Love Gives

Hannah brought home two small packs of sweets from her afternoon out with friend Sary. The sweets were wrapped in colored transparent cellophane obviously made by a small-scale backyard business. I asked where she got them and she told me this story:

After spending crazy time at Worlds of Fun, they went to eat at McDonalds. Near the entrance, they were met by a girl (Hannah said she looked like a college girl) who offered them the sweets. She was selling them to raise money for tuition fee. Hannah said the girl showed them her college ID, she looked nice and Hannah believed she was genuine, that she was as she claimed herself to be. She and Sary at once bought two packs each. She said there were others also who readily bought her merchandise. (The sweets looked like they were priced 10x their expected price, but then I understand that if she didn’t put a considerable profit, it would take her ages to save up for tuition fee. And that is why also, the girls bought only two packs each :) ).

I bit my lip upon hearing this. I know, yes, I KNOW, how it is to be so desperate to finish college amid financial hardship. I had been there: 5 gruelling years of struggle and tears, at times with hunger, at other times with the fear of not being able to take the Final Exams because I hadn’t paid my tuition yet.

I admire the girl who braved selling not-too-attractive sweets in the mall just to finish college. My eyes well up for such a heart for education and the unrelenting dream for a bright future. I can see a part of myself in her.

And since we want the underprivileged but bright kids have a chance to education, our family has been sending a few to school the past years. I am telling this not to brag about what we do. I am always reminded by the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 6:3 regarding our charitable acts: “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” I want to tell our story to inspire others to do the same. That is all.

There are lots of families in our Church, especially in the far provinces, who are rich in faith but poor in material wealth. Most of the kids from these families sing in the Children’s Choir and love the Lord with all their young hearts and minds. We choose those who are fatherless or orphans and who really love to go to school.

It has been a rewarding journey of love for us. This year, by the abundant grace of the Lord, we are expecting to add one or two more children to our sponsorship. I pray the Lord will give them to us.

These words from Psalm 18:25 and Matthew 5:7 compel me:

With the merciful you show yourself merciful… 

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

For I so need His mercy. But I know that these stirrings of love for the other person take their roots from God.

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ESV)

I know so well that my heart is imperfect. I still struggle with envy, jealousy over God’s love, comparison, self-pity, bitterness, selfishness (these mainly emanate from my prolonged sickness and suffering). And if I’m downright honest, I must also add a little of covetousness, materialism, and just plain worldliness. But it is God who sanctifies and transforms me. What I can do is to cling to Him like a branch clinging to the Vine and do my best to obey His commands.

And in these small acts of love, I hope and pray that I am doing just that.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 ESV)

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Journey with Jesus,

Live Full or Live Empty

Most people would think the answer is obvious. One is how life should be lived while the other you’ll do your utmost to avoid. That is according to the world. We have been educated by the world to live full. Ads aim to touch on this facet of mankind, that desire to live a full life: posters depicting beautiful homes and grand vacations, magazines and the Internet offering a plethora of pleasures beyond one’s imaginations and an experience of a lifetime. To the world, living life to the full is living without limits, be it acquisition of material wealth, shopping ’til you drop, seeing the world, pampering and lavishing oneself through cosmetic procedures and supplements to prolong youth and vitality …the list is endless.

(image from Google)

And living empty? It is not what you think it is.

What if we are called by God to live another kind of adventure, one that is foreign to the ways of the world? One which Christ actually lived? What if the will of God is not for us to enjoy life to the fullest but to give ourselves to Him and others? You would think that’s a grand quest and one which we can’t possibly attain. It is grand. But all things are possible with God.

If you asked me these questions ten years ago at the height of my career, foreign travels, and shopping to the max, I would have balked. And if you had forced me to leave that life, you would have carried me pummelling and violently flailing. So, I understand that it’s quite impossible to make the world live otherwise.

I have been faithfully following the Lord since I received Him as my Lord and King and personal Savior ten years ago. My life He has turned upside down whether I liked it or not. There had been resistance, you see. But who hath resisted his will? For ten years He’s been severing my affections for worldly things and showing me how to live according to His ways.

