SEIZE THE YEAR!

This past year has been a year of many joy filled events, a number of challenges, and some heart breaking moments.

We have had some precious family moments throughout this past year. One of the highlights of 2018 was our trip to South Africa with our children and grandchildren. We all gathered at ‘Ashbrook Farm’ for a huge Alexander reunion and we reminisced about the past, laughed a lot, and ate copious amounts of wonderful South Arican delicacies. What a joy filled time it was.

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We had our 70th Celebrations at Trinity Bible College and Graduate School and thanked God for the wonderful progress, provision and growth we have seen in the past six years. So much to be thankful for!

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But we also lost some of our dearest friends and colleagues and our hearts were deeply saddened. We also lost two precious students who were in the prime of their lives. Our community mourned very deeply and indeed still feel the pain of loss as two of our godly girls went to be with Jesus.

So, I have had to stop and reflect. It is so important to do some reflecting and then to cast our thoughts and prayers into the future. So here are my desires for 2019.

  1. I want to suck the marrow out of life: I do not know what tomorrow holds. I do know that if you had asked any one of the beautiful people we lost in 2018 what their plans were for that year they would have laid out their dreams and desires for the next thirty years. Not one of them knew that they would not be here in 2019. So, I want to wake up each morning and inhale deeply and then exhale slowly. I want to gaze at the sunset and allow my heart to worship at the sight. I want to listen to the sounds of the dawn and be stirred to praise. When I drink my tea, i want to let the taste linger in my mouth. I want to be with my grandchildren and play silly games, read them stories ,and listen to their ramblings with rapt attention. I want to have long and even meaningless conversations with my kids. I want to sit with Paul and be quiet and thankful that we are together. I want to hold my parents hands and hug them long and hard and whisper thanks to Jesus that I still have them.

  2. I want to love more: I know how much I do love, but I want to love more and better. I want people to feel my love and to know that it is unconditional. I want my family to know how deeply I love each one of them.

  3. I want to know Jesus more intimately than before: Oh, I love Him, for sure. I have served Jesus for over fifty years and I love Him more now than I ever have. I do know that every single day of my life I love Him more and I need Him more. I never want that to stop. I do not want more stuff! I have enough. I do not want a better car, bigger house, nicer things, new clothes or more shoes. These are not words, they are deep longing and prayers. I want more of Jesus.

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So, that is my prayer for anyone reading my blog. May 2019 be filled with many serrendipities. I trust that your life will be blessed richly.

I am and always will be,

Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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What is fear...and how do we handle fear?

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I learned about this powerful and sometimes debilitating emotion we call fear in my psychology class many years before.  Fear has its origin in the brain.  When a person sees or hears danger approaching, their senses send this information to a small almond shaped structure in the brain called the amygdala.  This tiny nut shaped part of the brain transmits the information to the hypothalamus (much like a control center) which then alerts the body via the nervous system that danger is looming and the person then responds by either ‘fight or flight’, the psychological term given to the choices one can make when confronted with danger. 

            The capacity to be afraid is a normal and a necessary function of the brain.  The lack of fear not the presence of fear denotes a neurological problem.  Some Christian people that I counselled over the years have suffered with guilt because of their fear—they sincerely believe it to be a sin. The theologian, Henri Nouwen, says that the supposition that there should never be fear, or doubt or confusion is a false one that too many Christians base their lives upon.  He goes further and says that suffering and guilt can only be dealt with when Christians understand that their wounds are ‘integral to the human condition.’ People should not live with the illusions of ‘immortality and wholeness.’ Simply put, we are human and a part of our condition is to know fear, confusion and doubt. We are wounded people—we have flaws, we have messed up lives and we are all in need of a healer.  It is only as we put our trust in this wounded Healer that we can be whole.

 Fear is at times instinctive and vital for us in the avoidance of danger.  If someone senses danger approaching then fear is a necessary emotion enabling a person to respond appropriately.  However, some fears are not real but imaginary.  In other words, we can fear the unknown or be terrified by what might happen.  Or put another way, fear is a figment of the imagination.  Other fears come from associations—if you or someone you know had a motor accident you could legitimately feel afraid to drive in a car.  Fear is real and it is not a sin, unless left unchecked and never confronted.  Fear can be a friend.

If a person is functioning as they should then a dangerous situation presenting itself will send the correct signals to those parts of the brain that respond to stress and the person will act promptly.  In this case the emotion of fear is a friend.

Fear can also be a foe. I am reminded of a story in the bible about a man named Nehemiah who was a cup bearer to King Artaxerxes.  He was living in the city of Susa, in Persia (modern day Iran) and was longing to get back to Jerusalem, the city of his ancestors.  He needed to request permission from the king and he was, in the words of the bible, “very much afraid”. This man had a dream to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, but he understood the gravity of standing before the king and requesting permission to leave. He realized that his petition could be denied or more sobering the king, if dissatisfied with him or his request could order his execution. The point of this story is that although Nehemiah was afraid his fear did not hold him back.  He made fear a friend not a foe.  Nehemiah went before the king and boldly presented his request to him despite his insides quivering and his knees shaking. 

The problem with fear is that it can be debilitating and dictate a person’s actions or determine their future.  If Nehemiah had bowed to his fear he would never have gone back to Jerusalem and built the walls of the city.  His entire future and the future of his people would have been jeopardized and limited by his choices. What Nehemiah did was confront his fear.  He did not allow anxiety to stop him, rather he let it propel him into a preferred future.

I remember when my husband was having major heart surgery a number of years ago. I had been informed by his surgeon of all the risks involved which included the possibility of death. I was afraid. I realized that I needed to deal with my fear. I could not allow this emotion to get its tentacles around my thoughts holding them in its tenacious grip seeking to squeeze out every ounce of trust from me.   

I felt at times as if I was walking in the dark.  I did not know what the future held for Paul or for me.  But trust in God sees Him in the blackness of the night, the sunrise of the dawn or the midday light.  Trust can see God in the storm.   

 And so, I began a discipline that I practice to this day.  As darkness engulfed me, I would start going over bible verses in my mind.  I would focus on the text allowing truth to permeate my soul and ignite my mind with simple trust.  As God’s Word sunk into my brain I would begin to pray and allow faith to rise in me.

An amazing antidote to fear is trust and this virtue grows in the soil of God’s word.  I have never been a great sleeper and in those restless hours I have learned the power of meditating on different passages.  Instead of focusing on the problem I concentrate on the promises of the bible.  Refusing to waste my time on futile thoughts I discipline my mind to contemplate truth. 

The book of Hebrews exhorts us to keep our eyes on Jesus. In other words, we need to focus on Him.  When my mind is filled with my problems I feel overwhelmed and that is why it is important to set my attention firmly on Christ. 

As I have mentioned, this has become a discipline for me.  But it did not happen overnight.  No!  Initially my mind would wander back to my problem, but I would persevere and keep navigating my way back to the bible.  Little by little I learned the power of keeping my thoughts fixed on Jesus.  And now, when problems come my way, my mind automatically goes to God’s word.  In the darkest hours of my life I learned the power of meditating on the bible.

When I have been confronted with negative news or reports my mind will automatically go to a particular text. I have learned that a powerful source in the midst of fear is the Word of God.

I am and always will be,

Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol


 

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Seven Principles for Managing Your Life Successfully.

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All of us want to lead successful lives, but how do we do we manage our souls to ensure that they prosper and remain healthy?  I think there are seven principles we need to apply to our lives to sustain a healthy soul.  Here they are, I trust you will find them useful.

1.      Personal Disciplines Psalm 1

There are three important areas where we need to apply discipline in our lives.

a)    Make our souls accountable to God.  This is a daily discipline we need to practice.  Morning by morning we take time out to open our hearts to God and make our souls accountable to Him.  Psalm 23:3 says, “He restores my soul.”  This is possibly the most important discipline we can introduce into our lives to ensure a healthy soul.

b)    Educate our souls.  Proverbs 19:2 says; “It is not good for a soul to be without knowledge.  Begin by educating your soul in God’s Word.  Read the bible every day and let it shape your life as you apply the principles on a daily basis.  You should also read good books and grow your knowledge by learning from the lives of others. 

c)     Refresh your soul.  Ensure that you feed your emotional and spiritual sides. We are often good at ensuring our spiritual tank stays full.  We read our bible, pray, go to church and practice other disciplines that enhance our spiritual growth.  However, many of us do not realize the importance of filling our emotional tanks.  Your emotional tank is filled differently to your spiritual one.  We are all unique and we enjoy different activities that fill our emotional tanks.  I love to walk or sit quietly and read a book And I can really switch off by watching a good movie.  these are some of the ways in which I fill my emotional tank.  Don't let your emotional tank run low because it will impact every part of your life. Remember, you do not fill your emotional tank the way you fill your spiritual tank, but they both need filling.

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2.     Pure Hearts

We are the guardians of our hearts. No one else can take care of your soul.  We have to ensure that we work constantly at keeping our hearts clean. Proverbs 4: 23 says: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it'.  According to the writer of Proverbs, there is nothing more important than guarding your own heart.  So then, we must ensure that no root of bitterness, anger or unforgiveness take root there. 

Samuel Smiles said:

Sow a thought and you reap an act

Sow an act and you reap a habit

Sow a habit and you reap a character

Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

3.     Praising Lifestyles

Practice an attitude of gratitude.  Be intentional about thanksgiving.  Wake up and look around you and appreciate all you have and give God thanks.  It is amazing how good it is for our souls to express appreciation to God and to people. 

4.     Proactive speech

The Bible gives us good advice with regard to our speech.  Proverbs 13:3 says “He who guards his lips, guards his soul.’  Jesus told us that what our hearts are full of our mouths will run over with.  If your soul and heart are clean then it follows that your words and speech will be pure.  Make sure your words are life-giving. And don’t define your life by the negative words spoken over you. 

5.     Purposeful Attitudes

God has put every one of us on this earth for a purpose.  We need to discover that destiny and walk in it.  Wake up with an "I can do" attitude and see what God can do with your life.  You have been placed on this earth for a reason, you have a destiny to fulfil.  Start walking in that purpose today.

6.     People Commitment

Matthew 28:10 instructs us to …go and make disciples.  This is not a calling to a few chosen, but for every single person who loves Jesus.  When we become introspective and selfish our souls begin to atrophy, but as we look outward from ourselves and commit ourselves to others then our own souls prosper at the same time. 

7.     Positive Outlook

Read Number 12-14 to discover the detrimental impact of  negative attitudes on an entire community.  Negativity is contagious and can spread like wild fire.  The story in Numbers is proof of that.  We need to work constantly at ensuring a positive attitude and outlook. 

 

These are the seven principles or disciplines that we can put in place in our lives to ensure that our souls stay healthy.  Here's to healthy souls for the remainder of 2018.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus.

 

Carol

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I love this picture of graceful reflection and confidence.

Five Reasons Why I Am Still Married to the Same Man!

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Paul and I have just celebrated forty-two years of marriage.  I can honestly say, even with my lively imagination, I never comprehended what an adventure the years would hold.

We have two wonderful children, a great son in law, two adorable, intelligent and amazing grandchildren and that's not all.

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Together we have flown on hundreds of planes, been on buses with chickens clucking around our heads and  strange children vomiting on us, slept on trains, driven old cars,  gone on boats that I thought would sink, visited over fifty countries, lived on four continents, moved home countless times, eaten weird and wonderful dishes, slept on floors, in huts, homes, tents, cars and hotels. We have preached in the open air, little mud huts, tents, churches, hotel rooms and cathedrals.   We have led and planted churches, pioneered Africa School of Missions, and led different Bible Colleges and churches on four continents. 

We have enjoyed more cups of tea with each other and our children and grandchildren than most.    We have done safaris, climbed mountains, gone on cruises, built homes, ridden camels, covered ourselves with mud and floated in the Dead Sea.  We danced in Samoa and made kids laugh hysterically at our awkward moves. We have done too many crazy things to recount here.  We have sat around meal tables with our kids and grandkids and reminsced about all the good things God has done.  We have traveled to some of the most exotic places and been to many poverty stricken areas.   We started children's clubs in places we were told not to. We have walked down dusty roads telling people Jesus is the answer.  We have taken ridiculous risks and gone to places when God told us to go and man told us not to. We have seen people give their hearts to Jesus and their marriages and homes made whole again. We have trodeen through life with people with drug addictions and other debilitating habits. And now we are leading young people at Trinity Bible College and Graduate School into a prefered future!

Paul and I have laughed more than most and probably cried as much.  The challenges have been daunting—we have had trials and triumphs, tragedies and joy.  But we have done this journey side by side and never let go of each other.  Through thick and thin we have held each other close.

I was sixteen when Paul stole my heart and he still holds it today.  I can't imagine my life without him. We seem to think the same thoughts at the same time. He starts singing a song I was singing in my head. He knows when I am up and he feels when I am down.  I sometimes wonder if we really are two individuals because it feels as if we are one.  When our grandchildren were small they called us 'Cammy and Nanat".  When we had been away from them for a time they never asked, "where are Cammy and Nanat"?   No, they asked; 'Where is CammyNanat"?  I loved it...they saw us as one.  And that is exactly what we have been for forty-two years. One!

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No, it hasn't been all smooth sailing.  In fact, without Jesus, this journey would have been worthless and empty.  So here are the five to reasons why I am still married to this man

1.  I love Jesus: Jesus came into our lives as young people and we ensured that when we got married He would be the most integral part of our relationship.  We promised we would always be the most important person to the other, but Jesus would always come first in both of our lives.  He has and always will. 

2.  I love Paul: No, not because he is perfect, but I promised to love him 'until death parts us'. And I will keep that promise.  But, the truth is I love him so much now that I never want to be apart from him.  The longer we are together the more I love him and the more I need him.

3.  I love my children:  I know the BEST gift we can ever give the two amazing children God gave us is our love and devotion to each other.

4.  I love my grandchildren: I want to leave a godly heritage for my family.  I want them to know that marriage is not a game but a lifelong commitment.  My grandchildren need to see that relationships are precious and that to journey through life together means holding fast to each other through the good and the bad.

