Baking with the past

By Snow

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

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

Then, I realized who was missing.

Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: JC

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

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

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

That’s because she did make them.

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

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

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

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


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

Unwrapping Christmas

By Snow

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: JC

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

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

Which holiday?

This holiday.

When is “this”?

December 25.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me repeat, they are absolutely worthless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Heavenly Father,

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

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

In the precious name of Jesus I pray.

Amen


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

Saul and David: A pair of kings

By Snow

David is one of the most interesting figures of the Bible, and JC and I could (and, Lord willing, will) explore him in dozens of posts over the years. Today, I just want to take a brief look at an interesting parallel in the kingships of Saul and David.

In 1 Samuel 18, King Saul, out of jealousy, decides he wants David, his greatest and most loyal soldier, dead. The below verse describes one of the ways he tries to arrange this:

“One day Saul said to David, ‘I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the LORD’s battles.’ For Saul thought, ‘I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.'”
1 Samuel 18:17

After initially declining the offer, David eventually agrees instead to marry King Saul’s younger daughter, Michal. King Saul decrees that David must kill 100 Philistines to earn her hand. The ploy fails, for David returns, having killed 200 Philistines (as described in 1 Samuel 18:18-27). King Saul’s behavior towards David becomes increasingly erratic until he is obsessed with pursuing and killing him.

David, for his part, still considers King Saul anointed by God. In the midst of being hunted, David twice has the opportunity to kill King Saul, yet chooses not to do so (as described in 1 Samuel 24:3-7 and 1 Samuel 26:7-9). These are remarkable acts of restraint.

David even kills the man who claims to have killed King Saul when bringing news of his death in a battle against, you guessed it, the very same Philistines that he hoped would kill David (as described in 2 Samuel 1:6-16).

Credit: JC

David becomes king, but many years later, he stumbles. He commits adultery with Bathsheba, who becomes pregnant. When he is unable to make it look as if the forthcoming child is of her husband, Uriah, King David then decides Uriah, a loyal solider, must die.

“So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, ‘Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.’ So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting.”
2 Samuel 11:14-16

King David has essentially ordered the same fate for Uriah as King Saul once planned against him. Except this time, because David’s version is more insidious than that of Saul, the plan succeeds, and Uriah indeed falls. King David has now added murder to adultery in his list of sins. I am leaving out a lot here, but things soon begin to fall apart for him. He takes Bathsheba as his wife, repents and asks forgiveness from God, and their baby dies.

King David and Bathsheba have another child, Solomon, who goes on not only to succeed him as king, but to be in the bloodline of Joseph (see Matthew 1:6-16), adopted father of Jesus – fulfilling prophecy of the Messiah being from the line of David (Ezekiel 37:24).

What to make of all this?

One of the misconceptions I had about the Bible before I was saved was that most of the people in it were perfect and led exemplary lives. Of course, this myth was shattered early on in my journey. In the Bible, there is only one perfect human, Jesus Christ. The rest are flawed, like us.

The Lord considered David a “man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet even David went on to break multiple of His commandments. Those of us who follow Jesus also aspire to be after His own heart. We want to be Christlike, but we all sin.

Every day we make mistakes, yet every day God still loves us and still uses us to fulfill His plan and His glory. This is not because we are deserving, but because of His grace and because of His Son, who died for our sins such that we be made right with God.


“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28


One last thing before I go. I want to point you over to a beautiful post by JC over on Wounded Butterflies, where she begins telling more of her story as a survivor of abuse. Please read what she has to say: Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew.

Thank you, may Jesus bless you, and goodnight.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

By Snow

Sundays have meant different things to me at different times of my life. As a kid, the day began with Sunday breakfast. Mom, often with help from me and my little sister, would prepare a big meal for our family of six. Some weeks she made pancakes, some weeks she made French toast. I can also remember other weeks just standing at the toaster making a huge plate of toast to go with whatever else we were having. Toast specifically made for my father had to have the little adjustment lever all the way to the far right, resulting in a charred brick no one else would eat.

