The chump at the pump

By Snow

JC lives near me, and one of the ways I enjoy serving her is fueling her car with gas when I can. To facilitate her excursions this weekend, I wake up early on Saturday and brave the cold to fill her car as a surprise.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t drive anyone else’s car due to my anxiety. However, JC’s car and I get along just fine. Speaking of anxiety-inducing situations, her car prefers gas from a perpetually-crowded filling station/convenience store near us that we’ll call “Lala.” One of the reasons I like to fill up her car prior to 6:30 AM is Lala’s multiple pumps almost always have lines if you go much later than that.

There are also these signs at each pump proclaiming, “Please free this position when finished fueling. Thank you. –The Customer Behind You.” Lala is a high pressure environment for someone with anxiety! I am the same way with self-checkout at grocery stores. I won’t do self-checkout if there is a line to get to them. (Actually, I wouldn’t do self-checkout at all if stores would stop relying on them and fully staff their cash registers with actual human beings.)

Anyway, Lala is starting to get busy, but I get there early enough where I find a free pump. I check the little arrow on the gas gauge to remind me that her car’s gas hatch is on the driver side rather than the passenger side like mine. I pull in, maybe a bit far from the pump, but not too bad, and otherwise line it up as best I can. I turn off the car, put the keys in my coat pocket, and get out to fuel.

Whew, is it cold! Sometimes, Lala’s pumps are persnickety with credit/debit cards, but it accepts mine just fine this time. I open the gas hatch, insert the nozzle from the pump, and begin fueling. It only needs about half a tank, so it doesn’t take long before the pump automatically shuts off. I give it one more squeeze to make sure and put it back on the pump. I shut the gas hatch. On the pump screen, I decline to take a receipt. I then wait to ensure the transaction fully clears out.

I pull out the car key from my pants pocket and climb back in the vehicle. I shut and lock the doors. I look in the rear view mirror. No one behind me. Good.

I start to put the key into the ignition. The car’s dashboard lights up, but the key will not fully go in. I pull it back out and try again. Same thing.

I remember JC saying something about the car not always fully going into the correct gear. Maybe it isn’t in Park. However, when inserting the key, the “P” lights up. As far as I can tell, it is in Park.

I then start turning the steering wheel. On my car, I remember my key getting stuck in the ignition when the wheel didn’t lock properly. Maybe something similar is happening in reverse. I freely turn the wheel back and forth.

No effect.

My heart rate begins increasing.

I look in the rear view mirror again. Still no one there waiting for me to free the position.

I look at the convenience store. Would an attendant come out and yell at me about blocking a pump for too long?

I don’t know what to do, so I call on help.

From Google.

On my iPhone, I type a description of my situation in the search. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that anything that happens to me in a car, it’s already happened to others and been written about on the web and cataloged on Google.

However, all of the Google search results are about how to get a stuck key out of an ignition. None about how to get a resistant key into an ignition. No help.

I try the key again. No go.

Panic.

Maybe I have the wrong key. I grabbed my own car keys this morning as well. I look at the key fob and see a scripture key ring I bought a few months ago. Yes, right keys.

More panic.

I try once again. Car dashboard lights up, but key won’t fully insert.

I don’t dare check the rear view mirror. I imagine having to push the car out of the position so the customer behind me can fuel.

Finally, I decide to call JC. I wake her up and explain the situation. She is thankful for me fueling her car, but she has not encountered this key scenario before. She asks if I am using the right key. “Yes, I already checked that,” I say.

I look at the key again anyway. I see a Chevrolet emblem on the back of the fob. It is my car’s key. Not the key for JC’s Ford. I reach in my coat pocket and pull out JC’s key, which has a different scripture key ring, and start the car. As I drive away from Lala, freeing the position for the (possibly non-existent) customer behind me, I sheepishly apologize to JC for waking her up.

Why am I telling you this story? To illustrate a couple of my mistakes.

The Second Commandment tell us:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”
Exodus 20:4-6

I thought this was one of the “easy” commandments. Obviously, I only worship the Lord. Only fools worship idols.

Yet, where did I first turn when I needed help? Not to God. But to Google. As with all false idols, Google provided no real answers.

Despite my shortcomings, God still tried to help me. That scripture on my key ring? It is the verse that JC used in 2018 to help me significantly lessen my anxiety, including while driving:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

When JC gave me her spare car keys, the verse key ring I chose for them was Romans 8:28, a mantra for us both.

