If You See Me Coloring in Church

Copyright: Happy Color

Don’t freak out.

It seems I’m always learning new things about myself. Or perhaps, more accurately, I’m gaining more understanding about what I’ve known for years. In school I couldn’t just listen to lectures; I had to take notes. I may never look at them again, but they made all the difference between getting nearly nothing from the lecture and getting…well, maybe not everything, but certainly a whole lot more. Taking the notes, handwritten notes, helped my sometimes overactive brain focus on what I was hearing rather than running off in a hundred different directions.

So let’s head to church. Like most, I used to sit in a pew with my Bible in hand. I had to take notes, of course, but I eventually realized that I also had a secondary problem. Way too often, my eye would be caught by a verse near the one the minister had us reading and my self-propelled brain would dash off into thoughts about that verse, sometimes never to return to the ministry going on in front of me.

I tried all sorts of things through the years, eventually settling on restricting myself to a Bible app on my phone, thus limiting the rabbit trail options, but that only helped with part of the problem. Hand writing the notes wasn’t helping as much anymore, so I switched to taking notes on my phone. Switching between apps slowed me down and helped, but I still had trouble concentrating and retaining.

And then I had some fascinating conversations with a friend who has dealt with similar issues. She explained that she needed to be doodling or sketching while listening if she wanted to retain, that it helped her stay focused. I don’t sketch, but I do have a color-by-number app on my phone, so I dared to disobey tradition and open it during a sermon.

Oh

My

Word

It made all the difference! Being color by number, it’s a virtually mindless activity. It’s not enough to distract me from the message, but is enough to keep my eyes and hands occupied so that THEY don’t distract me from the message. It gives my antsy brain that one little bit of extra work required to make it settle down and actually concentrate on what’s being said.

Since I started doing this, I am more connected with Pastor’s messages than ever, take better sermon notes now than I have in a very long time, and leave service without the frustration that used to stalk me when I knew I’d missed too much. It is an absolutely amazing solution that works for me, and I’m so glad my friend helped me head in the right direction.

So if you see me coloring in church, don’t freak out; it’s a good thing.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Power of a Seed

A seed has an innate command to grow and, all things being equal, when it is planted it will obey that command. I’ve been thanking God for that fact this morning.

I’ve always thought I was raised serving God, but in reality I wasn’t, or not like one might think. When I was very young, we were in church, and seeds were planted. Then, for maybe a year or so while I was in junior high, we were in church again and more seeds were planted. And where regular church attendance is concerned that was it.

But seeds were still being planted. They may have been few, during conversations with my parents and grandparents, during that one week spent in Vacation Bible School, during Sunday morning Christian cartoons…. But they were being planted, and they grew, and they bore fruit, and I am where I am today.

So today I’ve been thanking God for each and every one of those seeds that were planted in my life. I’ve also been thanking Him for those seeds I’ve had the honor of planting in others’ lives.

Maybe I only managed to get one seed in the ground, one word about the love of God settled into someone’s heart during a brief conversation. I’ve been reminded today that even that one word can be enough.

Never discount the power of the words you get to plant as you speak into others’ lives, the power of your actions as you show God’s love. Even one seed can produce much fruit.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

God Wasn’t Done

In 1 Chronicles 6 we are reminded of the tribes Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. They were responsible for carrying the various parts of the Tabernacle from place to place.

Then Solomon built the Temple. So was God done with them, these faithful men who had carried the house of God through the desert and into Canaan? No. Absolutely not.

The change began in 1 Chronicles 6:31 when David assigned men from these three tribes to lead the music at the Tabernacle. Far from being finished with them, God was drawing them closer to Him and truly giving them even more responsibility-that of leading worshippers into His presence.

We could learn from these tribes. Sometimes we go through seasons when we think God is done with us, that there is nothing left in us that He can use. When we think that, we’re wrong.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

The Harvest Provides the Seed

Farmers today, when they’re ready to plant, either place an order online or dash down to the store, but it wasn’t always that way. 

In previous generations, a man bought seed to plant if he had to, but most farmers kept back seed from their own harvests and held it for the next season’s crops. This is where the phrase “Don’t eat your seed” comes from. If you ate your seed wheat, you had nothing to plant when the time came. 

In a beautiful cycle of sowing and reaping, it was the harvest that provided the seed. 

This law of sowing and reaping still works today. Give (plant seed), get a harvest, give (after returning the tithe of course), receive another harvest, give…

I’ve seen this process so much in my life, but especially in our church’s annual auction. This auction helps fund a variety of missions, outreaches, and assistance projects, and it holds my heart. That first year I had little I could give, but I gave it, and every year since God has enabled me to give even more, to raise even more funds.

Spiritually speaking, my harvest from the seed I sow one year provides seed for me to sow the following year. It’s a miraculous and beautiful thing, and I celebrate it just as joyously as any farmer celebrates successfully getting his fields planted and harvested on time. 

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Veil is Torn!

KJV

“The veil.” It wasn’t a simple thing like the sheer piece of fabric worn by a bride. This 60’ high, 4” thick curtain was massive, heavy, and effective. It separated man from God and God from man in a visible way just as completely as sin separated them spiritually. Yet it was torn, split down the middle when Jesus completed His work on the cross.

Only God could have torn it, and He did. In that action, He returned to us the right to enter into His presence. He began the process of drawing us ever closer to Him. It’s what He wants, what He wanted in the garden.

And then what happened? Man started trying to repair that veil. Think about how much work would have gone into repairing a FOUR INCH THICK piece of fabric.

But man is still trying to “repair” that veil today, drawing together threads made of rules, regulations, traditions, and even fears designed to separate man from God just as surely as the Temple veil separated them that morning before Jesus shouted, “It is finished!”

The veil was torn. Let’s leave it that way.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Love Languages Revelation

If you’re not familiar with Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, I encourage you to pick it up. It explains the five primary ways in which we show love to others (and, consequently, expect/need them to show love to us). It is a powerful tool in helping us learn to relate to and even minister to others.

A project at work (I’m a church secretary) has had me looking at the love languages again. I’ve known what my love language is for years, but have just had a revelation about it that rocked my world.

In my relationships with others, all others, I can look at my instinctive interactions with them in respect to my love language and get a very clear picture of how much I love them.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s been humbling. In less than 24 hours I’ve faced some pretty hard truths as I’ve realized there are certain groups of people around whom my love language shows up regularly, and a few others (with whom I’m very close) around whom I exhibit more selfishness than love.

So the revelation is this: My love language can act as a love thermometer. As I walk in love with others, I instinctively offer love in my own language. If I know their love language, I may intentionally offer love in theirs too, but mine will still be evident. If I don’t offer that love, I don’t love enough.

And THAT shows me where I have work to do in my own heart.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Three Hours to Go

It would be awesome if I could come up with something wise and wondrous to say about the new year and new decade.

I can’t.

In the past 24 hours I’ve spent quite a bit of time praying for multiple people who were in absolutely crazy and even dangerous situations. One of them even commented that it was as if 2020 decided to go out as insanely as it’s been.

No, I don’t expect things to change dramatically overnight, though I do look forward to the new. I’m just glad. I’m glad I’ve grown this year, instead of the opposite. I’m glad I’ve learned this year, instead of stagnating. I’m glad I’ve loved people this year, instead of…yeah.

I’m particularly glad that my God has been with me every step of the way, because He never leaves me or forsakes me. At one point this year, when I was having a rough moment, He said, “You never walk alone.”

Mic drop

That’s the answer, and I thank Him for it. Whatever comes in 2021, whether it’s as crazy as 2020 has been or is truly a whole new era, I’ll be ok because He is with me.

Happy New Year.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Christmas Memories

At church tonight, several people shared their favorite Christmas memories. Of course such things make me think, and I had an epiphany.

My two favorite memories are about getting “nothing.”

I don’t mean that literally, but close. The first was the Christmas after my mother left an abusive marriage. We had so little money that we had no Christmas decorations. On Christmas Eve, after my sister and I went to bed, Mother went to the tree lot and bought a little white-painted stick for next to nothing. Then she laid out our two small gifts each as if they’d come from Santa.

My dismay when I saw the “tree” on Christmas morning probably hurt Mother’s feelings, but the love I felt… We may not have gotten much, but we were grateful for what we got and were even more thankful for the fact that we were safe, secure, and together in our own home.

The other memory… I think I mentioned it here at some point. My favorite place to be, Christmas or not, was my grandparents’ home. They weren’t rich, but they made each of us feel like we were their favorite and always chose gifts they felt we would appreciate. That year my gifts were a pair of socks and a plastic dime store nativity scene snow globe. It spoke love to me, and still does today even though it was destroyed years ago.

As parents, we so often feel the need to produce for our children. Maybe, instead, we should take time to look at the memories that mean the most to us. I honestly remember very few gifts from my 58 Christmases, but I remember a skirt, a piece of candy, and a plastic snow globe – because they spoke of love.

Merry Christmas.

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

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