Humble and Kind

Three weeks ago Anna and I closed on our new house. We moved across town to be closer to family and put our daughter in a different school. We had no idea how close to the family the next few weeks would bring us. 

We bought the house knowing there were some flooring issues, but the extent of the problems was far more than we expected, and we’ve been living with my brother and his family while our house was being repaired and renovated. Like every renovation project I’ve ever done, there has been friction and frustration. For instance, our tile contractor haphazardly installed the bathroom tile incorrectly, not once but twice, in the only working bathroom in the house – setting us back a week. Ugh.

It’s interesting how things that upset your wife and daughter push on you emotionally too. Like most, this pushed me to anger. As I was sitting on my brother’s back porch the evening of error #2 contemplating my response to the contractor that would utterly destroy him and make me feel vindicated, Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind, started playing in the background. Really, God? Are you actually getting Tim McGraw in on this too?

I have had many “What would Jesus do” moments. In fact, I’ve probably worn (and sold) some WWJD merch in my years, but this was my first “What would Tim McGraw do” moment for me. As it turns out, they’re the same thing in this instance. 

Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” 

Damn you, Tim! I was all ready to get my grout on! I don’t want to be kind! Where is the strength in that? But the first line of that scripture, “As God’s Chosen ones,” screams: “You can do this, but do it differently! Remember My ways are not your ways!” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I’m working on believing that You can be humble and still have authority. Scriptures reveal numerous instances where humility and kindness are like God’s secret multiplier. 

You under your ways + your strength = outcome to the power of 1

You under God’s ways + your strength + God’s might = outcome to the power of X!

In God’s economy, kindness doesn’t cost anything but has the greatest reward. It sounds a bit analytical and mystical at the same time, but just as scripture promises us, God’s Word never returns to us void (Isaiah 55:11) and is always alive and working (Hebrews 4:12), so this is the recipe for victory! 

Have you had moments when you have stepped into humility and kindness instead of judgment, anger, or clinging to your “But, I’m right!” and God saw you through? I would love the encouragement today. Would you please leave your story in the comments? I am ready to be God’s Chosen. Here we go!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Your Story Has Power

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I’ve always found this verse to be encouraging, especially when it feels like life is blowing up all around me. However, I’m not the best at sitting back and letting someone else do the work. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad Jesus told us not to sweat it because He’s got it, but sometimes I want in on the action too!

Maybe you’re in that spot where life is overwhelming, and every time you turn around, there’s a new worry, problem, or issue, and you’re tired of being positive or looking at the glass half full. 

My daughter has repeatedly been playing Lemons by Loveleo, and the chorus goes like this…

“Life just gives me lemons And I don’t like lemonade. Sticky situation, ah Look at this mess I’ve made.”

Maybe you feel like him, can’t take things continuously going wrong, and just want to shout about it. Well, making that turn towards success may be easier than you think. Buried in the book of Revelation is this scripture:

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelations 12:11

I love how Jesus does the heavy lifting of getting us out of a rut, whether we were thrown in there or jumped in willingly, and all we have to do is tell each other about what He has done for us.

Wait a minute. No, I don’t like that at all! Especially the part about me being transparent and telling all the juicy details of my testimony? You know, my poor choices, the times I was a jerk to my wife or daughter, and all the times I didn’t want to wait on the Lord, so I just picked the easy path. 

Proverbs has two verses about the power of an authentic moment with a friend who shares the truth.

Proverbs 27:9: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from thier heartfelt advice.”

Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

Simply put, your story has healing power not only for you but also for others.

CS Lewis said it best. “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

What has you feeling overwhelmed this week? Health? Money? Kids? Relationships? How can I pray for you? Let’s overcome together, and share our story to others!

In His service and at yours 

~Shawn

The Rock

My friend Stephen bought a book for me called Becoming a King: The Path to Restoring the Heart by Morgan Snyder. It has since become somewhat of a lodestone in my quest for authenticity. 

In this book, Snyder quotes author Mike Mason stating, “A thirty-year-old person (man) is like a densely populated city; nothing new can be built… without something else being torn down. “Snyder then discusses how there are many stages of healthy tearing down so that God can rebuild who you were meant to be. 

Snyder also says that whatever isn’t authentically you is best to be demolished, and that process takes about as long as it took to build that adult facade. Once the demo is done, it takes some time and effort to realize what needs to be hauled off for good. Then, you need to check the “soil” for toxins left behind by bad experiences and, if necessary, dig out any bad foundation that may have been left behind to contribute to the toxicity of the soil. Finally, the fun part begins, a new foundation can be set, and the rebuilding can begin. What a process!

As I walked some friends through this concept this week, I was reminded of Jesus saying something similar.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Ten years ago, if someone called me a fool, they would have earned themselves a punch square to the jaw. Even though I knew I was living out a scraped-together collection of experiences, not intentional training, I didn’t want anyone else to know that. I wanted everyone to think I had arrived with this wisdom, not accumulated it through time. 

Simply put, I was faking it. 

But when the storms of life came, as they always do (and always will!), my self-fabricated house of self-taught best practices swayed and bucked just like this house built on sand Jesus was talking about. However, Jesus says if you build a house on solid rock, it will stand.

I know you saw where I was going with this analogy, but do you know the extent of the references in scripture of Jesus being a rock? After doing a simple Google search, I came across this post. It is extensive and has 10x more references than I could muster on my own.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1984/01/i-have-a-question/what-is-the-symbolic-meaning-of-the-term-rock-in-the-scriptures?lang=eng

I’m not sure of the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ beyond what I read here. But I was appreciative for the in-depth look at how solid my King is.

Memorial Day is about remembering, and this was a great reminder. Thanks for spending a moment where we could do this together.

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

Hair Bands and Honor

It was probably because of watching too many Motley Crue videos. But, when I learned that I didn’t have to always submit to authority, I was done wading around the shallow blind obedience end of the pool. You better believe that me and my wavy mullet dove headfirst into the let’s see how far I can push it deep end.

Those 80’s hair bands were my backup, and I was well on my way to being the guy every other guy wanted to be and the bad boy every girl dreamed about. At least that is the thought I had on repeat in my head.I’m sure my reasons for rebelling were the same as everyone who seeks power and control – complete and utter global domination! Nah, it was way simpler than that. I just didn’t want to get hurt again.

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

To think that Jesus suffered before His death on the cross was a new concept to me. If you had all the power in the universe, would you suffer for anything? If you had no reason to honor hierarchy, would you? I wonder if part of that suffering was the lousy leadership of His elders. I can only imagine the frustration Jesus must have felt being under the rule of His inexperienced community leaders. Yet all through the book of John, it says Jesus listened to THE pure source of wisdom and acted from only that.

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38

“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” John 4:34

From the first days of His ministry when He asked God who His disciples should be (Luke 6:12) to His very last moments before the cross, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” Jesus did what His Father told Him to do.

How do you feel about the idea of submission like this? Has this post got you squirming? If so, I don’t blame you. I know most of us can look back and find reasons we shouldn’t trust, or should fight, or be wary of authority. So there is little reason to believe trusting God would be any different. 

But might I challenge your thinking not to place man’s shortcomings on an all-knowing, living God? As I walk through this, trying to change the way I think, I have been leaning on this simple request I found in Psalms. 

“Father, Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

If you could use some level ground in your life, please leave a comment below so I can be praying for and with you!

In His service and at yours,

~Shawn

Clear Vision

I recently ended a sweet five-year relationship with my 1990 Toyota truck. This year as we stepped into full-time action with a new business, “Lil Red” wouldn’t be able to keep up with all that had to get done on the daily. It was time to pass that gem onto a teen and get a new ride.

For many COVID months, I researched and eventually test drove several types of trucks that would allow my strapping 5’5″ frame to see over the dashboard and not require a gymnastic dismount each time I got in and out of it. I found the perfect truck, but the model I wanted wasn’t in stock, so I had to wait even longer. All the research, testing, and waiting were tedious. But, the result would be a perfect fit. 

What was not perfect was on the FIRST day of driving my new truck, a rock catapulted into my beautiful, new windshield. I watched as the chip developed into a crack. Now it’s a 28-inch (yes, I measured!) crevasse running through most of my once perfect windshield.

