Faith Unfailing

On the eve of writing this blogpost, another one of those super unwanted, agonizingly hard suffering attacks gripped me. Actually, the second one on that day. These attacks, at their ugliest peak, would drive me reeling in a swirl of emotions: fear, angst, uncertainty, weariness, and even anger. Not to mention the sheer physical hardship my body is subjected to in the first place. It would try to snuff out my peace, joy, faith, and hope. Being at the heart of that hard place is like dangling over a deep canyon. It’s cruel; it’s punishing. It is superlatively rejected.

COUNTRY LANE on 9" x 12" wc paper.

COUNTRY LANE on 9″ x 12″ wc paper by yours truly.

This is the kind of test my faith puts up against. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. These past more than 13 years.

I need a faith that never fails. Only by the grace of God.

That is why, at the heart of every suffering, I have prepared a Word capsule and I do my best to recite it even just once during those moments when I feel like going through a needle’s eye. It is this:

I will live. I will not die. The Lord will satisfy me with long life. According to my faith, it will be done unto me. I will not fear but only believe.

The key words are: according to my faith. 

I know that there is a lot of suffering in the world: persecution, harassment, abuse, hunger, sickness. I am sure that mine is not unique or that, among the suffering, I got the worst. I do not believe so. That is why, the common enemy of faith is this question: What makes one think that one could be healed or delivered when so many in the world, including Christians, are suffering and dying without receiving healing or being delivered from their plight?

What makes me think that among the millions who are suffering – men, women, and children – I would receive healing from the Lord Jesus Christ and be delivered from all my suffering, and be sent to testify and proclaim the gospel? What, indeed?

It is this: According to my faith, it will be done unto me.  

It is the echo of the Lord’s own words.

And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Mat. 9:28-29, emphasis added)

 I believe that He is able to do it.

According to my faith, it will be to me.

I am not helpless. I have a choice. I can choose one thing and the Lord will honor it. 

I choose to believe and trust. I choose faith.

 You see, hope, for me, is looking forward toward a certain destination in the future, that there is a bright tomorrow that awaits even if now there is only dimness and hardship. Hope, certainly, is the anchor of my soul, sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). (I wrote about hope in early January). When, at some point, all else fails, hope clings on.

But faith is the fuel that drives every single day to move toward that destination.

Oftentimes for me, hope seems so far away, somewhere in the far horizon shrouded in a thick mist so that I can barely see it’s there.

But faith is ever-present. It is believing here, now, where we’re at.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

Faith is an action word. It takes action. It believes, trusts, makes the first step, and the next. It is at the heart of faith that the Lord Jesus moves. It is faith that pries His hand out of His bosom and stretches it to heal. Faith is His native language, His music. He dances to it.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6)

If we listen to other voices in our mind, those self-defeating thoughts, faith cannot work mightily on our behalf. Faith, to work, must be founded on a purely single-minded disposition that believes God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We need not believe that the fate of another will be our fate, too. But we can and will believe that the miracle of another can be ours, too. That is faith. That is the purpose of testimonies. To believe in testimonies is to believe in God and His Word.

The Lord Jesus did not perform many miracles in His own hometown because of their unbelief. Unbeliefs and doubts tie down His hands. 

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief… (Mark 6:5-6)

He can do no mighty work when we doubt or not believe Him! That is why He was adamant when He told Jairus, “Be not afraid, only believe.” (See Mark 5:21-43).

But look how He reacted to the Canaanite woman who begged Him to heal her daughter, even after being told, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” That hurts! But the distraught mother was unfazed. When she expressed her willingness to eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table, the Lord Jesus marvelled at her faith! He answered her:

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt!” (Mat. 15:28, exclamation point added for emphasis)

And her daughter was healed in that very same hour.

Many times, I had been that Canaanite mother in my desperation. It doesn’t matter if I was a dog licking the crumbs that fall from the table. I will do it to get well for the sake of my children.

Be it unto me even as I will or desire.

What do you desire the Lord Jesus to do for you? He is asking. He asked the blind man, the blind man did not hesitate to answer.

So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” (Mark 10:51)

My faith has received too many beatings than I can count. It bears the scars of years of unrelenting trials and tests, of battles fought and won, only by the great mercies of God. But I thank my Savior Jesus Christ that it is still standing, sure and steadfast, to this day. For it is founded upon the Rock.

Dear readers, I have a wonderful gift for you: I wrote about the amazing testimony of Brother Michael Garcia, a poor, blind man who was called by the Lord from the pit of darkness and despair. Please click here to read the entire testimony.

Do not fear. Only believe.

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Of Christ’s Fullness

I was glad when, a few days before Christmas, I arrived at the Book of John in my daily Bible reading and journaling. This is what I do: I read one book from the OT Beginning at Genesis, then one book from NT, beginning at the Book of Matthew, back and forth. What preceded John was Deuteronomy, so it was law to grace. Unlike Luke, John doesn’t retell the birth of Jesus, but it is equally rich in powerful promises. Walking through the Book of John is like walking through a diamond mine.

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

Full of bright expectations, I was on the lookout for God’s riches in the form of words and promises. And they came, like precious gems sparkling in a dark cave.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Of Christ’s fullness we have all received. 

His truth. His grace. His forgiveness. His salvation. His healing. His life.

Yes, because,

…As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

the right

to become

children of God

As the Lord Jesus is, so are we in this world (part of 1 John 4:17). . Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (part of Romans 8:17).

But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem that way. We fall ill. We suffer. We become destitute – of food, of strength and courage, of healing, of deliverance from problems. Dreams are not fulfilled. Longings are not satisfied. We groan. Tears fall.

But all these don’t change the truth: To those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and who believe on His name, they are the children and heirs of God. We have that unseen treasure, treasure that neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (part of Mat. 6:20)…

neither death nor life

nor angels nor principalities nor powers

nor things present nor things to come 

nor height nor depth…

Nothing and no one shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:38-39).

So we suffer tribulation, but in essence, in truth, in reality – we are good. We will be fine.

