The Blessing of Ordinary Days

On a Sunday evening, I open my prayer journal in a sudden need of connecting amid the heaviness of my heart. All day long, suffering has been unrelenting, making me feel battered and spent. And at the end of the day when dusk settles in, darkness seems to settle in my soul as well. So I write. I write of the gloom and hopelessness that threaten to invade my heart and soul, that make one not to know what to do or how to go on. Or how to keep on living in the light. I end my prayer with:

Please help me. Only You can do something for me.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Sometimes, that is all that we can do. Cry for help.

I close my journal with a heavy sigh and turn towards my husband. I tell him about the state of my heart. The fear of losing hope, of losing joy, of losing the light in my eyes and soul and dwelling in darkness. Tears fall. Tim comes near, he hugs and kisses me. He wants to let me know I am loved and cherished and precious. Felix makes light of the situation but Tim rebukes him, “Dad! Don’t make a joke. This is nothing funny!”

The wisdom of a 10-year old boy!

Of course this is nothing funny. But father and son then team up to strengthen the mother. And this mother re-enters the light. I smile through my tears.

The following morning, Felix leaves for the airport. Cosmetics convention in Bangkok, Thailand. I would have loved him to be with us, it’s the kids’ term break anyway. But work.

I am a worrier. I hate that I am but I can’t help it. I have also other afflictions like nervousness and anxiety and panic attacks. These I acquired with my illness. But I fight them all with tons of prayers. I have prayed weeks before Felix would leave for Bangkok. And on the Monday that he leaves, I submerge myself in prayer. The demons of worry and panic attacks cannot get near.

The blessing of ordinary days (ordinary in that they are not days wrought with wonder or leisure or excitement) is to keep still and trust and rest in the Lord.

It is vacation and most people we know are away having a grand time. But the kids and I are holed up at home, barely exchanging a few words.

Melanie, a sister in Christ whose daughter we send to school, comes to assist us and cook our meals. She brings her 6-year old son. He and Tim play. Tim teaches him simple English words. He gives him his old toy.

The blessing of ordinary days is to see God’s care and love through other people.

In the afternoon, we cook pasta and prepare vegetable salad, then I invite the kids around our small mobile table stationed in our bedroom extension. While we divide portions, scoop sauce, and drizzle parmesan, I tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and His life of modesty and simplicity. Of how He wants us to learn of Him for He is meek and lowly. This in the atmosphere of our not being able to get away and have a marvellous vacation somewhere.

I tell them that maybe the Lord is teaching us (them, especially) to have humble and grateful hearts. I then ask each one what they know of this: to be humble and grateful. I let them see what we do have and be grateful for every one of them.

The blessing of ordinary days is to remember the Lord’s teachings and learn of Him, of tucking Him and His Word into our hearts so that we continue to grow and be fruitful.

The next day (after recovering from a nasty attack of my illness), I watch this short Christian film. It’s a story about a shepherd boy who is partially crippled. He lives alone with his mother. Though his right shoulder and leg hurt constantly, he needs to go to the hills to pasture the sheep that they don’t even own. One night, he encounters the Lord Jesus Himself but he doesn’t know it’s Him. It’s supposed to be “Christmas”, the night the Savior was born 30 years before. They are in the same hill country where the angel announced glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds working the cold night shift. The boy’s father was one of those shepherds.

They start to talk. The boy shares his water and dinner of bread wrapped in cloth, but not the special cake his mother baked for him. Later on when he realizes that the “stranger” is good and kind, he shares the cake also and apologizes for withholding it at first. The Lord touches the boy’s shoulder, takes his crutch (which the boy willingly gives), and walks into the night. Needless to say, the boy is made whole that same hour. He runs home to his mother.

All this time, tears fall down my cheeks. I am awash with fresh downpour of love.

Sometimes, the heart responds and learns more through love than through sermon. Stories of love based on truth. Stories of God’s amazing love to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. 

Herein is love. 

The blessing of ordinary days is to know and receive that love without doubt and questioning. And to love the Lord back just as purely. To love Him even in the hard, in the painful, in the excruciating, without any traces of selfishness or cold-heartedness or silent rage. To look Him in the eye and there’s only tender love and awe and adoration in us.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be able to receive epiphanies, to be able to hear God’s voice and be transformed by it. 

On a Wednesday evening, Felix texts me. Their plane has safely landed in NAIA. I feel so happy and light I could soar! I shout and shout my thanksgiving towards heaven although I’m sure no voice comes out from my lips. I kiss my Bible thinking I’m kissing my Lord and Savior.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be lifted up in this shared love.

Thursday late afternoon, we gather around our dining table. The kids set the table, more sparkling than usual. The side table carries food we ordered especially for this occasion: black seafood paella, lasagna drowning in thick layers of luscious cheese, and red-orange juice.

Before we lift up forks, we lift up our hands and thanksgiving to God. We don’t need special occasion to order food, set the table, and gather around it. When we celebrate God, we can do it any day. Even in ordinary days.