This past Saturday, Anna and I took a drive to a local shrimp festival, and as soon as her eyes met the windshield, she asked why I hadn’t gotten it fixed yet. I hemmed and hawed about this and that, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I was subconsciously not getting it repaired on purpose. Years ago, when I first moved to Charleston, someone told me that if I made an insurance claim on a broken windshield, it would hike my insurance rate way up. I have since learned that is not true, and in fact, most Charleston insurance companies factor in one replacement windshield a year. But, to think that I held that casual conversation with some guy I don’t remember as truth for all these years is eye-opening.

As Anna and I talked and laughed on our little road trip, my mind returned to my windshield. I wondered what else I had casually taken as truth that was now embedded in my day-to-day thought process. What about my subconscious feelings and reactions regarding race, class, sexuality, or religion? Were those impeding my vision as well? 

As I processed all of this over the week, this scripture came to mind.

“Finally, brothers, 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.” Philippians 4:8

That scripture is the perfect standard to measure my thoughts. Everyone deserves to be seen through a clear windshield of honor instead of a cracked one clouded by past experiences, ignorance, or ambivalence. 

The good news (literally!) is that we don’t have to fix our vision ourselves. We would never get it right. God has graciously offered to do that for us because He wants us to see Him, others, and ourselves through His truth. All we have to do is ask. 

Are you having trouble clearly seeing yourself, God, or others? Has your vision been skewed by a tiny crack in your faith that has now taken over? Please leave a comment or drop me an email and let me know so I can pray with you.

We will get through this together.

In His service and at yours!
~Shawn

Tangled

This week, our church hosted a nationwide conference for pastors, and I had the privilege of being on the leadership team. It was a huge undertaking involving hundreds of volunteers and 2,500 pastors, and I’m proud to say that it was a smashing success! Our team navigated schedule changes, weather uncertainties, supplier hiccups, and just about anything else that could have been thrown our way, all while showing the patience and love of Jesus. Well, most of the time.

What made the operation even more interesting was that while we were bringing this event to fruition, my wife and I bought a house, sold a house, and celebrated her birthday. No pressure, right? It was the perfect opportunity for wires to get crossed and emotions to get tangled. The feeling of being overwhelmed was lurking around the corner at every turn.

Our days began at 6am and ended at midnight. Our teams in every facet of the conference ran like well-oiled machines. Was this luck? Was this because we have the best volunteers? Even though our people are incredible, practice made this event go so smoothly. These volunteers practice every single Sunday. Each team begins early Sunday morning and prepares for multiple services, encounters many people, and handles various issues in a manner they were trained. So, even though our conference had monstrously long hours, our teams knew what to do and when to do it. 

This idea of practice parallels our spiritual life. 

Each season or situation that comes my way and seems to pile on more than I can handle is my opportunity to practice becoming more and more reliant and dependent on God. Will I let my emotions take over? Will I fall under the pressure? Or will I remember the promises of God and allow Him to pick me up, brush me off and fight for me?

If you come to my blog often, you will see that I repeat many scriptures. It’s because they are the ones I need to see, hear and remind myself of often. They are the ones that lift me up when I am tired, discouraged, frustrated, or downright angry. One of those scriptures is in the book of Proverbs.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

When I need God the most is not the time I need to go searching for a fluffy pep talk. When I’m all tangled up in my emotions, To-Do lists, and negative self-talk, I need to hear that God can make my path straight again and that I don’t have to do this on my own. He’s got me.

Are you feeling tangled? Do you need help practicing your faith? I would love to pray for you and remind you of God’s truth. Please send me an email to ShawnMcCarthy@seacoast.org.

We will get through this together. 

In His service and at yours.

~Shawn

Good Friday – The Weighted Wait

Here is that feeling again. It comes every Good Friday. Even if I pretend this particular Friday is going to be extra good, there is something every Good Friday that still seems to lurk. Something that doesn’t feel like “good” should feel.

With a little bit of quiet self-discovery, I think I figured out that “something.” It is still difficult for me to fathom that the God of the universe, who put together all of this earthen stuff, hung the stars, and lit up the sun, would choose the lowest position of a beaten death to be the absolute sacrifice for you and me. It is truly impossible for me to fully understand that kind of purposeful love. It seems a weight of comprehension too big to lift.