Bread of some sort was always involved in Mom’s Sunday breakfasts. To complement the main course of starchiness, there would be delicacies like bacon, sausage, eggs, and grits.

Oh yes, grits. To eat grits right requires stirring in at least a teaspoon of sugar to your bowl (we used three teaspoons when I was growing up, but I have scaled back), adding a pat of butter until it starts melting, and then splashing in just a drop or two of milk so it mixes up with the melted butter. Break apart a piece of toast, and add it to the mix if you are ready to take your grits to the next level (optional – for advanced connoisseurs of grits only).

Sunday breakfast would normally hold us until an early dinner, which was often big, too – though the specific courses weren’t as consistent. While Sunday breakfast was always at the big round dinner table, dinner was sometimes allowed in front of the TV in the living room. I can remember watching a movie called Shenandoah, one of my father’s favorites, one Sunday afternoon while eating pork chops and jelly biscuits.

Now, that’s not to say we avoided the occasional nod to healthy eating in our house. For instance, we quite often ate a salad – iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, deli ham and Kraft American cheese cut into little squares – doused in French dressing prior to the main course of a huge plate of angel hair spaghetti covered in Prego sauce with added ground beef. On the side, plenty of warm French or Italian bread on which butter would quickly melt away into nothingness. For drink, you had your choice between a pitcher of sweet iced tea or ice cold Coca-Cola.

Okay, maybe I was stretching it a bit with the “healthy eating” claim. But there was a salad buried somewhere in there. And we did, for a time, substitute Diet Coke for the real thing.

By middle school, I had grown an appreciation for football, so Sunday afternoons during that season consisted of sitting in the living room while my father and brother screamed at the TV in attempts to motivate our team. Their combined yelling apparently catapulted the team to multiple Super Bowl wins, for the team began a perennial losing streak soon after my father left the scene that continues to this day nearly three decades later.

As middle school wore on and then on into high school, Sunday nights became a time of anxiety for me. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t do any of my homework (though often true), it was the knowledge that I had to face another full week at that place – dealing with people, not being myself, and other assorted problems.

My first job was at an amusement park, so Sunday then became a key working day for me as I entered adulthood. No more big breakfasts or football games. This lasted a couple of years before I moved on to more typical Monday through Friday work – though, admittedly, never quite as fun as the park.

Sunday night anxiety became a fixture, except the dread of the forthcoming school week was soon replaced with the dread of the forthcoming work week. During my marriage, I went through a long period of time where my inner dialogue often consisted of statements like, “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead.” Sunday nights into Monday mornings were the peak for these kinds of thoughts. By Monday mornings, my stomach was ripped to pieces. But this post is about Sundays. Fortunately for you.

Sundays during my marriage consisted of a blaring TV. Actually, so did all of the other days of my marriage, but on Sundays, it would specifically blare either football games or NASCAR races – both of which I had lost interest in by the time I was married, oddly enough. Sometimes I would sit there with my former spouse and endure this audio and video assault. Other times, I would go hide in my office to try to have a moment to just think, knowing full well I would be guilt tripped later for my retreat.

I find it difficult to concentrate when a TV is blaring all the time, and my former spouse required the TV to be on at all times – even while sleeping. My only opportunities for audio peace were those few times she wasn’t home. Anyway, I am getting off track here. We can dissect my marriage some other time.

In general, I saw Sunday as a lesser version of Saturday. Lesser because Saturday morning was full of promise with the entire weekend ahead, while Sunday was an inevitable march into Monday, collapsing hopes that the new week would never come.

Credit: JC

In June 2018, JC led me to Jesus and, as evidenced by just about every post I’ve ever made on this blog, my entire life changed. Including, of course, Sundays.

At that time, for various reasons, I began attending my local church through streaming. Combined with the daily quiet time of reading and prayer that JC instilled into me right from the start, I began to learn and absorb so much about Jesus, God, and myself. Over time, Jesus and JC helped me with my anxiety. While I still have my anxious moments from time-to-time, they are nothing like the prison I had built and constantly refined for myself before I knew Jesus.

