Author Archives: Carrie Carter

Carrie Carter ~ With

I’m tired of the struggle.

I ask my 14-year-old to clean his room…again…knowing that there is no good reason I should have to tell him constantly to actually put his clothes IN the hamper, instead of AROUND the hamper. “Clean” is subjective, and our definitions clash. This is new to me, as my firstborn is not quite as laid back in regards to his living space.

Finally, when “clean” becomes a pit of clothes (clean? dirty?), sports paraphernalia, school supplies, etc., I go into Martha Stewart mode and demand him to, “pick everything up and put it where it belongs. NOW!” I rattle through MY list of “clean” and by the time I’m finished, his eyes are glazed over. I throw in a “you’re not watching NBA until it’s done!” in a desperate attempt to provide incentive. Most of the time I get a hug and an offer to do other chores, “you know, I think it’s time for me to unload the dishwasher,” or an apologetic, “I’m sorry, I just remembered I have homework.” Sigh.

We’re trying to raise our boys to be independent young men, strong Christians, and productive members of society. Cleaning their rooms is something they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

However, recently I walked into his room and all I could think was, “oh my.” I looked at him, tsk’d, and said, “we have to do something about this.” He moaned, “but there’s so much.” I took a deep breath and replied, “why don’t I help you?” His eyes lit up and we divided the tasks. No complaining, no excuses, no negotiating. We went to it and we got it done. Together. I was a little surprised at how pleasant it actually ended up being.

I was reminded of this story a few days ago when I received a text from a friend who indicated how thankful she was that God was showing her things that he wanted to work with her on. Wait. What? He wanted to work with her? I thought God was more of a “here’s the things I want you to work on—chop, chop,” kind of God. Seriously.

I can only think back again to my teen’s room. If I take that space and envision it as an area in my life that needs “cleaned up,” I peer at it and say, “God, I know it needs cleaned, but I think I may have other homework to do,” or “God, wouldn’t you rather me work on this other area instead?” (Of course, folding towels is so much easier!) The clutter, the mess, is so overwhelming and I’m defeated before I’ve begun. My own words to my children echo back into my heart: “no, I’m not helping you with that mess. You’re the one who made it,” so I tend to not ask God to help me “clean my room.” My mama’s heart feels pained as I’ve unknowingly taken my “God helps them who help themselves” mentality and projected it onto my children. I have failed to balance teaching them independence as individuals, yet dependence on God. My shortfall of grace is glaringly apparent.

Letting that word “with” really soak in has taken me far deeper than I expected.

It also explains years of failed New Year’s resolutions. It’s no wonder that my resolve to do ___________ never makes it past the end of January. I’m simply not strong enough to do it on my own. Or maybe it really has nothing to do with strength.

Maybe I wasn’t created to do it on my own.

God wants to do life with us and has promised to be there for us. There are too many verses stating that for me to list here, but here are a couple:

Isaiah 43:1b-2

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

And my favorite passage,

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

I learned something that day a few weeks ago.

I learned that working together is far more productive and more fun than working alone, even on a task that is generally boring and mundane. We finished twice as fast as my guy would have finished on his own, and to be honest, most of the stuff may have ended up shoved under the bed!

Is God showing you an area in which some clean-up needs done? Improving your physical health? Cultivating a certain fruit of the Spirit? Strengthening your spiritual discipline? Finding freedom from debt? Repairing your marriage?

Our God has no intention of making you do it by yourself. He is not asking you to do it in your own power. He is asking to work with you on these things.

And true comprehension of that, my friends, can end the struggle.

Carrie Carter ~ What Heritage Do You Choose to Pass On?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

He was the ultimate church planter. Eleven churches were started either by, or on account of him, and that’s all we’re able to decipher from the records we have. That number could easily be higher.

Oh, I’ll also mention that he did this in the Roaring Twenties and throughout the Depression. He started out on a horse and graduated to a Model T. He had no budget to purchase a sound system (not to mention the lack of technology), special age-specific programs, or paid staff. Who needs all that when you have access to a great accordion player!