I saw a scripture key ring attached to the fob that wouldn’t work and assumed it was the correct one. Oh, if only I had a taken a second actually to read the verse! It would have 1) calmed me and 2) made me realize they were the keys to my car and not JC’s car.

God was trying to talk to me and help me, but I was not listening. This time, I realized it later. I wonder how often it happens and I remain oblivious to it?

I ponder, why didn’t I turn to God when the car wouldn’t start? God had even helped me in almost that exact situation before! Back in 2019, my car was having a mechanical issue. At another gas station, I fueled up my car but couldn’t get the engine to start. That time, I was smart enough to pray to God for help. Immediately, an attendant named Al came out. He recognized the sound my engine was making when failing to start and patiently told me the exact steps to start the car. The car started right up. God is much better than Google. JC and I still pray for Al whenever we pass that gas station.

So, why did I go to Google first this time and not God? I honestly don’t know. Not as an excuse, but I have been struggling at work lately, particularly last week. I was still off kilter going into this weekend. I am doing better now, and I want to thank JC, Mark, and others for their prayers.

So, again I don’t have the answer, other than, I obviously need to pray more about my relationship with God. And stop breaking commandments!

Thank you for reading, friends. May Jesus bless you.

Credit: Snow

The cog who blogged in a fog

By Snow

I continue to struggle. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I still can’t focus, especially at work. It all seems meaningless. I want to be doing other things, things that actually matter, or I want simply to be relaxing. When I am whining to her about my job, JC often reminds me that I actually work for Jesus and refers me to verses like:

“Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Ephesians 6:7

Paul was referring to ancient slavery, but I accept that his words apply to the modern workplace as well. I can’t say I live up to them. This is, perhaps, my biggest failing since I was saved. In fact, my enthusiasm for work declined around the same time I met Jesus. Before that, I would pull 60+ hour weeks because it seemed important.

But it all seems meaningless now. I am supposed to keep in mind that I am working for Jesus, but does Jesus really care which of 8,000 data fields are ported over from one system to another? For that matter, does anyone? I sure don’t. I feel like a cog in a meaningless machine that ultimately produces nothing.

I had to postpone a “critical” meeting at the last minute today because I was not prepared. I was not prepared because I waited until an hour before the meeting to begin my preparations. I am a procrastinator by nature. My biggest failing is that my procrastination usually works out just fine – often more than fine. I shove a ton of effort into minimal time and receive praise for it by people who assume I spent 20 times as much time on it. Today, it caught up with me. The meeting will now take place next week. In between a dozen other meetings for 8 other projects I don’t care about, I will attempt to prepare. I will attempt to pretend I care.

I don’t even have energy to write this post. This is not even a real post. Just mindless writing. The origin of “blog” is “web log” – an online journal. So, I guess you are just getting my raw thoughts today. Dear Diary, I am a worn down Christian. I am lazy. I am ungrateful.

Outside of blogging, to the extent that counts, I actually don’t journal very often anymore. I find it draining in its imperfection. While it is neat to look back on them sometimes, I usually can’t force myself to make the effort. I find it impossible to journal proper details on a consistent schedule, so I don’t bother. I suppose I pray most of my internal whinings to God instead now. I also whine to poor JC, as I mentioned.

I don’t know that any of this really helps, though. At the end of the day, I still have to go back to a job that I really don’t care about. I can put on a positive smile and pretend I am all happy and grateful to be working, but I am really dying inside. Little by little.

There is no answer. All I can do is pretend. It feels all too familiar, though. I used to pretend my way through my first marriage:

  • “Everything is fine.”
  • “It is supposed to be like this.”
  • “It will get better.”
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. But it did get better, when we divorced. Once that marriage was out of my life, it was indeed better. Much better.

So, this is perhaps the worst post I have ever published here. Rather than submit any reader that has made it this far any further to these useless ramblings, I will just sign off for now.

I don’t have any answers. All I can do is give all of this to God.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Credit: JC

Disrupting chaos

Credit: JC

By Snow

Life can be so overwhelming sometimes. Even without a global pandemic. Even without bizarre weather patterns. Without political disinformation and manipulation campaigns. Without the fabric of society seemingly being ripped apart.

Even in times of “average” trials in your family, career, and church, it can all start to be too much. Not just out in the world, but right at home. The stress. The hurt. The expectations.

What can you do when you are overwhelmed?

It only takes a moment to pray. Even if you can’t spare a minute (and, most likely, you can, if you take a step back), you can pray to yourself in the midst of whatever is happening. God always hears you.