5.  I love my marriage:  My marriage is sacred.  There is no one who enters the most sacred space of my heaart and life except Paul, and of course, my Jesus. I was given the most precious gift forty-two years ago.  Paul gave me his heart.  That is quite some gift.  I have held it tight and I don't plan to let it go. And the best of all is Jesus holds both our hearts in His hands. 

My prayer is that you would honour your vows and love your spouse. Please don't give up on the most cherished relationship you have.  It's worth holding tight.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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Three Reasons Why Memories Are So Important

Our family recently returned from three incredible weeks vacationing in South Africa.  It was the first time our grandchildren, Ava and Tylan, had been to South Africa, and for our children, seventeen years have elapsed since they had been home.

Outside our home at Africa School of Missions with Anna and Jay.

Outside our home at Africa School of Missions with Anna and Jay.

Day one in Johannesburg

Day one in Johannesburg

We had the most wonderful time going down memory lane.  We showed Ava and Tylan where we had grown up and the homes and schools their mom and uncle had been to.  We let them taste all the foods we had spoken about like biltong, boerewors, rusks and copious amounts of Cadbury's chocolates.  We all enjoyed reminding our palates of those delicious delicacies.

Walking through Malls.

Walking through Malls.

We went to visit Africa School of Missions and told our grandchildren the miraculous story of that ministry.  One of the highlights of the trip was a safari, where we chased lion, leopard, rhino and saw a host of other wild animals.  Our grandchildren were in their element every single moment of every day. 

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We went to the mountains and then spent some amazing days catching up with the Alexander family on Ashbrook farm.  We made more wonderful memories and shared lots of old ones too.  Our grandchildren met cousins and second cousins and there were many tears when they had to say goodbye.  But they learned the importance of family.

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We travelled countless hours in the car inhaling the breathtaking beauty of our homeland and ending in the beautiful Cape.  A lovely moment was when we were all in the van on our way to preach in Hermanus with the early morning sun rising over the vineyards. The amber hues were reflecting off the drops of liquid dew still on the grape vines with the earth covered in soft pastel shades. Tylan, who is seven-years-old, looked out the window and kept saying, "Wow, wow, wow". Even a small child can be awed at God's beautiful world.

The Drakensberg mountains

The Drakensberg mountains

We have come back with so many amazing memories and every time I look at the photo's our son-in-law, Rich took I am filled with gratitude.   You never see Rich in any photo's because he is the photographer.  All the photo's in this blog are credited to him, except the one below.  He hadn't joined our family at the time of Jay's accident.  But he is now part and parcel of our family in every way.

Two days ago we celebrated a memory that is joyous and lamentable all at once.  It is the story of our son's accident some sixteen years ago.   Every year on the 1st of July we pause to thank God for giving Jay back to us.  Many of you know his story, but if you don't you can read it in my book, Wild Hope: A Memoir.  It is sad, amazing and miraculous all at once.  It is a memory that will never be erased from my memory box.

Jay's car tells the story of his horrendous injuries.

Jay's car tells the story of his horrendous injuries.

There are times we want to erase memories because they are so painful.  But memories are powerful and they are important.  Here are three reasons why.

Memories... good and bad remind us that we are survivors:  You are still here.  You can look back and remind yourself of the strength you had to get from that place to where you are now.  Good memories conjure up good feelings that make us thankful and even the bad memories are reasons to be thankful...that we made it, we are still here, we came through our ordeal.

Memories... good or bad can help us in our future decision making:  We have to learn from our experiences.  Hurtful experiences are not always great to recall, but what you can remind yourself of is that you have learned from that particular experience.  When the memory hits you again, you not only remember the bad or pain, you can remind yourself of what it has produced in you.

Memories... good or bad remind us of the capacity of our minds:  Yes, you can remember and that is a blessing even if it causes pain.  But think of all the good memories that bring you joy.  You can choose to focus on those memories and let the sad memories be a guide for you in your future decisions. 

So, the past few days have been days filled with happy, sad, memories.  They both serve their purpose and they both conjure feelings of gratitude to an incredible God who blessed me and gave me joy-filled family times but also saw me through the absolute worst time of my life.  I am filled with joyous lament.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

 

Going down memory lane.

Going down memory lane.

 

 

 

THE AWESOME POWER OF PRAYER!

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Paul and I have just returned from six weeks of travel on four continents.  Much of the time was hard work, but we had just over two amazing weeks with our family touring through our homeland South Africa.  It was a memorable and happy time, but it had been covered in prayer for months prior to our departure.

Paul and I start every morning with prayer.  One of the most spontaneous acts is to begin our prayer time with thanksgiving and praise.  As I reflect over the past number of years I have seen God answer my prayers over and again. 

I love our times of speaking to our heavenly Father and I can honestly say they are some of the most precious times in my day.  I do not know how I would sustain my life if it was not for the discipline of prayer.  So when I say 'the awesome power of prayer' I am definitely speaking from personal experience. 

Here are three reasons why I pray.

1. I Can share Intimacy with the Creator of the Universe:  It never ceases to amaze me that this amazing God who created the heavens and the earth is my personal God.  I am daily overawed by the fact that I can go boldly into His presence and talk to Him.  I can praise. I can vent. I can repent. I can request.  The truth is, I can open my heart to my God and be completely vulnerable with Him.  Those moments of intimacy with Him are more precious and more life-giving than I can explain.  I have come to depend upon these moments with God and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rythm of my life is deeply dependent upon these moments of intimacy. 

2. I Can Dream Dreams with the God of Dreams: Yes, my heart is still pumping with vision.  I have dreams for our lives, our ministry, our children, our grandchildren, our friends and this broken world.  I sometimes wonder if my dreams are too big and then my heavenly Father reminds me that He is the giver of dreams.  There is no dream too big or too small for Him.  I can spill my heart to Him and express my longings, desires and deepest ambitions.  He never chuckles at my dreams, He never despises my dreams and He never dampens my dreams. No, my God puts His big arms around me and tells me to keep dreaming and to keep trusting in HIm because He knows best.

3. I Can Partner with My Heavenly Father: What a thought! When I go to prayer I can actually partner with God and together we can work at making the world a better place.  We can work at seeing our dreams fulfilled.  Together God and I make an incredible force.  What an amazing thought.

I started by mentioning that I had just returned from a six-week trip to my homeland Sotuh Africa.  Every aspect of our trip was covered in prayer and God answered those prayers in remarkable ways.  I cannot go into all the details, but I will add that God does not always answer in the way that I anticipate He will.  However, I can tell you this with absolute confidence—He always answers prayer.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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How Do We Model Leadership in the 21st Century?

If you are not leading yourself well, then you cannot lead other people.  I know the idea of self-leadership can appear somewhat strange, but the truth is that as individuals we have to lead our lives well if we want other people to follow us.  This isn't simply about external outward leadership it is about leading our own hearts.   How you talk to other people, the way you react in a given situation, your response to a challenge, every single thing you do impacts those around you and determines whether you are a leader worth following or not.   In my view, if you do not lead your own heart appropriately, then you will not lead other people into a prefered future.  So then good leadership must begin with self-leadership. 