JH Carroll Family 1928
A photo of the J.H. Carroll family in 1928. The authors grandmother is pictured squeezed next to her brother in the front row.

What he did have was a burning passion to reach lost Hoosiers with the good news. It was a passion that kept him away from his family of 12 for weeks at a time. It was a passion that set Southern Indiana on fire for God during a time when most hope had flickered out after the events of the stock market crash and rampant illnesses now unheard of with today’s medical advances.

And his eleven children? Well, seven of those eleven either became preachers, missionaries, or else married one. Let me add that he highly encouraged two of his “preacher’s wife” daughters, one of those being my grandmother, to become ordained themselves in a day when that wasn’t so popular.

He was my great-grandfather.

He’s a part of my heritage that I won’t deny, as I tend my own parsonage. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how his passion may have shaped my own life decisions. From the choice of undergrad studies, to marrying a minister, to my own path of full-time ministry, his life continues to impact mine: this man I never met.

Not everyone’s heritage is so glorious. Not all of my heritage is so glorious.

However, the heritage I leave is a choice. Not in the ancestral choices of yesterday, but rather in the choices I make for my progeny. I am fortunate to have J.H. Carroll’s legacy as part of my heritage, but it is up to me to make sure that heritage is passed along to my boys.

The events of last week leave me searching my soul. I shudder at the culture of terror and evil that seeped into the souls of the assailants. My heart breaks for the heirs of spiritual ignorance as they were thrown into the afterlife without comprehension of where they were going. I rejoice with sorrow for those who died with an everlasting hope, because I will meet them someday, and I thank the one who introduced them to that hope.

Am I leaving a heritage that my boys will want to pass on to my grandchildren? Am I leaving them a heritage that, in the face of evil, will give them the boldness to say, “Yes, I am a Christian”? Am I leaving them a heritage that gives them peace and security in Christ as the world around them crumbles?

My great-grandfather’s legacy could have just as easily ended with me, as it has for many other family members. But where does that leave my children? My great-grandchildren?

If you don’t have a heritage worthy of passing down, it’s never too late to start one. Your great-grandchildren might thank you for it decades later.

Carrie Carter ~ Soul Seasons

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

In case you didn’t know it, fall has arrived. The earth tilts on its axis and the days shorten, the air grows crisp, leaves change from green to varying hues of red, orange, and yellow, and combines roar through fields of golden-brown corn, stirring up enough dust that your sinuses aren’t sure what hit them, though they know they’re not happy.

For those of you who know not what I speak of because of geography, there is also pumpkin spice. I would almost tell you to trust the season of pumpkin spice, for this is what fall has become; but I fear pumpkin spice will go the way of seasonal decorations, as Halloween hangs next to Christmas décor. I rue the day when pumpkin spice is served alongside Derby Day’s mint juleps.

It’s as if our seasons are no longer definitive. Our lives have become so hectic and hurried that we live in one jumbled, chaotic season of “Sprumfinter” (springsummerfallwinter), which might explain why I see shorts paired with Uggs at Walmart in 20-degree weather.

Have you ever evaluated in which season your soul might be currently residing? Has the thought even occurred to you that your soul goes through seasons at all? Let me give you an example: My soul is currently coming out of a winter season. It has been long, dark, and, at times, bitterly cold. It is a season of waiting, a season of being pruned.

Winter is barren and stark. A time of living on the reserves you have stored from previous seasons. Winter does not bear fruit. Winter does not harvest. Winter can only hunker down and let God do his work. It is painful, but it is during the winter season that your roots have the potential to grow deeper in him than in any other season.

Or maybe you are in the spring of your soul, clearing rocks from the field, preparing soil, and planting seed. Your soul is blooming with new purpose, new vision. It is a time of renewal in every way. It is a season filled with hope, with anticipation for what could be. Love is revived and your eyes sparkle with fresh perspective. Passion is awakened the moment your soul is touched by the warmth of spring. There is work to be done and what better time than now?

