A Wall and a Window

Growing up into an adult, I noticed a peculiar aspect of my personality: I was the kind of person who observed people, even strangers, and try to think about their lives, their homes, their work. I study their countenance, the furrows on the brows, the longing in the eyes, the faraway look, the slumped shoulders, the crinkles at the corners of the eyes when they smile, and I would try to look beyond what my eyes could see. I would look at a woman sitting on a bench, for example, and I would begin to think, “What is she feeling? Does she have a problem at home that weighs down on her heart? How are her home and family look like?” Or maybe an aging man, and these things would run through my mind, “Does he have happy grandchildren that love him to pieces? Or is he longing for the days of old, when life was far different that it is now? Is he estranged from his daughter. Does he long for her?”

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

One time, I told my older sister about this peculiarity in me and asked her if she did the same. She said no, she never did that and asked why would I do that?

One day many years ago, I stopped at a busy intersection at a plush village where the wealthy Filipino-Chinese reside. A young boy about 7 years old played on the bars of a gasoline station at the corner. His sampaguita garlands hung at the end of the bar while he played. I watched and drew up this story in my mind: he was a happy boy. Though he was poor, he had a loving mother who fed him, washed his clothes (his t-shirt was shabby but tidy), and sent him to the public school. Tears pooled at the corner of my eyes and I sniffed.

Do you observe people that way, even ones you do not know? Do you look beyond what you see on their facade?

If you do, then you might love to talk with people face to face, too. You want to listen while studying their expressions: the purple spider web veins peeking through translucent skin, how their eyes light up, or show coldness in their depths.

What delights you? People and conversations, words spoken, the resonance and cadence of voices, funny stories and the bursts of laughter punctuating them? Stories that stir up the soul and make you want to reach out to the person and squeeze their hands? To look at the tears that stream down from their eyes and make you want to whisper words, words that, if possible, were drawn from the heart of heaven itself, to soothe that sorrowing soul and stop the flow of tears?

But technology is changing all that. Do people, especially the younger generation, still observe people? Are they learning to study people and learning to empathize in the process? Do we still visit with one another and make delectable conversations without the intrusion of gadgets? 

When the husband comes home from work, does he lounge in his favorite chair, put up his tired feet on a stool and start conversation with you? You have probably been waiting for him and are eager to hear about his day, or he about your day. There are stories to be told, things to be discussed, anecdotes to be shared.

But he opens up his cellphone and launches on a date with the Internet. Or Facebook. He is (more) eager to  browse and read of other people’s stories than his and yours. You get hurt and dismayed.

A virtual wall, as high as the Berlin wall and as wide as the Great Wall of China, is built.

If communication between spouses or the parents and their teens are already strained, the wall the gadgets build could prove to be indestructible. Communication, which is vital in our relationships, would suffer greatly. If people don’t intentionally foster healthy communication within their marriages and families, there is no real growth, both in the individuals and the relationship as a whole. People would not flourish as they should but may get lonely and depressed, or worse, indifferent.

The smartphone, the iPad, or any other gadget that makes one captive, is a sturdy wall that divides us from our spouses and/or families and it is not easily broken down. No, not even with a battering ram.

Do people still talk face to face? In waiting lines and lounges, in the parking lot, in the public market, in the park. Or have we discarded that and bury only our faces in our gadgets? I have seen weird pictures where people in a public place are lost in their gadgets and no one was talking to any one.

Do we want to behold our screens more that the faces of the people in our lives?

In our home, I fight tooth and nail against the invasion of gadgets and do my best to not let the wall rise up to such extent that it’s impossible to scale it. I fight to break down the walls these gadgets are creating and sadly, there has been a lot of tears shed on my part. But I m not buckling down and giving up an inch. If my family had its way, the gadgets would not be put down. But I fight for the old ways. I want to treasure those things that gadgets cannot replace: story-telling and rings of laughter around the table after dinners, heart-to-heart talks between a parent and a child, or between the husband and the wife. No walls. No barricades. No screens.

But even though social media has been abused that we have let it divide us from people, it is also a window to the world in forging new friendships.

There is no clearer example of that than in my life. I haven’t been able to go out these many years. My world revolves around our bedroom and the adjoining patio which leads to a small garden. I have not been receiving visitors except for family members composed of my mother, siblings, and niece. (The excitement of visiting exhausts me). I haven’t relished friendships in the longest time, the way I had before I fell ill. Two of my closest friends now live in Canada. In my whole ailing life, I had considered myself friendless.

