Suck It Up

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I love succulents! They are amazing in so many ways; one of my favorites is their ability to suck up water when it rains and store it for use during dry seasons.

I want to be like that! I want to stay full of the Holy Spirit, full of the Word of God, and full of love so that dry seasons, times of trials and troubles, don’t catch me unprepared. Yes, I may take a beating and look less than my best in the midst of the battle, but when it’s over I’ll still be standing!

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

My Thorn

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his “thorn in the flesh.” Theologians have tried to determine what that “thorn” was for centuries. Other than what we learn from Scripture, that he felt it was to keep him from pride, we don’t know that much.

We do know that Paul repeatedly asked God to remove this affliction, but God simply reassured him: “My Grace is sufficient.”

I am Paul. I have a thorn too. It’s called anxiety. Now, I am well aware that bi-polar disorder and depression are issues in my family. I get the science. I also know that my childhood was particularly anxiety-triggering, so I get the psychology.

Several years back, I spent about three months on an antidepressant, and twice in my life I’ve had to keep anti-anxiety medication at hand for those times when it got out of control. As a Christian, I hate this. Like Paul, I feel like I should be able to pray the right prayer or quote the right Scripture and it be gone forever, but I’ve learned it doesn’t always work that way.

“My Grace is sufficient,” God said…and still says. The Word also says, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, that God will cause all grace to abound towards me so that I will have every sufficiency for every good work. And this “every good work” may well be the key.

I heard something the other day that struck me: “Good lumber doesn’t come with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees.” Hearing that woke me up, in a sense. It’s the battles that make us stronger. Paul was a mighty man of God, strong and fearless. Why? Because he’d fought many battles – and won many battles. I think that thorn in the flesh, or rather his ongoing war with it, helped keep him spiritually strong.

And I think the same thing is true about me. Like Paul’s thorn, the anxiety is an almost ever-present thing. I’m constantly at war with it, fighting and winning most of my battles, and losing a few. It’s intentionally, purposefully, faithfully fighting those battles that helps me grow stronger spiritually.

Knowing that I deal with this, and must DEAL with it rather than whine about or ignore it, keeps me aware of the importance of not letting my guard down, of staying vigilant and being careful to properly tend to both body and spirit.

Do I like waging a constant battle with it? Not on your life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do appreciate, however, is the way God uses something that originated in the pits of hell to help me become stronger in so many ways.

God’s grace is sufficient.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Oh Lord

I come to you as a child of the church. Some of my earliest memories center around Sunday school and the sanctuary. We weren’t always in church over the years, but we were there enough that I accepted Jesus in the summer after sixth grade.

On that day, at summer camp, in a chapel by a lake, I accepted Him as my Savior. It was years before I accepted Him as my Lord.

You hear the question all the time: “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” And you hear others answer, “Yes.” It seems you especially hear them answer affirmatively if they were raised in church like I was – because that’s the response you’re expected to give.

In actuality, though He was undeniably my Savior and I knew it in the depths of my soul, I had no clue what it even meant to accept Him as Lord. Worse, I didn’t know there was a difference. I guess I figured “Lord and Savior” was all the same thing. But…lordship?

I knew what it meant to follow the guidelines I was taught in church.

I knew what it meant to obey the rules laid down at home.

But Jesus as Lord? I didn’t even know what a lord was, or not until I started studying certain historical time periods.

Throughout history, the lord of the estate or region was the one who ruled – similar to a king, but on a much more personal level. If he were a good lord, he kept his eye on you, saw to it that you had what you needed to get your work done, knew if you were sick… He accepted a certain level, a high level, of responsibility for you.

And you? If you truly accepted him as your lord, you obeyed him and submitted completely to his authority. You made sure you knew what he expected of you and you did it. You learned what pleased him and tried to make him happy. You were his and he was yours, and you considered it an honor to serve him.

It was after gaining this understanding that I began to grow up as a Christian. Jesus’ question in Luke 6:46 is relevant, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” Here is reality; it’s one thing to say He is your Lord. It is another thing entirely to live with Him as your Lord. Honestly, it seems that most Christians today don’t even know what He says. How, then, can they let Him be Lord? So…

Number 1: We learn what He says. The very first thing we have to do, of course, is start listening to Him. Read the Word and truly pay attention to it. Pray and genuinely listen to what He has to say to you. Be in the church He calls you to and let the minister He has set there guide you as you learn.

Number 2: Act on what He says. Always do what He says, and put forth every effort to please Him. Remind yourself continually that He was never supposed to be only your Savior, but also your Lord.

Accepting Jesus as your Savior requires a heart change and a declaration. Accepting Jesus as your Lord requires action – continual, faithful, intentional action.

Salvation is free, but accepting His Lordship requires effort – an investment of time, heart, intentions, and actions.

But oh, the rewards on that investment!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Don’t Just Read

Inspire Bible – NLT

When I first started actively serving God, I thought I was doing great just to read a few verses every once in a while. I loved it when what I was reading fell in line with things I was experiencing or what ministers were teaching me. Even so, all too often it was ONLY reading.

By that, I mean that… It’s hard to know how to express it. I had trouble making connections, probably because I didn’t have much of a scriptural foundation. I also found myself reading, and then forgetting what I’d read. It was frustrating.

Things changed when I started using tools. Bible studies helped me make connections, and those connections helped me remember. Learning that it was ok to write in my Bible also made a huge difference because those notes reminded me of things I’d already learned. I considered dipping my toes into tried-and-true Bible commentaries because I knew that’s what a lot of wise people did, but the very thought intimidated me for some reason.

Now, with smart phones, things have changed. We have even more access to tools, and my current favorite, the Through the Word Bible app, has revolutionized my Bible experience. You can simply listen to the app, which is how I started, and it’s great. For months, it was my go-to for my drive to work.

I then moved on to first reading and making my own notes and highlights, then listening to the commentaries and making more notes. I’ve read these verses who knows how many times, but I’m getting more out of my reading today than I ever have before.

Yeah, I don’t just read anymore. I’ve changed the way I experience the Bible, and the Bible is changing me in increasingly greater ways.

We will live by the Word forever – starting right now. Don’t just read it; make it yours so that it can change you into who God wants you to be.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Hindsight and the Future

How many adults, with twenty twenty hindsight, wish they had given more while in high school…or in college..had put more effort into preparing themselves for their unknown future? Hindsight serves one important purpose; it helps us learn which mistakes to not make next time.

And there is a next time. We were put on this earth just as we were put in school – to prepare ourselves so that we will be ready to live the future that waits for us in Eternity. It is our responsibility, while we are here, to develop the closest possible relationship with God and to learn His Word, which we will live by forever.

My memories of school, and all the things the adult me would have done differently, help keep me aware of this truth. While I do forget and deviate from my preferred path on occasion, I try to continually be growing in the things of God, learning all I can about His Word and His will for my life, and getting just as close to Him as I can. I don’t want to just make it through the ultimate graduation; I want to excel now so that God can use me exactly the way He wants to in the next phase of my life.

Life is the childhood of our immortality. -Goethe

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

No King but King Jesus

I just completed my study of the book of Judges, which ends with some of the saddest words in the Bible: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

The last few chapters illustrate the utter depravity Israel sank into after Joshua died. It’s horrific, and I cannot help but see a parallel.

“No king but King Jesus!” is a phrase associated with the American revolution, a heart cry that made its mark on our nation’s founding documents. Letting God reign made a difference at our founding as it did at Israel’s founding.

In the book of Judges, we see that when God is removed from His rightful position things go south because people are left to do whatever seems right to them. This is where we are in the US today. Moral relativism rules and depravity dominates – and the failure started in the heart of the Christian just as surely as, in the book of Judges, it started in the hearts of the Israelites.

If there is to be any hope for our nation as a whole, it starts with us. We Christians MUST put Jesus back on the throne of our hearts, letting Him rule. Then, and only then, will we be in position to be the light of the world so others can be drawn to God. Then, and only then, can we hope to experience a moral revolution in this nation we love.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Focus on Forever

Photograph by Tammy Cardwell

What makes a person love their job?

Admittedly, there are myriad answers to that question, but for me, at least in recent decades, the answer is motivation.

I loved writing for homeschool magazines, editing the Eclectic Homeschool & the Eclectic Homeschool Online, writing books, speaking at conferences and smaller meetings…and I currently very much value my position as full-time church staff.

So many facets of those various “jobs” brought and bring me joy that I could write yet another book. The biggest thing, though, is that all of these have given me the opportunity to help people understand what’s really important, the one thing that matters most in all of our lives.

Eternity

In the homeschool world, I helped parents find curriculum, figure out creative ways to teach history, and more, but the common thread that wove through everything I said and did was one question. “How important will this issue be a thousand years from now?” I rejoiced every time I made a personal connection that allowed me to ask it.

In the church world, I get to help with almost every facet of ministry. Much of my work is entirely practical, like ensuring we have donuts for Sunday morning fellowship, that flyers are grammatically correct, and that the membership database is doing its job, but these practical tasks give me opportunity to build relationships that enable me to ask the most important question. “Are you so focused on today that you’re forgetting that what really matters is eternity?”

Putting our lives into their proper perspective, realizing that everything we choose to do, say, or even think today will have an effect on not only our own, but others’ eternity is vital. Eternity is always pertinent to today. Always, because we’re already living in it whether we realize it or not.

So I’ll say again what I’ve been saying for decades. Turn your focus on forever. Look way down the road to your ultimate destination so that temporal distractions can’t turn you aside. Base today’s decisions on how the results will impact things a thousand years from now.

Focus on forever, because forever is too long to be wrong.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Don’t Let the Devil Win

EDIT: This post has already hurt one friend. I don’t want it to hurt more, so let me clarify.

What I say here is ME owning what God is holding ME accountable for. I’m in the full-time ministry. That means I have certain spiritual necessities that are non-negotiable. I failed. I paid. I repented. I’m getting back up.