Prayer is how we connect to Him, how we forge a personal relationship with Him. God created you for this.

Ask Him to let you feel Him, hear Him, and see Him in your life.

Find at least a couple of minutes a day to read the Bible. Keep a copy handy wherever you might have a spare moment. Yes, even in the bathroom if that is what it takes. Download YouVersion’s Bible app to your smart phone for free and you will always have the Bible with you – in multiple translations and languages.

It is imperative that you speak to Him every day and immerse yourself in His Word and His love.

You may do all of this and still feel overwhelmed. It is okay. Breathe.

Ask someone to pray for you. Family. Friend. Neighbor. Whoever. You don’t even necessarily have to tell the person your business. Just enlist her or him to pray for you to have peace or to hear from Him or to have focus or something of that nature. Or just ask, simply, “pray for me.” In two, we are more powerful:

“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

Be sure to ask how to pray for your fellow warrior as well, and do it right then. JC and I ask each other this question at least daily. Her prayers and love have helped me through many situations that may otherwise have overwhelmed me.

If you don’t have someone you are comfortable asking, then JC and I are happy to pray for you. Reach out to us.

Find the blessings. Yes, it may seem like utter chaos and negativity is swirling around you right now, but close your eyes and think of all of the wonderful things in your life, too. Focus on those. At the top of that list, Jesus loves you. Focus on the good to invite more.

Thank God for every good thing in your life. The enemy wants you to see only the negative. The enemy wants you to lose hope. The enemy wants you to feel isolated. The enemy wants you to feel alone. The enemy wants you to give up. Fight.

Remember, you are a child of God (1 John 3:1-2)! You fight from victory (John 16:33).

God is all-knowing. All-powerful. All-present. All-loving. We are not. That is why you must give your cares to God.

Whatever is bothering you. No matter how long the list. He can take anything you hurl at Him. No matter how small or large the concern. If you care about it, He cares about it. Give it all to Him. Trust Him.

I have mentioned quite a few times here that I suffered from massive anxiety before JC led me to Jesus. I have found these verses to be a particular comfort. Perhaps they will help you, too:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 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.”
Philippians 4:6-7

If you have tried all of this and are still overwhelmed, it is time more aggressively to seek Him. You need to find a place of peace where you can better hear Him. It may be the beach. The park. That bathroom again. Whatever you can use for your prayer closet (Matthew 6:6). Listen for Him. He is there. He always has been. He loves you.

If you are saved, feel the Holy Spirit within you. Let Him guide you.

If you do not yet know Jesus, then make today the day. Accept Him into your heart as Your Lord and Savior. Jesus is pursuing you.

Turn around. Open your arms. Jesus is right there.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Burning popcorn

By Snow

I love popcorn. I have researched techniques and assembled ingredients to make it taste as close to a classic movie theater experience as possible. It actually tastes better than most of the theater popcorn I have tried in the last few years.

Being a movie fan, however, I do miss the cinema in this age of COVID-19. It seems theaters are open again, but I’m not quite ready to go back. I no longer have an actual television, but I stream some movies and TV series on my computer – which is hooked into my stereo. I also play DVDs on it. It is not exactly a movie theater experience, but, hey, the popcorn’s good! Before I was saved, I was living a wasteful life, so I am very grateful for what I now have. Simple is better.

Yesterday, I was making a batch of popcorn with my Whirley Pop – a specialized pot with a hand crank for swishing around the kernels. It normally turns out delicious. This time, it turned out burnt.

Why? Because I lost focus.

If you don’t turn the crank often enough or take the pot off the heat at the right time, you get scorched popcorn. Let me tell you, no amount of toppings can help it at that point.

Focus is important. I have been praying for focus throughout 2021. It has been a struggle for me, and not just with popcorn.

It is February 7, and this is my first post of the year. I have struggled to focus on writing. Oh, the things that I can find around here to do in order to avoid writing. If I get my apartment looking sharp, it is normally because I am procrastinating on something else – often writing.

Due to a medical condition, I am supposed to lose a certain amount of weight, but I have struggled to focus on being mindful of my food. Prior to the issue coming up, I was actually in the process of losing weight anyway. Since then, I have instead gained weight. I have also failed to consistently focus on exercise. The steps tracked by my Apple Watch document my erratic behavior. 2,329 steps on one day, but 18,701 steps on another.

One year into my new job, and I am struggling to focus there as well. Projects are piling up, and I can’t seem to get the inspiration to attack them with the same determination that I once had. To paraphrase Apollo Creed, I’ve lost the eye of the tiger when it comes to work.

