Quiet Time

I’ve never cared for the phrase “quiet time” in reference to my time spent with God. It seemed, somehow, to cheapen that time, to make it less than it really is.

I’ve changed my mind. No real surprise there; it happens.

“Quiet Time” is, actually, the perfect phrase for what I need the most. When I come to meet with God, it is imperative that I shut out the world and, more importantly, shut out the intrusive thoughts that try to interfere with our meeting. This recent revelation is very much like the one I had before writing “Sacrifice of Praise.” God wants my complete attention, and for Him to have it I need quiet. Yes, literal quiet is bliss, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here.

I can’t simply snatch a few moments out of my day and say, “Here, God, these are yours!” True, He and I are talking all day long, but that’s not the same thing. Just like it’s unhealthy (emotionally as well as physically) to eat every meal on the run, it’s spiritually unhealthy to try to develop my relationship with God constantly on the run. We need to sit down together, really dig into the conversations He wants to have while my eyes and heart are focused totally on Him.

So I set aside time. I reserve time for Him and do my best to let nothing interfere with it. In my case, it really is best when I do this first thing in the morning because the “noise” gets so loud later in the day that it grows increasingly difficult to stop what I’m doing, drop all my cares to the floor, and meet Him with a quiet spirit. When I meet with Him first thing in the morning, it also sets the stage for a totally different day. I can literally feel the difference as I drive to work on those days I fail to truly sit down and spend time with Him.

What triggered these thoughts? It’s something Priscilla Shirer says in her devotional, Awaken (which I reviewed here). On Day 27, she shares about what she calls “Sabbath margin.”

“It is the Spirit-empowered choice to cease striving and enjoy our God. It is the margin that reminds us He is in full control. It is the peace that comes in the midst of all that whirlwind and flurry of activity. Sabbath is what beats our lives into submission, giving us the breathing room for getting our sanity back. We cannot afford to neglect the Sabbath principle.”

Priscilla Shirer, Awaken, 2017

Sabbath is about rest. It is about getting quiet and focusing on the eternally important rather than the temporarily pressing. So… Quiet spirit, quiet atmosphere (Thank God I actually have that now!), quiet thoughts… Quiet Time. I get it.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Seed in Your Hands

This sculpture is one of my prized possessions, both because of the ones who gave it to me and the truth it speaks.

The seed in these hands represents the seed in my hands; it represents all I have to offer. The truth is, I don’t even know the limits of what I have to give to others. As a Christian, of course when people talk about planting seeds, one of the first things you think about is financial seeds, but that is only part of what we are to be sowing. And the fact is, know it or not, we’re sowing seeds on a pretty constant basis.

This blog is a seed. My book is a seed. My Facebook group is a seed. But so are those times I spend watching a friend’s toddlers so she can have a minute in the bathroom alone. So is the trash I pick up so someone doesn’t have to, and the cart I return to its place for the same reason…and to potentially protect other cars. So is the grace I give the person who realizes at the last minute that they meant to go right instead of left. So is the smile I give the tired fast food worker. They’re all seeds.

And then there are those other seeds. There is that flash anger at the person who cuts me off, and impatience when the checkout line is too slow. There is the sharp word spoken in a burst of momentary frustration, and the intentional avoiding of someone I’m not in the mood to deal with. There is the seed of being slow to respond when someone asks for help, and saying, “No” when I could easily say, “Yes.” Not that I’m admitting to any of these, of course; they’re just examples…right?

Seeds are seeds, and it is in the nature of the seed to reproduce itself. Were I to plant one of the corn seeds that this statue holds, all things being equal it would grow into a corn stalk and produce a lot more corn seeds that I would then harvest. If I wanted corn, that would be an awesome thing.

But what if corn was something I specifically didn’t want? What then? Well, I’d make sure I didn’t plant that seed!

