God’s Beautiful Presence

I should have been thrilled when school ended and the kids would be on vacation for more than 4 months. Four months! Because Reedley International School will be following the USA’s start of school year beginning July. But I wasn’t that excited at all. Sure, I was very thankful for a fruitful school year, the kids both receiving honors in academic excellence, and the four-month break would be really great. If I could travel.

God's beautiful presence

Weeks before summer would officially start, I prayed for healing and strength, enough to enable me to travel to our Church’s crusades. ‘Tis the season for spiritual crusades for our Church all over the country and what better way to spend the summer than to go to them all if possible. I zeroed in on this kingdom work, thinking that the Lord would grant it according to 1 John 5:14-15:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

I imagined our family traveling to Baguio City for the first leg of our crusade season. We would be staying at The Manor in Camp John Hay. (Thinking about it seems like wishing to holiday in Europe instead of just Baguio City, a 5-hour drive from home. It is that high for me to attain). After the crusade, we would spend a day and a night in San Juan, La Union (I’ve been dreaming of the white sands of San Juan Beach). I kept my dreams as simple and lean as that. I thought that anything beyond it would keep the dreams just dreams instead of turn into reality. But I knew (I could feel it in every fiber of my being even right here on my bed) that when my bare feet had touched the sands as fine as sugar crystals and the salty breeze had caressed my face, I would lift up my hands toward heaven and worship God in abandon.

Holy Week had come and gone. I have not traveled a single mile.

Before the Holy Week, I resolved to not go to Facebook. Seeing posts about vacations and beaches would plunge me into the pit of despair. I told myself that as long as I am severed from the world’s movements and exciting activities, I would be fine.

I can’t travel, but that doesn’t mean my family, especially the kids, would stay put, too. I don’t have the heart to tie them at home. It’s always been like this in previous years: I plan their summer trips while I stayed at home, waiting eagerly for them and the photos of their adventures. I dreamed and prayed that it would be different this year…

But I find myself buying again 3, t-h-r-e-e not four, vouchers for a day tour at Island Cove in Kawit, Cavite. The kids would love it, what with the resort’s water park and wildlife sanctuary with karitela (horse-drawn carriage) ride. Then there’s Fishing Village where they would have their lunch, a restaurant above the waters held up by stilts, the appetizers are served in a sungka (the thought of it saddens me; my husband and I are both Pinoy foodies and it would have been great if I’d be with them). They will also visit the historic mansion of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo at the heart of Kawit. I’m happy for them (sigh).

But my heart aches. And I’m sure the Lord knows that. I don’t want to be bitter although my heart sometimes wants to slide down that road. I avoid it like the plague. Fastening myself to bitterness would be my undoing.

But still. I can’t calm my heart and soothe and shush it. I asked the Lord if that’s what He expects me to do: to put a vise grip around my heart and stop the flow of desires. To just be numb. That’s not the way to live, is it? Even Philippians 4:12-13 has turned shabby against the sheen of my heart’s deep longings. My emotions vacillate from wanting to sulk against the Lord to comforting myself with the gifts that surround me. I pray that envy, coveting, and comparing would be shaken off of me, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind (Rev. 6:13) or like the scales falling from Paul’s eyes, making him see completely.

And so I harbored the desires and longings and sadness and traces of bitterness in my heart like a heavy yoke. That is, until Good Friday when our Church relived the washing of feet while the choir sang in the background.

As brothers and sisters took turns in washing each other’s feet, I remembered the Lord Jesus. Hours before He would be crucified, He stooped down to wash each of His disciples’ feet. He humbly showed us how to truly serve. How not to obsess with our own selves and desires, but to focus on Him. Only on Him. That He should be enough. His beautiful presence in our lives. For it’s really all about Him.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

I’ve been so focused on what I’ve been missing and missing the Lord in the process.

Years ago, when my blissful honeymoon with my Savior overshadowed all illness and suffering, fears, uncertainties, and any latent desires, I had this spiritual visitation:

I was sitting on my high-back swivel chair (I used it as a wheelchair) in our bedroom, listening to praise music as I looked out the window. When Hillsong’s You Are Holy played, my spirit was caught up in the glorious chorus:

I’ll sing Your praises forever

Deeper in love with You

Here in Your courts where I’m close to Your throne

I’ve found where I belong.*

I felt my spirit soar. I sang along. And as I did, I had some kind of a conversation with a heavenly being. It went like this:

“If you were given the chance to choose between being able to walk but not sing and being able to sing but not walk, what would it be?” The angel asked.

