Lets do this together…..

I read through Psalm 25 Wednesday or was it Thursday? What day is it? Anyway, verse 14 jumped off the page:

The Lord confides in those who fear (revere, worship) Him. He makes His covenant (promises) known to them. Ps25:14

I then got caught up in this week’s crazy and never thought of it again. A dear friend just called and asked where the Friday post was. I explained that for the first time in a long time, God didn’t give and word to develop. As I was speaking, I remembered that He had. The weight and thoughts of my distraction and possible disappointment instantly set in.

“Ok Lord, I got the concept but what do I write?”, “But, it’s too late to send out today.”, “How am I gonna pull this off ?”, “Who is going edit out my horrible punctuation?” Know what he said back?……. “Don’t. Share and let them write it.” “Um, ok. Yes Lord.”

So, Let’s do this together. What does being God’s Confidant mean to you? What promises has He personally made to you?

con·fi·dant: a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, having full trust.

I can’t wait to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

We will do this together.

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

You’re in Good Company

I have been watching my friends be way more transparent during this season. Even though we’re all meeting in our small groups through a screen, with all this spare time, the things that have bubbled up in the space are too hard just to ignore. There is an anxiety that seems to lurk below the surface of so many of us. I wonder why it took a global pandemic to admit how much fear shapes our behaviors, habits, and outlook? 

In his book, Own the Moment, Carl Lentz calls fear a sleazy peddler who makes his money selling things that never happen somewhere in the future. I have thought about this a hundred times, and the illustration seems to work for me. I would go a step further and say that I bet that fear gets a bonus when it can convince us that we are the only ones worried about it. 

CS Lewis wrote:

“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another, “What! You too?'”

I think that is the power of the Bible. 

I am working through a theory that there is not one book of the Bible that didn’t have a portion dedicated to one of God’s people being afraid. 

Afraid of people against them.

Afraid of being left out.

Afraid to make a mistake.

Afraid of not having future provision.

Afraid of not having the right skills.

Afraid of not being in the right position. 

Afraid of timing.

Afraid of not being enough.

Afraid of public opinion.

Afraid of family.

Afraid of not being protected.

Afraid of exposure past poor choices.

Afraid of a child’s future.

Afraid of rejection.

Those written moments were/are living and breathing examples of how, in every fearful circumstance, God showed His people through it. 

Are you afraid? Of course you are. You are human. Now remember that you are in good company, and everyone else on this planet knows fear too. God promises that He will show you a way through it…just ask Him. While you’re waiting for His solution tell a friend because I bet they have a similar fear.

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly brokenEcclesiastes 4:12

We will get through this together!

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

I AM

My wife bought our new puppy an ID tag. When I opened the envelope I started laughing out loud!

It is comforting to know that Luke has someone to remind him who he belongs to when he get lost.

It doesn’t take much for us to get a little lost ourselves, does it? Covid 19 sure has done a number us, Scrambling up the things we based our identity on. Hard Worker, Good Parent, Scheduled, Teacher, Developer. Efficient, Productive, and Patient are all high valued core ID words worthy of any white board.

Wooosh! Gone! Wiped Corona clean. Nothing left but streaks & dry erase crumbles.

I’m a doer, and for years I have prided myself on working harder that anyone around me. A friend of mine saw me struggling the second week of quarantine, It was probably the lines I was wearing in the carpet from pacing that tipped him off. He kindly gave me an exercise that has really helped reframe who God actually made me to be. It has been the most enjoyable trip through Psalms I have ever taken. In this vacuum of high demand and break-neck pace, I am using each Psalm to remind me who I really am.

Are you on the fence about what pyramid marketing empire to start, become a master gardener, or do you finally have all your socks organized and labeled by color? Maybe this is an exercise you could use too. Here is what Psalm 1 looked like for me:

I AM WATCHED OVER

At first I thought “Neat!” like having the lucky winning the PTA raffle ticket. Then I kept reading, Like a trail of pure gold God lays out how he sees us at our highest potential and lowest of lows.

I am not sure what you have going on this weekend, but I am sure God created coffee and sunshine for exercises just like this. Take a stroll through Psalms, I hope it fills your soul as much as mine.

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours,

~Shawn

Vitamin B1

Last night I found myself up close to 1am watching TV. Both parts of that statement are not my normal. I was watching a show that had many different personalities coming together to get through a particular challenge. As time rolled by, episode by episode, I was perplexed by why this had me enthralled. By the time my sensibilities had me turn in for bed, I had begun to figure out that I was hungry for companionship. These characters were becoming fast friends and I was hooked. Because I don’t do friendship superficially, my friends are as tight to me as family. Now, a distant family. Just another thing this virus seems to have pushed slightly out of reach. 

Just like a lack of Vitamin D can cause mood swings and depression, I wonder if there has been a study on what removing deep belly laugher and sarcasm does to us? 

Proverbs 17:17 says: A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.  Seems fitting doesn’t it?

Who doesn’t need someone around to say “This may suck, but we are in it together.”

I think this week we are hitting a stretch where the end may be almost in view. Close enough that if we can all dig a bit deeper and try a bit harder we can push through this. But, if you are anything like me, “pushing through” often does not involve much self-care. I just focus on making it to the end goal.

So instead, what if this became the perfect time to invade the space of some one we love? What if we call till they pick up, text goofy memes till they beg for mercy, or park yourself in their driveway with the window down and an extra Starbucks?

If it’s friendship we all need, then it is time for us to B1. I am convinced, This week is the best time to be the Sonlight that we are all lacking. Will you join me?

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

HARD WORK

Hard Work

It is hard for me to look at this season as a gift. Isolation to this extrovert has been quite painful. I must check the mail twice a day for anything that looks like human contact. Walking the dog in the neighborhood has even become a game to see if I can time it when the most people are out. This just plain stinks. However, I am grateful for one thing. This quarantine has taken away my best go-to excuse:

“Sorry. I don’t have time to do that.” 

Looking around, it appears that most of us now have an extra 2 to 5 hours a day. Hours we once jammed full with commuting to work, picking up kids from school, going to PTA meetings, wandering around Lowes checking out the latest and greatest grills, drills and saws. Whatever awesome and/or mediocre time-sucks we had used to fill our days, those hours have magically reappeared.

What if we did something meaningful with all those hours? 

Uh oh, here it comes…….. What if we finally did the thing that made us uneasy, scared, or exhausted, but in a good way. Really pushing through our comfort zone and practical boundaries. Or option 2 is what most are doing now, slumping deeper into the sofa and watching the next season of Ozark. (But, for real, what’s with the blue filter on that show already?)

Seriously, what is one thing you’ve always wanted to do but never tried because (insert your go-to excuse here)? 

  • Get out of debt?
  • Have quiet time
  • Learn a language?
  • Write a book?
  • Learn an instrument? 
  • Talk to a counselor?
  • Read War and Peace?
  • Call an old friend?
  • Create a song?
  • Tell someone that you are sorry?
  • Paint a room in your house? 
  • Take a Masterclass online? 
  • Interact with your kid?
  • Start exercising?

There is no better time than now to do something hard. Every resource you need is online except for courage. Of course it will all be awkward at first, but remember, God is with you, and He has plenty of courage to give.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of this, for the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:6-8

So, Whatta you say? What was the first thing that jumped in your mind? I dare you to take the first step and leave it in the comments, Just write private next to it and I will make sure only I see it. Happy hard work hunting! We will get through this together.

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

Sage Advice

My brother and his wife are eight months pregnant and have both been furloughed. Earlier this week, he and I were talking about how to navigate this pandemic best. They are both talented and kind people. I am sure that that employment may only be a small challenge for them in the future. So, the big question became “What do we do right now?” I told him what I had learned from speaking to some of the smartest people I knew – my dad, my pastor, our financial advisor, a business counselor, and even an elder in our church, Unfortunately, none of them had ever seen anything like this before, but they all had similar advice.  

Don’t panic.  Be cash-conservative. Make changes as needed. 

Don’t we all just want to know, “But, what do we do RIGHT NOW?” I appreciated the good advice, but, to be honest, I was looking for more of a step-by-step process on how to return to normal within around 1-2 weeks. Has anyone seen a “Pandemics for Dummies” book yet? If not, someone should really get on that.

Speaking of books, Right now, would usually be the time in the story when the mentor figure would enter the scene, offer their sage words of wisdom that could change even the most panicked, seemingly hopeless character into a hero who shifts the entire storyline. If you know me at all, you know that I’m still hoping to see Obi-Wan Kenobi roll up in my driveway any moment now. A guy can dream, can’t he? This weekend, Pastor Greg at Seacoast Church said something online that resonated with me. He said, “Crisis often brings out leadership characteristics in a person.” I would be lying if that sentence didn’t intimidate me. Lately, the “I can do this!” is quickly met with the, “I don’t have what it takes!” 

Seriously, where are you, Obi-Wan?

In Acts chapter one, Luke writes that Jesus promises His disciples that He will send them a gift filled with power and authority. What they didn’t know was that they were getting a Mentor. The greatest of all mentors would be sent to them (and for us) to realize and coach us into our God-sized potential. So many times, I dream about what it would be like to have supernatural insight and powers like the ones I read about in books, or see in movies while the Holy Spirit is available and ready to us right now! It is the true force to be reckoned with; however, I lose sight of it. It’s a gift of tremendous insight that only comes with one simple condition.

All we have to do is ask. 

James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

If you’re feeling a bit unsure of your next steps, like I am, join me in reading Acts these next few weeks. It’s full of faith-building moments from the early church, and has been a strong assurance for me. Remember, the Holy Spirit is promised to be with you in both good and bad times. It’s a free gift, and you have nothing to lose but your uncertainty.

So, when you’re feeling panicked, unsure and seemed to have lost your way, remember to “Use the Force, Luke.” Thanks, Obi-Wan. We needed that.

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

This Changes Everything

Don’t you love plot twists? You know, that moment when a character’s entire paradigm of perception shifts and they say something like, “Well..this changes everything.” A few of my favorite plot twists are included in books like The Stand by Stephen King, and movies like How to Train a Dragon, and  The Adjustment Bureau, and TV shows like “Lost” and “The Walking Dead.” In a short time, the whole world, or even a character’s perception of the whole world, can completely change. 

However, I am not so much a fan of our current plot twist.

Sitting here in our uncertainty is helping me imagine what it must have been like after the Resurrection of Jesus. There were many perceptions of who Jesus was and what He was supposed to do, and it was in those moments where the human perceptions and plans clashed with God’s bigger plan, and that changed everything.

  • Jewish Perception: If Jesus is the Messiah, he will be a great King and deliver us from Herod’s reign to become a great nation.  
  • God’s Perception: Through my Son’s short life and death you will gain great power to give hope and free people from the bondage of shallow lives. I will be made great through my people.

Those perceptions look very different. 

Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies written about the Messiah, showing that He was who He said He was. The power of the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, and supernatural events occurred, which fulfilled the promise Jesus made before His ascension. This should have given the people peace and certainty, however, some of them were still holding onto old perceptions.

In Acts 2:25-28, Peter reminds them of the certainty they can have in Jesus by quoting a Psalm they all knew very well (Psalms 16:8-11).

“David said about Him:
‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’”

If you’re like me, you have probably asked yourself questions like, “What does going back to normal look like?” “How are we going to get out of this?” “Who is going to solve this?” 

The answer is…us. 

We are supposed to be the Hope bringers instead of toilet paper hoarders. We should be sharing with and caring for those around us. That’s what Peter did. He provided assurance to those who were blindsided by the plot twist of Jesus’ death, and here we are feeling a bit blindsided today. However, we must remember that because the Lord is at our right hand, we will not be shaken.

