Author Archives: Carrie Carter

Interview: Mary DeMuth Talks “We Too” with Carrie Carter

Author and church planter Mary DeMuth has been featured on CNN and in The Washington Post.

Note from the Editor: Wesleyan Accent writer Carrie Carter recently interviewed author and church leader Mary DeMuth about her new book on sexual abuse and the church, We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis. DeMuth’s tradition is not alone as American Protestant church life has been rocked by the faith community’s own #metoo moment, #churchtoo. From megachurches to historic denominations, the ripple effect of revelation has been far-reaching. Wesleyan Accent extends gratitude to clergy spouse Carrie Carter for shining the spotlight on this new resource.

Warning: This interview includes references to sexual abuse that some may find a trigger of traumatic response.

I grew up in a faith community where abuse was not spoken of, where sex was a taboo topic in any context. So as one can imagine, my understanding of sexual abuse was quite simplistic well into adulthood.  How could a man or woman of God do such horrific things? I confess that it was easy to feel smug when scandal rocked the Roman Catholic Church, because somehow I felt like Protestants were different.

They’re not. At all. How arrogant of me to think so.

It took a little longer for the corner of that rug to be lifted, but all that filth is the same. Sexual abuse is a darkness that has pervaded the Church for centuries. No branch of faith is above another when it comes to the pervasiveness of sin. The flames of sexual abuse have scarred people I love. People who trusted and were burned.

For this reason I jumped at the chance to review We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis. We Too is now available for purchase, and it was written to help those in ministry leadership to understand the far-reaching effects of sexual abuse and how to support to those on the healing journey. It was truly an honor to interact with Mary and to hear her thoughts on a topic so vital for our ministry leaders right now.

CARRIE CARTER: For those who might not be familiar with you, tell us a little bit about your story.

MARY DEMUTH: I am a sexual abuse survivor. When I was five years old, neighborhood teens repeatedly raped me over the course of my kindergarten year. My father was a predatory man as well. And I found myself during a lot of my childhood being approached by predators. I spent a lot of time running away from those who wanted to steal from me. I met Jesus when I was fifteen through the ministry of Young Life. I have been on a decades-long healing journey since then.

CC: Was We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis written as a response to the recent issues that have been exposed to light in the evangelical world, or was it a work that was already in process?

MD: In some ways it’s been in process for decades. I have been speaking about this issue a very long time, but it has finally gotten teeth because of the evangelical scandals of late. I am grateful that Harvest House Publishers took a huge risk in publishing this book. 

CC: Was there anything during the research and writing of We Too that you didn’t already know? If so, what impact did this new knowledge have on you?

MD: I’ve been seeped in this for decades. But I was particularly surprised at the numbers outside the United States. In other cultures, the numbers are significantly higher percentages of women and children being exploited. Consider this: “Some 35% of women globally have experienced some form of sexual violence, though because of the nature of secrets, this number is most likely underreported. For some countries, the statistics are even more shocking: 57% of Bangladesh women, 77% of Cambodian women, 79% of Indian women, and 87% of Vietnamese women and 99% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Remember, harassment is not the same as sexual violence. Harassment involves innuendo, inappropriate comments, and unwanted sexual solicitation. 120 million girls globally have experienced forced sex. 750 million girls will be married before their eighteenth birthday.[1]” (Excerpt)

CC: What was the most difficult section of We Too to write? What made it difficult for you?

MD: Recounting the first story in the book where I was abused by a doctor, and then telling the story at the end of the book of when I returned to the scene of the crimes [that occurred] when I was a five year old. There are so many fears in making those stories public, and the shame still looms.

“We all know someone affected by sexual abuse. Sadly, the secular media has shown more compassion than the church toward sexual abuse survivors. There is a holy reckoning unfolding before us in the church. People are fed up with secrecy, covering up, and the sheer proliferation of abuse—both inside and outside the church. It’s time for the church to become what it should be: a place of security, not shame; humility, not pride. By standing with survivors of sexual abuse, we can build a community of kindness and restoration—a place where God’s people are healed and made whole.”

Excerpt, We Too

CC: As the spouse of a ministry leader, I received no training on practical ministry, let alone how to minister effectively to sexual abuse survivors. What do you feel is the most important thing for us, as ministry spouses, to know?

MD: That, most likely, everyone you minister to is affected by this issue. It either happened to them, or they love someone who has had this story. The best thing you can do is err on the side of belief, listen, weep alongside, and pray. If there is an outcry from a minor, you must report this to the authorities. Instead of viewing sexual abuse survivors as drains on your energy, look at them as tutors to teach you what it means to turn to Jesus and lean on him for sustenance and strength. They have SO MUCH to teach us about discipleship.

CC: After reading We Too, I feel it is going to be a vital tool that needs to be on the shelf of every ministry leader’s library. Have you written any supplemental material or do you have recommendations for other resources to help navigate this crisis?

MD: I am in the process of writing a video study and guide. Two other great resources: The Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries by Boz Tchividjian  and

CC: For churches that are ready to put protocols in place for the protection of children, is there an organization that you recommend for assistance with those protocols?