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The Joy of God’s Calling

My husband showed me videos from his Facebook newsfeed of beloved workers in church who wrangle the rough-flowing rivers with their motorcycles going to a people on the mountains to preach the Gospel. These volunteers are not full-time workers but fathers who also hold day jobs: ambulance driver, security guard, fireman, etc. During their off days and weekends, they gather like a small army with their motorcycles and Bibles after which they will then make their long and arduous trek to the mountains of Sta. Inez to hold a Bible Study amongst the communities there.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that's been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that’s been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

To be able to reach the place, they would have to cross seven rivers. When they have reached the top, they are rewarded with the cool mountain breeze, an invigorating welcome after their gruelling journey. Clouds hang low and wrap themselves around the mountain peaks, the mist hover in front of them and seem to whisper its approval and blow a kiss. As if that wasn’t reward enough, the anticipation of families – men, women, child, and the elderly – lining up in the gathering place, beaming with joy and thanksgiving, eager for the banquet that awaits them, a feast on the Word of God.

The joy of God’s calling! It lifts off the burden of life’s travails; it wipes away other desires that may serve oneself and not the living God. It is the antidote to all self-serving dreams and appetites. To find one’s way on this path is the beginning of the fulfilment of one’s purpose on earth. To be able to yield and place oneself snugly into God’s divine purpose without any trace of fear (and even if there is fear, to face it with courage and boldness that only comes from God), uncertainty, and resistance is to find one’s happy and satisfying place, which no other place could offer, like a key finding the lock made for it.

Many Christians (me included) struggle to live a fully satisfying, fulfilling life, looking here and there, to the left and to the right, for that life where you don’t get to envy or covet others’ lives. When we haven’t fully embraced God’s calling and purpose for us, we tend to look at how others live their lives and we then  compare. In fact, it is this practice of comparing that makes us to not fully see and grasp God’s plan for us. We dream dreams and desire things, mostly influenced by what we see around us and in the world at large. We set out and chase them purposefully. But we continue looking and comparing and coveting, never coming to that place of deep satisfaction and gratitude.

Until we seek and find and embrace God’s plan for our lives, we will continue to grope. We will continue to struggle to live a fruitful life, one that shines and reflects the glory and beauty of God.

I myself have been in and out of those kinds of struggles. But after my husband showed me the videos of the brothers fording the rivers of Sta. Inez, I found the answer to my wandering, groping heart and mind.

The Apostle Paul had found it and lived it until the day he died. And many Christians after him lived it, too, desiring a better, that is, a heavenly country, waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

And what is this life?

It is to live is Christ.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

This is all we need to know to be able to settle in life and live everyday.

To live is Christ.

To live following the life the Lord Jesus Christ lived. To walk as He walked. To think as He thought (“We have the mind of Christ”). To minister as He ministered. To love as He loved. To obey the Father as He obeyed. To live according to the Father’s plan and purpose for us as He lived His life according to God’s plan and purpose for Him.

To be meek and lowly. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mat. 11:29). The meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1). Thesaurus lists down synonyms of meek and lowly and I picked a few:

submissive, serene, gentle, unassuming, forbearing, humble, long-suffering, modest, patient, peaceful, unpretentious, yielding

To live with power and authority as a child of God. That is, power over all the power of the enemy.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

To live single-mindedly, doing the work of God.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)

This is not an impossible task, for the Lord promised power and victory in faith.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

Our hearts and minds are divided because we straddle the kingdom of God and the world, one foot on each, and in the deed, we feel discontented, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

…the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)

Though we bear fruit here and there, it’s not abundant. In fact, more often than not, there is a lack. Or worse, a barrenness.

“To live is Christ” doesn’t mean it’s all a blissful life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s living contrary to the world’s teachings and practices. It’s a narrow road. There are trials and tribulations. But it would be a fruitful life. Fruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when we live under the roof of all these, the reign of the Holy Spirit, there is no more lack, nor envy, nor coveting. Only a fulfilling life, knowing that we are at the very heart of God’s will and purpose for us.

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A Life of Gratefulness

The day I felt so ill that I forced myself to vomit to be able to breathe and relieve me of dizziness, gratefulness triumphed once again. The episode was scary just like the others, but this one made me panic more. And even though by dinnertime, the worst had passed, still, I was so weak to join the family for dinner at our new-to-us dining table (which has become our favorite spot for gathering and celebrating everyday life). When dinner was over, I stirred in bed, got up and requested Felix to buy ice cream and gathered the family again for dessert.

gratefulness

Every opportunity I get, I want to make the moments special and meaningful. While we licked three flavors of ice cream in sugar cones, I told the family we were going to take turns in sharing what we were thankful to the Lord for that day. We made three rounds, three things each of what we wanted to thank the Lord Jesus for, before I declared we were done. In all of my three things, I felt His powerful presence. He was so near I could feel Him touching me I had goosebumps.

I have long learned that gratefulness does that: it draws us so very near to God and draws Him near to us. To thank the Lord from the bottom of our heart is to honor Him. And when he is honored in our lives, when He is exalted, He draws near, makes His presence felt, and He lingers. We feel we are so very loved and cherished.

There are times that I experience surges of love and gratitude towards Him that I want to squeeze Him really tight in a hug, like a child hugging her daddy in pure delight. One good thing that sickness and suffering has brought to my life is that the starting point of my gratitude has gone very low. Meaning, the trigger for happiness and gratitude is shallow. I don’t take things for granted. I can easily see the difference between suffering and relief (deliverance). And in that relief, in the healing moments, in the respites, my heart swells in gratitude. I am easily gladdened even by the smallest things that I am able to do. I take joy in them. Most people go places, celebrate with friends, pursue hobbies, do meaningful activities, etc. I can’t do most of those, I can’t go out, but with the little things that I can do – I am ever so grateful to the Lord.