I answered without hesitation. “I want to sing! I want to sing to the Lord! That’s what I want. Oh, please, make me be able to sing.” And I sobbed for the sincerity of my desire, the deep longing of my heart spilling. This was the time that I was too sick and weak to sing or walk more than a few steps. My desire to worship God trumped any other desires hidden in my heart.

Then years passed. Maybe prolonged illness and suffering could dull the sheen of ardency in one’s faith and love. Or maybe, partial healing could entice one to dream and want beyond one’s capability. Or maybe, life just happened with all it’s temptations, trials, and desires. And maybe these dreams and longings ignite a zest for more of life. Fire up extraordinary inspiration to dream big and rise up and soar like an eagle. In faith. Like the promise of Isaiah 40:31.

That would be great minus the intense feelings of envy and the pull of coveting and comparing. But if we learn to curb those unprofitable emotions and actions, to shove them aside and not dwell in them but in the everyday gifts of God and immerse one’s being in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, those unsatisfied hungers that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And it is possible. All things are possible to Him.

So, delight in the Lord. Gladden ourselves in Him. He will never disappoint.

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Stay with Jesus

What makes you sad? I know there can be many things that make us sad (laughs), but that kind of sad like when we were kids and we got sick we needed to stay home for days, unable to play with our friends. We might have looked out the window of our room and watched them play exuberantly. Then we turned away from it, sighing deeply, sadness mirrored in our eyes. It is one thing to be sick, and an entirely different thing to be unable to do the things we’d love to do and go to places we’d love to see.

Stay_wth_Jesus

For many years now, I have been unable to travel, near or far. Before I became ill in 2003, I loved to travel, here and abroad. On holidays, I always had a travel plan set in place. I loved vacationing with family, road tripping, and staying in hotels and resorts. Around the third quarter of 2003, I planned a Christmas holiday in Australia with Hannah and Felix. Around this time, I had been planning to reconcile with my husband after more than 2 years of separation. I thought that going away and spending time together with our daughter would make the reconciliation more meaningful and memorable and last a lifetime. But in October of that year, I fell seriously ill.

While I spent months in bed, sick and uncertain of my future, being unable to travel was farthest from my mind. I only wanted to make things right with God, receive my healing, and go back to my work.

But healing and recovery haven’t come fully until now. And my career was gone 12 years ago. For years, I had to struggle to make peace with that fact. But one thing is certain: I found my life in the Lord Jesus Christ. I identified with the apostle Paul’s words:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11 ESV, italics mine).

I found myself in Jesus, and through the years, I have come to know Him and walk with Him intimately. I have learned a whole mountain of lessons that will last me for eternity. I learned to be content and at peace in Him. For many years as I waited for healing, my life revolved around my Savior (praise and worship, prayers, the Word, witnessing to loved ones, Church, crusades) and my home and family. Though I was sick and weak, the Lord supplied me with enduring peace and joy. I was grateful for even the smallest blessings.

Then, social media entered my life. Through it, the world opened up to me again and I saw what other people in the planet did and I was reminded of my old life (the trips and holidays part). My peace was shaken and the wall of contentment which I built around me cracked as I began to desire things outside of my little world. Deep desires that were hard to overcome found a place in my heart and since then, I had to struggle against comparison and envy. Longing for things other than God – a European tour, a US tour, trip to Disneyland for the kids, holidays at the beach – began to grow within me. And while I gave time and space for these thoughts and dreams to play in my mind, the deeper the claws of longing dug. By God’s immense blessings, we have the financial means, but my frail health hinders any plans of family travel (except for my husband’s business trips every now and then).

It was as if I was that child down with the flu once again and looking out the window, feeling sad that I couldn’t play outside with my friends.

So I looked for ways to banish the desires and dreams (for the more I dwelt in them, the more I became sad and dissatisfied). I only mention them in my prayers as attached to my supplication for healing. But I know that they are not hidden from God no matter how I try to suppress them. My heart and soul are ever open to Him.

I often think that if we lived on top of a mountain where there were no Joneses, cell sites, and wifi, I would be happy and contended with what I have and with what I can do no matter how meager they are. That’s the funny thing (or maybe a painful reality!).