Summer: granted, you may live in a place where summers are practically unbearable; where heat melts the soles of your flip-flops. However, the season of summer in your soul is a time of enjoyment–of God and those he has put in your path. It is a season of relaxation and play, without apology and with abandon. It is gleefully collecting the firstfruits of your planting, and living unhurried and unworried, existing fully in the moment, taking time to be aware of a cool breeze brushing across your sun-kissed face, and dancing with joy at the abundant blessings you’ve been given: all are signs of a soul-summer.

IMG_2104And now your soul cycles back to fall. Frost withers the grass and the leaves loosen their grip from the branches that birthed them. Fall is a season of celebrating God’s bounty, and gratefulness should overflow and splash out onto everyone you come in contact with. Yet, there is an urgency to autumn. You are driven to harvest what you have planted. To reap what you have sown. To store up the results of spring’s work and summer’s care. To feast on a harvest of righteousness, if that’s indeed what you’ve planted and nurtured. Though a physical fattening up for the winter is no longer something we North Americans have a need for, it is imperative that you fatten your soul on spiritual disciplines throughout the spring and summer, but especially in the fall, if you expect to survive the soul’s winter.

The most important thing for you to recognize is that seasons of your soul cannot be rushed or tossed into a tangled heap (think of snow-covered, fallen leaves laying on a beach of daffodils). You need to take a step back and become aware of the season in which you are, and that you ask God what his expectation is in this season. You cannot plant and harvest at the same time, nor can you bear fruit while being pruned. You can only acknowledge where you are and do the appropriate work for that season. Don’t decorate for Independence Day while observing Easter.

And, if you are in a soul-season of fall, celebrate pumpkin spice everything.

Carrie Carter ~ Love in Pen & Ink: The Weight of Words

Recently, I’ve somewhat been on a purging binge (note that I love a good oxymoron) and going through the many boxes I have in storage labeled with the words, “Carrie’s Mementos.” I hate to admit that I was on a fast track to be featured on a cable show about people who collect a lot of stuff and I’m pretty sure that my “mementos” were the reason we needed U-Haul’s largest truck the last time we moved.

I’m currently looking for a chapter of “Sentimentals Anonymous” in my area.

So far, I’ve thrown away and condensed about 10 boxes of stuff; mostly college syllabi and graded papers from 20 years ago (my husband has been beyond thrilled to take these with us everywhere we go), but also a baby food jar containing a dirty, melted snowball from a childhood vacation to Yellowstone, my baby teeth (did I think I would reuse them eventually?), every pair of glasses I’ve ever owned and yes, even my braces.

I have nothing to say in defense of this.

I shake my head now at the ridiculousness, yet there are things I have come across that make me smile more today than when I received them.

These are the things I tuck gently and carefully back into the box.

Words. All words. Words that wash over my heart with warm memories. Words that wrap around me like a down blanket. Words that prop me up during an unusually dark season.

A wooden postcard from my long-deceased grandfather, my pastor grandfather whose wit outshone Jerry Seinfeld, whose wit is forever pressed in ink onto a 3×5 piece of wood.

A letter from a BFF during our teen years, sharing her relationship woes and states that she is done with boys. Yet in the next sentence, states that so-and-so is cute and is trying subtly to finagle a way to find out if he likes her.

Letters from family during college years that keep me connected to home, uplift, and encourage me to keep on keeping on.

Cards from friends who remind me of how very much I am loved.

Words. Words that I run my finger across and can feel the imprint of. The pressure of a pen held by someone who holds me in their thoughts.

This week, memories have been awakened by the power of ink and paper, and the first thought that flashes into my mind is the Ann Voskamp quote: “Only speak words that make souls stronger.”

The second thought is a morsel from Proverbs: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” ~Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

My soul has been strengthened this week by people who may or may not have any recollection of their words to me. Their “tongue,” visible, rather than audible, has brought me life. They have me weighing the density of my own words. They have me pondering the effects, both beneficial and detrimental, of permanency. Are my words today going to be a healing salve 20 years from now?

