Jack of All Trades

The biggest lie of my 20s was that I had to dive into adulthood headfirst and master multiple life skills all at once, do them all perfectly and quickly. My study of life began to look more like the spinning cartoon Tazmanian Devil than a scholar. It took me well into my 30s to slow my spinning down into the realization that I would not be good at everything that I tried, let alone be proficient at it all. So, I schemed up another plan. I would work harder than everyone else, outearn my shortcomings and outsource the fix. I did better at this than the first plan, but with it came isolation, exhaustion, and pretending that I still had life all figured out. There had to be a better way.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need.” Acts 2:44-45

That meant they helped each other move, picked each other up from the airport at those really inconvenient hours, they helped each other out of the dog house, edited each other’s blogs for overcapitalization, and watched each other’s kids on date nights.

They had community. 

The tough part about community is that it comes with vulnerability and weakness. But what a good trade! I no longer have to be good at anything except the things God made me to be. My community has all my weaknesses covered. All I have to do is ask for help. I am finally the jack of all trades, master of none, and it’s perfect.

We will get through this together.
In His service and at yours!
~Shawn

Who and Who’s

We recently bought a used car which required me to withdraw several thousand dollars from the bank. The counter attendant asked for my debit card and driver’s license for identification. She handed me a thick envelope of money, and I quickly put it in my pocket, feeling like I was in a mafia movie, and headed back to work. The transaction was complete.

A couple of hours later, I went to buy my brother a birthday gift, and I realized I had no debit card and no driver’s license. Ugh! Isn’t that the worst feeling? Where could I have lost it? I went back out to my car, checked my wallet, retraced my steps from breakfast, rechecked my wallet, looked under the seats, and then finally went back to the bank only to be shown that what I was looking for had been on my person the whole time. The attendant had put my ID and debit card in the envelope with the cash.

Has this ever happened to you? How about something similar?

Isn’t it easy in moments of chaos, confusion, or when we are pressed on all sides to forget our identity?

God often uses moments like these as examples for other things in my life. That day I lost track of a couple of pieces of plastic, but how often do I lose track of who God says I am? More importantly, how often do I forget whose child I am? The Bible says that

I am adopted into royalty. It also said that I was bought with a price. Ransomed.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all. 1 Timothy 2:5-6

I am grateful for the reminder of my identity and all the extra steps on my Fitbit this week. I needed them both.

We will get through this together!

In his service and at yours, 

~Shawn

Confessions of a Hoarder

Guest Author: Mandy Marzano

I remember watching an interview about a woman who was a compulsive hoarder. I sat there with my mouth gaping open as they showed video footage of this woman in flip-flops walking through the mounds and pounds of junk that carpeted every inch of her home. She pointed to where mold and mildew reigned supreme and even where an animal had chewed away at her walls. This wasn’t just collecting a few knick-knack paddy-whacks or saving her daughter’s macaroni necklaces. This was vile. This was superfluous. This was completely avoidable and had been hidden for years. Her co-workers, friends, and even some family had no idea she wallowed knee-deep in filth daily and called a garbage heap home.

I sat there appalled as her secret was exposed to the world.

Recently, I was thinking about Hoarder Lady and scrunched my face in disgust. That’s when it sucker punched me. I’ve been that Hoarder Lady. I’ve been one of those people who seemed to have it all together on the outside but inside had clutter, junk, and dirt piling up from years past. I turned on the attic light of my own heart and began rooting around, shuffling boxes and ripping them open with my X-ACTO knife memory.

I had a cardboard box with “Middle School” written in bubble letters, and it was filled to the brim with all things crappy. There were old cassette tapes of kids calling me names, poking fun, and constantly reminding me that I didn’t fit in. There were piles of Teen Beat magazines dogeared to remind me of which airbrushed actress I would never look like and which hunky boy would never ask me to prom. I found a trunk with “Dad” inscribed on the latch, and in it found photographs and VHS tapes of drug-induced visits, prison sentences, and weighty words about how my looks weren’t good enough. Digging further back, I rummaged through stacks of postcards, letters and articles, and felt my jaw tense as I read about my failed marriage, parenting mistakes, ministry wounds, and other betrayals written in my handwriting. Page after page, all written in pen so it wouldn’t easily fade or be erased.