It is well with our soul.

We are not left behind. We are not forsaken. We are not poverty-stricken. The Lord Jesus said in Rev. 2:9: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…” Yes, heirs-of-the-kingdom-of-God rich. 

A beloved preacher in our church and his wife came from a wake an hour after Christmas Eve. They were going home to their place knowing that they didn’t have any food prepared for noche buena. So, when they passed by Mini Stop, they realized they were hungry, so they entered and had each a siopao (Chinese steamed bun). The beloved preacher told his wife cheerfully, “So, this is our noche buena.”

While the rest of the Philippines celebrated Christmas Eve with tables laden with food, gifts piled up under the Christmas trees, and carols and laughters ringing out, the beloved preacher and his wife enjoyed their siopao. And they were perfectly fine.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

When we maintain a “kingdom of God” perspective, we wouldn’t know or see lack. We only know what we have in Christ.

It would have seemed in my last post that all I desire is to go to places I’ve never been and fill up my senses with the things I would see and experience. But that is not what is foremost in my mind. My desire is to do the will of God. I already have a plan set in place: When I’m already well, I will go wherever the Lord sends me to – to testify and win souls.

At the beginning of 2016, I set my life’s theme based on Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I! Send me.”  Throughout the year, every prayer I prayed for my healing, I ended it with, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

I wasn’t sent anywhere except to my painting table or the patio. Still, it is well with my soul.

A MOST BLESSED, PROSPEROUS, VERY NEW YEAR TO US ALL!

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A Palace Strong and Full of Light

A palace strong and full of light. I love this power-packed combination. I pray that my writing of this will be fruitful for you and me. I had written about each topic before, A House Divided Against Itself and All Light {Lessons from the Mount Part 2}. Why am I writing this again? Because I passed through Luke 11 just recently, this time with my KJV journaling Bible, and aside from the fact that I am slowed down by pondering deeper and writing down the Holy Spirit’s message, the passage spoke to me afresh at a different angle this time. The Scriptures does that to us, doesn’t it?

"STONEHOUSE", my original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

“STONEHOUSE”, my original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

In the many years of my illness, every time I open my Bible, I am always on the lookout for how God’s Word will speak to me in the light of my sickness and suffering. I strain to dig deep and scratch about the words, verses, and passages, like a hen scraping the earth for bits of food, to look for doors through which I can pass to the other side. The side of healing. And thanks be to God, for I believe that, through the years, I have been fruitful in that regard. Although I have not yet received complete healing, I have had enough strength, hope, peace, and joy to go through it all. For that length of time.

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. (Luke 11:21-22)

I received another epiphany as I read this recently. We are strong and fully armed when we are at peace with God and constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. For when we are full of the Spirit of God, we walk after Him and not after the flesh. And when we walk after Him, we don the whole armor of God and are protected by it from the fiery darts of the devil. We cannot put on the whole armor of God when we don’t walk in step with the Holy Spirit no matter how hard we try. For it is the Holy Spirit that teaches, guides, and empowers us to do those things that God would have us do:

fasten the belt of truth

put on the breastplate of righteousness

shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace

take up the shield of faith

put on the helmet of salvation

take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

pray at all times in the Spirit

(from Ephesians 6)

We can only behave wisely in a perfect way and walk within our house with a perfect heart as David himself had greatly desired (Ps. 101:2) when we follow closely after the Spirit. It would be next to impossible to live in love from a pure heart without the Spirit of God continuously sanctifying us.

The passage above further says that when we guard our own palaces, that is, our bodies, the temple of the living God, our goods are in peace. More than our material possessions, these goods mean our joy, peace, family, important relationships, work, businesses, even dreams. And of course, our health.

I have always believed that because of my sins and the bad decisions I had made before I received salvation, my health and strength were stolen by the devil, and with them, my joy and peace. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… (part of John 10:10). But now that I am in the Lord Jesus Christ, why am I still ailing?

That, for me, is the question of the century :) .

But the peace, joy, marriage, and family that had been stolen were all restored. These goods I now have in abundance. And other good and perfect gifts I have, which I received from my Savior. So, there’s truly been a different kind of healing for me.

When I was yet of the world, there had not been a strong man guarding my palace to talk about. The devil was a lot stronger than me, that’s why he came and spoiled all my goods, even to the point of death. But even that the Lord has utilized for good. It turned out to my salvation and my clinging to Him tightly to this hour.

But even when we are already of the Lord, there are times we can still be weak against the attacker. That is, when we put our guard down. Weaknesses come in. Fears and unprofitable feelings like discouragement, self-pity, depression, resentments, anger, unforgiveness, joylessness, hopelessness grip us and seem to triumph over us. And yes, even our health becomes poor.

Why? Because we have made the attacker stronger than us. We have become weak against him because we have been divided against ourselves. How so? When we have been beholding the world instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when we behold the world most of the time, our mindset and affections are influenced by it. And when we are influenced by the world and not by the Word, the Holy Spirit grieves. And when He does, all manner of problems attack us on every side.

That’s why the Apostle Peter admonishes us to:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

I think that is the root of our problems: when we look back to the world instead of ahead of us where our Shepherd leads. In the world there is endless lusts, covetousness, envying, materialism, superfluity. The Lord Jesus warned:

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

A united palace is a strong palace. A united body is a strong body.

If we focus our eyes on only one thing – JESUS – our eyes are good and we will be full of light. What wonder!

“The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)

When we behold what is bad – the world (the whole world lies in wickedness ~ 1 John 5:19) – our body also is full of darkness!

When our bodies are full of light, where will darkness dwell? All traces of darkness will flee! We are strong  – mind, heart, body, and soul – and shining brightly!

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35 ESV)

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Journey with Jesus,

Remembering the Wormwood

Remember the wormwood. Like a soft whisper to my soul, these words had snaked in and out of my mind some weeks ago, a reminder that is both welcome and necessary. For it is easy to become lax and complacent amid all the triumphs and joys, as if the fiery and bitter tests had not actually taken place but are only a part of a distant past. But I have learned, as I know others have also, that forgetting them and the great mercies of God that delivered us through them, is not the way of the Lord.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9" x 12" 100% cotton wc paper. Leterings were done using metallic ruby.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9″ x 12″ 100% cotton wc paper. Letterings were done using metallic ruby.