When we have someone to compare with, life is altered. Something shifts within us (and it’s not always for the better).

And now that Christmas season is here once again, I know that neighbors, friends (on social media who are the only ones I see), Church brethren, families of our kids’ classmates, will be moving from one place to another as they spend the holidays somewhere else. Like birds migrating, this “ritual” of people with means and health can’t be stopped. For myself, I can curb the craving and absorb the sadness of not being able to leave home, by God’s grace. But the kids. I would love for them to have a meaningful Christmas and memorable holidays.

That’s why I’m focusing my eyes on the Lord Jesus steadfastly: The King of kings who chose to enter the world through the womb of a simple virgin, in a manger inside a cold and damp barn in a little town, and be wrapped in swaddling cloth. His very first visitors were poor, unknown shepherds, but nevertheless, they were invited by an angel and guided by a bright, shining star.

Except for a brief story when He was 12 years old, nothing more is recorded of Jesus’ growing up years. But we learn that He became a carpenter, a humble occupation. There are no recorded family vacations, whether grand or modest. And when He at last showed Himself to the world at age 30, He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Mat. 9:35). He went about His Father’s business, doing only what mattered eternally.

As this post was forming in my heart, I was drawn to Matthew 11:29, this time, seeing it in a different light:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Mat. 11:29)

The Lord wants us to learn of Him (that has been the silent message of His humble birth!). He’s been trying to drive home to this materialistic, selfish world that He is meek and lowly in heart – no foolish pride, arrogance, or superfluity. It is only when we have learned of Him – to be meek and lowly in heart ourselves – that we can find rest for our souls!

This Christmas season, whether we are able or unable to go places, may we remember to behold Jesus’ life and example of simplicity, of doing the Father’s will, and living for the Kingdom. This will extinguish all comparison trap, envy, and discontent.

Like a horse wearing blinders so that it will only follow the path where its master leads, may we look unto Jesus and not to the world. 

May we experience to the full what the shepherds experienced that night, listening to the angel’s good tidings of great joy and following the star to our Savior.

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On Weeding Out and Being Content

On a Saturday evening, we gather around my mobile table and begin to work on Tim’s school project, actually a whole family activity as the rule requires. This is the third year that we’re making it, each year a different theme. In the previous two, Tim had complained that our work hadn’t been featured. Hannah explained that those submissions which made it to the “Featured” board and earned house points were really done seriously, as in embellished to the max. This year, I’m inspired enough to make Tim’s project stand out.

His assigned holiday is All Saints Day. So, we sit down to work: Felix my husband applying glue, I arrange the moss over it, Tim endlessly chattering away. Hannah has done the hand-lettering earlier so she left. There is much work to be done and although I am enjoying it, I am also aware that I’m not supposed to exhaust myself. Already, I can feel my stiff back beginning to ache and feel heavy. Felix is cutting small strips of double-sided tape as I paste numerous pumpkins, Jack-O-lanterns, vines, and Casper-like ghosts, all of which Tim (except one vine which I drew for his model) has drawn and cut earlier, when he asks, “So, when is this project due?”

My lips twitch into a smile which I try to suppress as I give him the date, exactly three weeks away. I am fully expecting to hear his comment dripping with light sarcasm. And off it goes. “So, we’re working now like there’s no other day.” He shakes his head and adds, “And I thought it’s due on Monday.”

I burst into giggles. “I want to have a head start as I have other things to do like drawing a spider web and arranging cotton for cobwebs, etc.”

“Since submission is still ages away, just prop this project up in the garage to gather cobwebs, real ones, and you’ll be sure to win.” He throws back his head and laughs. Leave it to my husband to deliver powerful punches like that which throw me in stitches as well. I join him and realize how the Lord shifts our circumstances and brings us joy between the cracks, the breaks from illness and suffering. If we are willing to be all there in the life God has given us and  embrace each moment with gratitude, whether blissful or hard, we will begin to have some semblance of a contented life.

This is a far cry from my Christmas and New Year and the months that followed when the cruel claws of sickness and suffering tightened their grip on me and brought me to the throes of death not only once. On New Year’s Eve, life and death wrestled hard against each other and I was sure that death would finally triumph. But just when I helplessly yielded my body to it — breath, precious breath of life! — flowed unobstructed. I was surprised and didn’t know what to make of it. Then I heard a voice in my mind, speaking and reassuring with authority, “Breathe! Just breathe! Inhale, exhale. Breathe in freely the abundant supply of air!” There was no oxygen source, just an electric fan blowing hard on my face, but I knew that the breath came from the Source of Life Himself. The ever-merciful God breathed on me and I recovered from that. Hallelujah!

