell                 them jokes.
  • 31 – When you get to the end of your life, it will be faith, family and friends         that have made every day worthwhile.
  • 32 – You can never sing loud enough nor laugh often enough!
  • 33 – Long walks on a country road are a healing balm to the soul.
  • 34 – There really is no place like home.  Thank you, Dorothy, for those               words of wisdom.
  • 35 – And … contrary to the beliefs of Thomas Wolfe … you actually can go         home again!
  • 36 – Make sure that you create a home worth coming home to.
  • 37 – Don’t gossip.  It’s never worth it.
  • 38 – Get in the delightful habit of saying positive, affirmative words behind           people’s backs.
  • 39 – Laugh at yourself.  We all make silly mistakes!
  • 40 – Listen to the older generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their                 opinions … smile at their memories … and learn from their wisdom.
  • 41 – Listen to the younger generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their             opinions … and share in their dreams.
  • 42 – Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year because a Baby         changed everything!
  • 43 – It is actually more fun to believe!  I’ll take faith over fear every day of           every week!
  • 44 – You are never too old to dream a new dream or to set a new goal.               Never.  I want to dream an amazing new dream and set an impossible         goal the day before I go to heaven when I am in my 90’s!
  • 45 – Memorizing Bible verses is not just for 5th graders!
  • 46 – Worrying is a waste of valuable time.  Why worry when you can pray?!
  • 47 – Life is not about you.
  • 48 – Your life matters.  It matters very much.
  • 49 – Forgiveness robs the past of its power and powerfully changes the               impact of your future!
  • 50 – Babies and children are not spoiled by love.  They are spoiled by                 things.  Hold your babies.  Snuggle with your children.  A                           compassionate, kind and patient mother is a world-changing mother.
  • 51 – Be a better listener than you are a talker.
  • 52 – No one will ever understand like Jesus.  No one.
  • 53 – The words “I’m sorry” are among the most powerful words in the                 English language.
  • 54 – You are always just one day away … one prayer away … one choice           away … from the greatest breakthrough of your life!
  • 55 –“Jesus loves me, this I know” is the most beautiful, rich and true song           ever written.
  • 56 – You are not defined by how much you earn but by how much you give.
  • 57 – When you are too tired to work, too spent to dream and too weary to           take another step … you can always sing!
  • 58 – The great hymns of faith are the greatest treasure of any generation.
  • 59 – You are the most powerful when you are on your knees.
  • 60 – Read your Bible every day.  Your world will thank you for it.
Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 11

The John-Jump!

Elizabeth had been basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy late in life when Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house.  A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world. 

Mary “went in a hurry” to the home of Elizabeth, the wife of a priest who had been raised in the home of a priest.  Perhaps Mary was longing for the stability and peace found in the home of Elizabeth.  Perhaps Mary was trying to escape the wagging tongues and the crude remarks made at the village well.  Perhaps Mary’s parents sent her to the older and wiser Elizabeth because they didn’t know what else to do with the outrageous story that their formerly perfect young daughter had surely fabricated.

When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth, jumped for joy!  The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy!

John, although still in his mother’s womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew that he was in the presence of the Lord. There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord and that is joy!  Elizabeth expressed to Mary that this was no soft little nudging that she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap!  John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus!

“In His presence is fullness of joy!” Psalm 16:11

The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ where there is always fullness of joy.

Perhaps as the years went by, these cousins would play at one another’s homes. I wonder if every time Jesus walked into the room if John, the lively one, would begin to jump up and down!

His mother, the proper Elizabeth, might have said, “John dear, stop jumping!  You are being so lively, son.”

“But mama, I just can’t help it!  Every time I am around Jesus my legs just start jumping for joy!” might have been this strong-willed son’s response to the quiet and peaceful ways of his mother.

When Jesus walks into our world, into our lives and into our homes, we must respond with complete joy.  Our heart should begin the John-jump!

In His presence is the only place that you will ever experience true and complete joy.  Joy is not found in having your children home for Christmas, in giving and receiving mountains of gifts, in decorating the house like a picture in a magazine or in eating culinary concoctions that will satisfy your holiday taste buds.  Those earthly delights are all connected to happiness but never to joy.  Joy is found in one place and one place alone:  in His presence!

Perhaps especially at Christmastime we are guilty of looking for joy in all the wrong places.  This Christmas, make room for His presence.  Spend time with your friends and family singing the beloved Carols of Christmas; read the story of His birth from the Bible with those you love.  The greatest gift you will ever give to someone whom you love is the promise to pray for them.

When Elizabeth told Mary that the baby within her womb “leaped for joy”, the word used to describe this action is the Greek word “skirtao”.  The word “skirtao” is used only one other place in the New Testament.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for (skirtao) for behold,your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” –Luke 6:22 & 23

The presence of Jesus will instigate a genuine leap for joy in an otherwise ordinary life.  However, we are also expected to leap for joy when our life has fallen utterly and completely apart.  When we have been vilified and rejected by people and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, that is the time that we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao!!  To leap for joy!

There is no logical explanation for this joyful response in the face of emotional pain and deep disappointment but it is the healthiest response for a believer.  You can jump!  You can do the John-jump at the worst moment of your life because Jesus has promised never to leave you or forsake you.

This Christmas, respond to the joy of His presence especially if you are going through dark events and disappointing circumstances.  May I just gently but sincerely tell you that there is really no earthly reason not to respond to Who Jesus is with complete and utter joy?  There is no circumstance, person or event that has the power to rob one of His children of the joy of His presence.

Christmas has given us the assurance that while living on earth, we can be the beneficiaries of heaven’s joy!  When Jesus came, He paved the way for joy!

Don’t expect the festivities to relieve the pain – Only His presence can do that for you!  When Jesus came to planet earth, He paved the way for heaven’s joy to infiltrate our lives.

My prayer for you during this Christmas season is that you will know the joy of the presence of the Lord.  I pray that like John you will respond to His presence in the most miraculous of ways.  I pray that you will not mistakenly believe that joy is extracted from your circumstances but that you will worship the Baby in the manger and allow your heart to enter fully into the joy of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:39-44

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is it in our life that is prohibiting you from doing the “John-jump”?

What are some ways that you can practice the presence of Jesus which is where there is fullness of joy?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 10

Do Not Be Afraid

Joseph was a righteous man ... a good man ... and a kind man.  The word “righteous” in Matthew 1:19 is defined this way in the Greek: ‘used of him whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God.”

Joseph was not making decisions based upon his own best interest but his decisions were birthed in the conviction of God’s perfect and holy will.  Joseph was learning a significant lesson this first Christmas season: celebrating the Savior is not about maximizing your own desires or preferences but it is about doing whatever it takes to welcome the Christ Child into your life.

This is a sobering lesson that we all need to be reminded of this Christmas season.  Christmas is not about how I feel, about my circumstances, or about the comfort of family and friends.  Christmas has always been and will eternally continue to be about making room for Jesus in the disappointed hallways of life.

Joseph planned to send Mary away privately although he could have had her stoned in the village square.  Joseph’s wise and kind plans were interrupted by a Christmas angel!  How wonderful to know that even when we are doing what we believe to be the highest good, God’s ways are still higher than our best intentions!  Christmas is a time when heaven’s best interrupts our good.

And what were the first words that came out of the angel’s beatific mouth?  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid …” 

The words spoken to Joseph over 2,000 years ago ring clearly across the ages into our disappointment.  “Do not be afraid,” is the message of Christmas to your life today.

Has God interrupted your life lately?  Perhaps this Christmas you just might want to take stock of your life and realize that God has the right to interrupt your mundane.  God has the right to show you a better way of doing life because your very best human decision pales in comparison to what God has for you!

Was Joseph just an ordinary boy in love with an ordinary girl named Mary?!  Not a chance!  God always has plans other than ordinary for those who choose a lifestyle of uncompromising righteousness.  God desires to use each one of us as the vehicle through which Christ is revealed to every generation.

If you think that Christmas was only about Joseph and Mary ... you are more than wrong.  You might as well join the Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge in your opinion of Christmas.  God longs to birth Christmas through you at this time in history.  You are here to reveal the character and the heart of God.  It is what righteous people do - not only at Christmas but 365 days a year!

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18-25

Colossians 1:25-29

Let There be Joy In Me:

Pray this year that Jesus would interrupt your holiday plans.  Ask Him to invade your ordinary life with His extraordinary.

What fear issue does the presence of Jesus help you deal with?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 9

Disappointment and Heartache

Engagement is one of the very happiest and dreamiest of times in the life of a young couple.  It is the singular moment in life when all hours are spent dreaming of the incomparable joy that is to come.  It is the extraordinary moment in one’s life when love seems perfect and trustworthy.

“Joseph, I am with child.”

Joseph and Mary’s love story had been horribly and unexplainably interrupted.  Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows that he is not the father.  Joseph surely must have wondered if Mary had been violated although she was quietly insistent that the child in her womb had been placed there by the Holy Spirit.  I wonder if Mary told him with tears running down her beautiful and innocent cheeks.

Did Joseph wonder if Mary was delusional?  How else was it possible to explain this catastrophic turn of events?  What was once lovely was now tinged with ugly.  What was once anticipated is now dreaded.

Joseph was a righteous man whose pure heart was breaking because his bride was with child and it was not his child.  Mary, his lovely and sweet Mary, had surely been taken advantage of by someone.  She was the kindest girl he had ever known but was the stress of the planning the wedding causing her to break under the pressure?  What could he do?  What should he do?!

Joseph apparently did not believe Mary’s story because his plan was to put her away privately.  This was the kindest and most loving choice for a young man found in the throes of betrayal.  He could have allowed her to be stoned before the baby was born.  Or, after giving birth, he could have allowed both her and the baby to be stoned.  Sending her away never to be heard from again was the ultimate loving sacrifice on Joseph’s part.

It is impossible to even imagine Joseph’s disappointment with God and with the person whom he had loved the most in the world.  Mary had been his world and now he would never see her again.  Did Joseph believe that the girl of his dreams had given her virginity to another man?

Joseph did not deserve this betrayal or this heartbreak.  What he “deserved” was a wedding day filled with joy and the promise of young love.

Now, perhaps, Joseph’s reputation had been sullied on the streets of Nazareth and his boyhood friends were snickering behind his back. 

Joseph had to face Mary’s parents and his own parents. Although he bore no guilt there was still the possibility that they would not believe him.  There was no nuptial frivolity for this disappointed, heartbroken young man.  All hopes of love and joy and promise had been dashed with the announcement of an early pregnancy.

Are you facing severe disappointment as you face Christmas this year?  My prayer for you is that you will allow the promise of Christmas to overshadow the painful realities of your life.  Do not allow Christmas to be defined by your disappointment but allow your disappointment to be forever changed because of the promise of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18 & 19

Romans 5:1-5

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the most difficult disappointment that you have ever faced?  Does Christmas help ease the pain of disappointment or does it exacerbate it?

How does Romans 5:1-5 encourage you?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 8

The Resolve of Your Heart

Mary, the very young, chosen mother of Jesus, utters one of the most courageous statements in all of Scripture.  In response to the announcement of the angel that Mary’s world had just been interrupted with heaven’s plan, Mary clearly said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” - (Luke 1:38)

A “bondslave” was someone who could have gone free but instead chose to stay and serve his or her master.  Mary willingly chose to offer temporary housing to the Savior of the world because that was God’s desire.  When her world collided with God’s ultimate desire, Mary died to self and submitted to God the Father.

When was the last time that you quoted Luke 1:38?  Has God asked something difficult of you lately?  How have you responded?  Have you said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to Your word.”

When God requires one of His children to lay down their will and their way for His best plan, often there is a struggle of the human will.  Unfortunately, rather than respond with the maturity and wisdom of the young Mary, many of us whine and complain.  Some of us even may have the audacity to question whether or not God even knows what He is doing.

What has God asked of you?  Has He asked you to love a difficult person?  Perhaps He has asked you to raise a special needs child or serve an uncaring boss.  God is looking for bondslaves: men and women who are willing to serve Him out of love.  God is looking for those who willingly submit to His ways and plans simply because their heart completely belongs to Him.  God desires men and women who will allow Him to interrupt their perfectly planned lives with His unbelievable and miraculous plans!  It’s called being a bondslave.

Mary’s pure heart and true resolve are revealed through the final words of her statement, “ ... May it be done to me according to your word.”  Is that the resolve of your heart as well?  When your will comes into conflict with God’s Word, God’s Word must win at all cost.  Like Mary, settle this issue of human will and the authority of God’s Word today.  I declare, with Mary, that in my life, it will always be done according to His Word because I am His bondslave.

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:38

Psalm 119:1-16

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the hardest thing that God has ever asked of you?  How have you responded?

What does it mean to respond as a “bondslave”?  What are some of the heart attitudes that a “bondslave” would embrace?  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 7

A Miraculous Interruption!

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37) 

Christmas, for Mary, was learning the ultimate truth of this one statement.  When Christmas comes around each year, we must embrace the absolute faith that nothing is impossible with God!  Christmas is a reminder that we must always keep our focus on His Divinity and not on our frail humanity.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible.  So this year, rather than giving Santa an enormous and materialistic list, perhaps it would be most sincere to change your focus from temporary to eternal, from material to priceless and ask God for your true heart’s desire.  Impossibility is God’s specialty!  It is what He does best!  He loves to show Himself miraculous in the face of profound disappointment and darkness.

Most of us go through the Christmas season focused on self ... on what we want and desire and deserve.  Some people want a new house ... or a great piece of jewelry ... or for our children to come home for the holidays.  Some folks emphatically believe that they deserve a Christmas bonus, a tree-laden with expensive gifts or someone to clean the house for the holidays.

If these are your desires, you are missing it!  You have Christmas all wrong!  You are missing the hard lesson that the life of Mary teaches all of us today:

Our plans pale in comparison to His interruptions!  The most significant desire that you will ever embrace is to ask God to interrupt your life with His love and His plans. 

What these verses don’t describe is the public outrage that Mary had yet to face.  This girl, who has just had her world rocked with a message from heaven, would now be spat upon and cursed as she walked by.  Formerly she was known as “pure” and a “virgin”, and now her reputation was one of a loose and promiscuous woman.  Perhaps now as Mary daily walked to the village well, she heard the coarse language of the men calling out nasty innuendos accompanied by raucous laughter.

Mary learned, as we all must, that Christmas is not about me.  Christmas is about dying to self, to preference and to normalcy.  Christmas is the clarion call that none of us is able to live for human purposes ever again.  We have all been embraced by the call of Christmas that resounds from Mary’s heart to our world today, “Live for His purposes!  Live for Christ alone!”

Christmas is about the intervention of God into our ordinary lives; it is about Christ being born into our disappointments and failures.

Christmas is not about me but it is about Christ revealing Himself in me and to me!  Now that’s something to celebrate!

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:36-38

Genesis 18:1-4

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Do you truly believe that nothing is impossible with God?

What is your one “impossible” prayer request this Christmas?  Write it out and give it to God.

Donate

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 6

You Call This Favor?!

Mary was perplexed!  A strange man had just entered her room and had started to talk about things like favor and God and greetings!  Who is this assertive man and what in the world is he talking about? 

I can nearly hear Mary’s racing heartbeat as she attempted to process all that was happening around her this day.  The Bible says that “Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of salutation this was”.  Mary’s cheeks were probably flushed and her heart was beating wildly.

As the Angel Gabriel continued to tell the message of heaven to this young girl, perhaps Mary’s fear subsided and a humble awakening began to dawn in her heart.  Gabriel had heaven’s perspective on this miraculous announcement and saw absolutely no reason for fear.

Sweet Mary, who was trying to wrap her heart and mind around the message of the angel may have been incredulously pondering, “Me?!  God chose me?!  I am the chosen one to carry God’s child?  The mother of the Messiah?”

Christmas, for Mary, was about understanding that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways.  Mary was learning, like all of us must, that when Divinity invades humanity ... Divinity always wins!  Christmas is a reminder to me ... and to you ... and to Mary ... that His ways are always higher and better than anything that we could ever think or imagine.

Christmas has nothing to do with dancing elves, reindeer with red noses and snowmen who sing.  Christmas is about an invasion!  Christmas happens at the moment when heaven’s light invades the darkness of planet earth!

Christmas will always drive the worst of sinners to ponder what kind of salutation the Christmas story brings.  Either Christmas is a bold-faced lie or it is ultimate truth.  It can be nothing else.

Either the manger should be placed in the same category as elves, jolly old Saint Nicholas and flying reindeer ... or it is absolute, divine and eternal Truth.

Christmas is not about the holiday spirit that rushes toward us the day after Thanksgiving and compels us to shop, spend, and eat.  Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth.  It is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one life.  Christmas commences the moment when a person realizes the longing that has always existed to be overshadowed by all that He is and all that He does!

It happened for Mary ... and it can happen for you!  Perhaps an appropriate prayer to pray this Christmas would be,

“Holy Spirit!  Overshadow me!  Overshadow my dreams, my preferences and opinions!  Birth something new and something grand in me!  Create something in me that will change this generation for the Kingdom of Christ!”

Bible Reading: (please click the Scripture reference to open the reader)

Luke 1:29-35

Psalm 17

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Finish this phrase:  Christmas is …

Perhaps you could make a list of 10 things that “Christmas is …” to you.  Ask other people this week to finish that phrase as well.

Donate

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 5

The Girl Next-Door

Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph, a carpenter’s son, who was several years older than she was.  Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for the darling Mary to grow up!  And now that Mary was 13 or 14 years old, it was settled.  Mary was to become his wife.

Engagement, or betrothal, at this moment in history held the commitment that marriage does today.  Although Mary and Joseph were not living together and would stay pure until their wedding night, the only way out of a betrothal was divorce and the only reason that justified a divorce was adultery.

Mary was in the house one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home when she sensed someone in the room with her.  Conceivably, Mary looked around to see if anyone had joined her.

“And coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one!”  The Lord is with you.”

Christmas, for Mary, was the challenge of understanding what the favor of God is truly all about.  Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of your dreams will come true.  There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored by God; what favor means, simply, is that God is willing to use you.

God is willing to use the young, the uneducated and the inexperienced in His grand plan for humanity.  Just as the favor of God targeted the womb of Mary, I believe that the favor of God is targeting everyone and anyone who is willing to be part of God’s strategy at this historical juncture.

Christmas, for Mary, was about discovering the intimacy of the Lord’s presence as never before.  Mary was about to be confronted with the reality that favor happens when God places a piece of Himself into an earthly life.  No longer was God a mere concept or a Divine Being Who never engaged Himself in the affairs of every day life.  Because of Gabriel’s message, the presence of God Himself had invaded the life of this young girl, who, prior to this moment had nothing but Joseph, her beloved, on her innocent mind.