Lamentations 3, though full of anguish and sorrow, has always been beautiful to me as it was a powerful source of hope. Like the Book of Job, a story of trial of all trials, which had been my companion in my own bitter trials, Lamentations 3 was like a lamp in the dark forest, a hope in the soul that, though small and flickering, cannot be quenched.

Maybe the Lord doesn’t want me to be so engrossed with His gifts that delight my soul enormously. Like watercolor painting, for one. That I might forget how I arrived into this place of joy and unending inspiration. That the gifts would become more important and capture more of me than what I give to the Lord – my love, my joy, my time, my energy. For God is a jealous God.

Maybe that and the news about my aunt who is now suffering a similar sickness like one of the many that I had suffered: gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD. Twice in the past 13 years of illness, I had not been able to eat solid food for months, even more than half of the year. I lived by water, clear soups, and runny porridge. It was as if my stomach had lost recognition of food.

But I lived through it. And now I’m eating well again. Every now and then, like when I bite into a luscious fruit, I remember this.

Remembering the mercies of God stirs up praise and worship from the depths of our soul. Not only that. It also makes us remember to fear God and keep a humble posture before Him and reignites our desire to walk uprightly.

And so, amid the swirls and splashes of watercolors, the lights and shadows that are created by the stroke of a red sable brush on a rag paper, in between the image that is slowly emerging out of it and the exultant heart, is the whisper: Remember the wormwood.

“Yes, Father, I do remember,” my soul whispers back.

The author of the Book of Lamentations (he sounds like the Prophet Jeremiah to me and he might very well be the one who penned it) recalls the heart-rending, soul-wrenching times that he had seen, lived, and suffered through. The scope of the first half of chapter 3 is a very familiar terrain to me, like the well-worn path that leads to home. You know the position of every stone and tree and the shadows that dance against the sunlight peeking through. So familiar you could almost assign a scent to it, redolent of the hard days when God’s hand was heavy upon one’s soul. These words, they are that to me.

am the [woman] who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He has led me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely He has turned His hand against me
Time and time again throughout the day.

He has besieged me
And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry and shout,
He shuts out my prayer.

He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drink wormwood.

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

(Selections from Lamentations 3)

Wormwood is a plant that has a bitter taste, the main ingredient in making absinthe. Today, it is considered as a natural therapeutic herb and used as an alternative medicine, especially in cleansing harmful microorganisms in humans and animals. “Wormwood is known to help the body produce an environment that is toxic to harmful organisms.”*

God concocts a drink made up of wormwood and makes us drink of it, the whole cup of it. His tests are bitter and grievous and brings us a lot of anguish and sorrow. But not without purpose. God, being the Creator of every plant that grows in the earth, knows each of their nature. He used wormwood in the Old Testament to symbolize the bitter trials and also the cleansing process – refining and sanctification – His people must go through which is His main purpose.

These trials and chastisements – they all emanate from His heart of love and mercy. 

As our Father, He knows there are things we need to learn. The process, like the words of Lamentations, is excruciating, but the end of it is a pure product.

when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

These I remember. Oh yes, Father, these I remember and have not forgotten! They come to mind when I sing praises and worship, like fragmented scenes in a good movie. Remembering them colors my praises with more vibrant, deeper hues and makes my worship a soulfelt experience. They are the tangible proofs of the Savior’s love for me.

Only last night at dinner, I recalled again how I lived through the valley of the shadow of death in early-2015 (that place where the shadow of death literally covers you and wraps you all around). When all day long everyday, I fought to be able to breathe and live. How I would wait for Tim to arrive home from school, when he would nap beside me in the bed straightaway, and I would snuggle close to him and try to pick up the easy rhythm of his healthy breathing. As I held him, I breathed with him, hoping to ease up my own, calm my body, and live with him, too. For days and months, Tim unknowingly comforted me. While he was sleeping. (Choking back tears now).

I whispered to my husband as Tim left the dining table, “That boy is so precious to me.”

Remembering the wormwood is not to taste again the bitterness, but to affirm the truth that God is just and merciful. That even in that place of affliction, wormwood and gall – there is hope!

To remember the wormwood is to position and reposition ourselves again on the higher ground, not giving in to temptations as the good, blessed days roll by.

To remember the wormwood is to let ourselves be cleansed and sanctified by Christ again and again. To become like the white and fragrant flowers (the white Magnolia is a good example), whose sweet-smelling scent wafts to all the people around us wherever we go and which reaches the throne of God in heaven.

Let your gentleness [and holiness] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil. 4:5, annotation mine)

*Global Healing Center

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Journey with Jesus,

Heart for a Contrite Heart

Tim and I sat down to enjoy the Bon Chon takeout that his Dad brought over lunch. Hannah was resting in her room because she was on her second week of two-meal prayer and fasting. I asked Tim to warm my rice and beef topping in the microwave and told him not to transfer it to a bowl anymore. He said that he can’t microwave the cardboard tub. I insisted he could.

Me and my favorite boy in the whole planet, Tim.

Me and my favorite boy in the whole planet, Tim.

He came back looking distressed and carrying a bowl with my food in it, now looking like it was dumped upside down. He said he dropped the tub on the floor because it had become soft from microwaving and he scooped what he could into the bowl. I told him to pick up all the beef. Before he left for the second time, he told me in all sadness that I could have his food instead. When he returned, tears were racing down his cheeks. He was miserably sorry that he dropped my food and he wouldn’t eat. He just sobbed in his chair.

Now, my 8-year old Tim is a painfully sweet boy. And he’s very responsible and industrious, too. Unlike most boys his age who only want to play all day, he can assist me to the bathroom and give me everything I need. He is smart and efficient and follows instructions to the letter. On Friday nights when hubby and Hannah go to church to attend the overnight prayer meeting, he stays with me in the room and assists me in whatever I need help with: hot water, snacks (we eat together), toothbrush prep, face washing prep, drawing the curtains, blanket, night light, etc.

But he is a kid and he is bound to make blunders (even adults do!).

I couldn’t bear to see him so miserable even when I said that I wasn’t angry and it’s okay, that I was still eating my own food because I already blessed and gave thanks for it. So, I pulled him to me and hugged him tightly and wiped away his tears.

He whispered that he was also worried that his Ate Hannah might see the mess on the kitchen floor and scold him. So, I instructed him to sweep it off into the dust pan then mop it clean. So, he did just that. It was only after this that he sat at the table and ate. (I waited for him the whole time, so when I finally put food into my mouth, it was already cold. So much for microwaving it! We had come full circle 😀 ).

Days before this, I had a similar incident involving Hannah. We were prepping to make matcha bars using fresh coconut milk. The milk had been squeezed out of the grated coconut flesh by hubby using the exact measurement of water I gave. I sent Hannah to the kitchen to get it (we bake in our bedroom extension since I can’t walk, so we have a mobile kitchen :) ). When she came back carrying the bowl of coconut milk, she was sobbing, fat tears trickling down her cheeks.

“What happened?” I asked curiously.

“Mom, I spilled much of the coconut milk. I didn’t know the bowl was slippery and it turned over. This is the only thing I was able to save,” she sobbed.

My 15-year old Hannah knows her way in the kitchen. She can cook on her own, closely following recipes, and when she presents her creations to us with a flourish, we are grateful and pleased. Together with Tim, she assists me in baking. When I’m too exhausted, I can leave her to continue what we have started.

She put down the bowl of coconut milk on the table. The sorrow on her face told me that she thought all our preparations were ruined. But I looked at the quantity of coconut milk in the bowl and was certain that we had enough and some to spare (that’s because hubby was able to produce more than what was needed, compensating for the quantity that spilled).

Calmly, I told my daughter that it’s okay and we’re proceeding with our recipe. I worked cheerfully with her, wanting to appease her sorrow from her blunder. I wanted her to feel that she was appreciated (especially her contrite heart) and precious to me, mistakes and all.

That is the natural tendency of a mother to her child who has erred and is completely humble to feel sorrow for it. We just want to embrace and soothe their sorrow and wipe away their tears. Of course, there is always a proper time for correction and reprimand, sometimes gentle, sometimes sharp. But those moments of deep remorse with tears – we just want to draw them closer and give mercy and love in copious amount.

More than the fear of being scolded, I have seen that there is an underlying, deeper reason why Hannah and Tim felt sorrowful for their mistakes and were even tearful about them: they are developing a deep sense of responsibility in their hearts. They are not kids who are growing up irresponsibly. In their heart of hearts, they want to do things right, according to our teachings to them. They want to show proofs of their learning, growing, and maturing process.

And… I love that. My heart is filled with joy to see our children walking and growing before the Lord as what we fervently and incessantly pray for.

If we delight in our children’s contrite spirits, how much more God who put that love and mercy in our hearts? God has a thing for the contrite in heart.

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Is. 57:15)

The companion of contrite is confessing. Are we a confessing Christian? Do we come before the Lord, humbling down ourselves and confessing and acknowledging our shortcomings, mistakes, failures, and sins? Are we humble enough to acknowledge them and be remorseful of them? Are we courageous enough to own up to them and actually confess (mention) each one though they may seem or sound really ugly? That they are ugly and no amount of cosmetics – excuses – can prettify them? Like maybe the things that we harbor in our hearts that we are really ashamed of.

Or maybe internal struggles against the temptation to stumble because we are seriously offended.

The Lord Jesus mentioned that offenses must come.

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Mat. 18:7)

The offender is not what I want to emphasize here, but the heart of the offended that wants to grow cold and give in to disillusionment (for want of a better word).

I’m sorry that I cannot give the details of the real struggle I had to go through recently. It is a sensitive matter. But I confessed everything to the Lord: the feelings of great dismay and discouragement I had to really fight. The resentment, too, and weariness of the spirit. I emptied my heart before Him. And until now, I still pray fervently regarding this thing that has so affected me. I’m thankful that my heart, our hearts, whatever they are going through, are known by God and are accepted by Him.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. (Ps. 51:17)

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Journey with Jesus,

White and Fragrant

I painted a series of magnolia flowers a while back and I was just in awe of their beauty. The petals are pure white inside, and outside, it could be hot pink or magenta. All the time that I was painting each delicate petal, I was thinking of Philippians 4:5:

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

My original gardenia painting in watercolor on 12" x 16" Hahnemuhle 100% cotton, 140lb, 300gsm, acid-free paper. I love these gardenia flowers. It was exhausting and punishing on my back painting it, maybe that's why when someone from Toronto, Canada expressed her desire to buy it but when I quoted to her the shipping fee (about $20), I never heard from her again - I was hurt. This original painting is still available at my Rina's Art Gallery on Facebook (link at the sidebar, below "SSubscription". Price is P2000 ($40) plus shipping.

My original gardenia painting in watercolor on 12″ x 16″ Hahnemuhle 100% cotton, 140lb, 300gsm, acid-free paper. I love these gardenia flowers. It was exhausting and punishing on my back painting it. Maybe that’s why when a friend in Toronto, Canada expressed her desire to buy it but after that, I never heard from her again – I was hurt. This original painting is still available at my gallery on Facebook (link at the end of this post). Price is P2,200 ($44) plus shipping.

The magnolia is a very fragrant flower and it is this fragrance that made me think again and again about gentleness. We are counselled by Apostle Paul to make our gentleness known to all. It is like the magnolia flower giving off its fragrance for all to enjoy. It wafts into the air and whoever passes by or draws near will be rewarded with an stimulating sweet scent. I imagine our gentleness wafting to the people around us like fragrance.