That is, until I met a new friend through Instagram. She is a watercolorist like me, except that she is strong and healthy and has a career. We are both moms, about the same age, and most of all, we both love the Lord Jesus Christ. Soon, she was sharing her professional fine watercolors to me, which she has in piles, at cost prices. We began the habit of chatting on Viber and encourage each other regarding our art. She insisted that we meet and paint together. I would have loved that, for she has a storeroom of fine watercolor paints and brushes collected from around the world 😀 . Except that, I can’t travel farther than our living room.

So, we started to paint at the same time but in our own homes using the same model as reference. This arrangement has excited us, pushed us to persevere when the painting gets tough 😀 , and challenged us to do our very best and reach our maximum potential.

Even Felix my husband is happy that I had found a friend, if only through social media.

 Social media can either be a wall or a window. Choose now how it will serve us.

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10 Ways to Find Beauty for Ashes

As true worshipers of God, we have this fervent desire to perfect our walk before Him, to be pleasing to Him in everything we do – every thought, every intent, every word, every endeavor, every work, every interaction. We want that the entirety of our life honors God, an offering and a sacrifice to Him for a sweet-smelling aroma. A life that is in itself a worship. Even David had this deep desire in him:

I will behave wisely in a perfect way…
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (Ps. 101:2)

beauty_for_ashes

It is what is at the heart of our daily prayers: to bring God joy, to delight Him with our everyday lives, not only to gain His overflowing favor, but because it is what the Holy Spirit has planted in our heart of hearts. It is the very reason we exist – our lives giving glory to God.

But doing daily life has its own challenges. It’s never really smooth sailing. Stumbling stones will suddenly appear on our paths, often at times when we least expect them. A child might have disrespected us, bringing us pain and great disappointment. Another child might be being difficult and before we know it, we had come to the end of our patience, we had shouted, or spoken harshly, and we had hurt the child’s feelings and brought him/her to tears.

Or maybe a spouse’s gross insensitivity has deeply wounded us and we just want to curl up in misery and drown in our own tears. We are utterly frustrated and we don’t even know how to begin to overcome our grief. Or maybe we desperately want it to work out so we try to talk, at first calmly explaining, even pleading with tears for an open mind and heart, for understanding and a reconciliation at the end. But maybe the spouse is really being difficult, impossible even! And before you know it, you’re fighting back word for word, hurt for hurt. Your morning prayer for a perfect heart and walk before God has been ruthlessly trampled. The atmosphere of love, joy, and peace in the home that you so greatly desire has turned into a nightmare, one that you so want to banish from your memory (especially if you’re still recovering from another similar episode) and be healed of it.

What do you do when you desire beauty in your life but ugliness comes to invade instead? When peace and praise and joy are what you want ringing in your home, but instead, strifes and harsh words and weeping echo off the walls?

The following will save the day during those plowing through stormy, turbulent seas of this thing called life:

1. Pray

Do not let the ugly encounter end there: ugly. After the angry spouse or child has stormed out and slammed the door behind them, fall on your knees. Often, you don’t know what to say, where to start. You are filled with confusion, hurt, disappointment, and all other emotions whirling inside you like a hurricane. Just call out to God and tell it as it is. He has all the time in the world to listen. Tell Him all about it. Your. need. for. His. help. Unload the heavy weight that threatens to rip your chest apart. You may be discouraged about everything but NEVER BE DISCOURAGED IN PRAYING! Don’t give up on God; He will never give up on you! Pour out your heart. Confess, repent, beg.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

2. Praise

Go up a few rungs higher. If you thought praise is only for those who feel like rejoicing, think again! With your heavy, grieving heart and unsettled mind, enter the Lord’s presence with solemn, soulful songs of praise. Sing even amid sobs, letting the tears flow freely. Let the lyrics be a prayer drawn from the depths of your soul. Sing until you feel the Savior’s embrace with His soothing words of acceptance and unfailing love. Sing until the clouds of ugliness is lifted off your heart and home. Sing until beauty blooms in every corner of your heart and spreads to every member of your family.

3. Intentionally Create a Reason for Thanksgiving

There was a long season in our life when my husband and I couldn’t seem to strike up harmony within our marriage. This was after we had reconciled (after more than two years of estrangement), had received the Lord’s salvation, and I was already very ill I had to stop working. It was apparent that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in either of us (though in varying magnitude) was a long time coming. We stood on different ends of the sensitivity scale. I am the kind of person who wants to talk heart-to-heart, to sort things out with hearts and minds wide open, and resolve them with words that bridge and heal. He was the kind who didn’t want to open up his heart and express himself, and when he’s prodded, the words came out wounding.

What I often did after having prayed and/or praised, I would cook a very special dish, set up the table and gather the kids around. I would lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for just… everything, then we would eat and celebrate despite the ugliness that had just occurred. Gathering around the table to partake of food especially cooked in love and celebrating with the Lord who makes it all possible will draw beauty into our lives and homes.

