Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Does Time Have You in a Chokehold?


The pain bubbles up and spills over, as hot, salty tears run down my cheeks.

The fact that I cut so deeply for someone I've never met doesn't even surprise me.

The twinges of sorrow have been seething under the surface for some time now... waiting to overflow.

I peer at her bright smiling face, and feel it again... the aching... the longing... the wrestling with time.

If only... 

one could turn back time.

Pain... it stands at the edge of our 'not-perfect-but-we-love-them' lives and claws and tears with its sinister talons.

No one is left unscathed.

We struggle... we writhe... we squirm... trying desperately to escape its grasp... to return to the time when... pain was not.

Have you ever felt that?  The overwhelming almost urgent desire to turn back the hands of time... just change that one tiny thing that... caused our world to come crashing down on us.

We know it is impossible, but oh, how we wish we could. 

It was just a mistake, a foolish choice. Who could know it would end up like this?

And so we struggle.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm caught in a battle with time, and he's the one who has the upper hand... has me in a chokehold. 

Can you relate? 


Looking back and wishing you could change the past does nothing but fill you with despair and regret.

Not exactly components of living a victorious life. 

So you try to pull yourself together. Waiting for time to soften the blow, you shift your focus and peer longingly into the future. 

But even here, my friend, we must be careful. Fixating on the future often leaves us unhappy with today... unable to enjoy the essence of now. 

You know us moms, sometimes we get so caught up in preparing our kids for the future we forget to slow down and enjoy today.

Or we look longingly to the day when we can... ________. You fill in the blanks; we all have something that tries to hijack our promise of joy for today.  

So what's a girl to do? 

I'm starting to realize that our 'big picture' view of life has a lot to do with how we envision time, and likewise the way in which we understand time has a great impact on how we feel about our lives. 

Are we at the mercy of time? Or is time just a 'tool' in the hands of our Master? 

When we are locked in the battle with time... tossed between languishing over the past or yearning for the future... between the "if only's" and the "one day's”... we can find hope in turning to the only One who sits outside of time and sees it all.  

We can turn to God, our Father in heaven. 

Give Him Our Yesterdays
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19
But, you don't understand, it is so painful, you say. 

God says, "I am making a way!"

I am so grateful that God's mercies are new every morning. He is always at work doing a new thing... making a way in the wilderness that is life. Are we looking for it? Are our eyes opened to what He is doing now? Or are they strained on yesterday? 

But, you don't know what I've done, you say. But God says, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:12)  

Can you imagine such grace? Once you have accepted God's offer of forgiveness, let it go; God has. Don't let your past mistakes rob you of the joy of today. 

He Holds Our Tomorrows

As for your future...

Leave it in His hands. He's already there anyhow. 
"But I am trusting you O LORD, saying, "You are my God!" My future is in your hands."  Psalm 31:14-15a
No, we don't have to worry about the future when we are walking with God, but we still do. We are so entangled by our strife with time, that we forget that no matter what happens, His presence never leaves us and our eternal future is secure with Him.

Nor, should we boast about the future. 
Now listen, you who say, " Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is you life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say. "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."  James 4: 13-15
So, if we can neither change the past nor fast-forward to the future, shouldn’t we make the best of now?
Live For Him Today

Easier said than done, but it's time. 

Time to stop battling with time... to be freed from its strangle hold... to purposely and prayerfully take our gaze off of time and peer instead on our omnipotent Father in heaven. The only all powerful One who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, who forgives our yesterdays and secures our tomorrows, who stands at the door, knocks and calls emphatically... today.
"At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2
Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart. (Hebrews 3:15) 
He calls us to a life of hope... a life of joy in His presence... of peace beyond understanding and of love incomprehensible. 

Not an easy life, necessarily; there will still be pockmarks of pain and distress, but our view of time changes when we are cradled in the arms of the One who created time. And we live to make the best use of our time for Him... to love those left behind and marred by pain, and to shine brightly for Him in the dark shadows of life. 

I pray that God, in His mercy, would ‘teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom' (Psalm 90:12) and that we would embrace the freedom He offers to live fully, abundantly right now right where we are... in joy... in love... in Him.

Blessings,
Carlie


What about you?
Do you battle with time? 
Is your fixation with time stealing your joy today?
Please share your thoughts below; I'd love to hear from you! 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Amazing Beauty & Impact of One Drop


It’s just one drop. 

It seems so insignificant... so minuscule... so painfully small. One might even doubt its worth. Doubt the value one drop could add to an infinite sea... a vast sea of unrealized goals or plans, unlived dreams, ‘waiting-to-be-prayed’ prayers, unmet needs of a thirsty people.

But...


There is an amazing rippling beauty in just one tiny drop.

In a world where quantity is often a benchmark for success we sometimes overlook the powerful impact and influence of one.

Yes, I know the feeling. I’ve been there. It’s March, and already you’ve wandered away from your ‘this-time-it’s-going-to-be-different’ resolutions, your well-intentioned goals or the focus on your ‘one word’. You’re disappointed with yourself... again. Maybe this is the way it will always be... you tell yourself... I might as well just accept it.

But...

it just takes one.

One choice to reject the lie, to refuse to be cloaked in the veil of failure... to forget what lies behind and forge forward... to believe that just for today... just for now... you can do it.

You can take one bite to a healthier you.

You can clear one cluttered spot in your home or office... perhaps just one drawer.

Just this once, you can choose one kind word.

But, what about those distant dreams that seem impossible to reach? Buried so deep below your responsibilities and excuses, they’re almost forgotten. Can one drop really make a difference here?


Yes, my friend! Just one step and the choice to believe that ‘one’ is powerful... that ‘one’ has great impact and influence... that ‘one’ brings you closer... spurs you on... lifts your spirits... tells you it is possible.

Just focus on one.

I remember talking with my daughter about the plight of so many of the disenfranchised in our world and the feeling of helplessness expressed in her words, “But what can I do?”

Sometimes, I feel that same smallness... that same powerlessness... weighed down by the prayer needs around me. There is so much to bring before the Lord, that at times I just become overwhelmed.

But... what if I start with just one prayer... one belief that my God hears. Right where I am... right now... what if lifted up one name before the Lord.
'Granted, a set time and place for prayer is a desirable thing, but let that not blind us to the countless opportunities in a day when incidents, problems and even idle thoughts can be elevated to the level of prayer. The name of an old friend flits into mind during the lunch break. Need that name drop back again into the memory's filing system without being lifted, even wordlessly, to God?'   Richard Bewes - 'Talking About Prayer'
It’s an awesome privilege partnering in the work of God... and it just takes one prayer... with one focus that our one God, who sees the many, loves the one and will draw close to him.

Oh, the amazing beauty of one. May we never despise these small beginnings.

Yes, there may be thousands... millions of souls needing to be fed, thirsty for hope... and we want to reach as many as possible. We want to grow our influence, but what if we focused on reaching just one.



Oh, that touches my heart, like nothing else in scripture, that God... the LORD Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth should have such a heart... such a focus... such a love for just one... one soul... one sheep wandering from His path... that He would shed His blood to save just one.

Can't you feel the thanks rising up in you as you ponder that one simple truth?

So why not...

Make one call to the friend who is hurting?

Offer one meal to the man who is hungry?

Find one practical need and serve wholeheartedly?

Start with one. 

No matter if you’re on the world stage or you’re at home, you can start with just one.


“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40
‘For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.’ Ephesians 4:4

 ******************
What about you?


What one thought... action... prayer... person can you focus on today?

May God, in His power, wisdom and mercy abundantly bless your one.


In love,
Carlie

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Join Us For The Sparkle Circle

Recently, I read an online article that piqued my interest about the friendship-making aptitude of the different personality types.

And so because I’m famous for running down rabbit trails, I took one of those online personality tests just for fun. I even encouraged my kids and my husband to try it as well.

Needless to say, it led to a lot of humorous conversations about our various idiosyncrasies and the four-letter boxes we tried to fit into. We had the biggest laugh about my expressive husband’s unconvincing efforts to claim the introverted label. Really? Who was he kidding?

As for me, however, there was no debate. I was definitely more reserved than my husband. I didn’t need a personality test to tell me that. I don’t think anyone would mistakenly peg me as warm and fuzzy. (And that’s just a bit... well... unsettling.)

But if you’re an introvert like me, you’ll understand why I’m not surrounded by a throng of friends.

Nonetheless, it seems to me, regardless of our personality type, in today’s fast-paced, success-driven, self-reliant world, friendships just don’t come easy.

