Christmas in My Heart

My thoughts and feelings days before Christmas are a rhythm of struggles, hard prayers and deep ponderings  on the meaning of all these things we do during this season, and also a flurry of birthday celebrations at home. There is this sadness that hovers over my soul that I can’t quite understand where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s a blend of all the unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams that I’m nursing in my heart. Whatever it is, I trudge through the days before Christmas meditatively. I listen to praise and I find that there’s a need to lock my eyes and mind on the lyrics for them to sink in and reach deep into that space where there’s a need for sanctification and revival.

Practice drawing from two years ago.

Practice painting from two years ago.

I cannot decide whether to be fully joyful because ’tis the season or to be part sad and part celebratory. The primary feeling is like trudging through thick mud and every step is heavy and hard. I know that while most people around the world are in the thick (and thrill!) of Christmas preparations, there are also those who do not know how to live through it without feeling unhappy, depressed, exhausted, and envious and coveting (realities of life!)

But this thing I affirmed to the Lord: I still have hope, faith, and a prayer. And I begged for help, help in every area that I need it. Help in thinking and feeling right, for starters.

I realized that there is great internal conflict when we believe we are ready to move on – from trials and miseries, sickness and suffering – and start afresh and live healed and free, but God is not. When we have had enough of the hardships and self-pity and living less than the life promised by the Lord, and yet, that fervently-prayed-for dream stays out of reach – it is a burden that is hard to bear.

It becomes a struggle between not relinquishing faith and hope and giving in to defeat. It is a hard and bitter struggle.

Have faith in God. This reminder from the Lord Jesus sometimes dangles over the skirmishes between fear and faith, weakness and strength. And though I am counting 14 years behind me that I have had unwavering faith and relentless prayers for my healing, I still ask it to this day and as fervently, if not more.

Maybe there is a need to not count the years or months that we have not been answered. Maybe it would be better if we stopped counting the years of unanswered prayers and instead, count the years that God saw us through. Maybe the Apostle Paul’s advice to forget those things which are behind [our old life] and reaching forward to those things which are ahead can also be applied to the things in the past where we had been tried and tested again and again.

Yes, and to believe that everyday is a new opportunity to renew our faith and to approach the throne of grace and mercy with confidence. That every day can be a day of new beginnings and fresh starts and for that long-awaited miracle.

That is what Christmas brings us: a new hope, a new believing. The tidings of great joy and peace and goodwill to all men that should not lose their promise and power and fulfilment. It is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ after all (or the remembrance of it).

What we need this Christmas (and all the days of the year for that matter) is not more of our desires and the world. We need more of Christ – His presence. His powerful presence that can transform us. We don’t know it yet, but maybe in our transformation or re-transformation, we can find our healing.

Maybe we have focused so much more on ourselves and our needs (I know I have) than on our devotion to Him. Maybe our adoration of Him has been watered down by the trials we’ve had to go through. But everyday (and not only on Christmas) is an opportunity to deepen our devotion to Him, to make our service to Him real and rich.

A WONDERFULLY BLESSED, CHRIST-FILLED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

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The Posture of Worship

The posture of worship for the strong is on their knees or standing, hands raised towards heaven while singing with all their hearts and might. There maybe exuberant clapping, dancing, and jumping, depending on the music, or trembling and crying in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I have yet to experience these. Most of the time, I find myself in a prone position while I do my best to focus on breathing well, which is often hard, while the Jesus Finest Generation Choir sings during worship service. It’s been mostly like that these past more than 13 years. I cannot count the times I had marveled at how my difficult circumstances hardly ever changes. I look at the singers on the riser and wonder how different my situation is from them. How vastly different! And it pains me to think why it has always been so for many years now.

"We love Him because He first loved us."

If you have been in my blog orbit these past more than 5 years, you know how I have struggled against the hardships my sickness and suffering brings and all the emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil I go through. And though I always write about my embattled faith still standing strong through it all, it felt like my relationship with God was fraying around the edges, like it couldn’t be entirely, seamlessly, flawlessly whole while I wrestled with the many important issues in my faith life. There were the struggles against envy, self-pity, bitterness, resentment, discouragement, numbness, hurts and pains, deep longings, sadness, anger, fear, cynicism, coldness, and silent rebellion in the heart. Whew!

There were the starings into empty space with empty mind and numb heart, wishing that the blankness would swallow up all the seemingly endless suffering. And it would suddenly be all over.

But recently, the Lord called me into His rest, His holy presence, not through a powerful, Spirit-filled worship, but through gentle whispers in my heart.

A lot has happened internally since then. And though my sickness and suffering has yet to relent, I realized that I was being transformed deep inside. There had been many “refining processes” before. I call them fiery trials and through them, a lot of changes have happened in me. But through the years with no complete healing in sight, I had continued to wrestle with God, much like Jacob did.

This time, God has revealed to me the posture of worship. It is not always standing and singing.

It is not always an abandoned praise where you give all that is within you. It is all that you are. Even when you’re not singing or praising. It is who you are during the times that you cannot rise to sing and lift up your hands.

The posture of worship even in the most difficult times is humility, deep gratitude, and unquestioning faith. The highest worship we could give God is our faith even when it feels like we’ve been thrown into the fiery furnace lit seven times stronger and that it spins like a dryer. (In a cement manufacturing plant, you will see a giant revolving kiln, its height could take up two floors. This is where limestone and other materials are melted to make cement. You will see the product coming out of the kiln like red, liquid fire. The surrounding area is so hot).

Even so, but to still believe in Him and trust Him. To still draw closer to Him and believe that He is good, gracious, and plenteous in mercy. To never doubt that ever again.

To spurn the thoughts swirling in our minds that He is a severe God, that He doesn’t listen to our most fervent prayers. That maybe He’s not fair? That He loves us less than the others? For “Jacob He has loved, but Esau He has hated” (Rom. 9:13), right?

But we don’t embrace these. We cast them out from us. Because we are those children who love their Father, who want to keep on loving Him. Forever. For only in this we become strong. Only in this we are happy – truly, spiritually happy.

everlasting love

My painting of last year. (Please excuse my terrible brush lettering).

So we love Him, for doesn’t the Bible say that we do because He first did it? “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). And this love didn’t only start 2000 years ago. It is from everlasting. He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). (I always want to remember this). So, even in our very difficult suffering, in our very hard places, we will love Him (crying).

We will love Him even through the blinding rain of our tears.

We will love Him because we know. We know the Truth, We know His Word. To love Him is to trust Him. No fight left in us. It is just a willing surrender. A trusting surrender. A loving surrender. That is the posture of worship.

No defiance, no bitterness, no resentment, no numbness, no hardheartedness. Just joyfully loving Him. Like a child who adores and clings to her father.

How can that even be possible when you’re battered by sickness and suffering, buffeted by diverse trials? And He, who alone can take us out of them, seems to be not moving a finger? And why ever not? All things are possible with Him, in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

I love that.

So, I need not envy others. In Christ I am complete. That is the simple truth. If I believe otherwise, I have listened to the devil’s lie. The Lord Jesus did not only die to save me, He also resurrected so I, too, will live forevermore.

So, we do not only worship the Healer because we’re desperate for healing. We worship because that’s how we’ve been wired. We are created to worship Him. This is the meaning of worshiping in spirit and in truth. We worship even through trials and tribulations, for we do not worship only because of our circumstances, but in His truth. The truth that remains unchanged forever. We worship in that truth. And in the spirit, where the love sowed by the Holy Spirit is connected to its Creator.

The posture of worship will always be on our knees, literally and figuratively.

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