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

Which returns me to the point of the seed-holding statue. My hands are full of seeds that, if I plant them, will definitely come back to me in far greater measure than what I planted. Remember the 30, 60, 100-fold return? Yeah, if I’m mean and ugly, I will get mean and ugly back – probably at the 100-fold level. (Note to Self: Not the seeds I want to sow!) If I’m patient and loving, I will definitely get patient and loving back – hopefully at the 100-fold level.

The seed is already there, in your hands. Sort through it, determine what you do and do not want to harvest, and make sure you only plant the good stuff.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

She Lived Love

This is Granny’s hens and chickens plant.

I mean that literally. Because of the way it propagates, it really is the very same plant my grandmother tended from the time I was little. I cannot express how happy I was the day those first starts came into my hands. No, she didn’t physically touch this specific part of the plant, but that doesn’t matter; her touch was there in the beginning. She’s part of it, and it represents the fact that, though I won’t see her again until Heaven, she’s still with me.

This isn’t the only way she’s still with me, of course. Much more importantly, her touch was there in the beginning for me too. Granny touched my life by living Jesus in the most everyday, practical ways. Did she preach? No. Was she constantly reading her Bible? Not that I recall. Did she make a point of sharing Jesus with me every time we were together? Uh uh. So what did she do?

She loved.

Yes, I knew that she belonged to God and had a relationship with Him, but rather than preach to me about Him, she dealt with me as gently as she did with this plant. She tended to my needs. She cared for me. She lived love for me. She never preached a sermon, but she lived a sermon every day of her life. The very fact that I’m where I am today is due in part to her prayers and her faithfulness to live love.

We need more of that.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

A Different Kind of New Year’s Post

I listen to the clock ticking, and it is a comforting sound. Why?

Silence.

For the first time in many years, the house is silent – no 24-7 TV, no…

Well, I had something else in mind when I wrote the first sentence. I wasn’t at all going to head in this direction, but it’s time. It’s the end of the year for the rest of the world, but the end of an era for me…and I’m ready to shed some things. Maybe, hopefully, my story will encourage others.

Long story a little shorter, I spent decades married to a narcissist. I was in denial most of the time, and though it never really felt right I accepted it as my inevitable normal.

Mind you, there were times in his life (definitely in the last few weeks) when he was right with God, or so I believe. It’s hard to tell because narcissists have a gift for looking like awesome people from the outside. Their spouses and children, though… they pay the price. All things – every, single, thing – revolve around the desires of the narcissist, and they are only “generous” and “thoughtful” when others are looking on and can be impressed. Pretty much nothing matters but them and their happiness. Oh, and anything that goes wrong is inevitably someone else’s fault.

So, if you know the story of my husband’s disabilities, you can imagine how hard the last several years have been. He lost the tight control he’d always held, so he worked even harder in other areas like emotional manipulation and what I’ll call “practical punishment” – such things as trashing the house any time I wasn’t at home. Because, well, his situation was my fault.

There have been good moments. I know there have been, but they are so overshadowed by years of…everything from emotional abuse and infidelity to threats of self-harm, yelling, and ridiculous accusations that those memories are not readily accessible – and I’m not inclined to go digging.

He passed away 3 months ago tomorrow, and every single day of those three months I’ve thanked God for giving me the chance to live the life man is supposed to live. The word for my life right now is “Freedom.”

I’ve survived…no, thanks to God I’ve thrived through over thirty years of pretty much every kind of abuse but physical abuse. With God’s promise of forever, I’ve been able to face each day knowing that “this too shall pass.” Speaking honestly here, it did not kill me; it made me stronger.

The joy of the Lord – both the joy He has given me as I’ve focused on seeking Him through the years and His joy in me – has been my strength. My faith is where it is not in spite of, but because of the battles I’ve fought.

And now?

Now my home is silent enough that I hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. Today, I know continual peace even in the midst of new-widowhood challenges. Today, I know happiness on a level I’ve not seen since I was a child. As one confused friend recently expressed it to my sister, I glow.