Yet, God has placed in us a deep need to connect with others. We have this longing to belong... to feel a part of something. To feel as though we’re not alone but that instead there’s someone else who knows what we’re going through and can relate to our struggles.
'... a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.' Proverbs 27:9b

So together with my sisters, Andie and Marva (of SunSparkleShine), I invite you to join us for The Sparkle Circle, a monthly series all about community and doing life together.
Every last Tuesday of the month, my sisters and I would take turns sharing about our crazy lives and encouraging us all to keep our eyes and hearts open to the connections God has lined up for us. Yes, our lives might be crazy - and we don’t have it all figured out - but we have been blessed by God’s love, and it’s a love that we long to share with you.
Our hope is that you will feel welcomed here and that you will find The Sparkle Circle to be fun, engaging and real — a place where you can be you.
So... without further ado, please follow me over to Marva’s site, where I’m sharing about God’s heart connection business in ‘Colourful Prayers and the Spark of Friendship’.

Friday, 17 February 2017

My Love Affair with Effort & Why We Must Break Up

 

Effort is a bit of a strange guy. At first he seems so... right. He tells you, “You don’t have to be perfect!” and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Now you can just relax and be you. What could be better?

But then he adds, “You just need to try. And try hard!” 

That doesn’t seem so bad. As a matter of fact, it feels pretty good. The more you try, the better you feel. You feel accomplished and fulfilled.

And when you don’t succeed, you think well, at least I tried my best.

Yep, effort seems like a really nice guy.

But as you get closer, you begin to see his problems. All relationships have problems, you say, we’ll work it out. But these are some pretty serious problems... problems that have the potential to steal your joy... problems that have caused me to reconsider my commitment to effort.

Let me show you what I mean.

I’ve been with effort a long time, and over the years I’ve noticed something - my love affair with him has the dangerous potential to twist all my relationships into performance-based traps.

My relationship with me:

Oh, I can get really tough on myself. Am I trying hard enough? Am I lazing around too much? Do I deserve this break? Did I do enough? You know how it goes... us ‘work ‘til we drop’ women. That’s effort, alright; he pushes me to the max, and then wouldn’t even let me enjoy some downtime. You can’t stop now he says, there’s more to be done.

It took me a while to realize what he was doing. Chiding me when I rested, manipulating me into believing that rest is something I should earn rather than a sweet command from my Father intended for my good.

My relationship with others:

And it doesn’t stop with me. Without even realizing it, I check to see if others are as in love with effort as I am. So if this is what it looks like when I work hard, I look at some poor, unsuspecting soul, and if perhaps he’s doing it differently to me, I might just assume he doesn’t share the same commitment to effort as me.

Effort and I, we sit up on that pedestal... that critical seat of judgment, and together we muse - perhaps he needs to try harder.

Even when I'm serving others, effort pushes grace right out of the way, tries to twist my motivation and then steal all the glory. 

Yep, this love affair with effort has been going on a long time and it has caused some serious damage between my loved ones and me.

But as grave as that is, that’s not even the greatest threat.

My relationship with God:

You see effort crossed the line when he tried to take the place of God, my true First Love. And what’s even more tragic is I almost let him. As a matter of fact, it is a daily battle to keep effort in his place.

You see effort, kept restrained, is quite a nice chap to have around. He encourages you to work hard to reach your goals... to put your ‘heart and soul’ into whatever you put your hands or mind to. He helps you motivate others to do their best. Why, he even supports your intentionality in spending time with God, your intended First Love.

But he is sneaky, and while I'm praying to my Father, he is whispering to me - trying to convince me that somehow my deliverance (from whatever trial I'm experiencing) depends on 'our' self-sufficiency rather than on the supernatural workings of God. Imagine, trying to limit my expectations of God. 

Yep, if you’re not careful, he creeps up and up in importance until... well, until he becomes the one you worship.


So we’re breaking up... effort and I. We can be friends, but the love affair ends here. I’m loosening the chains he has on me.

He can’t convince me that my love affair with him is evidence of a successful Christian life.

He can’t convince me that I must deliver at a high level for God’s acceptance and approval.

He won’t make me believe that my effort is somehow better than that of someone else... or worse.

I will not agree with him and allow myself to be enslaved by others’ approval of my efforts.

No, effort will no longer be permitted to steal my joy. You see, I’ve been with effort long enough to know that no matter how you try, you can’t find what you’re looking for with him.

No, my friend, only God through Jesus Christ, can give me... give you that joy that we seek.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re searching for God, a new believer or a seasoned Christian effort has a way of getting at us all. Perhaps it has something to do with our pride, that deadly sin that infects us all. The faulty belief that we can somehow improve our standing with God by our own efforts as if what Christ did for us was not enough.