When we are around people, what do they breathe in from us? Is it grace? Gentle words that minister to them? Do we leave off a pleasant fragrance in our wake? Or are people offended with our rough edges, maybe with our words that are actually thinly-veiled bragging or condescension or sarcasm?

Are we, like the Lord Jesus Christ, “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”? (See Ephesians 5:2). That would be a good gauge on the degree of our Christlikeness or un-Christlikeness.

So, I had been studying magnolias and gardenias for watercolor painting, and I just couldn’t help thinking that what is pure and white also carries a lovely scent. In their whiteness and stark simplicity, they are both beautiful and very fragrant. What an exquisite combination! I believe God created them that way to drive home the truth that the modest and holy are the ones who give off a fragrance that is a delight and blessing to others.

The gardenia is no less than the rosal in our local Filipino dialect. When I was a young girl, there was a rosal tree at the corner of my grandmother’s house’s front yard. Every morning, the flowers bloomed and — oh, their fragrance! Like the gardenia, the sampaguita, which is the Philippine’s national flower, is also white and very fragrant. Sampaguita is one of the main varieties of jasmine. The jasmine fragrance oil is the most expensive perfume in the world! In the Philippines, the sampaguita flowers are made into small garlands and are sold in the streets by young boys and girls to be hung inside cars or Catholic altars.

White symbolizes purity, modesty, and simplicity. God wants us to be pure, modest, and simple. Ecclesiastes 9:8 says, “Let your garments always be white…” It is not primarily literal, but it’s more of washing and making the garments (or robes) white in the blood of the Lamb (see Rev. 7:14). The wearing of white robes is a metaphor of being holy. It does not solely lean on our own strivings, but that we were made holy by the blood of the Lamb. But we have a part to fulfil.

And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:8)

It’s the Lord Jesus who sanctifies us and our holiness must be manifested outwardly, in the way we speak, act, and adorn ourselves.

Shall we wear blatant vanity and pride and the latest fashion statement? Sporting the famous brands from head to toe and the purse hanging on our arm, ostentatiously displayed and flaunted? But what does Apostle Peter has to say?

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.  (1 Pet. 3:3-4)

Be clothed with humility. (From 1 Pet. 5:5)

The beauty of a gentle, quiet, and humble spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I’d like to be all of those, for there was a time in my life, before I knew Jesus and His Word, that I was one of those who wore signature brands and flaunted them, too. When pride was my glory and vanity was my friend.

I knew it even then (and now that I am a born-again Christian, I’m ashamed even of the memory of it) that pride and vainglory don’t really bring “pure goodness” (in the truest sense of the phrase) into one’s heart, but a silent and deep wickedness. They don’t bring true joy, but in reality, they stir up guilty feelings somewhere deep down, somehow.

But it’s not only with obvious worldliness that the call to holiness becomes louder. It is also a gentle whisper, a voice calling in the wilderness of our own errant emotions, that tugs on a Christ follower’s heart. Just very recently, I had a firsthand experience of this white and fragrant theme.

I had been nursing a sad and hurting heart because of my watercolor paintings and the gallery I have set up on Facebook. I was feeling very discouraged I trudged through my days with a heavy heart. But during those days, the picture of jasmine flowers went in and out of my mind like a flashing light. So one day, I sat down at my desk and painted them.

Doing so was like a healing balm to my sorrowing heart. The study of the white jasmine flowers was actually a call for me to draw closer to purity, to holiness, to my Savior Himself. Going through that trial was sanctifying as the Lord reminded me to lay my cares at His feet, to give my burdens to Him, not only the feeling of discouragement I was going through, but also the cause of it, which was my art.

To offer back to Him whatever gift I have received from Him. This epiphany would come a few days later.

Even so, immersing my heart and mind to the painting of the jasmine flowers, and knowing deeply the reason behind it, was a cleansing process: The Lord wants us to purify our hearts and minds from whatever feelings or emotions we are harboring deep inside that affect our judgments, responses, decisions, and even our worship of and service to God.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1)

The purity of the jasmine flowers reminded me to lean in closer to God and listen to what He was saying regarding my art. And He did speak and the relief and happiness that washed over me made me want to rise up and dance!

Whatever we think, say, or do, may it be done in holiness and may it leave a sweet-smelling scent, a lovely fragrance that reaches the throne of grace.

My jasmine painting on 9" x 12" Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton, 140lb, 300gsm, acid-free paper. Price is P1,200 ($24) plus shipping.

My jasmine painting on 9″ x 12″ Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton, 140lb, 300gsm, acid-free paper. Price is P1,200 ($24) plus shipping.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil. 4:8)

To see more of my watercolor paintings, I invite you to visit Rina’s Art Gallery on Facebook. Thank you!

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Journey with Jesus,

A Heart and Mind on Things Above

I feel the nearness of God not only when blessings abound, when prayers are answered, and peace and joy are to be had, but more so when He speaks during difficult times. When He gently (or strongly!) reminds and reproves and puts us back on track when we sway. It is truly a sad thing when we so need His light and guidance and He is quiet. When we plunge headlong into our erroneous ways and we become distressed by them, who will lead us in the paths of righteousness but the Shepherd Himself?

things above

The power of God is as prominent in His correction of us (and so, we repent and change our course) as when He performs a miracle. In my life, I dance (in my spirit) in happiness when He speaks clearly, and I listen and obey, and so, peace floods my being, especially in hard situations when my emotions are dumb as a mule.

I had one of these experiences just recently when I sorted out my bags with the help of the kids. I haven’t used a bag in years since I only inhabit our bedroom and patio, but I wanted to haul out all my old bags and see if I could pull out one to be given away. Through the years since I stopped working, my bag collection has dwindled. I have been taking them out to give away and those few remaining are the ones I really want to keep. Really expensive ones.

But I had the shock of my life when I found out that some of those bags that I was referring to were no longer in my closet. Nowhere to be found in the whole house. Months before this, we also found out that my favorite-ever Coach sandals, a gift from my sister-in-law, and other imported leather sandals and Hannah’s boots were all gone. But even before we found this out, my Canon DSLR camera and Hannah’s cellphone had also been stolen. This time, we found out belatedly that my bags were stolen, too! There was a time when we emptied our en suite closet and put them all in the guest room closet while our bedroom was being renovated. That must be the time the stealings occurred.