So I’m leaving 2022 with a great sense of gratitude, and looking to 2023 with a special kind of hope and expectation.

I’m listening to the clock on the wall with a smile on my face.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

To our friends who thought you knew Jack, I’m sorry you had to learn this. I’ve spent three months letting most people think I’m just relieved not to be the primary caregiver of a very ill person…and I’ve felt like a hypocrite. I’m tired of hiding behind the lies of our life together.

What Do You Have in the House?

In II Kings 4, a widow approached Elisha for help and he asked her an odd question, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” All she had was a jar of oil, but God used that jar of oil to work a mighty miracle. We humans tend to overlook what God has already given us, considering it to be “not enough.” Her oil was definitely not enough – until God touched it.

If you read yesterday’s review of Priscilla Shirer’s devotional, Awaken, it shouldn’t surprise you that the following thoughts were triggered by Day 2. And of course I had to apply them to me.

Experiencing the Bible is my jar. The oil is the gift of words and my joy in them (especially my joy in THE Word).

I’d begun a much simpler version of the book years ago. I kept putting it down, and God kept bringing me back to it. This year, I finally finished and published it. I asked God about marketing, but He told me not to worry about it. The point, at that time, truly was obedience.

Then, on October 1st, my husband passed away, taking his income with him, and suddenly I was the widow going to God saying, “I can’t do this on my own. I have to have Your help!” He pointed to the “jar on the shelf” and told me to get started. He has truly been my ever-present help in recent months, supplying my needs in consistently miraculous ways, but He’s also kept me moving forward with a vision that has grown far beyond anything I’d imagined.

In the midst of this my son, who owns Pixel Drip Studio, offered to create a full website to replace this simple blog. That started a conversation, and plans, and ideas that triggered a lot of action. So here I am, pouring out the oil. To the print book, I added first an ebook and then a journal. I’m already looking to the next book…actually, the next two. I’m also studying marketing, newsletters, social media and more.

God gives us all gifts, talents, and abilities, providing us with “jars of oil.” Then it’s up to us to pour out the oil and sell it for a profit. It took the widow time, effort, and humility to go borrow all those vessels from her neighbors and then fill them. Too, it generally requires the help of others, both her neighbors and her son in her case, and my son…both of them actually…in mine.

It can also take walking in obedience in advance. Had I not finished Experiencing the Bible when God told me to, it wouldn’t have been sitting on the shelf when I needed it.

So I’ll repeat Priscilla’s question from Day 2. What are some of the “jars of oil” you might be overlooking right now that He’s already provided?

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

In the Between Time

I was asked, recently, what I do during the week between Christmas and New Years. My answer? I clean house.

I do mean this partially in the literal sense. The tree comes down, boxes get recycled, etc., but that’s just the beginning. For me, this is a time of transition. I don’t want to wait for January 1 to start making changes; I plan for those changes now.

Spiritually, it means spending a lot more time talking to God about how things have gone this year and how He wants me to change things for next year. It means assessing my habits, heart, and hindrances to my walk as well as my successes and all of the progress I’ve made. And it means thanking Him a LOT for all He’s brought me through and the promising vistas I see ahead of me. It means setting my spiritual goals and making plans for how I can accomplish them.

In the physical, it means getting my office in order so I’m better prepared to grow increasingly serious about my writing and the business of Tammy Cardwell Publishing. I’ve been organizing and spray painting (The easiest solution when expensive solutions aren’t an option.) and organizing some more. I’m also studying. Merciful heavens, but there is a LOT to learn right now!

And, with the help of my ever-creative, genius son (Pixel Drip Studio), I’m working on a whole new website that will include this blog and a lot more. He’s pushing me, and I love it. This morning he was tossing out words like “timeline” and “milestones.” I’m 60 years old now and #owning60. I’m proof that you’re never too old to launch into something new.

So… What does your between time look like?