MD: Yes, I also have an extensive list of resources for pastors and ministry leaders here: 

To read DeMuth’s “8 Reasons Why the Church Doesn’t Like to Discuss Sexual Abuse,” click here.

[1] Meera Senthilingam, “Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globe,” CNN, 29 Nov 2018,

Carrie Carter ~ When It’s Not Just the Turkey That’s Stuffed

It’s late November and you’re mostly through your daily “Thankful For…” list, or daily “Thankful” reading from the Psalms. By this point, you have your Thanksgiving menu planned, whether it means eating in or eating out. November is pretty predictable, as far as months go.

What do you do, then, when November is not predictable? What if your “Thankful For…” list is more of a “Gotta Get Through This” list? Instead of being filled with holiday plans, family get-togethers, and attitudes of gratitude, it’s overflowing with weariness, unexpected loss, and financial difficulties. You know there are things for which you are thankful, but maybe your brain can’t focus long enough to identify them.

You’re stuffed. Except, unlike a turkey, you’re not bursting with fluffy, sage-y goodness, but rather the leaden weight of what life has lobbed at you. You’re crammed with the recent fight with your spouse, the car repairs, the daughter’s behavior at school, the medical bills, the drama in your extended family, the frustration with your job, the misunderstanding with a friend, the spiritual desert through which you journey…the list goes on and on. You step outside your own personal realm to hearing of death by fire, or by gunshot, or by tragic accident. The media howls from all sides and truth starts to ripple. You just keep stuffing, pushing the heaviness down like trash in a can. It’s not that you want to be stuffed. It’s just that you don’t know what to do with it all.

There is another way.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.          – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)

See, we humans have a very tiny issue known as control. Culture dictates that individualism is prized. Independence is celebrated. Being in control is valued. The elevation of these traits in society has damaged our ability to release the “stuff” and relinquish our grasp on the things that we really have no hold on anyway.

How much of what you’re carrying is directly affected by what you can do about it?

Maybe some, but not all. Maybe not even most.

That’s the beautiful thing about Jesus’ words. It’s an invitation to come. It’s an invitation to bring all our stuff. Our natural inclination is, in the words of a 2-year-old, to do it, “All by self.” Not just to carry it, but to carry it alone. Jesus is offering to do it with us. He wants to exchange the stuff we’ve placed on ourselves with his stuff. He’s not asking us not to carry anything; he just wants us to carry the right things.

So perhaps your “Thankful for…” list could be written as,

“I’m thankful that I can give Jesus the stuff that has to do with my boss being verbally abusive,” or “I’m thankful that I can give Jesus the stuff that has to do with my aunt’s cancer diagnosis.”


“I’m thankful that in the midst of this disagreement with my spouse, that Jesus can help me to get perspective,” or “I’m thankful that, even though the car repairs were unexpected, Jesus will provide for our needs, even if that means me taking on a few extra hours at work.”

I’m not sure why, but I think we hesitate to “bother” Jesus with the things we consider self-manageable (the “God helps them who helps themselves” mentality), or we wait to save our asking for help when we think the stuff is too big for us to handle. And yet we pour out all stuff, big and small, to our spouse or our parents or our best friend.

Jesus’ desire is for us to come. His desire for us is to squirm out from under the heaviness of our stuff, regardless of how accustomed we are to lugging it around. His desire is for our rest.

And that’s something for which we can truly be thankful.

Carrie Carter ~ Waiting on the Holy Spirit

Waiting is not an easy task for me. I’ve been known to drive miles out of the way to avoid being delayed by a train. I’ve been caught sneaking food from the dish before it was placed on the table. I’ve evaluated the check-out lanes at Wal-Mart in order to choose the one with the shortest wait. I always choose wrong. Always. The microwave society that is the Western world has not helped to develop the fruit of patience (longsuffering?) in my life, and I find that it has done nothing to benefit our culture. I don’t have to drive in LA to know that road rage simmers on the pavement of I-5.

This week we celebrate Ascension Day. An interesting conversation happened on this last day of Jesus’ physical presence on earth. He was telling them to wait. He was answering their questions of, “is this when?” with a, “God’s times are none of your business.”

It’s funny that even after three years of walking alongside Jesus, living through the agony of his death, and celebrating his resurrection, they were still anticipating a coup on the Roman government (Acts 1:6). They had waited long enough. The nation of Israel had waited long enough.

“Wait,” he said. “Wait for the Father’s promise.” “Wait for the power you will receive.” “Wait for the Holy Spirit.”

And he was gone.

So they waited. They took care of some pre-church “business.” They waited some more.

Jesus didn’t tell them how long they would need to wait to receive God’s promise. Instead of grumbling, sighing, looking at their watches, complaining to the front desk staff, or checking for messages on their phones, they united in prayer. I don’t know what they prayed, but I don’t suppose it matters now.

They waited for 10 days. Ten days of not knowing how long they needed to wait and not understanding what they were waiting for but believing Jesus: that something was going to happen.

When it happened, they knew. All of Jerusalem knew. Pentecost came in a blaze of glory! Almost 2,000 years later, I’ve benefitted from that wait.

My reality makes this story painful. How often have I given up waiting on God’s promise because I didn’t see a “will expire on” stamp? How much have I missed because I was not submitted to God’s timeline? Like a petulant child, I’ve demanded answers right now, and I know, even within my own parenting, that a child who behaves in that manner rarely, if ever, gets that for which he or she asks.

The 10 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost is my yearly reminder that good things come to those who wait. That waiting is essential for growth within my spiritual journey. Those 10 days were not recorded as a time of uncertainty and frustration, but as a time of prayer and purpose.

My own prayer is that when God asks me to wait, whether for a week or for a season, I will do it well.

Carrie Carter ~ Living Alive

I’ve seen a lot of death. Not just because my husband has a full-time pastoral calling, but also because my parents never shielded me from the reality of death. Many parents today hesitate to take their children to funerals because, “they wouldn’t understand,” and that is true, but only to an extent. As a parent, it is my duty (privilege?) to explain the mystery of death.

At the viewing of my grandfather many years ago with my own son…

“Yes, you may touch the cheek of Poppy. Gently, now.”

“Why does he feel weird? Wait! I think I saw him breathe!”

“No, baby, it’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

A few weeks following…

“Look, it’s heaven!”

Trying to decipher small boy’s exclamation.


Pointing to the cemetery.

“Over there! You said that’s where Poppy was going, and we took him there, so that must be heaven.”

Insert awkward explanation to a literal-thinking three-year-old about the vague timeline between resting and eternal destination.

Over the next couple of years…

“No, you may not touch the cheek of ‘insert-random-deceased’s- name.’”

“Can I ask ‘grieving-relative’ if I can touch him/her?”

“No, this is not an appropriate time for that.”

Unfortunately, my son didn’t always ask me before he asked the grieving loved one. Grace was always extended and always resolved with a hearty chuckle.

He had such a fascination with death and a deeply sympathetic heart for the grieving at such a young age, that I wouldn’t have been surprised had he grown up to be a funeral director. It still wouldn’t surprise me.

It is this exposure to death and the traditional ceremonies that follow that calms the fear of the unknown. In fact, in most cases, I welcome the re-orientation that a funeral brings to me. There is a shift of perspective, a reminder that my priorities again need to be realigned. It makes me very aware that sympathy can only reach so far, and it is only empathy that can touch a heart. I have never lost an immediate family member or close friend, so I am always conscious of my lack of understanding of the intensity of pain those losses bring under normal circumstances.

Last month, my family suffered a loss and a near-loss that awakened me—not just to the familiarity of death, but also to the foreignness of life.

Foreign? How could something so natural, so normal, be characterized as foreign?

Unless you have seen over the edge of life’s precipice, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of life itself. When you sense the fingers of death brush over your shoulder and realize that it has rested its hand on one close to you, life holds a value not recognized before – a value prompting gratitude that emanates out of the heart.

How then, shall life be lived? How do we step back from our story as a stranger and embrace our lives as our own?

Life, as it should be lived, is far more than a bucket list, more than another experience to cross off.

Life is being aware.

It is absorbing the sights and sounds around you. Feeling the peace as well as the pain. Life is allowing God to overflow you until he spills out on everyone around you. It is speaking for those who have no voice, standing for those beaten down. It is taking every opportunity to reach out a hand to someone in need. Life is treating your marriage as sacred, treasuring your children as a gift. Life pauses to hear context rather than anger; it speaks a gentle word instead of driving the blade deep.

Life begs to be viewed through new eyes.

Do you make an effort to appreciate gestures of kindness, even the smallest ones? Do you have the ability to recognize when someone is having a rough day? Can you sense a need without it being spoken? Can you say you’ve made others’ lives better as you walk out of the room?

Life is being aware. All in.

I feel it fading, this reality of life that always comes when I am faced with death. Aliveness lasts for two or three weeks. I write notes of appreciation to those who have contributed to my life. I send “thinking of you” texts. Suppers actually have love sprinkled into them rather than impatience and frustration. I’m on top of making sure everyone has clean clothes.

Then the mundane sets in. Routine, pressures, and conflict pull my focus away and I find myself distracting my mind with Tsum Tsum rather than reorienting myself with God’s gift of simply being alive.

Last year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to live every day as if it were New Year’s Day—fresh, hopeful, and anticipating a bright future.

I lasted until about April.

This year, within the first two weeks of 2018, my mother-in-law passed away, and a friend faced a life-threatening medical emergency with a poor prognosis. Both were unexpected. One was released from life and one was given a new lease on life.

Death breathed on my cheek and with a whisper, reminded me to live alive.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”    -2 Corinthians 3:5 (NASB)

Carrie Carter ~ Loneliness and Friendship in Ministry

Sometimes there are questions that simply do not have clear solutions. 