Leadership is not simply giving orders and expecting other people to carry them out.  Good leadership starts with investing in people.  People will work for you and serve your vision if they know that you truly care about them.  Take time to find out about their lives, show genuine concern for their needs and an interest in their families and their desires.  People want to feel valued and respected. Building relationships takes time and effort but the rewards are incredible.

The most powerful aspect of your leadership is your example.  The power of example whether good or bad will have more impact on your leadership than anything else.  Always think before you speak or you act because you cannot take your words back and you cannot undo your actions.  Both of these have consequences.  If someone fails at their task and you lose your temper you are no better than they are.  You can use the opportunity to 'blow off' or you can use it as a teaching moment.  If you deal with the person in a gracious and kind manner and help them to learn through their failure you will gain a committed follower in the process. 

Leadership is also about self-sacrifice, self-giving and serving and the greatest example we have is Jesus.  Paul said in Philippians 2: 5 "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus'. He then goes on to describe Jesus as humble, a servant, and sacrificial.  I imagine if there were more leaders like Jesus there would be a host of people willing to serve and to give and to sacrifice.  Lead the way by getting your hands dirty, by stooping down and serving. My prayer is that in this decade we would see more servant leaders who are willing to stoop down and wash the feet of the lowly, the needy, the vulnerable and the marginalized.  That for me is authentic leadership.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

 

Carol

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Does Character Count in a 21st Century World?

We are living in a strange world.  Much has changed since I was a young person and the world I grew up in is a different place to the one my grandchildren are living in.  People think and act in ways that I am unaccustomed to.  It is true that everything is relative.  Most people see the world through their eyes which have been coloured by culture, personal experience, and their own worldview.  

I have read articles that suggest that character can hinder a person and get in the way of them reaching the top.  I have also heard arguments that suggest that character is not important, and that skills are what count in navigating life in the 21st century. It was Martin Luther King Jr that prayed that his four little children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the colour of their skin.  I couldn't agree more.

Then why do some people argue that character is not important?  I would suggest that character  should still be on the front burner of everything we do.  And here is why I would argue that character still counts in the 21st century.

1.  Who You Are is More Important Than What You Do:  We are human beings, not human doings.  Simply put, what is inside of us or who we are is intrinsically more valuable than what we do.

2.  What We Do Will Spring From Who We Are:  The way I respond to any and every situation in life is determined by who I am.  Everything I do is based on who I am on the inside.  I cannot act differently to the person that I am.  Perhaps there are times I can be a hypocrite and pretend, but in real life situations, I am going to do what I am.  For example, kind people will commit kind acts. If you have lived in a family that values kindness and fairness, and if your elders modelled that value and you saw the fruits of kindness then kindness will be a value that you will uphold in every situation of life.  In other words, if you encountered a situation where someone was being bullied your response would not be to bully them as well, but you would intervene in the situation with an act of kindness.  

3.  The World Would Be A Better Place If Character Was Restored To Its Rightful Place:  So, from the example I have just shared most people would choose to live in a world where we valued kindness, justice, equity and all those other values that make human beings decent people.  Sometimes being a person of character can bring a cost with it.  Being honest can be costly in different and varied scenarios.  Standing up for right in a world with mixed values can cost us as well.  Some people may never reach the top of their profession because honouring their values is more important than climbing a corporate ladder to earn more money. 

I know what the Bible says about character and I know that the Bible places great import on the state of a person's heart.  When all is said and done I would rather work with a person of high character than a person with high skill.  A person can have all the skill in the world, but if they are unkind, unjust, untruthful and unloving give me the person with character any day. 

Having said all that, when you marry skill with character you have a powerful mix. Psalm 78:72 "And David shepherded the people with integrity of heart, and with skilful hands he led them."  

My prayer is that we would put character back on the top shelf in the 21st century.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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Will it be a comma, a question mark or a period...you decide?

Life is never dull, it is full of color and texture. At times that color is vibrant and radiant, but there are times it is grey and even dark.  One moment we can be dancing with joy and the next we are facing challenges, struggles or pain that we could never have anticipated.  That is life!  We never know what is around the corner...will it be a serendipity or a challenge?  We have no idea what today holds. 

Our lives are colored by so many different experiences but we decide how to punctuate them.   Do we put a period at the end of our experience or a question mark or a comma?   The fact is we get to choose.  Viktor Frankl, the German existentialist, said that in every situation of life we get to make a choice.  Although we cannot control the circumstances of our lives we have absolute control over our responses to those circumstances.

A piece of writing without puntuation makes no sense.  Life without punctuation doesn't mean a whole lot either.  How we punctuate our lives is dependent upon us because we are the only ones who can determine where and how we choose to puntuate them.  Just as punctuation gives clairty and meaning to our words, so too does it give meaning and purpose to our lives.

Living with a question mark?  I have seen people live with questions  that sometimes have no answers.  Why did this happen?  Why me?  What did I do wrong?  And from these type of questions come the 'what ifs'.  There are some questions we may never be able to answer but why live life with a permanent question mark.  Those questions can torment us and hold us back from engaging this day.  Eventually, we have to find peace even if we don't find all the answers.   Don't let yesterday stop you living in today.  Yesterday is gone and you cannot get it back so live in this day and this moment.

Living with a period at the end of hurt?  Some people live with a period at the end of a challenge and they never move on from their pain.  'Well,' they say, 'I am never going to let that happen to me again'.  And they determine to lock out people and other experiences by putting a period after their struggle and pain.  The only time there is  a period is when our time on earth is done.  Don't let your pain determine your future.  Don't stop living because of a bad or hurtful experience.  Put the correct puntuation at the end of your hurt and move on to the next amazing opportunity life has to offer.

How about a comma?  Life is full of challenges and can be so enriching and thrilling even if at times it is painful.  Keep punctuating your life with a comma or an exclamation.  When questions come don't stop there, move on.   When hurtful and challenging experiences fill your world don't quit and give up.

Don't allow  your hurt  and pain to put a stop to your future.  Never let the unsanwerable questions hold you in their grasp.  Allow each experience of life to teach you and then move on.  Take some time out, puntuate life with a comma, take a breath, gain strength,  and then courageously move into this day and all that it holds for you.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus

 

Carol

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Three Things I Really Really Really Want in 2018!

It's cold in Ellendale, North Dakota and the wind is blowing so forcefully that even the bare branches tremble in the wind as fiercely as I do.  The wind has stripped every tree of their leaves and even the leaves that held voraciously to the branches refusing to let go have been torn away by the arctic blast leaving barrenness and nakedness in its wake.

The atmosphere almost has a texture that is thick, wavy, grey, and cold.  When the wind blows it actually hurts and that is probably why I appreciate springtime.  The weather turns and with it comes green buds and the promise of new life. The birds come to life and listening to their song always warms my soul.

January the 1st is generally cold and I don't like to make resolutions just because it is a new year.  I don't want to live thinking about a resolution that I have made that will tie me down for 365 days.  I want to live in the moment.  Today has enough worries and challenges without me thinking about giving up sugar or coffee for a year or some other crazy resolution I have made.