No, make no mistake, slow dancing with effort is dangerous, He undermines and steals our joy – the very gift of God that Christ died to give us.

It is for freedom, that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Oh, the joy of being free!

I’m so thankful for grace and for the truth I’m learning more and more – ‘We cannot be truly happy unless God’s acceptance of us is totally based on Christ.’ (desiringGod.org)

My friend, ‘if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall’, hold firm to the hope that Christ came to give us, the freedom that comes from relying solely on His righteousness, and let’s keep effort in its rightful place.

********************
What about you?

Take a close look at your intentions.
Have you been hoodwinked by effort?
Or are you happily resting on God's grace alone?
I'd love if you'd drop me a line to let me know 
how you handle effort's ploys?



Blessings to you, my friend,
Carlie




Monday, 6 February 2017

Will There Really be a Morning?


Nights were harder for my mom. Perhaps the encroaching darkness worked to heighten her fears to a new frenzy and strangle out the little hope she held on to.  

But for me, mornings were the worst.

Mornings, with bright sunshine heralding in a new day, are supposed to bring fresh hope, good news... relief. But each morning, I would dread opening my eyes as the harsh reality sank in.

In the days following the tragedy, I remember trying to catch up with my November Scripture Writing Plan from The Felicity Bee, a focus on Thanksgiving & Gratitude, no less. I would read the scripture, highlight it in my You Version bible app and meditate on it as I carefully wrote it out in my journal. But when I came upon Psalm 30, I struggled.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD, my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12

And that wasn't all... as I read more of the Psalm I found this...

'...weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.' Psalm 30:5

Yep, I knew about the weeping, but the rejoicing, I couldn’t envision it yet.

All I could think of at that time was - 'Will there really be a morning?'


Perhaps, you’ve been there. You have gone through or are going through some trial in your life, something unexpected, something you’d rather not have to go through, and you’re wondering will it ever really end. Will you ever feel joy again?

For days, I refused to highlight the passage, yet alone write it out, but I kept coming back to it. I knew in my heart, that I could trust God... that despite my feelings there really will be a morning.  A time when I can once again look upon the mercies of my Lord, which are new every morning, and rejoice.

And so, somewhat reluctantly, I highlighted my verse and thoughtfully wrote it out.

And then I trusted God and waited.

And as I waited, I prayed.

I prayed for my mom, for my family, for all those God laid upon my heart, that we would be comforted by His presence through the watches of the night and that we would once again see the beauty of the mornings.

I thought about the patriarchs of the bible, Jesus even, who would rise early to meet with God. And I noticed something, in good times and in tough times; God was always there. I started to see more clearly - Life is hard, but God is here, and when we meditate on the truths of His word and lean into His presence, we can catch glimpses of that morning... that morning when all will be well.

So, my friend, here are a few more morning messages that swell with hope. God in His mercy has filled His word with them. Perhaps He knew how much we would need them... how much we would need to find solace in His promises of a new day to come.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice: in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm59:16
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14 
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:6
He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.  Isaiah 50:4b

These mornings, I’m rising early and I’m meeting with my God. And I’m finding more and more reasons to rejoice in His word and His world. I share in this post photos taken by my mom who, thankfully and in answer to prayer, is able to peek through the pain and find the beauty of the mornings once again.

My friend, I know right now, you may be experiencing ‘nighttime’, a slew of dark circumstances that you just can’t seem to shake, but God’s love is unshakeable and His presence never leaves us. Take heart, be of good courage and lean into Him; there will be a morning.


Perhaps you’ve caught sight of it already and the hope of it keeps you going. Why not share that hope with someone today? Someone who desperately needs to believe that '...weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.' Psalm 30:5

And even though we might only grasp snippets of that bright, sunshiny joy on our journey here below, God has promised that one glorious day He will come again, and in the light of His presence it will always be morning.

Now, isn’t that something to look forward to?

Casting Crown's 'Glorious Day' is a song that reminds us of that day. It captures the hope and beauty of the gospel message beautifully. I've included a video (from Joe Hohman) for your enjoyment and I've just added the song to the 'from dust towards the heavens' playlist. Hope you enjoy.

Blessings, 
Carlie


Also sharing this post on Encouraging Word Wednesday over at MississippiMom.com