Learning to Live the Life We’ve Been Given

I believe that following the Lord Jesus Christ almost always involves a major detour in life. We hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, through the Word, in our prayers, and in worship. And until we surrender to His will, there is a strain that is hard to bear.

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Years ago, although I was still waiting for healing, I didn’t want to completely give up my work in the company that I had established. I was looking forward to the day that I would fully recover and go back to the work I so loved doing. But I could feel the strain my resistance was causing. I wasn’t winning in that regard. Eventually, I relinquished all control of my life and future to God and vowed not to return to my work even when He has healed me. The Lord gave all leadership and management of our cosmetic ingredients company to my mechanical engineer husband. Even he experienced a “culture shock” with the change of his occupation: from engineering and maintenance management of a large food manufacturing company to the Cosmetics Industry. But he willingly and gladly obeyed God’s call. This was the detour of our life.

Since then, we have been learning to live this life the Lord has given us. But more so for me.

In previous posts, I wrote about being healed of all negative, unprofitable emotions (mostly and subconsciously directed towards God) I now call the “horrible bundle”. But it turned out that there are still remnants of them in my heart, this time, the ones that are directed towards others.

I needed to go to the IG page of a “celebrity mom” to get her source of seedlings for our kitchen garden. Back when I still visited her IG regularly, she usually posted photos of them planting and harvesting from their backyard garden. I was hesitant to go back and have a look again since the main reason I stopped visiting was that, my feelings of envy were the more kindled every time I see their photos depicting the full, perfect life.

But I wanted to get their source of seedlings and other gardening materials, so off I went. And again, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful life this family is living: both the parents have exciting, fulfilling careers that bring them to beautiful places from time to time; they run marathons (hence, perfect health and fit bodies); they eat homegrown vegetables; they grow their own vegetables and some fruits; they laugh. They live and flourish. And yes, they are a Christian family.

I marvel each time at how different our lives are.

So, I got my source of seedlings but I also went away pondering deeply. Again. I was careful not to slide back to the “horrible bundle”, but the things I saw made me pause and think: Shall I question God again? No, I don’t even want to go there.

In addition to this, I remembered what Felix told me: a wealthy family from church is going to the spiritual, revival crusade in San Jose, California – everyone down to the grandchildren. We would have loved to go also, but we can’t because I am sick. Has been for the last more than 13 years.

I spent the rest of the day seeking wisdom. If only I were wise enough (a sage perhaps) to live the life I have, maybe I wouldn’t feel like this – was somewhat the theme of my thoughts and feelings through the afternoon. How do you live a life that has an important aspect of it which you hate but can’t do anything about?

How do you live it without trying to compare and not feel envious, dissatisfied, dismayed, discontented? Those latter emotions are brought about by the practice of comparing. Why do I compare? Why can’t I help it? