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.

61 suggestions for life (#50 will make you laugh)

By JC & Snow

  1. Unless your heart is in it, don’t do it.
  2. Live your best life now.
  3. Do not let fear control you. Live.
  4. No amount of stuff can fill a hole in your heart.
  5. Experiences create loving memories. Not stuff.
  6. If it takes 40+ boxes to pack a room that contains your stuff, you have a problem. It will be okay. Jesus will help you.
  7. All humans make mistakes. If you take a wrong turn, admit your mistake, fix it, and get back on Jesus’s course.
  8. Be careful as to who and what you give your energy.
  9. Accept help from people. Even ask for it. This is one way Jesus sends you gifts.
  10. Never be so busy that you don’t notice the gifts Jesus provides you every day.
  11. Comfortable silence is better than a blaring TV.
  12. No more soda for you. Ever.
  13. Stand in nature and breathe deeply.
  14. Look for signs of Him, for He is everywhere.
  15. If you don’t love someone, then don’t marry her or him. Even if you think this person is the only one who will ever love you. Maybe especially then.
  16. If you don’t want to be with someone more than you want to be alone, then don’t marry her or him.
  17. Never give up who you really are for another person. Be true to yourself.
  18. If you want to go on a mission trip to feed hungry children, and someone has a problem with that, you need to seriously take a look at why that person is in your life.
  19. If someone is jealous of time you are spending with your ill mom, that is not a good sign.
  20. If someone doesn’t like scripture quotes, that is not a good sign.
  21. You can give someone a Bible. Even two of them. But you can’t make her or him read it.
  22. Never become so dependent on someone that you can’t drive yourself wherever you need to go and do what you need to do.
  23. Sex should not be the driver for your relationship.
  24. Your true love doesn’t walk away from you when you are obviously in need. She or he holds you until you are okay.
  25. If your significant other has more than two TVs, run.
  26. If your significant other spends more time on Amazon than with you, run. Incidentally, if this same person removes you from her or his Amazon Prime account, you know it’s over. Celebrate.
  27. If the Amazon delivery driver knows how to get your place without directions, you might have a problem.
  28. If your significant other won’t pray with you, despite you asking, flee.
  29. If your significant other rushes to get the mail first each day, she or he may be hiding something.
  30. If you have shared with your significant other how you receive love, and she or he doesn’t care, flee.
  31. Don’t engage with people who play games with your emotions – silent treatment, cold shoulder, etc. Instead, play with those who bring you joy (or pain, if that’s your thing as a consensual act within a marriage).
  32. If you are disappointed when someone comes home after being away, this is not your true love.
  33. If you are excited to leave someone, this is not your true love.
  34. If you hold someone for 15 minutes with no words needed after being apart, she or he is your true love.
  35. If you are filled with joy just to stand next to someone, then that is where you should spend your time.
  36. If someone in your life takes time to analyze your anxiety and comes up with methods to overcome it, this person deeply loves you. Cherish her or him.
  37. If you secretly love someone, tell her or him. Don’t just imply you love her. Tell her. If she is worth your love, she will at minimum be flattered, and she may surprise you with her own words.
  38. If you have never laid on the beach, lay on it with your true love.
  39. Kiss your true love as if it is the last time, every time.
  40. Never leave things unspoken or unresolved. Always make sure you say “I love you” to those you do.
  41. Yes, love being with people, but be able to function even if you miss them.
  42. Always be involved in your finances. Don’t give this up to anyone else. Know what is going on with God’s money.
  43. Never have a credit card balance. Ever. If you already have them, stop charging, and start paying them down.
  44. Where your money goes is where your heart is.
  45. If you have Amazon, drop Prime. Pay for your shipping. You will buy less.
  46. Run your credit report.
  47. If you are checking to see if you have enough room on your credit card to afford an item, you can’t afford it.
  48. Never let someone else use your credit cards.
  49. Better yet, have no credit cards at all.
  50. If the pastor is inspired by Jesus, no one cares if the choir is out of tune.
  51. If the pastor doesn’t say “turn in your Bible to ….” so that you can read along and understand for yourself, then run.
  52. Spend in depth time with Jesus alone.
  53. Create a personal relationship with Jesus. Read and pray daily.
  54. Kneel and pray with your true love. Every day.
  55. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6).
  56. Say what you mean. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No'” (Matthew 5:37).
  57. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). If you don’t have God, you don’t have love.
  58. Listen to your gut. It is often God’s voice.
  59. There is power in prayer.
  60. Listen to His whispers. “There was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
  61. The best place to break a fast is at McDonald’s with your true love. Actually, where doesn’t really matter. Just be with your true love.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you as He has blessed us.

