I love popcorn. I have researched techniques and assembled ingredients to make it taste as close to a classic movie theater experience as possible. It actually tastes better than most of the theater popcorn I have tried in the last few years.
Being a movie fan, however, I do miss the cinema in this age of COVID-19. It seems theaters are open again, but I’m not quite ready to go back. I no longer have an actual television, but I stream some movies and TV series on my computer – which is hooked into my stereo. I also play DVDs on it. It is not exactly a movie theater experience, but, hey, the popcorn’s good! Before I was saved, I was living a wasteful life, so I am very grateful for what I now have. Simple is better.
Yesterday, I was making a batch of popcorn with my Whirley Pop – a specialized pot with a hand crank for swishing around the kernels. It normally turns out delicious. This time, it turned out burnt.
Why? Because I lost focus.
If you don’t turn the crank often enough or take the pot off the heat at the right time, you get scorched popcorn. Let me tell you, no amount of toppings can help it at that point.
Focus is important. I have been praying for focus throughout 2021. It has been a struggle for me, and not just with popcorn.
It is February 7, and this is my first post of the year. I have struggled to focus on writing. Oh, the things that I can find around here to do in order to avoid writing. If I get my apartment looking sharp, it is normally because I am procrastinating on something else – often writing.
Due to a medical condition, I am supposed to lose a certain amount of weight, but I have struggled to focus on being mindful of my food. Prior to the issue coming up, I was actually in the process of losing weight anyway. Since then, I have instead gained weight. I have also failed to consistently focus on exercise. The steps tracked by my Apple Watch document my erratic behavior. 2,329 steps on one day, but 18,701 steps on another.
One year into my new job, and I am struggling to focus there as well. Projects are piling up, and I can’t seem to get the inspiration to attack them with the same determination that I once had. To paraphrase Apollo Creed, I’ve lost the eye of the tiger when it comes to work.
I still pray and read the Bible every day, even on the days I don’t feel like it. Especially on the days I don’t feel like it. I want to focus more on His Kingdom, but I struggle there as well.
Focus is everything. If I focus on Jesus above all else, I believe the other areas will fall into place. That’s His design.
Like you, friend, I was created to do more. He expects more of me. He has more confidence in me than I do. He loves me more than anyone ever could. I can’t let Him down.
It is time to do more. It is time to focus. On Jesus. On His Kingdom. On who He created me to be.
We are allotted only a limited number of days here on this Earth. None of us know how many we get. I may have less than a day left or fifty-plus years to go.
Each day needs to mean something. In her Wounded Butterflies post today, JC quoted from Matthew 22:37-39: “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
I’ve read those words at least a dozen times before, but they really spoke to me today. As someone who has been struggling to focus, I see in those words exactly what I need to do.
Jesus has spelled it all out for us right there. It is all about love. God is love (1 John 4:16), and we must fully and completely love God. He loves us unconditionally. Despite our sins, He died for us. We still sin, and He still loves us!
He also commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is an interesting turn of phrase, for it is also how husbands are commanded to love our wives:
“Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”
from Ephesians 5:28
Ultimately, the greatest commandment is love. That will be my focus.
Thank you for reading. I want to close with a brief prayer.
Father in Heaven,
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for my beloved JC. Thank You for true love. Thank You for these words.
I lift up all of those who need to focus, Lord, including myself. Help us to focus on You, focus on our neighbors, and focus on love.
May Your will be done in all things, with the glory to Your Kingdom.
God provides such blessings, if you will only meet Him. I fail at this so often. I know there are so many gifts I miss out on because I get distracted by other activities.
I still struggle at work. I realize, ultimately, we all work for God – but I have a hard time reconciling what I do as really being His work. I do acknowledge it as God’s temporary plan, as He is providing until I make it to the next step on His path for me. Though I understand I have spiritual assignments there beyond my job-related tasks, work can sometimes feel like such a distraction.
Work was extremely busy this week. Hectic. I was working extra hours, sleeping little in order to sign in and start as early as 1:30 AM. Some of this is because we are in our busy season, and some of it is because I was not working very efficiently in the weeks leading up to these deadlines. So, I had to pay for being distracted away from work on previous weeks by allowing work to be my main distraction this week.
Finding balance has lately been difficult for me. My quiet time with the Lord suffered this week. I still spent time with Him each morning, but it was less than I would have wanted. I also did not get back to exercising, as I had planned to do. It feels like I can’t get everything back in balance again. I can get one part of my life going at a time, but not all of it.
On the plus side, I am writing again, which fills me. The challenge is that on a week like this, I want to be writing instead of working.
This is a mess of a post. Perhaps I’ll clean it up in editing. Or maybe not. This blog, after all, has always been about raw truth.