My Coach, Lancel, and Longchamp bags were all gone. These bags were slightly used and as good as new. Imagine my devastation when I found out about this third batch of stolen properties!

When my Coach sandals (which I only used when I had my picture taken – for blog and FB purposes – since I can’t walk yet) was stolen, I cried. Finding the bags also gone, I could no longer help my anger. I was angry and dismayed at the same time. I couldn’t rein in my emotions and my peace was slowly flying away.

Then God’s still, small voice spoke:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:19-21)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-2)

Immediately, I made a U-turn from the road of unprofitable emotions and obeyed God’s voice. What relief! What freedom! The Lord Jesus said that if we continue in His Word, we are indeed His disciples, “And [we] shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [us] free” (John 8:31-32).

Not only that. I also summoned Conching, our housekeeper, whom I have brought to the Lord months ago, and preached to her these words. (Conching isn’t a suspect in the stealings). The remaining bags sprawled in front of us, I told her of the words of Jesus. I needed to triumph over the devil’s work: my stolen things and the negative emotions the discovery brought. And the best way to do that was to quash him with God’s Word.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

This commandment reminds us to be sober – moderate – in all things. It guides us not to hoard material things, especially the ones that are very expensive they are a luxury. Or things that are not really needed, superfluous. It teaches us not to live in excess or extravagance, pampering and lavishing ourselves with this world’s goods to the extent that we may grow distant or indifferent to others’ lack. Satisfying all our earthly desires without restraint is not Christlike. It may even numb us from seeing and feeling the deep needs of the world. 

Though we may have the means to satisfy our appetites, we may not act on it, but live within the bounds of simplicity and modesty. I can’t reconcile the thought of a Christ follower filling up her house with very expensive gilded Italian furniture that is fit for a royalty, for example, or with Murano crystals lining up shelves and gracing side tables. Aren’t these just a few examples of lust of the eyes and pride of life?

When I was still a businesswoman and living a worldly life, I was a shopaholic. Every time I traveled abroad, I hauled two rolling suitcases: one filled, one empty. The empty suitcase would be brimming with purchases when I flew back home. I loved to shop the prestigious brands. If it was generic, I didn’t want it. I also loved jewelry, the genuine kind: diamonds, pearls, and gold.

But all that changed when I received the Lord Jesus in my life. With the Holy Spirit now residing in me, sobriety and simplicity also now reign in my life. In our church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, wearing of jewelry of any kind is discouraged. So, no one does. And that is a good thing, for the desire for jewelries makes one to covet.

The essence of this teaching is to uphold a life of holiness – modest and simple – and to veer our attention away from worldly things to godly things. To make us set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth. 

If wearing of jewelries is banned because of the above reasons, shall we then satisfy our desires on other things just because they are not specifically banned? A collection of signature bags, shoes, and clothing perhaps? To regularly upgrade to the latest iPhone because we don’t want to be left behind? To buy a sleek BMW or a handsome SUV? To live a posh life?

This doesn’t sit well with the Lord’s reply when a scribe announced that he would follow Him wherever He went.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This is the Lord’s caution to all who desire to follow Him: life with Him is not a bed of roses. It is not living in a fantasy world where all our wishes come true, but a life that denies itself daily.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Deny ourselves from earthly desires that do not have an impact on eternity.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Experiencing the Word

Living out God’s Word, that is, putting it into practice in our daily lives (e.g. “Love one another as I have loved you”), is not the same when I say, “experiencing the Word.” To experience God’s Word, for me, means that we live through it, letting it seep in and through our flesh (every pore and vein and nerve where life pulsates), our feelings (whether they be peace or fear, joy or depression, etc.), our minds (that sense and strength of reason), and our souls (that vital part of us that strains to connect with the Divine). Where “living out the Word” entails an act of obedience, “experiencing the Word” is walking through and dwelling in it in faith and letting its power work mightily in and for us.

experiencing the Word

We may do it for healing and strength, to usher in peace and unbroken hope, or to deepen  our faith. Or just simply to enter into worship.

When we set out to experience God’s Word, we are positioning ourselves to receive with open hearts and hands. Mostly for me, experiencing God’s Word is borne out of desperation.

January 2004. We had just received salvation weeks before, and amid the chaos brought about by my undiagnosed illness, the speedy and unstoppable waning of my strength and the skyrocketing of my fears and panic, we scrambled to grow and strengthen our faith. Felix was learning to worship by singing praises and I was reading the Word as if my life depended on it (and in truth, it did).

On that January morning, I had just eaten a meager breakfast and as I slowly let my weak body touch my propped up pillows, my insides trembling, my nerves humming like a motor all over my body, and my back felt like it wasn’t there, I tried to grasp strength from the praise music playing on the cassette player. Weak and dizzy, my body wanted to succumb to sleep, but I was afraid to give in to it, thinking I might not wake up again. But when I closed my eyes, the vision of the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds in all His glory played on the terrain of my mind.

There was brightness all over me there as I beheld the Lord, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass… and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (see Rev. 1:13-16). 

The vision’s message was: Someday, whether I am asleep or awake, at the trumpet’s call, the Lord will come to take me (and all who believe in Him) and I will be forever with Him in eternity. There was nothing to fear. He has sealed me for eternal life where God shall wipe away all tears from [my] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).

That vision with its powerful message instantly calmed my flesh and fears and I went to sleep in peace and comfort. It was my first Word-experience and it brought me strength and hope for the months and years that followed.

Later that year, I lay in a cot in one corner of the chapel of our church’s fasting house in a nearby province. Living in the chapel where there were long hours of praise and worship, morning and evening, and workers and payer warriors praying and fasting brought me spiritual strength as I continued to battle my illness. I was leaning heavily on my Savior, Healer, and Comforter.

