Tag Archive | hope

What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life (1/2)

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Have you ever been in a place of raw, unexpected pain?

I have.

Have you ever experienced gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and soul-tearing agony?

I have.

Have you ever wondered how you could get up another day to breathe again … to perform ordinary tasks again … even to live again?

I have.

What does one do at these torturous moments?

What do you do on the very worst day of your life?

The very first thing that I did on the worst day of my life was to cry out to the Lord.

It was the only thing that I could do … that I knew to do.  It was a reflexive and instinctive response.

When there is nothing else to say … say, “Jesus!”

I just repeated the matchless name of Jesus over and over and over again.  I found myself lying on the floor with tears streaming down my face and uttering the most powerful word in all of recorded history, “Jesus!”

I said, “Jesus!”

 

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I recall that the next thing that I chose to do was that I just held my Bible.  I didn’t open it … I didn’t read it … I just held it and it held me.

Just the simple action of holding that beloved and sacred Book in my weary arms broke through the monstrous shock of the situation. Just touching my Bible ushered in an atmosphere of peace in spite of a horrific and unnecessary storm.

I held my Bible.

(Even now, as I remember the inexpressible anguish of that moment, my stomach is in knots and my heart is in my throat. But somehow I carried on and so can you.)

In spite of the sobbing and the heartache, I knew that the next thing that I should do was to call a friend.  It was impossible for me to trust my own reactions and the raging emotions that were dragging me to panic so I called a dear friend, who was able to minister to me, pray for me and quote the word over my life.

Do you have a friend like that?  Do you have a friend who will drop absolutely everything to stand by your side during a wicked storm?

If you don’t have a friend like that … then be a friend like that!

Cultivate sweet friendships that will have the tenacity and the resolve to love you, to tenderly care for you and to pray for you on the very worst day of your life.

I called a friend.

My sweet friend encouraged me to remember the last miracle that the Lord had done on my behalf. I began to recall time after time after time that God had come through in miraculous and undeserved ways in my life.

He gave me living babies after sending 5 babies to heaven!  What the doctors said was impossible was possible with my God!

I remembered!

He healed me from an all-encompassing 7-year battle with depression. I encountered His presence where there is always fullness of joy!

I remembered!

He stood with my husband I through a season of betrayal in the ministry.  He was faithful even when people were not!

I remembered!

He healed me from an aggressive form of cancer. My God is a healing God!

I remembered!

He brought a beloved son back to the Lord after years of searching. He tracked my son down and tackled him for God’s Kingdom and for God’s glory!

I remembered!

I reminded myself that He has done it before and that He will do it again!

I remembered!

 

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The Holy Spirit then gently reminded me of the story in the Bible when the Lord had just fed a crowd of 5,000 men plus countless women and children with only 5 little loaves of bread and 2 tiny fish.

It was truly just crackers and sardines that the Lord used as the basis for one of the greatest recorded miracles in the Bibe.

The Bible says that the entire crowd ate and was satisfied! It was a sumptuous holiday feast of heaven’s culinary expertise!

Immediately after this incredible miracle, on that very same afternoon, Jesus sent His disciples into a storm of monstrous proportions.

The Bible describes the disciples as being filled with fear and in a state of panic and terror as the storm raged around them. Jesus, as you know, then came to them walking on the water.

Jesus came to these disheartened disciples on the very waves that threatened to destroy them. Think about that for a moment and then read on …

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

Every time I read this verse written by the Holy Spirit and Mark, my heart stops within my chest and I find myself on my knees in His presence.

There is a hidden detail in this verse that never ceases to perform a quick self-examination of my memory.

The disciples had not learned anything at all from observing the miracle of the loaves and the fishes! Their hearts were so hardened that they had developed spiritual amnesia concerning what the Lord was capable of doing on their behalf!

The next time that you find yourself in over your head, surrounded by seaweed and dangerous winds, remember the loaves and the fishes.