Credit: JC

For Mom

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Proverb 31:31

Today marks the first Mother’s Day since I lost my mom, who passed away earlier this month after a long illness.

Mom was very private. She did not often discuss her faith. I am blessed, then, over the last ten months to have spent much time reading the Bible and praying to Jesus with her. I learned during that cherished time about Mom’s belief in Jesus as our Savior. I learned that she turned to Jesus for help when I nearly died in the earliest days of my life. I learned that she knew where she would go when she died. I learned that she had no regrets.

If things were different, I would be at her place right now, as I was most Sunday afternoons. We would probably be eating fried chicken and watching one of her favorite movies. We would later play Fish, and I would let her win. If she was feeling up to it, we might even color in our coloring books together. I would read at least one chapter of the Bible to her, and then I would pray out loud for her as I held her hand. Sometimes, on the most special of days, she would then grip my hand and pray for me, too.

I love and miss Mom so much, but I know she is in a better place now. The Perfect Place that we call Heaven. A place without pain, without tears (Revelation 21:4). A place where she can be her ideal self, free of disease and hurt. Free of the chains of this world.

Mom is with Jesus now, but she is still with me. I have felt her a number of times since her death. She sends me unique bursts of joy to say hello. She sent me one such burst when my family and I found what we soon decided would be the final resting place of the earthly body she left behind. She also sent me one near the end of my eulogy celebrating her life.

I am blessed, so blessed that she was my mom, and that she knew and walked with Jesus. I am blessed to know where she is. I am blessed that she is not really gone. I am blessed that I will see her again, for I, too, know where I will go when I leave this world behind – thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus so that our sins are forgiven and our lives made eternal.

Credit: JC

I have so many wonderful memories of Mom. As I was growing up, she was both my number one fan and number one protector. My love of reading comes from her. Going to the public library for books was as much a part of our routine as going to the grocery store for food. She taught me to scrawl my name well enough at the age of two or three in order to get a library card of my own.

That love of reading has made all the difference in my life, Mom. For it has opened all the doors to all of the knowledge I have ever needed – including His Word. Thank you, Mom.

Mom also encouraged me to write. She always thought I would be an author. In 6th grade, I spent three months using an antique typewriter to write a ten-page “book” about the space shuttle Challenger tragedy. As I did not yet actually know how to type, it was riddled with typos and misspellings. When I turned it in to a teacher collecting entries for a young authors contest, she apparently thought it was a rough draft and returned it marked up in red ink. Not a page was spared.

My heart sank. With the deadline looming and my original pages ruined, I knew I did not have another three months to retype my entry in order to make the corrections. Honestly, I probably did not even have enough paper to retype it even if I had the time. When Mom found out what happened, she soon had the teacher on the phone. By the time Mom was done with her, the teacher had agreed to retype all of the pages for me. Mom clarified that the teacher was to include every single one of my typos and misspellings. Thus, I was still able to enter the contest, winning second prize. Typos (including a few new ones) and all.

Mom, thank you for always believing in me. For protecting me. While I did not write a book in time for you to hold it, I still have that dream, and I know you will be with me when I do hold that first book in my hands.

Mom’s passions in life were her children and grandchildren. She had unlimited, unconditional love for them. I have not yet been blessed with children of my own, but I do know what it is like to love someone with such passion. Mom did not get to meet my true love on this side of Heaven, but I was able to talk with Mom about her on Easter Sunday. She was so happy that I had found someone that brings me such joy. Christmas was Mom’s favorite time of year, and she wanted to meet her then. Maybe it is Christmas every day in Heaven for Mom. My love and I know in our hearts they have now met. Nothing is impossible for Jesus.

Mom, I love you. I am blessed the first love of my life has now met the last love of my life. The one who prayed to Jesus that I may live has now met the one who led me to Jesus so that I will live forever. My first protector has now met my last protector. Thank you, Mom. I will always remember. Always.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16:22

A word without meaning?

Flowers
Credit: JC

“Love” has become an overused word. Oh we love everything these days. Movies and phones and snacks, whatever. You name it, there’s someone out there who loves it.

Has “love,” then, lost all meaning? I experience such deep feelings for my true love that the word has seemed inadequate. For months, I searched in vain for a new, more descriptive word to express my feelings for her.

As always, scripture held the answer:

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
1 John 4:16

God is love. Love is God. Though we might apply it incorrectly to inanimate objects, there is no better word to be found than “love” to describe the intense emotion that binds one heart to another – no matter if it is love for Jesus, your mom, your kids, your true love, or your best friend.

A love rooted in Jesus is pure and strong. And why wouldn’t it be? For He is not only the source of love, He is love. He also showed us how to love. For who could love more than the One who sacrificed Himself so that our sins would be forgiven and we could live with Him for eternity?

God is love

Heavenly Father,

Please bless those reading these words and show them examples of Your love in their lives. May they love You and others as intensely as You love us. If they do not already know You, may You lead them to salvation.

In the holy name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

* * *

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Metamorphosis

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Philippians 3:13-14

Life is a funny thing. It can change so fast. I became a new person when I was saved last summer, for instance. Every aspect of my life was impacted.

I recently started the wheels turning on another significant change in my life, related to being born again. Last month, I started making a huge course-correction to bring my life in line with His plan for me. While such a massive change should be scary, it has not been. In fact, my overall reaction has been joyful – which tells me I am on the right path at last.

As part of closing the book on one part of my life and starting a new one, I am currently in the process of de-cluttering. This is no small undertaking for me. For years, I tried to fill holes in my soul and heart with stuff. Books I never have time to read. Movies and TV series I never have time to watch. Collectibles I never have time to dust.

Oh, collectibles. What a dangerous foe you are to an obsessive person such as myself. “Collect all 96!” is a command, not a suggestion. Completing the collection becomes more important than enjoying it. “I don’t really like this piece, but it is for the collection” is a way to justify spending money on something that is not only unnecessary but also unwanted.

No matter what I bought, though, and no matter how much debt I took on to expand my collection of things, my soul and heart were never quite fulfilled.

Sure, it would feel good for a little bit. Then I would realize I still felt empty inside.

So empty.

So alone.

What finally fulfilled my soul and heart?

Love, of course.

Mutual love with Jesus.

Mutual love with my true love.

Stuff means nothing. Love means everything.

Now, literally surrounded by stuff, I seek to dig out. My original goal was to get rid of at least half of it by donating, selling, or trashing. I have tried to purge before, but things are different this time.

It is difficult. So far, I am failing in my goal. I have purged so much stuff – more than I ever have in my adult life – yet I am keeping more than I am giving up.

Three things are holding me back. The first is the sheer volume of stuff. Only when attempting to sort through and pack everything have I started to realize and acknowledge that I am a hoarder. Not a collector. A hoarder. Oh, I am not bad enough to be on one of those TV shows, but I am certainly on that path. Had I not accepted Jesus in my heart, I probably would have been at that level within ten years – other than the fact that I probably would have been dead by even now. And it would be up to someone else to sort through my mountain of worthless junk.

The second thing holding me back is time. It takes time to makes such decisions, and time is something I currently lack.

Finally, sentimentality causes me to think and re-think about the fate of each item.

Are these just excuses? I hope not. I do feel I have made much progress. Yet, there are far more boxes to be kept for now than I would have ever anticipated. Perhaps I am failing. I am, after all, only human.

I now realize it will take multiple rounds of purging to reach and exceed my original goal. All of this is temporary and will eventually be solved, I remind myself as to not get overwhelmed.

What really matters is that I want a simpler life. I want to focus on Him. I don’t want a television set for awhile, for instance. I am going from a 74-inch widescreen set with a full surround sound system to nothing.

I just want peace, quiet, and time.

Time to study His Word. Time to spend with my true love. Time to spend in nature experiencing His creations.

I want to focus on becoming financially responsible and on paying off the massive debt accumulated to collect so much completely useless stuff. Yes, I am finally learning to be a responsible adult. Twenty-six years late, but who is counting?

In the midst of these changes, I have neglected my writing – including this blog. Effective today, I am going to attempt to carve out time to return to a weekly posting schedule. Writing is something else I want to focus on during and beyond my time of metamorphosis – which can’t come soon enough.

Yes, my entire life is changing, but Jesus and my true love are holding my hands the whole way. I may be surrounded by stuff, but this is only temporary. I will be surrounded by love for all eternity.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you with the same blessings of love that have filled me.

Flower
Credit: JC

Opening the clouds of insight

Clouds
Credit: JC

Life can sometimes be thought of as a series of changes. I have been undergoing a number of transformations since I was saved eight months ago.

The impacts to my life of accepting Jesus in my heart have been tremendous. As I have talked about before, my entire inner dialogue is different. Whereas I used to be constantly filled with dark thoughts of “I wish I was dead” repeated constantly throughout the day, I now very often have calm.

Calm. With the noise removed, I now have a better chance of hearing God’s whispers.

The darkness does sometimes attempt to return, though. There is the stray “I wish I was dead” that will pop into my head. Such thoughts I am able to capture and control now. I know what they are. I know their source, and I pray them away.

A second way the darkness returns I am still in the process of defeating. While I have made great progress in working to overcome it, anxiety still occasionally strikes me. The darkness uses this tool to attempt to control me and prevent me from realizing God’s plan for me.

There is a major change coming in my life that I want to occur. It is inevitable, yet the timing has been slower than I would prefer. I have been struggling with the degree to which I want to initiate that change versus “riding the wave” and letting events take their course.

Maybe it is just a matter of control. Does riding the wave simply mean letting Jesus run my life? I am a product of our modern society. I want things fast. Now.

Amazon offers a service called Prime Now which features same day delivery on many items. Jesus does not offer an equivalent service when it comes to answering prayers. He answers them when it best suits His plan – whether instantly or a hundred years from now. (Side note to Jesus: Please not a hundred years from now on on this one. Thank You. Amen.)

Sometimes, it is hard to know whether I should directly act. My angst is, what if I am supposed to be taking action to initiate directly the change I want versus waiting for it to happen on its own? Even if I do decide to act, then it is still a question of to what degree.

With confusion in my heart, I sought nature and Him on Monday at the advice of my Bible Study Partner (BSP). I spent the afternoon alone in a park. Sitting. Listening. Walking. Observing.

While I was enjoying my time there, at first it did not seem to be working. I did not feel His presence, and I felt as confused as ever.

I found a new spot in the park that I had never explored before. I sat on a rock near a creek and looked at the water as I prayed to Jesus yet again for clarity and guidance.

Then, it happened. That first droplet of insight. Plop.

Then another. Plop.

And more. Plop. Plop.

Plop. Plop. Plop.

The clouds of insight opened.

Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop.

I struggled to keep up with noting the insights as they arrived faster and faster. For a moment, I doubted myself. Were these really from Him? Or just me talking to myself?

However, the underlying purpose of some of the insights was unclear to me. And one of the bigger insights was disappointing. I want to make a certain change fast, like flipping a switch. This insight slows my pace.

His will, not mine. He is all-knowing, while my knowledge is quite limited.

What to do now? My next step, according to my BSP, is to gather all of these insights and make action plans for them. I will be working on that this weekend. It is a blessing to hear from Him, and now I must obey.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Galatians 6:9

JC Journals: Pathways to peace

Bridge path
Credit: JC

Today’s post represents a written collaboration with my Bible Study Partner, JC. She has actually collaborated on Beloved Walks from the beginning, for she helped name the site and provides the beautiful photographs that accompany and often inspire my writing.

JC keeps a number of journals, including one in which she captures thoughts related to her faith and whispers from Jesus. In coming to terms with the death of a very special loved one in February 2017, she documented a number of revelations from March 2017 to April 2018 on how to deal with tragedy. Those insights form the core of today’s post.

JC notes that one of the ways God whispers to us is through daily devotionals. Bits and pieces of scripture and advice all came together for her in the course of that year – some in the form of devotionals obviously sent by Him. In addition to reading the Bible daily, she recommends devotionals as another way to hear Him. You can find various devotionals all over the web or within the YouVersion Bible app (reading plans). Here is one list of devotionals that might be helpful to you as a starting point.

* * *

In our lives, there will be times we face tragedy. It is part of the human experience. For instance, the loss of someone we love dearly can be devastating.