Experiencing the favor of God in new ways is one of the best parts of Christmas for me!  To think that God would desire to use me at this time in history is a gift that I never imagined I would find under the Christmas tree of life!

Discovering a fresh lifestyle of intimacy in the presence of Jesus is God’s life-changing Christmas gift to you this year.

Christmas is proclaiming to your world, “The Lord is with me ... and with you!  What a wonderful surprise!”

Bible Reading:  (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:26-29

II Chronicles 16:9

Isaiah 9:2-7

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What difficult thing has the Lord asked you to do?  Perhaps it is the favor of God that requires diligence in serving Him not only in easy assignments but especially in difficult ones.

Spend some time today listening to Christmas hymns and Carols.  Expect God to meet you during moments of worship.

Donate

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 4

Peace on the Battlefield of Life

British soldiers were spending Christmas Eve 1914 on a French battlefield  during World War I.  After four months of fighting, over a million men had perished in the bloody conflict.  The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of the opposing armies.

Life in the trenches was despicable.  Perpetual machine gun shelling took a high toll; the weather brought rain, snow and cold.  Many of the trenches in which the soldiers lived were flooded and exposed the soldiers to trench foot and frostbite.

It was in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, on December 24, 1914, that a miracle occurred!  British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit trees appeared above the German trenches.  The British troops stuck up a sign with the words, “Merry Christmas!” on it and the grandest holiday truce in all of history began.

“From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remember my German nurse singing to me ... the grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist.  It was all so strange ... like being in another world,” a young British soldier wrote in his diary.

            “Silent Night, Holy Night.  All is calm.  All is bright.”

When the German soldiers finished singing, the British decided to retaliate.  Rather than retaliate with the roar of a canon, the army chaps from England sang,

            “The first noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay ...”

When the boys from jolly old England finished, “Born is the King of Israel!”, the enemy began clapping and struck up a rousing rendition of “Oh Tannebaum!”

As the British troops began singing, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful!”, it was at that moment that the Germans immediately joined in.  They were singing with the enemy.

This was a most extraordinary event taking place in the middle of a blood-drenched battlefield!  Two opposing nations were singing the same Christmas Carol in the middle of a fierce war.  It is recorded that enemy soldiers greeted each other in the no man’s land that just minutes before had been a killing zone.  Soldiers wished one another a Merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles on Christmas Day.

The good will spread down the entire length of the 27-mile length of the British line.  It has been told that German soldiers shared baked goods and cider with the British soldiers.  A rousing soccer game began between the opposing nations while others just wanted to talk about Christmas at home.

Thousands of soldiers celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead. 

A solitary voice began to sing “Silent Night” in French ... he was joined by another voice singing in German ... and finally the words were in English.

Who do you need to make peace with this season?  Have you been engaged in a fierce battle that has extracted the very life from your soul?  Christmas is a moment in history when peace is abundantly possible because of the Baby Who came to bring peace for all of the ages.

Bible Reading:  (click the Scripture reference to open in reader)       

Isaiah 53

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Is there someone that you need to forgive this Christmas season?  Make a plan to reach out in love and then follow through.  Perhaps you can meet for a cup of coffee, or send this person a Christmas note or a loving e-mail.  

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 3

Lord, Prepare Me For What You are Preparing For Me

In the days during which Elizabeth lived, it wasn’t uncommon for pregnant women to go into seclusion when their pregnancy became obvious.  However, according to Scripture, Elizabeth, who was old enough to be a great-grandmother, apparently went into seclusion from the very first days of her unexpected pregnancy. 

I have often wondered why Elizabeth chose to hide herself away much earlier than was culturally acceptable or required.  I wonder if perhaps Elizabeth found it necessary to prepare her heart for God’s plan.  Elizabeth may have been so filled with thanksgiving and wonder that she knew preparing for motherhood was the single most important priority at her very advanced age.

I can picture tears coursing down her wrinkled and liver-spotted cheeks as she prayed, “Lord!  A miracle!  A bona fide miracle You have given to us!”

I wonder, as Elizabeth began the joy of making sweet little blankets and sewing precious garments of miniature clothing with gnarled and arthritic fingers, if her heart cried out to the God of the universe, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me!”

I believe that during these days of quiet, yet joyful contemplation, Elizabeth had a heart overflowing with gratitude.  She may have been intent on changing her lifestyle during this time of delightful preparation in order to become the mother that raising a young man of greatness would require.  Elizabeth was preparing her heart for the day of delivery and blessing.

During this Christmas season, for what do you need to prepare your heart?  Do you need to make some lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the destiny that God has chosen for you?  For those that He calls to do a great work, He also calls away into His presence.

Christmas is the season of hope and miracles and it is also the season of preparation for the destiny of God.  I pray that you will take some time today, and every day during this wonderful season, to hide yourself in God’s presence.  Rather than wrap yourself in busy-ness and extravagance, snuggle up in His love for you and ask Him to reveal His destiny for your life.

I hope that you will pray with Elizabeth, and with me, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me.”

Bible Reading:  (click the Bible reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:24 & 25

Isaiah 40:28-30

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the great work that you have been called to partner in with God?

What are some of the ways that you can prepare for the great work that God has called you to?

What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Thanksgiving Prayer

Father God,

As we gather around the bounteous table of plenty and provision, May we be ever mindful that everything we have received is from Your generous hand.

Your hand.

Your hand bestows honor and healing.

Your hand offers forgiveness and friendship.

Your hand ushers in favor and grace.

Your hand.

In this season when our hearts turn toward thanksgiving, we are grateful for You, Father, and for the actions that come from Your miraculous Hand.

We are grateful for all of the seasons of this extraordinary life and for Your faithfulness and steadfast love so evident in each season.

We are grateful for the laughter of children and for the wisdom of the aged.

We are thankful for the possibilities that a new life brings … and for a lasting legacy of faith.

We are grateful for the snow of winter and for the sunshine of summer.

We are thankful for the glory of autumn and the rebirth of spring.

We are Your thankful people, Lord.

Your people … held in the hollow and safety of Your hand.

Your hand.

Father, would You move Your hand once again?

Would Your guiding hand bring home those who have lost their way?

Would Your healing hand touch those who are ill or in pain?

Would Your generous hand provide for Your children once again?

Even in our thankfulness, Lord, we are aware that we need You.

We need more of You.