I’ve heard it said that we cannot experience great joy without pain. Even though I know that Resurrection Sunday is coming, the cape of God’s power and positivity that I usually wear feels more like a weighted blanket on Good Friday. But, I think that’s OK. Often gratefulness in my life can look like a party – a celebration, but I’m realizing that it’s OK to redefine what gratitude and honor are a couple of times a year. For example, each September 11 and the birthdays of my grandparents who have passed often come with a palpable sadness. However, time spent waiting, being quiet and thankful can bring comfort and peace to my soul. 

Gratefulness can be a reverent wait. 

Yes, wait, not a weight. God never leaves us to stew or wallow in our uncertainty. This scripture tells us what is going to happen in just 3 days.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. 
Psalm 40:1-3

David wrote that psalm 14 generations before Christ’s sacrifice! Talk about a promise full of intentionality! What I never understood about Easter as a kid was God’s promise of Easter – the promise of resurrection, renewal, and restoration. God had already promised and saved the Jewish people countless times. This rescue was for the heathens, the Gentiles. This promise was, and still is, for us.

In the book of John, just four chapters before Jesus is arrested on Good Friday, Jesus outlines His promise: “I am going to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.” (John 14:3) Fast forward to 3pm on Good Friday, Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is done.” Promise kept.

I don’t know what you are waiting for or what your heart is longing for, but God does. He promises a rescue. It is coming and it is OK to cry out for it as David did. Remember, Sunday morning always comes, but, if this Good Friday doesn’t seem very good for you, I would love to cry out with you and pray for you. Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at shawnmccarthy@seacoast.org. 

I hope your wait brings a little more hope and a lot less weight on your shoulders this year because of His promises. It does now for me. Thank you for being a part of this adventure. We can do this together. 

In His service and at yours,
~Shawn

Shockingly Wise

Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” 

I’m happy to say that contrary to what my mom thought about me in high school, I spend a lot of time with wise people today. This week a symphony of different statements came together from people I trust dearly to make our post. 

In response to last week’s post about letting God do His thing in my life, my buddy Stephen said, “All the breakthroughs happen when I submit it to God – when I’m not trying to manufacture something.” ~ Stephen P.

That reaction brought this other nugget of wisdom. “When I’m not trying to have my way and push something. I often give it room to develop Gods way. Not assigning a deadline changes something. There is wisdom in letting something breathe.” ~ Peter G.

That’s awesome, but we don’t often think this way. Do we? When emotions or expectations are high, when we really want something, or when we’re scared. Uh oh, Wait, I’m one of these things all the time…..

“It’s hard to be patient. Especially because there is no way my spiritual hindsight is 2020. I am constantly forgetting all the good things that Jesus has done for me and the way God has come through. I have short-term spiritual memory loss. God gave me a foot and strong muscles. If a door is closed, why shouldn’t I be kicking it in?” ~ Dennis B.

Can anyone else say amen?

We’ve all been trained to go after and get things we want. It seems to be part of being an American. But when you get it all, why do we still feel so empty? “Everything you lean on besides God will let you down break your heart. Knowledge, influence, wealth, fitness, and especially stuff.” ~Chris R.

My boys were on fire this week! By sharing my friends’ wisdom with you, I hope it makes you think a bit differently as it did me.

In closing, let me ask you this, where are you getting your wisdom? Fox News or MSNBC? Podcasts? The New York Times? May I make a suggestion? King Solomon was allowed to ask God for one thing, and He chose wisdom. God granted it, and then Solomon wrote a book in the Bible called Proverbs. It’s in the Old Testament, and it’s perfect for a daily dose of wisdom, one chapter at a time. Ask your friends to come along. You may be shocked at how wise they are too. 

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Symphony of Me

I would say that I am a man of action. A lot of my doing gives me self-worth. So to sit back and do little is severely unnerving. 

This week with selling our house, many things were out of my control. I just had to wait and trust the process. We had to schedule our realtor, mortgage lender, carpet installers, and pool light repair guy because I didn’t have the skills or experience to execute it all and do it all right. Waiting and sitting back while others do the work is not the sweet spot of my personality. I absolutely hate it. 

I’m convinced God knows that about me and sent me a little encouragement this week. On Wednesday, this verse showed up right when I was about to lose it.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Then on Thursday, this verse dropped into my lap.