The starting point of my gratefulness is low and the heights it reaches are extraordinarily high. Even that I consider a wonderful blessing. Only by His grace.

I have learned to fight discouragements, disappointments, and even hopelessness, by choosing to hold gratitude near my heart and be active and intentional in my thanksgiving.

When we are truly grateful to the Lord, without resentments and grudges and unending complaints – life certainly becomes brighter and lighter. Joy easily finds its way to our hearts and we are lifted up.

But even as I say these things, the harshness of life could still squeeze itself into one’s peace. It still wants its presence known and felt. Indeed, sometimes life could be like an arid, hostile wilderness. Sometimes the journey could feel so arduous, long, and almost unbearable. Especially in sickness and suffering with sorrow. It cannot be that sorrow is absent.

I remember the months when suffering made me turn to Job to find solace and strength. When in intense, constant suffering, God seemed to be nowhere, like He was covered in a thick fog. It felt like you were groping in the dark, confused, afraid, unsure. Job’s laments resonated with me:

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there;
and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him:
he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: (Job 23:8-9)

Life isn’t fair sometimes and it feels like it’s all an uphill climb. These lyrics of Sandi Patty’s song, sounding like it was taken from Job’s words themselves, exactly express that. This song captured my soul for a time and I clung to it.

I feel You to the left and right

So close and yet just out of sight

I search where promises are kept.

I know You’re real

And somehow still

You’re watching over me

And You will always be until heaven

Brings me home to You

I’ll remember You will always be here

In my heart.

I ache inside but journey on

What is this desperate dream I chase

The distance cruel but yearning grows…

Yes, the journey seems like it sometimes – cruel and winding. But we’ve been placed here. For a reason. Job added,

But he knoweth the way that I take:
when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

And ended with —

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15)

I had echoed Job’s words and by doing so, I had been strengthened and my faith fortified.

We are here, we are walking this journey. It is hard most of the time, but the Lord Jesus Christ promised to be with us always, even to the end. And He gives us glimpses of His glory when we have learned how to look.

For days Tim was busy preparing for a project (he always has these DIYs). I heard snippets of the things he was looking for and collecting while he breezed in and out of my room. I wasn’t really paying attention (because that’s what adults usually do, I guess). But on the day that he had set up his project, a bird-trapping contraption, I accidentally opened the CCTV monitor. A voice whispered to me to look and consider.

So, I watched Tim as he checked out if birds had been eating his bait and I actually smiled. The rope went all the way from our garage to beyond the garden. “So I could not be seen while I watch them,” he said. I gathered up all the blessings this scene brought:

I have a healthy, active son.

He plays exuberantly as all other children of his age do.

He believes in wonders.

He is inventive.

He is a joy to me.

That day, I sensed the Lord Jesus’ delight and once again, I was awash with gratitude and joy.

We need not travel beyond the seas to see the wonders of God. He brings beauty and wonder right where we are. We only have to lower down the standard of what brings us joy and triggers our gratitude.

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The Inward Life

I pull my blankets to my neck to settle in bed after a tiring day (well, my days are always taxing on my body whether I work or rest, because of my illness). It is during these moments of quiet, when the kids have gone to bed and Felix is in the other room praising, that my mind is wont to reflect on the day’s events, not so much on the activities, but more on how I have handled every situation and how I have spent every moment.

Have I been a light to my family? Have I set a good example to an erring child? Have I ministered grace with my words? Have I been patient, gentle, kind? Have I meditated enough on the Lord through the hours? Have I shown fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit? And then there is the inevitable recalling of the day’s blunders and failures. Sometimes it seems that the days are just full of them and I have this practice of taking all the burden and the blame. And feeling guilty when I had enjoyed minding material things, like home decor (planning, browsing, purchasing), etc.

My painting is buried under the huge petals of the lilies, but... you get the message :) .

My painting is buried under the huge petals of the lilies, but… you get the message :) .

But as I pull the blankets over me to rest under their warmth, a voice within me speaks, “Aren’t you being too hard on yourself?” Then it makes me recall all my daily hardships – the sufferings, the inabilities, the sadness and desolation of not being able to go out. It makes me think of my difficult situation, of how hard and lamentable it truly is that sometimes I wail before Felix, the tears hot, fat, and eager to fall. But I have learned to ease away all of my suffering from my heart and mind and let gratitude reign there instead.

Worship. Gratitude. Contrite heart. These are the things that I want to color my moments and days with.

But the voice within me tells me to see things in the right perspective and receive, enjoy, and live with God’s gifts and abundant blessings without guilt or remorse or sadness.

I answer back in my mind that I never wanted to pamper myself with worldly things, to let them take the place of bodily healing, relief, and comfort. To take the place of joy in being able to walk, do the things I want to do. Or the joy of travel and whatever things I can’t do now but longing to do.

And the inner voice replies, “They are never meant to replace them, for they can’t. But you can take them with thanksgiving and praise and turn them into something that will bring God glory. Yes, whether you’re decorating your home and making your surroundings beautiful for you to enjoy and feel happy with, or whatever you do, do it with Him and rejoice together with Him. For everything that you receive comes from His giving hand.

“Thank Him for every single thing received and share with Him your joy, your happiness. He is the heart of your every endeavor, every task, every little thing that matters to you. He is the heart of your praise and worship. Put Him into everything you put your heart into.