And so, today, our thankfulness is humbly blended with a heart that asks for more.

More of You.  More healing.  More grace.  More favor.  More wisdom.  More guidance.

And it is with pure thanksgiving that we understand that the more for which we ache has already been found in You.

You have given us more than enough … enable us to be the receptacles of Your more.

Let us be more aware of Your hand than we are of our own desires.

Lord … you are our More and we are thankful.

And so we come to You this day, as Your children, and gather around Your table of more.

More of You, Lord, is all that we ask for. More.

Amen.

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 2

Don’t Give Up!  Don’t Ever Give Up!

Zacharias was chosen to be the priest who would enter the holy place in the Temple to offer incense to God on behalf of the people.  However, as Zacharias was standing beside the altar of incense, he received a surprise visitor!  The angel Gabriel had been sent from heaven to bring an exciting message from heaven to Zacharias and Elizabeth.

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard,” were the words of the angel at this history-changing moment.  God had been silent for 400 years and at this instant, Zacharias heard the audible answer for which he and his wife had been praying since the day of their marriage many, many years ago.

After all of the years of waiting and praying and believing, heaven’s intervention was about to be experienced in the life and marriage of Elizabeth and Zacharias.  Could it be true?  Was it even possible after decades of marriage that they would conceive and bear a son?  Would Elizabeth’s elderly frame be able to withstand 9 months of pregnancy and then the pain of giving birth?  God, are You really this good?!

It is true:  God absolutely hears your prayers.  He is listening intently to your requests and loves it when a believer comes to Him boldly and unashamedly.  The Bible instructs Christians from every generation to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep right on seeking, knock and keep on knocking! (Matthew 7:7)

LTBJ Day 2.jpg

Don’t give up, my friend, don’t ever give up!  The message of Christmas  speaks into our silent world today: we serve a God Who answers the prayers of His children.  While you wait, and while you pray, don’t ever give up!  Keep knitting those baby blankets and when diapers go on sale, go out and buy a bundle or two!

For what have you been praying?  Perhaps an unsaved spouse ... a rebellious child ... a breakthrough in finances ... or health concerns have dominated your prayers for years and years.  You need to follow the example of Elizabeth and Zacharias and continue to pray with expectation and with hope!

It might seem like you haven’t heard from God in 400 years but the answer and voice of God might only be one more prayer away.

Christmas is a time when we should all expect heaven’s entrance into our dusty, dirty worlds.  Christmas is a time that reminds us that miracles really do happen, prayers are actually answered and that heaven is just one response away.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible!  Impossible is what the God of Christmas does best!

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:8-23

Matthew 7:7-11

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the best answer to prayer that you have ever received?

Make a list of others who are standing in faith for answers to their prayers.  Pray for them today.

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 1

Let There Be Joy Podcast - Day 1



We thought we'd get you in the mood for Christmas with a song and video by Chris McLeod. Enjoy the music as you read today's blog post and Bible verses!    {ChrisMcLeodMusic.com}

It’s Christmas!  The most wonderful time of the year!  What makes this season so miraculously wonderful is not the scrumptious holiday cookies nor is it the lavish gifts … it is not the reindeer who dance or the shoppers who spend.  Christmas is not defined by the decorations … not by the parties … and not by chestnuts that roast on an open fire.

Christmas is wonderful because of Him … because of a Baby that was born long ago and yet continues to live on in the hearts and lives of millions who dare to declare, “Let there be joy!”

Let’s go on a journey to Bethlehem by taking a lingering and delicious look at the Christmas story found in the Bible.  The historical account of the birth of Jesus didn’t start in Bethlehem or even in Nazareth ... but it began with an elderly couple who knew the deep fulfillment of living wholeheartedly for God.

The Bible describes Elizabeth and Zacharias in the loveliest of ways:  “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”   - Luke 1:6

Elizabeth and Zacharias, had been married many years and yet still had no babies.  The heartache must have been wrenching for this man of prayer and his wife, but the Bible records they continued to walk blamelessly in every aspect of their relationship to the Lord.

For the priest Zacharias and his faithful wife, Elizabeth, there had been no 3 a.m. feedings, no messy diapers and no sweet giggles and baby smiles.  Their life did not turn out the way that they had hoped for or prayed for.

How do you respond to disappointment?  Do you use it as an excuse for over-indulgence or griping and complaining?  Although Elizabeth and Zacharias had empty arms and dashed hopes, they continued to serve God wholeheartedly as the years continued to pass.

The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous one avails much!  (James 5:16)  When you continue to live a righteous life ... and continue to pray ... your prayers will get the job done.

The Bible also says that the righteous live by faith. (Hebrews 2:4)  Elizabeth and Zacharias continued to walk by faith and not by sight.

Elizabeth’s name actually means “God is my Oath”.  Elizabeth believed the promises of God long after others would have given up in frustration.  She believed that God was listening to her prayers while her friends cooed over their own babies and then decades later experienced the joy of rocking their grandchildren to sleep.

I hope that the first lesson you will learn in the Christmas story is to be patient with God.  Trust God even when your circumstances are challenging.  Continue to live a righteous life through days of disappointment.  Pray fervently and believe that God is listening to your prayers.  Continue to embrace a positive heart attitude when you don’t get your own way.

Allow the steadfastness of Elizabeth to remind you that true believers walk by faith and not by sight.  Although she was barren, she continued to believe in the promises and nature of God.

Bible Reading: (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:1-7

James 5:16

Hebrews 10:35-39

Let There Be Joy in Me:

For what are you praying? 

What are some of the healthy responses you can embrace while waiting for God to answer your prayers?

Sign up to receive Carol McLeod's weekly email devotional

Sign up to receive Carol McLeod's weekly email devotional

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Thanks-giving to Thanks-living

The crackle of the fire in the blazing and inviting fireplace. 

My mother’s white linen tablecloth spread on the seldom-used dining room table.

The smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. 

Pumpkin pies cooling on the countertop. 

My grandmother’s tart but delectably sweet cranberry recipe.

Family gathered from far and near.  Tulsa.  Nashville.  Pennsylvania.

Missing deeply those who are unable to join us around the table.

It’s the thankful time of year.

Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays.  I love the seasonal reminder that there is so much that I have been given to which thankfulness is the appropriate and necessary response.

I delight in the knowledge that people across the nation pause for a rare moment in time and remember to speak forth words of heartfelt gratitude.