Now I’m finally getting it, though the process has been really slow. God is calling us to live empty. He showed us how when He walked on earth. He emptied Himself of the grandeur of heaven and came to live with us. He emptied Himself of His crown and His royal robes and came and wore dusty sandals and homespun tunic. He emptied Himself when He poured out His life as an offering for our sins so we might live.

And we are to live like Christ lived. To be conformed to His image.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29, emphasis mine)

To live empty is not to live with a gaping hole deep within us bereft of all hope and life’s meaning. To live empty is to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service (Rom. 12:1), poured out for others like a drink offering. To live empty is to offer up everything you have within you for the service and glory of God. Every talent, every gift, every prayer, every heartbeat. Whatever is in your hand, a loaf of bread and a piece of fish or a basket of them. You offer willingly and the Lord will multiply them.

To live empty is to be continuously opening our hands and hearts to God to receive His grace. To live empty is to be endlessly filled by God with things that cannot be valued: peace, joy, love, spiritual power, wisdom, anointing.

So choose: live full or live empty?

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“The Wrestlings” Discussion {Chapter Three}

Chapter 3 of my ebook The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path deals with covetousness. Around the middle of the chapter, I wrote about hoarding and told about the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. I wrote this:

“This has been my practice with my acquisitions of new clothes and bags: when I buy new, I see to it that I unload some to be given away to brethren in Christ who really need them. “

(source: Google images)

Some might think that, to create an excuse to buy more and often, I therefore give away my possessions regularly. One of the attributes of covetousness is to acquire more, and often. There’s no satiating it. The Free Dictionary defines it as “extreme greed for material wealth”. And greed, in turn, is defined as “excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves”. So, do I give away what I have from my probably burgeoning wardrobe so that I can satisfy my cravings to shop and shop? I thank God that is not the case. I’m afraid to commit the sin of greed and covetousness which is idolatry, that is why, I need to wrestle against my flesh’s desires for the Spirit that dwells in me to triumph.

(Just an explanation: I bought that new bag after 6 years of not caring about bags at all. When I finally felt the urge to buy a new one, I wrestled with my heart’s desire to buy the red bag, too. But I knew that buying 2 bags at the same time was more than what I really needed. Our wrestlings must bring us to triumph in the desires of the Spirit as contrary to the desires of the flesh. When I need to buy modest clothes for important occasions, even just simple celebrations at home, I try to give away some old ones).

But these are just simple ways to share and avoid greed and hoarding. There is a far bigger duty that materially-blessed Christians are called for. What I really want to emphasize regarding this chapter is: are we rich towards God? The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 talks about this. Are we rich toward God or do we acquire more and more properties as the Lord continues to pour out His blessings upon us? Do we build more houses and buy more cars and declare that we are so much blessed by the Lord? Every good and perfect gift is from above, but I always feel uncomfortable every time I hear Christians thanking the Lord for having acquired more houses and cars. Even though we have been enormously blessed by faithfully giving to the Lord through our tithes and love offerings, do we really need more houses and cars?

I think about the workers of the vineyard of the Lord (the real ones!) who have given up worldly pleasures and possessions and surrendered their lives to the Lord to regularly fast, pray and preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. They are often hungry, thirsty, and in need of clothing. How about them? I think about poor families, utterly poor and suffer from malnutrition and other diseases, that have not yet heard and received the Gospel of salvation – how about them?

We do our best to help. We give richly to the Lord, for His work, that the Gospel reach the unsaved. We think about them much more than planning to build another house or buying the latest car model. We think about helping poor children getting proper education while leading them to Christ.

 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19, emphasis added)

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Journey with Jesus,

For Giving to the Lord

Something wondrous happened on Friday overnight worship service. A brother in Christ, a young man, testified in the pulpit that before he and his family received the Lord Jesus Christ, they were so poor back in the province that their meal often consisted of boiled rice eaten with sugared water. But he said that when they embraced the Lord and served Him, they began to receive His abundant blessings. He and his other siblings were able to go to school. He was thanking the Lord that he has now finished college, then went on to offer a special song for Him.