“Offer to Him the work of Your hand, whether a needlework, a painting, an essay, a poem, a song, a letter, words on the pages of a journal, a Bible study with someone, fresh flowers arranged in a vase, bread baked to golden perfection, lighted candle whose scent and golden warmth waft gently around the room. Whether you’re harvesting fruits and planning to send a basket to a dear friend, or marvelling at the vibrant color of a splash of paint on a canvas, or being touched by the story of the book you’re reading, or admiring the deep colors of the stones of a vintage brooch and thinking how it would make your mother happy receiving it – offer it all to Him. That pure joy in your heart, He was the One who gave it. Don’t sully it with endless analyses and guilty thoughts and feelings. Joy with Him.

“It is the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (See 1 Tim. 6:16-17)

He gives richly all things for us to enjoy. Then we must receive them with thanksgiving and praise. And share and make others happy, too.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

I just realized it now that my heart and soul have slowly adapted to their environment. The environment of only our home. In the recent past, I had endlessly daydreamed, longed, and ached for the outdoors: for travel, for the beach, the woods, the plains, the farm, the earth beneath and the vast sky above without obstruction, but often, I had been left hungering more and longing deeper, like the burning pain of an empty stomach. Since it’s painful to dwell on them, my heart and soul have learned to not even venture toward that place of hunger and longing. To not think about those things and places that are so very afar of, so far from my reach. 

Not that I have given up on them, but that I have given up dwelling on them and without me realizing it, I have slowly gravitated inwardly, to our home which is the only world I know now. And if the Lord is speaking to my heart to make my little world beautiful and a source of peace and quiet, fulfilment and happiness, then I will be glad to do it for the praise and glory of His name.

I believe that gardening, home decorating, and other such satisfying undertaking, can be a food for the soul and can very well be a channel for healing.

To have something to look forward to each morning, to be inspired to rise up and praise God for the gifts we are sure to find and enjoy, is far, far better than to anticipate the breaking of dawn with trepidation. For there had been months years ago when sickness didn’t allow inspiration to touch my heart, when all I could do was stare at the wallpaper and count the flowers printed there or gaze out the window and watch the duplex being built, one rivet at a time.

But now, the Lord is filling me with vibrant inspiration. I am filled with eagerness to face each new day. All these – the heart for beauty, the inspiration, the giddy anticipation, and the joy they bring – they are gifts from the ever-giving God.

At the end of the day, when inspiration begins to ebb, I commune with God through prayers, His Word, within the pages of my prayer journal, and through praise music. I cry for His majesty that shines on me and for all the frustrations and all the unrealized dreams. I cry for the ugly, the mistakes, and the beauty that peeks through amazing grace. I cry for this grace that never wanes.

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Living Life in the Hard

I settle in the warm, silky water of my tub, my head nestled in its smooth curve that hugs my back. I close my eyes and utter a silent, heartfelt prayer. (I have developed the practice of saying a prayer in my heart and soul whenever gratitude hits me, those moments when I could clearly see the difference between misery and comfort. And even contentment. I am quick to grab those moments and hold them close for just a while until I release them into the air with my gratitude and prayer of thanks).

hard places

With my eyes closed and my flesh caressed by magnolia-scented water laced with lavender salts, I say my thanksgiving to God. My heart overflows. I don’t think about the fact that Felix put me in the tub and scrubbed me with a stiff loofah earlier and that he will come back to rinse me, wrap me in my fluffy robe, then carry me back to the waiting wheelchair (and always with a thump!), and then the half-hour of rest in bed until I could sit up again to apply lotion and change into fresh clothes.

I don’t think about those things, the things that others do for me because I am unable to do them myself. I don’t think about the fact that I can’t walk and go out and many other things that I cannot do, not to mention the physical suffering and difficulties. I just want to dwell in this moment now that I am in this tub and my skin is silky and all is well in my revised definition of well.

For I had known months of not being able to bathe. So, these here are the fringes of bliss. If not heaven itself.

How do you live life in the hard? It’s not always been like this for me for the past more than 13 years of being ill. In the earlier years when one does her best to hold on to the old life of good health and complete strength while facing the stark reality that things may never go back to where they were before, or worse, if it all ends up to an untimely death – it was pure horror. That fear, that uncertainty – they make a body and soul tremble to the core.

Those early years for me could be defined by one word: desperation. When you’re desperate, your desperation will dictate the life you are to live. You don’t even plan it. There’s no time for careful planning. There are only bursts of panic and a kind of faith you will never find in a sunny, rose-strewn pathway. That kind of faith is only birthed in the shadow of the valley of death. A faith that has a life of its own, a living, breathing, moving faith. A faith that can move mountains in its desperation.

In those times, you will not concern yourself with the question on how you live your life, because first, you need to survive. Many a time in my whole ailing life had I struggled only to survive.

Then there were the years of aridness, of being out of desperation but being stuck in painful waiting. When your days are marked by sighing, wishing, longing, waiting. When you still can’t find your way to thanksgiving for the constant heaviness of soul. It is a dry, fruitless land. A tundra.

During my tundra months, even the dandelions were envied. They proliferate the vacant lot beside our house. Even with the cruel intensity of the summer sun, they stand and not a single, tiny petal or leaf shows weakness. They grow, they exist without a care. I had seriously wished I were a dandelion.

When you’re in that barren place of waiting, where uncertainty is the prevailing climate of the land more than great expectations, how you live life is dictated by your surroundings. Faith again plays an important role, but so does hope. Steadfast faith and tenacious hope. Those are your loyal companions, friends that stick closer than a brother.

The year 2015 was that for me (well, one of those years). Faith had me clinging to the powerful promises of the psalms and hope drove me to edit photos everyday with a chosen verse from a psalm and shared them on FB. One hundred and fifty psalms in one hundred fifty days. That’s almost covered half of the year, the same amount of time of living in faith and hope and not knowing the other offerings of life, like enjoyment and happiness and dreaming. In fact, I had stopped writing on my blog during those months. I only posted on IG, photos of my tea or the pastry I was able to eat, with a huge pink hibiscus in the background plucked from our garden. Or a book I was trying to read. Or my Tim – from school, sleeping beside me, eating, smiling.

Those photos I shared were but snippets of life. But still, they were signs of life. Of faith. Of hope.

The hibiscus tree with those huge pink flowers was directly in my line of vision when I looked out of the French doors through the patio to the garden beyond. When physical weakness and discomforts and sadness and the desolation of waiting uncertainly tried to steal my hope and semblance of peace, I looked at the hibiscus tree boasting of pink flowers the size of a plate. I always found hope in it. The flowers opening wide and smiling to the world were a sign of life for me.

Just as I had found hope at that piece of blue between the roofs many years ago, when I had sat in our garage all day and bemoaned my hapless state. Praying and waiting for healing had felt like digging on hard concrete and barely making a scratch. I had looked at that piece of blue wedged between our garage roof and that of the neighbor’s, a very bright cerulean in the mid-afternoon sun, and hope had come rushing back with a fresh vigor.

As long as I can see that piece of blue up there, where my Savior and Healer lives, where all life flows — I will believe! I will have hope!

I had stared up at that framed blue sky and repeated those affirmations before I was wheeled back to my room to rest.

In the hard, you live your life as the circumstances present themselves, but always with faith and hope. Faith and hope are the threads that hold everything together. When both are lost, everything unravels. When everything unravels, it would be like trying to hold water in your fists.

Felix wheels me back to our bedroom and I cocoon myself in my thick bathrobe as I settle in bed to rest after my bath. A glimpse of the elusive good life flashes in front of me and I get it: living life in the hard is intentionally pursuing and doing the God things and collecting all the gifts, big and small, special or ordinary, neat or messy, because they all add up at the end of the day.

wisteria wall

“Wisteria” walls of our bedroom.

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What Makes Life Beautiful?

Because of social media, people can now show off their lives for all the world to see and admire. But a life that is seen through the screen is just a small facet of the whole. The life lived behind it, hidden from the world’s hungry eyes, is what essentially matters. If we live our moments just so we can brag them to the world is not really living. The thing that I’m learning now is to live for my sake and the ones I love, and not for the sake of the world. That is not selfish at all if you will allow me to elucidate. Because of the pull of social media, we have learned to make little decisions that are based not on our own needs and their importance in our lives, but because we think that they will impress the world. 

beautiful life

We can easily see that when, instead of letting the hungry husband dive into the sumptuous dinner before us, for example, he’ll still have to wait because we are going to take pictures first (for IG perhaps!) before the nice arrangement is messed up. Instead of sitting quietly down to dinner, thank the Lord for the good food and ask Him to bless it, then share it with the ones we love gathered around, our thoughts and actions are centered on sharing it first to the world. We make these little decisions for the sake of the world and not for us.

Now, if we fail to show our moments to the world before they come to pass, we feel like there’s something lacking in our lives. But, this shouldn’t be the case. Our lives should be lived to satisfy us and not the world through its “likes and comments”.

Is life beautiful because a photo shared is scooping up “likes” by the hundreds or even thousands? Is that the gauge?

I’m learning, dear readers, I’m learning!

What makes life beautiful? Is it what people see on the outside? Or is it essentially the life on the inside, the one that cannot be seen? The one that is sturdily connected to its Creator and Sustainer and Savior? The one that is whole and full and complete enough in its God it doesn’t need glorying in “likes”? The one that doesn’t need to show off because it is happy and contented in itself?

I am learning hard, yes, on how to live this one life in contentment in God and not in the world. Sometimes, we think that striving to make our lives beautiful for others to admire and emulate is the way to happiness, but I believe that we need to create first a place in our inmost being that is authentically contented, happy, and grateful before it can even be called beautiful. Our lives should deeply satisfy us first before it can attempt to satisfy others. They should be loved, cherished, and made happy first before they can even be useful to others.

I used to think that adorning and surrounding my life with beautiful things – scented candles, pretty English teacups, flowers arranged in a crystal vase, lovely and comfortable bedroom with walls and covers in perfect harmony (you get the picture) – will somehow cover the want in other areas, such as the lack of health and the absence of travel because of it. These things could temporarily bring comfort and joy and even peace, but in no way can they reach that place in the heart and soul where true and enduring happiness and contentment reside, if in the very first place they aren’t there. The true state of the heart, mind, and soul will determine whether the life that they support is beautiful or wanting.

I have to ask this because it is my life right now: Is there beauty at all in suffering? All kinds of suffering for that matter? I believe there is if it brings us to a closer, more intimate walk with our Savior. If it drives us to pursue holiness that is not superficial. Suffering, if seen in the right perspective, is sanctifying. If our suffering ends in our sanctification, then suffering has served its purpose. Now, don’t go gawking at that word: holiness. The truth is, we are called to it. We are called to be saints (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). We are called to pursue holiness.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

A holy life is one that worships God in spirit and in truth, both in the most private place of our lives and in the congregation with other believers.