“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 35:5-6

Two timely reminders that if I give up control and seek His best way, the results are far better than I can ask or imagine. 

But give up control? Nah, I don’t think so. That is too hard, too scary, with too unpredictable an outcome. 

Ever since that big punk kid in second grade asked me, “What are you gonna do about it?” while taking my Star Wars Action figure and walking away, I decided that there was plenty I could do about it. I was going to do everything I could, never to be put in that spot again. As a bonus, over time, I realized the world rewards a doer, a hustler.

Can you hear the soundtrack playing in the background of this thinking? “Me, me, me, me, me, meeeee!” Just like a singer warming up their voice.

Two of the many things I have learned being a pastor is that hurt people – hurt people – and hurt people often have a hard time not focusing on themselves. I have compassion and understanding for both mindsets. But this is where it gets interesting with God. He says He wants to meet you in your pains and coping mechanisms. It’s His #1 mission. 

Today, He gave me this reminder:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalms 40:1-2

David wrote that about our God, and it still stands firm today. We have a God who is wholeheartedly interested in leading us from our way to His way for our gain, our best. 

If I can just dial in some patient dependence on His direction, He promises time and time again that we can’t lose. He will turn a symphony of Me into a beautiful Chorus of We.

I’ve got some tough questions for us to think about this week. Which one of your greatest strengths was born from a moment of pain? And even though that strength may have treated you well, does it need to be traded for the new God-designed model?

If this spoke to you and you relate, throw a comment below. I would love to know I am not alone in this.

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

What is Freedom Anyway?

Guest Post by Stephen Pollock

Last Sunday, our campus Pastor Joel Delph really shook me up during his message about Jesus’ teaching on “the Law” with one question. 

“Did you know that freedom is a learned activity?”

He then went on to say, “Freedom is a learned lifestyle. To live free from bondage is something you have to learn to do.”

Huh? I always thought that once the prison door flung open, you could just run out to your loved ones, have a steak dinner, and the rest of your life…you know, be free. Then I thought of Brooks, the seasoned fella in The Shawshank Redemption. Brooks spent his entire adult life in prison and, when suddenly released, didn’t know what to do with himself. He was set free but didn’t know how to live free. Sound familiar? Watch it again if it’s been a while. Pay close attention to the language and symbolism, from when Brooks steps outside the prison gate to when his last letter is read about his so-called freedom.

Good ole Brooks got me thinking. What is freedom anyway? 

What do you think it is? 

  • Is it being so secure that you never have to worry again? 
  • Is it living a life of leisure
  • Is it simply living in a free country where you can believe, speak and worship as you please? 

The Bible has some things to say about all of these. 

About Security: Matthew 7:24 – “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes, it won’t collapse.”

About Leisure: Paradise was described in the first book of the Bible, and you know what was included? Work. Genesis 1:28 instructs us to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Verbs. Tim Keller sums it up nicely, “God left creation with deep untapped potential for cultivation that people were to unlock through their labor.”

About Freedom: 1 Corinthians 10:23 – “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.”

Surely living in a free country equals freedom, right? Maybe, but how free do you feel right now? My reality is that I’m not mature enough to live free. I wasn’t even sure I knew what freedom was, so I asked God to point it out to me, and here’s how He answered, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Easy enough, but notice the verse starts with “and,” inextricably linking it to what came before. What came first is, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” To be a disciple is to learn. To be discipled by God is a good indication that He loves you (see Hebrews 12:6). Therefore, I think real freedom is living under the rule of Christ in His Kingdom, having the things we think we want be taken away, and not doing what we think we want, or need to do.

That seems pretty straightforward – so what’s stopping me? 

Since this is Shawn’s blog, I thought I’d honor him with a Star Wars reference. Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong, relays a scene from The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker steps into the darkness of the cave, where he knows something is not right, only to be confronted by his enemy Darth Vader. Lightsabers are drawn, the battle ensues, and Luke cuts off Vader’s masked head. Brene states, “Only, it isn’t Darth Vader’s face; it’s Luke’s face.”

To be sure, I am not my own enemy because the Bible makes it clear who the enemy is. But, that scene makes me wonder if I’m the one stopping myself from living in true freedom—no need to despair at that thought because I’m learning as I go.

What about you? Do you practice living in God’s freedom?