So here are the three things I want in 2018.

I want to be more like Jesus.  I have studied the life of Jesus for over 45 years and the more I read about Him the more amazing He is in my eyes.  He was the great iconoclast.  He loved unconditionally.  He gave His life for undeserving people.  I could go on all day, but I would encourage anyone who does not know about Jesus to study the first four books of the New Testament to discover the most amazing person who ever walked the planet.  And that is why my deepest desire for 2018 is to be more like Him.

I want to suck the marrow out of life.  Yes, I want to live life to the full.  Life is short and I want to make the most of every opportunity.  I want to love more and give more and serve more until I have sucked the marrow right out of every single day. 

I want to live with perpetual gratitude.  Being thankful comes easily to Paul and to me.  We start every day by reading God's Word and praying together.  I can honestly say that the first words that come from our lips are words expressing our thanks to God.  I never grow tired of thanking God for all His goodness.  I want to remember the good times and be thankful for each blessing.   However, the not so happy memories concealed beneath the passage of time or buried beneath those moments of pain must also echo my joyous lament and thanks for a God who kept me through the darkest hours.

I don't want stuff, money, clothes or exciting experiences.  There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but I don't want to waste my time wishing I would find a hidden treasure that will set me free from financial restraints or longing and dreaming of superficial things that do not give lasting joy or peace.  With each passing year, those things seem to diminish in importance and the truly important things seem to fill their place. 

My prayer for you for 2018 is that you will suck the marrow out of life and in so doing have the best year you have ever had.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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DOES GOD ALWAYS ANSWER OUR PRAYERS?

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God, are you listening to me?  Why aren't you answering my prayers?  Do you love me...are you mad at me?   Valid questions right?  Yes, and I am sure most of us have asked these kinds of questions at different times in our lives.  But, when we understand God in all His greatness and power then we can stop questioning Him and rest in who He is and wait for Him to answer in His way.

Crying, pleading, and at times begging God to answer my prayers had been the rhythm of much of my prayer life.  "Where are You God?" I would often quip!  Silence and darkness were at times the only reply.   I simply did not understand why my loving God was not hearing me.

Truth be told, He was listening.  His loving and attentive ear was hearing my cry to Him day in and day out even though I felt as if He wasn't.  I have learned on this journey with my God that my faith is not held captive by my feelings.

Here are a few of the other lessons I have learned through my years of prayer and intercession.

1.  Just because I feel bad doesn't mean God has abandoned me:  God is way bigger than my feelings or emotions on any particular day.  My feelings do not change God.  He hears my cry when I am feeling good or bad.

2.  God answers my prayers on His clock and not on mine:  I live in time but God lives in eternity.  I do understand that I am an eternal being living in the temporal bound by time and space... I get locked up in the day to day activity of my life instead of seeing the big picture.  God does see the big picture because He is eternal.  God knows best and He always answers in His time.  And His timing is always perfect.

3.  God doesn't always answer my prayers in the way I anticipate:  At times I give God some great suggestions as to how He can answer my prayers. He doesn't always adhere to my clever ideas.  It amazes me because I feel as if I give God some great courses of action.  I have to remind myself that God sees the end from the beginning and He knows how best and when best to answer my prayers.  I also know that God is significantly cleverer than I am!

4.  God sometimes doesn't answer my immediate prayer because He sees the whole story:  I have asked God for things along the way and those prayers have seemingly not been answered.  That confused me and troubled me.  However, from this perspective, I thank God that those requests weren't answered then, because He saw the full picture and answering those immediate prayers would have changed the entire pathway I have been on.  I didn't understand it then, but I do now!

My friend, if you are struggling with your prayer life I pray that my blog encourages you.  Don't give up!  God's answer will come in His way and His time.  I am with thanksgiving as I reflect on the faithful and loving God I serve. He always answers prayer even when it is not obvious to me. Keep praying, keep trusting, His answer will come!

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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FOUR SIMPLE STEPS TO LIVING EACH DAY SUCCESSFULLY

If it was in our power to choose I think most of us would choose for life to be pain-free, stress-free and worry-free.  And most of us we would probably add an addendum that perpetual sunshine would make for a pretty perfect life. 

I think God knows best and in His wisdom, He knows that a life without challenges would not only be boring but would not be good for the soul.  It is the dark nights that make the sunrise of a new day so exceptional.  It is the challenge of fighting for something worth fighting that makes the gift of receiving so priceless.   It is our pain that makes us realise what a precious gift our health is. It is a loss that makes us treasure what we have and engage each moment to the full.

I do believe that we have the power to make choices to navigate our lives in a successful way.  And I think that there are a number of choices we can make on a daily basis that will ultimately mark our lives successful.

1.  Choose a good attitude every day:  Most mornings we wake up to a number of challenges.  These challenges can be varied and at times overwhelming.  Sometimes they are health-related or finance related or relational challenges.  Whatever the issue we can make choices and we can choose our attitude in every situation.  That is actually an extremely powerful truth.  You can choose to face the day with bitterness or sweetness.  You can choose to respond in a loving and gracious way or an angry way.  The choice is entirely yours, it is totally in your power to choose your attitude.  So why not choose a gracious, loving and forgiving response to whatever challenge you face today.  I can assure you that life will be easier today if you choose the right attitude. Viktor Frankl said it this way: 'The last of the human freedoms is man's right to choose his attitude in every situation'.

2. Choose a happy heart every day:  I know that some might think that happiness is not in our sphere of control but it actually is.  You can choose to see the bucket half full or half empty.  You can choose to focus on the dreary grey sky and the rain or the birds singing and the earth dripping with moisture.  It really is a choice.  You can jump out of bed knowing that you have another day to live and engage life with all of its challenges or you can choose despair and give in to the challenges you are facing with a defeatist heart.  The book of Proverbs says it this way: 'A merry heart does good like a medicine, a broken spirit drieth up the bones, but a merry heart is a joy unto the Lord'.

3.  Choose a gracious spirit every day:  When situations confront us we can choose to respond graciously or harshly, it is our choice.  When people are rude to you then you can make a choice to respond in kind or in the opposite spirit.   I can assure you that if your respond graciously your day will be different and perhaps the other person's day will also change. 

4.  Choose to guard your mind every day:  This is the big one.  I know how hard I have to work at guarding my heart and my mind.  There are some places I will never allow my mind to go not even for a minute.  When thoughts that are unwholesome pop unexpectedly into my mind I immediately deal with those thoughts.  I have found that if I linger even for a short while on a negative or unwholesome or unkind thought I very quickly get my spirit embroiled in ugliness and sin.  My friend, we are the guardians of our hearts and our minds.  Noone can do the guarding of your or my heart only each individual is responsible for their thoughts.  If your thoughts are wholesome then your words and actions will follow.  Choose good wholesome thoughts and I can guarantee that your day will be easier and richer. 

Simple choices can make a lot of difference in your day.  Choose wisely today and have a truly blessed day.

I am and always will be

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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Is Small Insignificant, Ineffective and Inconsequential?