(image from Google)

And that was what touched a chord in me once again. He sang Thank You for Giving to the Lord. While I listened, I was biting my lip and trying my best not to sob (for I was then having difficulty breathing). The song brought me back to Pampanga Fasting House, precious memories of over eight years ago.

I was lying on my cot in my corner in the chapel (I had written about this corner before in one of my posts, but I will tell it again here). You see, when our family went to stay there to beg God for my healing, we also brought with us a single foldable bed. The plan was for me to stay in one corner of the chapel so I could listen to beloved brethren singing, praising, worshiping, and praying. These were fasting brethren. My cot was placed at the left corner beside the chapel entrance. Some sister-workers draped curtains around it so I could have some privacy.

The morning praise and worship ended at 2 in the afternoon, during which all the fasting brethren and workers went to their quarters to rest. I was always left alone in the chapel with only the utter quiet inside and the sound of the gentle breeze coming from the windows as company. But one afternoon, one of the workers played a song in the sound system and set it to repeat endlessly, then he left.

Thank You for Giving to the Lord (I didn’t know it then, it was my first time to hear it) played over and over. I liked the song at once. And it blessed me. So much.

How can I forget those days of suffering interspersed with the Lord’s blessings and miracles?

The true Church of the living God is beautiful. It is the Body of Christ. Everyone has a role to play, a gift to offer back. Everyone has something to give – rich and poor, young and old, male and female, students, professionals, businessmen, and even those who have not attained education. These all give for the kingdom of God.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in ourministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:6-8)

I always think that if not for the Body of Christ which prays and fasts and gives, where would I be now?

So, I thank the Lord for them who have given their lives selflessly for the Gospel, prayed and fasted day and night for the salvation of souls: our dearly beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde E. Almeda and Asst. Pastor Lina C. Almeda.

I thank Him for the many men and women, with their families, who followed the footsteps of our beloved spiritual parents and they, too, answered the Lord’s calling and forsook the life this world offers and became workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

I thank Him for those faithful brethren who give, so that the Gospel will spread to all corners of the earth: by foot, by all means of transportation, by radio, by TV, by the Internet.

Those who stand before rebels on the mountains, before patients (some very sick and dying) in hospital wards, before prisoners in jails, before believers of the Quran in a foreign land, before harried people in the marketplace, before skeptics in the workplace, etc. (This is not just a general list, but real stories and testimonies of brethren who go the distance to bring the Gospel to all people).

Those who give of their resources, talents, time, energy, wisdom, selfless love. For we cannot love without giving.

Thank you for giving to the Lord!

For those who are reading this in email, click here to view the music video.

My gratitude list ~ the things I’m thankful to the Lord for. Continuing to count the gifts:

66. For all those who subscribed to my blog via email and those who contacted me requesting for a copy of The Wrestlings along the Narrow Path– every time I send a copy I count it a blessing!

67. For finishing 8 days of extended whole morning fast

68. For the testimonies I heard during Sunday service – the Lord Jesus raising up a mother dying of leukaemia! And one other miracle which I hope to write about at Minister of Mercy and share it here later this week.

69. For the powerful message of an elder in Church who came from America.

70. For one of the kids’ young rabbits darting here and there in the garden, his energy inspires me; now we call him Dart.

71. For the exquisite gifts sent by a former classmate and good friend from Tallahassee, FL.

72. For my new inspirational books and cook books.

73. The Lord opening my spiritual eyes WIDER to His truth and to the knowledge of Him; I hope this will stay forever.

 74. For a new iPod (my first!) and speaker dock – now I can listen to praise music non-stop!

75. Listening to Hannah play Beauty and the Beast and one other happy tune.

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

What the World Needs {and a New Year Giveaway}

Before the Christmas break, my daughter Hannah volunteered to assist in their school’s activity to entertain and give out Christmas gift bags to poor children from an institution. I allowed her to be a part of it because I wanted her to be aware of the needs of less-fortunate children. When she came home late in the afternoon, she shared with me her experience. According to her, she and her other classmates who volunteered were very excited to welcome the children. They exerted a lot of effort repacking food items and placing them into plastic bags to be given out. They also prepared a program to entertain them. Hannah said that they expected the children to be really poor, like what she usually sees in my UNICEF correspondence.

