Is Your Light Flammable?

by Carol McCracken

… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NIV

At last, the position of acolyte was mine. My twelve-year-old self held the candlelighter aloft while clothed in the white robe. I wore my brand-new shoes: the high styling authentic clogs that were all the rage that season.

It took weeks for me to convince my mother to drive over to Eskill’s clog shop, which was just over the state line in Pennsylvania. She bought me those clogs with a slight roll of her eyes, even after she watched me clump around in the wooden shoes with no back to them. She was a kind mamma who understood my deep-seated need to fit in.

I stepped down in the historic all wood church and slid right out of my clog. Ungracefully, I tried to recover as the church members held their breath while my flame whipped ever closer to wood in all directions. Mortified, I finally managed to light the actual candles and slinked over to my seat, the echoes of clogging steps finally quieted.

This was not how I intended to let my so-called light shine. I wanted to serve the Lord and glorify him in style. Not set everyone and everything on fire. The song from my Sunday School days about letting my light shine came to mind:

“All around the neighborhood, I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.”

 I was pretty certain a flaming church is not what God had intended, however much the surrounding neighborhood would have noticed.

Thank goodness God understands twelve-year-olds! Jesus was once one. I would have preferred to amaze as Jesus did at twelve. He impressed everyone with His knowledge when, after His family left for home, He remained at the temple. My spiritual capacity was not nearly the same.

Yet God knew my light would shine better as I matured. I just needed to work on my relationship with the source of that light. It was not light for my own honor. The light was not to shine on me, but shine through me. God taught me that while there was nothing wrong with accessorizing my robe with cute shoes, my purpose was not to spotlight myself. The purpose instead, was to worship Him in all His glory. For He alone is worthy.

God is light. Any good deed I performed, whether gracefully or ungracefully was merely a reflection of His light. As a Jesus follower, my life should be a testimony to those who do not yet have the light.

As we receive these moments of grace, may we be a reminder to each other of how to genuinely glorify God when we let our light shine.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She currently serves on church staff as Adult Discipleship Minister. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily and Mustard Seed Ministries.

She published her book Wisdom: Where to Find It If You’ve Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It in November 2020. Connect with her at CarolMcCracken.com or on social media.

Join the conversation: How have you seen God’s light shine through others?

Not Just Your Lord

by Carol McCracken

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 (NIV)

When my son was six years old, my husband and I both worked full-time. Connor had a babysitter, Nikki, who loved the Lord. One summer she asked if Connor could attend her church’s Vacation Bible School. My husband and I heartily agreed.

After the first day, I picked Connor up from Nikki’s house and asked how VBS went. With a giggle, she told me Connor knew and loved his Lord. However, he had told her there was no reason for him to look for Jesus in her church because he knew Jesus lived and worked at his church. He did his best to correct Nikki’s theology. Nikki along with a group of her church’s VBS staff, finally convinced him to participate in the program by luring him with snacks and enticing playground equipment. They had four more days to work on him.

We tried so hard to make sure Connor loved God because God loved him first. Never wanting him to doubt God’s mutual love, we unintentionally taught Connor an exclusive relationship with the Lord. He understood his Heavenly Father knew his name, the number of hairs on his head, and that he was a masterpiece. We were delighted at how he took all of that in and deeply loved God back. However, it was clear we needed to teach Connor how to share Jesus, and to understand Jesus came for all His children.

While God wants us to have a personal relationship with Him, He also wants us to share His love with others. Connor had learned the greatest commandment of all quite well. He loved Jesus with all his little heart. That summer he also learned the second commandment, “…Love your neighbor as yourself“ (Matthew 22:39 NIV). Nikki and her church’s VBS staff showed some love to Connor. They brought that little boy to a fuller understanding of what Jesus wanted from us as His brothers and sisters.

A personal relationship with Jesus was never meant to be exclusive. Jesus has enough love for all of God’s children. He remains fully and divinely equipped to have a personal relationship with each one of us. Based on that, He wants us to put others before ourselves to show Jesus’ love to each other. That is a sacrificing kind of love like Jesus modeled in His earthly body.

Though Connor is our only child, we were reminded God has many children whom He loves equally. Thankfully, Connor learned to share that love of Christ. He came to realize Jesus as much bigger than he thought and not confined to living in a single brick and mortar church.

We were so grateful to those who used their gifts, such as Nikki along with the VBS staff, to help us raise our son to know the Lord correctly. Never underestimate the power or influence God gave you to share the love of Christ.