As my husband and I neared the end of our first ministry assignment, a woman said to me, “I think if you hadn’t have been in your position of leadership, we could have been good friends.” Even in my late twenties, I didn’t completely comprehend what she was saying. It stung, but we hadn’t been in ministry long enough for me to realize that there was this dance to friendship. That people viewed me differently. That there would be those who would want to cozy up and those who would avoid, as my “could-have-been” friend. 

There are books on friendship, books that touch on friendships in ministry, books on loneliness, and large portions of books dedicated to loneliness in ministry. Everyone has a slightly different take depending on personalities, positions, and history, but the one thing they all agree on is this: being in ministry leadership is one of the loneliest places in existence, and friendship within ministry can be difficult to navigate.  

So, let’s start with a couple of the easier questions. Why is ministry leadership lonely? 

First, there is an invisible burden for those under your care. You not only are constantly evaluating the spiritual health of your particular area of ministry as a whole, but you are also weighed with the spiritual burden for those individuals who make up that ministry. No one else can understand this burden you carry unless they themselves have also traveled that path. It is literally indescribable to the average layperson.

You are the keeper of secrets, the mediator of conflict, a diplomat, a coordinator, and a motivator. You put hours of sweat, tears, prayer, study, and practice into the call God has placed upon your heart. But then, fill-in-the-blank times per week, you also carry out the visible functions of your ministry, whether that is preaching, teaching, singing, administrating, etc.

What is it that people see? Do they see you helping that couple fight to save their marriage? Do they see you guiding family members in mending their broken relationships? Do they see the completed outline of the sermon or lesson that you discard because God is leading you in a different direction? Do they see your heartbreak as a mentee falls back into a previously overcome addiction? Do they see your weariness after coming back from a hospital visit that may have stretched into hours after they are fast asleep? 

No.  And in an age of performance evaluations, your “performance” is based on your speaking abilities, your pitch and rich tone, and how well you are able to pull in and keep a crowd. All the while, you know that ministry is so much more. Yet how do you explain? There are so many things that must remain unsaid for the sake of integrity. For the sake of wisdom. 

It is in this knowing that the dull pain of loneliness resides. 

Is the solution to loneliness, friendship? Yes, this would be true for the most part, but we’re adding the variable of ministry here.  

Based on what we know of loneliness in ministry, friendship is tricky. Why is this? 

Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Some want to sidle close to you in order to be a little nearer to someone in “the know.” Some avoid you in order to sidestep arousing jealousy in others (remember how you felt about the “teacher’s pet”?) Some find those in ministry leadership easy targets on which to project their own toxic behavior. 

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for making friends within a ministry context. All I have to offer is a few observations in the friend-connecting process. (It is not 100% satisfaction guaranteed.) 

  • Know yourself. Do you make friends easily or not? Why or why not? What has worked for you in the past? 
  • Know the relationship dynamics of those within the area in which you minister. Some areas are clannish, where friends outside the extended family aren’t considered necessary. Some areas are more transient, where a single-family unit may not have other family in close proximity. Both bring a unique set of challenges. 
  • Observe. How do the individuals within your sphere of ministry interact with one another? Do they build up or tear down? How do they treat other people? Anyone who gossips to you about someone else will also gossip to someone else about you. This person is not safe. They are not to be trusted. 

Once you’ve considered these practices, what now? You’re aware of your own personality, you’re aware of your culture, and you’ve gotten a feel for the overall friend-making atmosphere. Where do you find someone that has “BFF” material? 

  • In ministry leadership. No one understands what you face like another leader. I generally don’t recommend buddying-up to lay leaders, only because it has the potential to put them in a difficult “conflict of interest” situation.  In a past ministry position, I did not follow this rule. I had a very close “inner circle” friend whom I knew I could trust to hold my heart in her hand. We went through a challenging season due to her being elected to take a higher position in leadership at the same time my husband was also appointed to a higher position. I did everything within my power to protect her in order to avoid the “conflict of interest” label, and we had to make some serious adjustments in our relationship. Our friendship survived, and today I believe it’s probably stronger than it has ever been. My closest friends are the ones who have also shared the road of ministry. 
  • In “mutual interest” groups. MOPS, story time at the library, and school are just a few. Take a class in a subject you’re interested in and connect with like-minded people. Find a hobby and bond with those who share it. I’ve made life-long bonds with people I met at the dog park. 
  • At work. A lot of times, you’re spending more time with these people than with anyone else. Get to really know one of your co-workers. Go out to lunch. Listen to their story. 

There are probably more places that I’m not thinking of. (I purposely left out online groups and social media, because my focus is connecting with someone personally, face-to-face. I have Facebook friends I’ve never met in person, and I treasure those connections. Sometimes, though, there’s nothing that can replace physical presence.) 

There are a few things I’ve learned about friendship along the way. 

