The Cycle of Trust

By JC

I am going through a tremendous time of change in my life. While I met Jesus 11 years ago, I have not been fully surrendered to Him. What does that mean, “fully surrendered”?

The meaning I am applying here is that every corner of my life, every person in my life, every relationship in my life, AND my life itself belongs to Jesus. Saved people believe that, and we know it. How often do we live it, though?

I am sure there are times that we surrender situations to Jesus, ones that we know we cannot at all control – medical situations or other people’s behavior. But I am talking about even the corners of our lives that we believe we can control, such as where I want to work or where I want to go today.

For several months now, Snow and I have been working on fully surrendering our lives to Jesus and praying, “Bend me, break me to Your Will.” Within the past five months, we have both lost our jobs in the corporate world, we each lost someone incredibly dear to us to death (Praise God they both knew Jesus) and at least one marriage is ending.

For us, we daily give our worries to God, but we pick them right back up – sometimes within minutes. Daily questions we ask include:

  • “What is the plan, God?”
  • “What do You want me to do?”
  • “What is Your desired outcome so I can get there?”

I love clarity, and so there are times where I pray God would just tell me what to do: Where is the goal line? I will obey and move the ball down the field, but just tell me where You want me to wind up.

This is not how God works. I was studying Abram this week (before he became Abraham), and this man literally left all he knew for some place that God said He would show him at some point. WHAT??

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.'”
Genesis 12:1

Notice that word “will.” Leave all that you know and are comfortable with for this completely unknown path that I am not ready yet to reveal to you.

As I studied this verse and Abram’s reaction, I thought to myself, could I do that? I say that I want to fully surrender all to Jesus, and I do believe that, but could I really do that? Leave all that I know and all that is comfortable for some unknown path? That is fully trusting God – wow.

Credit: JC

Since Snow and I have been praying the “Bend me, break me” prayers for months, God has been removing toxic things from our lives. The work environments were extremely toxic. Certain relationships were and are extremely toxic. Both Snow and I were saved later in life, so we made stupid decisions before we were saved that are now being cleaned up, and God is at work in those corners of our lives, too.

All of that is an amazing blessing, but here is the issue: My heart.

Do I fully trust God with what He is doing in my life? Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the plan or the outcome?

The still, small voice reminds me of the following:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28

As I think about this verse, I definitely love God. I do not always act like it because I am a sinner, but I do love Him. And I do believe that He has a plan for my life because of two specific verses, though there are others.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”
Jeremiah 29:11

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
Psalm 139:16

I believe in the Bible 100%, every word of it. So, based solely on these two example verses above, He has a plan, and the plan is for my ultimate good.

So why do I struggle with trusting Him? Has He ever let me down?

Yes, in my opinion, He did. Allow me to explain.

Two years ago, there was this sweet, amazing young girl that out of the blue got an aggressive cancer that began to ravage her body. The medical treatments were done, the surgeries occurred, etc. I believed in the power of prayer, and there were thousands of us praying for this sweet girl to be healed physically and remain in this world.

God chose to heal her a different way and ushered her into eternity. As a believer, I know that God knows best, and He loves her more than we can process, and I know He chose to call her Home, and it was the perfect response for her.

What about those of us who trusted God to heal her, though? There are several verses that talk about ask anything in My name and I will do it – so what happened here?

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.”
Matthew 18:19

“Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”
John 14:14

Jesus and Snow are going to help me heal and dive into these verses more. There will be a future post on this topic, so I will end that trail here for now.

For the purposes of today’s post, I must trust God. Things do not always make sense to me.

Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the end game? Oh, but I do know – Romans 8:28. Maybe this hurts, and it is messed up in my opinion, but He is at work, and I must trust Him. I will trust Him for a short time period, then start worrying again: How will this work? What about that?

It is a cycle of trust for me. I see it as a spiritual battle. The enemy does NOT want me to trust God and fully surrender to Him.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Romans 8:5-8

Note those words God uses, “always hostile to God,” “never” obeys, and “can never please God.”

“Always” and “never” are words that leave no room for lack of clarity. So, if I am listening to the enemy, dominated by the fear, the worry, I will never please God in that state of mind.

I am working on replacing worry with worship, for the enemy hates when we give glory to God (that is the whole reason Satan rebelled, to get glory).

I would like to say I have conquered this battle, but the cycle of trust continues: I trust Him, I worry, He reminds me of His love and promises, I trust Him, I worry.

The two things that I am focused on are:

  1. Asking God to show me areas that I am not yet fully surrendered in and then listening to His response
  2. Working hard to apply 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I cannot control every thought that enters my mind, but I can control what I do with each thought once it is there. I compare it to Scripture and assess whether it is light and love. If it is, I engage God about it. If the thought is not edifying, pure, or anchored in the Truth, do I dwell on it and allow it to seep into my soul?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:9

I see in the above verse, “Trust me.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

I see in these verses God saying, “I got it, regardless of what you think based on what you see around you. I got it.”

There is a battle going on, brothers and sisters. Fully surrendering and unconditionally trusting in God is the way to disarm the enemy.

Guard your hearts and minds

Credit: JC

Here we are in August, already. Not only is it August, but it is practically mid-August. How’d that happen? Where did the time go?

This is one of those days where I don’t have a preconceived post ready to go in my mind. I don’t know where today’s post is going to land.

I am sitting here in my apartment. I can hear kids playing happily outside. I love that sound.

After a wonderful day at the beach with JC on Friday, I allowed myself that evening to slip into a depression-like state. This was due to me not being mindful enough about my thoughts, for as Paul tells us:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Saturday, I continued to let dark thoughts influence me. Though I did my normal quiet time of reading and prayer in the morning, I stayed in bed much of the day, not wanting to get up. When I became hungry, I ate peanut M&Ms for breakfast and then returned to bed. I never bothered to shower. I left dishes in the sink and clothes in the washer. I kept the blinds closed and the lights off. I wanted just to sleep in my apartment all day and stay away from the world. I even prayed to “help me make it through another day.”