I’ve collected experiences, regrets, harsh words, and guilt. I’ve avoided throwing out mistakes and broken shards of my heart. I’ve held tight to the apprehension of my future and the restlessness of my present. I piled all those boxes, stacks and heaps on top of one another, keeping them ‘just in case,’ and was too afraid to let anyone sort through the mounds to help me get rid of what I no longer needed.

Thankfully, I don’t feel like that hoarder anymore. There were no televised interventions or sweet-talking hosts to guide me through the de-cluttering of my inner self. I can only attribute this type of freedom to one word: forgiveness. I’ve learned that the most powerful action I can take in my life is to forgive others and myself.

Forgiveness isn’t an option; it’s a freeing obligation.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 (ESV)

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” Psalm 86:5 (ESV)

Forgiveness isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always happen instantaneously. But the outcome is worth the investment. A life no longer cluttered with boxes of bitterness, regret, anger, and disappointment leaves room for light and fresh air to move in and out of freely. It may be that we only have the strength to move one box out at a time, and that’s OK. After all, we didn’t fill up our heart’s attic overnight. But, if you feel weighted, cluttered, or entangled, give it a try. I firmly believe that forgiveness is the cleansing agent of the heart, soul, and mind.

INDEPENDENCE

When I say, read, or even type the word “independence” in relation to freedom, my chest swells with pride, my shoulders straighten, and I seem to stand just a little bit taller. It’s as if that feeling is encrypted within our DNA as Americans. We wanted better, so we left tyranny and built the greatest nation ever. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” -United States Declaration of Independence

Independence is in our religious heritage too.

“Committed to the idea that salvation could be reached through faith and by divine grace only, [Martin] Luther vigorously objected to the corrupt practice of selling indulgences. Acting on this belief, he wrote the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as “The 95 Theses,” a list of questions and propositions for debate. Popular legend has it that on October 31, 1517 Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church.” (“Martin Luther and the 95 Theses,” History.com

It’s no wonder why God’s view of independence is so hard to swallow.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'” Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Humble myself? Deny myself? Submit? Follow? All the words I bolded in those Scriptures seem miles away from personal independence. Because of my natural affront to that line of thinking, it’s easy for me to miss the divine relational promises within those transactions.

“…and he will make your paths straight.”

“…that he may lift you up in due time.”

“…and he [satan] will flee from you.”

“…will find it [life].”

“…you will find rest for your souls.”

I’m working on remembering that God will never let me down because He promises always to hold me up. That is spiritual freedom! Being dependent on God is not a sign of weakness but a powerful relationship that can only come from becoming independent from our former selves.

I love the spirit of this country, and I am so grateful for the men and women who died so I may have the peace and freedom to share thoughts about my faith openly. This July 4th, I will be joining you in the celebration of our American Independence. For the other 364 days, I will be working on my dependence on God.

In His service and at yours.

~Shawn

When it All Goes South

Ok, this week can just go away. I have never been more ready for a Monday than I am right now. I need a restart. On Wednesday evening, we unexpectedly lost Lexi, our sweet family dog of ten years. Then, before I could even collect my thoughts, we found out that our business lost a HUGE contract the very next day. 

Talk about a sucker punch.

It’s been an “I need to borrow someone else’s faith because mine is looking pretty thin and wimpy” kind of week. The type of week where you hope and pray the people you love will step in and rattle the sabers of Truth against your doubt-filled meanderings like, “What if this hurt never goes away?” or “How will we ever make up that large chunk of income we just lost?” and “What if my family never recovers from this?”