  • It’s not easy. Friendships need to be nurtured. They need to be cultivated. If you can imagine yourself being the gardener over a lawn of roses, then you get the picture, because when the buds appear and the petals open bright and wide, you know it’s all been worth it. 
  • It can be seasonal. Some friendships weren’t meant to be long-term. Individuals grow apart, the connections fade, and you find yourself going in a different direction. Sometimes, the seasons shift with subtlety, sometimes the seasons end abruptly, without warning. Whether expected or not, self-evaluate, make apologies if necessary, and give yourself the gift of grace. 
  • You will go through “friendless” or lonely stages. This is normal. When I was a mom of completely dependent offspring, regardless of the myriad of kid-friendly programming, it was a lonely stage. I had recently come out of the “college” phase, where my friends and I were available anytime, any day. All of a sudden, our days were filled with diapers, laundry, tears, and Thomas the Tank Engine. If we had free time, we filled it with catching up on our own sleep. We were exhausted. Seventeen years later, I am personally moving through this lonely season again, but I developed deep, rich, friendships in my most recent phase of life that have sustained me regardless of distance. 
  1. Speaking of distance…miles do not mean a friendship has to cease. I have friends from the nearest at 310 miles to the other side of the world to the women who have earned their way into my “inner circle.” It’s not easy. Communication is often hit-and-miss; however, these women don’t jump to conclusions, assign motives, or misinterpret silence; rather, they extend grace. 

This is it: the nitty-gritty. No clear solutions. Loneliness and friendship have been challenging humanity since the beginning of time. 

Scripture is chock-full of verses on loneliness: Genesis 2:18, Deuteronomy  31:6, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 27:10, Psalm 38:9, Psalm 62:8, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7… and more. 

It’s also full of stories of friendship: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Elijah and Elisha, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Jesus and his 12 disciples (and then his “inner circle” of three)… and more. 

I hope this is helpful. What I do know is that Jesus is a friend who will stick closer than your own sibling, and he promises never to abandon you. 

So – are you in a time of loneliness or fellowship? Do you have deep friendships or are you afloat, in isolation? Where is God leading you today? 

Carrie Carter ~ Old Dog, New Tricks: Neuroplasticity and the Renewing of Your Mind

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 

I have an old dog, so take my word for it. She wasn’t very good at learning new tricks when she was a younger dog. I was elated that we passed obedience class since her “sits” were hesitant and forced most of the time, and her “down stays” were almost non-existent. 

You see, she was a dog we rescued from the shelter. A dog that had previously been trained to hunt, and that had (still has) bird shot peppered throughout her body. Soon after adopting her, an elderly hunter told me that if a bird dog sits on the job, often the hunter will shoot the dog as a disciplinary action; and, while we couldn’t be sure, that may be why she refused to sit without a hand pushing down on her backside. Now that she’s old, I don’t even ask it of her. 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 

I’ve heard it echoed countless times over stylistic changes in the church, over updated technology, over music genres, over driving in unfamiliar areas, over ethnic food, over acceptance of someone who might be different from the person using the idiom. My list could go on, but… 

I beg to differ. And actually, the Apostle Paul does as well. 

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, [emphasis mine] so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he urged them to put away the habits of the world that had become a part of who they were: habits that conformed to the godless customs and culture in which they lived and that kept them from knowing the will of God.  

Anyone who has tried to change a habit understands the difficulty, whether it be with food choices, activity levels, time management, or more. It can take anywhere from 18-254 days to change a habit, but it can be done, all due to God’s intricate handiwork in creating neuroplasticity. 


Up until the 1970’s, scientists thought that certain functions in a brain were hard-wired. Any changes that occurred were the exception. However, as technology advanced and our ability increased to study areas of the body that were previously a mystery, it was discovered that our brains have the capacity to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction.  

“Neuroplasticity” literally equals “plastic brains.” God created brains that are resilient, always learning, formed by our experiences and our attitudes, and, to an extent, are able to recover from traumatic injuries. (What would we be capable of, if not for the limitations lowered on us by the curse of sin?) 

Are you as wowed as I am?  

So are the concepts of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” and neuroplasticity intertwined? I think so, and here’s how: 

Paul’s exhortation is clear. After doing a quick word study on “renew,” the word means…exactly that. There are no other substitutions in the Greek for his use of “renew.” “By the renewing – By the making new; the changing into new views and feelings,” states late theologian Albert Barnes.  

In the culture Paul addressed – a culture fraught with immorality, the celebration of violence, and slavery that crossed every line – how were these new Christ-followers to actually follow Christ? Up until that point, they knew no different lifestyle. It was normal. How were they to change such embedded behavioral patterns and thought processes? Why would Paul even ask this of them? 

Because Paul knew it could be done. With the help of God’s brilliance in forming the brain with capacities to change, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and years of reconditioning and retraining, Paul himself was transformed by the renewing of his mind and did a 180-degree turn in his way of living. He did not ask the Romans (or any other recipient of his letters) to do something he did not do. 

So, can an old dog learn new tricks? 

The answer is a firm, “Yes.” 