I still pray and read the Bible every day, even on the days I don’t feel like it. Especially on the days I don’t feel like it. I want to focus more on His Kingdom, but I struggle there as well.

Focus is everything. If I focus on Jesus above all else, I believe the other areas will fall into place. That’s His design.

Like you, friend, I was created to do more. He expects more of me. He has more confidence in me than I do. He loves me more than anyone ever could. I can’t let Him down.

It is time to do more. It is time to focus. On Jesus. On His Kingdom. On who He created me to be.

We are allotted only a limited number of days here on this Earth. None of us know how many we get. I may have less than a day left or fifty-plus years to go.

Each day needs to mean something. In her Wounded Butterflies post today, JC quoted from Matthew 22:37-39: “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

I’ve read those words at least a dozen times before, but they really spoke to me today. As someone who has been struggling to focus, I see in those words exactly what I need to do.

Jesus has spelled it all out for us right there. It is all about love. God is love (1 John 4:16), and we must fully and completely love God. He loves us unconditionally. Despite our sins, He died for us. We still sin, and He still loves us!

He also commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is an interesting turn of phrase, for it is also how husbands are commanded to love our wives:

“Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”
from Ephesians 5:28

Ultimately, the greatest commandment is love. That will be my focus.

Thank you for reading. I want to close with a brief prayer.


Father in Heaven,

Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for my beloved JC. Thank You for true love. Thank You for these words.

I lift up all of those who need to focus, Lord, including myself. Help us to focus on You, focus on our neighbors, and focus on love.

May Your will be done in all things, with the glory to Your Kingdom.

In the blessed name of Jesus.

Amen

Credit: JC

Baking with the past

By Snow

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. My siblings, nieces, and extended family members spent a few hours together at my brother’s house on Christmas Day – as socially distanced as possible in this year of COVID-19.

I am usually the last one to arrive, but I knew someone else was still missing. I kept looking around, trying to figure out who it was, waiting for that last family member to show up.

Then, I realized who was missing.

Mom.

This was the second Christmas since she passed away. While I was blessed to feel her very briefly a couple of times during the event, Christmas and other family gatherings are not the same without Mom’s physical presence.

Everything seems off. The amount of drinking has gone way up, for instance. This would not have happened in front of Mom. She almost never drank alcohol. Following her example, I don’t drink at all. I never have, and I don’t like being around it.

At the same time, I realize alcohol is how some people deal with pain. Some of my family members still seem to be in a lot of pain when it comes to losing Mom. While I certainly miss her – especially on Christmas, her favorite holiday – I know where she is. I also know she is free now, free of the earthly body that held her back in the last decades of her life.

I am blessed to have Jesus. I am blessed to have the Holy Spirit. I am blessed to have a personal relationship with God. Yes, life can be painful at times, but they help me through it by bringing me peace, filling me with joy, and blessing me with love. Yes, I experience perfect love through Jesus, and I experience true love through my beloved JC. I am so grateful.

Yes, I know where Mom is. She is with Jesus now. I have not really lost her. Rather, she is simply ahead of me on our eternal journey and interacting with me in different ways than before.

When Mom passed away, I was blessed to inherit a number of her personal items. The ones that mean the most to me are her Bible, her recipes, and her 45 RPM vinyl records.

Throughout the lives of me and my siblings, Mom baked special cookies at Christmas. Mom’s cookies were an indelible part of Christmas for us. Since I have her recipes, I have picked up the mantle of baking her cookies over the last two Christmases to continue her legacy.

Her 45s date back to the 1950s. She played and danced to them so much over the years that they can’t really be played anymore. Instead, I made an iTunes playlist of the same songs. I play her songs whenever I bake her cookies.

My apartment has memories of Mom everywhere, especially my kitchen – which includes elements of her kitchens past. In that kitchen, surrounded by memories of Mom, playing her music, using her cookie recipe, I baked seven sheets of Mom’s cookies on Christmas Eve. I say, “I” baked them, but really, I truly believe I was just being Mom’s hands through much of the process. I could feel her with me, almost the entire time.

It is hard to describe, but I feel her most often as small bursts of joy – about where she used to rub or scratch my upper back when I was a youngster. I can also “hear” her in my head at times – though usually more like a thought or a feeling than a direct voice. For instance, I knew she wanted me to give some of her cookies to JC’s mom this year. That is exactly what she would have done were she still physically here.