When faced with overwhelming sorrow, what should you do at the very worst moment of your life?

Worship.

When the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, he obeyed and began the necessary preparations. Abraham journeyed to the mountains of Moriah to offer sacrifice, with Isaac in tow. Unaware of his role in the plan, Isaac questioned why they had not brought a sheep along for their offering. “God will provide,” Abraham professed (Genesis 22:8), and indeed He did – sparing Isaac after Abraham passed this ultimate test of trust and providing a ram in his place.

If the pain is so overwhelming that it consumes you, you must rest and find comfort in who God is, not in how you feel, what you see, or what is happening.

Focus on resting in who He is.

Pray.

How can you pray when you hurt so much you can’t even breathe?

We need God to breathe.

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7

“For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:4

If you can’t breathe or pray, follow these steps until you can:

1.) Keep repeating the name of Jesus out loud

2.) Read Romans 8:26

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

You do not have to pray yet, you do not have to find the words yet, for the Holy Spirit within you is already praying on your behalf.

3.) Read Psalm 42

While it may feel as if God has abandoned you, He has not. His love for you is eternal. Praise Him, for He will comfort you.

4.) Read Job 1:20-21

“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!'”

Job had lost everything except that which no one could take, his faith and God’s love.

5.) Read Job 13:15-16

“God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him. But this is what will save me—I am not godless. If I were, I could not stand before him.”

Give your words to God. Even if they are angry words at first. He understands. Talk to Him. He will help you. He loves you.

If or once you are able to breathe and pray, repeat “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

You can breathe, but you are in pain. How can you move forward when you are so weary?

Psalm 42:5 tells us to praise the Lord when we are discouraged. You must discipline your soul to still praise Him. You must command your soul to praise the Lord.

Pray for His purpose in this trial to be revealed to you, how you need to be His witness in it, and for His strength to endure it. You will be tested.

How might you find strength?

First and foremost, pray and read His Word.

If it moves you, listen to praise music. For instance, the raw honesty of a song like “Praise You In This Storm” by Casting Crowns might ring true for you.

“Every tear I’ve cried, You hold in your hand. You never left my side, and, though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm.”
From “Praise You In This Storm,” Lifesong, Casting Crowns, written by Mark Hall & Bernie Herms

Seek nature. Wherever you are in the world, He is there. Look for signs of Him. Go outside and breathe. Look for Him. He is there.

Mountain
Credit: JC

Finally, always return to praying to Him and reading scripture.

“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. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Romans 8:28-29

God’s awesome power is such that He uses tragic events to create good.

The best opportunity for Christians to move closer to being like Jesus is in the middle of suffering. He suffered on the cross for us, giving up His very life so that we may live.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
1 Peter 1:6-7

There is always a purpose to every trial in your life. You are being tested. Being at your lowest provides the best opportunity for you to prove your faith.

“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

Feel the power of Joseph’s words in the above verse. His brothers had literally sold him into slavery, but he recognized that God used the tragedy for good. For Joseph to have affected so many by the end of his journey, he had to endure that hardship near the beginning. Without it, his path would have been completely different, and he would not have touched so many people.

Joseph’s trial had a purpose. It was a stepping stone. You may not be able to see it yet, and you may never see it this side of Heaven, but your trial is the same. It has a purpose. It is a stepping stone.

“He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Take comfort in Paul’s words above. When you are at your lowest point, that is when Jesus has the most opportunity to lift you up. Feel His power.

If you have not yet accepted Jesus in your heart, then use this as an opportunity to seek Him.

If you are already saved, nothing can take the blessings of Jesus and eternal life away from you. However, Satan can make you feel those blessings are at risk. He will try to take the peace of Christ away from you.

Be strong. You are a child of God.

“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”
Job 42:10

Only after Job prayed for his friends was he blessed and healed.

Keep praying. You are not alone. You are never alone.

* * *

And now, we pray for you, the one who has encountered this post due to tragedy in your life.

Heavenly Father,

Please bless the readers of this entry who need your comfort. You are always with us, but reveal your presence to them today. Let them feel Your holy arms as you hold them.

Lift them and allow them to begin breathing, praying, and healing. Whether here or elsewhere, let them find a path to inner peace through your Word.