As my marriage disintegrated, I began attending the church in person. Outside of JC and a couple of her friends, I never did become fully comfortable there, though. While I was learning, the environment never felt quite right. The mostly monochromatic parishioners left me cold, for one thing. Everyone looked like me, which wasn’t what I wanted. And there were other issues.

JC and I did a few times drive about 70 miles to a small church that I absolutely love (another long story). Locally, we began trying to find a more diverse church. This proved a bigger challenge than anticipated.

Then, COVID-19 hit. My Sundays changed again, as did everyone else’s on the planet – no matter their belief system. At first, it felt like I had come full circle. I was streaming the local church again, but that church just wasn’t for me anymore.

Instead, I began to seek out other streaming alternatives to hear the Word. Dr. Tony Evans and Pastor T.D. Jakes have really risen to the challenge of these times, and I have felt so enriched experiencing their web sermons. The little church 70 miles down the road even added video sermons, which allowed me to stay spiritually in touch with them as well.

Whereas Sundays had become about dutifully going to a church for an hour where I never quite belonged, it has evolved in COVID times for me into a day of worship, learning, reflection, and writing. My three most recent Sundays began with reading, prayer, a big breakfast (in honor of Mom, though never quite as big as those days gone by), followed by whichever video sermon I am led to watch, followed by lunch, blogging, another video sermon, some reading, dinner, and blogging again. And some praise music mixed up in all of that, too.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I usually sneak a nap or two in there as well. After all, it is supposed to be a day of rest, right?

I just noticed the time. My heart still sinks when I realize Sunday is almost over. Anxiety is always on the other side of the door, waiting to come in. No. This time, I won’t open that door. Jesus will hold it closed for me.

Thank you for reading these rambles. May Jesus bless you.


“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

How to avoid losing to a defeated enemy

Credit: JC

By Snow

We know that Jesus has already won the war against Satan, the enemy (John 16:33). We, therefore, fight from victory against that enemy.

Though Jesus has won the war, we can still lose individual battles against the enemy. Jesus provides His followers with many blessings, including joy (John 15:11) and a life abundant (John‬ ‭10:10‬). Only we can give up these blessings by letting the enemy infiltrate our heads and control our thoughts. Never give up the blessings of Jesus to the enemy.

How do we combat the enemy so we don’t lose these individual battles?

Your first and foremost weapon is prayer. Call on Jesus, call on the Father, call on the Holy Spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus, you literally have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The same power that has already defeated the enemy. Trust and call upon this eternal energy.

What is better than you praying? Two people praying. Enlist another Christian or two to assist you. In turn, you can assist them with their personal battles against the enemy as well. There is a power in two or three. I have seen it time and again over the last two years since I was saved.

“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

What other weapons do you have? Another formidable piece of your arsenal is God’s Holy Word, what Ephesians 6:17 calls, “the sword of the Spirit”! Are you reading the Bible every day? God’s Word is not something to be glanced at for an hour on Sundays, but to be read and absorbed each day of your life.

Remember, Satan is an expert on Scripture (Luke 4:9-11; Matthew 4:5-6). How will you defeat his twisting of truth if you never read the Bible on your own? Read it. Study it. Learn about it. Experience it as a living document.

Praying and reading will tremendously help, but the enemy can and will still attack you. This is why you must be mindful of your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5). When you feel yourself going negative, stop. Just stop. Breathe. Capture the thoughts and dispose of them, using the powerful name of Jesus.

If you are being pulled into sin, put the brakes on. Pray. Text a friend. Read a verse. Whatever it takes.

And if you do sin, don’t give up. All is not lost. Don’t plummet into even more sin. Instead, go to God and ask forgiveness. Repent. He forgives you. His Son died such that all of your sins would be forgiven. Begin anew with a blank slate (Psalm 51:7-8).

Yes, the enemy fights from defeat. However, the enemy wants to make you as miserable as possible – by either keeping you away from Jesus altogether or stealing the joy and other gifts Jesus provides you.

The enemy is cunning, but can only defeat you if you let him. You have Jesus on your side – the mightiest spiritual warrior there ever was – and the full strength of Heaven’s Armies.