Banish the ugliness by intentionally creating beauty with God’s grace.

4. Witness

No, you don’t like to curl up in a corner and sulk and wallow in self-pity and misery. You are an overcomer, more than a conqueror. You will not speak anything that will dishonor God. You will not ambush a family member or a friend (or even your housekeeper or caregiver!) to catch all your bitter complaints. But this is what you will do: you will testify of the goodness, mercy, and faithfulness of God. You will talk about what He has done and continues to do in your life. You will highlight His works, not somebody’s faults and failings. Remembering God’s wondrous deeds and talking about them will take back the victory the devil has stolen.

5. Rest

Whether you were embroiled in a fight or you’re sick and waiting for healing, rest will do you a world of good. Rest will bring a lull to a stressful situation, a time to cool and calm down and steady your heart. Rest is a whisper to your spirit, “I care for you.” You may rest in different ways: sit and just be still, nap, read a psalm and meditate on it, have a tea for one, write on your journal (express your feelings on the pages or write a prayer), etc. However you choose to rest, it should bring you peace. It should push away ugly thoughts from your mind and bring in warmth and serenity to your soul like a flannel blanket in a stormy night. Rest refreshes the mind and body and enables you to think clearly.

6. Talk Heart-to-Heart

There should be a resolution to the conflict and a time for reconciliation. Communication is the key. Communicate, not to further play the blame game, but to build a bridge. “Communication translates the Greek word logos, which means to speak intelligently, to articulate a message…”*. You may invite the child involved into your room and talk heart-to-heart. If you’ve hurt their feelings, be humble enough to own up to your mistake and sincerely say sorry. Set a good example on how to humble down and honor others. With all love and gentleness, encourage them to open up their heart and talk.

If talking heart-to-heart is not a good idea (there are men who hate it, I think), write the involved party a letter. Your words should show no more of the accusations but a humbling down, an offering of peace and forgiveness or a plea for one.

7. Do Some Home Beautifying

Dwell not in the ugly thoughts and emotions. Do some “house-warming” to blow away those cobwebs from your mind. Arrange fresh flowers in a vase; light a scented candle; play praise music; plump up the throw pillows, change their cases; fix fresh fruits in a tray. Whatever you do to enliven your home, it should speak of your love to all those who live in it.

8. Do Some Gardening

This activity will surely cool your head and calm your heart. Cultivate the earth around the plants;  sprinkle fertilizer; deadhead, prune, trim; water the plants. Gardening will help you gather back joy into your life. Find refreshment and inspiration for your spirit while you’re out there: the cool breeze caressing your face, the sun’s rays seeping through the trees, the birds flitting from branch to branch, the sun-dappled grass, the spread of dandelions. All these God gives for your enjoyment. Whisper a “Thank You” toward heaven for His gifts.

9. Create Something

Dabble with watercolor, paint, draw, do origami. With your whole attention focused on your work to create something beautiful, you will not have time endlessly thinking and analyzing the ugly and hurtful events. You have prayed and placed everything in God’s hands. Now, stop fretting. You may do these activities with your kids. Craft together, laugh together. Create art, create fun, create love.

10. Take a Walk

Thank God for your strong two feet! Walking is a very rewarding activity but do it to draw closer to God. Use this quiet time to talk with Him, every step a praise, a remembrance of His loving-kindness.

Don’t fret about the troubles and trials that come, but let them bring us ever closer to our God.

*From A Word for the Day by J. D Watson, p. 76.

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Journey with Jesus,

The Pull of the World

In September last year when my husband arrived from a three-day prayer and fasting in our church’s fasting house in Pampanga, I asked why he didn’t go straight to work which he was wont to do in years past. In the earlier years after our salvation, whenever he came back from the fasting house, he never failed to visit the office on the same day. Except that time when he fasted for 15 days, he always came home radiant and showing perfect health and strength, like he didn’t abstain from food for three days. That last time, however, I noticed him looking emaciated and tired.

pull of the world

“I’m still feeling weak,” he answered. He just confirmed what I’d been suspecting. I told him about my observations of his fastings in previous years and the recent ones and he acknowledged that yes, it was different now. I was emboldened to tell him why it was so.

Months before he finally decided to leave for the fasting house, I was fervently praying that the Lord would speak to him and prod him to go back to his first works. And every time I did, I felt a resistance to my prayer, a struggle. The Lord was telling me that we had gone so far away from the spiritual zeal that we used to have. The gradual shift from our burning spirituality to one which was affected by secularism in recent years has somehow weakened our confidence and watered down the faith that can move mountains we used to have. I knew that and I could feel that deep within me. Because of this, I prayed the more urgently and passionately, acknowledging our faults and failings.