I want to hear from YOU!

My family and I are looking for new ways to bring hope to others. What are some ways that you have shared help, hope, and love to people around you during these uncertain times? Please share your ideas in the comments below. 

We will get through this together!

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

The Easter Blues

The new normal at the McCarthy house is now Anna, Cora, and I have a family meeting every day at 9 am to start the day with a plan, prayer, and purpose. These meetings are usually met with more eye rolls than excitement, but we press on nonetheless. On Wednesday, we were discussing Holy Week, and we talked a bit about how this Easter was going to be different, and I was telling them that I seem to become more anxious as we get closer to Thursday and Friday. For me, knowing what Jesus went through for us is so hard to comprehend, it weighs heavy on my thoughts. Anna then raised a question.

“Do you think Jesus felt anxiety about what was coming?”

I have been thinking about her question for days. Scripture says that Jesus was fully man and fully God, and yet even with all that power, He only did what the Father told Him to do. Jesus knew the pain of what was coming, and it deeply weighed on Him. Yet, in His hardest moments, He still modeled what we are to do with our anxiety.

In Matthew 26:36-46, when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He took time to be alone and gave His anxious thoughts to God. He asked the Father tough questions, crying out to Him with such raw emotion that it gives me a lump in my throat when I think about it. God didn’t change the circumstances or take away the pain of the Cross. However, God strengthened His Son, and gave Him the peace needed to continue to walk out the path set before Him.

My most frequent anxious thought is, “How big of a deal is this Pandemic?” We are watching this global event unfold before our eyes, which is having an unprecedented impact on our lives. The world has not seen anything like this in generations. So, lately, when my anxiety creeps in, I quickly turn on the news or go online to read commentaries and articles to try to make sense of it. The problem is, what I’m doing is not working. My anxiety doesn’t lessen with more facts, figures, and charts.

I think it’s time for a new strategy.

Perhaps this week, I will follow Jesus’ lead and take a walk alone (without my phone) and ask God some hard questions and then wait for His answers. Good Friday didn’t feel good for anyone, but it had an incredible purpose that no one in that time could have fully understood. I am eager to see what God does through our current mess and am encouraged that when I get close to Him, I become His ally walking out His Plan, and can have true peace even in times like these.

Although it will look different than any other Easter weekend in the past, I am praying that this Easter brings you Hope, Peace, and a renewed sense of Purpose.

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours! 

~Shawn

I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands Or This New Normal

I think we would all agree that learning something new is hard. Watching my coworkers and church small groups learn how to meet through video has been frustratingly hilarious. Half the people are talking with their microphones muted, and the others should have their microphones muted while someone is screaming or emptying the dishwasher in the background. This chaos has become our new normal. I got to laughing at myself on one of these calls because I’m a pretty animated guy, and I still have no idea what to do with my hands when I talk behind a screen.


So far, this is me on every video conference call…

In addition to the cyber meetings, there has been another element to this new normal I never anticipated – grief. In one way or another, we are all in a state of mourning. It is expected that we will lose loved ones during this pandemic, which will be extremely difficult. However, we are also mourning our old way of life. Events we were anticipating have been canceled. Friends and community whisked away. Wedding dresses hanging in the closet, uncertain when they will be worn. Droves of people out of work and feeling lost and without purpose.

Those are things to grieve. Those are losses to mourn.  

As days turn into weeks of isolation, I have realized that I’ve been doing this all wrong. I have been naturally focused on myself and not thinking of how my friends and family are mourning too. In the Gospels, I love how Jesus never missed the context of His surroundings. It was probably easier for Him since He was God; however, when our posture is selflessness, it is much easier to see the struggles of people around us. 

Last week, I learned something new about one of my closest friends. Another friend was using part of his story as an example to encourage someone else. I was a bit taken aback that I had never heard of this struggle and the resulting breakthrough and achievement that followed. This made me stop and ask myself a couple of tough questions. How well do I listen to people? When I do listen, is it for their benefit, or my own? I will be chewing on those questions during the next couple of weeks or so. At least that will give me something to pass the time! 

