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

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)

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

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

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