I put the blame on this: When we opened our doors to the Internet and social media, our focus began to shift. Ever so gradually, but it happened.

The years following our salvation, our world revolved around Church, morning and evening praise and worship, prayers, regular 3-day prayer and fasting for my husband, Bible reading (I only read the Holy Bible then, many times a day), and crusades during summer. It was rather a closed world, hedged by God’s Holy Spirit.

Then social media came to our life. In late 2010, I created my very first: Twitter. I shared encouraging tweets and verses everyday. A few months later, I created my blog, Minister of Mercy, where I wrote and shared the many amazing testimonies in our Church. Later on, I felt I wanted to write some more and share my life in the Lord and His Word to the world. So, I created Our Healing Moments and began to write in earnest. Both were gifts from heaven. My territory expanded outside the boundaries of our home. The world opened up before my eyes as the Internet broke down barriers between continents and I was introduced to the community of Christian bloggers. It was a gradual but very rewarding process. It was a time of stepping out into the world again, albeit virtually.

It was much later that I entered Facebook for the sole purpose of creating a page for my blogs and be able to share to a wider readership. There was a certain degree of apprehension on my part at first. Although I was already into blogging, I didn’t want to totally break down the walls around my private world of only God, Church, family, and a few choice neighbors. I had become used to that world, a far cry from my years of career and business. Being ill and weak, I felt safe and secure in that world.

But in the end, I had my FB account and to make the story short, I was again in the world through social media. Not long afterwards, Felix created his own FB account. Gradually (and I really observed this closely), members from our Church, from the least to the greatest, joined in. My FB community has burgeoned into proportions I didn’t quite expect. The opportunity to share my writings through my blogs has gradually increased and continues to do so. I’m really thankful for that. But somehow, we have changed, and that change is largely influenced by FB.

I now lament that instead of being soaked up with the things of God, to some degree, we are being drenched with secular things, just by lingering on that seemingly endless FB newsfeed. It is not as much as spending too much precious time there that should have been wisely spent in Bible reading and meditation, prayer and worship as it is an influencer of one’s mindset, affections, and desires.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6 ESV)

I told my husband that our immersion in social media has diluted the anointing, the density of our spirituality, and has somehow doused our fiery faith. He could only agree. In the past, he offered prayer and fasting every three months. Now, eight months had passed before the last one. The Lord warns us:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5)

At the end of our conversation, my husband and I both agreed that complete and steadfast obedience to God and His will is always the most excellent way, for us to be in His perpetual remembrance and favor. We both saw the benefit of laying up treasures in heaven and investing on future needs being met and God’s blessings in general through fervent, faithful, intentional, and unceasing prayers now.

The Lord Jesus said that we are salt and light.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Mat. 5:13)

Our saltiness will lose its potency when we adopt the ways of the world instead of being a light to it. When that happens, the Master will find no use for us. But it’s never too late to purge ourselves of the pollution of this world. Apostle Paul encourages us:

 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Tim. 2:21)

The chameleon’s color changes according to its environment. When we linger too long in the world, like the chameleon, we will adapt its color. But when we faithfully abide in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be conformed to His image as God has predestined us to be (see Rom. 8:29).

That night, I lay in bed in our already dim and quiet room as I listened to praise music. I still can’t sing, my diaphragm being weak. But when I don’t enter the presence of the Lord through worship, the more that weaknesses catch up on me.

We only realize how hungry we are of God when we are already being filled by Him through worship. We realize that all those times spent fretting and worrying would have been prevented by intentionally abiding in His glorious presence.

Something miraculous happens in praise and worship. Even when we are just listening and not able to sing, when we put our all into it, the Lord transforms us from inside out.

So I lay still and just let the Lord love on me, whisper words of comfort and courage, strengthen me, expand my heart and mind, feed my soul. Heaven drew near and the love of Jesus was a tangible thing. Tears escaped from the corner of my eye.

(Photo credit: Jose Luis Casti via Flickr).

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Journey with Jesus,

Parenting Teens

My soul is burdened with the stories of some of the children of Christian brethren who have strayed from the Lord. What is more perplexing is that, the parents of these rebellious youngsters are faithful in serving God. I’ve heard that some have yielded to drug addiction and other vices, teen pregnancy, and marrying young only to end up in separation. I’m puzzled as well as depressed that this should happen considering that these families serve the one true living God. As testimonies of former drug addicts and such echo from the pulpit, how they have been delivered from their addictions and vices that had enslaved them, stories about rebellious, backsliding teenagers are discussed privately.

I look at other girls and boys whose families have religions but don’t have personal relationships with the Lord, and yet, they have discipline. They respect and obey their parents and bring them honor.

