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

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN LIFE IS TOPSY-TURVY: HANDLING CRISES

I am sure most of us have experienced times in our lives when our world has been turned upside down.  The most distressing part of these times is that one bad event always seems to follow on the heels of the next.  As human beings, we like to feel that we are in control of our situation and when things spin out of our control we can get into a panic. 

Sometimes life deals us a hand we never anticipated.  How do we handle these moments?  I believe the bible gives us some guiding principles for moments like these.

1.  Acknowledge that God is in Control:  I love the verse in Colossians 1: 17 'He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together'.  The truth is, even when we think that our situations and our lives are out of control God is holding them together.  God knows what He is doing.  He has an eternal perspective that we do not have.  When things are unraveling or coming unglued, be assured my friend that God is still in control.  He is sovereign.  Even if we do not understand what He is doing, we can be confident that He is good and kind and faithful.  He is a God who is worthy of our trust.  He loves you and His plan for your life is a good one even if it does not feel like it at this precise moment.  Which brings me to my second principle.

2. Realize that God is Greater than your Feelings:  To feel is part of being human.  I cannot deny my feelings and neither do I want to.  When bad things happen I feel sad and when I am hurt I feel pain.  That is normal.  However, I should never allow my feelings to dictate my actions.  We could make some terrible mistakes and some silly decisions if we subject everything to the way we feel.  I can feel as if everything is out of control, but the reality is nothing, absolutely nothing, is out of God's control.  Therefore you can rest in His sovereignty. 

3.  Remember that God's timing is always perfect:  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says; 'He has made everything beautiful in His time'.  God knows the end from the beginning.  He sees the future and He knows what is coming—we do not.  So, we can trust Him and believe that His timing is always right.  Don't try to manipulate events, don't try to steer things in a particular way.  Allow God to take control of your life.  He knows what is best.

It is difficult at times to get to that place of complete trust in God—to take your concerns to Him and lay them at His feet and believe that He will have His perfect way.  However, this is the only way to handle the crises of life.  Trust God!  It is the best and safest option.

My prayer is that you will know His peace and grace in the midst of a topsy-turvy world.  That you will 'cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.'  That today will mark the beginning of a chapter of reckless trust in God.  May your day be blessed by the One who loves you more than any human ever could.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord’.

Super Brain

We know that the human brain is an amazing organ.  With over 100 billion neurons, it is a complex and marvelous creation.  Scientists tell us that we have not even begun to tap the full capacity of our brain. 

My sister had a stroke a number of years ago.  There were parts of her right side that were paralyzed, but through sheer determination and hard work, she has regained full use of those affected areas.  Over time the neural pathways repaired themselves and she now leads a normal life much as she did before her stroke.  The brain is an amazing organ.

Scientists tell us that the brain loses an average of 85,000 neurons a day, but be encouraged, there are 40 billion other neurons available in your cerebral cortex for you to make use of.

Your brain is a living organ that grows and expands as you learn, walk, communicate and pray.  Don't ever underestimate the power of your brain.  So why is the brain so important?

1.  Your brain has potential to improve:  You may be getting older, but you can still learn new things.  You are never too old to learn and to grow.  If your brain has been damaged by a stroke or some unfortunate accident you can find new neural pathways to restore functions.  The brain is an amazing organ.

  • Meditation is good for the brain:  Did you know that praying is not only a way to communicate with God, but it also has a powerful and positive affect on your brain?
  • Exercise is good for the brain:  Just walking for twenty minutes a day will revitalize you and also replenish neurons in your brain.  So, if you enjoy walking and praying you are definitely growing your brain.

2.  Your brain has the ability to delete experiences:  That sounds a little far fetched, but actually, you can 'unlearn' certain things.  On the surface, this may appear a strange concept, but there are scientists who now say that our brain has a type of delete button.  If we train our brains to stop thinking about a negative experience and we begin to think about positive experiences we can delete some of those memories that haunt us.  It sounds complicated, but actually the process is simple.  The Bible talks about; "...being transformed by the renewing of your minds".

  • Meditating on God's Word is powerful:  Yes, actually thinking about Scripture will have a powerful impact on your brain. The apostle Paul gave us that sound advice in Philippians 4: 8-9. 
  • Acts of kindness impact your brain:  Once again, scientists have shown how random acts of kindness do marvels for the brain.
  • Healthy relationships impact your brain:  Good positive inter relationships have a powerful and positive effect on your brain.  So work hard at keep good relationships.

Our brain is a marvelous organ.  We have complete control over our thoughts. No one else does.  We can make decisions that will impact our brain for good or for bad.  When our brain is impacted it affects our entire body.  Our brain and our body are one, and when we feed our mind with good things it has a positive affect on our bodies. 