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

My Heart Hurts

Our church had an outreach this past Sunday. We took loaded stock trailers and trucks carrying hundreds of bikes and toys into 8 or 9 different neighborhoods so we could bless as many kids as we could reach. It was amazing. I saw so much gratitude, so many tears, and such excitement on kids’ faces. And, oh, how fun it was to watch dozens of blissfully excited children riding their brand new bikes!

And then there were the ones who weren’t raised like I was. I was taught that when you are given a gift you show gratitude. It didn’t matter if I absolutely hated the gift I was given. I wasn’t thanking the person for the gift itself; I was thanking the person because they cared enough to give it.

It shouldn’t have surprised me to hear the other stories, like the one about the mother who came back demanding that her son’s toy be exchanged because he didn’t like it. Her anger over the team’s inability to accede to her request shouldn’t bother me, but it does. No wonder the little boy insisted on an exchange; his mother thought he had every right to exactly what he wanted even if the gift was free (and, I might add, nice). While other parents were glowing with happiness over the fun their children were having, she was pitching a fit and couldn’t see any good.

My heart hurts for her, and for people like her, and even more for the kids she’s raising to think just like she does. There is very little joy in that kind of life.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

It Didn’t Give Up

This poor plant experienced some serious trauma before I brought it inside. At one time, I might have counted it beyond help and tossed it out, but I’ve seen too much survival to give up on it. And it didn’t give up on itself. It’s blooming.

This is a great illustration of what we are capable of. We can be chewed on by pests, frozen out by heartless people, flooded with challenges, and drained dry when our love isn’t returned. From the outside, we may look totally broken down, but that doesn’t have to mean we’re out of the race. We must never give up.

We can still bloom.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Holy Spirit

I’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit and do not know how people make it through their days without a close connection with Him. I’ve tended to think of this relationship as a New Testament thing but, when you think about it, it’s awesome how active the Holy Spirit was long before the Day of Pentecost. How many times, as you read the Old Testament, do you see words like, “and the Holy Spirit came upon him”? A lot! And it always results in something amazing happening.

Even in the New Testament, still under the Old Covenant, we see in Luke 2:25 that, “there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him.” We don’t know much about Simeon, only that he was “a man in Jerusalem,” which implies that he wasn’t a priest. Well, and we know he was someone who was particularly devout, anxiously waiting for the Messiah, and… oh yeah… the Holy Spirit hung out with him.

He was a normal man, but one who loved God so very much that the Holy Spirit stayed in contact with him, and precisely when Mary and Joseph were taking Jesus to present Him to the Lord, “the Spirit led him to the Temple.” And, oh my, what happens next!

Things always happen when the Holy Spirit gets involved.

Celebrating Jesus
Tammy C

What About the Shepherds?

It’s December 2nd, and I’m reading a chapter a day in Luke leading up to Christmas. It’s convenient how Luke “happens” to have 24 chapters.

So in chapter 2 we encounter the shepherds, and today I found myself asking, “What about them? What happened to them?” The story of Jesus’ birth is so exciting that it’s easy to gloss over the part of the shepherds even as awesome as it is. But these weren’t just characters in a story; they were living, breathing men whose lives were touched by the supernatural in a way that had never happened before. I mean, they were the first to see the long awaited Messiah, and they were sent to His birthplace by an angel!

So what became of them? What became of their children? Surely they told their kids about their experience! Did they or their children follow Jesus once He entered into His ministry? Were they among the 5,000 men (plus women and kids!) who were served by Jesus and His disciples? Did their children, and maybe grandchildren, lay palm branches on the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem? Were they among the first Christians?

Or did some of them, as time went on while they were waiting for Jesus to grow up, lose that heavenly vision? Unlike Mary, who “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Luke 2:19), did they lose track of Him and His significance or, worse yet, figure that by the time He was old enough to do anything they would be too old to care? I hope not.

But I do wonder.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C