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Big is beautiful...so we are told!  If a town or a church or an organization is small it is probably of little consequence or significance...so we are told!  You see in the 21st Century, it seems that you have to be big if you want to be reckoned with.  Big is bold, significant, effective, influential and powerful...so we are told!

Now before you think I am knocking big organizations or big churches hear me out, please.  I am a great admirer of leaders who can gather thousands of people to their communities each week.  It takes immense skill, gifting, and leadership to grow any community to thousands of people.  I do think big churches and organizations can wield influence and power and they can bless their cities and beyond because of their size. I am keen to learn all that I can from these gifted people.

But because something is small does not mean it is insignificant or inconsequential or lacks the ability to influence. 

I live in a small state, in a tiny town,  and by American standards, Paul and I lead a relatively small College.  Please don't think I am being defensive because of where we find ourselves.  I am not!  I love big, but I also love small! 

I have learned to appreciate this beautiful state of North Dakota.  Yes, it is small, but of all the places I have ever lived, I have never met kinder, more generous or more humble people than Dakotans.  I love this open space and the quiet stillness that surrounds us.  I am able to think, I can breathe deeply, and I can appreciate the beauty of my Creator and His magnificent world. 

I often meet leaders who lead small churches and some of them feel inferior to those who lead large and prosperous churches. Now let me get one thing straight.  I detest laziness.  If a leader has a tiny congregation because they sit at home doing nothing...shame on them.  That kind of small is insignificant, ineffective and inconsequential.    But if the leader leads a healthy, vibrant, small community, and they are putting their heart and soul into God's work, then I think they can be as influential as any large church and perhaps even more so. 

I get tired of having 'big' shoved in my face at Conferences and Seminars and Leadership Events.  Big is not everything!  I have lived long enough to see leaders who led large churches fall off their pedestals and exit ministry.  There are times I want tohear and be exposed to the stories of the incredible, gifted, significant, effective leaders leading small churches and organizations.  Why do I never hear their voices?

Yes, I do want to learn from the leaders who have succeeded and built great organizations and churches, but don't silence the voice of the heroes who have heard God's call and their task is to lead smaller communities where they too are succeeding in their task.

Why on earth did God choose a tiny, insignificant town like Nazareth for Jesus to be nurtured in?  Why did God not send the greatest preacher of all times to the big, bustling, vibrant city of Jerusalem?  I ask myself why God sent John the Baptist to the desert and why Jesus was not raised in a great city of influence.

Perhaps it is because God often uses insignificant, isolated places and people of humble birth to make the greatest impact on His world.  Yes, great can come out of small.  Significance can come from nowhere and God loves to take nobody's and make them influential. 

Please don't despise small.  I love big, but I also love small.  God uses both! 

If you are a leader leading a small community, in an insignificant town, with few resources, hold your head high you are still God's chosen and anointed servant.  You may never know the impact of your ministry, but if you are obedient and faithful I can guarantee you that greatness surrounds you and God is with you.

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I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

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Four Ways to Challenge An Entitlement Mentality

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Living in the 21st century has some unique challenges.

Added to that I live in the United States which is one of the richest countries in the world.  Most people in the U.S.A who consider themselves poor would be deemed rich in most other parts of the globe. 

We live in in the midst of a culture and people who feel entitled.  We think because we have worked hard we deserve more, we assume that because we have sacrificed we should see particular rewards or because we have been a good person we should get... 

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So how do we combat this prevailing cultural assumption that seems to unwittingly draw us in?

I have a few suggestions that I think could be helpful.  I hope they challenge or encourage anyone who has been led to open this page and read my blog today.  I don't write blogs for the fun of it, I write because I want to convey what is in my heart for people.

  1. Check your pulse:  Okay I am not talking about counting how many times a minute your heart beats, but I am talking about looking into your heart.  You see very often an entitlement mentality comes from a selfish or self-centered attitude. I sometimes think I am deserving of certain things because of all the great deeds I have done or the things I have accomplished.   In actual truth, I have to look into this selfish heart and check the reasons why I think I am entitled to this or that.  My biggest challenge in life is to keep a watch on my heart and to ensure that it is not just all about me.  I am the only person who can look deep inside my heart and keep a check of what goes on inside of me.
  2. Focus on God:  I know that might sound a bit trite, but actually, it is the core of the issue.  Instead of focusing on what I deserve and seeing what I don't have I need to focus on God.  When I do set my gaze on this amazing God of mine I am overwhelmed at His goodness, His faithfulness, and His kindness, and I am forcefully reminded how undeserving I really am.
  3. Follow Jesus:  As a Christ-follower, I am totally and absolutely besotted with Jesus.  In those moments when my humanity expresses itself in selfish ways and demands attention or whatever else I feel entitled to, I stop and think about Jesus.  Just one glimpse of Jesus in all His sacrificial glory makes me feel very small and undeserving.  I know from this perspective in time that everything I am, and all that I have is because of my amazing Jesus.  This gives me great pause and helps me to see how much I really do have because I have Jesus.
  4. Be Content:  Instead of a mentality of entitlement, it would be wonderful if we practiced a Kingdom culture like Jesus.  Giving of ourselves. Sharing what we have. Serving others less fortunate than we are.  Caring for the poor. I realize that having everything I want when I want it, is not good for my soul.  Being deprived of certain things has made me appreciate when I do get something I really desired.  When other people have more than I have,  I tell myself that I have much more than most.  I am reminded over and over that I don't deserve anything, I am basically unworthy, but that God in His infinite love has given me way more than I ever deserved.  He gave me Jesus and He is really enough to make me content.
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I am and always will be,

Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

 

Carol

7 Reasons Why I Go to Church!

I believe that inside every human heart is a longing for authentic relationships.  I understand that there are different personality types, but whether we are extroverts, introverts or somewhere in the middle, all of us long for relationship.

I do not believe that there can be a church-less Christian.  In my view, no person can sustain a long term relationship with God and not be connected to a community of like minded believers.  Yes, I understand there are people who are imprisoned for their faith and have no connection to any Christian whatsoever.  In such dire circumstances, I believe God meets with those believers in special ways and He sustains them through those periods of isolation.  But for us who live in a country where we can freely worship God, we have to make going to church a priority.

There is no such person as a church-less Christian

So why do I go to church?  Here are 7 reasons why I feel it is important to go to church:

1.  The bible exhorts me to go to church:  Hebrews 10:25 says 'And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near'.  Such great advice!  The writer of this book knew the importance of believers gathering as a community so that we could encourage each other in our faith.

2. Going to church inspires me to live a godly life: When I go to church and listen to the preaching of God's Word, and share in praise and worship it encourages me to live for Jesus 24/7.  Every time I listen to God's Word being expounded it inspires me to go back to where I live and work and to live my life well.  The church is the place where I learn values and the importance of the values being deeply instilled in my life.

3.  Going to church encourages me in my Christian walk:  When I am discouraged I don't stay away from church...no, I go to church.  Why?  Because I need to be encouraged by the praise and worship of God's people.  I need to listen to God's Word so that I can be exhorted to keep going.  I need the community of God's people and their love to challenge me in my moments of discouragement.