Thanksgiving is a time for remembering … for being grateful … for resting in all that He is and all that He has done.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving table will look like this year … or who will be gathered around it.  But I want to barge myself uninvited into your annual celebration of gratitude and share with you a few things that God has been sharing with me.

So … from God’s heart … to my heart … to your Thanksgiving table …

1 - Thanksgiving is not a single day on the calendar but it was always meant to be a lifestyle.  Thanksgiving is the particular way that we are able to access the presence of the Father.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” – Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving was never meant to be an annual celebration identified by pilgrims, pies and stuffing … but it was meant to be the most accurate demonstration of relationship between children and their heavenly, generous Father.  As the family of God, we are called to respond daily … hourly … moment by moment … as the beneficiaries of the miraculous blessings given from heaven’s resources to our wilderness table of life.

The only possible response is, “Thanks, Dad!”

And we must not wait for a month or a day on a calendar to provoke this heartfelt thanksgiving!  We are compelled to shout it out continually because we are simply quite unable to hold it back.

“Enter with the password: “Thank You!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise.  Thank Him.  Worship Him.” – Psalm 100:4 – The Message Bible

2 – Thanks-speaking is the language of the family of the Father.  It is our native tongue.  We don’t speak with words of complaining … in the tongue of lack … or with the accent of griping.  We are thanks-speakers every day of every year.  We have learned this particular language at the knee of the Father.

Words of rich gratitude fill the dictionary of our hearts and from its deep treasuries we write the story of our lives. 

I am thankful for my home, family and job.

I am grateful for food, for heat, for a car.

Thanks, Dad, for my church family and for my crazy family!  I love them both!

Father, thank you for coffee … and for the giggle of a baby … and for the local library.

I am so thankful for friends who make me laugh … keep me humble … and challenge my thinking processes.

I am grateful for people who enable me to respond like You would.

I am thankful for snow and for sunshine … for thunderstorms … and for spring days.

I am thankful for my Bible … for worship music … for prayers both answered and unanswered … and for YOU, my Father!

3 – Thanks-singing is the choice that has the joyful ability to turn the dry and barren wilderness into a fruitful and lush garden of life.

If you choose to wait to sing until you “feel” like singing … you may never sing again!  Feelings don’t determine the frequency of our song … the depth of the harmonies … or the breadth of its audience.

The song that fills the days of our lives is birthed in the heart of the Father’s love for us.  He loves me!  That gives me something to sing about every day of every year!

When the arctic winds of January are wailing … God gives a song!

When February 14th comes around again and relationships remain difficult and demanding … or your heart shivers from perpetual loneliness … He sings a love song into personal darkness and pain.

When the winter stubbornly lingers into March and April … He sings of His vibrant power and we join bravely in the duet with Him.

And then … when at last spring flowers bloom and the warmth of sunshine re-appears … the song delightfully grows in volume not because of human happiness but because of His dear presence.

And when the flowers fade …  and the leaves begin to fall … and the earth prepares itself for winter’s ferocious onslaught … the song remains steady and strong as the children of God sing with the saints of the ages,

“Great is Thy Faithfulness!  Oh God, my Father! 
There is no shadow of turning with Thee!
 Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
 Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

4 – Thanks-living is what life is all about!  The only reason that you and I are still alive this year is to give Him more thanks … higher praise … and louder worship.

We do not live for selfish ambition or for personal gain but we live to worship Him!

We breathe to sing to Him!

We exist to write a new song of wondrous thanksgiving and glorious worship!

Our lives are the song that He has been aching to hear this year.  Like a proud papa, He is bending low to hear our childlike attempts at singing a new and challenging song.

Frankly, the Father doesn’t care if we are on pitch or off pitch … He doesn’t notice whether we hit the right notes or the painful, wrong ones … He is not concerned with perfection or performance.  The Father just wants to hear the song. 

And so … when you sit down at the Thanksgiving table next week to indulge in the laughter of family, the bounty of provision and the delight of memories … don’t forget why you were created!  You are alive today in order to sing the song that the pilgrims of faith sang with gusto and with wholehearted joy!  You are here to join in the symphony of praise of those who have gone before but who have served with thanksgiving at their moment in eternity’s calendar.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;

Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

 

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,

Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;

So from the beginning the fight we were winning;

Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

 

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,

And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;

Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

An Unexpected Storm

Oh my … what do you do when you receive a phone call that carries unexpected, potentially devastating news?

Wow … how do you respond when out of nowhere comes a diagnosis that is unexpected and cruel?

“Carol … it is cancer,” are words that I never thought that I would hear.

Cancer?!  Really?!!  Our family doesn’t get cancer.  Don’t the doctor and his brilliant radiologist know that?

And yet the words of a kind nurse named Sue invaded my healthy world Monday afternoon, November 3, 2014, at 3:15 pm.

“Ductal carcinoma”. 

How dare cancer slap me in the face?!!

How dare cancer slap anyone in the face?!

“Are you sure?” were the very first words out of my mouth when Sue gently reported what the biopsy had revealed.

“I know that is not what you wanted to hear,” she quietly said as I tried to wrap my mind and heart around this new reality.

After giving instructions concerning who to call, what to do next, which doctors were the best and what to expect as far as a treatment plan, Sue, the owner of a soft and gentle voice, said good-bye and wished me well.

My hair was half dry … I had a Bible Study to teach that night … would I ever feel like eating again?

In spite of human shock there were some things that I knew.

I knew that I knew that I knew that God was with me … that this had not taken Him by surprise. 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” – I Peter 4:12 & 13

I knew that I knew that I knew that I serve a powerful God Who is my Great Physician.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” – Psalm 103:1-5

I knew that I knew that I knew that I was appointed to take the joy and hope of Christ to the dark world of sickness and cancer.

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.  Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will be converted to You.” – Psalm 51:12 & 13

I also knew … that I needed my husband... so I called him and he came home.  Quickly.  Instantly.  Immediately.

I don’t remember if we cried or not … but I do remember that we prayed and began to share a Scripture verse or two with one another.  We were sobered but not destroyed … concerned but not worried … saddened but not sorrowful.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” – II Corinthians 4:7-10

Truthfully?!  I was mad!  I was mad as hell at hell and decided to fight this diagnosis the only way I knew how … with worship and the Word!

In the days since that phone call, my prayer times have become richer and more meaningful. I am learning what it means to pray without ceasing.