But they were greatly disappointed when they saw that those children were clothed and arrayed in a more extravagant way than they were. Hannah and her classmate-friend were assigned to a girl of about their age. Hannah said that for a while, they gawked at the girl they were supposed to entertain and assist: she was wearing platforms and dangling earrings. (In their school, there are footwear and accessories that aren’t allowed and our Hannah is also taught at home to be simple). Hannah said that the girl didn’t portray the poor girl that she knew and expected, especially when she answered them that she played computer games most of the day back in the “home”. (I always show Hannah the pictures of poor children around the country that UNICEF features in their monthly newsletter. Sometimes, we also watch special programs on TV about the plight of the poor in our country).

I then checked the institution from where those children came from and it was some kind of a formation house and not an orphanage. I tried to downplay my daughter’s disappointment by explaining the purpose of the formation house, that maybe those were children who were not really that poor but they ended up in that place because maybe they ran away from home and they were living in the streets sniffing prohibited substance or committing other juvenile crimes.

Hannah said that the children looked like they didn’t really need the bags filled with canned goods, rice, noodles, etc. And I was thinking in the deeper sense, that is, spiritually. Yes, those bags weren’t really the answer to those young people’s problems.

Often, well-meaning people plan a gift-giving program for the poor especially during Christmas. This is a most admirable deed. But when we, as Christians, think about our real role as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is more to giving than giving materially, and not just for a special time of the year. What are we commanded to give first and foremost? What does the world really need?

We are commissioned to share the Gospel of salvation to “every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23). We are to be Christ’s ministers. The Lord Jesus Christ IS the answer to people’s woes: addictions, problems, poverty, criminality…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:18, emphasis added)

It’s true that the token of our love is to give to those who are in deep need, and by God’s grace, we are going to continue to do that. But foremost, we need to give Christ to the unsaved. The bread that we give to the hungry will last for only a meal with the hopes of momentarily quelling the hunger pangs. But what about the next day? And the next? We can never really fully satisfy the hungry nor fully supply the needs of the needy. But when they have Christ and they learn to put their trust in Him, the Lord will prosper them and bless them in all His loving and caring ways. 

I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)

We do not give only on Christmas. When we live giving the Living Bread, we give continuously.

I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. (John 6:48-51)

Let’s give the world Jesus. For it’s not only the hungry stomachs that need to be filled, but the hungry souls.

May the coming year find us buried deeper in fervent service to God and our sights be farther away from our own selves and nearer to His will and to the things He cares about.

NEW YEAR GIVEAWAY!

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Lent to the Lord

In 1998, when my beloved father lived with me in my small, two-bedroom apartment very sick of lung cancer, life was truly hard. He and my mother traveled from our hometown in the province to seek medical help from specialists. This was also the time that I was struggling with the chemicals business I had put up only ten months earlier. I had turned a portion of my living room into an office and given my bedroom to my father for this was more spacious and airy.

There were cousins who would come to assist my mother in caring for my father all day, while I went out to work, visiting clients. Everyday, our hearts were heavy and the mood in my apartment was generally gloomy. This was a time when I hadn’t yet surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

To combat the pervasive sadness in my apartment, I wrote to my older sister and implored her to send her then 4-year-old daughter to us to help cheer up our beloved parents, and me too, since the challenges my fledgling business brought and the burden of caring for my sick father were bearing down heavily upon me. (I was still single then).