Shouldn’t a life be established in peace and joy and confidence first in the Lord Jesus Christ before it could even be called beautiful? Shouldn’t a beautiful life begin with a happy and satisfied heart in God first and a spirit that praises and thanks God with its all before it can even be seen and admired by others?

For what is a life if it wallows in its inability to be happy and content in its God who makes all things possible for it? What is a life if it endlessly whines for the lack and cannot see the blessings all around it and rejoice in them and thank God for every single one? What is a life if it cannot see the good?

First, a life must see God, both in the tangible and intangible. Both in the fruit (that we see) and in faith. In the gifts and rewards and in hopes and dreams. A life that sees God in suffering and in victory. In woe and in awe. In fear and in peace. In joy and sadness. A beautiful life is able to balance these and still flourish. And rejoices in the Lord.

A life is beautiful from the inside out when it is drenched in love on both sides: the Lord Jesus’ unfailing, faithful love and our steadfast, growing one. I believe the secret is being truly loving from the depths of our souls. Such love should be reflected in our relationships.

What makes a life beautiful even with all its trials and struggles and suffering? It is that radiance that’s a reflection of God’s glory. It is never easy, I know. For often our lives reflect the suffering or the want. But we need to ask this: Is it about us? Isn’t it about Him working in and through us for His joy, renown, honor and glory? For His kingdom? And yet, it’s also about us as far as He is concerned: the ones He’s known and loved and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:4), the blessed recipients of His mercy and grace. For didn’t He give His life to give us ours?

And the life that He gave – it is beautiful.

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He Fills Us to Overflowing

I lay in bed with the singing and laughter still ringing in my head. When our family of four celebrates, it is loud. Not that we play music on a CD player or whatever, but we tell stories and jokes and speak all at the same time! We like pranking each other, whether child or adult, it doesn’t really matter. We cherish those moments when we gather together to enjoy food and each other’s company. We are used to celebrating on our own, no guests, and it’s really not a lack.

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

So, as I settled in bed after quite a long night celebrating my husband’s birthday, I only had praises and thanksgiving to God. These thoughts floated on my mind: He fills us to overflowing! Surely, He has filled us up tonight with good things and more than what we deserve.

For those who have not been tried and who have not experienced the pains and bitterness of life, such celebrations and rejoicing are taken for granted. But not for me and my family. We had known how to have nothing but fear and uncertainty and utter sadness when my sickness and suffering prevented us from celebrating. Or even eating a meal together. In our family, these words are more than a verse in the Bible, but a first-hand experience.

 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil. 4:12)

A villainous voice speaks to my mind, asking how I could possibly say that He fills us to overflowing when everyday, I still go through such difficulties brought by my illness. I still suffer.

But that night that we were drenched with singing and laughter and love, I could only see the goodness of God. I couldn’t focus on the daily hardship I experience, I only saw that our family was happy, period, and wanted to let God know I so appreciated it.

Every morsel of joy I could pick up from under the table, I will thank the Lord from the depths of my heart and soul.

How could I not say my heart overflows when I can eat all the food I want? For there were long seasons when I could only eat a few spoonfuls of runny rice porridge with clear beef broth. Felix savored the beef ribs I baked and ate only them. The Japanese cheesecake (our first-time!), though diminutive, virtually melted in my mouth. The gift I gave to the birthday man, he liked it a lot and he used it right away (I tell you, he’s quite finicky when it comes to his manly things). And the photos we took (there were numerous!) had been kind to me: they didn’t show telltale signs of my illness and suffering, or the warts, or any signs of aging like dark spots.

It’s not really about vanity. It’s about looking and feeling good in the midst of continued illness and hardships. It’s a blessing to look radiant despite the harassment of illness. And I believe it’s all because of Him.

Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:5 ESV)

Just a few days before my husband’s birthday, I was swiping away tears of sadness. For the longest time, I have desired to be able to travel by land and by air. But it’s not happening. If I’d be downright honest, I get terribly envious when I see friends traveling from place to place. And I can’t even go around our neighborhood. Not spitefully envious. Just pitifully envious. Or sometimes, trying-to-be-indifferent envious.

It was a weekend and Felix and I were in the patio talking. I just received a Viber message from my new artist-friend that she and the whole family were going to New Zealand for the holiday season. New Zealand. You have no idea what those two words mean to me.

Most people dream of traveling to America or Europe. I do, too. But when the kids ask me (which they do every now and then) where I want to go when I’m already well, I often answer, “New Zealand.” Personally, I don’t want to imagine going along with throngs of tourists snaking in and out of famous tourist spots around the world, swarming around a famous edifice or monument or museum. I want to go where the crowd doesn’t choose to go.

Like the countryside of New Zealand, where sheep graze quietly on a rolling meadow that just goes on and on to the horizon. I want to experience the quiet atmosphere of a remote B&B accommodations nestled at the foot of a mountain where there is an unobstructed view of fields and fields of flowers. I will set up my travel brushes and palette and just paint the day away. Then visit quaint shops where they sell artisanal whatever that you can never find in malls.

Whisper: I have a private board on Pinterest labeled, “New Zealand” where I collect all my NZ pins, scenes I want to visit and paint. Someday.