The amazing discoveries of scientists are not new.  Our wonderful Creator who fashioned us has given our brains these wonderful capacities.  Two thousand years ago Jesus talked about the importance of our thinking (Luke 10:27; Luke 6:45),  and so did the apostle Paul. 

Don’t waste your mind...it is a beautiful gift from God.

Start your week with feeding your brain in a positive and wholesome way.  Pray, think kind thoughts and do good deeds and your entire life will be impacted by it. Have a blessed week my friend!

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

Your thoughts are powerful, they impact the health of your entire body. Guard your thoughts today.

SEIZE TODAY!

The older I get the quicker time seems to fly.  It feels as if time is gobbling up the minutes and striving to rob me of more.  I know this is not true, but where does time go? 

Maybe I am just loving this season of my life so much that it seems that each hour is swallowed with a vengeance by the enemy of time.  I sometimes look at my grandchildren and wish I could freeze the moments that I have with them.  They were my sweet little babies only a few years ago and now they are growing children. 

I know I can't capture time, I can't lock it up and throw away they key, but I can engage each moment and make the best of every day.  There are three ways in which I do not want to end my life.  Here they are:

  • I don't want to finish my life with regrets:  I don't want to reflect on my life and feel sorrow for wasted moments.  I want to live each day to the full.  In the evening when I lie on my bed and close my eyes I want to smile about the day I have just lived.  I want to sleep deeply because I have lived fully.
  • I don't want to finish my life with unfinished tasks:  I have dreams like everyone else and I want to ensure that I accomplish those dreams.  Some dreams are unrealistic, but the ones worth pursuing are the goals I want to complete before I stand before Jesus and give Him an account of my life.  It doesn't matter how old I get I still have dreams and desires in my heart for tomorrow.  I never want to stop dreaming.
  • I don't want to finish my life with unforgiveness:  I don't want to live with any kind of bitterness or anger in my heart and I certainly don't want to end my life with unforgiveness.  What a horrible way to finish my journey of life.  I want to live each moment with a free heart and a joyful spirit.

So, I choose to live this day to the full.  I choose to have a free and happy heart.  I choose to accomplish the task before me and strive to do better and more.  I will not let time be my master nor will Ibecome its slave.  I will seize today!

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

‘LOST TIME CAN NEVER BE FOUND’.

"NO TURNING BACK, NO TURNING BACK".

I was sitting under a canvas tent listening to the stories of young people.  They had my attention as they spoke about Jesus and what He meant to them.  I was captivated by their sincerity and their stories of His love and grace in their lives.  It was on that humid day, under a green canopy that I decided to follow Jesus.

With the imminent approach of Easter, I have been contemplating afresh the sacrifice that Jesus made for humanity.  He came to earth, born of a woman, lived his life among people and then suffered and died for all mankind.  This has to be the most magnificent story of all times.  I know it moved my heart forty-eight years ago, and it continues to stir me to this very day.

There is a little song that says: "I have decided to follow Jesus...not turning back, not turning back".  Although a children's song it is very meaningful to me and has been through the years.  I made a commitment to Christ when I was thirteen years old.  I understood that following Jesus would involve some sacrifice on my part, but I wanted to give Jesus my very all.

Now forty-eight years later I can look back and reflect on this decision I made as a young girl.  Here is what I can say categorically.

  • Through all the trials and hardships I have never been tempted to turn back because God has been so faithful and good to me.  No, it has not been an easy journey and there has been pain, but God has never left my side and I have no intention of turning my back on Him.
  • Through all the seasons of life, He has never failed me.  Even in the good times, we can be prone to 'going it alone.'  I have failed God many times.  I know I have disappointed him, but He has loved me through every single season of life.  What an amazing God!  I echo those words again; 'no turning back, no turning back'.
  • When other people have failed me God has been there to comfort me and nurture me.  The truth is people are human like me.  I have failed people and they have failed me.  However, God has never ever let me down.  He has been with me through all the hurt and failure.  What an incredible God.

My blog post is just a simple declaration that "I have decided to follow Jesus... (48 years ago) no turning back, no turning back'. 

As Easter approaches, I am still awed at the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for all people everywhere.  I am determined to pursue Him to the very end.

I am and always will be

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

Carol

The Easter story is the most magnificent story ever told. It is still changing lives 2000 years on.
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LEADING WITH WORDS.

Whether we lead an institution, a church, a small group, a Sunday School class or our family we can all probably agree that leadership is a challenging task.

Leading people requires skill. However, it is not the only element required to lead effectively.  The psalmist said:  'And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them'.  We need a blend of character and ability to lead successfully.

There are some people who exude natural leadership and others who have worked quietly and consistently at enhancing their abilities to lead with competence.  Whatever the case leading is tough work.