Now, life finds me held securely in the Savior’s hand as He walks me through this season of life. He whispers, in the midst of my struggles as I look at others’ healthy lives, that I should stop looking out and start looking in, wielding all of me to be at the very heart of the life He has given me. But I want to say this, hopefully this one last time: when you go in and out of physical suffering through your days, when you don’t see the magnificent colors of sunrise as they paint the early-morning sky, and you see others waking up to glorious health and happiness, to think even fleetingly the difference between you and them, the blessedness and favor you believe are heaped up on them — THIS. IS. JUST. SO. HARD. TO. SWALLOW. You close your eyes and will the painful thought to vanish and whisper to yourself, “It is not true that I am not loved and favored.”

Yes, I may have all the reasons in the world to feel envious of others living healthy, happy lives, but the Savior is patiently making me see that there is absolutely no benefit in that. On the contrary, it will only sap any joy I hold. Looking at others’ lives and comparing ours with them is an exercise in futility. The Holy Spirit whispers that happiness will not spring from it but only when we focus on our own lives, on the relationships He’s given us — our own marriages, families, and homes — and nurture them with all ferociousness.

Although I know that focusing on our own could sometimes be depressing, especially when there is lingering sickness and suffering, truth is, it is all we’ve got, and whether we like it or not, we have to live it. Yes, pray for it, nurture it, plan for it, dream big for it, grow it, adorn it, light it up. Celebrate it! Make it beautiful in the sight of God for His kingdom and glory. Yes, make this one life, this marriage, this family, this home matter now and eternally.

The more we compare, the more we see the lack or flaws in our lives and the people in them and the more we become dissatisfied. If we keep this practice, we may become too critical of the people in our lives, creating friction or even damaging relationships and forfeiting our own happiness.

If we observe closely, we do not envy others because their lives are perfect. We envy them because they are happy with their lot. Forgive me for saying this, but we may not even admire their choice of spouses or we may observe their children as too bratty, lazy, or a little rebellious. But we are amazed to observe that they are genuinely happy. They sincerely like their spouses, whatever shape, size, color they are packaged in or whatever educational attainment they have. They are grateful; they are contented. I believe that is what we envy.

But the more we bathe our lives with gratefulness, the more discontentment and unhappiness are pushed aside until there’s no more room for them.

It’s okay to harbor deep longings for a better life, maybe one that is free from sickness and suffering. It’s okay to let the hot tears cascade down as we mull over the things our souls are ardently desiring. These don’t make our lives ugly, they make them real. But let not these longings drive us to envy or jealousy, but rather, to the throne of grace.

Our lives and our families are the vineyards of the Lord and, therefore, need our diligent nurturing. These — envy, jealousy, comparison, self-pity, bitterness, discontent — are the weeds that choke their otherwise healthy growth. They make our inner lives ugly. Once and for all, seriously weed out all vestiges of them. Until they are completely rooted out, we will remain unhappy and miserable. Do ourselves a favor: Let’s walk in the Savior’s light and love and never fall into the devil’s trap.

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. (Hos. 10:12)

(Photo credit: Perla Frisberg).

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All Light {Lessons from the Mount Part 2}

There’s a beautiful passage in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that I return to every now and then. At times, I’d wrestled with it, willing it to be absorbed in my system and to know what it really means.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Mat. 6:22-23)

For a long time, as I battled against my illness, I had wondered if this passage could help me in a way. I had toyed with the idea that maybe, if my body was full of light, I couldn’t be sick and suffering still. A good thought. But how to make that happen, I really didn’t know where to begin. It’s only recently that I was able to grasp its meaning.

We only have two eyes, but we easily set our sights on a multitude of things. Whatever and wherever we set our eyes on, that determines the amount of light (or lack thereof) we let into our beings. The Bible tells us to look unto God our Savior:

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
for I am God,
and there is none else. (Is. 45:22)

But often, we look into the world, too, and its temptations. Sometimes, we find it hard to tear our eyes away from them as our senses lap up their offerings. We look and our eyes land on material things and pleasures. What we are really doing is absorbing darkness into our beings. For if we don’t exercise discernment, wise judgment, and self-control, the things we focus our eyes on can morph into covetousness, idolatry, envy, comparison, competition, discontent, self-pity, and all the rest. These things will snuff out our light and make us grope in darkness.