So, what could be wrong with some of these Christian families who are laden with teenage rebellion? One mother who is also close to us has lamented that she and her husband have long given up on their straying daughter. Their daughter has had an on-and-off relationship with the Lord through the years. But lately, after her young marriage broke apart, she turned to drugs and will not leave it. Her marriage was destroyed because of her vices that she couldn’t give up. But her parents continue to serve the Lord faithfully. Such a story is truly lamentable.

Although prayer is paramount in raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we don’t stop there. As our children enter into adolescence, the more vigilant we should be in guiding them. A regular heart-to-heart talk is a must. We use the teachings of the Bible as our guide. There is a need for parents to instill in the minds of their youngsters the fear of God. For them to understand that if they fear God, they must also need to honor Him in their minds, hearts, bodies, and in the way they live. There must develop in them an appreciation of the goodness of the Lord. It is important, therefore, that the parents exemplify a life of gratitude. One of the roots of rebellion is ingratitude. 

Another mother told the story of her teenage daughter who became pregnant at a very young age. When the daughter confessed her pregnancy to her mother, the mother forewent questioning her. She did not ask her any questions. She didn’t even bother asking who the boyfriend was. I admit I was incensed when I heard it. The daughter was so young that there was a problem with the pregnancy, her ovary being not fully developed.

If parents are afraid to discipline their children and set rules and boundaries, they are actually driving them to destruction.

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Prov. 13:24)

I am not advocating for parents to hit their children. What I want to emphasise here is the strict discipline that we need to enforce. We don’t want them to turn their backs to the Lord and go astray. We don’t want them to take lightly the salvation that they have received. This is serious business for parents.

Mothers, don’t be afraid to talk to your teenage children. Prov. 31:26 says “She opens her mouth with wisdom…”. Ask God for wisdom and anointing, that your words will have power over them.

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A Friend in Jesus

Sorrow and suffering bring you to a place where you can know the deep things in life. Deeper faith, deeper understanding, deeper sensitivity. These are the gifts that come along with them. Sometimes, they drive you to a deep need to reach out and open up, or, shut up the world from your life and just settle in your shell to avoid being hurt. I have been in and out of both, but reaching out to share has always had the upper hand.

(Image from Google)

After a usual day alone with my writing interspersed with suffering, my husband finally came home in the afternoon. Often, we just have snacks together and talk about trivial things (sometimes I just prefer to clam up and not tell how hard my day has been). But this time, I had the overwhelming urge to tell him about the book I’ve started to write. I told him that he’s the only soul I’ve shared what the book is all about, then proceeded to show eagerly the first few chapters. He was nodding but distracted. Before I was finished, he stopped me (not rudely) and said, “Can we just cut it short because I want to take a nap.” I have known this forever. That he’s someone who is rarely interested with books, or reading, or writing, or analyzing (he only reads news and sometimes the Bible). Why I keep forgetting this fact in our life is entirely my fault. Although I know all this, I still get hurt and I still long to have someone to talk to about the things that interest me.

But I have to quietly accept the fact that husbands can’t be everything. Mine does sacrificial love every single day: massages my atrophied legs late at night when I can’t sleep; assists me in bathing and washing my hair; runs errands – the things I want him to check out or buy in stores, etc. etc. But he can’t be all I want him to be. That wouldn’t be fair. Husbands are not all-in-one.  That’s why there are women friends. And I’m in want of one.

I had a friend once who knew all my flaws but still didn’t think of deserting me. She was the one who would volunteer to walk with me the whole length of Mega Mall for the nth time because I finally decided to buy the blouse, or the dress, or the pair of shoes. She would do her best to keep her drooping eyes open while I talked into the night. But I made sacrifices for her, too. I would endure a migraine attack that was killing me while we ate a Thai dinner which was her favorite. She was the one who would go to such lengths just to buy me roasted chestnuts when out of season (but Chinatown had it and she intuitively knew) because it was what I was pining for while I was pregnant with Hannah. But before I gave birth, she had left for Canada, a better opportunity for her. We haven’t seen each other for 8 years now.

But though I’m hungering for a friend I can touch and laugh and cry with, I know I have one who is always there and ready to listen. He can be as close as the next heartbeat. He eases my pains; soothes my sorrows; and makes me soar in the inspiration He brings. My friend is Lord and King and He loves me forever. I’m glad I found a friend in Jesus.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

From the song What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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Pulling Down Strongholds

After morning prayer, I laid my back against the pillow and closed my eyes to rest awhile. I thought, “I don’t think I can resume today my Bible Study with the kids in the early evenings. I still don’t have enough strength to discuss and stress the lessons.” An inner voice answered me, “It’s important that you resume and that’s beginning today. Just open the Bible and the strength will be supplied.” I still didn’t know. And I didn’t have any clue what lay ahead of the rest of the day.