Through a willingness to continue learning, to open yourself to new experiences, to immerse yourself in new social interactions, to pay attention to your surroundings, to get off the couch and get moving, to learn a new skill, you can strengthen weakened synapses and create new neural connections—ones that will open a whole new world: a world in which you can reach today’s generation with the good news of Jesus Christ!  

You are never too old to change. God has implemented you with the mental ability, and the Holy Spirit provides you with the spiritual ability to change. 

You can teach an old dog new tricks. 

Now go out, revel in God’s handiwork, and grow some new synapses so you can be more effective in reaching others for Christ! 


Rubin, G. (2009, October 21). Stop Expecting to Change Your Habit in 21 Days. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from 

Rugnetta, M. (2017, June 15) Neuroplasticity. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from 

Buscynski, R. (No date stated). How Does Neuroplasticity Work [Infograph]. Retrieved September 20, 2017 from 

Barnes, A. (circa 1870). Notes on the New Testament, Retrieved September 20, 2017, from 


Carrie Carter ~ Find Your Wings

I didn’t cry when our boys went to kindergarten. 

I didn’t cry when our boys went to high school. 

I didn’t even cry when our oldest graduated from high school. 

Maybe that’s why the flood of emotion that washed over me a couple days before we took our oldest to college completely caught me off guard. Even now, as we’re back home, the wave swells, tears rise and threaten to spill over. 

Why now?  

I’ve always known before that he will invariably be home at the end of each day. 

No longer. 

And yet 

A tiny word filled with purpose. Yet. The tiny word that reminds me why we do what we do. It keeps me focused, goal-oriented, intentional. 

We raise them to the best of our ability so they can spread their wings and fly away. It’s biblical. 

“If anyone comes to me but does not hate [or loves more than me; Jesus is using hyperbole to emphasize his point] his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even ·life [life itself; or his own life]—he cannot be my ·follower [disciple].”  Luke 14:26 (Expanded Bible)  

So a man will leave his fatherandmother [in the sense of a new primary loyalty] and be united with his wife, and the two will become one ·body [flesh].” Genesis 2:24 (Expanded Bible) 

We haven’t reached the applicability of the second verse, but it’s biblical that I open my palms and graciously release him to leave. 

This first step of releasing is new territory for me. As my husband wisely said, “We’re stepping back from coaching and allowing him to be the team captain. He’ll be calling his own plays.” This means lessons learned the hard way. We will be there to support and advise, but only when it’s asked for. This is probably the most difficult of all, given that I cut my teeth on “Dear Abby.” No comics for this girl. 

Did we do enough? 

The answer is yes, though it falters a little. We did what we knew to do. Maybe it’s not enough, maybe we could have done better – know there were areas in which we could’ve done better – but we did what we knew to do in the best way we knew how. 

Is he ready? 

The answer is yes, a hearty yes. The boy has been trying to set off on his own his entire life. Twice at the age of three and again at the age of eight. He has hitchhiked with strangers twice, he’s been brought home by police. He has been an observer of navigating the world. His spiritual footing is solid for a guy his age. Will he stumble? Yes. Will he question? Yes. Does he have weaknesses that need purified? Yes. But he is ready to work out his own salvation and make it his own. 

The yes’s don’t make the letting go easier, but they magnify the yet 

Many parents have asked me, “How can you let him go so far away? Why can’t he stay around here?” 

The yet is what prompts me to answer the questions with my own. 

How can I not let him go so far away? How could I force him to stay here? 

Seven hours away is exactly where God wants him. God so graciously closed all other doors in order to make the decision very clear. Who am I, his mother, to stand in the way of God’s path for his life? He is suited for a purpose far above anything I could dream for him. 

So the tears may fall, yet we have reached the goal line in raising him. I now have a piece of my heart in Illinois, yet our purpose has been fulfilled.  

There is an area of my nest that is vacant, yet I’m so proud to see him fly. 

Find your wings. We’re so proud of you. 

Carrie Carter ~ Finding Holy in the Everyday

I’m supposed to be sitting here writing something brilliant and thought-provoking. You (my audience) are well-versed in theology, social ethics, and various philosophies. You have high expectations, or you wouldn’t be here. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good theological debate and I am passionate about the current social crises, but right now, I’m just really loving the font I used for the promotion of my husband’s new sermon series (Jellyka Delicious Cake, if you want to know.)

I could start a lively discussion on religious inclusivity vs. exclusivity, but I can’t get over the fact that I just turned the big “4-0!” I am excited for the potential of this new decade! Over the next ten years, I will more than likely see my boys graduate from college, get married, have babies, and launch careers; all of which will bring a new season into my life of the empty nest and cooking for two, being called, “Grandma,” and comfort with the skin I’m in and in who God made me to be. It’s a “wow” moment. It will bring with it the sadness of inevitable change: unexpected illness, death, tragedy, relationship challenges, but I’ll deal with those as they come, and walk this lovely path called aging.