We also look at other people and may use our eyes to judge, condemn, and criticize in our hearts, instead of doing something positive, like extending mercy, showing love, and praying for the salvation of those who err. Do sinners stir our hatred, judgment and condemnation, or mercy? When we look at them, do we look at the persons needing mercy and salvation or their sins, and judge them thus? The Lord Jesus Christ warns: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mat. 7:1). We have been taught to hate the sin and love the sinner. The absence of love brings up two situations: the absence of light and the presence of darkness.

Our eyes are the gateways into which light (or darkness) enters our bodies and souls. Whatever we’re looking into, that will either energize the light to be brighter still, or dim it until it dies. But we can look unto others, whose lights shine even in darkness, and make them our encouragements and inspirations to be lights in the world in our own ways, too. Focus not on those who can make us stumble.

Most importantly, let our bodies be bathed with the bright, shining light of the Savior and let it be reflected in our lives as we set our eyes on Him. Let love be the proof of our faith.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2, emphasis added)

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A Day in the Life of a Suffering Believer

You see the photos of brethren in Christ from your beloved Church posing for the camera with smiles of fulfilment and victory in serving Him, and instead of fully rejoicing with them, envy tugs at your heart. When will these unpleasant feelings ever go away? The fine group of believers, selected according to their gifts, talents, and anointing, flew across the continent to bring the true gospel of salvation to another race so needful of the Savior. And you know without a doubt that what they have (good health and strength) and what they do (traveling to preach, testify, and win souls) are the very things that You. Are. So. Desiring. Longingly and painfully desiring.

(image source)

You stare harder at the happy faces, some of them couples, and you even think, “What does it feel to be standing in their shoes?” And your heart is wrung with the pain of not living that life. You withdraw from it, your soul suddenly engulfed in sadness, your heart heavy. You don’t need these, these additional emotional burdens. You already have too much physical discomforts as it is. But as the day would have it and whether you like it or not, you are again entering into a warfare with the annoying oppressor.

You do your best to rein in your mounting resentment. Where did that come from? From all the hardships and problems that don’t seem to leave you and from the thought that the answer to your one constant prayer of healing is a long time coming. So, you wrestle against impatience, murmurings, brewing resentment, and a sulky attitude. But of course, you cannot hide the hint of glower on your face.

You stay silent, like you’re treading on dangerous ground, and you are. For “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19).  But you know that a powerful Christian doesn’t handle such days inefficiently. You know that his goal is to make you miserable and there’s no way you’re letting him, if you know better! So, you think of lifting up thanksgiving to God, only that you don’t feel like doing it. Not now anyway.

But with all the strength you could muster, you cast out the demons that try to bind you and bring you down in Jesus’ name. You cast them out with power and faith in Jesus. You know too well this is the way of a victorious Christian!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

It doesn’t take long and you feel you’re being drawn to His presence. You like that! So, you don’t waste time. You bow before the Lord and the words begin to tumble out. You tell Him everything, every detail. Every heartache, every longing, every desire, every negative feeling that you want Him to take away and replace with His good and perfect gifts. You empty out the contents of your heart, for, you know that He alone can help. Your spouse or friend may listen, but you know that there is really no one on earth who can really bring you comfort or soothe away your afflictions. You know It. Is. Only. Jesus!

After you’ve unloaded your burden, you don’t only feel relieved and comforted – you know you’ve chosen the more excellent thing, a spiritually profitable task, and the feeling of accomplishment lifts up your spirit! The Savior has redeemed the day! And doesn’t it dawn on you that He. Is. Faithful like that? He is!

In bed at night, when everything is quiet, you ponder more about Him, His will, and His purposes. And you remember the book you’ve been reading, that chapter about consecration that caught your attention. You are beginning to realize that embracing consecration [a life dedicated to God, set apart for holy purpose] will actually remove all feelings of envy, jealousy, discontent, bitterness, of desiring to live the lives of other people. For if you willingly and fully consecrate yourself to God, you  focus only on Him and His will, and you wait on Him, not minding the things you do not have and cannot do and enjoy. You think about St. Paul bound and buffeted by the “thorn in his flesh”, yet, he embraced consecration and rejoiced no matter what.