Thankfully, one such friend reminded me that God left the throne of perfection to navigate roads jam-packed with sweaty people, their stinky animals, and even their animals’ stinkier poop. Yep. I said it. God walked through it ALL for us, and He’s still willing to get all up in our shit for our sake. As gross or silly as that may sound, it helped me remember that God promised us that He would always draw near to us, not away from us. 

Jesus walks through the muck of life WITH us.

These are the two verses I have been clinging to as I lead my family through all of this. 

“The Lord draws close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” Isaiah 41:10

We all go through things like this from time to time, so let me know if you need to borrow my faith in the future. In the meantime, I’m leaning hard on yours.

We will get through this together.

In His Service and at yours.

~Shawn 

In Loving Memory of Lexi Sparkle McCarthy.

Rest Up.

Growing up Catholic, I formed a foolish opinion that because the Pharisees (who were Jewish) sentenced Jesus to death, the Jewish people in the Bible were the bad guys. Looking back, not only do I know this to be untrue, but I find it entirely ironic to learn just how many Catholic traditions came from Jewish ones.

I have recently found myself reading and watching things with strong Jewish influence. Anna and I are watching “The Chosen “on YouTube, a series about the relationships between Jesus and the disciples. I’ve also been reading Mysteries of the Messiah: Unveiling Divine Connections from Genesis to Today by Rabbi Jason Sobel. Both of these have left me mesmerized with how intentional God was with His people and how much Jewish traditions influence mine. However, one tradition I just read about left me both equally fascinated and convicted. 

In an article on My Jewish Learning states, “Traditionally, Jews would begin each day with Modeh Ani, a short, two-line prayer which opens by referring to God as the eternal and living King. The prayer speaks of sleeping as a minor type of death in which the soul leaves the body to spend the night with God. The prayer thanks God for returning the soul to the body, enabling the individual to live another day. When waking up from sleep, before washing hands, one should say:

‎מוֹדֶה אֲנִי האשה אומרת: מודָה לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם שֶהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ (which when translated means), 

‘I am thankful before You, living and enduring King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.'”

I don’t think I have ever told God that I was grateful for sleep. Ever. It seems radically counterintuitive to how I have wired myself for 40+ years. Through adolescence I had grown to believe that my value directly correlates to my production. Therefore, the less I sleep or rest, and the more I do and produce, the more I am worth to other people and God. 

Do you find yourself believing that lie too?

On the surface, sleep and rest produce very little. However, science has proven that we fail without enough of either one. The importance of sleep is well documented, and it is conclusive that we need rest. We know the benefits of rest and how it affects our bodies. We even know the deep knowledge of different types of rest, but we don’t know why God’s plan is for us to spend 1/3 of our lives unconscious. 

However, God’s people praise Him for rest. “I am thankful before You, living and enduring King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.”

This has been yet another perspective shift for me on this journey. What do you think? How does rest play a role in your life? Do you wrestle with rest vs. production? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and remember to rest up. 

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours

~Shawn

Facing Joy

Deciding to square off against something bigger than yourself is usually quite a task. For me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a hefty work project, my cluttered garage, or even my expanding waistline (Thanks, COVID.), I go through the same thought process. 

It goes something like this…

Awareness: “Oh! How did you get there?”

Cost Analysis: “How much time or money is it going to take to fix this?”

Denial: “Meh. I’m sure it will just work itself out.”

Realization: “Nope. That thing is not going anywhere.”

Problem Solving: “Ok. Now how do I beat this thing!?”

James 1:2 says to “consider it all joy my brothers and sister whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 

Something in me wanted to slap James every time I heard that scripture until one of my pastors pointed out the definition of the word “face”. 

Face (verb)

1. be positioned with the face or front toward (someone or something).

2. confront and deal with or accept a difficult or unpleasant task, fact, or situation.

True joy only comes when you turn and face what you are up against. 