Mom loved Christmas and would decorate all over the house, including the bathroom. That is how I know if someone is truly dedicated to decorating for Christmas, if the bathroom is included. In the living room, Mom used to put out large, plastic figurines of an elf riding Rudolph, mice playing on a Christmas present, and a Santa Claus sleigh. There was also a Santa doll and a Santa mug. There were many other decorations over the years as well, but those are the ones I remember most from my childhood.

Credit: JC

Last month, I was thrilled to find a Santa mug at Hobby Lobby that was reminiscent of the one Mom used to display. Larger than the one Mom had, I realized these mugs would make the perfect containers to give my siblings Mom’s cookies this year. To better accommodate the mug, I made a few of the sheets of cookies in “bite size” portions – half of the size that Mom normally made.

When I pulled the mugs out on Christmas Day, my siblings immediately connected them with Mom’s mug. They also voiced hope they contained Mom’s cookies.

The cookies ended up being hits in their new bite-sized configurations. I was told they tasted like Mom made them.

That’s because she did make them.

Thanks to Jesus, Mom lives forever, and so will I. The Son of God suffered on the cross to save us from eternal death in Hell.

2020 has been . . . a year. None of us could have predicated how swiftly the entire world would change. My advice continues to be, look for the blessings and keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thank you for reading our little blog. Know that JC and I are praying for you.

May Jesus bless you with a wonderful, active, and healthy New Year!


“Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”
1 Corinthians 15:47-53

Unwrapping Christmas

By Snow

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

The last time I posted here, it wasn’t even Halloween yet. Now, Christmas is rapidly approaching.

My understanding of the meaning of Christmas has changed over the years. As a kid, though I was aware by age 5 or 6 that the holiday was in observance of the birth of Jesus, Christmas was about Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and presents, presents, presents.

Now, I have to admit to you, 40-some-odd years later, I still love Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, and good ol’ Charlie Brown. When viewed in the proper context, each of these symbols can teach us something about Christmas – or, at least, joyful living.

Santa Claus: Finding joy through giving (Acts 20:35)
Rudolph: Accepting and finding value in misfits (Matthew 20:16)
Frosty: Living in the present (Matthew 6:34)
Charlie Brown: Seeking and recognizing the true meaning of Christmas (Luke 2:8-14)

Credit: JC

Here in the United States, retailers have all but commandeered Christmas and slowly corrupted its message. With endless “Black Friday” sales, we are constantly reminded to, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” The fate of the nation’s economy is in your wallet.

It has irked me as well that Christmas slowly has been genericized. For example, I recently heard a commercial that said, “Coming this holiday.”

Which holiday?

This holiday.

When is “this”?

December 25.

You mean, the holiday formerly known as “Christmas”?

Shhh! Don’t say that too loudly. Someone might hear.

I mention this because I have recently changed my mind on what I once perceived as an insult to Christianity. How recent? Since I started writing this post, as a matter of fact.

Around the time I made the mistake of getting married to someone I did not love, I got caught up in the annual shopping frenzy. For me, “Christmas” devolved into racking up thousands of dollars in purchases each year, most of which I “covered” with credit cards. While those days are over, I am literally still paying for them.

My point is, let them have their “holiday sales” and “holiday shopping.” Have your fun, too, within reason, but there’s no need to attach Christ’s name to any of that.

Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t even comprehend God, much less His power. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is present everywhere and every time all at once. He is the embodiment of love. God has all of this and more than I could ever hope to describe.

This same God chose to come to Earth in a physical sense over two thousand years ago, in the form of His Son, as a mere human – one of us, yet not. The Son of God became the Son of Man.

According to Genesis 1:27, we are created in the image of God. However, we are imperfect reflections of God. He is holy. We are sinful. Jesus, even in human form, is the perfect image of God, for He is God.

Matthew 2:1-12 tells us that wise men brought the young Jesus gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were of value to humans of the time, but of what value were such trinkets to the Son of God?

Today, we still give one another trinkets at Christmas. Oh, sure, the actual items slightly change over the years. Today, they might be a gold necklace, AirPods Pro, and a Yeti mug.

But none of these gifts, then or now, have any intrinsic value. They have no eternal value.

Let me repeat, they are absolutely worthless.

Even a handmade gift truly crafted out of love has no value in the item itself, but, rather, in the eternal quality of love (God) associated with it. See 1 John 4:16.

During His life, death, and life on Earth, Jesus gave gifts of eternal value. His gifts were crafted of the purest love. Perfect, eternal love. His gifts included His sermons, His perfect example to us (what we attempt to emulate today with “Christlike behavior”), unconditional love, joy, peace, and the Holy Spirit.

