Poor in Spirit

For days I put my heart under scrutiny, an in-depth heart examination as I tried to search for the reason of my sadness. For even though I determined to go back to the first and great commandment and try to forget the more than 13 years that I had not received my healing, and start afresh, I could’t feel the spark. I went through my days going through the motions, the very thing I’d said I wanted to avoid. I couldn’t get myself to fully rejoice in the Lord, although I continued to do the things of God diligently as before – praying, Bible reading and journaling, praising (if I could), writing on my prayer journal, and painting flowers with a verse written in metallic gold paint – all to bring honor to Him. Still, my spirit groped.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

I asked myself: What am I harboring in my heart?

Is it a silent rebellion that has its roots in resentful feelings?

Is it a silent, insidious sulk that is hardly remediable except the Lord do something about it?

Is it a combination of weariness and sorrow that cannot be soothed?

Is it bitterness that is hard to scour and dislodge?

Or, a defiant cynicism that is the beginning of my undoing?

I knew that it couldn’t be only all those things without it having any redeemable qualities. I discerned that my soul was longing for something more, besides my healing, something that is beyond my heart’s known desires (some of these desires, when put under the Savior’s penetrating light, are really not necessary in kingdom work). I guess I’m longing to see and live differently, far from the reach of the world’s standards.

I confess I’m weary of the world and the things it does to my heart and mind. It influences me in such a way that my mindset and affections are partly shaped by it. I’m getting weary envying and coveting and being plunged into the abyss of dismay and discouragement. Or numbness. That is, envying and coveting NOT other people’s goods, but other people’s lives – their health and strength, the places they go, things they are able to do and enjoy.

But please don’t get me wrong. I do not wish to see Las Vegas or Hollywood or other plush places most people wish to see. I wouldn’t long so deeply just for those, no. No, no, no. I just want to get well and get out and get away for a while. I want to be healed and be used by the Lord according to His purposes and plans. I want to live and experience the thrill of that kind of life. So alive and meaningful!

But as I wait and be ill still and suffer, I remain vulnerable to these unprofitable emotions which I hate to mention again.

And so, I arrived at a conclusion: I have not gone cold and backsliding, I am just poor in spirit. For years I have been poor in spirit, even as I learned to live and walk in full faith, pray as a child of God should, read the Bible diligently, praise and worship, and write about God’s story. Because of my longtime sickness and suffering that always threatens to steal my life, my future and joy, I have always been at the complete mercy of God – poor, needy, dependent, hungry, thirsty, desperate. And even as I am weak enough as to let the world subject me into a whirl of emotions that doesn’t help or add to my stature, I am the more poor in spirit.

I am the more in need of help. God’s help. In need of wholeness, wholeness that only the Lord Jesus can give.

I saw my true poverty for even as my illnesses oppress me, so I have let the world oppress me also by desiring to have a piece and taste of it, even for that harmless part of it: travels and vacations, dates with the husband, playdates with the kids, and more. Those are not sinful desires, I know. They are just normal desires that a wife and mother cherishes. But I have let their absence in my life and my deep longing for them steal my joy and my zeal for my Lord nonetheless.

The good part is, I have come to know how poor I am and how I need my Savior even more so.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:18)

Refined gold. Our true wealth is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

White garments. He will clothe us with wholeness.

Anointing. That we may see.

I want to be truly rich, whole, and seeing, so there is a need for a change of heart and mind.

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord… (part of 2 Cor. 8:17). And so I have made some practical changes that I knew would greatly help. One of those is to not live in and through Facebook. Most of my heartaches have come from that bittersweet place. Sadly, there are things I see there that make the heart heavy, doubt, and even grow cold and can make one stumble in his/her faith walk. But I need it also to share my blogposts or my art to those who want to have a piece of it. So, I only go there now when it’s really necessary.

The good things, really good things, are the ones you rarely see on your FB newsfeed: praying and fasting believers, workers visiting the sick and bringing the Gospel of salvation to places others would not dare to go. Of the saints of God weeping in worship, in poverty, in hardship. People of God who are poor in spirit: dependent on and hungry for God everyday of their lives.

No, you won’t see them on FB, but it would be a great blessing to be serving alongside them.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:3)

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Going Back to the Mount {Sermon on the Mount}

Today, as I begin my weeklong partial fast, I go back to the mount to pick up nuggets of blessings. For they’re just scattered about there, exactly where the Lord Jesus left them. Walking in the plains where temptations abound (Internet, TV, and other worldly pleasures) can spoil us and draw us away from the light of Christ. Engaging our hearts and minds too long in them, sometimes without even realizing it, can numb our senses until the line between holiness and compromise becomes so blurred we can’t see the difference.