4. I need like minded friends:  Yes, we all have friends and family outside of the community of faith, but I need good friends inside that community as well. I need the kind offriends that will hold me accountable and care for my spiritual well-being.  In the most difficult times of my life, my church friends have helped me and challenged me to live my life more intentionally.

5. I need to be accountable to godly leaders:  When you belong to a great Christian church and you get locked into that community the leaders should hold you accountable.  I think it is amazing that a pastor would take the time and trouble to point out where I am failing or slipping.  Get connected to a small group so that you have a place of accountability, and this is especially true if you are part of a very large community.

6. Going to church is good for my soul:  truth be told,  there are some days I would rather sleep in.  There are other times I would rather stay and listen to a sermon on the web in the comfort of my living room.  But, I don't because I know that regular attendance to one church and one community is good for me and I want what is good for my soul.  I also need the discipline of belonging to a community.

7.  It's the best thing I can do for my family:  There is no greater community to belong to than the church.  When you are in need the church is the most wonderful and supportive community ever.  Ask me!  When my son had his accident it was our church family that help to sustain us and see us through our darkest hour.  In times of need, in the midst of pain, during those moments of loneliness the church has been there for me and my family.  The best and greatest gift we can give to our families is to lock them into a loving and caring community of God's people. 

So, these are the reasons as to why I go to church on a regular basis. 

If you are discouraged with church, have been hurt by people or have been disappointed by your leaders, then either find a way through your problem by speaking it out with the people who have failed you and hurt you or pray that God will connect you to a godly community that can assist you in your Christian walk.  Don't make excuses—that is lame and will not help you or your family. 

We should make going to church and serving God our priority—there are too many things out there competing for our attention and the attention of our children and young peopleWhen children and young people are going through challenging times in their later years what will grab their attention?  Will it be church? Sport? Friends? Unwholesome activities? 

I believe we get to have a huge part in how their destiny will be shaped, so make serving God and going to church a priority, it could be your life line in the years ahead.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

 

Carol

 

7 Reasons Why I Read My Bible

I have always enjoyed reading and seeing the different ways in which people string words together to tell stories.  I love words and the power that they have.  Some words are so pretty they almost dance on the page and others are so lovely you feel as if you can almost taste them.  Then there are the harsh words that can be cutting and leave a bitter taste in your mouth or drab words that need other words to give them some color—words are powerful and effective. 

Of all the books I have ever read, no book has ever touched me more deeply and profoundly than the bible.  I have been stirred by the stories of people's lives, challenged by all genre's of Christian literature, and informed by history and other books.  But no book has ever had the impact on my life that the bible has.

Here are seven reasons why I read my bible on a daily basis.

1.  The bible inspires me:  I have read the bible more times than I can remember, but I never grow tired of it.  I am always inspired by the stories in the bible.  No matter how many times I have read the story of Joseph I see something new each time I return to that story and every time I read it I am inspired to live more intentionally. 

2. The bible challenges me:  When I read the stories of the lives of Jesus and His disciples I am challenged to live a holy life.  I cannot read the bible without it confronting my commitment to Jesus. 

3. The bible convicts me:  When I am not living as I should the bible convicts me and shows me a better way to live.  That is why I am disciplined to read my bible every day.  I want God to speak to me through His word and convict me of my sin so that I can walk in step with Him. 

4. The bible encourages me:  If ever I am feeling discouraged God's word encourages my heart.  In some of the most challenging hours of my life the bible has been my deepest comfort and strength. 

5. The bible sustains me:  Reading God's word sustains me as a Christ follower.  I want to be a healthy and strong Christian and the only way to sustain my commitment to Jesus is to go to His word on a daily basis.  I find when my devotional life slips every thing begins to slide. 

6.  The bible guides me:  Yes, I find guidance for my daily life by reading the bible.  When I need direction I get on my knees and I pray.  I find God speaks to my heart through His word and he guides and directs my path.

7.  The bible strengthens me:   The more I read my bible the stronger I grow in my faith and in my commitment to Jesus.  I want to be strong in my faith so that when challenges and difficulties come I can withstand those storms. 

I know too many people who fluctuate in their devotional life.  They read the bible sporadically and go to God's word if they have a problem or they need a quick fix.  If you want to be strong in your faith you need to make reading your bible a daily habit.  Don't let your bible reading be a chore or something to get over and done with.  Read God's word so that you will be inspired, challenged, encouraged and all the other reasons I have suggested for reading your bible.

If I was ever to go to a desert island and was given the choice of taking one piece of literature with me it would be my bible.  No other book has nourished my life, challenged my heart and blessed me more than my bible.  I trust you will be inspired to read God's word on a daily basis.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

ROOTS GO DEEP AND GROW STRONGEST IN WINTER

I love spring.  You can smell the earth and the air vibrates with new life.  There are blazes of color everywhere and the trees, shrubs, and bushes delight in displaying their new growth.  Hope seems to permeate the atmosphere as the world turns into soft pastel shades and our senses are enlivened by the sights, sounds, and aromas of spring. 

Summer arrives a short time later and there is growth everywhere.  With it comes the need to water the plants and mow the grass, but that is a small price to pay when we delight in the smell of newly mown lawn and the feel of damp soil under our feet.  There is growth everywhere and sheer joy and laughter infuse the air in this season.

Fall comes with its golden hues and brings with it the opportunity to cut back the branches and ready our world for the harsh winter weather that will follow all too quickly on its heels.  For me, autumn feels like a pensive season a time to prepare for the long, dismal, and dark nights that lie ahead.

Winter is my least favorite season.  The trees shed their leaves, the earth seems to shiver at the very idea that winter has arrived and gloom fills the air around us.  Everything looks dismal and dark and the only thought in everyone's mind is; "when will this season pass".

Though everything looks dead and lifeless on the outside the roots of all those trees, bushes, and shrubs go deeper and grow stronger. 

I have found this true of my own personal life.  I do not enjoy the winter season of my soul.  I feel vulnerable, exposed, and naked—my only wish is for spring to arrive once again.  But, I have found over and over that it is in the winter season of my soul that my roots grow strong and they go deep.  I learn deep and abiding trust in my Creator in those harsh seasons, I hold tightly to Him as the wind blows and threatens to topple me over.  Sometimes I can barely hear God in the winter storm, but when I stop to listen I hear His still, small voice echoing through the clouds promising me that, "weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning'.  

I know now why I love spring so much.  It is because I have experienced the dismal and dreariness of the winter and the invasive blackness of the night.  The winter of my soul has taught me to appreciate the beauty of a new day and a new season.  Somehow the intense darkness and cold of that time did something on the inside of me. I have a new sense of wonder, the world around me seems bright, I see God everywhere, and my heart is filled with overwhelming thankfulness that He has carried me through the darkest night and the dry season of my soul.

I don't enjoy winter, but I have a deep appreciation for that season of life.  Someone put it this way: "Grace grows best in winter.' 

If your soul is going through the winter of life my prayer is that you will hold tightly to the magnificent God you serve.  You may think He is silent, but His voice can penetrate through the darkest night and the thickest silence and shout these words: 'I am with you, I will never leave you or forsake you.' 