At sundown, I heard scuffling and screaming from upstairs. I knew the kids were in disagreement and were fighting again. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t run, couldn’t climb up the stairs, although in these instances, I always want so much to be able to do all those things. I sent  a maid to tell them to come down. There would be explanations, and in the end, always a showing of humility from both sides (with my urging and insistence), apologies, and reconciliation. The little one came without hesitation, face sullen.

I had to ask a maid twice to fetch the older. I was beginning to feel irked and frustrated. The older, she’s developing an independent disposition that is not always honoring as she’s entering puberty. Sadly, there had been many instances of her showing a rebellious heart which had caused me grief and drove me to more gruelling prayers. There are not so many things that puzzle me about life, but motherhood remains to be one of them. And I’m feeling it’s getting harder as my daughter and I are entering into her adolescence.

She came and I tackled first the problem at hand: Why couldn’t she come down at once? Why always the resistance? The exchange became more difficult and frustrating when I learned that the things she needed to do and had been daily reminded of for days remained unaccomplished. But that same afternoon, before the uproar, when she came to me for something she needed at the bookstore, I listened at once and did what she requested, as always.

There is no willing obedience without having learned honor first. As a mother, I do my best to model humility and honor. I sincerely ask for forgiveness from my children when I am wrong and have hurt their feelings. I tell them that I listen to their needs and act on them because I honor and care for them. We teach them to honor us, their parents, and one another, and in so doing, they are honoring God in their lives.

At dinnertime, when the daddy arrived from mid-week service, I hoped to unite the family around the table and, yes, resume our evening devotion reading the Bible. No, she wouldn’t come and didn’t want to eat. How much longer and more painful this “rebellion” would be! Rebellion dishonors the rest of the family and, ultimately, God. Rebellion must be rooted out. 

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

More furor. How can you turn ugly into beauty? I wept, I begged, I expressed my love. This love of a mother, I realized, is as durable as a diamond though the heart is many times broken. More efforts, yes. Parenting is like Jacob wrestling with God until you have obtained victory. My ailing and weak body was begging for rest, but when all had quieted and settled down, we found ourselves around our table, the daddy opening our NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible to chapter 2 which is Genesis 3, after his opening prayer. We listened to him reading how Adam and Eve challenged God by rebelling and disobeying Him. And how they lacked humility by not acknowledging and repenting of their sin, but instead, blamed another.

What Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden could still be occurring in our homes over and over:

Rebellion

Disobedience

Lack of humility (repentance)

Dishonor

With hearts pried open by aches, love, and the words of the Lord, these lessons were talked about, instilled, and hopefully digested to the inmost being. I saw bowed heads, faint nods. I saw a cold heart thawing. We prayed in closing. Around our dinner table, I saw the beauty of the Lord once again shining.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Cor. 10:4-6)

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

3rd Blogging Anniversary {and a Giveaway}

From the same patch of earth where the grain of wheat fell and was buried, a new life sprouts, a seedling with tiny green leaves entirely different from its buried sire. From the same dark cave where the Lord was buried broke forth a new life, a resurrected life, and the hope of mankind has been shining ever since. From the same year of near-dying sprang a new purpose. Just when you think death is finally at the doors, God wreaks a mighty work and renews life. How can this be?

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Is. 61:3)

I’m celebrating three years of blogging and my heart overflows with thanksgiving to the Lord. On New Year’s Eve of 2009, another bout of my illness attacked again and it was much darker and harder than the previous years. The “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” continued excruciatingly for months through summer of 2010 and spilled over to the rainy season. But on 29th of September, after I was accidentally introduced to blogging through a post on Twitter by Ms. Twila Paris, I published my very first post, a testimony of a brother in Christ who was healed of bone cancer. My very first blog, Minister of Mercywas born. From the same place of near-dying erupted a new life, a writing life.

After about a month, I published my first post on my second blog, Our Healing Moments.

I’ve said before that I loved writing, but in my three years of blogging about the Lord’s testimonies, my faith journey, and the lessons learned in my trials and in His Word, I cannot count the times that I had been disappointed and discouraged to continue writing. Different reasons caused these waves of discouragement. But I’m in awe that I’m still here, doing what the Lord has called me to do.

I’m ashamed to say this, but I used to be disappointed and greatly discouraged by low site stats: zero or few comments, few blog subscriptions, visits, views, or “likes” on Facebook. But one day, I determined within myself that this must stop. From then on, I set myself to pursuing the Lord with all I am and not on how to up my site stats. I began to focus only on Him and to whisper through the day: Draw me near to You, Lord Jesus. Keep my love ablaze. Be glorified in my life. 