Lying there, my insides, though empty, wanting to rise up to my throat, threatening to cut the air, I played in my mind the Bible scene where Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, implored the Lord to come heal his daughter. Being in internal panic myself moment by moment, I could relate to this frantic father’s desperation.

His young, only daughter lay in bed at home, dying. Every single second was essential. He has heard of the Miracle Worker who healed the sick, made the lame walk, and opened the blind’s eyes. His daughter’s miracle was within reach. He only had to make haste. When he finally found Him, he dropped to his knees and begged Him to come.

“I will come,” was the Lord’s calm reply. They set out, but a delay was inevitable. Another desperate soul desired to be healed. It had been 12 long years of waiting and she believed, now was her time. After the brief delay, someone from Jairus’ house came to tell him that his daughter was dead.

What now? I imagined Jairus’ heart stopping for a beat or two, and his knees threatening to buckle down. But before earth and sky came crashing on him, the Lord was quick to assure him, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

Over and over as fear and illness threatened to snuff the life out of me, I played that scene in my mind. When I felt like I was losing the battle, I believed and trusted in the depths of my soul that Jesus cared for me, as much as He cared for the woman who crawled behind to touch the hem of His garment and Jairus’ dying daughter, and so, He wouldn’t fail me, too. Even at the throes of death. I clung to this with every weak heartbeat and incomplete breath: “Fear not. Only believe”,  imagining the Lord assuring me with eyes of compassion and power. (See Mark 5).

During one of those long seasons where illness and suffering defined my days, I relived the story of the hapless Syro-Phoenician mother and every time I did, hot tears spilled copiously as sob after sob, I reasoned with the Lord just as she did.

Wanting so much to be relieved of my suffering, I begged the Lord to let me pick up crumbs that fell from the children’s table. I was willing to be like a dog if that was what would move His hand to heal me. I knew that I had been made a daughter of God (John 1:12) and had access for a good seat “at the table”. Meaning, His promises had been made available to me when I received Jesus into my life, just as Apostle Peter had written: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (see 2 Pet. 1:3, 4).

But if it pleased the Lord that I humbled myself and showed Him how much I wanted healing and be so bold as to importune Him for it, then I would gladly do it. And so, for a season, I became that Syro-Phoenician mother begging for the crumbs of healing for the sake of my young children.

But the most beautiful reliving of the Word I have ever experienced was the story of my own salvation seen through the encounter between the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned to death and the Lord Jesus. That scene, which was taken from the movie Passion of the Christ, was used in a music video featuring the song You Raise Me Up. While I listened to it, I saw myself in filthy rags, daring to raise my face toward the Savior as He gently lifted me up from the miry clay and assuring me with so much love and mercy, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (see John 8).

Aahh! The power of that moment! It gripped me so profoundly I could only sob and praise in eternal gratitude!

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Journey with Jesus,

Pride and Reputation

What’s really holding us back into the fullness of Christlikeness? Why do we slide back in our faith journey time and time again? There could be a lot of things that stunt our spiritual growth, in growing in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Number one could be the world’s influence. It could influence our beliefs, mindsets, and affections and create conflicts in our being, that is,  if we are not fully surrendered to God. This influence spawns pride and all the other things attached to it. An air of self-importance and a desire to be regarded highly, for example. Pride comes in many disguises, and yes, it could deceive the not-so-vigilant Christian. That’s why it’s important that we should be humble enough to subject our hearts and motives to close examination and keep our hearts open to God for counsel and correction.

pride

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we succumb to our intense emotions and let them trump our desire and disposition to obey Christ. When that happens, we have let the world’s beliefs and teachings to overcome our belief in and grasp of the truth of God’s Word.

The world’s beliefs and teachings run contrary to the Lord Jesus’ teachings. And yet, if we are not that diligent in following Christ and walking after the Spirit (we may be lax in praising, praying, reading the Bible, and fasting), we may consciously or unconsciously adapt the world’s beliefs and mindsets, letting them affect our dispositions, behaviors, and attitudes.

For instance, the world, through various self-help books, adamantly teaches about self-esteem. (And we have that natural tendency to think highly of ourselves, and that, if we are not totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit, it just might take a life of its own, rise up to invade our hearts and overpower us). But the Bible teaches us to esteem others better than ourselves and to forbear, with hearts ready to forgive.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil. 2:3)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:12-13)

In another place, Apostle Paul teaches thus:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3, emphasis mine)

We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ through the Word of God. The Bible, especially the Gospels and the pastoral letters, teaches us everything we need to learn to know and obey Christ and grow into His fullness. But if we have not embraced the Word and let it permeate our being, or if we let ourselves starve of it, spending more time online, endlessly browsing our social media news feeds and watching worthless videos instead of reading the Bible and meditating on it, we will remain ignorant of the words of life and untrained in dealing with life graciously and competently.

To live in God’s Word is to live in true power.

But if we starve ourselves of it, we will always slide back. We will be a heavy burden to others instead of steadily growing, bearing much fruits, and leading others to Christ by the very life we lead.

The Word of God is truly a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path (Ps. 119:105). The wise in Christ utilize it to help them traverse this difficult thing called life and emerge victoriously. Being victorious doesn’t always mean we get what we pray for. It often means that we mature spiritually through the trials, learning as we should, and God accomplishing what He has purposed for us: conforming more and more to the image of His Son (see Rom. 8:29). For example, it is hard to readily forgive if we do not cling to the Word for wisdom and guidance. And yet, even if we know the Word, we still need to pray agonizingly with humble hearts and tears, for it to move mightily against the devil’s strongholds: pride, anger, selfishness, etc.

And it will. Unfailingly.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

If we surrender to God’s Word powered by our unceasing prayers, it will deliver us and set us free from whatever is holding us captive, may it be anger, unforgiveness, lovelessness, coldness, indifference, etc.

But if we harden our hearts against it, if we wouldn’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and let our pride grow bigger than our stature, we have not really learned Christ. Our pride would blind us from the truth of God’s Word and we would be like a tree stump – short, stagnant, barely living.