But what does the Lord say?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.  (Mat. 5:6, 8)

Walking in the Spirit brings a world of difference. We don’t always think about Him or are even conscious of His presence, but He’s ever faithful to make His presence felt, especially when we’re veering away from the narrow road. The still, small voice of God whispers and tells us to follow where the Spirit leads us. More than a week ago, I rose up from my nap desiring to go back to the mount and let the words of the Lord be steeped in me, cleansing me.

For you see, even our innocent (or often times, aimless) browsing on the Internet can sully our otherwise pure hearts and minds. Without warning, we can stumble upon a cuss, a dirty word, or a video our eyes are not supposed to see. How many times have I been victimized by the enemy just because I didn’t tread carefully! Before, there were the comments in news articles – oh, they’re just full of dirty words and ugly complaints that I ceased to read them altogether (I don’t go to the comments section of any news articles anymore). Then there were the videos that suddenly popped up on my FB newsfeed (I’ve long learned to block such and I’m not one who just opens a video shared on FB). Even a book that one might think is a good enough read will later turn out to be nothing but the enemy’s snare.

Again, what does the Lord say?

 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Mat. 5:29-30)

But we can’t gouge out our eyes or cut off our hands just to evade sin, can we? But we can turn our heads the other direction, close our eyes, shut down the page, turn off the video or TV (or don’t open it at all!), throw away the book or delete it completely. And the best thing of all, walk away from anything that can ensnare us or defile us. This is the thing:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thess. 5:22)

ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL. This is not an easy task. Sometimes our good judgments are clouded, or we love to compromise, or we simply can’t know what’s detrimental to our salvation. But soaking up the Word everyday and spending time in the presence of the Lord in praise and worship and prayer will protect us from the evil one.

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18, emphasis mine)

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Comfort in the Beatitudes

I saw something (again!) that stirred up a slew of emotions inside of me. That kind of sadness which makes you want to curl up on your side, hug your knees, and maybe cry a little? Then silent doubts and painful questions flood your mind? Why has the Lord seemed to have forgotten to punish the wicked and to reward the faithful and righteous? Why do other people continue to flourish in innumerable blessings day after day, month after month, year after year, and yet, you only have mostly trials, suffering, and languishing? You are puzzled and confused, and your heart is filled with sorrow and heaviness.

I thought of the many, many essays about God’s Word and faith that I had written and shared. Oh, I had been through a lot of Scriptures study and life lessons that had taught me through the toughest times. But this one a few nights ago, I couldn’t think of anything, from Genesis to Revelation, that could soothe my soul-sadness. Or maybe I just wanted to dwell on it longer, feel it coursing through me and when it’s done, it will leave me spiritually stronger yet again.

My husband was sound asleep beside me (it was late). But I wanted to talk, so I tapped him gently and said, “I have something to tell you.” He stirred, but continued to sleep. I thought, “I won’t disturb him anymore. I’ll keep quiet. There’s strength in silence. When my breathing normalizes, I will have a goodnight’s sleep.” So, I closed my eyes and grasped peace in the silence. Then the Lord began to talk to me.

“Go back to the Sermon on the Mount. Read it again. And again. You’ll find answers to your questions there. You’ll find comfort there. Those are My own words and those teachings are what matter to Me, to My heart. You tend to look at the world and what it does, and some part of you wants to follow that. You still place your affections there though you say you want to follow Me. But the world’s standards are never My standards. Know Me again and My heart by going back to the Sermon on the Mount.”

I know the Sermon on the Mount. I even bought a commentary of it. And as I lay there in the dark, I thought of the verses. Oh, what a relief! What comfort! The life the Lord Jesus wants me to follow is entirely different from what I see in the world. But though I know that following Him means turning my back to the world, I forget. When I see something of the world, something other people are enjoying, I forget. Deep inside, I want to have a portion of what they are having. And that’s where the pain and sorrow come in, effects of unassuaged hunger.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:3-10)

We always tend to think and believe that the people of the world who seem to have it all – they call it “the good life” – are the ones who are tremendously blessed. Yes, even they themselves believe that. But the Lord Jesus Christ stacks an entirely different interpretation of being BLESSED. And what He says blessed is truly blessed!

The poor in spirit, those who mourn [sorrow, grieve, suffer], the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted — these are the ones that are truly blessed! For great is their reward in heaven!

21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven… (Luke 6:21-23)

 And what of those whom we envy in the world?

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)

Woe to them for they have their fill. They are full in this life and may not want another. They do not want to leave this world for they hunger not for that other life. They have taken deep roots in this world. But what is a few decades here compared to eternity?

By the time my husband turned towards me and pulled me in his arms, the sadness had been lifted off.

(Photo courtesy of my good friend Jules Anne Patman of Sydney, Australia, and edited at picmonkey.com).

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