Leadership is a huge topic, but I want to emphasize the importance of leading with words.  I think our speech is important, what we say and how we communicate are both vital elements of leadership. If we are passionate leaders we want to see people reach their potential.  And I am of the opinion that our words are an integral component to leading people.

So, why are words so important for the leader?

1.  Our words can inspire hearts and minds:  I have sat in seminars and listened to some of the most brilliant minds and have come away empty and frustrated at wasting my time.  Why?  Because clever words do not inspire.  The leader who inspires people is the one who understands that their words need to be sincere, honest and authentic.  My heart has been stirred by people whose words are married to their lifestyle.  Some of the defining moments of my life have been listening to an inspiring leader who has challenged me at the core of my being.

2. Our words can heal:  Proverbs says; "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver'.  Choice words can guide people, bring clarity to situations, and save them from making mistakes.  Words are powerful.  Wise words can heal and unwise words can bring untold destruction.

3.  Our words can challenge:  Sometimes we have to be brutal to be kind.  There is a difference between being nice and being kind.  If someone sings terribly and I tell them they have a good voice, I might be trying to be nice, but I am definitely not being kind.  Sometimes leaders need to be brutally honest with people and that honesty can be challenging, but when those words are heeded they can change the course of someone's life and their destiny.  

Words are important.  We need to use our words wisely and sparingly.  If you are a leader you need to learn to articulate in a simple and clear manner.  Yes, we lead by example but we also need to use words to inspire, to challenge and to direct. 

My prayer is that your words would inspireand encourage someone today. 

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

Our words can inspire, challenge, heal, guide or they can destroy. Choose your words wisely.

KEEP HIS COMMANDS AND YOU WILL EXPERIENCE HIS PROMISES!

Sometimes when we are desperate for God's blessing we are quick to remind Him of His promises.  However, with every promise or blessing there comes a prior command.  If we do not obey God's commands how can we expect His blessing?

When I decided to become a Christian I made a decision to follow Jesus.  In fact, Jesus said that we should 'take up our cross and follow' Him.  Put simply, when I put up my hand to follow Christ I was saying yes to a particular way of life.  As I read the Gospels I discovered that being a Christian meant saying yes to God's way and no to my own.

I was enjoying a walk the other day and reveling in God's creation.  As I looked up and saw the sky through the trees and listened to the birds singing I felt real joy.   As I reflected over the years I have served Jesus, I realised that I have never needed to take drugs to give me a lift, I have never needed to drink alcohol to drown my sorrows, and I have never needed to look outside of God for any kind of thrill.  My life has been simple, but it has been rich and full.  No, I haven't been perfect.  I have messed up, failed, fallen short of God's standards...I am a sinner like everyone else.  But early on in my life, I understood that I needed God and that He was the only One who could truly satisfy my heart.  Now, forty-seven years later I know that following God's way is definitely the best and wisest way to go.

I have never been famous, never had money to do all the things I would like, but I have had peace even in the midst of the most trying circumstances.  I have known that God was with me in my most desperate hour.  I have never had to turn to any substance to find tranquility, I have leaned heavily on God.  I suppose some would call that a crutch.  I call it a choice that has enabled me to live life to the full.

Don't claim the promises of God if you are not living according to His standards.  If you don't give you cannot expect to receive.  We have to live according to God's Word and when we do His blessings flow. 

I am conscious every single day that God is good and that my life is blessed.  

Jesus satisfies my friend.  If you live for Him you will experience His blessing.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

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Keep His commands and you will know His blessing

CALLED TO BE A SERVANT...AND I HAVE NO REGRETS!

I remember the moment as if it was yesterday.  I was sixteen years old, I was kneeling down beside my bed and pouring my heart out to the God I love so much.  I heard God's voice speak to my heart and ask me if I was willing to serve Him...to give my life to His cause.  I felt completely overwhelmed.  Why would God want to use a simple little South African girl from an ordinary family?  I knew I had nothing to offer.  In a simple, childlike way I told God that I had nothing to give.  Again I felt God speaking to my heart and assuring me that all He wanted was my willing heart.  I knew I could give God that much.  So on that day, many years ago I gave my entire life over for service in God's Kingdom.

I have loved every single minute of serving the cause of Jesus.  It was shortly after my enounter with God that He brought Paul into my life and to my absolute delight discovered that he had also laid his life down for the cause of God's kingdom.  We have felt so honored to serve God that Paul and I have spent our lives encouraging other young people to do the same. 

The journey has been challenging and joyful all at the same time.  Yes, we have been treated harshly and unfairly by some people, but God has always been faithful and kind and He has never ever failed us.  He never will.  And here is the amazing aspect of my story...the longer I serve Him the more I love Him and the sweeter it gets. 

So, if today you are contemplating serving God's Kingdom I hope this post will encourage you.  If you are discouraged in your service because of unkind people, criticism or anything else for that matter let me encourage you today.  Serving God has the richest rewards.  I would never change my life for anything.  Despite all the challenges and hardships I have no regrets...not one!

The longer I serve Him the sweeter it grows!

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

Serving God has been the greatest joy of my life.

How You Finish Your Race is More Important than How You Began!

New beginnings are always exciting.  The start of a relationship is filled with joy and pleasure.  A new job is taken up with anticipation and challenge.  Going on a journey is adventurous and fun filled.  Yes, starting anything new is thrilling for most people.  However, the real question is: How will you finish your race?  When the relationship becomes challenging, the new job is thwart with problems, the journey gets boring, will you finish, and more importantly, will you finish well?

I have seen people become bored with their relationships and cop out to find a new partner.  I have witnessed people at the first sign of a challenge leave their career.  But, sadly the most disturbing sight is when I see Christians give up the faith.  I understand there are hoards of reasons for why people do things, but I find it difficult to understand why people deny their God because other people have failed them or the church has let them down.  People are human, they will fail and they will disappoint us.  Churches are imperfect and there will be times when we are sorely disappointed with what takes place in church.  But that should never reflect on our relationship with God.

So how do we prevent failure and finish our race well?  If you read Hebrews chapter 12 it gives us some really good advice.

  1. Keep your eye on the goal: Hebrews says that we must "...look to Jesus"  If you run a race and are distracted by the crowd I can assure you that you will not finish well.  Whether it is their booing or applauding the distraction is not good.  That is why we must keep focused on Jesus.  Don't have your eyes on people. Christian leaders also fail, they also have feet of clay, but to blame a Christian leader's failure for your decision to leave the faith is a major cop out.  The only One that will never fail you or disappoint you is Jesus.
  2. Run your race:  Hebrews 12 says "run the race marked out for you."  I think it is wonderful that God has already marked out my particular race.  He knows me, He formed me and He will give me the grace to run my own race. Yes, you can only run your race.  You can never try to run some else's race.  When we are always complaining about our lives and making comparisons with other people it does not help us.  In fact, I can assure you that it will hinder your race.
  3. Finish the race:  Hebrews says"finish the race marked out for you."  The emphasis is on finishing the race.  You see we can start any new venture with enthusiasm, but how we finish it is what counts.  You will only finish this Christian race if you keep your focus on Jesus and you ensure that you are not comparing and competing with anyone else.  Keep your eye on the goal.

I pray that you will finish even better than you began.  I trust that every day, whatever the challenge, you will grow stronger and more determined to follow Jesus with your whole heart.  My prayer for you is that you will finish well.

 

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

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IS YOUR PAIN PUNISHMENT?

Have you ever experienced deep pain and the question you keep asking yourself is; What have I done wrong?  What sin am I being punished for?  Your heart is crushed and broken and you don't know which way to turn.  I have been there and asked those same questions.

Physical pain is horrible, but emotional or mental pain tops that one every time.  I have watched people grieve at the bedside of a loved one, at the grave of someone taken away too soon, and stood with people who have had their hearts crushed by broken relationships.

So the question remains: Is your pain punishment from God? 

Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way and I share them with you for your encouragement.

1.  Pain is never a sign of God's absence:  I have come to see pain in a whole new light.  When Paul went for major heart surgery I thought my heart would break.  He was scheduled to be under the knife for fifteen hours.  When he came through the surgery I processed all we had been through as a family and I saw pain in a new way.  Imagine if I did not feel pain?  If I never loved I would never experience pain— and I know I never want to live without love.  If I had not felt agony of soul in my darkest night I would never be able to appreciate the beautiful moments of life. 

2.  Pain can produce amazing results:  Somehow pain has a cathartic effect on my soul.  When you see your loved one slipping away before your eyes all the petty things of life, the things you made such a big deal about, become insignificant and small.  Suddenly you see life as it really is and it has a way of cleansing your soul.  It seems to put everything into perspective and places things in their rightful order. 

3.  God's intentions are never for your harm:  God never intended to harm you, my friend.  Let me assure you that right now, at this moment, His loving arms are waiting for you.  His desire is to embrace and comfort you in your grief. 

4.  Deep beauty is born in the process of pain:  Have you ever looked into the eyes of the frail or elderly?  Ever looked into the eyes of a child who in the eyes of the world is not whole?  Look again!  Look past the physical defects and you will find a beauty so deep and so pure that the clearest crystal stream flowing from a mountainside could not be more beautiful.  That incredible beauty was birthed in the agony of pain and there is no sight to compare.

5.  Out of pain comes a season of joy:  I love the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  He was a confident young boy filled with passion and joy for life.  Unfortunately, his brothers did not feel favorable towards him.  The story tells us how they throw him into a pit, and then he is taken as a slave into the household of Potiphar.  Finally, when he thought things could not get any worse he ends up in prison.  What a depressing story?  No!  That is only half the story, my friend.  The other half is the story is of how God took his pain and his hardships and used them not only for his good but for the benefit of his family and his people.

If you are experiencing pain today I beg you not to give up.  There is still so much more of your story to be written.  Out of your pain and agony can come the next chapter of your life which could be the most beautiful.  Pain can teach us so much.  Don't let your pain debilitate you.  Do not allow your pain to cut your story short.  Your pain is not the absence of God, it is the very real presence of Him there with you.  Of this I am confident—your pain could birth the next season of your life.  Embrace your pain and your God and He will see you through.

You are the only author of your story—make it a good one

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

How to Deal with Shadows from Your Past

I was sitting outside on a deck chair listening to the birds chirping and the breeze blowing through the trees when a memory from my past flooded my thoughts.    I am not sure if it was the smell of the damp earth, the song of the birds or the warmth of the sun, but those memories surfaced with crystal clarity.  

I am sure that like me, many of you have experienced those moments when a smell, sight or sound triggered a memory from the past.  You may have thought that those memories had long been buried, but they were lurking in the corridors of your mind, pushed their way to the surface making you feel happy, sad, regretful or hurt.

All of us have a story to tell.  We can share our triumphs and our tragedies and perhaps we feel as if there were far less triumphs along the road.  Memories can open wounds from our past that we thought had healed, but other memories can fill us with joy.  Whatever the case, I am glad that we can go back into our memory box and draw out of our experiences good or bad.   Memories are important and vital to our overall health and well being.

How do we deal with our memories?  How do we move on from the shadows of our past and find healing for today?  Here are a few thoughts that might be helpful.

  • We can learn the most valuable lessons from failure and pain:  I don't like dwelling on my failures and I certainly do not revel in time spent thinking about the people who have deliberately tried to hurt me.  However, I can honestly say that as I look back at those shadows in my life I have learned more from the dark times than any of my joy filled experiences.
  • We can grow stronger through our hurt and failure:  We fall, but we get up again.  Yes, we strive to be more cautious because we have learned a bit of wisdom along the way. Actually the truth is we still fall and fail, but we get up and grow stronger.  That is because the experiences of life toughen us up, give us courage and determination andstrength to keep going even when we do not want to.
  • We can develop empathy for other people:  We can feel other people's pain because we know what agony they are feeling.  We would never be able to help others if we did not have shadows from our past.
  • We are where we are today because of the shadows of our past:  I have not enjoyed some of the pain and hurt I have experienced.  Some of it was of my own making and some was not.  There have been grave injustices that have crossed my pathway.  This might sound strange, but I am grateful for each path I have taken.  I have been hurt, chosen to forgive and been healed.  I have failed people and people have failed me, but I have learned to trust again and tried to be a better person who can also be trusted.

The shadows of your past are there to remind you that you have more resilience than you thought.  The shadows of your past are not there to hold you back, but to allow you to move into your future.  The shadows of your past are there to remind you that today is a new day, a better day and a day filled with hope.  Don't let the shadows of your past hold you back, rather let them push you into your future.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

The Single Most Important Question A Christian Leader Can Ask?

Christian leadership is not for the feint hearted.  Anyone going into Christian ministry should understand that there are significant challenges in this type of work.  Running a ministry is entirely different to a business because we are involved in spiritual work.  There are all kinds of dynamics involved when it comes to leading a Christian community. 

This blog is not focusing on the organization and the challenges that leaders face in their communities.  Rather I want to take a few minutes to consider the heart of the leader leading his or her community. 

I have been in Christian ministry for over forty years now.  I have seen the good, bad, and ugly.  I have also seen leaders exit ministry because of hurt and failure.  Yes, sometimes their communities have not treated them well, but in all honesty, I have to say that most often the issues that leaders confront are impacted by the decisions that they make when they face challenges.  Sometimes those decisions are reactionary and they end in disaster for the leader and for the community.  However, if a leader makes careful and deliberate decisions then they can turn catastrophic events into stepping stones for their future.

So what is the single most important question that a Christian leader can ask?

Simply: What is the condition of my heart?  There is no other question more vital to the spiritual health of a leader. 

Here are three reasons why this question is imperative for every leader to ask:

There is nothing more important in ministry than the state of a leader's heart:  Skill is significant, but nothing is more important than the condition of the heart. Psalm 78:72 says; "And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands, he led them."  The emphasis is 'integrity of heart.'   If a leader lacks character then they will be found wanting.