The above is all well and good for those who are saved, but what if you don’t yet know Jesus? Then make today the day you come to him. What is holding you back?

Do you have to be perfect to know Jesus? No, certainly not. I sure wasn’t perfect, as has been well documented here.

Jesus accepts you for who you are. Right now. This very instant. He died to save the very worst version of you.

No matter your past, Jesus will walk with you – but you have to take the first step.

Will you be perfect after you know Jesus? Alas, no. I can report that I and all other believers still stumble, make mistakes, and sin every day. However, when you truly let Jesus into your heart, your life will forever be different as He shares His blessings with you.

In many ways, your life will begin anew when you accept Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will see with new eyes. Experience life with new feelings. The enemy doesn’t want you to know Jesus. What better reason to run to Jesus right now and accept His gifts of salvation and eternal life?

If you don’t yet know Jesus but feel ready to do so, why not take a moment to surrender your heart to Him?

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father,

Please forgive my sins. I accept Your Son, Jesus, into my heart as my Lord and Savior. He came to Earth as a human and died on the cross such that my sins could be forgiven, and I would have eternal life. Your power resurrected Him and has already defeated the enemy. Thank You for giving that same power to me. Please lead and guide me to a new life of abundance, full of Joy and Peace.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

These are words and whether you use these or your own variation, repeating them is not some kind of magic incantation that grants you eternal salvation.

No, you must believe and live the words. Breathe the words. When you do accept Christ, be forewarned the spiritual battles have only just begun. Seek out fellow believers for help growing in the faith. Don’t know anyone to help? Then contact JC and me. We are here for you.


Be sure to check out our sister blog, Wounded Butterflies, and JC’s latest post, “When You Forgive and God Punishes,” in which she explains why it is so important for us to forgive others.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you as He has blessed me.


“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Ephesians 6:11-18

The walk of faith

By Snow

For my 7th birthday way back in 1982, gifts from my family included a baseball bat, glove, and ball. I was thrilled to begin learning how to play, for I had watched my older brother play in a school or recreational league in the late 1970s. I soon learned that catching and hitting a baseball was not nearly as easy as he and his friends had made it look.

In the backyard with both my brother and father, I struggled as they tried patiently (and sometimes impatiently) to teach me the basics.

I can still hear them, saying each time I swung and missed or failed to make a catch: “Keep your eyes on the ball,” as if that was the secret of the whole thing.

While the advice was confusing at first, it eventually resonated, and sure enough, with some practice, I learned how to catch and hit.

There’s a Bible story that provides similar advice to what my family gave, but about life rather than baseball. When the apostles are alone on a boat on rough seas in the early morning hours, they observe Jesus walking on the water. They are so shocked, they at first think He is a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

“Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand.”
from Matthew 14:28-31

As a new believer reading through the entire Bible for the first time a couple years ago, I was not surprised that Jesus could walk on water. I had first heard this portion of the story when I was a child.

No, the surprising aspect of this story for me was that Peter walked on the water, too. Peter, who really wasn’t so different than you or me.

His faith allowed Peter to walk on the water towards Jesus, but why did he sink?

He didn’t keep his eyes on Jesus.

Instead, Peter allowed himself to be distracted by the waves and wind – by fear.

We are living in bizarre times. Fear in the form of panic is spreading much faster than the coronavirus possibly could. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, and there are those who use fear for their own means. For ratings. As power grabs. To control.

I know what it’s like to live in fear. I used to let fear control my every action. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid to speak to people. I was afraid to go places alone. I was often afraid to leave the house at all.

All of that has changed since I accepted Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior. What Jesus didn’t immediately lift away, JC, my true love, has helped me overcome.

Virus or no virus, I will not lock myself away again. I lived too long like that. I refuse to let anxiety and fear control my life any longer. I will not give the enemy a stronghold again.

To be clear, I am not recommending being foolish. Everyone should take common sense precautions. To do otherwise would be to test God.

“You must not test the LORD your God.”
from Deuteronomy 6:16

No, what I am saying is remain calm and rational. While chaos churns around you, keep your eyes on Jesus. That really is the secret of the whole thing.

