A Friend in Jesus

Sorrow and suffering bring you to a place where you can know the deep things in life. Deeper faith, deeper understanding, deeper sensitivity. These are the gifts that come along with them. Sometimes, they drive you to a deep need to reach out and open up, or, shut up the world from your life and just settle in your shell to avoid being hurt. I have been in and out of both, but reaching out to share has always had the upper hand.

(Image from Google)

After a usual day alone with my writing interspersed with suffering, my husband finally came home in the afternoon. Often, we just have snacks together and talk about trivial things (sometimes I just prefer to clam up and not tell how hard my day has been). But this time, I had the overwhelming urge to tell him about the book I’ve started to write. I told him that he’s the only soul I’ve shared what the book is all about, then proceeded to show eagerly the first few chapters. He was nodding but distracted. Before I was finished, he stopped me (not rudely) and said, “Can we just cut it short because I want to take a nap.” I have known this forever. That he’s someone who is rarely interested with books, or reading, or writing, or analyzing (he only reads news and sometimes the Bible). Why I keep forgetting this fact in our life is entirely my fault. Although I know all this, I still get hurt and I still long to have someone to talk to about the things that interest me.

But I have to quietly accept the fact that husbands can’t be everything. Mine does sacrificial love every single day: massages my atrophied legs late at night when I can’t sleep; assists me in bathing and washing my hair; runs errands – the things I want him to check out or buy in stores, etc. etc. But he can’t be all I want him to be. That wouldn’t be fair. Husbands are not all-in-one.  That’s why there are women friends. And I’m in want of one.

I had a friend once who knew all my flaws but still didn’t think of deserting me. She was the one who would volunteer to walk with me the whole length of Mega Mall for the nth time because I finally decided to buy the blouse, or the dress, or the pair of shoes. She would do her best to keep her drooping eyes open while I talked into the night. But I made sacrifices for her, too. I would endure a migraine attack that was killing me while we ate a Thai dinner which was her favorite. She was the one who would go to such lengths just to buy me roasted chestnuts when out of season (but Chinatown had it and she intuitively knew) because it was what I was pining for while I was pregnant with Hannah. But before I gave birth, she had left for Canada, a better opportunity for her. We haven’t seen each other for 8 years now.

But though I’m hungering for a friend I can touch and laugh and cry with, I know I have one who is always there and ready to listen. He can be as close as the next heartbeat. He eases my pains; soothes my sorrows; and makes me soar in the inspiration He brings. My friend is Lord and King and He loves me forever. I’m glad I found a friend in Jesus.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

From the song What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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Liberation in the Word {and a Testimony}

Meditating on Psalm 119: 113-176.

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.
116 Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 Hold me up, and I shall be safe… (Ps. 119: 114, 116, 117)

Psalm 119 tells about the psalmist’s hope in the Word. Over and over, we read his cries to God for salvation and deliverance, and always, because he trusts in His Word. We have discussed in previous Psalm 119 posts how the Word works in a Christian’s life as guide, comfort, reminder, healing, power, channel of God’s presence, and salvation. But we may ask, especially those who are still searching for truth or are not yet established in it, “What, really, is the relevance of the Word in a man’s life?” I ask this to introduce a testimony of a brother in Christ who had found the answer to this. We may lightly use salvation to the extent that its profound power is diluted in the everyday mundane. But, salvation in the Word remains to be the true life- and freedom-giving source for mankind. The Word [is] God (John 1:1).

Many years ago, Bro. Junie and his wife planned for a business of their own. His wife was going to receive a big sum of money from their company where she was working as a manager. It was her retrenchment pay. Around the same time, Bro. Junie also sold two condo units as a real estate agent and received huge commissions which he handed to his wife. They were going to set up their own business. Their only child and daughter was graduating from college. They had bright hopes for the future.

The day the wife would receive her payoff, she told her husband that she was going straight to the pier to send some money to her father in the province. Night came but Bro. Junie’s wife didn’t return. The next  morning, he set out to look for her. Everywhere. She didn’t find her but received news that her wife ran away with another man. Bro. Junie couldn’t find them no matter how much he tried. He was utterly devastated.

A few weeks later, her only daughter who was expected to be graduating from college, also eloped with her boyfriend. Bro. Junie was left alone with his shattered heart and life and indescribable wrath. It seemed to him that heaven and earth converged to crush him in-between with no hope of ever rising again.

He bought a gun and vowed to search for his wife and her paramour to the ends of hell and kill them both. He was burning with revenge. To say that he didn’t have peace would be a sheer understatement. He threatened his neighbors that he would kill everyone of them if he ever learned that they were gossiping about him.