Take courage, my friend spring is on the way.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

REFLECTIONS ON THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE...NOW THE BEST DAY!

Memories are extremely powerful recollections that can draw all sorts of emotions from us.   They can be joy-filled reflections or they can engender sadness, despair or anger.  Whatever emotion the memory triggers makes us aware of how powerful the stories of our past are and how deeply they can impact us.

I have shared this story so many times, but now fifteen years later I sit here one hour before midnight ushers in the 1st of July—undoubtedly the worst day of my life!  However, I must reflect on this day because it is a period of my life that will grow dimmer with the passing years but it must never be forgotten. 

So, fifteen years ago...

The doorbell rang and as I hurried to see who it was, I was caught off guard by the burly policeman standing there.  I heard the words: 'Your son has been involved in a tragic accident...get to the hospital immediately.' And suddenly all about me was dark and I was sinking...until the unseen hand of my Jesus touched me and I knew He would walk with me through the darkest valley I had ever traversed. 

Our precious son fought for his life and the dedicated medical staff of Carolina's Medical Centre, fought alongside him.  There were agonizing hours where I felt the pain of seeing our son suffer and fight for his life was too much to bear. But God...  Yes, God walked that journey with us and never once did He leave us or forsake us.  I didn't always feel His presence, but I instinctively knew that He was there.  I have written the full story in my book Wild Hope: A Memoir.

God spared Jay's life despite the prognosis and the 28 days in Trauma ICU. Today Jay lives a full and happy life in California.  But let me reflect on the worst day of my life and share a few lessons I learned.

  • Life is short, seize each moment and live to the full.
  • Don't carry bitterness or unforgiveness because you never know when life will be snatched away.
  • Keep short accounts with people because life is short and you don't have time for anger.
  • Stop and smell the roses because you don't want to miss the moment.
  • Love deeply and live well.
  • Tell people how much you love and appreciate them.
  • Spend quality time with your family because they are your most precious treasures.
  • Love God with all of your heart.
  • Live each day as if it is the last, but plan for the next 100 years.
  • Be quick to say: 'I am sorry'  and 'I forgive you' and most of all 'I love you.'

These are the simple reflections of the heart of a grateful Mom to a wonderful God who spared the life of her precious son some fifteen years ago.  Now the worst day of my life is one filled with joy filled reflections and gratitude.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

Jay and I a few weeks ago!

Jay and I a few weeks ago!

Run Baby Run: Joy Filled Reflections!

I am sitting on my deck peering over a forest of dappled green foliage listening to the birds singing their morning anthem.  All is quiet—I can hear myself breathing.  A new day.

I have just returned from a ten-day visit to Australia and so I am quietly reflecting on those precious moments.  One of the joys of our visit was catching up with friends that we had not seen for over fifteen years.  It was a special time for Paul and me.  Reconnecting with friends after so many years held some apprehension for me, but all of those feelings melted away in the warmth of renewed friendship.  We had some beautiful moments.  Meeting our friends' children who are now successful and well-rounded adults was a mixed blessing.  It reminded me of how quickly time goes, but on the other hand, it warmed my heart to see all these amazing kids serving Jesus passionately.  I was reminded that life is short and we need to seize each and every moment we have. 

I also visited family and spent some precious moments with my aged parents.  I feel blessed to have both my mom and dad at this age.  Dad is ninety and still the life of any party.  Mom is almost eighty-seven and she grows sweeter with every passing year.  I know my parents are nearing the end of their journey on earth, and as Paul and I spent hours with them talking and reminiscing, I wanted to hold those images in my heart and mind, bury their words deep in my psyche, capture each special moment so that when they eventually go to their eternal home I will still have them.

I have seen people live their lives well.  I have watched my parents weather the storms of life and grow in their love for each other and their God.  I want what they have.  Yes, I want to grow old gracefully and well.  As the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, I want to; '...run the race marked out for us.'  I don't want to meander through life or mess up.  I want to keep my eye on the goal and run my race well.

A few short days away and my heart is full.  Seeing my parents has renewed my commitment to live well.  Meeting old friends has reminded me of my faithful God and that He loves to work through all generations.  Being with my sister and family has strengthened my resolve to pray earnestly and daily for all our children and grandchildren. 

I want to run to the very end and blaze the trail for my children and my grand children. I pray that the end of my race will be a Hebrews 12 ending...she fixed her eyes on Jesus and finished her race.

I trust that my reflections will be an encouragement for you to keep running your race and to finish well.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

Carol

Precious time with my parents.

Precious time with my parents.

Time with friends.

Time with friends.

Growing old gracefully.

Growing old gracefully.

HOW TO LOVE THE SEASON YOU ARE IN: ENGAGING LIFE TO THE FULL

I love my life.  Paul and I lead a great Bible College and Graduate School and although life is busy it is full of fun. I must admit that there are times I am too busy and I don't take the time to stop and smell the roses.

I don't want to end my life with regrets.  When I breathe my last breath I want to exhale with satisfaction knowing that I engaged life to the full.  Some of you reading my blog may be significantly younger than me and some might be older, but whatever season you are in I urge you to engage it to the full.  Here are a few principles to help you to love this season you are in right now.

1.  Don't live in the past: Paul said in Philippians 3:13 "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead...'  Yesterday is gone and we are not going to get it back.  Sitting and reminding yourself of yesterday won't help you to engage today.  Remembering the hurts and licking your wounds will not enable you to live life to the full.  I understand that there are hurtful experiences that we need to navigate and some of those we have to carry into this day in order to work through them.  However, I think you understand what I am saying here.  Don't let petty and silly things keep you from engaging your day.

2.  Don't live in the future: Some of us live only for tomorrow.  We can't wait to finish this or that and to move onto the next best thing.  Sometimes we live for a future that will never be.  The bible talks about living for today.  Tomorrow may have all sorts of exciting adventures for you, but you need to enjoy this day. 

3.  Live with gratitude:  I looked in the mirror the other day and realized that I am looking older.  I almost said; "I don't like getting older', butI stopped myself because I realize that behind every wrinkle is a story.  Yes, those stories have given me a perspective on life I would never have if I had not lived my life to the full.  The outward part of me is growing older, but I still feel vibrant and jubilant on the outside.  I wake up every day with joy.  When you or someone in your family has stood at the door of death you know that each day really does count.  I live with deep gratitude that I have today and I want to live it to the full.

4.  Don't hold grudges:  We have probably all experienced varying degrees of hurt in our lives.  We have experienced failure and probably have some regrets.  There is one emotion that we definitely do not want to engender in our lives and that is bitterness.  When we hold anger or unforgiveness in our hearts it prevents us from engaging this day.  So, my word of advice is to let go of the anger and bitterness so that you can live today to the full.

My prayer is that you will engage this day and this season of your life.  The circumstances may not be perfect, but take the time to smell the roses and to truly taste your coffee.  When you look for the joy in life it will surprise you at how much fun you can start having. 

I am loving this season of my life.  Yes, there have been challenges along the way and they have certainly left their mark on me, but they have given me a perspective on life that helps me to engage this day and live it to the full. 

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,

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Carol