I just want to have these reasons why I write: I love to write and I do it for the Lord because I adore Him. I want to live my life giving glory to Him. When I weave a life around my Savior and the wealth of love, mercy, and grace He has for me – I burst with inspiration! And if from this place I do write, the supply of anointing and wisdom from above flows interminably.

Now, it doesn’t matter if I’m writing for one or one thousand. What matters is, I enjoy what I do and I learn better when I put down to writing my wrestlings. It’s like engraving on marble the lessons being learned, leaving indelible marks. And when I’ve touched even just one single soul and etched the words that heal on his or her heart, then I would have fulfilled my purpose.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for visiting, reading, subscribing, commenting, liking, and connecting with me. It means a lot to me.

By the way, a little fact about me: English is my second language. But I do love the English language; the grammar challenges me; the vocabulary fascinates me. My three years of blogging only succeeded to intensify these.

3rd Blogging Anniversary Giveaway

To enter:

1. Leave your comment below.

2. Giveaway closes on Saturday, 6:00PM, and winner will be announced on next Monday’s post.

3. Giveaway is for Philippines only (I apologize to my readers outside the country). OFWs can join. If you win, the giveaway will be shipped to your Philippine address.

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

A Quiet Place

The Spirit whispers, telling me to withdraw from the “crowd” and the busyness of daily “Internet” life. For we can easily get so engrossed with this sharing thing, thinking that the more we “socialize”, the more we can spread the Word of God and His testimonies. But we can also overdo it. No, not the sharing part, but the socializing part. So much so that we can neglect the weightier matters: reading and meditating on the Word, listening to God in the silence, or just giving our spirits space to breathe freely.

(image source)

After the busyness of last week (not so much with crowd gathering in our place because that doesn’t happen, but the “marathon-like” associating through FB), my soul is longing to escape to a deserted place where there are only trees, tall grass swaying with the gentle breeze, and the warbling of the birds as they call to each other. How refreshing would that be! But though I cannot go farther than our own garden (the discomforts from my illness hinder me to travel), that doesn’t stop me to seek solitude and be with my God in the quietness of my soul and surroundings.

And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. (Matt. 14:23)

The Spirit of Christ which is also in and with His very own (Rom. 8:9) is the same Spirit who draws us away from our own “multitudes” to resort to our own “deserted mountain” by ourselves to pray, ponder on God’s Word, and listen to His whisperings. Maybe we can escape to a quiet corner in the garden, beside a lake or a river, the beach, or in a deserted park where there is much grass and plenty of trees. The essence of the Spirit’s calling is to withdraw from the world and draw near to God. We can only find quiet and rest and more of God when we withdraw from the “multitudes”.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31, NIV)

The Lord Jesus has set for us an example. But sometimes, although our souls hear Him bidding us, we choose to do more of our plans and to-do lists or more mingling with the multitudes, and neglect to fill ourselves with God. It will not come as a surprise then when we feel like God is far. It’s because we’ve neglected to draw near to Him. The more we soak our hearts and minds with the things of this world (a cornucopia of plans and wants, insidious worries, or even selfish motives in the things we do or serve God that we don’t realize until we are in that quiet place), the more we draw farther away from His presence.

But it is in the silence, when our bodies, hearts, and minds are still and yielded to God like empty vessels waiting to be filled, that His voice seems louder and we hear Him clearer. 

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… (James 4:8)

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

Asleep in the Storm

We all know the story. The Lord Jesus was in a boat with His disciples. This was the only time He could take a few moments of rest after teaching the multitude all day. So, He went to the stern and napped on a pillow. But a windstorm arose and gigantic waves beat into the boat so much that it was already filling and the disciples were scared. But the Lord was unaware of the storm around Him. He was peacefully sleeping.

(image from Google)

How could He do that? I mean, not that I’m thinking how He could not care, but how He could sleep in peace when storm is raging around Him? Every time I read this passage, this thought passes in my subconscious, “Only He can do that for He is God in the flesh.” I wouldn’t even consider the thought that I could be in a boat buffeted by winds and waves and not panic let alone take a peaceful nap!

But last week, the Lord showed me that I can actually do that in spite of the storm and torrential rains. I can do it, not because I’m naturally fearless, but because He makes it possible for me.

Sunday night, we went to sleep with winds and rains already beating on the roof and trees. I woke up while it was still dark to a rumbling noise that sounded like a giant was playing bowling on the roof.

“What is that?” I asked my husband sleepily.

“It’s thunder,” he answered.

Before I went back to sleep, I prayed silently.

I was awakened again in the early morning with all the flurry of storm, monsoon rains, and our household stirring up. But I didn’t want to get up yet. I needed to sleep some more since I slept very late (I’m a late sleeper). But I was dubious as to how I could do that, thinking of the threat of flooding brought by the pounding rain. But my weak body needed the rest, so, I prayed silently again. I prayed for protection, for the rains to let up, for floods not occurring and the water not rising up any further.