For those of us who are saved, death is not something to fear. If Jesus wants me to die of the coronavirus, then I will die of the coronavirus. Panic won’t change that either way.

I would prefer to continue living, though, for JC and I still have much to accomplish for Jesus before we go to the Perfect Place. We have only just begun – until Jesus says otherwise. He has the perfect plan, executed with perfect timing.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. […] The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.'”
from Psalm 91

Credit: Snow

While I did learn to catch and hit, I unfortunately wasn’t destined to play on any teams. I still love watching baseball in person, though, or, oddly enough, in movies like Field of Dreams.

As much as I’d like to throw the ball around with someone, I don’t have anyone to do that with these days. I think my brother has gotten too old! He never takes me up on the offer.

My glove’s ready, though. When that time comes and my number gets called, I’ll remember to keep my eyes on the ball and, most importantly, on Jesus.


Heavenly Father,

We lift up all those affected by sickness. May You heal them and bring them comfort. May You calm any hearts stricken by fear and panic. May You fill leaders at every level with wisdom and compassion; lead them to salvation or on a closer walk with You; for those who will not accept You, use them for good anyway. Please help all of us keep our eyes on Jesus.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Why did God let me down?

Please see JC’s “The Cycle of Trust” for background on today’s post.

By JC

So many prayers for healing. She was so young. Maybe I did not pray enough. Maybe I did not pray the right way.

I have heard non-believers say, “How can a loving God allow that?”

When you are crushed and cannot breathe, yet the hits keep coming, believers ask that, too. I do.

I begged Jesus through sobs of pain. Crying out, “Please help, Jesus. Please.”

Nothing.

Silence.

I watched her take her last breaths while in pain.

I prayed for her to be healed, but I also know that we are to pray for His will above all else. So, I dutifully prayed, “Father, please heal her. If that is not Your will, then please allow her to pass peacefully in her sleep.”

That is not how it happened. It was not peaceful or painless.

If another believer were to ask me, “How can a loving God allow that?” I would quote Isaiah 55:9: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

I would also say that He loves us more than we can understand, so there must have been worse things ahead. Worse pain, things unbearable to see. So, He called her home before things reached that point.

Haven’t we been through enough? So much death and pain in such a short time, so many loved ones gone despite prayers and fasting. Why God, why do we now have to go through this, too? We are still recovering from the last tragedy. The last wounds are still raw.

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

I believe Scriptures. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He died for my sins. So, I read this verse and know it to be true. But God, how weak do I need to be?

The pain is more than I can bear, Lord.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18

I seek You. Why am I seeking, though? I have the Holy Spirit. You are already right here with me. Help me to feel You. I need You, Lord. I need to remember that I am not like King Saul.

“Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.”
1 Samuel 16:14

You will not remove Your Holy Spirit from me.

“God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:5

I do not have to fear like King David, when he saw the Spirit removed from Saul and penned Psalm 51.

“Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
Psalm 51:11-12

While this pain is unbearable, I cannot let my heart doubt You or Your love.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverb 4:23

My own heart works against me.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
Jeremiah 17:9

So, where do I go from here? I am to guard my heart, which is desperately wicked, but I cannot guard it properly.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

But because I believe Jesus is the Son of God, I have His peace that is beyond understanding. I have peace when I should not. I have peace when the world says, “How can a loving God allow this?”

The answer is, I do not know. I may never know this side of Heaven. But I know God is love (1 John 4:16).

I also know I am not to focus on such thoughts, nor allow my heart to ruminate on such things.

“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 4:8

It is not easy. Pain crushes. Feeling like God let you down crushes.

I do not believe that time heals all wounds. Instead, I believe that you find your new normal. Through Jesus, you find the way to move forward with the hole in your heart and determine your new normal.

Why did God let me down? I don’t know that He did. I know my heart is telling me that, but my heart can be wicked.

No, I cannot guard my heart. I need Jesus for that. We must stay anchored to Him for peace and joy that is beyond understanding.


“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭57:1‬

Credit: JC