I also worry about how this new world the virus has forced upon all of us is affecting me. I am an introvert, but I had become stronger about dealing with all the rest of you humans over the last couple of years. I feel some of that slipping away, as I spend more and more time to myself.
And, to be clear, I love having time to myself. I love working remotely instead of in an office. But as I step my toe back out there in the world, it begins to feel scary all over again. Part of me never wants to go back to the old normal. So, I have to be careful not to let that kind of fear start to overwhelm me again as it once did.
For I have Jesus now, and no amount of social distancing will ever force Him away from me. He is always there, it is only that I need to stop and listen for Him. I need to stop and meet Him. I can’t ignore work or other responsibilities, but I must focus first on Him. He is the priority, for without Him, all of this is meaningless.
“Meaningless” — my above words remind me of Ecclesiastes. I believe “meaningless” must be used at least two dozen times in that book! That is one I struggle with, as it seems like such a downer. I see now, though, (and I mean, literally, right now), that it essentially points to Jesus. Everything really is meaningless without Him.
“I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
“Chasing the wind” is a great turn-of-phrase. I definitely feel like I am doing that sometimes. Perhaps you do as well. At those times, we must remember to re-center ourselves and focus on Jesus.
Let us pray.
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for peace. Thank You for love.
Please forgive us our sins, including those we do not see.
When we are pulled too many directions, please help us bring balance back into our lives. Help us to see what really matters, spreading your Word and eternal energy to our sisters and brothers here on Earth.
Help us to focus, Lord, on Your Son. Let us feel Him guiding us along His paths for us. Let Him shine His light through us.
Lord, pour us out and fill us up with You. Give us Your vision, Your strength, and Your wisdom.
Thank You, God.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
“The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they? In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?” Ecclesiastes 6:11-12
This verse speaks to me today as well, for it puts me in the mindset of, where is this post really going? The more I write, the less sense it makes. What is the purpose?
Anytime I write here, I do have a purpose, though. It may not always be clear, and I may not always achieve it, but I always have that purpose in mind.
Is my life meaningless, as the author of Ecclesiastes suggests above? No, I can’t agree with that. I have Jesus. I have true love. I know joy. I want others to experience those blessings, too. I love the way Paul says it:
“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:23-24
I do agree with Ecclesiastes, though, in that our lives have few days. How many do we waste? We can’t have them back once they’re gone. Life here on Earth is fleeting.
I believe in eternal life. I believe when we die, it is only the beginning. Eternity awaits. For those of us who know Jesus, it is an eternity in Heaven, the Perfect Place.
However, there is something else I think about of late. Something I have been pondering during this strange time of COVID-19, when there has been more time to think (outside of this particular week, anyway).
While it is true that the blessing of eternity awaits, that is, obviously, a very different life than the ones we live now here on Earth. Our time on Earth is not even a blink compared to the eternity ahead of us.
That should make this time, this life all the more valuable to us.
This life, the one we have now, on this troubled, messed up planet that we know and love so well, this life is special because it is the only time we are here in this form.
NOTE: Today’s post is about an abusive relationship. If you are being abused, please get help.
During the quarantine times, I have heard about families enjoying the extra time together and growing as a family, etc. When you live with an abusive person, quarantine is your complete nightmare.
Perspective is everything, so I consider my current situation to be a trial. There are verses about trials in the Bible telling us to expect them, but there is one verse in particular that I have struggled with over the years:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Um, what James? Consider trials to be pure joy? This situation I am in does not feel like joy, nor cause it.
During my quiet time with God this morning, I was studying the authority of Jesus. God will sometimes connect two unrelated topics in my mind during my time with Him and show me something new. I felt led to write down what I need to get through this trial, and how I want to handle the circumstances of the trial and the person involved in it. I wrote down, “Love, peace, joy, increased trust in Him, deepen my obedience to Him and to be as Christ-like as possible.”
Then I felt led to look up the fruit of the Spirit:
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
Funny thing about this is I was not at all thinking about the fruit of the Spirit when I listed what I need to get through this trial.
Showing love to people, no matter how they act, is Christ-like. To be clear, I am not suggesting that if someone is abusing you in any way that you just keep loving them. This love is about loving yourself, too. You are the temple of God and there are times in our lives when we need to end a relationship and THAT is loving both to you and the other person. You are created in the image of God and abuse of any kind to the image of God is completely unacceptable and an affront to Him.
What I am saying is that when that person hurls hate, you do not reciprocate. God will address their choices (Romans 12:19).
Peace in Jesus, at all times in all things, is the most critical thing to my soul. My life and the world around me can be in pieces, but I must focus on the peace of Jesus. I have learned that when you focus on the peace of Jesus, joy comes right after it. How can you focus on the peace of Jesus and not feel joy??!!