She sent her right away and my apartment sure lit up with her effervescent presence. She made her grandfather laugh heartily and stayed beside him when he was quiet and not feeling good. I brought her to the hospital when my father had to stay there for days and he was always happy to see her. I bought her clothes, food, and things to get herself busy most of the day and not miss her Mama too much. The generosity and unselfishness of my sister to lend her little daughter to us so far away from her sight and bosom (they lived in the province) stuck in my memory.

Which brings me now to an endearing story in the Bible that I have cherished ever since I was saved: the story of Hannah and her beloved son (1 Sam. 1-2). Hannah was inconsolable because she was barren, and her rival, the other wife of her husband, mocked her for she had borne many. Hannah prayed to God and begged Him to give her a son and she vowed that she would lend him to Him all the days of his life. (I had written a more detailed retelling of Hannah’s story in Powerful Prayers: Hannah).

God heard Hannah’s agonizing prayer and He gave her a son. After she had weaned her child, she brought him to the Lord at Shiloh and entrusted him to Eli the priest, as she had vowed to the Lord. She had waited for years to have a child, but now she had to leave him in the temple to serve the Lord to honor her vow. But Hannah’s unselfishness and sacrifice didn’t go unnoticed in the eyes of God. For when she and her husband returned to their home, God blessed her with more sons and daughters. Hannah was exceedingly glad that she poured out a song of praise to God.

…For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up. (1 Sam. 2: 3,7)

It is this same principle that I apply now with my children: lending them to the Lord through singing in the choirs in church. Hannah sings in the Children’s Choir while Tim sings in the Cherubims Choir. What’s more excellent than singing praises to God in His great congregation? I see God’s goodness in our life everyday and I know we can never repay it. Praising and giving glory to His name is the least we could do and we will not be stingy with it, by His grace.

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise. (Mat. 21:16)

And God is ever faithful to reward every earnest sacrifice offered to Him, and prospers and increases every endeavor geared for His kingdom. As He did with Hannah in the Old Testament, so He does with Hannah my daughter, blessing her with wisdom and she gets good grades in school. She received a silver medal in academic excellence last year and she will again receive a medal this year in their graduation and awarding ceremonies – to God be the glory! He answers our heartfelt prayers and gives our hearts’ desires, like my prayer for Hannah to learn the piano. Now, she’s presently enrolled in piano lessons and will have their recital in April. She plays the piano so well – a precious gift from the gracious God – and I only have Him to be grateful for!

Linked to Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, Women Living Well, Women in the Word Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Walk With Him Wednesday, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Faith Filled Friday, Teach Me Tuesday, Winsome Wednesday, Pink Saturday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty, Better Mom Mondays, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

A Heart for the Poor

Photobucket

One path to blessedness is to have a heart for the poor. The poor who is in need of food and clothing, or the poor in spirit who is in need of God’s love and deliverance, or the poor in health and strength who is in need of healing. And this path is really the path of genuine love. And the love that truly blesses is a love like Christ’s. Isn’t this exactly what the Lord was talking about in Matthew 25:34-40?

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and preach the Gospel to them for this is really what makes rich and fills and satiates. Visit the bound and destitute in prison and preach the Gospel of salvation to them for this is what really liberates. Visit the sick and the suffering, pray for them, read to them the Word of God, hold their hands and whisper words that give hope and encouragement and healing. This is all love in action. This is the proof of our faith to the living God who loves and saves and heals – faith that expresses itself through love (Gal. 5:6). This is the only thing that counts.

Faith expressing and proving itself through love. This is the path of gold that ushers in God’s wonderful [great, extraordinary, amazing, astounding, staggering, tremendous!] blessings. 

May this be our path, our life, our ministry, as we cry out to God to gift us a love that is like Christ’s, for this is the kind of love that matters in His sight.

Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed. (Ps. 41:1-3)

Related post: Beautiful Feet: What Love Really Means

Linked to Proverbs 31 Thursday, Women Living Well, Walk With Him Wednesday, Brag on God Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty, Titus 2sday, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Raising Homemakers, Women in the Word Wednesday

5 Ways to Practice Christmas Everyday

All over the world, Christians young and old love Christmas. There is a unique wonder to Christmas that no other time of the year can equal. It is like magic that captivates everyone’s heart.

During Christmas season, as snow piles up in most parts of the globe and temperatures go down below zero making lakes freeze, an entirely different thing happens to the hearts of people – they melt, acquiescing to the love that is felt in the air – everywhere. People find enough love to forgive, enough compassion to give, and hearts overflow with thanksgiving to the Author and Reason of it all – Jesus Christ.

People sing carols declaring the love, peace, joy, and salvation the Savior brings. Estranged people reconcile, families reunite – there are celebrations in every heart and home. This is the love, joy and peace of God! But we don’t have to be stingy on ourselves and wait for another year to live the wonder of Christmas.

Loving, making peace, giving, thanksgiving, and rejoicing – the things that happen at Christmastime – are things that the Lord wanted and intended for us to practice every single day, not just on a specific, short time of the year.

So, how do we live the practice of Christmas everyday?

  • “O, Come Let Us Adore Him!”

This is a classic Christmas carol but do we come and adore Him only on Christmas? Nay. We come and adore Him when we wake up in the morning and before we lay ourselves down again to sleep at night! Everyday, we come to worship Him, singing songs of praise that come from grateful and adoring hearts. Let us purpose in our hearts to live in His constant presence.

I have a beautiful Christmas stationery with “O, Come Let Us Adore Him!” embossed in red foil at the top, but I use it all-year round!

  • “The Weary World Rejoices!”

The Bible tells us in Phil. 4:4 to “rejoice in the Lord always”. Yes, not only on Christmas season but always. We rejoice because we received the salvation of our souls and He is coming again to take us to Himself so that we will be together with Him through eternity.

We can rejoice in the Lord by turning ordinary days into simple celebrations of His goodness and faithfulness – thanking Him for His grace, tending to our homes with joy, gathering around the dining table with family, food, stories, and laughter and just creating precious moments, enriching our spiritual lives by spending quiet time with the Lord, immersing ourselves in His Word, writing on our journal, or reading a good book, etc. The essence is that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

  • Give Love [not only on Christmas Day]

We can show love and give love not only by giving prettily-wrapped presents but by visiting and praying for the sick, by sharing the Gospel to a loved one, a friend, or a co-worker, by donating to send a poor child to school, or by sending a lovely card with your handwritten message of love, care and best wishes to someone who is lonely… There are a myriad ways we can preserve the spirit of Christmas in our lives! We only need to keep the love and inspiration from the Lord ablaze in our hearts.

A few years ago, my elderly neighbor and I have begun a tradition of exchanging gifts throughout the year. I give her of my home cooked muffins and cakes, homemade ice cream, and some other stuff for her home, and she gives me bunches of lovely and fragrant flowers, bread and pastries, and all kinds of stuff for the kids. Sometimes, I can only give her a handwritten thank-you note from my stash of pretty cards :).

  •  “Deck the Halls!”

The Christmas tree and all the other beautiful Christmas decors have been put away in boxes ’til next December, but our homes need not be stripped of loveliness. Take joy in making our homes places where God’s beauty is seen and felt. Home-cooked goodness, fresh flowers in a vase, uplifting praise music, kids’ artworks on the walls, lighted fragrant candles, frames of joy-filled moments…the possibilities are endless! Just draw from that well of inspiration and creativity that we, homemakers, have been gifted with!

This huge bunch of lovely white lilies is a gift from my sweet, elderly neighbor.

Homemade white chocolate and whole oats cookies with green tea.

Some of our family photo frames arranged and photographed by Hannah.

  • “Let There Be Peace on Earth”

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me. 
Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry breath I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally!
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Written by Sy Miller and Bill Jackson

Live each moment in peace eternally! What a beautiful song! Need I say more?

Linked to Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, We Are That Family, Women Living Well, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Raising Homemakers, Walk With Him Wednesday, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Brag on God Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty

A Blessed Christmas

May your homes be filled with songs of praise, prayers and thanksgiving.