Do you find it hard to let go of your desire to be treated with high repute to the point of hurting your relationships and being hard-hearted towards God’s Word? We can never discount the power of the Word in our lives. But if we do not know it, how can we apply it? If we do not study it, how can we abide in it?

This is what the Word can do:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The Word will help us discern the intents and thoughts of our hearts when we subject ourselves to it. We can’t hide anything from it. If we know the truth, yet go on following our will and emotions, we live in hypocrisy.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)

We all want to receive this blessing from God:

The Lord make His face shine upon [us],
And be gracious to [us];
The Lord lift up His countenance upon [us],
And give [us] peace. (Num. 6:25-26)

How do we make that happen? The answer is in Isaiah 66:2:

“…But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Is. 66:2, emphasis mine)

When we make the Word our dwelling place, we are constantly guided and hard-heartedness will find no place in our lives.

I love the constant guidance of God through His abiding Holy Spirit and His Word. His voice may not be audible, but I can strongly sense His counsel, ever-guiding, ever-speaking to my heart. And when I feel like He is silent, I pray and draw closer to Him. Always, my prayers are accompanied with this silent whisper, “Draw me closer to You, oh, Lord.”

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Journey with Jesus,

Cup Running Over

After my leisurely evening bath in my new bathtub and then a round of Scrabble with the family, where as usual, was raucous and the hot fries went flying as fast as the hand could travel from the bowl to the mouth and back again until there was nothing left but a few salt crystals – I rested with a heart overflowing with thanksgiving.

psalm23

How could I not be steeped with gratitude at that moment, I felt so full the words of thanksgiving flowed from my lips like a stream? If you have dwelt long in a place where there’s only suffering, fear, and death hovering around you like a gnat hovers over a carabao (water buffalo), the simplest of things that bring you joy would be a reason to rejoice and thank God. There were long seasons, almost covering a year, when I was too ill and weak I couldn’t bathe. Thin layer of dirt mottled my otherwise flawless skin like maps. And when I had regained some strength, a sponge bath in bed was all I could have.

If you had been in the lowest valley of the shadow of death for a long time and the only things that made you alive were your undying faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, the experience of recovery, no matter how hard and slow, would be to you a glorious one. A blessing so wonderful you will not forget to thank the Lord each and every day.

So, even if my family traveled to Island Cove in the historic province of Cavite and then to Timberland up in the mountains of San Mateo without me, I would remain joyful and grateful. Even if I cannot walk and travel, even if there are deep longings in my heart for my fervent dreams to be fulfilled, I choose to look at the little gifts the Lord scatters in my day everyday, like finding diamonds in the dust.

My husband insisted that he buy me a bathtub where I can bathe properly and even enjoy it. (About 3 years ago, we remodelled our adjoining bathroom to give leeway for my wheelchair. The old, embedded bathtub had to be removed). I’ve always wanted the classic bathtub, the one which stands regally on 4 clawed feet. It touches my incurably romantic soul :) . And since its smaller, it would fit perfectly in our bathroom.

Felix found the perfect one. He showed me a photo and I liked it instantly. But it wasn’t cheap. For me, it was too expensive I couldn’t possibly pamper myself with such luxury, so I vehemently told him not to buy it. True, we bought a faux rattan furniture for our patio just recently and the price was almost the same with that of the bathtub. But I had wanted to spend some time outside in our garden to breathe  in fresh air and look at the trees and the sky. Before Holy Week, we levelled out the floor of the patio (our bedroom opens to the patio) so my wheelchair could pass through without inconvenience. Then we bought the very comfy rattan sofa with plush cushions and pillows. I can now spend leisurely my afternoons and evenings there, that is, before the mosquitoes come to fly me away 😀 .

When Felix said that he found one which was 10,000 pesos ($200) cheaper, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart that a bathtub would make my life happier and more comfortable. (Previously, after my husband had bathed me in our bed, we had to dry it for hours because it had been flooded).

Is it selfish to receive God’s generous gifts? Is it bad to enjoy His bountiful blessings? I endeavor to live simply and modestly, remembering how the Lord Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (see Matthew 8:20). But if He chooses to heap His blessings upon us in whatever form – physically, materially, spiritually – should we not receive them with open arms and give Him thanks for them?

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17, emphasis added)

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Able-bodied people soak in bathtubs, indulge in spas, swim in pools, and bask in beaches without a mind for it. But for weak, ailing people like me, the things that healthy people take for granted are a luxury. My bathtub is so cute and sleek (wink) and comfortable. The comfortably warm water feels good on my body and induces me to sleep better. When Felix poured my Aveeno lavender foam bath, the scent which I like so much soothed me and the gentle white foams caressed my body (a body that has suffered a lot). As I luxuriated in my fragrant bath, I felt the love of my good and generous Father embracing me.

To be loved and cherished by the ever-loving, ever-giving God, is a blessing beyond measure. My cup runneth over and thanksgiving is poured out towards heaven.

I love You, I love You, I love You!

(That lovely lavender foam bath led to my desire for our cosmetic ingredients company to expand and venture into essential and fragrance oils. By the grace of God, we found a manufacturer and supplier in India, where rare and precious spices, and yes, essential oils, come from. Although I had retired from work since I got ill, I helped our company conceptualize the promotional materials. I painted a pretty floral and herbs border for the product lists and a lavender wreath for the label. A simple announcement was made on our company website, which I also administer, by God’s grace).

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Being able to use my gifts even in a simple way is another form of blessing and source of joy which I am deeply grateful for.

My soul shouts to my Lord Jesus, my Savior and faithful Father in heaven! I make my soulfelt thanksgiving a worship.

Amazement

Awe

Wonder

That night that I went to bed with heart overflowing, Psalm 23 came to mind. I love Psalm 23. It is a hope and strength and comforting companion in and through the shadow of the valley of death, but even out of it. It is a psalm often recited in death beds and funerals, but it is actually a psalm for the living! For the delivered, the healed, the tried and tested, the favored, the truly blessed!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps. 23)

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Journey with Jesus,