When we go through trials, it is clear throughout the Bible that He is going to use them for our good. He is going to grow our faith, and we will emerge stronger and wiser than before we went through the trial. But, friend, we must get out of His way. Trust Him, completely and unconditionally. Stop fighting and listen to Him. Stop trying to solve it all alone – He’s got it. Stop investing time and energy into things that are not of Him or for His glory. Take those thoughts and actions captive.
You are a child of God who has been freed, act like it. Focus on the work He is doing in you or wants to do in you. You cannot control what other people do – their behavior is between them and God. Just like yours is between you and God. Focus on the fruit of the Spirit. Be stretched by the Almighty, Loving Father.
And, oh by the way, yes, it hurts. Trials hurt. There is no growth without hurt.
Pray to Him. Cry out to Him. Cling to His Word. Journal. That last suggestion is so that WHEN you get through this trial, you do not forget how you hurt, wrestled with God, cried out, and how He answered prayers along the way.
I have wrestled with God about unanswered prayers. For years, the same prayer – unanswered. But, I realized that me living to see another day is Him sustaining me. He loves me, He loves us so much. The fact that He brings us through each day means that He is not done with us yet. We may not know what His plan for us is, but, friend, it is a beautiful and perfect plan that will arrive in His time.
Jesus can end any trial at any time, so why does He allow it to continue? Our growth is paramount to Him. Redirect all of your energy toward deepening your obedience and trust in Him.
As for the negative person in my life, this verse provides hope to me, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4).
In that verse, who are “those people” that are referenced? Everyone who does not proclaim Jesus is the Son of God. That is a lot of people. It is the majority of the world’s population, I am sorry to say. But we have the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
So, remember, friend, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Focus on the peace of Jesus when you look around and all you see is pieces.
“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.” John 17:11
May You protect Your children from anyone who dares attempt to hurt them, be it spiritual, mental, or physical abuse. We lift them all up to You for healing. May these wounded butterflies soar ever higher with wings powered by Your strength. Please fill their bodies, minds, and spirits with love, peace, joy, and trust in You. Surround them with Love, Light, and Truth.
Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.
The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:
“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'” Exodus 16:3
God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:
“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14
Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.
This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.
As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 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.”
Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:
“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.” Isaiah 43:16-18
Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.
People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.
The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
Nearly six months ago, Jesus blessed me with a rest from working. He extracted me from a toxic environment and provided for my needs. I remember doing quick math in my head the day I lost my job and thinking, “I’ll be fine, as long as I find something by October.”
October came and went. No job. No sign of a job. Yet, He continued to provide.
While looking for work, both JC and I prayed that God would “open and shut doors” so we would know His will. In the past, I would apply for two or three jobs, and one would come through for me. This time, I applied for more jobs than ever. Dozens. For a few of them, I admittedly would have been a stretch, for others, I was overqualified, but for many, I appeared to be a perfect match.
Only one door ever opened, though.
One of my initial concerns about this particular job was that the absolute maximum annual salary they would be able to offer was $X, whereas I had already figured out I needed a minimum of $X + 5,000 to make ends meet, and preferably $X + 10,000. However, I went forward with the process anyway. After all, it was the only door. While I was certainly not challenging God, I did have the stray thought that “If the offer comes in at $X + 10,000, I’ll know that is God at work and He wants me to take this job.”
When the call came on Tuesday, I was on the way to a park. I let it go to voicemail. I knew I would probably find out whether I had gotten the job when I called back. Rather than immediately return the call, I decided to take my walk first and spend time praying to God. Though pelted with freezing rain, I managed to get in nearly three miles of walking.
Back in my car, my fingers were numb. Once I warmed up, I called back. I was the successful candidate.
The offer? With absolutely no negotiation on my part, it came in at $X + 10,000. I almost cried.
When I think back on this rest, the main purpose was for me to learn to trust God – to realize that I rely on Him for everything. All of the wonderful aspects of my life are blessings from Him.
I am blessed that I was never in danger of missing a rent payment or even a meal. Though eligible, I never had to file for unemployment. God was right there, every step of the way.
I am grateful for my new job, which I am starting near the end of this month. In the meantime, I want to wrap up a few personal tasks. I also want to continue my spiritual focus while I have this extra time. I have recently been walking every day, which is one way I connect with Him. He now tells me that He wants me to write every day leading up to my start date as well. I have no idea what I will be saying, but look for daily posts from me for the next couple of weeks.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“I love you, LORD; you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:1-2
“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
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 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.
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
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.
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
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:
The Dad/husband to be a strong spiritual leader of the home as He commands
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:
Share the Word
Help the poor
Help the fatherless
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?
Find the lost
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:
Put Jesus first in all things and recognize this world and all in it is temporary.
Study, work, and pray to become the leader God created him to be.
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.
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.