I am NOT saying that someone who gets COVID gets it because they fail spiritually any more than I’m saying they get it because they fail to wear a mask.

And I’m stopping here. I don’t know if this brain can make it any clearer right now

=====

Long COVID Post shamelessly copied and pasted from my Facebook page.

I’ve been absent because I was in Purgatory. (My Catholic friends, please forgive me, but seriously…)

So here’s the deal.
I use wisdom.
I’ve been actively building my immune system for 11 months.
I compulsively wash my hands anyway.
I naturally socially distance.
I wear a mask when I must.
I have NO idea where I would have picked it up, or from whom, because the only people I came into contact with who were positive had it too long ago.

Nonetheless, my test came back positive and this second go ‘round (Yup, I KNEW this was what I had in March!) has been a doozy. I’m just now entering recovery mode, and I thank God I am. I’m sure the main reason it was so bad is that I was already sick when I got sick, but whatever…

Ok… laughing at myself here. I had a plan when I started typing, but it’s gone. The brain thing…it’s part of the problem. It’s starting to work again, but…

Shoot.

Oh! Yes!

Christians, this message is for you.
We’re in a spiritual battle, and the enemy is using this virus in an attempt to tear us down and tear us apart. He’s all about DIVISION, and I have never seen him be so successful as he has been in recent months. I’ve seen friends, loving Christian friends, turn on each other so badly that I came away with my heart torn. I’ve seen judgement and ridicule and attack and…

But look at me. I’ve actively done it RIGHT on a purely natural level. Yet I got COVID.

However, I have NOT done it totally right on a spiritual level, and frankly I’m thinking that I – and I alone – am responsible for me getting sick.

I have a habit of spending time in the Word daily – except in recent weeks when this and that interfered and I…wasn’t.

I have a daily habit of declaring God’s Word over myself and those I love – except in recent weeks when I kept forgetting to do it.

I have a habit of “praying without ceasing” and legit staying in pretty constant conversation with God – except in recent weeks when… boy, is this humiliating.

I forgot that I am a soldier on the battle field.
I lowered my shield.
I dropped my sword.
I turned my back on the enemy.

And he stabbed me in the back just like he is trained to do.

I am COVID positive, finally starting the road to recovering from some of the worst physical agony I’ve experienced in years, and I have no one to blame but myself.

It didn’t happen because someone else didn’t wear a mask or wash their hands. It happened because this warrior forgot what she was.

Stay alert, my fellow soldiers. Don’t let the devil get a blade in. Don’t let the devil bring division to our ranks. We’re here for a reason and we have a job to do.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Reading Through the Bible

I originally posted this on Facebook two years ago today. When it showed up in my memories, I decided it needs to be shared again. The Bible is IMPORTANT my friends.

Reading through the Bible is powerful, especially reading through it quickly enough that you still remember previous books while reading the current one. Im always in the process of a readthrough, though some have taken me longer than others – this time being one of those.

So I’ve set a goal of finishing my current Bible readthrough by mid September, forcing me to read more every day. Reading so much so fast makes a lot of things more clear, and in this case it has forcefully reminded me of two things I already knew, two vitally important things that we should all bear in mind.

  1. God DESPISES pride. Repeatedly, you see people being called down for their actions, but God forcefully makes it clear on myriad occasions that the root of those evil actions is pride. People often misquote one verse as “pride goeth before the fall.” That’s bad enough, but in reality that portion of the verse reads, “pride goeth before DESTRUCTION.” You can recover from a fall, but destruction? Pride is, literally, the devil’s sin – and he “generously” shares it with us so we can join him in destruction.
  2. It’s all about bringing glory and honor to God’s holy name. MANY times in Scripture, God rescued or promoted or chose to delay punishing His people not because they deserved it, but to protect His reputation. “Hallowed be Thy name,” is not just four words in a model prayer. We truly need to do our best, behave always in a manner that reflects that holiness, that brings glory and honor to Him.

Read your Bible. It’s the most awesome book on the planet.

Read the whole thing, from cover to cover. It will open your eyes like they’ve never been opened, and every time you read it through you’ll grow more than the time before.

Read it from cover to cover as fast as you can at least once. It will revolutionize your walk in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

I was going to quit, but think about it. If you were to read a novel the way most of us read the Bible, a line here and there, you’d never grasp the whole story. Even if you read a novel the way most read through the Bible, you’d read maybe a page a day. How much of page/day 12 would you still remember on page/day 332? Not much.

But if you read through the Bible like you read through a novel, you REMEMBER, and you start seeing connections you’ve never seen before. It’s legit mind blowing, my friends!

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Ditch the Judgmental Attitudes

from Last-days Survival Guide, by Rick Renner

The above quote is from chapter two of Rick Renner’s Last-days Survival Guide (phenomenal book), and I shouted when I read it. I used to be a judgmental person, and let me tell you…I’m a lot happier and more productive since I got a grip.

There’s not really any need for me to add to this. As he says, “You must free your heart of judgmental attitudes if you are to be a person God can use to help people who are in need.”

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C