Sunlight and rain

Credit: JC

By Snow

“When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
from Luke 23:33-34

The above is a powerful statement. Jesus has been beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross, and tortured in various other ways as well. However, He asks God to forgive His tormentors. While He is suffering, dying for all of our sins, Jesus thinks not of Himself but of those who are killing Him. He thinks not of vengeance but of mercy.

This sets Jesus apart from any other would-be deities – at least the ones that I’ve ever heard about, anyway. Looking at Greek mythology, for example, would Apollo have asked his father, Zeus, to forgive humans who were torturing him? No. The lightning bolts simply would have started raining down. End of problem.

Not Jesus. He asks His Father to forgive His tormentors. Stop and think about that action. The beauty of it. It is the inverse Kingdom come to life. What an incredible example Jesus sets. He lives up to His own words, for during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated:

“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
from Matthew 5:44-45

Do you want to break the chains ensnaring you with your enemies? Love them. Though it is difficult to achieve, if you love your enemies, they no longer have any control over you. They want you to react, to stray from your values, from your God. Instead, you love them, and in so doing, you rise above and declaw them.

Paul explains in a much more eloquent fashion than I can:

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. […] Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Romans 12:14,17-21

It is only natural to want revenge in certain situations, but you are misplacing your energy. Do you really think any revenge you come up with is going to be superior to what God can deliver in His righteous anger? “I will take revenge,” He says. Let Him handle it. Trust Him.

I try not to label people as “enemies” in my life, for even that gives them energy, but there are certainly some individuals that come to mind who have, from my perspective, either hurt or attempted to hurt me or loved ones over the years. Inspired by the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, I have started praying for them. No matter what they did or attempted to do, none of them have committed atrocities like the tormentors of Jesus, so surely I can be as forgiving as He was?

Easier said than done, though, and I struggle each time. My Bible Study Partner suggests one approach is to pray to see them as God does. How can we see them through the eyes of God, rather than our human eyes? Doing so can lead to a new perspective and a different heart when dealing with them. You may find pity or sadness for them, rather than responsive hurt or anger.

Even if I am able to accomplish the above, I must admit, however, that I doubt I could have the presence of mind to be as gracious while in the midst of undergoing torture like Jesus did. “Jesus is perfect, so of course He responds perfectly” I think to myself, looking to excuse what I suspect my own failings would be in such a situation.

Then, another Biblical example flashes to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit). In the early days of the church, in the aftermath of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Stephen is persecuted for being a follower of Jesus. While in the process of being stoned to death and becoming the first Christian to die for his faith, Stephen – as imperfectly human as you or I – follows the example of Christ:

“He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.”
Acts of the Apostles 7:60

Jesus and Stephen have set a high standard for us. As with many of the ideals of the Bible, loving your “enemy” is best achieved by starting small and working at it each day. Think of someone who “torments” you in some way. Begin praying for that individual today. Feel how it changes your perspective of him or her. Feel how it changes you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Guard your hearts and minds

Credit: JC

By Snow

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

By Snow

In a span of 1 hour and 49 minutes on Monday, July 22, 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

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

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.