Then the rest of the scripture makes sense: “…you will know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

I know what you’re thinking. “But, my (insert your big problem here) is too big for me to face!” Remember what we talked about last week? David squared off against Goliath. We need to take note of the most significant part of that story. David knew who he was. David had already been anointed as king even though he was still a teenager herding sheep. He knew who he was in the eyes of God. Do you see yourself as anointed for furthering God’s kingdom?

When you’re face-to-face with your fears, do you remember who you are?

Galatians 4:7 says I am an heir and adopted son of the most high God.

Philippians 4:3 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

If you’re facing something that has you intimidated, overwhelmed, or unmotivated, you are not alone. I would love to pray for you. Email me at ShawnMcCarthy@seacoast.org or comment below. We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Fear on Repeat

Woah, what a week! Holiday weeks are short, but they sure put you through the paces, don’t they? 

Have you ever had a test or presentation that you know that you shouldn’t be worried about, but you’re anxious anyway? I’ve had two presentations that have had me rattled all week. One was for church, and the other was for business. Both of them seemed to have a lot on the line, and although I consider myself a good presenter, they both seemed so BIG. I repeatedly had to give them both to God.

I felt like David peering up at the flaring nostrils of Goliath.

Is there a Goliath in your life? Something that appears menacing and so enormous you wonder if you’ll ever be able to get around, over or through it? As I was praying through those presentations, God reminded me how David actually defeated Goliath. And I’m not talking about the slingshot heard around the world. I’m talking before he even met the guy.

David beat Goliath by faithful repetition. 

Look at what he tells King Saul just before the throwdown. “The Lord who saved me from the claws and teeth of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!”( 1 Samuel 17:37) David wasn’t a gladiator in some fancy arena facing caged wild animals. He was a shepherd tending a full buffet for wild animals. He had put the smackdown on scary things long before Goliath came around. 

I have friends who are firemen and combat veterans, and when you ask them about when they served and if they were scared, they always say something like, “Of course we were scared, but that’s what we did. It’s what we trained for. We fought scared.” This is the second time this year that God has given me a glimpse of what freedom from anxiety looks like. It’s not Him removing fear. It’s me operating alongside God within that fear.

The further we read into the chapter, David reveals the deeper secret to this freedom. “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” 1 Sam 16:13 

If I am full of the Spirit and dependant on God, I can defeat my Goliath.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 

How can fear of any size stand up to that truth? If Goliath is taunting you and you could use some prayer, I would love to pray for you. Shoot me an email to ShawnMcCarthy@seacoast.org or comment below.

We will get through this together!

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

SILENCE

This week God‘s been weirdly quiet. I didn’t figure it out till yesterday afternoon when I asked Him “why?”. What I received back was a thought strand that looked a bit like this: 

“Lord, Why are you silent?” – ”Silent” – “Silence” – “Moment of silence” – Click.  I get it. 

As many celebrate a 3 day weekend, God whispered to me silence was in order. This weekend is about honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom. For those men and women who served so well and for their families.

Will you join me in a moment of silence to Honor them?

We will get through this together.

In His service and at yours.

~Shawn

Seasoned Advice

My dad is coming over this weekend to help me change the spark plugs and wires in my old 1990 pickup truck. Sounds pretty manly, right? The truth is, the reason he’s coming over is that I have no idea how to do it. I have all the pieces and parts and I’ve even watched a few YouTube videos, but I am totally intimidated to get started.

Sometimes you need some seasoned help to show you what to do. 

Paul was that same seasoned help when he was writing the Philippians. They were doing good, and Paul was proud of them, but he wanted to be sure they knew a couple of things, and since he was sitting in jail, Uncle Paul sent them a couple of tips.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4-7

Paul knew the world defines doing your best as effort and hustle. He was an overachiever by nature and at the top of his game when Jesus knocked him off his high horse.

God defines your best as to how close you are to Him and how much your focus is on things God loves.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 8-9

In this season, peace may seem elusive. Think about this: If Paul could write about peace from a jail cell while awaiting death, maybe he had a grasp on something we didn’t. Thanks for the tips, Uncle Paul!

In His service and at yours 

~Shawn