  1. The condition of a leader's heart will determine their longevity: Yes, skill will get you to the top of the mountain but it won't keep you there.  The single ingredient that will keep a leader in ministry is character. Put another way, the health of a leader's heart will determine their sustainability in ministry.  My friend, we all face trials.  We get kicked around, knocked about, bruised, and wounded, but we get up wipe the dust off and get going again.  Challenging times are not the moments when we quit, they are the times we poke our finger in Satan's eye and get up and start again.  
  2. The condition of a leader's heart will determine their future:  There is no future for the man or woman that lack integrity.  They may succeed for a time, but ultimately they will fail.  As someone once said: 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time'. Eventually the real person does shine through.
  3. The condition of a leader's heart will determine their success:  I do think we need to re-evaluate success.  For a lot of Christians success is all about budgets and numbers.  Of course those elements of ministry are very important and I do not want to undermine their value.  However, ministry success is much more than budgets and numbers.  Ministry success is about health and longevity of the leader and the community they lead.

My prayer is that every Christian leader will make the condition of their heart a priority.  When the heart is right everything is right.  Likewise when the heart is full of pride, deceit, anger, and malice then everything is wrong.  Too much hinges on the health of our hearts for us to neglect them.  Let us ensure that we will make our heart our top priority.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT LEADERSHIP DECISION FOR 2017!

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We are now well into January 2017.  For most of us, we have found our rhythm for the year and we are getting into full gear. 

However, we cannot be certain of what the year holds for us and so we make our plans, organize our schedules and fill our calendars with the hope that things will go as planned.  I am certainly not a pessimist but I know that some of our well-ordered steps can take unexpected twists in the road that we never saw coming. 

As Christian leaders, we face challenges and situations that we have to navigate with wisdom, integrity, and courage.  There have been many times in the journey of leadership I have felt utterly disheartened.  But there is one thing I am certain of and that is a decision I can make right now and stick to it whatever comes my way. 

I must never quit

That is probably the most important leadership decision I can make and stick to in 2017. 

When I face challenges and I am tempted to quit because of the mistakes I have made or because of the mistakes of others, I remind myself of these important principles of leadership.

  • Take full responsibility for my actions:  Never play the blame game...admit my shortcomings and then move forward.
  • Be big enough to say sorry for my mistakes:  Generally when things go wrong...even when others have harmed me, I do need to look inward and see where I could do better.  Saying sorry is cathartic and good for my soul.
  • Acknowledge that God is with me:  God is still good, faithful, and kind even when people are not.  He is still with us and has a future for us even when things seem to have collapsed around us.  The important thing is to never ever give up!
  • Live with the promise that the future is bright:  I live constantly with hope for a better tomorrow.  As a leader,  I never want to lose that vision.

I love my life and my calling.  I have never been happier in the place God has me right now.  I am determined that the most important decision for this year is to ensure that I keep on keeping on and never quit.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

 

 

New Habits for a New Year!

Most of us probably eat more than we should over the Christmas season and probably also do far less exercise than we should.  So on the first day of January, it is appropriate to set our resolution for the year. 

How about a shift in paradigm and developing some new habits into our lives.  Is that any different to a resolution?  I think so.  Let me give some guidelines.

  • Set achievable goals for yourself:  Okay so you want a healthy lifestyle so you start by resolving to exercise for an hour a day and by the end of the month you have completely given up.  Why not set an achievable goal.  Start slowly.  Exercise for 25 minutes three times a week.  You can increase it if you want to but don't set yourself up for failure.   If you want to get into the habit of reading the Bible on a daily basis, set yourself a reasonable goal so that your Bible reading becomes a habit of joy.
  • Delight in your newly forming habits:  Wake up with anticipation in the morning for how your goal will improve your lifestyle, your relationships or your personal well-being.  A new set goal becomes a life long habit when you enjoy what you are doing, so don't set unrealistic goals or they never become habits.
  • Make yourself accountable:  We all need a little help along the way.  You need to make yourself accountable to someone to help keep you on track.  That won't take the joy out of your newly established goal it just encourages you along the way.
  • Don't give up:  If you goal is going to become a habit then you need to ensure you keep at it.

Happy New Year–and may you invest your time and energy in some life changing habits in 2017.

I am and always will be,

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

 

Carol

THE YEAR OF THE UNEXPECTED!

I have been looking at pictures of my grandchildren four years ago and it has made me feel a little sad because I am reminded that time waits for no one.

You probably feel like I did on January 1st, 2017 and wondered where 2016 had gone.  It reminds me how important it is for us to seize the day and ensure that we live life to the full.

I know that many of you reading my blog have made some sort of resolution for 2017.  It may even be that you have already given up.  I am certainly not one for making resolutions on the first day of the year.  I think it is important to see each day as a new one, a new opportunity, and a fresh start.  The first of January is no different for me than the first of June or July or any other month for that matter.

However, as we approach a new year, Paul and I always try to think about what the year holds and how we will navigate the challenges and opportunities presented.  The word 'unexpected' came to me for this year.  I suppose in essence every year will have 'unexpected' surprises, challenges and blessings.  But how do we govern our lives between the routine of daily life and the unexpected moments that can change everything?

