Live Loved

It’s all coming to me now, cascading like cool waterfalls and awakening every fiber of my being. As I continue to walk closely with the Lord in this hard season of my life, ever receptive to His voice speaking, guiding, teaching — He leads me through narrower paths and deeper waters of faith. As I yield myself to His ever-patient molding, re-forming, and renewing, I find myself swimming above the waters instead of drowning. He enriches my faith, my obedience, my love, my hope, and there is an abiding light in my otherwise dim world.

live_loved

I sat down at the edge of the bed maybe to switch on the lamp or reset my docked iPod (I can’t be sure now), but in that moment, His words came, and my hand, whatever it was reaching for, stopped in mid-air. He got my attention and I wondered, really wondered, how I could have missed it all this time. All these years. Maybe that’s what self-absorption does to us (or some other). It lulls us to spiritual slumberland and shuts out His voice.

Every time you wallow in envy, jealousy, comparison, covetousness, self-pity, resentment, bitterness, even unforgiveness, you have not abided in My love. As long as you abide in them, you will not know the fullness of My love. You will always feel unloved or loved less. For these things happen to one who has not My love nor has known it. This breaks My heart, for everything that I had done, I did it because of My love for you.

This, more or less, was the essence of the Lord’s message in that moment of epiphany.

The times that I had indulged myself with those negative emotions, being weak to totally fend them off, but succumbing to them time and again, had me living outside of love. More importantly, outside of the Savior’s love. And this was what really stopped me dead in my tracks: Every time I had dwelt in them, I had unconsciously spurned His love for me. For if I had been fully abiding in His love, carefully holding every drop of it safe in my bosom, there wouldn’t have been reason to feel those things, let alone revel in them like I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Whether it was done unconsciously or not, or in moments of weakness or deep anguish, it had some tinge of rebellion to it. But this isn’t the life the Lord has called me to.

In the early months after my salvation, I was euphoric. The Savior has delivered me from an adulterous life. I imagined Him thundering to the gates of hell and snatching me from its clutches before it was too late. When I thought of the many opportunities the devil could have plunged me to my death as being unsaved yet, BUT the Savior never allowed it — I was overwhelmed by His great love.

When did I begin to equate His love (or seeming lack of it in my limited understanding and vision) to sickness and suffering, to unhealing, to hardships, to misery, to sorrow, to unfulfilled dreams, to unanswered prayers? I think it was the time I didn’t receive answer to my most urgent prayer — my healing and deliverance from suffering — and countless times after that as the years flew away swiftly, like falling leaves in autumn, and still without receiving the healing I was so desperately begging for.

Then began the years that I lived like His child who was loved less, favored less, the one who wasn’t deserving of a miracle as grand as healing of a grievously broken body. More like a sooty Cinderella that tended the cinders rather than a beloved princess – daughter of the King of kings. I gravitated towards intense feelings of envy and jealousy to those whom I saw His favor heaped upon, not realizing these were already taking root in my soul.

However, I saw also that God had been faithful in other areas of my life and continues to be so to this day. That is why gratitude has not left my heart neither have my lips withheld praise and thanksgiving. I’ve lost count of the many testimonies to His enduring mercies which I hold close to my heart.

Nevertheless, the ceaseless pounding of illness and suffering on my already battered body had somehow shrouded God’s love for me. Even Apostle Paul’s exhortation on Christ’s love had not been able to appease my sorrowing heart.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35, 37, 38, 39)

I knew and believed without a doubt that whatever happened in this life, the Lord would take me to His dwelling place, where there’s no more crying nor sickness and suffering. I believed that nothing could snatch me out of His hand as He assures His children. But I couldn’t help but see the sufferings in my life as God’s punishments, or to put it mildly, His chastisements. I don’t know when I started to develop that mindset but it had taken deep roots through the years that when my illness and suffering intensified, I cowered in fear of Him and saw only His severity.

I understand that God chastises or disciplines His children when they err or become wayward. It is another token of His love (see Heb. 12:6-7). But though it wasn’t the case for me, through the years, I felt like I lived in an atmosphere of constant chastisements and less-than love. It was hard to reconcile my harrowing reality with the truth that He loved me completely. It was a challenge to experience His love, let alone bask in it.

But He made me realize that I need not live like this.