Then my good friend told me she’s going there, not for a few days, but the whole holiday season. I messaged back to remind her to bring her travel brushes and paints and told her that I hoped she would find time to paint. The things I had wanted to do. Then tears started to fall, silently at first. But when Felix asked, I couldn’t help but sob. A little.

There are deep longings in a woman’s heart that one cannot seem to reach and soothe. But surely, there is nothing that the Lord Jesus cannot do something about.

These unmet longings, they can either drive us to be bitter or to be more faithful to God and intentionally see what He is doing in our lives and to be genuinely grateful for it.

It is only when we refuse to focus on the things that He is not doing, and instead gather all the crumbs that fall and are there for the picking, that we can fill up ourselves and not be hungry. Ruth gleaned the few stalks of barley the harvesters dropped as she followed them resolutely. At the end of each hot, back-stiffening day, she brought home an armload of barley. And she and Naomi never went hungry.

Follow Jesus faithfully. Bend down and glean. The Lord will never suffer us to go hungry. May it be spiritual hunger, healing hunger, dream fulfilment hunger, joy hunger, physical hunger … He has them all covered.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

Trudging through life. That’s exactly how I feel. Being unable to stand up and walk and move normally, with the constant discomforts brought by acid reflux, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness, my daily life is far different from the life I used to know more than a decade ago, or the lives of those around me and the people I know. It’s hard. Most days it’s like plowing through knee-deep snow (although I haven’t really tried that yet) or clay, where every single step takes a lot of effort and energy.

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

So, it’s like that: I trudge through the hours, days, weeks, and months. It’s like going over a hurdle from the last one to the next, heaving a huge sigh of relief and gratitude in between. One school term to the next. That means a three-month worth of homework and tutoring done and over with. One special occasion celebrated – photos taken, singing and laughters rang out, delectable food enjoyed, smiles exchanged, and thank-yous blown out towards heaven – to the next.

One heavy step after another. By faith. In faith.

I can no longer remember the last time that I cruised through life, breezing from one activity to another and waltzing through one celebration to the next.

That is what I see the people around me do. I find it hard to live and move with the rush and exhilaration around me, that’s why I often retreat to my quiet world where lack of strength is welcome and exhaustion finds rest. Hours of quiet, inactivity and recovery tick away with difficulty, but these, too, shall pass. Until the next activity. That and my deep desire to nurture a gentle and quiet spirit, much like Mary’s. With all the excitement around her with the birth of the Savior and the shepherds paying homage, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). No stress for Mary!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m grumbling. I am only trying to explain how it feels like to be me, to trudge through life, and yet, learning the virtue of patience and living grateful at the same time.

True patience is devoid of complaints. That’s why it’s a virtue. It holds the character of a quiet, enduring, and sometimes, sacrificing, spirit. In the KJV Bible, it is called long-suffering and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

It’s the schoolroom of patience that we become perfect and complete. To run with patience the race that is set before us.

It is through the diligent practice of patience that we overcome, crossing one gulf to the next.

There is no more vivid example of that than in my swimming through the waters of a school term. Every afternoon, I anticipate the arrival of the kids from school. I set aside whatever I am working on, may it be a watercolor painting, working with my laptop, etc., and rest and be ready to welcome the kids. To offer them food when they are hungry, to massage feet when they are sleepy, and most of all, to tackle the homework and lessons. Being a very diligent and conscientious student once, I am the same in tutoring the kids, Tim now, especially. It is a task I don’t want to scrimp on.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when suddenly – the term is over! And my Tim got straight As. Hallelujah! My trudging has been rewarded, now onto the next. Tim is just in grade 3 now. We have a loooong way to go. But always, we operate with the grace and strength of the Lord with unceasing prayers.

Last Saturday, December 3, we celebrated Tim’s birthday. We only invited 2 of his closest friends from our neighborhood because I can’t entertain people outside of family. I thought that Tim and his friends would just romp around then eat. My mistake. The grandmother of one of the friends came (she is a long time friend of the family), with the baby sister and a nanny in tow. I was in the patio ready to celebrate with the family and I could no longer flee to the sanctuary of my room.

To make the story short, I was able to visit with the granny-friend, took some photos and a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday and Tim blowing the candle on his cake (all of it happened in a whirl, as far as I was concerned, for I was fretting within, being very conscious of exhausting myself). And then had to embarrassingly excuse myself and hastily escape to my room because I couldn’t hold off the dizziness and exhaustion any longer. I was so embarrassed to ride in my wheelchair in front of them all but I didn’t have any choice. That’s what I had been avoiding to happen, that’s why I don’t open our doors to visitors. The nanny was openly staring at me like I was from another planet. Ugh!

But before the evening was over, (for Ate Irene, my neighbor-friend, followed me later to the bedroom where I was resting), I was able to sell her my entire 4-piece original IRIS painting collection, on 12″ x 16″!

I was fatigued but the night had its own rewards. I could forget about the stares when I had to hastily leave in my wheelchair. I only needed to focus on the good part: I was able to visit with a long-time neighbor and see her admire my paintings to the extent that she couldn’t almost make up her mind what to get. That makes me feel appreciated and it somewhat validates my work and gives me a feeling of fulfilment. All for the glory of my Father in heaven!

At the end of a long, tiring day, gratefulness is what is really needed. A grateful heart soothes and smoothes out stresses. It sorts out the lovely from the ugly and focuses and holds onto that. It brings back our perspective to look unto Jesus for He is our comfort and rest.

Gratefulness conveys us to another day, to rise up and welcome the new morning with hope and great expectations. For miracles happen everyday. Just be on the lookout for them.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:22-24)

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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,

Christlikeness or Worldliness?

I swiped the tears that leaked out of my eyes like a child would, sorrow punctuating my every word as I confided with my husband about something that had deeply bothered me. The moment I saw it on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with dismay and at once, my sprit sank to the ground. How fast can a Facebook post make one so depressed! Her peace is shaken and there is even a threat of stumbling in her faith walk. How sad it is when one unthinkingly (or even unintentionally) puts a stumbling block on one’s brother’s or sister’s path!

stumbling block

On the afternoon that I saw it, I curled up on my side and tried to process how I would fight the threat of losing zeal in serving God. I knew that my love for the Lord Jesus Christ would never wane or change no matter the circumstances, but the quality of my service may be affected nonetheless. That is, if I didn’t address it seriously as I should. For the things that may cause one to stumble in her faith walk are matters of grave importance and should not be shoved aside or tolerated or ignored.

Like a very disappointed child who has not received the birthday gift he or she has ardently prayed for and wished for upon a star on many a starry night, I felt that my unceasing prayers for “that particular thing” which touches my faith life and confidence in the place where the Lord has sown me, had come to nought, clearly and completely. And I was devastated. I didn’t know where to run to. Who would listen? Who would understand how you struggle against weariness of spirit and feelings of discouragement and utter disappointment because of the things you see which you have diligently prayed for not to ever see?

What if they are all looking at the very same thing differently? Or maybe that they will rather choose to look the other way?

But my spirit within me wouldn’t quiet down. I think that it is not a bad thing to be so deeply affected of the things that matter most to our spiritual walk. For if your spirit is so stirred up within you in such a way that you break down in tears, you need to listen to it and address it accordingly. You will not stuff it all somewhere without processing it for it might grow into a hard lump of resentment and bitterness that could be deadly, like cancer.

When your spirit is stirred up within you because you believe the Word has not been lived well, I think that is a good thing. It is the Holy Spirit’s conviction. You are deeply affected by such spiritual things because they matter most to you. How we react or respond is what we need to ponder on and pray for.

And that’s exactly what I did. There was nowhere or no one to run to but to the Lord Jesus Himself. I confessed the turmoil swirling in my heart and mind, the heaviness upon my soul. I poured out to Him every detail. I so needed His help.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6-7)

A considerable amount of peace descended upon me (but not yet complete for I knew that there would be more wrestlings in spirit and prayer regarding that matter following that afternoon). But I was comforted with the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper to my heart that I must focus my attention on my own faith walk and do my best to be acceptable and pleasing in God’s eyes, that I should not start making changes in my life just because other Christians are doing it. My decision in living a simple and modest life, as much as possible, free of any frivolity and superfluity, must not be affected by any of the things that I see around me.

A Christ follower must not be “keeping up with the Joneses”.

What the Word vehemently teaches and the Holy Spirt’s guidance on living a life that is Christ-lke – that I must fastidiously follow and the Lord will be most delighted. Still, I know I need to pray more that worldliness should not define the lives of God’s children. These thoughts that ran their course in my heart that afternoon pacified my troubled mind.

The threads of our lives must be woven into this: the simplicity of Christ. Why, as the King of kings, would He choose to be born in a hay-laden manger in a dark and dank stable rather than in a gilded palace, if He didn’t want to make a very grave statement of living a godly life and not a worldly one?

Apostle Paul wrote:

And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. ((1 Tim. 6:8)

And yet, God is so generous He showers us with even more. We do not only have food and clothing, we also have beautiful homes, sleek cars, gadgets, appliances, etc. But must we live in lavishness just because we can? Should we not live within the limits which a life of simplicity and modesty dictates? Should we rather share our abundance with the less fortunate brethren who, to begin with, may not even have proper food and clothing, than to fill ourselves more than necessary?

Should material blessings be taken to the extreme? More houses, more cars, more expensive gadgets, more, more, more! Isn’t that already crossing the line between Christlikeness and worldliness? Should sky be the limit?

I have a story about this that involves my husband. In 2008, I found out that he was planning to buy a secondhand BMW X5. For those not in the know, that is an SUV, and although secondhand, I didn’t even want to think about the price. I confronted him about it with tears and implored him not to push through with his plan. Our days of worldliness were past and he knew that. And, why was it that while I was desperately focusing on my healing, he was eyeing a BMW SUV?!  I quoted Bible verses such as 1 John 2:16:

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

To no avail. That BMW X5 was one of many which the great flood of 2009 was able to destroy. It stayed in the machine shop for many years and needed countless repairs and hard-to-find, expensive spare parts before he could even use it again.

Now, my husband is not really a frivolous man, but he said that he wanted to taste driving such a fine vehicle. The desire and temptation were too great for him that, unfortunately, he gave in to it.

When others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, see our propensity to embrace luxury and superfluity, how would that affect them? For those who do not have, they may harbor envy, covetous thoughts, or self-pity. Or simply that they may feel depressed. For those who have, this may encourage them to have more and live more lavishly. Either way, we are causing them to stumble.

Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Rom. 14: 13, emphasis added)

We are not to judge, yes. But most important of all, we are not to put a stumbling block on our brother’s or sister’s way. We do not live alone. We live responsibly and conscientiously, as shining lights to others and not as stumbling blocks.

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Journey with Jesus,