I took that thought to heart and volunteered to help with VBS at our church the next year. Apparently, I mortified Connor with my acting abilities as I taught all his fellow attendees from the stage. The following year, I showed the love of Jesus to others a bit more privately, teaching off the platform and in a small group, and he was able to hold his head up once again.

So, get out there and show the love of Jesus. For Connor and all other children, you could potentially mortify, but use your specific gifting in sharing Jesus’ love wisely. Just use it.

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She currently serves on church staff as Adult Discipleship Minister. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily and Mustard Seed Ministries. She published her book Wisdom: Where to Find It If You’ve Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It in November 2020. Connect with her at CarolMcCracken.com or on social media.

Join the conversation: What misconceptions about God have you had to correct in your children?

Disobedient Thoughts Escape Captivity in the Night

by Carol McCracken

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24 (NIV)

I reached down to transfer my wet laundry into the dryer and tugged at the tangled clothes which seemed anchored in the washing machine agitator. The agitator. How fitting.

It was 4:17 AM and the wrestling match of trying to sleep was continuing for a second night in a row. My ruminating thoughts were obsessing anxiously on things that did not make me proud. Prior to doing laundry, when I had stumbled into the kitchen to feed my coffee addiction, the Keurig had begun my agitation by jamming.

Too much testing already. Passing any test was highly unlikely at this point.

Something wasn’t right in my spirit, and it appeared my sleep deprivation was the open door to self-examination. But I didn’t want to examine my heart. I already knew negative thoughts occupied real estate in my brain. The more I stuffed them, the more disquieted my spirit became.

The irony of my recent book publication on wisdom taunted me. Though the launch team had given me great feedback, I felt far from wise. I instead battled spiritual darkness along with the darkness of the night.

I climbed back in bed with a pen, paper, and my gratitude journal and wrote, “God loves me even with my ruminating, obsessive, not-able-to-sleep thoughts.”  I added, “God will search my heart and correct and center me as needed when I ask.”  Interesting. I had never asked God to search my heart.

It isn’t as if He didn’t already know what was in my heart; the exercise would be for me to see what was there. So, since sleep was evidently not on my agenda, and with plenty of time for self-examination, it was time to get to work. Looking through my gratitude journal, one reflection stood out: “Think of all God’s blessings–His salvation, hope, wisdom…we can look to God…ask for His wisdom.”   I had written on this very thing.

So, I asked for His wisdom, and He gave me this verse: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). I began to write down those thoughts that were running rampant in my head while sleep escaped me. Those tangled, agitating thoughts, some of which escaped understanding. Some of which I was afraid to see.

Over time, God revealed issues I would have to keep bringing before Him because only He could heal them. And He opened my eyes to some lies from the enemy my heart believed– some big insecurities.

Perhaps that’s why God had Paul use the pronoun “we” in that verse. It is not in our power alone to make our thoughts obedient to Christ. Willpower is not enough. It is for us to lean into Jesus’ power to help us. We may be reminded that working with Jesus in that way, can be a process. Avoiding a heart search or a test keeps us in potential captivity when Jesus can release us with His help. That’s wisdom. His wisdom rather than our human wisdom.

Oh, the dryer just buzzed. Apparently, the benefit of a good spiritual cleansing is clean laundry before dawn. Clean heart. Clean laundry.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She currently serves on church staff as Minister of Discipleship. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA Associate and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily, and Mustard Seed Ministries. Her new book, Wisdom: Where To Find It If You’ve Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It released in November 2020.

Join the conversation: What damaging thoughts plague you in the dark of night?

Trial, Not by Fire, but Almost Everything Else

by Carol McCracken

Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.                                                                      James 1: 2 NIV

Her wedding dress, which had begun at thirty pounds, now weighed at least fifty.

A tropical storm was making landfall soon, and the rain bands had toyed with the venue all day. As her wedding planner, I knew chances of the planned outdoor ceremony were slim. But God had just given us a forty-five minute rain-free window. The surface under the decorated arch where the bride and groom stood was wet with residue, which the bride’s gown had absorbed. Unfazed, she grabbed her groom’s hand and recessed victoriously down the aisle.

I’ve seen many weddings with challenges, but this one was an extreme. The ironic thing was the bride and groom met when a tropical storm canceled a concert they had separately planned to attend. They met when pouring out their sorrows about that with mutual friends. Without a tropical storm to start things, they never would have crossed paths. And now here was another.

In the last months of planning, a global pandemic paralyzed the economy. Multiple crises occurred, one after the other. Carefully made plans were repeatedly derailed. She had shed many a tear, but with the quiet support of her groom, she always rallied.

As the world seemed to settle, it was decided to move forward with the wedding. But the bride called me in tears yet again when half the groomsmen’s suits didn’t arrive. The resulting customer service was abysmal, and the bride seemed ready to jump off the proverbial ledge.

Now a tropical storm loomed in the Gulf. The venue staff graciously offered to postpone the wedding. She turned the offer down, saying she was going down the aisle with her fiancé no matter what. Now, with all those trials and troubles behind her, the bride waved her bridal bouquet in triumph. She had just married her love and wanted the world to know it.

We will all none-too fondly will remember 2020, because we faced trials of all kinds, forcing us all to navigate uncharted territory. Not that we should be surprised at hardship: take a look at what James wrote at the top of this page. Notice, he didn’t say if, but when trials come. God tests our faith. This is not for His benefit; He already knows what is in our hearts. I think He does it to help us see where our faith really lies.

Some of us got mean. Some of us gave up. Some of us searched for answers in the wrong places. Our bride felt forces were against her as she tried to plan her special day. But amid the challenges, when the going got tough, she refused to postpone the wedding because she loved her groom and wanted to walk down that aisle in front of God and everyone. She stood before God in faith and thanked Him.

Are we as steadfast when difficulties appear or plans are canceled or postponed? Are we trusting in the circumstances we see around us rather than in a faithful God who holds all matters in His hands? God may be using the difficulties you are experiencing to help you see where you have placed your faith.

God loves us and wants us to face the tests by turning to Him in trust. He will reward the faithful in the end.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NASB

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Trial, Not by Fire, but Almost Everything Else – encouragement from Carol McCracken on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She has been on church staff in Leadership Development and Women’s ministry for over 30. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA Protégé and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily, and Mustard Seed Ministries. She is currently working with an editor on another Women’s Bible study.

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you through the trial of the Covid crisis?

Traffic, Walmart, and Wedding Planning with God

By Carol Ogle McCracken

I hate sitting in traffic. In fact, I even don’t like any cars ahead of me that I can’t see around when I drive. If you are in the left lane and another car comes up behind you, move over. Don’t bottleneck traffic.

I think I just petted my pet peeves. Where I live in a condo on the beautiful Gulf Coast, the population is growing. It’s a whole different world than when I was a young and could go where I wanted without aggravation.

I just got back from Walmart. Due to the lack of food in my condo, I had been forced to go shopping. No one would get out of my way. I had planned to go straight in and straight out, since I really didn’t even want to be there. I had other things to do.

Sometimes all that planning gets in the way of what God has for me. I can get out in front of God and subconsciously wait for Him to catch up. It’s almost like I have made plans and now look for Him to bless them. While these plans may not be bad in themselves, they may not be the exact things God wants me to do.

I really can’t help it sometimes. Owning a wedding planning company has me planning for a living. So it’s easy to slide into the routine of timelining a project and preparing for any contingency I can think of.  What if it rains?  What if the divorced parents of the groom come together and fight? What if the bride cries her make up off, and she hasn’t done her pictures yet?  I plan how to use both my time and others’.

God doesn’t necessarily have a problem with planning, but He wants to be involved from the beginning. “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).  That interruption may be His provision, a divinely appointed opportunity to minister or be ministered to. Yes, He might want us to accept an interruption from our plans, because He has something different in mind.

God alone is the sovereign king who sees the big picture and how we fit into it. He wants us to be open to his leading and not do the leading ourselves.

How can we be open to God’s leading? By investing in our relationship with Him. Just like any other relationship, we must make the effort to get to know the other person. Trust comes with that. It may seem hard to get to know an invisible being. God knew that and sent his Son to earth to show us what God is like, so we could relate to Him and learn about Him. Jesus did exactly what God told Him to do. Even to the point of death on the cross.

So, pray for God to make you aware of Him. Be open to His leading. (Maybe there is someone at Walmart He wants you to talk to!) God wants a relationship with you. He loves you so much that He gave His Son to make that relationship with Him possible. Clear the distractions of your plans, share some time with Him, and get to know His voice.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,  but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 NIV

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Traffic, Walmart, and Wedding Planning with God – insight from Carol McCracken on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

carol mccrackinAbout the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years.  She has been on church staff in Leadership Development and Women’s ministry for over 30.  Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world.  She is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us and is currently working with an editor on a women’s Bible study.

Join the conversation: Has God ever interrupted your plans? What happened?