May your hearts overflow with the love, joy and peace that only come from the Savior King!

Come on in!

Linked to Spiritual Sundays

The Widow and the Fatherless

She received my letter with great joy and without delay, she  came, traveling 12 hours by bus with her little girl in her arms. They arrived in the early evening going straight to the Friday overnight worship service of our main church.

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

That night, I saw her testify in the pulpit clothed in white long sleeves blouse and long skirt, and one wouldn’t think that she just got off the bus. She had fresh testimonies of God’s healing miracles in their outreach – a far-flung barrio in San Andres, Quezon Province. She testified that she was fetched by other brethren-in-Chirst to go to an island and pray for a woman who was greatly suffering from witchcraft. There was nobody to leave her almost three-years-old baby girl for her two older boys were still in school, so she brought her baby along.

She testified that huge waves would cover their banca (a small boat) as they navigated the turbulent sea but they never stopped praying and rebuking the wind and the waves. At this, I remember the very first time I heard her testify. It was almost the same situation – a very dangerous boat ride to an island where they would have a Bible Study. I was amazed then at her stories, her testimonies of great faith in the midst of seemingly impossible situations.

I had wanted to meet her then (over six years ago) and requested her to pray for my healing. And thus, our friendship blossomed.

Sister Isabel is a faithful worker in the Lord’s vineyard. She fasts and prays regularly. She has a small hut near the outreach’s chapel. She visits sick people and prays for them, as taught by our dearly beloved pastor and assistant pastor. She had fully surrendered her life in service to the Lord while her beloved husband worked for the family as a security guard in another province.

But in late-2008, three months before she would deliver her youngest child, just a few weeks before Christmas, her beloved husband suddenly died of a heart attack.

Sis. Isabel and her baby Rain with my 2 kids Hannah and Tim.

Sunday after the worship service, she comes to our home, with her little girl in her arms. The widow and the fatherless. We talk and I can see her strength, that quiet strength that only comes from a very intimate walk with Jesus.

I ask again the name of her little girl, and she tells me. And I think, “Did she name her daughter Princess Reign? Like a reigning princess?” I’m not sure so I ask her to spell it. And she says, “R-A-I-N.”

“I named her Princess Rain because tears poured out like rain when I was carrying her.” And I see beads of crystals threatening to spill out of meek eyes.

I ask about her boys. The eldest is in grade 6 and the younger is in grade 3. I ask some more. They live by her beloved husband’s SSS pension which is P3,0oo plus (about $80) per month. I tell her we will sponsor John Mark’s (her eldest) schooling until he graduates from high school. At this, those pools in her eyes spill over and run down her face freely. She wipes them with her palm as she expresses her gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ.

She goes back home to the province with cartons of canned goods and noodles, packs of juice powder and biscuits, a box of used clothes, and cash for 2 sacks of rice – and a very grateful heart to the One who deserves all thanksgiving. These will be distributed to the beloved brethren there – the poor who are rich in faith.

And she tells me that this will be a joyous Christmas for all of them. “Ang Diyos ay mabuti!” (God is good!), she utters solemnly.

Through our own afflictions, the Lord Jesus draws us nearer to the afflicted, so that we would learn love – and we would learn Him.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)

Devotions for a Christ-filled Christmas Day 1: What’s in Your Sock? {Part 1: UNICEF}
Devotions for a Christ-filled Christmas Day 2: What’s in Your Sock? {Part 2: Warm Christmas}
Devotions for a Christ-filled Christmas Day 3: The Goodness of the Lord
Devotions for a Christ-filled Christmas Day 4: Yes and Amen!
Devotions for a Christ-filled Christmas Day 5: The Way to the Manger
 

This post is linked to Proverbs 31 Thursday, Brag on God Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty, Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, Women Living Well, Walk With Him Wednesday, Proverbs14verse1, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Brag on God Friday, Spiritual Sundays

Journey with Jesus,