My box of “treasures” compels me to take the risk of putting my words in print. I owe it to the One who has left me an entire Book that is the Living Word. I owe it to those who have blessed me after having chosen to do the same.

But I have also been wounded by words. Words that were like a knife being twisted, driven deeper and deeper until my innermost being was flayed and bleeding. Words that floated gently into the trash can; yet were on constant repeat in my mind, because hurtful words are etched far deeper than strengthening ones. Words that took up less space, but were far heavier than all of my boxes of “mementos” combined.

If word-wounding is all you have experienced, I’m so sorry. If you have never been given the opportunity to go through a stack of soul-strengthening words written by those who love you, let me assure you that there is One Who has plenty of love to whisper into your bruised heart.

I encourage you to breathe strength and life into someone this week. Even if words aren’t your “thing,” write them anyway, so that the recipient will have the option of enjoying them for days, even years to come.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~Psalm 19:14

Carrie Carter ~ What Do You Really Want?

When I was four, I won a coloring contest. I don’t remember the picture or actually winning; however, I do recall flipping through the pages of a Hasbro toy catalog. You see, the prize was $100 in toys. That was a lot of toys in 1981, $282.89 worth in today’s market-according to the Inflation Calculator-when toys weren’t high-tech, expensive and causing children’s brain synapses to misfire. I also remember not being able to pick out $100 worth of toys that really appealed to me, so I suppose my mom chose the rest of them.

I can’t even imagine now what that even felt like. Oh, my naïve, little self.

When I was a preteen, I’d dream of having enough money to own horses (the Black Stallion, please) and as a teenager, dream of having the money to buy real Guess? clothes, instead of my mom bringing home a yardsale find, carefully removing, and sewing the Guess? label onto my back pocket. I view that now as an act of love.

As a young mom, the desires grew and they were far more expensive. I’d dream of how I’d spend a million dollars, but once I took out taxes, it didn’t really go that far. A new house, a new car, grand vacations, a home decorator, school loans obliterated, the boys’ college paid for, a bi-weekly maid, a weekly massage…the list could go on and on.

Oh, my naïve, little self.

As 40 encroaches on my fleeting youth, I find my desires changing yet again. I don’t want a horse, I wouldn’t be caught dead in the Guess? stonewash of the 80’s, and I prefer old houses and old cars. College for the boys would still be nice, as would a weekly massage, but old desires doesn’t burn as intensely as they once did.

So what is that I want? What is it that I would ask for?

My husband preached a sermon last week from John 16:16-33 and in the middle, he asked the question, “how ‘any’ is anything?”

“Truly, truly I say I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”  (John 16:23b-24 NASB, emphasis mine)

The words of Jesus. Six different times He says to ask and we will receive.

Well, I can tell you right now that I never awoke to The Black Stallion in my backyard, and Edith from Merry Maids never made it to my porch.

So does anything really mean anything?

It’s a touchy subject, given all the “name-it, claim-it” preaching out there. I’m still waiting for the power of positive thinking to park a 1962 Volkswagen Minibus in my garage. Not going to happen, people.

So what might Jesus have meant?

He actually qualifies His statements in a couple of other passages:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, NASB)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:16, NASB)

As the roots of my faith dig down deep, and as my relationship with my Heavenly Father grows, I find myself desiring completely different things than I used to. I don’t desire “stuff.” Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of material things that I would love to have, but when he asks me, “what do you really want?” all the “stuff” falls away.

What do I really want?

I want my boys to make it to heaven. I want to have joy in this life of ministry. I want to be able to find every silver lining. I want my speech to be always with grace. I want to be filled with wisdom and discernment. I want to be deaf to the enemy’s lies. I want to be a reflection of Jesus. I want to be filled to overflowing with his Spirit. I want to have peace in the midst of every storm.

I find that my desires are beginning to meld into his desires, and if I desire what he desires, then, and only then, I can ask for and receive anything I want.


“So that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13b-14 NASB)

If what I’m asking for will not bring glory to the Father, I can hang it up. This thought has restructured my requests, simply because I’m not sure they would bring him glory, not to mention, they may not be in my own best interest.

Let me put it this way:

I’d do anything for my boys. Anything.  I’d throw myself in front of a train, I’d give them the last morsel of food (I’d have to think long and hard if that food was Pad Thai), I’d stay up all night with them, I’d give them the last drink of water (although one of them would probably already be dead for all the fighting over it). You can’t really even put something like this into words. I’d die for my children.

HOWEVER, you and I both know that anything has its limitations. Even for someone who would give up her life for her offspring. I’m not going to go out and get them a baggie of cocaine if they asked for it. I’m not going to give in to their desire of a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder. I’m not going to let them eat Ding Dongs and Big Macs for every meal. I’m not going to allow them pick up the latest single by Skalley Mental. I’m not going to leave them to hang out in their bedrooms with their girlfriends while I’m off shopping at the mall.

I’d do anything for those boys, but not anything.

And this is how I view the words of Jesus.

Anything, but not anything.

So, what is it that you are asking for?

Before you answer that, ask yourself two questions: “am I abiding in him?” and “will what I want bring God glory?”

You might just see your desires start to shift, which is a good thing especially if Guess? is on that list.

Carrie Carter ~ Chosen

I confess that I don’t know that much about adoption.

I used to tell my little brother that he was adopted—from the animal shelter. I have reaped the consequences of this in my own sons, as the generational dysfunction marches on.

I remember lying in bed as an angsty teen, wondering what it would feel like to be chosen, wanted, and wishing that I had been adopted; never comprehending that there could be two sides to that coin.

You probably have similar stories.

A few months ago, it seemed as if my Facebook feed was full of “Gotcha Days;” days that the “labor pains” of adoption resulted in the birth of belonging. Days that assured those children would never see the inside of another foster home. Days that ended the fear of an unknown verdict for both parents and children. Days that promised the hope of stability and security. Days that acknowledged redemption.

I looked at the new family pictures, faces filled with so much joy!  Parents with a possessive arm around their new little one(s) in a stance that clearly stated, “You are MINE!” For some, the process was a blur, almost sudden, and for others, the fight was long and hard, uphill all the way. I celebrated with them.

It was around that same time that an old internet article came up on an adoption gone wrong. It got me to thinking and I attempted to put myself in the mother’s shoes.

How devastated would I be if a child I adopted, chose, embraced as my own, refused to belong? What if we wanted to go out for some family fun and this child locked his/herself in their room, convinced that they weren’t a part, weren’t deserving of a place in our family? How disappointed I would be after pouring myself out for this child, embracing them as my own flesh and our relationship resulting in rejection by the very one I had fought so hard to save.

Then God spoke.

“Look at yourself. Living as if you don’t belong. Living in fear and insecurity. Withdrawing during hard times, isolating yourself instead of running into My arms. I have adopted you. I have chosen you. You are MINE. And yet, you tell yourself you’re undeserving, unworthy, and you refuse to allow yourself to accept the benefits of all I have given you as My child. I sacrificed My Son for you, and while you claim to be part of My family and, in essence, have taken My ‘last name,’ you’re not living as part of My family. Those feelings you would feel if you were the mom in that article? Ahem, do I need to say more?”

There are no words to explain my reaction to that moment.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God, these are of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery to fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are of God, and if children, also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, indeed we suffer with that we may also be glorified with. – Romans 8:14-17 (NASB)

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  – John 1:12 (NIV)

What does it mean to live as God’s child? It means to live as if I’m loved and cherished. It means to live as if I know that every need will be taken care of. It means to live as if I can go to my Father with every fear, anxiety, and hurt. It means to live as if I can go to my Father with every joyful moment, every tiny thing that excites me, and every new tidbit of information that makes me laugh. It means to live as if I have inherited my Father’s kingdom.

Because I have. I belong and it’s time to start living like it.

Carrie Carter ~ Backwards Lent

Up until more recently than I’d like to admit, the most I knew about Lent was the mysterious time of year when a banner was strung out over the road as you came into town, announcing the “Kiwanis’ Lenten Fish Fry EVERY Friday Night!” And as mysteriously as it appeared, it disappeared. That, and Lent was a Catholic thing.

Have I ever told you that ignorance drives me crazy?

Have I ever told you that I also love irony? Especially when irony collides with my own ignorance.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Lent is more than a fish fry on Fridays.

Have I ever told you what it feels like to have reality, dark reality, sink in deep? I’m a slow learner.

40 days to the cross.

40 days to the reality of a brutal death.

40 days of remembrance of my own redemption.

Lent is not just a Catholic thing, but a catholic thing.

I’ve thrown myself into the traditional observance of Lent (because I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl). I’ve done 40-day devotionals, set aside more time than usual to be quietly meditative, fasted from certain foods, soda, and social media.

Until this year.

This year, I pondered if I had let my fasting become a fad, the cool “Lent-thing” to do. I ran across a blog article by Karen Ehman before Lent began that introduced a new viewpoint for me. One that I thought might take me out of the Lent-rut I was in. It’s called “The Reverse-Lent Challenge” and includes ideas such as jotting a note, making a phone call, lightening a load, helping a stranger—small acts of service to do for each day of Lent.  After I shared the concept with my husband, he pointed me to this Scripture passage:

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  —John 13:3-5 (ESV)

Taking a towel. Jesus took something on in order to serve others.

That’s how I have chosen to approach Lent this year. Backwards. Taking on, instead of giving up.

After three weeks in, it hasn’t always been easy. Some people aren’t easy to serve. Going back to Jesus’ towel, there are some who make you want to throw it in, some you want to make cute animals for, some you want to snap sharply. The way I have decided to serve others is small, yet has been challenging. It has even been a sacrifice; surprising, not in its physical difficulty, but in the laying down of pride I didn’t know existed. Attempting to demonstrate the same kind of humility Christ showed to not just the ones who exhibited their love for him, but to the ones who denied and betrayed him (who often were one and the same.)

Sacrificing, whether by giving up or taking on. Sacrificing to remember the ultimate Sacrifice.

Isn’t that the point of Lent?

Carrie Carter ~ Setting the Tone

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

To “set the tone” means: to establish a particular mood or character for something.

So what?

For many years, well, actually all of them up until very recently, the phrase, “setting the tone” didn’t really mean much to me. It simply didn’t apply, since I wasn’t involved in management or any position that required supervision of people under me. “Setting the tone” was placed neatly in an alphabetized file of business terms stored in my head.

Not long ago, God redefined for me what “setting the tone” actually looks like. For ALL of us. For me, the mom and pastor’s wife; for you, from the teenager who works fast-food, to the CEO on the verge of retirement; from the college student nanny, to the elderly, whose care is being overseen by hospice. The importance of the tone we set when we are with others has left me, well, no less than wide-eyed.

Think about it.

Who are those people you enjoy working with?


If you do a lot of visiting, as I do, are there those you enjoy visiting more than others?


Who are those people who drain you? Who are those people who energize you?


Which one of those people are you?

While you’re pondering that, let me give you a few thoughts about “setting the tone.”

1. The tone we set is directly affected by how much time we spend in communication with God. Let’s face it, what’s going on inside manifests itself loudly on the outside. And “loudly” doesn’t necessarily mean spoken words. I’ll be transparent here for a moment: if I miss more than a couple of days in a row of personal devotions, I start to get cranky. For real. The same thing happens when I’m physically hungry. Eerie similarities, huh? Not really. Hunger is hunger and it’s not pretty.

2. Before we can set a proper tone for others, we must set a proper tone for ourselves. Oh, so important. If we, ourselves, “feed” on negativity – whether it be the lies of Satan, our own self-hate, or internalizing criticism from others – negativity is what we’re going to display. Read the following scripture verse, just in case you just skimmed it the first time.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.

Photo credit: Carrie Carter
Photo credit: Carrie Carter

Setting the proper tone for ourselves means filling our minds with the things listed above. Where do most of our internal battles begin? Yes, in our minds. Making the choice (yes, it is a choice) to believe the truth that God has given us isn’t always easy. In fact, a lot of times, it’s downright hard, which is why we need to rewind to the previous verse in Philippians: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It’s true. Take my word for it. His peace will guard your heart and mind if you’ll ask Him for it.

3. We set the tone in our marriage, our family, our friendships, our ministry and our place of employment. This is just scary, but it’s reality. How many times have you walked into a room, and the moment you stepped in the door, you could literally feel the mood, whether negative or positive?

I’ve been on both sides of this; either feeling the excitement being generated or figuratively getting rained on (not to mention being struck occasionally by lightning) when I walked in. On the flip side, I hate to admit that I can be the one thundering around, throwing the bolts and singing (and I use “singing” loosely), “I’m Just a Little Black Raincloud.”

Disclaimer: I’m not referring to those instances where a grim medical prognosis, tragedy, unexpected loss, bad news, or just a plain, ole’ rough day was experienced. I am referring to the pervading sense of needing to walk on eggshells around some people on a consistent basis.

I must continue to honestly evaluate whether I affect those around me in a negative or positive way. I represent Jesus to my spouse, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and to all those I influence in my ministry. Am I setting a tone that lifts up my husband, affirms my kids, encourages my friends, and inspires my congregation?

Am I setting a tone that energizes or drains?

Am I setting a tone that confirms I am living Philippians 4:8?

They are questions worth answering.

Carrie Carter ~ When You Feel Like You’re Drowning

Have you ever had a near-drowning experience?

I have. I don’t remember when, but I’d guess I was between the ages of seven and nine. I don’t remember the circumstances, except that I was in over my head. Literally. What I can remember is the feeling of not being able to breathe and the panic that completely took over any ability for reasoning. I mean, everyone was told (way back in my childhood days) that once you go under for the third time, you die.

I’m still here.

I got back into the pool (not that day, but eventually) and my Daddy taught me to swim. He didn’t start by teaching me the intricate techniques of the breaststroke or how to get the best speed out of the butterfly stroke; he started by teaching me to float.

“Stop thrashing around and relax.”

I didn’t trust him. There was no way I was going to allow the water to fill my nostrils and lungs, squeezing out the precious breath of life. When I floated, the water covered my ears and crept closer to my nose than with what I felt comfortable.

I fought. I whined. I clung to the edge of the pool. It was a long summer, while I hung out on the pool steps, watching my cousins pretend to be dolphins and mermaids.

Finally, my desire to also be a dolphin overcame my fear of water in my nose and I remember lying flat on my back, bobbing in the water. My eyes were squinched shut, my lips were a tight pink line and I held my breath until I thought my lungs would burst.

“Relax and breathe.”

“I can’t breathe! I don’t want water in my nose!” Of course, the exhale it required to answer indignantly forced the need to inhale.

“Relax and breathe.”

So, to prove that breathing while floating on my back was to bring about inevitable death, I did. I inhaled deeply. Through my nose. That’ll show him.

Nothing happened, except for the feeling of pre-teen sheepishness.

How many times have I been drowning in circumstances, situations out of my control, relational pain, just life? I can’t breathe and end up going into panic mode; anyone who tries to help me puts their own life at risk, because I’m flailing around and so in-over-my-head that I couldn’t act rationally if my life depended on it.

And it does.

“Relax and breathe.”

God wants me to trust him. He wants me to stop trying to save myself from my circumstances and instead to lie back, relax, breathe through my nose, and trust him. Just float.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NASB)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NASB)

It’s not an easy choice. Mostly because I think I can control my life better than anyone; however, it’s in those moments, when God gives me the ability to step back and see “me,” the “me” that’s irrationally thrashing and flailing and sputtering, that I realize my life is completely out of my control, but never out of his control (cue feelings of adult sheepishness).

“Relax and breathe.”

By that summer’s end, I was a member of my cousins’ dolphin pod and would’ve made Flipper proud.