Since my world was invaded by a diagnosis of demonic proportions, reading the Bible is no longer a required discipline but is a time of daily delight and revelation.

Worship miraculously cuts through my raw, seething emotions and brings me into the presence of my Healer.

Enough about me … let’s talk about you.

Have you ever been in a place of shock at a turn of unexpected and undeserved events?

When was the last time that you received a phone call that took you out at the knees?

What does one do during those moments of heart-racing … adrenaline inducing … dry-mouth shock?

This is what one does … default to priorities when encountering a moment of human pain designed to detour your life off of its planned course.

When life throws that infamous curve ball in your direction, throw your hands in the air and begin to worship.  I’d rather worship than wail any day.

I would rather read the Word than sit in a chair paralyzed with worry.

The simple truth is this:  times of hardship and challenge are able to define one’s life in a way that days of ease and pleasure simply are unable to.

How does the definition of your life read in heaven’s dictionary? 

David = Heart after God’s own heart; worshiper.

Paul = Mass murderer became prolific evangelist and one who heard God’s voice.

Hannah = Barren woman who relentlessly prayed and worshiped; God answered her prayers.

Peter = Impetuous, stubborn fisherman who became a powerful leader when filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth = Righteous elderly woman who held fast to the promises of God.

This is what I long for that holy, one-of-a-kind, eternal, final-authority-on-everything dictionary to say about me:

Carol = When life hit her hard, she worshiped the Lord and declared the Word of God.

Lens of Faith.jpg

The truth is this … when viewed through the lens of faith, difficulties have the triumphant power to be the finest hour in the life of a believer.

Just ask Sarah and Abraham …

Just ask Joseph …

Just ask Joshua …

Just ask Carol McLeod …

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

The Wait

What do you do when you find yourself in the wait?  We have all been there … in the wait.

Waiting for God to answer.

Waiting for mountains to move.

Waiting for provision.

Waiting for healing.

Waiting for breakthrough.

Waiting for the storm to pass.

Waiting for someone … anyone … to notice that you are in the wait.

Some people seem to get breakthrough so easily … for me it has not been like that.  I have spent years in the wait. 

Years waiting for God to answer.

Years waiting for God to move.

Years waiting for provision.

Years waiting for healing.

Years waiting for breakthrough.

Years waiting for the storm to pass.  Who knew storms could last so long?!

Years waiting for someone to join me in the wait.  Who knew the wait was such a lonely place?

Years in the wait.  Years.

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.” – Isaiah 41:28

Sometimes I wonder if staying in the wait is more a place of power and less a place of weakness than I perceive it to be.

The days … years … that I spend in the wait are the times that I find myself spending volumes of time on my knees and days on my face in His presence.  This powerful position makes the wait bearable.

The days … years … that I am in the wait, I spend more time in the Word. The Word comforts my weary heart while I am in the wait.

The days … years … that I am in the wait, I spend more time in worship.  Worship takes my eyes off of what I don’t have … and Who He is!  What power!!

It is in the wait that I discover I am not alone.  He is with me in the wait.  There is nobody I would rather wait with than Him.  There is no one I would rather hang out with than Him.  There is no one.  Just Him.

He never gets frustrated with me … or with the wait.  That humbles me.  I want to be like Him.  I don’t want to be frustrated in the wait … or with Him.

The time spent in the wait turns my attention away from stuff and things and toward Him. 

I find it a far more powerful choice to simply wait with Him than to wait for His hand to move

It’s in the wait that my life is joined to eternity’s focus, to heaven’s power and to His perpetual and unconditional love.  I become like Him and all that He is when I am with Him in the wait!  I am able to access all that He has for me when I spend time in the wait with Him!

It is in the wait that I am changed.  Revolutionized.  Transformed.  It is in the wait that I discover a strength I never before had.  It is impossible to wait and remain weak when one waits with Him. 

We all surely know that, if nothing else, one needs strength to wait.  And the strength that is so desperately needed due to the wait is found in the companionship of Him Who is strong.

            If you wait alone … what frustration ensues!

            If you wait alone … what weakness prevails!

            If you wait alone … how slowly time passes. 

            But when you wait with Him … what miracles happen!

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” – Isaiah 41:29

Waiting is not for wimps.  But then again … maybe waiting IS for wimps.  Perhaps it is in the wait that wimps become warriors.

Have you ever noticed that in the wait … temptation strikes with a ferocity unheard of in other places and in other situations?!

Have you ever noticed in the wait … that you are tempted to say things that you shouldn’t even think much less have the audacious bravado to say?!

Have you ever noticed that in the wait… the temptation to compromise beliefs and to forget about the promises of God is at a dangerously high level?!

It is Who you wait with that makes all of the difference.

If you are forced to wait … wait with Him.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that I discover a tenacity that I never before possessed.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that I discover the purpose for which I have been born.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that vision is refined and that desires are purified.

I need the wait.  I need to wait with Him.  I need the work that happens in me during the wait.

“Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly …” – Isaiah 40:30

I think that I am only waiting … just hanging around until life happens … but He sees the wait as the stuff of which life is made.  God made me for the wait and for the work that it accomplishes in me.

God designed the wait to be the place where treasure is discovered in my life.

The wait.  It’s the place where I become the person He desires. 

The wait.  It’s the place where the pressure reveals the value.

The wait.  Him and me.  Me and Him.  It’s my favorite place.

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Grace...What Is It?

Grace.

We all need it … but what is it?

Is it just another religious word that translates into empty chatter in real life?

Grace.

We all need it … but what is it?

Grace.

I need grace for when I win and for when I lose.

I need grace for climbing the mountain and for when I spend time in the valley.

I need grace for valuable relationships with dear friends and for dealings with fractious and difficult people.

I need grace for the hard stuff of life and for the easy stuff of life.

Grace.

I need grace for the possible and the impossible … for the ordinary and for the extraordinary … for the mundane and for the miraculous.

I need grace. 

I need grace for the dishes and for the laundry … for finances and for car repairs … for stressful driving and for mice under the dishwasher.

I need grace.

I need grace when I am running on empty and when my plate is way too full … I need grace for when I am lonely and for when others refuse to leave me alone … I need grace for those I love and for those who drive me crazy.

I need grace.

Now … if I only knew what it was.    Grace … what is it?!

Oh … I know what it is in my heart but I am not sure that I could define the word … or explain the word … or understand the word. 