JC finally snapped me out of it by coming by, getting me out, and making me go for a walk after she left. I have been blessed with true love, and I was created to serve Him at her side. She enriches my very soul. There is so much I want to experience with her, but, for various reasons, we are constrained right now. On that walk, I realized I was angry at God. I was blaming Him for not moving things along faster for us.

This realization was actually a help in and of itself. It forced me to remember that He has perfect timing and that I must trust Him. In fact, that is the main message I managed to hear from Him yesterday during my walk: “Remember, I said to trust Me.”

I also must remember to be thankful for the time and experiences I do have with JC as well as for the other blessings in my life – including my apartment, a place of tranquility and light that I must respect and prevent darkness from overtaking. I just moved out of a place that was filled with negative energy. I sure don’t want that swirling around here.

Today, I made sure things were different. After my quiet time, I got up out of bed at a decent hour, made the bed, opened the blinds, made a real breakfast, attended church, did the dishes, did the laundry, and went for a walk without being forced to by JC. When I returned, I read more of the Bible. I even read Romans 8 out loud, though there was no one to hear. Putting His Word out into the air of my apartment surely can’t hurt.

Do I feel better today? Yes, very much so. But I know I have to be vigilant. Those dark thoughts from the enemy are always out there, trying to invade. We must capture and replace them.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! . . . Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:4,7-8

A pathway through the wilderness

In a span of 1 hour and 49 minutes on Monday, I lost my job, signed away my house, and saw my wife for probably the last time. It may sound like a bad country song, but I would more appropriately compare it to joyful praise music. I thank Jesus for these tremendous changes. I give my life to Him.

I had been at the same workplace for 11 years. To say that the environment had become toxic recently is an understatement. The last 17 months there in particular have been extremely difficult.

Two Fridays before I was fired, I went to my favorite park for a morning walk before work. Through the Holy Spirit, I felt God with me as I walked a path that I had never been down before. I thanked Him for my blessings as I cried happy tears. He revealed to me that morning that I would soon be fired.

Losing my job was a concern to me, as I was on the verge of signing a lease on an apartment as the sale of my house concluded.

“Should I hold off on the apartment? Find some other arrangement?”

No, He told me. I was to proceed with the apartment. I was to trust Him, for He would provide. There would be a severance package to get me by for awhile.

As I finished the “new” path, I noticed that I had actually passed it dozens of times in the past. It had been there all along. At work, I began to tie up loose ends and make sure I saw those I wanted to see.

I signed the lease that Sunday. The Wednesday before I was fired, I moved into my new place – my new life. With JC’s help, what was once an empty apartment has been transformed into a warm home, full of love. Full of Him. I am so grateful to her. I am blessed she is on this journey with me.

Credit: JC

On the Monday I was fired, I went to the park at lunchtime (at this point, I still had a job). At the park, I texted JC. Here are portions of our exchange:

Snow: I just hate that place so much now.
JC: You know you don’t belong there – it’s just where you are now.

Later, back at work.

Snow: It is so hard to breathe here.
JC: I love you.

While it is not unusual for JC to send me two or three verses a day, this particular Monday she was sending me one after another. Here is a sampling:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

“Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”
Psalm 55:22

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4

“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Psalm 27:14

“I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King. I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:15-19

Not long after reading God was about to do something new, I was called down to HR and told that I was terminated effective immediately. During the proceeding, I was calm. I was at peace. I thanked and shook hands with those who told me the news. As God had promised, there was indeed a severance package. I walked out with head held high, chatting with the security chief about how our lives are in His hands.

Within nine minutes of the phone call to come down to HR, I was at my car. I left work for the last time and drove back to the park. It seemed fitting.

JC, having just gone through a similar experience herself (we did, after all, pray for God to use a 4×4 on us), met me there.

We hugged. We prayed.

I soon had to leave, though, as I had to get to the closing on the sale of my house as part of separation and divorce proceedings with my spouse.

My main concern was finding the place and parking. There was only street parking available. While I have come a long way with overcoming anxiety when it comes to driving, parking is still a challenge to me. However, Jesus gave me a ridiculous amount of space to parallel park – not to mention stopping the traffic flow on an otherwise busy street so I could park without feeling like I was holding up everyone.

At the closing, my spouse was cold at best and on the verge of spitting on me at worst. I was peaceful, calm, and happy. Full of joy, actually. It took only 17 minutes to sign away the house I had lived in for 17 years – longer by far than any other. It, too, had become a toxic environment.

Spouse and I parted ways – likely not to see each other again, as attorneys will take care of the remaining details of undoing the mistake that was our marriage.

For King & Country has a powerful song called “Burn the Ships,” which we covered in a post last month. Ultimately, it is about letting go of the past in order to focus on the future.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have at least three or four ships ablaze in the harbor. Now, two or three of them are ashes floating down into the depths of the sea.

Losing my job is a tremendous opportunity. First, He is providing me a rest. And then He will move me along to wherever He wants me next. Downsizing my life into an apartment is allowing me to focus on my spiritual journey, for I have so much to learn about Jesus, life, and myself. The ending of my marriage is freeing me to become who He created me to be.

Maybe I should be afraid, but I’m not.

I’m a child of God. I trust Him.

He’s got me.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”
John 6:35

Please listen, church family

By JC

Before I was saved, I knew a lot of “church people.” They dressed up pretty and went to church “religiously” every Sunday. I can’t tell you how they lived each moment of every day, but I remember they oozed with condemnation. I always felt they were completely unapproachable and extremely judgmental about anyone who didn’t talk, act, dress, or look like them. This club was exclusive and private.

Before I was saved, I cussed like a sailor. I dressed less than modest, and I certainly didn’t act like a Christian. I both felt judged and was judged. Now that I have been saved for 11 years, I realize how wrong this “church family” was. They were doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants us to do. We are to reach out to the undesirables, the untouchables, the “sinners.” Just read any part of the Gospels, and this is what you see our Master doing. He is the Savior saving the ones who need saving. We all need saving.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Romans 3:23

See those two words? “Everyone” and “all.” That means us, the church family, too.

This blog is all about raw truth, unfiltered. Anytime that Snow or I write anything, we bathe it in prayer first. We pour ourselves out as an offering, ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up, and just write. We pray that what is written helps just one soul – just one.

Here comes the raw truth about church families. We are judgmental to the point where we hurt each other. We practically chase each other away (sometimes do). Can you imagine how the lost or the visitors in our churches feel?

Let me give you an example I am living currently. I have been a member for over ten years at the same church. A few thousand people attend each week. The church is becoming more diverse, which I love and pray for. Only very recently have I reached out to a few dear friends about the hurts in my marriage. I have endured many things in the past 11 years. I have been married almost 25 years, and I have never talked to anyone about any of it.

I thought I was being submissive just like the Bible says. There are many, many verses on wives being submissive to their husbands.

“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”
Titus 2:4-5

Other verses on submission include: 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11, Ephesians 5:21-25, and Colossians 3:18.

I want to be clear that Ephesians 5:24 causes me a struggle when my husband is baptized and looks like “a good church family member,” yet is disobedient in most everything. (See my prior post, “Writing Jesus with a burdened heart.”)

Ephesians 5:24 says, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Wow – everything? What if he is leading you and your children into disobedience? Clearly, the verse is using the model of Christ leading the church, and Christ is sinless, so the church should absolutely follow and submit fully to Christ.

Also, I am aware that no husband is sinless as Christ, so they are all going to make mistakes. But living a daily life of disobedience because that is what my “believer” husband is leading me and our kids to do? No, thank you! I will not disobey Jesus. He is my leader first.

Here is where the church family may want to take James 1:19 to heart, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Credit: JC

I confided in my best friend, who is church family. I had held the hurt in so long, I just needed to talk to someone I trusted. Sharing with someone that you are hurting and struggling in your marriage is not easy. Unfortunately, the judgment started immediately. I was swiftly quoted Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord.”

Here is where I am pleading with the global church family – please do not judge another’s hurts and wield Scripture without listening, without trying to understand the heart and motive of the other person. Or just pray with them first before offering your opinion. Listen for God’s guidance before quoting Scripture after two minutes of conversation and deciding the case to be closed.

Please do not misunderstand me, brothers and sisters, I use the Word for everything in my life.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
1 John 4:1

I believe every single word of Scripture is God-breathed. I love the Word of God. All I am suggesting is that when fellow church family members come to you – please listen. Please pray with them. They may be in domestic violence situations or other abusive situations, and you quote Malachi 2:16 to them?

I know my friend was trying to be helpful. I know her response was intended to be loving and Word-based. I love her dearly for using the Word in her life daily. I refrained from going into any details that would potentially dishonor my husband. That is not what I feel led to do. Instead, I smiled at my friend and shared that I am aware of Malachi 2:16. I have studied it and prayed about it. I did not use the word “divorce,” and I may never, but instead I was seeking Godly counsel.

I shared that I know Jesus came to set us free, and He came so that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10). I also shared that I have been praying about this for 11 years. I also feel Jesus saying, “I did not free you to remain in chains.” I do not believe that God intends for His children to remain in abusive relationships. Yes, I am aware of the various verses that talk about divorce, yet I hold the belief I hold.

Does that make me a church family member to be judged or shamed? Maybe. But, maybe also the church family made assumptions. Maybe they judged without the facts or without prayer. Maybe. Just maybe. We should first hold the person that reached out, pray with them. Listen. Fast with them. Offer to pray for them daily and right there on the spot.

The final suggestion to consider, fellow believers, is the possibility that if a spouse is struggling in marriage, there is something deeper going on. There is more to the story than you may realize. There is more to the story than you are being told. If you are in a happy marriage, do not project your life onto this person in need. On the other hand, if you are miserable in your marriage, if you have had Malachi 2:16 wielded against you in the past, do not continue this cycle. Do not fall prey to “misery loves company.” Break the cycle.

None of us are perfect. If we were, Jesus would not have had to die for us on the cross. We are, each of us, flawed. We are humans. It is not for us to judge the personal decisions of church family members, especially those reaching out to you for help. That is between Jesus and them.

Who are we to even think we have the ability to judge? Compared to an all-knowing, all-loving, compassionate God? We can’t possibly fill His shoes.

Pray with your church family. Listen to them. Be there for them. Hold them. But until your own life is completely free of sin, do not judge them. Do not shame them. Just love them.

“Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”
‭‭from Isaiah‬ ‭49:23‬

Rediscovering myself

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2

At some point, I have to tell my story. I mean, I have already told some of it, but not all of it. JC tells me I need to tell my story. She recently told hers and even followed up with an inspirational reaction to the loss of her job. I am proud of her for so openly presenting her story, but the problem is, I am not entirely clear on what my story is.

From the outside, my life before Jesus seemed just fine. I seemingly had it all. A spouse. A good job. A nice house.

In reality, I had nothing. For I did not have Jesus. I did not have love. I did not have fulfillment.

It may have started as early as kindergarten, but it probably wasn’t until third grade that I really began in earnest the process of hiding away the real me. I was in a new school that year. I became friends with a few of the other boys in my class, but eventually distanced myself from two of them when I realized they weren’t very nice to others. Of course, this then made me a primary target.

They began teasing me. I was both the tallest and the widest kid in the class, so their moniker of choice was “Fat Boy.” Unfortunately, the main culprit sat next to me, so he was able to do this all day long. I asked the teacher to move my desk, but she refused. Now, in her defense, the likelihood is I did not fully communicate why I wanted my desk to be moved. She was probably just trying to prevent the entire class from requesting seat changes.

I eventually complained at home about what was happening. Home was always supportive, so it wasn’t until I went to school that I had witnessed anything like this. My mom suggested something out of the kindness of her heart that would have unintended consequences on me for years. “If you make fun of yourself first, then they won’t be able to tease you.”

Her advice made sense to me, so I followed it. I called myself all of the names they wanted to call me. I laughed at myself for eating too much and called myself fat. In so doing, I laid down an early brick in front of the real me. Inside, it still hurt, only now I was the one inflicting the pain.

Unfortunately, I continued the act of teasing myself throughout school and into adulthood. This produced many more bricks over the years. No one could hurt me, because I had already carved myself up better than they ever could. I knew exactly where to strike to inflict the most damage.

I also began to worry about how people perceived me. So, I would lay more bricks around the real me either by acting how I thought they wanted or simply by trying my best to fade as far away from their view as possible. Most often the latter. If invisibility had been offered to me as a superpower, I gladly would have taken it. In many ways, I mastered being invisible anyway.

There is more to my story, though. This blog is about raw truth. So here we go. The day I met (spouse) 20 years ago, I heard a voice say, “You will marry this woman.” Sounds romantic, right? Then, this same inner voice said, “And you will regret it.”

I had the urge to leave right then. Maybe I should have. But I didn’t. I stayed and started dating her.

I was coming off a relationship from the previous year where I fallen hard for a woman that was essentially my first girlfriend. After we broke up, I was sure no one could ever love me and that I would die alone.

So this new woman claimed to love me and seemed nice enough. I indeed ended up marrying her.

I settled.

I never loved (spouse). But I thought no one else would ever love me. If the real me protested, “Wait for true love,” he was drowned out by the addition of another set of bricks.

In the months leading up to our wedding, (spouse) went through maids of honor like candy. (Spouse) claimed it was due to jealousy. Meanwhile, my family dropped out of giving a bridal shower for her due to some words exchanged. I was never clear on what happened, nor do I care, but it was also chalked up by (spouse) to jealousy.

I should note I supported (spouse) through all of this, taking her side despite not really having all of the facts.

The day of the wedding, during the reception, I began to doubt my choice. I accidentally stepped on the train of my spouse’s dress. I am not the most graceful guy. I shot her a smile and said I was sorry. What I got in return was daggers. If looks could kill, I would have been dead right there. “This is supposed to be the best day of your life,” I heard an inner voice say. I tried to act like it was. I even said it was. But it wasn’t.

During the traditional dances, my family and I watched my spouse dance with her father. When I danced with my mother, a moment that was important to me, I saw that my spouse was nowhere to be found. I remember looking around at first in disappointment before finally thinking, “Forget it and focus on Mom.” It turned out my spouse had been snatched away by her parents for photos with their family out in the hallway of the reception area. They soon demanded I drop everything and get in the pictures as well. I wanted to tell them no and leave, but I dutifully listened.

(Flash forward 16 years to the day. My spouse and I are unexpectedly visiting a crowded aquarium. For various reasons, I go into an anxiety attack. She leaves me standing there and runs off in a huff. A revealing moment. JC learns of this and begins finding methods to help me overcome my anxiety. A couple months later, she quietly comforts me in the midst of an attack. Also revealing.)

The point of all of this is to attempt to show some of the red flags I missed.

The first year of marriage went okay. The second year, all kinds of games began. I began to learn more about the silent treatment and other nonsense. All, in retrospect, to manipulate me to my spouse’s will.

“I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”
from Genesis 40:15

Already an issue, I began to lose even more confidence in myself. Already strong, the wall surrounding the real me from the outside world became a force to be reckoned with as more and more bricks were added.

By the time I met JC a few years ago, only small pieces of the real me could peek out. Last June, she led me to Christ. Then, Jesus saved me. I started looking at my life with fresh eyes. I found that my focus had been on the wrong things.

For instance, I was buying things to fill spiritual and emotional holes. No matter how much I bought, the holes were still there, though.

What did buying all of this stuff get me, then? Debt, lots of debt. And not just for my own useless stuff, for I also became a debt mule for my spouse’s overspending.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Matthew 6:19-20

Feeling my life was empty and devoid of hope, I wished for death multiple times a day. With that goal in mind, I did not really plan for a future. By the way, the “I wish I was dead” financial plan is not one I recommend.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

Now, I am saved. Jesus changes everything. The whole world is different. I have His love. No one can ever take that from me. I have also found my true love, JC.

Yes, I have inspiration to live. I no longer dismiss the blessings of life. I am grateful for Him and His gifts.

All that debt is still there, though, so it is something I have started working on. I intend to pay it off and thereafter remain debt-free. As I learn and claw my way out, I also want to help others avoid or escape from such traps. I am also deep in the midst of decluttering my life.

As for that wall, JC began relentlessly to pound away at it once she realized it was there. Challenging me. Praying with me. Reading with me. Busting through layers upon layers of bricks with the power of Jesus. Protecting and rescuing the real me, yet always loving both the walled me and the exposed me.

As I move towards who He created me to be, I am in the process of making some significant changes to my life. Some of them are easy, some are difficult, and some are scary in their scale.

I am burning the ships of my past. I have at least three or four ablaze in the harbor. I am learning to move on from the comfortable and trust Jesus. He is my holy savior.

My thanks to JC for being an inspiration and providing editing assistance on this post. I literally would not be here without her. But that is a story for another day.

Thanks to all of you for reading.

May Jesus bless you.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27

Dangerous prayers

By JC

Monday night of this week, Snow and I were praying. We pray and read the Bible together every day. Praise God for my true love. But this is not about true love. We were praying fervently for His will.

We are at a point in our journeys where there are big decisions to be made. See our previous posts, “Leave the past” and “Writing Jesus with a burdened heart” in our “Burn the Ships” series.

I was praying for God to hit us with a 2×4 to make it obvious what we should do, asking “What is Your will, God?” Then, Snow decided that a 2×4 was not large enough or obvious enough, so he proceeded to ask for a 4×4. We also decided to begin a fast.

Within twelve hours, I was informed that I was being laid off from my job, effective that day.

The deep love and beauty of Jesus is to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

As I was being informed of my termination, I was so filled with the peace of Jesus. I was able to comfort the people terminating me and share my faith. What an amazing God we serve that He answered the 4×4 prayer within twelve hours in such a clear way. I love clarity, and I received it – thank God!

In addition to the 4×4 prayer, I have been praying, “Bend me, break me to Your will.” I know that I am not aligned to His will because I am unsettled. I have been burdened to get a job where I can touch souls daily and advance the Kingdom. What an incredible gift that would be!

Credit: JC

I have felt like Samuel for years: “Here I am.” I am ready to go wherever and do whatever.

I am not denying that people in the corporate world can touch souls, for we serve where He places us. I am saying I need to be on the front lines, for I love being there.

Holding the sick, feeding the hungry, and sharing Jesus with the hurting, the widowed, and the orphaned. I am 100% fulfilled in my soul and spirit during those times, doing what He created me to do.

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
James 1:27

Earlier this week, when God broke my corporate chains, I felt so liberated! Then, it occurred to me – why did I ignore the burden He put on my heart to get on the front lines? (Your post a couple of weeks ago illustrates that you did not ignore it, my love. It explains exactly why you had not yet acted to get on the front lines. –Snow) Why did I need God to move my feet and end the corporate job? Why didn’t I do it?

Maybe I did not have the strength, or maybe I did not trust Him. “Bend me, break me.”

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

When you pray dangerous prayers, such as the 4×4 prayer, expect God to move – because He will. When you ask Him to “bend me, break me to Your will,” He will.

You will wind up having incredible trust in Him when you pray these prayers, and He moves.

(Trust in God is something I have struggled with as a new believer. JC tells me I vacillate on this aspect of my walk with Him. Yesterday morning, I found an unfamiliar trail in our favorite park. “I don’t think I’ve been down this path before,” I thought, and I immediately felt God, through the Holy Spirit. I walked the path with Him. I talked to Him. I thanked Him for my blessings, including Jesus, JC, my mom, my brother and sisters, and this wonderful world that humanity has tried its best to ruin. The joyful tears flowed. He revealed an event that is happening soon in my life. He told me how to react. “I trust you, Lord,” I kept repeating. I could feel Him the whole way. Like He was holding me. My entire body. As I neared the end of the path, I realized, “This path was here all along. We never saw it.” On and off that whole morning, I could feel Him, and, to a lesser frequency, the rest of the day as well. Even this morning I felt Him again briefly earlier today, and I feel Him now as I write this. I have never had such an intense experience as yesterday. I trust Him. I trust Him. Where I still struggle, though, even after all of that, is giving JC to Him. I have tried to do this a few times already, but I always end up wanting to cling to her. I just love her so much. I remain a work in progress. Our walk continues. –Snow)

There is nothing but full dependency on Him when He shapes your life to His will. Scary? Maybe. But He loves me more than I can understand, and He has never let me down.

What an amazing and powerful God we serve! He closed one chapter in my life this week, and I am elated to see where He takes me next.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20

I surrender to You, all that You loaned me – time, talents, resources. Use me. I pray that my life verse is finally coming to fruition, that I am finally getting out of my own way.

“For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
Philippians 1:21

(I’d like to close out today with a prayer for JC and anyone else whose life has encountered an unexpected turn of events:

Heavenly Father,

Please lift up Your travelers. Fill them with inspiration, faith, and insight. Fill them with You – love. Illuminate their paths, Lord. Show them the paths they do not yet see. Maybe these are paths that have been there all along. Maybe these are brand new paths that you have forged just for them. Reach out and hold them, Lord. Touch them. Touch their hearts. Touch their souls. Show them Your will. It is in the precious name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you. –Snow)

JC Journals: Writing Jesus with a burdened heart

By JC

Dear Jesus,

I love You. I love You more than I can ever express. But thank God You already know how much I love You because You created this heart, mind, body, and soul. All I am and all I have is Yours. Not because I give it to You. I can’t give You something that was already Yours. Instead, I surrender to the knowledge that all I am and all I have is Yours. Use me. Use me daily, please. Yes, I’m broken and messed up. Yes, I sin every single day – but You can still use me because of Your incredible love. I’m sorry I am what I am. I’m sorry for the things I have done and the things I have thought about doing. Forgive me Jesus. Wash me clean, and use me. Whatever that means – use me. I surrender all areas of my life to You. I cannot get things right without You. I can do nothing apart from You.

I have been saved for 11 years. Nothing is the same – thank God! I am a new creation. I didn’t know that would happen, and I certainly did not see You coming into my life. You hit me like a tidal wave and my life, which was never mine, was handed over to the Creator. Very soon after my salvation, I felt the Holy Spirit burdening my heart for mission work or owning a business. I knew back then that I needed my spouse to have that same burden. I started praying, Lord, “for the Holy Spirit to reveal to (spouse) what I feel He has already shown me – I know it is in His perfect time.”

I quickly took a leap of faith. Just a few short months into being saved, I resigned from a lucrative job with upward mobility; over ten years at the same company, but I trusted You. You protected me and took me on a scary journey that blessed me so very much. I cannot express my gratitude for the path you took me on. But this letter is not about my career path. It’s about my marriage.

Father when I married, neither of us were saved. When I met You, I had 3 kids and 12 years of marriage under my belt. You changed me – thank God! You changed me! My heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, and money became all about You. I cried (and still do) myself to sleep trying to understand how it is that I have this incredible burden for missions, giving, and having minimal stuff – I just need You! But my spouse does not share this burden. He was baptized two years after me and says he is saved. Father, he is a deacon and leads mission trips – so he certainly appears to be saved to the church family. He serves in a ministry, too. Aren’t those all things a “saved” person would do? Father, only You know his heart. I plead with You to either bring him to salvation or remind him of his salvation.


On April 24, 2011, I wrote this to you, Lord: Still confused about obedience to husband. Continuing to pray for revelation to both of us. Still want to purge this house of stuff and wipe debt away.

Why would one spouse be so burdened and not the other? My Pastor told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” I agree with that – but what if I am not confused.


April 27, 2011: No change on . . . unity.

I told myself, “God is not a God of confusion.”


April 30, 2011. I decided to tithe. I was lead to do it based on Malachi 3:9-10, and I did it. It was income You provided to me, Lord. I didn’t ask my husband; I just did it, and I prayed that God would be seen and glorified through that tithe of first fruits.

That was the first time this household had ever tithed.

I was firm in that we were going to tithe no matter what the numbers said. “Test me.” . . . My prayer is that God will be seen!


May 2, 2011: . . . we certainly could’ve used that money. But – there is no doubt in my mind that He will do way greater things with that money than we could ever do! May God forgive us for failing as stewards for so long and for so much money.

Was I wrong as a wife to tithe without my husband being led to tithe? I don’t think so, because otherwise I am disobeying Scripture. Jesus is first in all things.


May 9, 2011, Mother’s Day: What makes a mom happy:

  1. The Dad/husband to be a strong spiritual leader of the home as He commands
  2. Her children to be focused on the Lord. . . .

The sermon that day was about a husband who is a strong spiritual leader. Lord, I wrote to You and emphasized the word “strong.” But, Father, in all honesty, I would have taken and happily embraced any signs of spiritual leadership, no matter the strength.

Lord – please hear my prayer. It’s so hard training these kids alone, and my son, Lord, my son. . . . I’m fasting, Lord, yet no “moments of unity.” Well, it’s only eight days into the fast. God is in control and loves me more than I can ever understand.


Father, during Spring 2011, I continued on the ten-week fast. I was so sure you would bring unity between my spouse and I. Why didn’t he feel the burden about none of this stuff matters. We have becomes slaves to the stuff. . . . I then stepped out again, as I felt led to do, and used all of my savings to pay off every debt (except the mortgage). I was burdened to direct His resources to:

  1. Share the Word
  2. Help the poor
  3. Help the fatherless
  4. Help widows

Was I wrong as a wife to pay off the joint debts to free up money to advance the Kingdom? Money that God blessed me with over years of hard work. Scriptures say to owe nothing to anyone, except love. I am not disobeying Scriptures. Should I have waited for however long for my spouse to feel led, too? Maybe. We were both on the ten-week fast. He had already been saved and baptized by this point. Should I see him read the Bible? I don’t. Should I hear him pray? I don’t. Should he mention the name of “Jesus” or a verse at any point?


October 22, 2011. Missionaries visited church. I wrote to the Lord:

Always tugs on my heart – Africa and being a missionary. All I pray for is a heart that is obedient and knows His will for my life. Why did He create me?

  1. Worship Him
  2. Serve Him
  3. Find the lost

Credit: JC

October 25, 2011. A representative from a ministry in Central America came and spoke at church. I felt so burdened by God to go. So, I committed to go. Should I have waited for my spouse to be led, too? Go, tell, and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I was not going to disobey Scriptures.


December 16, 2011: I am prayerful 2012 is the year where we make a difference for His Kingdom – a big difference.


January 1, 2012. Father, I prayed a similar prayer – a bit longer this time. It was a hope I had for 2012. I prayed that my spouse would:

  1. Put Jesus first in all things and recognize this world and all in it is temporary.
  2. Study, work, and pray to become the leader God created him to be.
  3. Not be scared of all the commands on his life, but instead embrace them and realize the Creator of the universe will achieve the purpose for which He has made him – it is through His strength and power these commands will be fulfilled.

Maybe 2012 is the year I will see my husband pick up a Bible or pray . . . or mention the name of “Jesus.” But he wears the “Jesus” shirts I buy him, and he went on a mission trip so . . . what does this all mean. God is not a God of confusion.


July 6, 2013. I continued with the burden on my heart for my spouse . . . until He reveals the long-term plan to (spouse) – it is where I am.


January 26, 2014: Lord, I’m grateful my spouse just went on his third mission trip. Thank you, Jesus! I think his heart grew closer to the people there. I do pray he becomes a bold witness. Lord, I would love for my husband to pray with me just once or for me to see him holding a Bible or hear him talk about Jesus. . . .


February 17, 2014: Lord, I ask boldly, I pray: Full-time missionaries, the entire family we would all be soul-winners spearheaded by husband.


August 30, 2014: Lord, things are weird at home. (Spouse) is going through this phase where he is ignoring the entire family. Not sure why. I will keep praying.


December 26, 2014: Still want to purge this house. . . .

God is not a God of confusion.


May 15, 2015: (Spouse) still floating on a sea of confusion. Using distractions to avoid allowing God to deeply work on him so he is fully dependent on God. You have to go through the trial, or God will bring you back to the trial. Maybe now he will pray or read the Bible or attend church with the family. Maybe. . . . God, I still have the ongoing call to be on the mission field. I need to continue to pray for God’s will and the obedient heart to fulfill it. No matter what, I have the blood of Jesus.


November 8, 2015: (Spouse) continues to be on a sea of confusion. I am not sure what is driving his decision-making. I pray for him to be the leader of this home that God created him to be. I pray (once again) to be the wife he needs me to be to grow in his walk with Jesus.

After years of whispers about attending law school, my boss approved the company to pay for it. I did not wait for my spouse to also be led for me to attend law school at night. Was that wrong? Should I ignore the leadings of the Holy Spirit and, if so, for how long?

I prayed, fasted, begged: Maybe in 2016, he will pray with me or read with me or mention Jesus. But, he serves in the church and wears “Jesus” shirts, and he goes on mission trips, and he is now a deacon. So, everything looks okay from the outside looking in. It breaks my heart when he demands the kids do chores on the Sabbath, and they politely remind him it is the Sabbath. He repeats the command, they obey. What do I do as a submissive wife? Maybe he will read the Bible or pray or attend church with the family. Maybe he will see Sabbath as a day of rest, not for laundry and dishes. Maybe.


September 16, 2016: Lord, I still have my priorities messed up, and I do not spend enough time praying and in God’s Word. This has led to hearing Him less, resulting in a mechanical daily routine and confusion about His will. God is not a God of confusion. He will not send conflicting messages. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will not have the husband and wife on two different pages. Ask yourself: Is your motive Biblical? The enemy takes truth and covers it with a veil of lies, so it still resembles the truth.


December 29, 2016: Lord, please help (spouse) and I to put Jesus first in all things. Help each family member to be a soul-winner.


March 16, 2017: Being broken and weak is an honor. It means He is working on you and His power will be shown through you. If I need to be broken to grow and show His power more – so be it. Despite the pain and hurt, He is with me. It is well with my soul.


December 24, 2017: Lord, my prayers for 2018 are that every family member seeks Jesus and puts Him first. We downsize and focus on what and who matters. We use our God-given resources and abilities to help.

Credit: JC

December 28, 2018: Lord, I have been asking for a husband who prays with me and reads the Bible with me.

My prayers for 2019 include: Every family member grows daily in their walk with Jesus and puts Him first in all things. We purge and focus on who and what matters. We use our God-given resources and abilities to advance His will.

Father, I also ask that you help me to aggressively seek, desire, embrace, and obey Your will, no matter the cost. My kids, my marriage, my job, my resources, my life – NONE are mine. You loaned me these things – break me, bend me to Your will; all I am and all I have you loaned me, I humbly offer as vessels and weapons of righteousness. Use this sinner to advance your Kingdom.


January 5, 2019: There is a lot before me in 2019. I do not yet feel like I am in His will. I have also been focusing on “Thy Will Be Done.” Whatever that means – bend me or break me to be aligned to Your will.


January 26, 2019: I want a husband who prays with me multiple times a day, leads me to get on my knees, reads the Word to me, challenges my walk and studying and prayer life and serving. I want a husband who takes me by the hand and leads me to Jesus on those stormy waters. “Always keep your eyes on Jesus, JC. Always.” I want a husband who challenges me in my thinking and my choices. Pushes me to run the race with enthusiasm and dedication while being filled with smiles and laughter the whole way. I want a husband that not only serves alongside of me, but pushes me to serve with him and serve in general. Through a prayer life, being led by God to then lead me, your wife. I want intimacy wrapped in prayer and deep spirituality of such an act between two married people ordained by God. An entanglement of souls through the Holy Spirit, forever connected in the bond of salvation.


How long do I beg, Jesus, for my spouse to obey Scriptures, to pray with me, or read the Bible, or attend the church with the family? He goes on mission trips, wears Christian shirts, is a deacon, and serves in a men’s ministry. What do I do when he forces the kids to do chores on Sunday and they say, “But it’s the Sabbath.” I know the Bible says for kids to obey their father – even when he directs them to disobey Scriptures? Jesus first in all things.

This is controversial, but I felt led to write this: I know God hates divorce, but how long do I allow the husband and father of this family to drive disobediently in the areas of money, the Sabbath, love, spiritual leadership, and so on? God gave me these kids. He loaned them to me. I’ve been fighting to train them up alone for over a decade, yet married to a deacon who refuses to pray with his wife or sit with us in church. What happened to seek first the Kingdom of God versus blowing God’s resources on rubbish?

Yes, I know God hates divorce, and I know God is not a God of confusion. What if I am not confused.

Credit: JC

Leave the past

By JC & Snow

The Snow half of this writing duo once read a fun article about leadership lessons from Captain Kirk (of Star Trek). One of the ones that really stuck with him was, “Blow up the Enterprise.” In other words, be willing to let go of your past in order to secure your future.

This sentiment is actually a recurring theme in history, though. Spanish conquistador Captain Hernán Cortés in 1519, for example, ordered his own ships destroyed off the coast of what is now Mexico. According to legend, this forced his crew to leave the familiarity and easy escape path of their vessels and rely instead on the new land. This story is part of the inspiration behind the 2018 song “Burn The Ships” by For King & Country.

[Trivia Interlude: As Snow watched the music video linked above for “Burn The Ships” just now, he saw another Star Trek connection. The vessel used in the video is the Lady Washington. She appeared in the 1994 movie Star Trek Generations as a 19th century USS Enterprise. So, it appears For King & Country really did blow up the Enterprise!]

“We’ve got to burn the ships, cut the ties, send a flare into the night, say a prayer, turn the tide, dry your tears, and wave goodbye. Step into a new day. We can rise up from the dust and walk away. We can dance upon our heartache.”
From “Burn The Ships,” Burn The Ships, For King & Country, written by Joel David Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Matt Hales, & Seth Mosley

When God leads you to make significant changes in your life, it is tempting to keep a safety net. The familiar, even if it is harmful to you, is comfortable. If Jesus is pulling you away from a state of stagnation and into bold, new changes in your life, you need to burn the ships. Let go of your past, for it is holding you back from the future He intends for you.

As a Biblical concept, the command not to look back can be traced all the way to Genesis. As Lot and his wife flee the the burning of Sodom, they are warned by an angel:

“Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”
Genesis 19:17

About two thousand years later, Jesus provided his would-be followers a similar decree:

“Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62

Credit: JC

Burning the ships may well impact others. For example, you might have a toxic person in your life that you need to leave behind. If so, you have to give that person to God and then move on. Don’t look back. Proceed with the life He has planned for you.

Please be clear that we are not advocating that you take such life-altering decisions lightly. You should only burn the ships if you are certain God is leading you to do so. This should involve much prayer. Not only speaking to Him, but listening for Him.

If you are certain, though, then have a conversation with Him. JC provides an example below. When you reach the blanks, fill in what your heart tells you.


Burn the ships.

I can’t, I will have nothing.

You will have Jesus.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25‬

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:8‬


Burn the ships.

How? I’m scared.

Cling to Jesus, He will carry you.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:39‬

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28‬


Burn the ships.

Why? I at least I know the situation I’m in, even though there’s _________. Its the “devil I know.” I have no idea what will happen if I _________.

Pray, fast and trust Jesus. He has died for you, His love for you is beyond understanding.

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:30‬

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬


Burn the ships.

When? This will be hard. I don’t know if I’m ready.

“O Lord, I give my life to you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:1‬

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:27‬


Burn the ships.

What will people think?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:15‬


Burn the ships.

Who will I become? This is the me I know.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬

“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”
‭‭Psalm ‭143:8‬


Thank you for reading. We humbly offer this prayer for you:

Heavenly Father,

Please bless our readers and provide clear guidance on Your intended paths for their lives. Help them to know if they need to burn the ships and let You transform them. Help them resist the natural urge to look back. In the precious name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Credit: JC

For just such a time

Recently, I re-read the book of Esther, as part of a YouVersion Bible App reading plan created by the Bible Project. If you’ve not checked out YouVersion or the Bible Project, I highly recommend them both.

I read the Bible multiple times a day, and YouVersion makes it so easy by being right there on my iPhone – in just about any common translation and many uncommon ones as well. I read during my early morning quiet time and also during lunch with my true love. No more lunches alone.

The phone also makes it easy to read a chapter or two of His Word when I have a spare few minutes throughout my day. It is a way to stay focused on what is truly important in life.

The Bible Project is a series of videos explaining different aspects of the Bible, most notably how all of it ties together. As with any non-Biblical source, it is always good to true back against the actual Bible on your own. While I sometimes disagree with the Bible Project on small details, it is nevertheless an excellent supplemental source of understanding.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve read Esther since I was saved last year. It is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.

I love Esther’s story. An orphaned Jewish girl has an unlikely rise to become Queen of Persia. Later, she is debating with Mordecai, her older cousin who raised her after the death of her parents, as to whether she should risk death by pleading uninvited to the King to save the Jewish people. This results in my favorite passage from the book:

“Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: ‘Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?'”
Esther 4:13-14

In Genesis, Joseph makes a similar observation in reflecting on the touch of God in his life:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Genesis 50:20

Have you ever wondered why you are where you are in your life? Why you work where you work? Why you live where you live? The reason God puts us in certain places or situations may not always be obvious at first, if ever.

What we have to remember at all times is that there is a plan. God cherishes you, as He cherishes all of us. God has a mission for you. Listen for it.

As for Queen Esther, she rose to the challenge:

“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.'”
Esther 4:15-16

Note the fast, a critical decision by Queen Esther to put her fate in the hands of God and to recruit others to her cause. Jesus later spoke of the power of small groups:

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

The Queen goes on to use cunning and bravery to save the Jewish people from what could have been a massacre.

God may want you at a certain place to fulfill a purpose. That purpose may have nothing to do with your day-to-day work duties, either. Maybe your kind words and smile are enough to help a tortured soul. You may never know the impact your light has on someone. Know through Him that your smile, your words, can and do make a difference.

And when you face a decision either to light the way as a follower of Jesus or to slip away in fear of the darkness, be strong like Queen Esther. Light the way.

“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Virginia Beach | Credit: JC

Live from the park

When I bought this little MacBook Air about five years ago, I had grand dreams. I imagined I would take it with me everywhere so that I could write at a moment’s notice. Most importantly, its small size would allow me to write outside.

As to why I wanted to write outside back in 2014, I do not recall. I never really liked being outside as an adult, other than a small period of time right after high school when I worked at an amusement park. Long ago. So, I believe I only used the laptop outside once in all of these years. It was a very bright day, and I couldn’t see the screen too well. Some kind of flying bug came along, and I retreated to the safety and comfort of inside.

As for writing, I have not done very much on this laptop. Sadly, I have used it more for surfing the web than anything else. Most of my writing I still do on my iMac, which has been going strong since 2010. I switched to Apple back then because I became tired of having to replace my Windows-based machines every two or three years as they became sluggish with each operating system “upgrade.”

However, here I am. I am writing to you today on my MacBook Air. Outside, in the fresh air at a park!

In the eleven months since I was saved, I have grown to love being outside again. Like when I was a child. I enjoy being out in what He created. Exploring. Observing nature. I have to admit, I still don’t like winged insects buzzing around me, though. And don’t get me started on spiders.

But I am here. And I am enjoying His world. We have made it imperfect, of course, but it still can be Heaven right here on Earth, when we let it.

I believe I have mentioned before, I love praying while walking. I walked nearly five miles so far today, and I still want to do a little more before heading home. While I was not “praying” in the technical sense the entire time, I did spend much of it just talking to Him. Or listening for Him.

Even if no insights, it is still relaxing. And I get to see a lot of dogs, as people seem to enjoy walking them here. All kinds of dogs.

I guess this is really just a rambling post. What is my point today? Don’t wait too long before you do something you have planned. We don’t know how much time we have, but we do know time on this side is limited.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Proverbs 27:1

Similarly, we don’t know when Jesus will return (Luke 12:40). If He returned tonight, would you be ready? I am not sure I would be. There are many more people who I want to ensure are walking with Jesus, for instance. And there are still some things I want to experience in this world before moving on to the next. However, I don’t think “Jesus, would you mind coming back later?” is an appropriate response to the Son of God.

If there is something you have been wanting to do, then do it. What are you waiting for?

Credit: JC

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.