I prayed, meaning every word I said, trusting that every single one had been heard by the living God and He will take action. I prayed (being one in prayer with our Church at that time) like my prayers were not in vain but would produce the outcome that I prayed for. Then, peacefully, I fell asleep again.

I would be awakened a few more times by the torrents of rain, and I would utter my prayers silently as before, begging God to stop the torrent, and I wouldn’t end my prayer until I heard the rains letting up.

Prayers should bring peace and not panic. Peace in the knowledge that God has heard and He will now act on it. Prayers bring rest as we wait in trust and anticipation that answers will come in our favor. It is this:

And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. (Mat. 21:22)

I finally woke up before noon, rested and relatively at peace.

I believe this kind of peace amid the storm comes from an intimate relationship with God deepened by trials and trust through all the seasons. It is the kind of relationship that thrives in being saturated in the Word and living in and for it. The kind that is made rich by constant running to the feet of Jesus, praying, talking, and lingering there.

It is a relationship with God that is forged by a mind and a heart that are soaked in His Word much more than in the distractions of the world, and a spirit that constantly craves for Him in worship.

 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Is. 26:3)

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

More Than My Hands Can Handle

My beloved husband had just left for the overnight worship service and I was already running late for my viewing of the live webcast of it, so I asked my daughter Hannah to bring the vaio and all its attachments (speaker, charger, mouse, HDMI cable). Then I leaned on my propped-up pillows because I felt weak and quite exhausted (I have been feeling these and other difficulties the past week).

One of the maids was in and out of the room fixing for the night and Tim also was there drawing, so I didn’t notice when Hannah dumped the vaio on a corner table far from me and hurriedly left. When I saw it I asked one of the maids where she was (I was hoping she went to get the speaker but I doubted it; I knew how negligent she was). I called for her three times. I waited patiently. I wasn’t feeling well and already an hour late for the live webcast.

When she finally came into the room, I asked her calmly and quietly, “Hannah, is this the way you serve? You just dump everything on a corner table which I can’t even reach?” There was sadness and resignation in my voice. Maybe even before she came into the room she already had that sullen look, but at my words, I noticed it. Instead of saying sorry, she displayed a silent resentment as she went about fixing the attachments of the vaio. My heart sank.

Just a few days before, she came to me requesting for a new sporty shirt and matching skirt as costume for their batch dinner in school. Right away, I arranged for someone to buy them in Mega Mall.

I felt so deeply hurt and disappointed to see that she was becoming disrespectful and ungrateful. And lacking in love. Her Dad and I have been observing her behavior for a long time now. We often remind her and teach her. We read and study the Bible. I pray with her. We meet and discuss about loving and caring for and respecting others. I urge (no, plead) her and Tim to fervently love and be kind to one another. With love and tears, prayers and persistence, I teach them.

After I rebuked her now for her attitude, she walked out of the room, but I called her again. Even though my breath was coming in gasps and my left chest was tightening, I wanted to fix this. I needed to. I was —- desperate.

I cried uncontrollably because I was sick and felt weak and inadequate.

I cried because I wanted to spend all my days and weeks and months and years (as the Lord would have mercy upon me) only loving and being gentle and kind. I cried because I never wanted to blow it all up.

I cried because I didn’t want to displease the Lord but to be always pleasing in His sight to obtain His favor.

I cried because I was losing my Hannah to bad attitudes, to typical teenage problems perhaps (I don’t know, I don’t have a clue!), to peer pressure and influence outside of our family and Church…

I cried because I didn’t want to lose our closeness, our good friendship. I cried because I always wished I would always be her best friend, my company she would always seek. I cried because she was changing and slowly going farther away.

I cried because I didn’t want her to be hardly reachable. I cried because I long for her.

After I was left alone in the room and had recovered from my difficulties, I sat up. And prayed. I prayed for myself, for strength in all aspects, for wisdom, and for love that can cover all.

And I prayed for my daughter, laying her down at the Savior’s feet. I prayed and asked for help until there was no more tears left. Then His peace that passes all understanding enveloped me. The Lord made me know that I needed not shoulder all the burdens of motherhood. My hands are not enough to handle them. He gave me the ministry of motherhood, not to carry it out on my own strength and wisdom, but always with His strength and wisdom and constant help. It is a partnership with Him.

So I will stand by my daughter (even though sometimes she makes me feel like she doesn’t want me there, hovering over her) as my Lord stands by me. By the abundant grace of God, I will be a very present exemplary figure in her life (and my son’s) as my Lord is my very present help and guide. There is no quitting this.

 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (Psalm 127:3).

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,