Let them feel the power of Your glory. Let them feel the glory of Your love. Let them feel the love of Your Son.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

* * *

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

The phone call

Mom and I are sitting at the kitchen table of our new home. I am four-years-old. I am eating a grilled cheese and ham sandwich. It is so yummy.

Mom always butters the bread before putting it in the oven, and the grease marks show up on the ever-present white paper plates we use for our lunches. After I eat, Mom sometimes gives me a little felt-tip marker and lets me draw designs in black ink on the plate around the grease marks. I hope she will let me do that today.

The yellow phone on the wall starts ringing. Mom stands up and answers it. I keep eating. It is the best sandwich ever. She does not talk for long and comes back to the table.

There are tears in her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” I ask. “Who was that?”

Mom looks at me. “It was bad news, son. Julie died.”

Julie lived in our old neighborhood and had been battling cancer since before we moved. Not long ago, one of her legs was amputated in an attempt to fight off the disease.

She was courageous through all the challenges she faced, always smiling. Always nice to me, the little neighbor boy up the street. She was 13-years-old. Until now, I have never personally known anyone who died.

“Will she go to Heaven, Mom?” By the time I was born, my family had stopped attending church for various reasons. However, Mom had taught me about God, Jesus, and Heaven very early on.

“Yes, she will. Remember, no one ever hurts there. She is not sick anymore.”

“Does she have both of her legs again now?” I ask.

“Yes, she does, and she is running again up in Heaven. She is happy.”

I look back at my sandwich, which I had been so joyfully eating only a moment before. Now, my whole world is different. Julie is gone.

“Mom, I was hungry before. But now I am not hungry anymore. Why?”

“It’s because you’re sad about Julie,” she says. She holds me in her arms, and I cry.

I never finish the best sandwich ever.

* * *

Though our families unfortunately lost touch soon thereafter, I still remember Julie some forty years later because of how kind she always was to me.

I do not recall her family’s name, but today, I pray for them.

flowers
Credit: JC

Heavenly Father,

Please bless the surviving family of my childhood friend, Julie. I am sure, Father, they still feel the void of her absence every day. May You continue to lift them up and remind them that she is with You. May You lead any of them who are not yet saved to You, and may You walk even closer with those already saved. May You always provide them with happy memories when their hearts feel sad.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

* * *

In retrospect, I know now in her own moment of sadness, my Mom had to make difficult decisions as far as how to answer the questions of four-year-old me. She chose right.

Though it was very upsetting, two of the comforts I had about the death of Julie when I was a child were that she would feel better and that she would be in Heaven.

Indeed, I will get to see Julie again in the Perfect Place. That still brings me comfort.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”
Malachi 4:2

Listening to the gentle whispers

“‘Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”
1 Kings 19:11-12

For most of this month, I have been in a partial fast in which I abstain from certain foods. This is my first fast since becoming a Christian, and I am seeking clarity on a certain aspect of my life. Only one person knows I am on this fast, and I mention it here only for purposes of illustration in this post.

I have been lamenting that I have heard no answers. “Maybe I’m not doing it right,” I have said, both of the fast and of my accompanying prayer.

I encountered the above passage for the first time in one of my Bible reading plans earlier this week, and it moved me to tears. Yet, I missed applying its message to me.

God is neither in the wind nor in the Earthquake. He is not even in the fire. Answers to our prayers are not likely to arrive in the form of a booming voice sent down from clouds surrounded by angels.

No, God speaks to us most often in soft whispers.

Of course He does. Our all-powerful God need not blast us with His greatness. Only the weak need raise their voices. No, God speaks to us in whispers, and it is up to us to listen.

Whispers are compelling, far more so than shouts. Whispers force you to listen if you want to hear their messages.

Encountering the above passage was, in fact, a whisper from God to me: “Your prayers are being answered. Listen.” As I said, though, I missed it, even though the passage instantly meant so much to me.

Sunlight shining through a tree
Credit: JC

As I continued to fret about my lack of response from Him, the passage came up again yesterday in a different reading plan. “This means you need to pay closer attention to it,” said my Bible Study Partner (BSP).

I enjoyed re-reading the passage, but I still didn’t understand what He was trying to say to me through it. I was hearing the words, even loving the words, but not applying them to my life.

My BSP and I talked later in the day about the fast. I went over my frustrations again about not hearing from Him.

In what at first seemed like a separate conversation, we also reviewed various insights we had made over the last several days. My BSP then asked me to repeat my fasting prayer to her. As I did, it dawned on me what she was trying to show me.

Those insights were my answers. He had been whispering to me all along.

I felt chills, and the tears flowed again. I had finally heard Him. He literally had to speak through my BSP to get my attention, but I had finally heard Him. No wind. No Earthquake. No fire. Just whispers. Beautiful whispers.

How might these whispers from God arrive? Here are some examples that have applied for me:

  • Recurrence of certain Bible verses
  • Momentary flashes of insight
  • Fleeting thoughts that might, at first, seem irrelevant
  • Being placed in unexpected situations or scenarios
  • Words spoken by those around you

Once I realized that He had indeed been whispering to me, His answers fell into place and appeared so obvious in retrospect. How had I missed them?

Because I was too distracted by the winds, Earthquakes, and fires of everyday life to hear His whispers.

Are you seeking answers from Jesus? Does it seem as if He has been ignoring you? Close your eyes and listen for His whispers. He is there with you, always.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Holding on to my Heaven

Have you ever loved someone so much that the very thought of her or him filled you with absolute joy? I mean sheer joy. The kind of love that fulfills the dreams of not only your heart, but your very soul? Your very best dreams, those secret dreams that you never thought could become reality. The kind of person that inspires you to strive to better yourself? You would give up your very life to protect her or him.

I am blessed to share a mutual love with such a person in my life. She loves me for me, unconditionally, and I feel the same for her. She means the world to me, and I cannot imagine a future without her. While I have conquered many fears in recent months since beginning my walk with Jesus, I still have a number of them that plague me.

The biggest fear I have is losing this person. Oh, I don’t mean due to an argument or a misunderstanding, as those kinds of situations would no doubt be temporary between us. I have complete confidence in the longevity of our relationship. No, my fear is losing her to the Perfect Place if she is called Home before me.

Oh, I try to reason through it. She belongs to Jesus, after all, not to me or anyone else. Heaven really is perfection, so I should be happy for her if she goes first.

While I would be happy for her, I would also be devastated for me. No, devastated is an understatement. I would be crushed. Destroyed. There would be nothing left of me. For she is my entire future. I was created to serve next to her, to hold her, and to love her.

I experience Heaven right here on the Earth when I am by her side. People seek true happiness all of their lives, and I have found mine in her. Were she to be ripped away from me, I know I would see her again, for we will have eternity together. Until then, however, this place would become my hell.

I am supposed to give her up to Jesus, to whom she already belongs anyway. She is not even mine to give, yet I hold on to her, I cling to her. Even a theoretical thought of losing her can bring me to tears.

fog
Credit: JC

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
James 4:14

Life is fleeting. The days seem to pass faster and faster. We only have so many days, and I love most of all the ones I share with her. The thought of having endless tomorrows without her is unbearable. We are supposed to be together. Why do I waste any of the limited days we have here on anything besides her?

The raw truth is that this is a trust issue between me and God. I know in my heart that He created this love, that He literally designed us for one another, and that He brought us together. So, why can’t I trust Him to give us enough tomorrows? While it feels as if there can never be sufficient time with her, this is the same God that created eternity, after all. Nothing is beyond His power.

Why can’t I trust that He will guide me through the pain should she go first? For He would be all I have left, the only hope I would have to continue my journey if she were gone.

I dislike even typing about losing her. I don’t even want to post this, but I always write what comes to mind here. No filters.

Some may say I love her too much, that I need to redirect that love to Jesus. No, I can never believe I love her too much. God is love. He created our infinite love. It is impossible to love too much. I love her more every day. When she says, “I love you,” I am filled with absolute joy. I am giddy. I refuse to believe there is anything wrong with that, either.

Of course I love Jesus, and He loves me unconditionally. He has literally given up His life for me, for all of us. The fact that I do not fully trust Him, particularly with her, is my fault. It is something I am working on. Jesus also fills me with joy. My love for her does not take anything away from my love for Jesus or my personal relationship with Him.

As is so often the case, I offer no real answers today. This is but a presentation of my heart, for all I can do is put my loved one in His arms, and let Him take us from there.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
Psalm 31:5