You like this:

Prayer creates an interest in consecration, then prayer brings one into a state of heart where consecration is a subject of delight, bringing joy of heart, satisfaction of soul, contentment of spirit.

The consecrated soul is the happiest soul. There is no friction whatever between him who is fully given over to God and God’s will. There is perfect harmony between the will of such a man and God, and His will. And the two wills being in perfect accord, this brings rest of soul, absence of friction, and the presence of peace.

~ The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer

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I’m for the Relationship

There can be a myriad things that can chip away at our relationship with God. When we are exposed to different trials and tribulations, our relationship with Him can also be at stake. It is what I have experienced. Of a truth, there had been seasons in my life (including now) that I had lived in constant war with the things – both internal and external – that tried to rip me away from my otherwise blissful relationship with God.

(image from Google)

Maybe I have been excruciatingly living a harder life than most people (but I’m sure there are others out there that are having it worse) because of the burden brought by my illness and constant suffering. (I’m telling you this so you’ll know where I’m coming from).

I believe the Lord Jesus and I have forged a strong relationship through the years of my suffering. I have known and experienced how to make Him my all in all. That is why it feels more intensely painful when He doesn’t seem to want to deliver me from my suffering. I feel like His hand is heavy upon me while He heaps His favors on others. It seems like He throws His severity my way while He has only blessings for them.

The suffering, the weariness, the stark hardship – these all seem to dry me up and wear away my intimacy with the Savior. I look at other people who always seem to be enjoying life to the full and it would be hard then to dislodge the feelings of envy and jealousy no matter how I earnestly try. There’s also the constant watching and fending off of bitterness that tries to cast a shadow in my heart, defiling me. While others seem to have a perpetual fabulous vacation, I slump on the bed barely whispering, “I’m hurt, Lord.” Hurt, not because my body is, but because life seems unfair.

At this point, you must be thinking I have only grievances to tell. But no. I have the following treasures which I’m delighted to share with you. What must we do when resentments and bitterness, or even estrangement from the Lord, threaten to wreck our relationship with Him? These are what I do:

Persistent in Prayers

When the constant communion with God goes, our relationship with Him will greatly suffer. Even in our desert (and the more so, if we come to think of it), we must pray for our souls’ revival, our hearts’ refreshing, and our minds’ renewal. Even when we don’t know what to pray for because of weariness and sighing, we pray, whatever the Holy Spirit whispers. We cry out for help, even though we have been doing nothing but that for the last many months. When all else fails and quits, let prayers remain. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)

In everything by prayer… (Magnify that many times).

Be Willing to “Die” to Self

I have come to realize that the root of the feelings of envy, jealousy, comparison, competition, discontent, bitterness and such, is one’s resistance to die to oneself and to the world. But if we are willing to offer our lives to God in true and complete surrender, not minding the cost, the sacrifice, the pain – then, we will become unaffected by our surroundings. For how can a “dead man” still feel the taunts and temptations of the devil? But when we lose our lives for God’s sake, we will certainly find it in Him. We’ll just have to trust.

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)

So, when we see people who seem to be “blessed beyond measure”, we just utter a prayer, “My life is in You, Lord, now and for all eternity. What could be better than that? I am Yours, You are mine and I will rest in that truth.”

Profess Your Love

With the Spirit’s stirrings, connect with Jesus moment by moment. Let our hearts be lifted to Him and our minds be ever aware of Him. Instead of sighing, mutter, “I love You, Lord. Thank You for my salvation.” Now, I have learned to punctuate every bout of suffering with a profession of my love. Instead of analyzing my situation and falling prey to self-pity and resentment, I pronounce with my whole heart, “I love You so much my dearest Lord Jesus!” If you can only say a single, short prayer, make it that.

Quench not the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)

Instead of focusing on others and how we can have what they’re having, stalk God. Stalk Him, hound Him on all sides and shower Him with our heartfelt “I love You’s”. Let our love be more fervent that anyone else’s, especially those who profess yet don’t do the will of God. We shan’t be beaten by them! Don’t believe the devil’s lies that God doesn’t love us. He doesn’t simply love us, He does it with an everlasting love.

Yes, Lord, I’m for my relationship with You, in spite of all the trials.

