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Masterpiece or Mosaic

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Artwork by Carole L. Haines

By: Carole L. Haines

When I was younger, I had big dreams, big ideas of becoming more than I am now.
I pictured myself becoming a Masterpiece in the hands of the Master. A Beautiful Sculpture, intricately fashioned, or perhaps a Painted Canvas with the Natural Beauty of a Forest enclaved waterfall. I certainly didn’t expect life to go the way it did. I have so much to be grateful for, and I am so very grateful. But I needed God to make me His own vessel, not my idea of His vessel. Perhaps some would see my life and think, “It’s such a shame, so much potential. Too bad this or that happened to her.” I used to think that way, and self-pity bloomed in my garden like a festering weed, choking out the life of the Truly useful plants. I spiraled down into a place of aloneness, comforting myself with the facts that I had a wonderful husband, three precious children and a God who loved me. I settled into my day to day life, with most thoughts of fruitfulness cast aside, regrets festering and spoiling many of the joys I daily experienced.

Many of my girlhood dreams had shattered, even grown-up dreams shattered as well. My details are not needed because we tend to compare war-wounds and that is not the point here. God brought me to a verse years ago, that just changed my life and began to birth in me a new perspective that I believe I should share. Perhaps it will bless some of you as He used it to bless me in one of my most bewildering and troubling trials. It’s tucked into a story in the Bible that is not often mentioned in sermons. Come to think of it, never in a single sermon have I heard this story talked about. It’s the story of Absalom, and David’s mistreatment of his son. The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 14. Please take the time to read the whole story, it is quite intriguing. But for our purposes I will just reveal the verse and what it has come to mean to me.

14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.
2 Samuel 14:14 (NLT)

When I first came upon this verse, I felt my life was ruined. As I said earlier, I gave up my dreams of being fruitful for God. I just began to live a life of taking care of my family, growing up my children and settling in. Life had crushed me by blows, one after another, after another. Like waves crashing over me that nearly drowned me and made it hard for me to even catch my breath. I was surprised to wake up and find I was still here, still alive. With all that had passed before me, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be. When I asked God to take me home, He said that only one death was necessary, His. He wanted me to live and tell others my story and how He rescued me and has given me new life. My life did fill like the verse above says, “Water spilled out on the ground that cannot be gathered up again.”

But truly God does not just sweep life away. He does not give up on us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. Some of the things that happened, God could have prevented, really all of them, but He didn’t. He let things go the way they did.

God does not always save us from our fears, sometimes He saves us through them. We live through something we dreaded, something we were afraid of, and we find He is faithful in the loss of those dreams. I love how the verse says. “Instead, He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from Him.” God was active in the trials I was going through. He was devising a way, not just sitting by watching it all unfold and hoping for the best. I have given God all the broken pieces of my life, the shattered shards and jewels of a life as I thought it should be, a life as it used to be. He has, and is, making a beautiful Mosaic Display of it. I never became a Masterpiece, but I am a Precious and brightly colored mosaic on the Art-Wall of God. Isn’t He just so good? Mosaics are my favorite works of art now, simply because I have become one

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The Transformed Mind

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by: Carole L. Haines

I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder in my late 20’s/ early 30’s. I was paralyzed with fear sometimes, even as a Christian. But God began a journey with me that has led me from Fear to Freedom in Him. He saved my life by saving my mind. Here’s a small glimpse of that journey.

As I cried out to God, from the place of mothering three small children, about how afraid I felt of people and caring for our three young ones, I came across these verses:

16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

I sensed God say to me through this Scripture, “My perfect love is the only thing that can free you from fear. My love for You is so perfect that it casts fear out. You can’t get rid of fear, Carole, but I can cast it out as you fill Yourself up with the knowledge of my love.” So, I devoured all the Scriptures I could find on His love and began to grow stronger and less fearful.
Next, I began to see just how racing my thoughts were. I came across the Scriptures that said:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (1 Or. 10:3-5)

“Lord”, I said, “how can I possibly take thoughts captive when they are racing through my mind like an out of control train.” I asked the Lord to please slow down my thought processes and help me to learn to capture them and bring them under the obedience of what His Word says. A friend told me once that just because I thought something, didn’t make that thing true. So, I began to examine my thoughts and line them up with God’s Word said instead. I learned to replace my false thoughts with His truth.

I learned how to Study the Bible Inductively and devoured Bible studies on every subject that I struggled with. When I didn’t know something, I would go to the concordance and look it up in the Scriptures and just eat up what God said to me. It became my passion. The more I was in His Word, the more I changed. I began to Believe Him above what I thought or what others said about me. It’s been a journey I have been on for close to 30 years. About ten years ago, I sensed from the Lord that I should write down all that He was teaching me. So, I did, and then one thing led to another and I found myself starting a blog, to encourage other believers. That’s when hisshadowings.com was born. I have been writing what He gives me ever since and just publishing it there. Who knows who I reach, but to encourage one believer a day is still 365 a year, so it’s been a wonderful outlet for me. Hope that story blesses you.

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An Honest Life

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by: Carole L. Haines

God has been speaking to me a lot lately about honesty and transparency. He’s been dealing with deeper issues inside of me. There are things He is seeking to work out of me, as He transforms me more and more into the Image of Jesus.
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

When we think about a caterpillar in its cocoon, or a baby in the womb, there’s a lot of mystery there, a lot is unseen. We just know that a baby transforms continually until it is ready to be birthed. We just see a caterpillar in a cocoon that comes out as a Beautiful Butterfly, but the process is quite mysterious, just how it all happens.

I think our transformation in Christ is like that. We are in a state of hiddenness with God, as He remolds us into the Image of Jesus. So much of it is a mystery, and we are often confused by what He is doing. Like being under anesthesia as we go under the Great Physician’s knife, He is doing a miraculous work in each of us. When we feel convicted of sin, our tendency is to want to run away, hide it, stuff it down. But the amazing thing about God’s revelation of sin to us is what He asks us to do with it, once we see it in ourselves.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

An honest life, truth in our innermost parts. Revealed truth from God’s Word about who He is, who we are, and how to view everyone else. That’s what I want, it’s what I need. Run to Him, not from sin. Take what He reveals and run to Him so You can recieve mercy and find grace to help you in your faith and transformation in Christ.

 

 

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The Love of God

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Photo by: Cody J. Haines

A Poem by: Carole L. Haines

The Love of God is as constant as the Sunrise

Each morning it finds its Vestibule

rising at the Summons of God

hastening to its place of splendor

reflecting on the clouds, oceans, lakes and rivers

changing colors with every passing moment.

Nothing can stop the rhythm of its rising

The Love of God is irrepressible, pursuing us relentlessly

His kindness leads us to repentance, turning us around

Gently guiding us like a flock of sheep,

tending our rebellious wounds, festering with regrets

His love does not depend on our performance,

It’s not fickle like the audience of men

The Love of God has chosen us as His focus of affection

Not because of who we are, but simply Because He is love

His love cost the greatest price, but we did not have to pay it

His love was paid for by Himself, by His Son

His love cost Him everything, it costs us our belief

He calls us to believe, to trust, to follow, to hold steady

To let Him be our Guide, Our Lord, Our Reason

Yes, the Love of God is steady as the rising and setting of the Sun

And I rise each morning knowing I am loved

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A Night of Fireflies

Photo by: Cody J. Haines

By: Carole L. Haines

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
(Matthew 16:25)

Thoughts Of Condemnation and confliction were brimming over in my mind, not toward others, but those pesky self-accusing thoughts. Things like:

“It’s never gonna work out! Things will always be this hard, and that’s your own fauilt.”

“What’s the use, as diligent as you are, things just keep cropping up to trip you up and hinder you. Just relax and take it easy. Do what you want for a while,” forget about all those other things.”

“You have made a mess of your life. There’s no redeeming it now. You’re too old, too far along in years. Forget about it and just move on to enjoying the rest of what’s left.

“Just take your ball and go home, forget about the Body of Christ, they will never really accept you anyway. Launch out into a ministry all your own instead.”

Just a cacophony of confusing, condemning and conflicting information. It was like walking into a forest where I didn’t see that bee’s nest up ahead and walked right under it, and now they’re angry and stinging me. That’s how those thoughts felt, like stinging bees.

But God’s Word tells me this:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
I got up went outside, sat back in the good old Adirondack chair and gazed up towards the sky. To my wonder and surprise, the treetops were on fire with tiny little flickering lights. Dozens and dozens of them. A calming myriad of tiny little lights displayed before me. I just gazed in wonder; it took my breath away. I just marveled at these silent creatures, flickering and flying about. I researched why these creatures flash and sparkle. Here are 3 interesting facts.

Fireflies are energy efficient

Fireflies’ lights are the most efficient lights in the world. One-hundred percent of the energy created is emitted through the light. In comparison, an incandescent bulb emits 10 percent of its energy as light and a fluorescent bulb emits 90 percent of its energy through light.

Their light shows are mating acts

Most of the fireflies flying around are males looking for a mate. Each species has a specific light pattern that they use to communicate with each other. Once a female spots a male she likes, she will respond with the same light pattern. Usually females are perched on plants, waiting for a mate.

Some species synchronize their flashing

 12 Fascinating Facts About Fireflies, by Katie Pohlman June. 10, 2016 11:38AM EST
I tell you all this because I feel God prompted me to go outside and just sit before this wonder of nature. so He could encourage my downtrodden heart. These tiny little creatures are small and seemingly insignificant by themselves, hardly noticeable. But together they created a Symphony of Lights to rival the greatest fireworks display. I feel the Lord was enabling me to see through nature, that I may feel like an insignificant little light in this world, but with all the other little lights in the Body of Christ, we put on quite a show, a luminous display of God’s Glory, to a watching, weary world.

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. (Romans 15:5-7)

Feeling insignificant, overwhelmed. Maybe get up, go outside tonight and gaze up at the sky. Even if you don’t have fireflies, you have His stars to tell you the same thing.

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Time alone with God….interrupted

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by: Carole L. Haines

13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)

 His cousin John had just been beheaded. John’s head had been treated as sport to be mocked and displayed in Herod’s palace. Jesus had grown up with this boy. They were both announced by God before their birth, their mother’s went through part of their pregnancy together.  They were both prophesied as being special envoys of God to the world.  John Himself reveals that He didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah until the day of His baptism.
29 The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

All Jesus wanted to do after John’s beheading was have some time alone to grieve him. This beloved, childhood companion was now gone.  They had a bond that was close, I believe.  But Jesus’ grief got interrupted. The people followed him, seeking healing and wholeness.  Jesus was not angry but felt compassion for them and healed them.  Then He sought time alone again and sent his disciples ahead of Him in a boat, while He stayed behind.

Jesus is our amazing example of how to respond when life is hard and all we want to do is go off and be alone for a while.  He treated the people who needed Him with compassion and love.  He did not scold them but received them openly and with healing in His hands.  God will provide us with the time we need apart, as we trust Him with the time He has us ministering to others.  Being a pretty extreme introvert, I would like to spend most of my time alone, but that is not God’s call for me.  He provides what I need without excusing me from His Kingdom Work.  He is perfect in His understanding of what we need and is drawing us close to Himself in the quiet times as well as in the busy times.

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Abundant fruitfulness

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By: Carole L. Haines

How do we measure Spiritual Growth in our lives? How can we tell we are making progress, when sometimes we feel like we’re falling back?  There is an answer to that question right in the Book of 2 Peter, chapter 1.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I highly recommend that you go back and read the whole 1st chapter of 2 Peter at this point, just to get the amazing Context of this Scripture. But in practical encouragement about growing in our Lord Jesus, this is a key passage. The desire of each of our hearts as followers of Jesus, is to be fruitful in the Kingdom of God, to be useful. God tells us here in 2 Peter how to be sure that is happening.  We don’t go around planning lots of Christian events or happenings, although those can be important places for fruit growth. This passage tells us to have these 8 qualities in our life and to apply all diligence in growing them up. Faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. These 8 qualities of our Character are what God emphasizes here in our personal growth.  We are to let Him transform us by the renewing of our mind, and offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1-2).  I think sometimes we focus too much on outward projects instead of inward Intimacy with God.  I believe that God is showing us here that as we spend lots of quality time with Him alone and growing in these qualities in our relationships with others, spiritual growth for ourselves and His Kingdom, are the ultimate result.  We get it backwards sometimes and try to bear fruit through programs and ministries, but Jesus says it this way:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
(John 15:4-5)

I will finish this post with a final thought from my favorite Devotional.

We say we do not expect God to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, and yet we act as if we do! I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty’s sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

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