Can you imagine Bro. Junie’s anguish? Not only his shattered heart and life, but the total absence of peace and the burning hatred which was driving him crazy and be really lost? It’s a hellish life.

One night, he opened the TV and it was the program of JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY. He stayed rooted in his seat and when the Gospel of salvation was preached, tears were streaming down his face. He was at once flooded with an indescribable peace replacing the great hatred that he had in his heart. He searched for the JMCIM Church and when he found it, he sank to his knees and begged God to help him. He received the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation with all his being.

123 My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation
And Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy…

146 I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word. (vv. 123, 124, 146, 147)

Soon, he found his daughter who was already pregnant. He arranged his daughter’s marriage and brought her and her husband to the Church. And they, too, were saved. Bro. Junie became a happy grandfather.

He continued to search for his wife with an offering of complete forgiveness in his hands. He searched and prayed. But in the end, the wife refused to return to him. Bro. Junie had to accept it peacefully. He was strong in the Lord.

141 am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts.
143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me,
Yet Your commandments are my delights. (vv. 141, 143)

He and his daughter’s family continue to serve the Lord faithfully to this day.

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple. (vv. 129-130, emphasis mine)

Friend, if doubts, uncertainties, and cynicism have stopped you from totally embracing the Lord Jesus Christ and His Truth (His Word and Gospel of peace), may this bring you nearer to Him (if you had not already run to His waiting arms). The Lord loves you so! Know this.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras of Vancouver, Canada. and edited at picmonkey.com).

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The Virtue of Patience

I am not a naturally patient person. I believe it comes with having a type A personality and being a perfectionist. I can hardly bear mistakes, delays, failures – both my own and others’. I can hardly stand sloooow pace. When I do something, I always try to do it precisely and snappily and expect others to do the same. Confession: I can barely veil my impatience with people of very slow comprehension or hard understanding. Sometimes, I put my impatience into words (may the Lord forgive me and help me in this :( ).

(image source)

I’ve been doing my best to be patient. It’s a constant in my daily prayers. Meaning, I’m not there yet. I get impatient with my husband, kids, and maids. But,

Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Cor. 13:4 NIV)

(Sigh).

I started with this book The Love Dare and the first day dares the reader to be patient, to not say a single negative thing to his/her spouse. I had been seeing this book whenever I visited christianbook.com or Amazon to browse for books to buy, but I never got interested. That is, until we watched the movie Fireproof. I was inspired by it and after more than a month of delaying, I requested my husband to buy me a copy at a local Bible bookstore. Good thing they have available stock.

Reading the first chapter, I was reminded again that love is patient. Well, we know this too well, don’t we? We memorized it, but to me, it seems that it has become less powerful than my temper. The problem with Christians who struggle with patience (like me) is that – we don’t commit to practicing it assiduously. We tend to react in the heat of the moment and even though, for a fleeting second, the Bible’s Love Chapter flashes in our minds with the hope to divert us from our momentary provocation – we ignore it. We even reason out deep in our minds that we are entitled to be impatient at that very moment because —- the other simply rubs us the wrong way!

I am guilty on all counts, but I think the The Love Dare book is affecting me in a good way. Yes, I am taking the dare seriously with hopes that it can do wonders to my day-to-day relationship with my husband, and bring a lasting bliss in the long run.

Before I began the dare, I was thinking it would be easy since from the day we moved to our newly-remodelled bedroom, my husband and I have been very close night and day. We were like honeymooners. We were spontaneously reviving the fervor of our love to each other – talking and being intimate.

But came the first day of the dare and I found myself like I was perilously balancing my composure on a thin line. I began preparations for my baking. I had mixed my lemon juice with the milk to make buttermilk. It was early in the afternoon, my ingredients were complete, but just before the words left my lips to tell the maid to preheat the oven, my husband texted me from the office asking me if I had P700 to pay for the gas which was yet to be delivered. I looked up at our maid and quietly asked, “You mean we don’t have gas right now? That we can’t heat the oven?”

“No, ma’am. I already advised sir Felix this morning,” Lei answered. I like her personality and service, so after telling her that she should have told me before we started, I held my tongue. Patience.

I texted back my husband to tell him I will ask someone to encash in the bank (just outside our village’s gate) to pay the gas delivery. He then texted me that he was going to call for delivery to which I answered, “ASAP!!!”

After many minutes had passed, he texted again telling me to look for the phonebook which was placed on the round table and look for this gas delivery and call and… And, and, and! I was sure I was going to lose my patience! Imagine the delay, while my ingredients sat there waiting? Why did he wait for about a quarter of an hour before telling me that there was no gas to be delivered unless I call them? I felt impatient (uh-oh!) as I turned the pages of the phonebook looking for the gas delivery number. I was tempted to text back my husband and tell him my complaints, but the dare was at my back taunting me. I did not text him.

One by one, I turned the pages of the phonebook (no, it’s not alphabetical). Patience. Patience. It was like a chant as I fought the urge to shut it close altogether. Got the number, called up, and waited patiently for delivery. I didn’t expect the refreshing feeling not giving in to my temper brought!

But it didn’t end there. Later, when I was trying to transfer my freshly-baked cinnamon coffeecake bread into the platter, I asked my husband to help me but he couldn’t quite unentangle himself from his new Sony Experia. “I can’t believe you can just sit there so engrossed in your gadget…”, I stopped, shook my head like one who was defeated and murmured, “I’m sorry.”

It’s never easy to be patient in the midst of challenging circumstances. But if we really want change to happen in our lives, we need to seriously commit. This morning when I woke up, this verse was in my mind. I thank the Lord for strengthening my resolve to practice patience.

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

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

A Tale of Two Homes

There are homes that shatter, the sound of which cannot be kept from people who are curious but do not really care. And there are homes whose lights flicker for a while, then slowly die down. And there is only darkness. Such a home quietly closes, as if to say, “You’ll soon forget me.”

(image from Google)

When we first arrived in our beautiful home in a dream subdivision in a quiet suburb, life was full of promise. My first-born was only two weeks old, a cute baby girl I had earnestly prayed for. My friend came to visit while we were finalizing the renovations and she exclaimed, “Your house is like a church!” She was exaggerating, of course, but she was reacting to the arched french double doors that led to the kitchen. We were both quite ignorant to be in a big beautiful house since we both grew up in the far-flung province.

Then I met one of our neighbors. They had been here many years before. One of the first few homeowners in this place. She was matronly and carried herself regally. She also spoke proudly and didn’t smile. Or so that’s what I remember. The former owners of our house were not in good terms with her. But though I liked their house, I didn’t plan to be like them. I didn’t see any problem with our matronly neighbor. She came to visit while I was in bed rest. I was not scared with her quite pompous attitude. I was actually amused by it.

She had grandchildren who went to prestigious schools. As Hannah grew up, she became friends with them and they played in the street every morning.

Unbeknownst to our neighbors, my husband Felix had finally left because of a violent and painful fight we had. I could not understand. I felt like my whole life came crumbling down. I was hurt and confused and I believed in my heart that my husband was too weak to care for his family and hold it together with all his might. The light died down in our home. I had a beautiful house, a flourishing company, a successful career, and a strong and healthy body. But our home was broken. And my daughter had not even turned one.

Two years. Two years before the Lord Jesus found us and redeemed our marriage and restored our family. But I had lost my strong and healthy body. Nonetheless, a light began to flicker in our home once again. The light of the Savior.

In 2004, while I was fighting for my life against my undiagnosed illness, our neighbor’s son, a businessman, took his own life, leaving his wife and little children behind. The youngest was only a month old. It was before Christmas. If ever our stately neighbor was deeply affected by it, it didn’t show. She remained to look dignified and regal. I marvelled at her resilience and confidence.

She had a life partner for three decades. They were always together. They were happy and enjoyed each other’s company. That I could see.

Then came the kidney disease and the never-ending twice-weekly dialysis. They told us about it when they came to my son’s dedication. We brought them to our Church’s ordained preacher and she was prayed over. We hoped and prayed that they will continue with the Lord Jesus Christ. We invited them every Sunday for a while. But they never wanted to come with us to Church.

Then came the triple heart bypass surgery. My heart trembled every time she was fetched by an ambulance. I was so scared to think that she might die. I sent DVDs of our Church’s worship service that she could watch while convalescing. I could never be sure if she watched them.

She began to use the wheelchair. But her poise remained with her. It looked to me like she never wanted to let go of beauty and vanity. She had somebody come regularly to do her nails and to color and style her hair. I marvelled at her tenacity. Or maybe she wanted to remain beautiful in the eyes of the love of her life, her college sweetheart.

But if marriage vows can be dishonored, what will happen in the absence of them? He left. For good. Without her knowing of the plan. When I learned about it, I ached for her sake. How can the light of a home, of a love, of a person, fade slowly and excruciatingly painfully?

This, this should have been their everything.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12, emphasis mine)

During one of the rare afternoons that I could go around our village, I saw her in her wheelchair under the Narra tree. I don’t want to say I was shocked by what I saw for I don’t want to dishonor her. But the first, almost instinctive, reaction I had was to run to Jesus in my heart, in that secret place, and cling to Him. That is what a portrait of fading away does to a weak spirit like mine. I draw strength from my Savior.

I had wondered, sorrowfully, “Is this what dialysis does to a person? It sucks the life out of you ever so slowly, but surely, until there is nothing left?” Amid those questions I had tightly clung to Jesus again. I know how to be near the edge of death’s door. I had been there many times. But Life that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ gave life to my dying body and keeps the light burning in my soul. And in my eyes. For all to see. Hallelujah!

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:12-14 NLT, emphasis mine)

I saw the difference between a diseased body that is owned by the Savior and one whose light has completely gone.

Then one day, she was gone. I stared long and hard at their house. It stood silently. And desolate.

 I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

“The Wrestlings” Discussion {Chapter 7}

The title of chapter 7 of my ebook The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path is Weeding Out Marital Woes. Before I went to bed last night, I prayed to God to help me – what I should write about it, how I should be giving. In the early morning, the inspiration I prayed for came, and it stole my remaining hours of sleep.

(image from Google)

Do you feel that the ship of your married life looks like it has gone through many a storm in the turbulent seas? Does it look like to your eyes as battered, sails are torn and barely hanging onto the mast, some parts dilapidated, broken? Oh, but the poor ship is still sailing out there, though buffeted, remains determined.

Aren’t you thankful that through the fierce storms, the One cord of the threefold cord has remained intact and stood His ground? The One line (a sailor’s word for a rope) that joins the other two to make a threefold rope strong and steadfast has been unfailingly faithful and held? And continues to hold for He is a Rock upon which your marriage is founded? An Anchor when angry waves threaten to break the ship – the marriage – apart?

Are you embarrassed to let people know and see the condition of your ship, ashamed that it’s not as others’ are – sleek, handsome, a thing to flaunt? But, do you realize that every torn part of your ship that was mended, every repair, every break, every scratch – you see the amazing grace of God? Can’t you see that your ship bears the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ? Hurt, broken, struck upon, but it continues to stand? Isn’t this the beauty that comes from the Savior? The unwavering strength and steadfastness that come from the One who has redeemed the lives that make up the ship?

Display how amazingly gracious the Lord has been to your marriage! Many times when you wanted to give up, when you shouted with all your strength that you want out – He has stayed. Held. When you have lost faith to your spouse, to the marriage – He remained faithful. His unfailing love was the lighthouse guiding your ship towards home.

He never  and will never let that the thing that He has put together be severed by man, circumstances, trials.

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mat. 19:6)

What God has joined together… He has done it, why will you think of undoing it?

When, in moments of anguish, you have cried out to God, questioning if your marriage is a big mistake from the beginning, think. He knows you from the foundation of the world. He knows everything about you before they came to be. And even though you have made colossal mistakes in life, when the Lord called you and redeemed you – He made all things new! (See 2 Cor. 5:17). If your salvation is not a mistake but the best thing that ever happened to you, isn’t your marriage included which is a part of you? Didn’t He redeem it also? He did! Because what He has joined together, He will not let severed.

So, if you embrace the truth that your marriage is not a mistake, give your best to make it work. The Author of marriage is before you, at your side, behind you, to give you all the support that you need!

But you say that there have been too many a painful time and oft that you have exchanged ugly words and these have cut deep. And remained. Too stubborn to be completely shaken off. But I show you the light; the Lord Himself shows us how to begin anew – everyday! He Himself renews His mercy towards us every morning. Without fail!

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

If His mercy towards us is new every morning, we can do the same. Yesterday is past, we can give and receive new mercies today! Give and receive new mercies today – to your spouse, to yourself. This is the door through which you can escape the clutches of the ugly, painful past.

I know that most of the reasons for the difficulties, the seemingly never-ending contentions and strifes, come from refusal to surrender to the Word completely.

 Husbands, love your wives as yourselves. (Eph. 5:28-29)

Wives, submit to your own husbands in everything. (Eph. 5:24)

These commandments are hard to completely surrender to without the Holy Spirit’s help. Let the power of the Holy Spirit move mightily in us. That we will be able to surrender to and obey the commandments of the Lord. For through the years of our marriage sailing through rough or placid waters, our love is not what is at the forefront, but the honoring of the vow and the obeying of God’s commands.

Erratum: The title of chapter 6 should have been Lessons in Love and not Lessons on Love. My earnest apologies for the mistake; I realized it much later.

The Wrestlings Discussion Series:

The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 1: Eyes of Envy}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 2: Envy, Competition, and Covetousness}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 3: Heart of Covetousness}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 4: Jealousy}
The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path {Chapter 5: Eyes on Jesus}
The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path (Chapter 6: Lessons in Love}

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,