The most incredible gift, forged out of His love, His blood, and His body, Jesus ever gave us is our salvation. Despite the enormous weight of our sins, He made us right with God for all of time.

No other gift could ever top that one. No holiday sale could ever provide a better deal. No holiday shopping spree could ever compete.

Here’s the thing about a gift, though. It doesn’t serve its purpose unless you accept it.

Jesus has already bought and paid for your salvation. No refunds or exchanges. All you have to do is unwrap it by accepting Him (John 3:16).

If you do not yet know Jesus, will you pray with me to accept His gift?


Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the eternal gifts He has offered the world. Please forgive my sins, including those I do not see.

Lord, I accept Jesus in my heart. He is Your Son and my Savior. He took human form and died for me and my sins on the cross. He made me right with You for all of time. No matter what mistakes I have made or will make, He has already covered all of them with His body and His blood. On the third day after His death, He was resurrected. He has defeated death such that I, too, will have eternal life. I give my sins to Jesus. I lift up my hopes to Jesus. I give my fears to Jesus. I am His for all of time. I accept His gift. I accept His unconditional love.

In the precious name of Jesus I pray.

Amen


Merry Christmas, everyone! May Jesus fill your days with joy, love, and peace.

Thank God for Broccoli

By Snow

Before I was saved, I thought there were two or three translations of the Bible available in the English language. It turns out, there are over 450 translations – and that is only for the English language. The one that I seemed to encounter the most was the King James Version (KJV), which dates back to the 17th century. While poetic at times, the archaic language makes for a difficult read. The Bible my father handed down to me when I was a kid was a KJV. The Bible I inherited from Mom last year was also a KJV. It is the classic text that many people think of when it comes to the Bible.

Back in 2018, just before I was saved, I was beginning to explore Christianity. I no longer had my father’s Bible (a story for another day), so I bought my first Bible. It was a King James Version – Easy Read (KJVER). Basically, it updated words like “thee” and “thou” to their modern equivalents. Unfortunately, I still found it hard to follow – especially as a new believer.

Around the time I was saved, JC introduced me to the YouVersion Bible app. It currently contains over 60 English translations of the Bible. I find it to be an indispensable tool, and it allows me to have the Bible with me at all times by being on my iPhone.

I soon discovered the New Living Translation (NLT), which allowed me to understand better the overall story of the Bible. It dates back to the 1990s. Two years later, it remains my go-to translation. I tend to favor it heavily when quoting here on Beloved Walks, for instance. However, I still enjoy comparing different translations of the Bible. I also like the New International Version (NIV), which is slightly more “formal” than NLT. NIV dates back to the 1970s.

JC and I read the Bible together as much as possible. One of the things I love doing most in this world is reading His Word aloud to her. In the course of doing that, we will occasionally try different translations. Depending on what is going on in our lives, we sometimes need a laugh. The translation that offers the most comedic value, if not necessarily Biblical insight, is the Message (MSG), which dates back to the 2000s.

I know there are people out there who swear by one translation or another. For instance, some say that the KJV is the only “true” version in the English language that has the inspired Word of God. That is not a debate I care to enter, other than to say, I sure wouldn’t put God in a box of any kind, including that one. If a certain translation helps someone grow closer to Jesus, then that is the translation for that person in that time.

Credit: JC

Just for fun, today, I want to compare some translations. Up first is Genesis 1:1-2.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2 KJV

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2 NLT

“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.”
Genesis 1:1-2 MSG

KJV and NLT are pretty close on Genesis 1:1-2. I would probably give the edge to KJV. As a writer, I like the sound of, “And the earth was without form.”

Next, let’s take a look at Romans 8:31-39 – one of my very favorite passages of the Bible.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39 KJV

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 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. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39 NLT

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
Romans 8:31-39 MSG

For Romans 8:31-39, NLT far outpaces KJV. I especially love the last two verses in NLT: “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. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Let’s wrap up our comparison with one last excerpt, Romans 14:6-9.

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
Romans 14:6-9 KJV

“Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.”
Romans 14:6-9 NLT

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the comedy stylings of the Message:

“What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.”
Romans 14:6-9 MSG

I find KJV pretty hard to follow on Romans 14:6-9, especially without cheating by looking at NLT. NLT makes sense of the passage, while MSG makes some kind of stew out of it. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it makes me laugh every time.

Thanks for reading. May Jesus bless you.