I pondered writing an article on worship.  I filled in as worship leader for a few months this past year. What an eye-opener. If there is anything I want anyone to know, it is that we are all worship leaders; from the soprano on the platform, to the elderly man in the congregation with his hands lifted high. Worship is when I take a meal across the street to a couple of our shut-ins. It is a word of encouragement to a friend who is down. It is a smile, a hug, a dollar in the collection jar, an “I love you.”

So I bounce to the passion of my heart: the refugee crisis. The problem is, the internet is saturated with stories that make me weep. I finished I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, young Pakistani winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, just as news broke of 88 Pakistani being killed in a bombing of their shrine, and a video is released of a small Syrian boy who had his legs blown off by a barrel bomb. Listening to him cry, “Pick me up, Daddy,” is chilling.

I force myself away from the news, lest it swallow me. My mind instead wanders to the fact that I have a son leaving for college at the end of this summer and another son who just earned his learners’ permit. I wonder if I’ve done enough. If I’ve remembered to tell them everything that is important. If I can help them, as a young Millennial and a Gen Z, bridge the generational gap so that they can work effectively among their own, as well as alongside the Gen-Xer’s. How does their definition of respect match mine? Have I trained them to submit to authority while standing for what is right? Will they follow Christ above all?

I pick up Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, by Lysa TerKeurst. I started it half-heartedly. As one in ministry leadership, rejection in various forms is a familiar feeling, so I think I’ve adjusted. A few chapters in, I realize that maybe I haven’t. I put it down, not knowing if I have the energy today to work through the forgotten memories.

Quiet. All of a sudden, everything stops. I am cognizant that there are no sounds outside of my fingers flying across the keyboard and I pause. I inhale slowly, eyes closed. I push away the world and sit in this moment. I bask in this moment of silence, while I revel in thankfulness to…

It is in this silent space that I re-realize that God is here. His holy in my every day.  I am created by and for him, so it is nothing for him to know exactly why my thoughts lead to where they do.

God walks beside me into this new decade of life, and is probably amused at my optimism for it.

God is the One who has stretched me beyond my comfort zone in this area of worship.

God knows the victories I have celebrated and the frustrations I have vented.

God’s heart weeps with mine as children are driven, bloodied and broken, from their homes.

God calms the bubbling anger in my heart and I am reminded that each is responsible for his or her own actions (or non-actions).

God loves my boys far more than I could ever desire, and I flash back to that moment when they were dedicated back to God. God gave me the tools to raise them as he would see fit, and while the way has been bumpy for everyone at times, I have done the best that I knew how. When I knew better, I did better.

God has taken the times I have been rejected and has strengthened me. Yes, I have work to do, but he is willing to do the work with me. He has, and will continue to take the pain of rejection, and I will choose to make it count by being accepting towards those who are the rejected.

These are my days. Every day. Times ten. Moving from one thing to another, thoughts swirling, ideas bouncing, opinions fighting for a way out. My guess is that these are your days as well. Your days until he stops you, reminds you to breathe, and to simply be.

His holy can be found in every day.

Carrie Carter ~ The Enemy Who Was Not an Enemy

Right before I turned 14, my narrow little view of the world was rocked. The U.S. had just declared war on Iraq.

I wasn’t so afraid of a war on the other side of the world as I was of the implications of this war.

“Armageddon,” “World War III, “and “Christ’s return,” were just a few of the words swirling around in the adults’ not-so-quiet whispers.

I went home and cried. I was devastated. I didn’t even have my driver’s license yet.

Through my teenage years, it was never a question who the enemies were. Anyone who looked like they could be from the Middle East was someone to be feared. Someone who mistreated not only their own, but would mistreat us as well, given the chance. While the Middle East conflict stretched into what seemed to be an endless amount of time, I got my license, went to college, got married, and had kids.

Our second ministry position took us to the suburbs of a large Midwestern city, where we were privileged to become part of a church whose diversity spanned over 20 different countries. It’s where Jesus used his love and grace to completely shift my small-town, American, white-girl worldview, and gave me the desire to embrace those from any culture. Trying to learn their language and tasting (and loving) their food, gave them cause for a lot of laughter—especially the language—and we loved each other.

Still, I admit I was a little surprised when my husband recently took me on our 20th Anniversary trip and I discovered we had a two-day layover in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Actually, the surprise I felt even surprised me. I thought I had long since moved past the group-think of my conservative circles in believing the generalities of Middle Eastern evil.

The voices buried deep in my 13-year-old self started whispering. Voices I didn’t even know were still there. Fortunately, I was able to rapidly silence them (and it helped that we had a 13-hour flight before arriving) and once we were there, I was able to enjoy this new-to-me culture as much as possible, while trying to remember what behavior was acceptable in this region.

**Sidenote—First day: unacceptable behavior was drawn attention to (loudly) when my husband put his arm around me for a mosque selfie. The selfie was fine, just not the arm around me. “No public displays of affection!”  the robed man chided. Oops. **

The second day ended on a desert tour with another family. A man, his wife, and two beautiful girls, all with caramel skin, jet hair, and decidedly English names. We sat down with them to share a traditional Arabic meal when, in an attempt to make conversation, my husband asked the man where they were from.