The compass that will lead you out of the storm is your ability to recount the miracles that God has done for you in the past even when you are in the midst of the most horrific moment of your life.

The miraculous God on the shore who provides in abundance is also the God of the storms!

I remembered … will you?

Will you remember the last miracle?  Will you recall the faithfulness of God in your life even though today your boat is being tossed by life-threatening waves?

If you are living through the very worst day of your life … my simple wisdom to you today is to say, “Jesus!”

If the storm is raging around you … my tried and true advice to you today is to just hold your Bible.

If you are frightened by what the future may hold for you … my input into your life is to remember the last miracle and to praise Him for it.

(This blog, “What To Do On the Worst Day of Your Life” will be continued next week on October 11.)

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

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An Unquenchable Song

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Oh!  How I try not to be deemed as old-fashioned!

Oh!  How I ache to be at least in touch with the needs, the thoughts and the trends of the younger generation!

Oh! How I desire not to come across as out of date … out of touch … or over that infamous hill.

But let’s face it – at this age – I do indeed have a lot of years of living under my belt.

At this point in my life’s journey – I know a thing or two about life … about marriage … about parenting … about choosing well … about waiting … about wisdom … and about prayer.

At least I hope I do.

I try to dress fashionably youthful yet not come across as that older woman in teen-age clothes.

I like to think that my style is “timeless” rather than “yesterday”.

I sincerely attempt to sprinkle my speech with well-chosen colloquialisms of the day without seeming inconsequential or sarcastic.

I am certainly not “hip” … but neither am I antiquated.

I often read what my 20-something daughters and their friends are reading so that I will keep my fingers on the pulse beat of those incredible people known as “millennials”.

I follow young moms … young authors … young pastors … and young thinkers on all types of social media.

I even know what Reddit and Tumblr are … do you?!

However – I do believe that the place where the numerous years of my life is perhaps the most obvious is in my choice of music.

Sigh …

I am a musician and I have raised all of my children to love music.  Three of my five children majored in music in college.

We McLeods know our music

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am hopelessly outdated, old-fashioned and vintage when it comes to the music that I enjoy.

First of all – I’ll take a waltz over hip-hop, a sonata rather than rap and a concerto over electronica any day of my life!

Chopin, Gershwin and Debussey are on my playlist rather than Beyonce, Maroon 5 and Drake.

(As a matter of fact – I don’t even know who Drake is. I had to look up who had the #1 song on Billboard.)

And, when it comes to Christian music, it’s true …  from time to time I do enjoy Bethel, Hillsong, and gifted contemporary musicians such as Lauren Daigle.

However, the Christian music that truly inspires me is at least decades old!

Music has always had the rare and rich ability to touch my soul in the very deepest place of me.

My heart aches with unmatched joy when I hear these lyrics:

“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold … I’d rather be His than have riches untold.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands:  I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.”

I am forced to the altar of my heart as I evaluate those challenging lyrics.  Would I?!  Would I really rather than Jesus than silver or gold?!  Would I truly rather be His than have riches untold?

And the whisper of my heart cries … I would!  I would rather have Jesus than anything!

And then, there are times that I sit and reminisce over the legacy I have been given due to a family that valued the church and loved the Lord. In those sweet moments, I can still hear my father’s voice singing:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest Name that I know!

Fills my every longing – keeps me singing as I go!” 

Oh, Dad!  You were right!  Jesus is the sweetest Name that I know! He fills my deepest desires and He has never failed to give me an unquenchable song! 

And I must admit that one of the unarguable perquisites in judging a song to be a truly great composition is that it must hold solid theology and undeniable truth in every line –

“Great is Thy Faithfulness – Oh God, my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee!

Thou changest not – Thy compassions they fail not!

As Thou has been thou forever wilt be!” 

I want to know Jesus better because of the songs that I sing.  I want to declare Who He is over my circumstances as I sing my songs of faith that the saints in every generation have sung before me. 

And, finally, who can resist the triumph that springs forth in an ordinary person’s soul when these words are proclaimed with the power of the accompanying melody:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee! God of glory, God of love!

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the Son above!

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness – drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!” 

You might judge me as “old” due to the music that sings perpetually in my soul … but I believe that it is music that has kept me young!

The unmatched song that continues to dominate the soundtrack of my life has given me a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eyes.

How about you? What is your favorite song?  I’d love to hear from you … and sing a stanza or two together!

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

What it Takes to Make a Difference

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If you have read my blog more than a time or two, you know by now that I am a list-maker … a list-lover … a list-idolizer.

Lists simply help me to organize the thoughts that tumble haphazardly through my brain; they enable me to give boundaries to the roller-coaster emotions that fly helter-skelter through the caverns of my heart.

Lists … I love them.

And may I just say … there are lists in the Bible!  If it’s good enough for the Holy Spirit … it’s good enough for me!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – Galatians 5:22

This week … I am making yet a new list for you and for me.

And … have I got a list for you!

This is a life-changing, wonder-working, destiny-setting, mind-blowing list that will turn you into the person you always wished that you were but sorely knew how often you fell short.

This list will enable you to become the friend that you always wish you had been … the spouse that you always wish that you had … the parent that you dreamed about becoming … and you might even become the disciple of Jesus’ dreams!

First of all, the reason that I made this list is because I realized that at the core of anyone of us, what we truly desire in life is to make a difference.

Sure … stamps in the passport would be nice … a substantial savings account wouldn’t be turned away … education never hurt anyone … but the most valuable and sustaining desire that any of us have is to simply make a difference.

I long to be remembered after I leave planet earth for a kindness done.

I deeply desire to live beyond the dash in my tombstone with the invisible legacy that I have graciously bestowed in the lives of my family and friends.

I want acquaintances who don’t even know my name to say, “Remember that girl with the smile? Didn’t she just walk in a room and light it up?”

I want to cross my finish line and hear the Lord say, “Carol! You did good!!  You were a blessing to history! You made a difference!”

So … what does it take to make a difference? Do you have to have your picture on the front of a well-known magazine?  Must you be the host or hostess of a daily TV program?

Must you write a book that is a perpetual best-seller in order to be recognized as a truly impactful person

Is it a pre-requisite to travel to China and feed the hungry for in order for you to be considered for induction into history’s “Hall of Fame”?

I think not.  I think that perhaps the quest to make a difference begins with the simple yet eternal habits that one establishes in life.

So … here it is … you asked for it … well … maybe you didn’t ask for it but you are getting it anyway!

What It Takes to Make a Difference : Living Beyond Your Dash

1 – Smile.  The world is aching for someone with your smile.  Smile at babies … at strangers … at your family … at your enemies … at your best friend … at your spouse.

Smile in line at the grocery store … smile at the mailperson … smile at church … smile at stoplights … smile at work.

 

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2 – Say something kind to someone every single day. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, if you haven’t said something kind to someone, get out your phone and text someone a word of encouragement.  Then, turn your phone off and go to sleep!

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.” – Proverbs 19:22

3 – Be faithful.  If you say you are going to do it, do it.  Don’t make up excuses or try to wrangle your way out of a commitment.  Just do it.

4 – Tell the truth.  Don’t exaggerate, fabricate or fictionalize your words.  Be a man of woman of integrity every day of your life.  You will never regret it.

5 – Give something away once a month.  Buy a mug for friend … a book for a child … a bakery goody for a widow … a gift card for your pastor … a flower for your neighbor.  If you can’t afford to buy it – look through your stuff and find one of your favorite items and give it with joy! Your generosity will out live you!

6 – Laugh often and laugh easily.  Don’t be Scrooge, the Grinch and Cruella deVille all rolled into one prune-faced Christian.  Be a delight to be with! Be the kind of person that others just can’t get enough of.  My friend, John Mason, calls this being a contagious Christian!  I’m in … how about you?!

7 – Don’t talk about yourself.  Ask questions of others. I have learned that others are far more interesting than I will ever be.  Be an involved listener rather than a self-absorbed talker.

8 – Figure out what you do well … and then do it! If you are a writer, write.  If you are a gardener, garden well. If you are a servant, serve others with gladness.  If you are a giver, give liberally. If you are a mentor, gather young friends around you. If you are good with money, help others who aren’t.  Live in your sweet spot in life!

9 – Scatter joy wherever and whenever you goI would much rather be known for having too much joy than too little, wouldn’t you?! When you are going through a trial, it is then that your joy becomes the most valuable commodity that you own.  Don’t let anyone steal your joy!!

 

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10 – Read your Bible every day and apply its principles to your life.  Your Bible is God talking to you!  It is your Creator revealing His heart to you!  It is the will of God unfolded on the written page!  If you want to live a great life … then read the greatest Book ever written!  The Bible is not a “flat” book but it is a Book of miraculous transformation. The miracle begins the instant that you open it and begin to read!

11 – Pray more than you worry. Praying is NOT “worrying on your knees”.  Prayer is worship … it is communication … it is declaring the promises of God!

What’s on your list of how to make a difference?!  I’d love to hear from you!

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

This is the Time

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The days pass by so quickly, don’t they?  Just like that … there goes another one!

It seems like just yesterday that it was Christmas … and today we stand on the brink of sunshine, dandelions and Popsicle weather!

In my life, it seems as if the seasons have passed more quickly than the speed of light – have yours?

Surely I was just an enthusiastic teen-ager last month … a homesick college freshman perhaps a fortnight ago … a young bride last week … and certainly it was only yesterday morning that I was enjoying a quiver full of children in my home!

Today, my nest is empty, I have been married for 4 glorious decades and my delightful grandchildren are scattered from coast to coast.

The nerve of those children of mine … growing up and leaving me!

However … let me let you in on a little secret … my heart still feels like it is barely 26 … or maybe 28 … or at the very oldest … 32.

The date on my birth certificate somehow doesn’t match the grains of sand that have fallen through the sandglass of my heart.

When I look in the mirror – I still don’t see wrinkles even though they are there.  I continue to see potential.

When I get up in the morning … my joints might be a little slower to respond to life than they used to be … but after a few minutes of stretching there remains a spring in my step and purpose in my gait.

When I face another birthday … I don’t dread the coming year but I am just so thankful to be alive!

 

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Time … I must admit that I endure a “love-hate” relationship with you!

There is something about the measuring cup of “time” that seems to empty far too quickly for my liking.

How can my measuring cup of time already be more than half empty?! Where did it all go?

I think that the reason that this entity known as “time” is such a conundrum to human beings is because we weren’t made for time – we were made for eternity.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV

The world that we live in is our temporary home not our permanent destination.

The outer shell that we call our “body” wasn’t made to last forever – it was made to last for several decades but not for forever.

However, our hearts were fashioned for eternity!

The deepest, most precious part of our temporary life was made for eternity! What joy there is in that particular piece of knowledge!

No wonder there is a dis-connect between me and time … between life and time … between the memories that I have made and the commodity known as time!

I was made for eternity and for all the glory that it offers.

I wasn’t made for time but time was made for me by the God of eternity!

God has given me the majestic gift of time as a tasty hors d’oeuvres that only precedes all of eternity.

God, the Father, delivered the asset known as “time” to His creation in order to bequeath us with the priceless opportunity of choosing Him before we get to eternity.

Of serving Him! Of knowing Him! Of loving Him! Of worshiping Him!

 

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Time was meant to prepare me for eternity … and so I must spend every day, as the hourglass quickly sifts through its allotted amount of sand, in pursuit of eternity!

In pursuit of Him!

“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” – II Peter 3:8

I believe that as I involve myself in eternal pursuits that the Lord will grant me 1,000 years of impact in just a 24-hour period!

I believe that I am not a captive of time but that I have been made in the very image of the God of eternity!

No wonder I don’t “get” time … I was never meant to understand it or embrace it.

Time might say that I have been living over 6 decades … but God says that I ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

God says that I have only just begun to splash in His joy … dive into His hope … and taste His abundance!

There is definitely more of life ahead of me than behind me! So let’s get on with it … let’s get on with the business of tasting eternity this side of heaven.

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

March Gladness

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March is the month of windy days, of cool yet not biting temperatures and of the certain promise of spring. 

Sometimes March roars in like an angry lion but we are all hopeful that it will peacefully whisper out like a sweet lamb.

March is the temperate bridge that connects the icy days of winter to the glory that is spring!

March pushes winter into history and welcomes spring into miraculous reality.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

This month of March, that is sandwiched between the frigid hours of February and the sunny weeks of April, is famous for its kites, for its lengthening days and for hours and hours of basketball!

Basketball … did somebody mention basketball?! How did you know?!

My family has always had an addiction to college basketball.  We lived for 16 wonderful years just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and were absolutely intoxicated with the earthly delight of cheering on those North Carolina teams to victory.

Having had three athletic boys before finally giving birth to two little girls, the basketball rite of March became as familiar and dear to us as the perpetual pounding of orange spheres on our driveway … the vibrant roar of a crowd in our small town basketball gym … and the secret anxiety that filled our minds as we each filled out our brackets.

The media world calls it “March Madness” and the sports world refers to it as “The Big Dance”.  For the family McLeod who lived at 816 East Academy Street, it was simply an annual opportunity for family bonding, for cheering on our teams and for experiencing the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.

I am now older than the young mom of those exciting days and my rambunctious and competitive children have all grown and flown. In this quieter season of life, I have learned to enjoy the games of March with greater temperance and with much less angst. Even as I will be watching the Cinderella teams and the traditional champions on the hardwood, I wonder what teams my boys are cheering for.  You see, a mother’s heart never forgets.

A mother’s heart was made to remember all the traditions, the sayings and the experiences that happened in the house that her little brood called “home”.

I remember … but I must also look ahead.

I must tie my heart not to the memories of yesterday but to the calling in which I live today.  I must move ahead into these days of March with a song in my heart and with hope on my lips.

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I can remember sweetly but I must forge ahead bravely.

And so, this March, I have decided to sing a song of gratitude for the life that I have been given and for the hope that springs eternal.

In this season of my life, rather than focusing on the “madness” of March … my heart is tied to the “gladness” of March!  Each day, I am choosing to sing a song that has shaped me and that has laid a wonderful foundation for my faith.

“A mighty fortress is our God! A bulwark never failing!” #marchgladness

“It is no secret what God can do … what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you!” #marchgladness

“There is none like You! No one else can fill my heart like You do!” #marchgladness

“Through it all … through it all … oh I’ve learned to trust in Jesus … I’ve learned to trust in God!” #marchgladness

“Something good is going to happen to you … happen to you … happen to you!” #marchgladness

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Sweetest Name I know!” #marchgladness

What are the songs that have shaped your life?

I would love to hear from you and be reminded of the faith songs … the worship choruses … the stately hymns … the Gospel tunes … and the hopeful ballads … that have meant a lot to you over the years.

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How has God spoken to you through the lyrics of faith?

Would you join me in posting those lyrics on social media with the reference “#marchgladness”?

We are all ordinary folks who are trying to deal with the madness of life by tying our hearts to the gladness that only He brings! If there is one thing that the enemy will try to steal from your life, it is the song that you have been given to sing.

During these dreary days of March, I choose to sing louder!

Living on this bridge between the sweet memories of yesterday and all that is yet to come in the glory of tomorrow, I choose to sing!

Will you sing with me?

Honestly … I can’t wait to hear your song!  So sing louder!

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