But, seriously, that’s what Jesus was all about. 

He listened to those who were often ignored, wept with those in mourning, and had compassion on all He encountered, and that’s who He still is today. Jesus loves you and wants you to grab hold of your God-sized potential. He knows your pain. He understands your loss, and He desires for you to follow Him.

Navigating this new normal is going to take some intentionality. My mission during this uncertain season is to be: Mindful, Attentive, and Present. Yes, that will be my map guiding me through this unchartered territory. 

We will get through this together. 

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Teenage Branding Problems

A couple of weeks ago, Cora’s school asked me to do a “Lunch and Learn” for the students. Her teachers know that I’m a pastor, as well as part owner of a marketing company, and clearly they were not wanting me to come and discuss the ins and outs of a career in Jesus, so…marketing won that round. I explained to the career counselor that we were a “strategy based ground level branding company” and we did much more than just print tee shirts. I think she understood, so we set our date to lunch and learn.

What does a middle schooler need to know about branding? EVERYTHING!

With the rumblings of the Coronavirus and school shutdowns beginning to happen everywhere, I walked into the classroom with hand sanitizer in one hand, and all my props in the other. Looking at all those awkward faces made me remember how hard middle school was. So, I began my talk with some things I knew they knew about.

“What do Teenagers, Hydroflasks, Vans, and Apple all have in common?”

My answer to their puzzled faces was, “They are all original, unique and well made.” I then asked them what these items don’t have in common (insert pubescent blank stares here). I proceeded to tell them that the big companies have learned how to tell the world how amazing those products are, but teenagers have missed the mark when representing themselves to the world. I pressed in a bit more and said, “You are far more unique, special, and wonderfully made than you think you are.” I then presented a 4-step plan to them called, Teen You Branding Strategy.

This branding strategy applies to all of us, not just teenagers.

Step #1:  Be for Something.  Since God gave you unique gifts and talents. Your one job is to share them with others. Share your talents through what you want to be known for – art, sports, communicating, coaching, dance, teaching, or caring for people or animals.

Step #2: Be Kind. There are brands that are filled with hate and anger. But they never last and well, they honestly kinda suck. Chick-fil-A built their brand on kindness and quality and now they are #1 in fast food. And now, I want some chicken nuggs.

Step #3: Be Intentional. Pick something and go for it. Who cares if you fail along the way? Better to fail than to never try. Thomas Edison said this about failure, “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  

Step #4: Work Hard. Working hard is attractive, and necessary. Most successful people put in a lot of hard work and effort before becoming successful and accomplishing their goals. Working hard also means to get back up after a setback. Don’t give up…get up!

I had a blast at the school that day, and compared with the lock down we are currently under, this extrovert wishes he could talk to a bunch of middle schoolers all over again. Anything to get me out of this house! OK, on that note, I think we need to look at some Scripture.

I was reading Matthew this week, and realized Jesus also had a branding problem.

The Jewish leadership, which were Jesus’s people, just didn’t get Him. Even when Jesus shot it to them straight, they didn’t understand. Check out Matthew 9:12-13 in a couple different translations below. This is as blunt as it gets!

“But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘ I DESIRE COMPASSION AND NOT SACRIFICE ,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“I’m after mercy, not religion. I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

“It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

Jesus then goes on to consistently brand himself over the next two years. Be for Something. Check! Jesus always and forever will be for you and me! He was kind, intentional, and worked tirelessly so that you would know that you are loved – no matter what. Check…Check…Check!

If the walls are closing in on you too, maybe it’s time to work on your branding. What if we use our platforms to communicate less Coronavirus memes and more of how unique and wonderfully made we are? Show off kindness and intentionality to those in our community still serving us in hospitals, grocery stores and garbage trucks. Most importantly, do not give up. Better days are ahead.

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn