On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Vanity of Idols

Meditating on Psalm 135.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
16 They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
17 They have ears, but they do not hear;
Nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them. (Ps. 135:15-18)

The psalmist lamented about the worship of idols of the nations surrounding Israel, but the irony is that, Israel has also adopted it. Their fathers saw the mighty works and wonders that God performed in their midst; Moses taught them to worship only the one true living God, inscribing the commandments on tables of stones so they and the generations to come would not forget. Yet, the generation that came after soon turned aside from Moses’ teachings and followed after strange gods and served them.

I could utter the same lamentation for our country. The Philippines was colonized by Spain for more than 3oo years. The Spaniards’ arrival was described by Carlos P. Romulo’s I Am a Filipino, “…and my sire was the West that came thundering across the seas with the Cross and Sword and the Machine.” Tears pool in my eyes as I am brought back to 4th grade when our class and that of the 5th grade recited this in a program, an important celebration of sorts. This line has stayed with me all these years. When I came to serve the one true living God, I knew why.

The Spaniards brought their religion to us together with the worship of all their graven images . The Filipinos have embraced it ever since.

Most Filipino households have altars where they set up the graven images made of wood or stone. When I was a kid, my grandparents’ house had a built-in altar in the living room full of statues of different sizes and costumes. Every time I passed by the place, I turned my face the other way. Those images spooked me!

Until now, the adoration of images pervades the country. One can find them in public transport, parks, streets, etc. People offer sampaguita garlands to them. They adorn them with bright-clored fabrics and dust them regularly. When I was a kid, everyday during the whole month of May, we offered flowers to the image of Mary enshrined in the church. We would bow down our heads and pray before it. We knelt before the image of Mary! (How truly lamentable!).

During Lent, an image of the infant Jesus would be placed on the altar and the devotees would form a long line to bow before the stone baby and kiss it. I was one of the many who thronged that cold, unmoving baby made of stone. How crazy was that! Before someone would violently  react, I would like to remind you of this commandment:

am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… (Ex. 20:2-5)

God lives forever! He speaks, He moves, He is mighty and powerful! He saves and delivers!

During calamities, the people carry their images to safety. The images of wood and stone cannot walk and save them, for how can they seeing they are non-living things! But the people cannot see that!

 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god [Satan] of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Cor. 4:3-4, annotation mine)

The Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, died for the country’s freedom. The country has gained its independence from the Spaniards, but it has remained in bondage to their religion. The parting line of Carlos P. Romulo’s I Am a Filipino still rings true today:

“I am a Filipino born of freedom and I shall not rest until freedom shall have been added unto my inheritance – for myself and my children’s children – forever.”

Amen. We will not rest until true freedom has been obtained through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
Your fame, O Lord, throughout all generations.
14 For the Lord will judge His people,
And He will have compassion on His servants. (Ps. 135:13-14)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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A Movable Peace

I know how painfully hard it is to live with an unquiet mind. When my illness set in in late-2003, it came with a great fearfulness. I call it borderline nervous breakdown. It ran on and off for years and it was utterly insidious. We would go to the riverside park near our home where Hannah and her Dad would be running or playing in the open space, the green grass underneath their feet and the blue vastness over them were testimonies of a beautiful world. But I was crippled by a different reality: my mind was gripped by an unexplained fear and it had taken over my whole being. It followed me wherever. It was very present. Peace of mind was my most sought-after thing, but it proved to be the most elusive. It was nonexistent.

But that’s taking it to the extreme. I had long been totally healed by the Lord from that crippling affliction. What I want to talk about is how to grasp peace and bask in it in our daily lives, being mentally and emotionally sound as we are. My natural tendency is to talk a lot: explain a lot, tell stories a lot, or express my opinions a lot. Sometimes, give a lengthy sermon to my tween daughter or to the maids. But I myself is deafened by my own words and by the din of my own voice. At times, wearied by them.

I have begun a practice that is helping me to relish peace wherever I am and whatever the situation is. It’s rather easy. I practice to be silent. I choose to be silent no matter how difficult the circumstances are. And in my silence, I luxuriate in the peace I have within.

In mid-2004, just a few months after my husband and I received salvation, we were traveling to the nearby province to attend a wedding (I could travel short distances then). A sister in Christ and an elder was traveling with us. She and my husband were gaily talking about people in church. At times they would burst out laughing. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was silent in my seat as I thought about apostle Paul’s admonitions. Foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Eph. 5:3-4, rearranged).

I looked out the window of the car and took pleasure in gazing at the verdant fields. Peace abode within me and it was like a piece of heaven. It traveled with me. I had a movable peace.

Even in the face of great excitement, something inside of me, like a still small voice, pulls me inward and stops me from losing myself in the frenzy. When I do succeed to keep silent amid the ruckus, inner peace strengthens and gladdens me. Mary on the barn floor always comes to mind.

After an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field in the cold of night, they hasted to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. So, they gathered around the manger and saw with their own eyes and they went about telling everyone about the child Jesus. And all those who heard marvelled. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (See Luke 2).

In the midst of the flurry of the birth of the Savior, Mary remained quiet and kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. She had a quiet spirit. And underneath that quiet facade was an inner strength that wasn’t easily shaken. Yes, even when the angel Gabriel appeared before her to bring her the news that she would conceive and give birth to a son, while she was still a virgin and betrothed to Joseph.

Maintaining a gentle and quiet spirit in any circumstances brings a sturdy inner calm. This is bred by keeping our spirit in an uninterrupted communion with the Spirit of God. The verse below was my very powerful weapon during those days of utter fear and restlessness. It has become my practice ever since.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. (Is. 26:3)

Sometimes, we cannot find peace even if we are in a quiet place because we carry a restless mind. By cultivating a quiet spirit, peace will find its seat inside of us so that wherever we go, it moves with us.

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(Photo courtesy of my good friend Perla Frisberg of Malmo, Sweden, and edited at picmonkey.com).

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The Futility of Idols

This is an apologetics post.

Meditating on Psalm 115.

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk; (Psalm 115; 4-7)

During the only one pre-natal check-up I had when I was pregnant with Tim, my ob-gyne, whom I have known since before I got married, and I had a very long discussion about our lives during the years that we had not seen each other. I shared to her why I was in a wheelchair and how we received salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ and that we were born-again Christians, and my partial healing from the illness that almost took my life. It saddened me to also learn that her husband, an anaesthesiologist whom I also knew personally, had passed away.

When she was checking me and the baby, she was in deep thought. Then, she said that the Lord spoke to her heart that, had I received His mother also (meaning, Mama Mary) and worshiped her (words to that effect), I would have received complete healing.

I smiled faintly to that but remained quiet. I had known the Truth and there was no way I was ever going back to false worship, by the amazing grace of God.

She had big graven images of supposedly Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus on the shelf behind her table. I had always known that she was a devotee of Mama Mary and very religious. But, please don’t get me wrong. I love her, my ob-gyne, like an extended family. And I know she cared for me, too, sincerely.

In our country, the images of Mama Mary, all the known saints, and the Lord on the cross are worshiped and prayed to. There is a movement all over the archipelago of devotees bringing the image of Mama Mary from house to house. Our family was very into it when my siblings and I were young.

Sis. Anna Marie de Luna testifies that, while her husband was hooked on drugs and other women leaving her to tend their family alone, she would kneel before the image of Mama Mary which she set up, and beg her to help. There was no help until her husband himself found the Lord or was found by Him. You can read the rest of Sis. Anna’s testimony here.

Bro. Louie Angeles would be ordered by his mother to kiss the image of Sto. Nino (supposedly a risen Jesus in a child’s form) in their vegetable stall in the market before he could start work. But he needed to look for the head which he supposed was stolen by rats, return it onto the headless image and then kiss it. When Bro. Louie finally graduated from college, he found out he had leprosy. And within two years, it became worse. You can read the rest of Bro. Louie’s testimony here.

O Israel, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield. (vv. 9-11)

How can something made of wood, stone, or metal bless?! Oh, the foolishness and futility of trusting in idols!

I pray, with all my heart and soul, that God will take away the blindness of the people and they will embrace the Truth and worship only the One True Living God!

May the Lord give you increase more and more,
You and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. (vv. 14-15)

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Journey with Jesus,