Like a shadow

By Snow

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.


Heavenly Father,

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.

Amen


“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.

This is it. This is our one chance.

What are we going to do with it?

Chase the wind or run to win?

Credit: JC

More than conquerors

By Snow

In my post last week, I mentioned that I, like many other believers, have been watching video sermons during the COVID-19 crisis. I want to point you to one such sermon that live-streamed earlier today.

This video is Bishop Wayne I. Welch, Sr., pastoring at Cool Spring Missionary Baptist Church’s first in-person gathering since mid-March. For social distancing purposes, the service is outside, and the vast majority of the parishioners are actually listening from their cars. The sounds of the horns honking affirmations throughout gives me chills. This is not a fancy production, nor does it need to be. This is all about sharing the Word and coming together as His church.

Please click here to watch Bishop Welch’s sermon on YouTube. If you are led to do so, I ask you to give a thumbs-up or make a positive comment over on the video itself, as it is always important to encourage fellow believers.

Here are verses that Bishop Welch covers:

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39 KJV

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Romans 8:5-7 KJV

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
John 10:10 KJV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 KJV

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
Luke 23:46 KJV

Credit: JC

And so, another Sunday night is here. I must admit, I did not do too well coping with the end of the weekend last week – despite my attempts to the contrary in my post earlier that evening. I allowed darkness to overshadow me for much of the week, a mixture of negativity and guilt.

The negativity was resentment of work, and the guilt was for not being more grateful that I have a job in these times. I feel like I’m no longer allowed to dislike my job – which, of course, is a provision from God and according to His plan.

While I generally consider myself a positive person these days, when I am being negative, I excel at it. For instance, my proficiency for writing can be wielded in negative ways. I can write words that sting as I try to explain why my negative position is a logical one.

No matter my internal reasoning, though, being negative and carrying around guilt did me no good. JC was the one who recognized I was under spiritual attack, pointing me right to one of the verses above, actually – John 10:10.

We must never give up to the enemy the life of abundance that Jesus provides us. A lesson I needed this week, and one that I must keep in mind for the weeks ahead.


Before a brief prayer, I want to close this disjointed post with a video by Elvis Presley, who passed away 43 years ago today. While not gospel per se, this song is certainly inspirational. Elvis recorded it in 1968 as a tribute to Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated only weeks before. Written by W. Earl Brown, the song is called, “If I Can Dream,” and it is as relevant today as ever. The video presents the conclusion of the singer’s 1968 television special, ELVIS.

Credit: Elvis Presley (YouTube)


Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus, who has made us more than conquerors. May everyone feel Your love, especially those facing uncertainty in these times. May You end this virus, and, more importantly, heal our hearts. May all Your children walk together, hand-in-hand. More than conquerors, living a life abundant.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

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

A boat in the storm

Credit: JC

By JC

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
from Matthew 8:26

I feel like I am in the boat alone on rough waters. Health, job, marriage, finances, family, future and so on. Everything is unstable and has been for months. And, of course, the global pandemic and, as of late, riots all over the country I live in.

I was asking Jesus, “Where are You?” As I focused on that question, I thought about the disciples in the boat during the storm. They thought they were going to die.

“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'”
Matthew 8:25

With all that is going on right now, it is not so far fetched to feel that death is a possibility. If we go back a few verses to Matthew 8:22, “Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now.'” He was addressing a disciple that asked to go bury his father before committing to following Jesus. Most Bibles label this set of verses “The Cost of Following Jesus.”

The very next verse, 8:23, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” We move from Jesus telling us the cost to follow Him to getting into the boat with Him.

There are two things to highlight. One, He just told us there is a cost to following Him, so why are we surprised when storms arrive?

Two, Jesus is IN the boat with us. He’s right here – do not feel the need to ask, “Where are You, Lord?” He is right here in the boat with us.

“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
from Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus “insisted” the disciples get in the boat while He went by Himself to pray. Keep in mind this encounter with the boat is not too long after the verses above that we just read in Matthew 8. The disciples had recently witnessed Jesus calm the storm when He was IN the boat.

While Jesus was praying by Himself, a storm came up, and “the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (from Matthew 14:24). The disciples cried out and Jesus came to where they were on the water.

In verse 27, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Take courage. I am here!” Jesus was not physically in the boat with them this time, but He was there. He knew where they were and how to get to them and, of course, had the power to once again calm the storm.

Jesus said to Peter in verse 31, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” In Matthew 8:26, Jesus had said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

This is a message for us today. Jesus asks why are we afraid, why do we doubt Him? We must have faith. He has saved us every single time throughout our lives, for you and I have not drowned yet.

We cannot doubt Jesus is with us. He is right here – in the boat in the storm. He is stretching our faith.

The first time, He was in the boat, right there. The second time, we cannot see Him in the boat. So, we have to use our faith and not our sight. Ride out the storms knowing He is right there. Hand over everything to Him – your faith, your life, your today, and your tomorrow.

Credit: JC

Don’t be someone to whom Jesus would say, “You have so little faith!” When fear creeps in, take it captive by praising Him. If doubt enters, pray. If loneliness clouds your mind, read Matthew chapters 8 and 14. Let the Word of God remind you that you are never alone. And there is a cost to following Him – complete and total faith.


If you need a prayer, please reach out. Jesus loves you.