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

“The Wrestlings” Discussion {Chapter One}

It’s been a week since I published my new ebook The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path and offered it free to all my blog subscribers. I thank everyone who signed up and my old subscribers who messaged me requesting for a copy. Every time I send a copy to someone, I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve. It feels like serving a piece of bread and a portion of fish to anyone who wants to partake and it is a blessing! Thank you for letting me serve you!

As you have found out, this ebook is just short, and maybe, some of you feel that it leaves much to be desired. I didn’t want to stretch it on my own, beyond what the Holy Spirit had inspired me. But today and every middle of the week, we will try to discuss each chapter here (and maybe you can also share your reactions? :)).

Below is an excerpt from Chapter One and it’s what we’re going to talk about today (for those who have read this part, you may not read it again here):

“A Testimony

In late-2003 through 2005, Illness bound me in bed. In the mornings after prayer and difficult breakfast, I sat on the bed and looked out the window to the garden of our neighbor, a young family like we were. The family was always happy, laughing robustly, eating meals together, the kids carousing in the garden. Ours was barely living according to the world’s standards: husband struggling with the management of our company which he just took over from me because I was too sick and weak to carry on, daughter in pre- school experiencing depression because of her very sick mom, family not eating, laughing, or going out together.

I gazed longingly out the window and my heart was overcome by great sorrow. And envy. Tears flowing down my face, my soul hungered endlessly for things to be better, but it remained unsatisfied. I looked long at the mother who was about my age. How does it feel to sit there in her place, exhaling all that fresh air, watching her kids play, and feeling well and happy?

How I longed to be in her place! Envy was painful. The Lord Jesus Christ must then be my everything to survive.

I would turn to my songbook and sing praises to God until all my grief was poured out. I would plunge myself at His feet and beg, beg Him to make everything alright for me and my family.

Then, envy and hunger became too much to bear I wanted to go away. I must escape it all. It was too painful to look and listen.

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

But, despite our efforts to look for a new home, it was the Lord’s good will for us to stay where we were. Our family focused on serving the Lord faithfully, trustingly following Him wherever He led us, ever looking to Him for strength, light, and hope.

With 2006 came gradual, sweet healing from the Lord. This brought me and my family to Church’s crusades in different parts of the country and we were cruising through life victoriously! In 2007, though not fully well and strong, I became pregnant with our second child, a son. Our neighbor had now been a year away from their beautiful home and garden and had chosen to live near their kids’ schools instead. Heavy with child, I received a call from this neighbor who was offering us to sell the garden portion of their home. They were not coming back and they were selling their property.

We bought their garden, brought down our wall and our masters’ bedroom’s wall, and built french doors and patio opening to the garden.

Now, our garden is a constant witness to our celebrations of God’s goodness and faithfulness in our life. “

Discussion:

It may appear to some that I might have secretly coveted our neighbor’s property and of course, that is a great sin. I cannot deny the fact that I did covet, but not their property, for we have our own and we were willing to find another home, somewhere quieter and more spacious maybe, where I could be happy. I know deep within my heart that I coveted what they had which we didn’t have then: their family’s happiness and celebration, their joy. I wanted our family to bask in those, too. Which, I believe, was not a bad thing.

A sister in Christ, an elder in Church, when she came to visit before and I told her about our having acquired our neighbor’s garden, even kidded me that maybe I cast them out. God forbid! I will never do such a thing!

But what I really want us to glean here is how the Lord had richly blessed us, giving all the desires of our hearts. When we, as a family, surrendered our life to Him, yielding ourselves to the suffering and hardships and following Him willingly and humbly wherever He led us despite of the trials we were going through, He blessed us. When we humbly obeyed and trusted, casting all our cares upon Him, He saw it all. This is a manifestation of the Lord’s promise in Matthew 6:33:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mat. 6:33)

Maybe you have heard this too many times it seems it hast lost its power and meaning to you. But God’s words and promises will never pass away (Mat. 24:35). When we single-mindedly sought His kingdom by fervently worshiping Him, bountifully giving to His work, faithfully supporting crusades, and immersing ourselves to His Word, prayer, fasting, praising, He added all these things to us, and more: healing, happiness, peace, joy, rejoicing!

So, what is the important lesson here?

When He is first in our lives, He will not hesitate to bless us according to our hearts’ desires.

I’m linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,