I love Psalm 65:11 "You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance."  A lovely verse with a sweet promise.  However, God can crown our year with bounty, but there can still be challenges along the way.  There can be, and for some, may have already been some unexpected surprise, blessing or even challenge. 

So how do we navigate 2017?  How do we handle the unexpected?

  • Commit every day to the Lord:  You don't commit the year to the Lord and then move on with life.  No, you need to commit each and every day to the Lord and trust Him for each new one.  I do believe that God gives us grace for each day.  We are told in God's Word not to worry about tomorrow, but to live this day.  In 2017 determine to live each day to the full.
  • Pray for God's blessing:  Paul and I pray for the blessing of God on a daily basis.  Does that mean our days are without challenge?  Certainly not.  But when the challenges come we know that God is walking beside us.  Just because we face challenges and trials does not mean that God has removed His blessings from us. 
  • Keep dreaming God-sized dreams:  If the unexpected comes as a trial out of nowhere you don't have to give up on your dream.  What you need to do is focus on getting through your trial and believe that 'joy comes in the morning.'  Keep dreaming and living and believing. 
  • Never give up:  Don't give up my friend.  Whatever comes in 2017 please keep living, believing, trusting and hoping.  God is with you and will see you through.
  • Live each day with trust in your God:  Whatever the day, week, month or year holds, I encourage you to put your utmost trust in the Lord.  It is He who will sustain you through the good times and the bad times.  He is God, He will never abandon you.

Happy New Year my friend.  May it be a year filled with blessing and unexpected serendipity. Keep your eyes on Jesus.  I don't know what 2017 will bring, but I do know that He will never leave you or forsake you.

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus

 

Carol

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The "Silent" in Christmas

Searching for the 'silent' in Christmas.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is the well known; "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright."  The problem is that Christmas is more often too busy, noisy and frenetic.

I think Christmas should be a time for the family to gather together, share memories, reflect together, and remind each other of the real meaning of Christmas.  We tend to rush from party to party, eat way too much and spend more money than is necessary.

My prayer is that you will take some time over this Christmas season to contemplate the real meaning of Christmas.  Of course, Christmas should be fun and filled with laughter, however, it should be a time to:

  • Share with those who are needy:  There are so many people out there who are heartbroken, hungry and desperate.  Perhaps this Christmas we could reach out to some needy and lonely person.  Take time to be silent and ask God to show you who you can minister to at this time.
  • Reflect on the past year:  Use this season as a time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end.  Ask God to help you as you face the challenges of a new year.
  • Spend meaningful time with family:  Share time together appreciating each other.  Take time to affirm each other...play together, laugh together and be sure to pray together.
  • Take some time to be still:  Don't only sing 'silent night' practice being still and quiet.
  • Remember to have fun:  Jesus does want us to have joy in abundance, make sure you do have lots of wholesome fun.

Remember to be quiet and still for a few moments during this Christmas season.  Allow the Prince of Peace to fill your heart during this special time.  My prayer is that this will be the most special Christmas for you and yours.

 

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

Bad Leaders Often Win the Battle But They Always Lose the War

I have been contemplating leadership over the past number of weeks.  The chief reason, is that we have an MA Missional Leadership program at Trinity, and I have just completed a series of lectures, hence the blog.

I have been pondering how and why poor leaders often seem to win the many battles they wage.  It often seems unjust and I ask myself, "where is God...how can He let this person get away with this?" 

Here are a few facts to be abundantly aware of when it comes to poor Christian leadership:

  • They are manipulative leaders.
  • They never share all the facts with everyone...they usually share little bits and pieces of information with a few people, but withhold the full story from most.
  • They are more concerned with themselves than they are with the people they lead.
  • They are in leadership because of an innate need for power and control.
  • They can appear fun loving and disarming on the outside, but are often full of suspicion and internal rancor.
  • They don't trust others because they cannot trust themselves.

And this list could go on and on! I am not a skeptic and I am not trying to discredit Christian leaders.  I am simply highlighting the fact that there are poor leaders all around the globe and unfortunately, they can also be found in the Christian community.  Paul and I are both in Christian leadership and we honestly feel privileged to do what we do, but we often find our task more difficult because of the failure of a few poor leaders who have abused people along the way.

Here are a few facts that you need to be aware of when it comes to dealing with poor leadership:

  • You do not have to tolerate abuse.  I am not suggesting for one moment that anyone should dishonor a Christian leader, but I do think that we can and should challenge anyone, including a Christian leader when they are not abiding by biblical principles or when they are blatantly dishonest or unjust.
  • You should alert other Christian leaders to the problem.  Too often we keep quiet because we think we should not criticise a Christian leader.  My friend, the truth is, you should stand up to anyone when they are being dishonorable.
  • You should never be afraid of a Christian leader. In my view, Christian leaders should be the most approachable people of all.  A Christian leader worth his or her salt will always be willing to listen to the truth.  No godly leader will run from the truth.
  • You should always approach a leader with respect.  Even when we confront poor leaders we need to be respectful.

Over the past forty years, I have seen and been the victim of unkind, terrible Christian leadership.  I have seen these people harm the body of Christ - yet, I have also seen the resilience of the Church to rise above abuse and to continue to grow.  

If you are a leader, clothe yourself with humility and love.  Strive to lead people in gentleness and kindness and put on the virtue of grace.

If you are someone who has been subject to poor leadership you need to heed the advice of this post.  Don't let their failings color your future and hinder your spiritual journey.

So let me say this:  Many times leaders win the battle because they are manipulative, they feed the information they want people to hear, and they use fear and control in winning their battle in their unique but ungodly way.  However, they will never win the war or the final battle because God sees them and he cannot bless manipulators and control freaks. God watches us and sees everything we do.  If nothing else inspires us it should be the fact that "our God sees us." 

Have a blessed day!

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

 

Leadership Lessons From Humpty Dumpty!

I have been reflecting on leadership over the past number of weeks.  I have to say that I am always challenged by good leadership, but I am even more challenged when I see poor leadership. 

I understand that I am using a children's nursery rhyme to make some points, but I think they are worth contemplating.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Poor leaders sit on walls - "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,"  - The first thing to point out is that genuine leaders don't sit, they are involved in the action, out among their people.  Leaders should never elevate themselves by sitting on walls or pedestals looking down on people because they want to move and serve among people they supposedly love.  Be wary when leaders elevate themselves...it is not a healthy sign.

Poor leaders will eventually fall - "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall." - If leaders elevate themselves above others they will eventually fall.  The more they elevate themselves the harder the fall.  Jim Collins has written a book about this important topic;  "How the Mighty Fall."  It is worth a read.

Poor leaders have thin skins - "All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again." - Humpty had thin skin.  Put another way, Humpty may have looked good, may have had charisma, but Humpty lacked character and so he fell hard and he was shattered. 

Just some thoughts for the day! 

Iam challenged to be a good leader and lead like Jesus led.

 

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

True Leadership is Service not Privilege!

Christian leadership is not for the fainthearted.  I have discovered that you need a tough skin for this job and you also need a certain measure of resilience.  But then Jesus never did call us to a life of ease.  He said, 'take up your cross and follow me' which would be neither easy nor comfortable.  

I have served Jesus for over forty years.  During those years I have seen some of the best and worst of Christian leaders.  I have seen sacrificial leadership modelled and I have seen leaders that felt that they were entitled to all the privileges of life.

Here is what I think about Christian leadership.

We are called to be servants:  Paul told us in Philippians 2 that we should be servants like Jesus was.  Our calling is not to a life of luxury but to a life of sacrifice and service.  Jesus modelled the way for us when he put a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his disciples.  I thinksome Christian leaders believe they are in their positions to be served and pandered to by their followers, but if we look at the example of Jesus we should be the servants.

We are called to give our lives:  Jesus called us to lay our lives down for those we serve.  I don't think this implies being a slave or being a doormat for people to tread on, but I do think it means dying to our own desires and wants so that we can serve the cause of Christ.  I have seen some Christian leaders exploit their followers and I don't think that is what Jesus had in mind.  There are Christian leaders who live luxurious lifestyles while some of their followers live in poverty.  I am not seeking to be judgmental here, I am simply wanting to point out that I do not think that Jesus had this in mind for people He called to serve Him.  I am not suggesting that leaders should live in want or need, but I do think leaders should be prepared to sacrifice for the cause of the gospel and to live lives that are not excessive or offensive to others.

We are called to build God's Kingdom:  I have watched some leaders who are totally obsessed with their work.  They work 24/7...but it is all about building their kingdom, their network, their empire—it has little to do with the Kingdom of God and bringing honour to the name of Jesus.  God's work is not about us, our reputation, our cause or our needs and wants, it is all bout bringing His message of hope to needy people.

I am deeply grateful for all the godly Christian leaders out there and there are scores of them.  But there are those few who have an entitlement mentality and believe they deserve privilege and honor.

We should honor and respect all leaders.  But the point is when leaders do not get honor they do not run from the task.  When the going gets tough, true godly leaders keep going.  When they don't have all the nice things they desire they still continue to serve with deep gratitude that Jesus has called them to do His work.  Christian leadership is not about privilege—it is about serving the greatest cause on earth and it is indeed a privilege that is all ours to serve and honor our great God.

Just a few thoughts for the week.

I am and always will be,

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

Carol

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