Grace.

Sometimes I think that if I could define it in human terms that my feeble definition would devalue grace.  And so rather than define it … understand it … or explain it … I will simply pray for grace knowing that I can’t live without it.

I know where it comes from.  There is only one place to get grace.  From Him.  From the One Who created it.

Grace is only one aching prayer away.

“Jesus, I have found myself in a spot of my own making and choosing.  I need You.  I need what only You can give to me.  I need your Grace.”

And in that place … and with that prayer …  I find it.  I find grace.

If there is anything that I know about prayer … it is this … prayer is the grace place. 

Worship is the grace place.  

Forgiveness is the grace place. 

Grace is favor I don’t deserve.  It’s love that I didn’t earn.  It’s strength that wins over weakness.

Grace is joy that sings in spite of horrific suffering … it is a tranquil peace in the middle of confusion …and it is glorious healing in the midst of raw pain.

Grace.  I need it.  He gives it.

Grace is perseverance that rises richly from within … it is wisdom that quietly answers and affirms … grace is able to flourish and triumphantly bloom in the desert.

Grace is unearned acceptance and undeserved love.  Such sweet stuff.

I don’t know what you need today … but I know that God has what you need.  He gives whatever you need in the form of His grace when you are bold enough to expose your human condition to the grace place. 

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

When I press into grace … I am pressing into Him.

I need grace to be a mom and to be a wife.

I need grace to be a friend and to carry on.

I need grace to stop stomping through life and to glide instead.

And you better believe that you need me to stop at the grace place before our lives intersect or collide!

The grace place changes everything for every person … for every relationship … for every desert … for every minute … for every mountain … for every suffering soul … for every challenge … the grace place.

If you are weary … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are stressed out and frustrated … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are angry … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you have questions … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

I’ll meet you there … in the grace place. 

We will know each other by the desperation in our eyes and the arid condition of our hearts.  We will know because we are one and the same.

Sinners in need of grace.

Saints in need of revival.

Weary travelers in need of strength.

Empty hearts in need of love.

Discouraged souls in need of joy.

People in need of God.

How wonderful that He knew that we would need Him and His grace!  And so He offers it willingly and without blame.

Grace.

He has it … I need it.

I always knew we were a match made in heaven!

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Motherhood and a Frozen Family Announcement

I am obnoxious … totally out of control when it comes to my family.  Of all of the things that I have accomplished or completed in my life … my family ranks at the top of my list.  The very top of the list.  Every single day. 

There is absolutely nothing like bein’ a mom.

I am not a helicopter mom … but I have been known to be braggadocios.  Yuck.  Sorry about that.

I have been a mom for nearly 34 years!  Well … actually a little over 34 years because I really do believe that life begins at conception.  Motherhood has comprised the grandest, most challenging, most fulfilling, most humbling, most gratifying moments of my life.

Motherhood has kept me on my knees.

Who knew that I had the tenacity to sit in pouring rainstorms while cheering for high school football teams?  Who knew?!

Who knew that I would perfect the art of grilled cheese sandwiches to maximum gooeyness?!

Who knew that I could change an explosive diaper without gagging … teach 5 teens to drive without harming them … and play a competitive game of H.O.R.S.E. in the driveway with neighborhood boys?

Having raised 5 children … I wonder how many potatoes I have peeled over the last 34 years? I wonder how many PBJ’s I have made … I wonder how many silly songs I have written … how many books I have read out loud … how many stinky towels I have washed … I wonder.

I wonder how many boo-boos I have kissed … how many candles I have placed atop birthday cakes … how many prayers I have prayed.  I wonder.

I wonder how many legos I have stepped on … how many beds I have made … how many nights I have fallen into bed utterly exhausted but gloriously fulfilled.  I wonder.

And now … as I look at the men and women that my children have become … I stare in utter awe of what God has done.  Any weakness in them I take full responsibility for … and any strength or gift that they possess I will give God all the glory for!

Matt & Emily.jpg

Matt … a coach of coaches.  A leader of leaders.  A dynamic speaker … a voice of integrity and righteousness.  A lover of God.  A husband who serves and a father who cares.


Chris & Liz.jpg

Chris … this kid was born with a song in his heart.  A worshipper.  A creative genius. Kindness exudes from every pore of his body.  A great dad and loving husband.



Jordan & Alli.jpg

Jordan … the one for whom we prayed.  The baby who was born after losing 5 babies.  A musician of unsurpassed excellence and a reader of great literature.  There is not a mean bone in his body.  How did I get to be his mom?!


Joy … the first splash of pink after 3 boys.  She lives up to her name.  A classical pianist … the pied piper of children … she possesses a wisdom that would make even Solomon take note.

Joni … my missionary to the nations.  Immovable … focused … a scholar and an athlete.  She embraces a call so rare and so heartfelt that we are all moved to tears dreaming about the nations that she will impact.

(I told you I could be braggadocios.)

And now the next generation has begun to make their significant arrivals!  If you think I am an obnoxious mom … just let me begin to talk about those grandbabies!

However … I will spare you the details of my brilliant, beautiful and anointed grandchildren for now.  But what I do want to share with you today is that there is another one on the way!

Another little gift from heaven … filled with potential and sparkle and promise.  We don’t know yet whether it is a girl or a boy … but we do know that God has ordained this little life since the very beginning of time.

“You saw me before I was born.  Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single moment passed.  How precious are your thoughts about me, Oh God!  They cannot be numbered.  I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, You are still with me.” – Psalm 139:16-18

And so, in honor of this nameless and growing mass of potential, I thought I would share the announcement that Chris and Liz created to let their friends and family know that another little McLeod is on the way. 

This miniature McLeod person, while yet in sweet Liz’s womb, has the potential to change the world … to write a symphony … to heal disease … to feed the poor … and to love the difficult.

My prayer for you today is that you will go back to the Father Who created you and dream big dreams with Him.  You are here for purpose and destiny and He has not forgotten why you were created.  The fingerprint of the Divine is upon you.

You are God’s “for the first time in forever!”  He couldn’t wait for your grand entrance upon planet earth.  The angels cheered your arrival and wait in breathless anticipation for all that you will become!

It is never too late to be who God has called you to be.  God meant your minutes to matter and calls you to live a life beyond regret.  Today is the first day of your forever … so live big!  Live exuberantly!  Live with the song of heaven in your very soul!

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email