“Australia,” the man answered.

“No, where were you from originally?” he probed.

The man’s gaze dropped. Hesitantly, he spoke.

“We are from Iraq.”

I was ashamed at what I perceived to be the thoughts running through his head. Iraqis = American enemies. A generalization, sure, but there’s no telling what propaganda he had been exposed to. Would we recoil in fear? Would he see our eyes darken in suspicion? How awkward was this going to be?

My husband leaned forward and said, “Tell us your story.”

The man relaxed and began.

He was born in Syria, moved to Iraq during his childhood, and was immediately conscripted into Saddam Hussein’s army as soon as he graduated from high school.

He was in Saddam’s army for eight years, during which time he married his Iraqi wife, and was wounded in the line of duty three times. He stills carries the shrapnel.

Because of all that was happening, he decided he must get out. So, he left Saddam’s army, took his wife, fled Iraq, and headed for Greece. Five months later, the U.S. declared war on Iraq. I was 13.

Because they were Iraqi, Greece refused to allow them to stay and they were forced to go to a country that would accept people of their nationality. In this case, it was Australia. It took him five years to be able to get their parents and relatives out of Iraq, and he considered himself fortunate that he was able to get them out at all. That they had lived that long. Once they were safe in Australia, they were comfortable enough to start a family, which now is expanded to two girls, slightly younger than my own boys.

His story moved me like nothing else has.

Five months longer and he may have come face-to-face with any of the Gulf War veterans I know and love. He was a piece of military machinery that he wanted no part of.

The enemy who was not an enemy.

If you looked into his heavy-browed, deep-set eyes, you could see the love he had for his wife and his family. His face was free from malice towards us, and as we parted ways, there was a genuine gratitude that our paths had crossed.

When was the last time you looked past the appearance of the person walking by and recognized that he or she has a story?

Brown skin, black skin, tattooed skin, yellow skin, white skin, pierced skin.  While it may have never been said aloud, what skin have you been “told” is less-than, inferior, or maybe even superior? Maybe it’s a robe, or a dark hoodie, or a turban, or baggy jeans, or simply filthy and patched? Or maybe it’s a lifestyle that contradicts your beliefs? Who do you avert your gaze from? Refuse to make eye contact with?

Let’s word it this way: Who do you feel better than? Or maybe this way, as I paraphrase one pastor’s words:  *“If you were the man beaten and robbed on the side of the road, who is your Samaritan? Who would you NOT want to stop and help you?”

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Once you start viewing people as God’s creation, whom he loves and sent his Son to die for, and once you can see past their outward shell of flesh and blood, you will see into their heart and soul.

You will see that they have a story.

It’s worth listening to.


*Jon Middendorf, senior pastor at OKC First Nazarene

Carrie Carter ~ Recentering

The other day I was using Google maps and realized that when I dragged the map ahead on my route, this “re-center” button popped up!

How handy! Maybe this is a new feature from the most recent software update, or maybe I’m just that slow and haven’t noticed it until now, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped ahead on the map to find my destination and then didn’t know how to get back to find where I actually was (can I get an “Amen?”) .

That’s how I tend to live my life: while there’s a strong side of me that tends to dwell on how great yesterday was, I’m internally wired to be constantly looking ahead, zooming in to pinpoint my destination, viewing it from every angle (preferably from Street View) and wanting to know what to expect when I get there. I don’t like surprises. I long for the unknown to be familiar before I venture into it.Youarehere

Therein lies the problem. Before I know it, I’ve mentally prepared myself for every scenario, have the answer for every potential question, and stewed over possible negative outcomes. I’ve built an entire world of possibilities around a destination and I’m not even there.

It’s only when I’ve worked myself into an “If/Then” frenzy that I realize it: I don’t even know where I am. I drag my proverbial finger back over my “map,” thinking that I’m backtracking, but I simply can’t find the little blue Star Trek insignia-thingy that is me. I panic a little. How am I going to get to where I need to go, if I don’t know where I am–right here, right now?

That’s when the Holy Spirit nudges me to look at my “re-center” button.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” ~Colossians 1:17

“The Lord is the One who goes ahead of you; he will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8

When I push that button, it gives me the freedom to live each day as it comes. It reminds me to live in the present, because each day is a gift. It makes me aware that God himself goes before me, God knows my route, and he knows my destination.

Today, I need re-centered. I need today’s purpose. Not tomorrow’s, not next year’s, but today’s. It is today’s purpose that will determine tomorrow’s potential.

Goal-setting, five-year plans, and retirement ambitions are all good things, but sometimes I just need to take a step back and evaluate my current location on my life map.

Because every once in a while, I need to know where I am today before I can get to where God wants me to be.

*Note: I actually wrote this short piece the day before the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and then those shot in Dallas. These events shake me. My heart is overwhelmed at the hatred and injustice God’s ultimate creation could have toward one another. It trembles in fear at the world in which I’m getting ready to launch my boys.

“From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” ~Psalm 61:2

There has never been a better time than now to re-center.