Rediscovering myself

By Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I settled.

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

Credit: Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Snow

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

Thanks to all of you for reading.

May Jesus bless you.

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

Dangerous prayers

By JC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: JC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Father,

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

Amen

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

JC Journals: Writing Jesus with a burdened heart

By JC

Dear Jesus,

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

That was the first time this household had ever tithed.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Credit: JC

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

God is not a God of confusion.


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

Credit: JC

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Credit: JC

Leave the past

By JC & Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: JC

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

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

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


Burn the ships.

I can’t, I will have nothing.

You will have Jesus.

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

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


Burn the ships.

How? I’m scared.

Cling to Jesus, He will carry you.

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

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


Burn the ships.

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

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

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

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


Burn the ships.

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

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

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


Burn the ships.

What will people think?

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

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


Burn the ships.

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

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

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

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


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

Heavenly Father,

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

Amen

Credit: JC

For just such a time

By Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Queen Esther, she rose to the challenge:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Virginia Beach | Credit: JC

Live from the park

By Snow

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!

Credit: Snow

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

By Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: JC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

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

A word without meaning?

Flowers
Credit: JC

By Snow

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

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

As always, scripture held the answer:

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

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

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

God is love
Credit: Snow

Heavenly Father,

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

In the holy name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

* * *

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Metamorphosis

By Snow

“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