So now, I’m coming a long way from that place of believing I was being severely punished to that place called love where my Savior dwells. There is a need for me to relearn His truths, to listen well to the Holy Spirit’s voice: God is not punishing me (the Lord Jesus Christ had already borne all that). I am relearning to see my Savior in a new light: one who loves me and delights to give me eternal life. I am making baby steps toward that love, a love that nurtures and heals and binds up and never strikes or harms (crying now).

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart… (Is. 40:11).

Live loved. What does it look like? It’s peace and quiet rest, security and confidence; untainted joy; generous kindness and gentleness. It’s a child basking in the warmth of her Father’s unfailing love.

Live loved, dear one. It’s the will of the Father for us. Anything less is from the devil. Our Savior died on the cross to prove His love for us. There’s no greater love than His. And nothing can ever separate us from it.

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Even So, His Grace is Sufficient

One morning last week as I exercised my legs using my walker, just making small steps as I swayed with the music, I was suddenly gripped by a wave of strong emotions. Agnus Dei was blaring from my docked iPod and I was looking closely at my feet as they made the slow steps, then I felt my spirit lifted up and tears sprang to my eyes. The instinctive feeling was that of self-pity, then rightly followed by hunger. Hunger to become well and strong and walking and going places to win souls. Eleven years ago, I was walking and working and traveling. But all that ceased.

Even so…

I feel the fierce love of Jesus everyday. I’ve learned to rest in that love which never condemns, never rejects and drives away, and never ever grows cold.

I make mistakes. My weaknesses frustrate me to the point that I berate myself and sometimes I can’t fully accept and love me.

Even so…

He’s teaching me everyday that in missteps I learn to walk straight. That through my mistakes and weaknesses, He breaks me, so I might learn to be strong and courageous. To overcome. To study and analyze, to think deeper. To learn the lessons and know Him more. And yet, He does it all in the circle of His love. He loves me even when I try to reject myself. This is grace.

Many times I think of myself as not victorious, but defeated. As unworthy and unlovable.

Even so…

He doesn’t fail to draw me near Him. When I bow down and humble myself before Him with tears of repentance and hunger to feel His heart, with my song of worship more whispered than sung, He is ready to meet me. He dances with me even as my legs could hardly make the steps. How can I ever think of trading this undeserved love for anything in the world? For if I have Jesus, I won’t have lack of anything.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Cor. 12:9)

One time, my beloved husband came into the room while I was doing walking exercises with my waker. Through It All was playing in my docked iPod. He came near and held me and tried to dance with me. Just like old times. But I was sad. Illness and suffering and sorrow bowed down my head.

Even so…

My Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is the lifter of my head.

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me;
my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. (Ps. 3:3)

So, I trudge on. For He is ever with me. From here to eternity.

Dear reader, these words are for you, too. They are dedicated to you.

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A Beautiful Love Story

What does your love story with the Lord Jesus look like? Where are you in your relationship with Him? Are you dancing with Your Redeemer King to beautiful music, being in step with Him in every beat of the rhythm of your love, honor, and devotion to Him? Being held in His everlasting arms, and you know for certain that, in that beautiful dance, you are loved and cherished and kept for eternity? Oh, what a beautiful love story our Savior weaves around His redeemed! It had begun on that very first day of Creation. And God hasn’t relented on His love for us ever since.

Or are you chasing love in all the wrong directions? Have you run so far away and yet, you have not taken hold of it? Have you sought it in your career and dreams of success? Or in your relationships, in the people in your life, yes, in the men that seem to go in and out of your life? I know someone close to me who has been looking for it in all her failed relationships. Large amount of time has passed in desolation, in yearning. Years that have probably made her tremble in fear as doubts enveloped her heart. Will I ever find the love I’m searching for? Will I ever feel complete, feel cherished by a man who loves me unconditionally and forever?

What I want her to know is that – she needs to be complete first in the love that covers all, the love of Jesus, before she could ever find true fulfilment in anything. Including a fulfilling love relationship with a man, the man God has destined for her.

Sometimes, in our eagerness to grasp this love, we weave stories of our own. They remain hidden in our fantasies, deep in the recesses of our hearts and minds. And sometimes, we drown those deep longings with whatever our hands can take hold of. I had a friend who drowned her sorrows in wine and nightspots. She was painfully wanting the sustaining love of her husband which she couldn’t have, for he also was lost and looking for love elsewhere. What a life!

We do all these not realizing that the Lord Jesus Christ has woven the greatest love story humankind will ever know. That when we’ve known it, He will fill us with this love, the kind of love that fills up every crack, every void, every hurting place. A love that binds up our wounds and heals all our broken places. Oh, I know this so well! He wove a beautiful love story with me that will sustain me through eternity! (I’ll remember to tell you that next time).

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)

The Samaritan woman at the well whom the Lord met – she had had five husbands and the one she was with at the time was not her husband. In my mind, she was like the person close to me I mentioned earlier – she’d been looking for love so hard she had to go through five failed relationships. But on that day at the well, she met the Messiah who told her:

…“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13)

On that day, the Samaritan woman met Jesus and received the living water. Her search had ended. Her thirst for love was quenched, for this would carry her to everlasting life.

Dear one, look behind you. You might have run so fast in your hurry to find love you’ve passed Jesus by. He just might be right behind you, pursuing you, calling your name, knocking at your heart’s door. I tell you – let Him in. And find the greatest love you’ve always wanted.

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Choose Love Over Guilt

I know that there are Christ-followers like me who are too hard on themselves. For years of faithfully serving the Lord, I had put the burden of “feeling guilty” upon myself even for unfounded reasons. I had believed that God was always on the lookout for my faults, however little they were. That He’s just waiting for me to slip up, make the wrong move, word, or thought, and He was there ready to pounce. Well, I hadn’t exactly imagined it that way, but I had punished myself into feeling guilty even before I knew what He was going to do about my slip-ups, shortcomings, and failures. That hard feeling on myself drove me to believe that God was displeased, even angry at me, and maybe He didn’t want to have anything to do with me. And because I was believing and feeling that, there were times I hardly knew how to present myself to Him but to cower and beg for mercy.

But I found out that if we punish ourselves for every single failure, mistake, or shortcoming that we didn’t even do wilfully, but only that we’re sometimes weak – WE CAN NEVER FEEL JESUS’ LOVE. When we willingly receive Satan’s serving of guilt in a silver platter and believe that Jesus is probably fuming about what we’ve done this time – we can think, feel, and even believe anything just for us to avoid presenting ourselves before Him. And that’s exactly what the devil wants: to alienate us from our Lord and King. He will use just about anything just so we’ll not feel the healing and comforting love of Jesus. And guilt is one of his powerful weapons. But know this:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. (1 John 3:20-21)

Now, I’m slowly learning that the Lord Jesus Christ wants to draw us in love, not in fear. He wants to throw His net of love upon us and draw us to shore where His serving of grace awaits us. Now I’m really believing that Jesus’ love is far more powerful than any failure, mistake, or shortcoming I’ll ever commit. Or for those who are still needing salvation: His love is far greater than any sin they had ever committed. We’ve been in that place of abounding grace, too, when the Savior covered all our sins and washed us clean from every one of them. We should not forget that that grace, abundant and free-flowing, is always available to us whenever we seek Him, believing that He will always receive us in love.

I’m slowly believing that the Lord wants His children to flourish in His all-encompassing love, and not in crippling fear and all its products such as guilt, endless self-recrimination, self-hatred, etc. which, when we really examine them, are Satan’s weapons to draw us away from the Father’s love. So, let’s come before the Lord with our humble and contrite hearts believing that He’s always waiting for us with His love that never wanes.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Let Jesus

This Sunday morning, I was having a feeling of trepidation again as my husband and the kids prepared for church. That always happens though in varying intensities. And today, it was one of those times that it peaked again. I don’t know why but on Sundays, when my family goes to church leaving me only with the maid, my discomforts and suffering increase a few notches. I thought I should have asked my son Tim to stay behind to accompany me as I watched the live webcast of our worship service (I usually do that on Sundays that Cherubim’s Choir’s not singing), but I honestly thought he was going to sing today.

At one point, my anxiety, which triggered difficulty in breathing, peaked and I knew I had to trust in myself to relax and recover. There really is no outside help for me: no meds, no nurse, no doctors, no hospital. There’s only me and my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And THAT MUST WORK, otherwise, I would have been found “lifeless” many times over the years. But miraculously, that never happened. Obviously, my faith in Jesus is working for me. Hallelujah!

So, what was the life-giving, mind-strengthening inspiration that came to me as I was face to face with fear and suffering again today? It was this: that Jesus loves me and He has made my heart right with God, so no matter what happens, I’m going to be okay. That He is right there and that He knows me and calls me by my name and knows exactly where I am. That I AM ACTUALLY HELD RIGHT THERE IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND. That my life’s in the cleft of the Rock, and I am very, very safe.

Has the verse 1 John 4:18 been working for you? Or have you been wrestling with it, trying your very best to live it out, for it to be real in your life? So real you can taste and feel its power?

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

I have been through all the studying, wrestling, and striving just so this verse will become real and alive and powerful in my life. For it to become a place of rest. A place of healing. But I found out that it doesn’t come with our works, our own doings, but it’s purely the Lord’s doing. It’s His gift. This is the thing:

IF WE RECEIVE THE LOVE JESUS HAS FOR US – PURE, POWERFUL, LIFE-GIVING, UNFAILING – WE RECEIVE THIS PERFECT LOVE. It all happens in the receiving, people! If we are sick and weak and worried, if we are brokenhearted and weary and find no rest – WE CAN REST IN HIS LOVE! We don’t have to do anything but to just LET JESUS LOVE US! Let His grace cover our mistakes and failures. Let Him carry our burdens. Oh friend, that huge baggage you’ve been lugging on your shoulder, so heavy you’re already stooped – give it to Jesus! Let Him save us; let Him perform a miracle in our lives! Let Him do what we cannot do but have always insisted on doing. Let Him for He is able. He is strong and powerful and gracious and compassionate and plenteous in mercy and He is our God!

Let Him be true to His promises. For He will perform them when we give Him the chance.

So, be not afraid. Let Jesus. His perfect love casts out all fears.

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When You’re All Alone in Your Pain

Meditating on Psalm 142.

Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul. (v. 4)

We have David weeping and crying out to the Lord again. Alone in the cave he resorted to, fleeing his enemies, he lamented his predicament. He felt so all alone, deserted, bereft of someone, anyone, who could comfort his soul. Except the Lord. When David found himself in the isolated island of loneliness, fear, and uncertainty, he cried out to God. He knew that in Him, he was never really alone.

I cried out to You, O Lord:
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living. (v. 5)

Have you been in that place? A dark, damp, musty cave where there was no escaping? The jagged walls are hostile, cold, and wet. Creepy creatures seem to lurk in the dark nooks waiting to make their attack. Well, you may not find yourself in a real cave like that, but still, you feel alone and scared and the world around you seems not to care, or cold and hostile even.

I have been in that horrifying place. When sin and guilt morphed into a full-blown monster and attacked my mind, I was like a trembling leaf petrified to the core. I went out but the demons of fear followed me. They were in the restaurant where I ate, or in the mall, or in the corridors of the hospital where I walked with shaky legs, or in the doctors’ clinics that smelled of antiseptic. Or in the dimly-lit room of the psychiatrist (now, that was like a cave minus the stalactites and stalagmites). The people around me and in the other tables talked and laughed like I wasn’t unraveling and crumbling inside. To be sitting there, feeling like a whirlwind is swallowing you up into the depths, and yet, they don’t know – is a pure chilling feeling. That is what it feels to be isolated, deserted.

The people who try to help cannot really do it. They cannot reach that far or that deep. No doctors, no therapists, no friends, no family – yes, just like David – can reach out to save the drowning. Only Jesus. I have been in that place and have found out that only Jesus can reach out that far and deep and dangerous. Only He has the unequalled power and the intensity of unconditional love to save and deliver. He gained it from His death on the cross – our redemption and salvation, our healing, our deliverance from the dark cave, the whirlwind, the dimly-lit psychiatrist’s office, and the demons. All the things that ever imprisoned us.

There is nothing that His grace cannot reach and His love cannot cover. He fills all things and He’s in all things.

 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Eph. 4:9-10 NIV

When you think you’re all alone in your fear and pain, you’re never really alone. Run to Jesus. He is our refuge, our portion in the land of the living. He will deal bountifully with us.

Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me. (v. 7)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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

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Journey with Jesus,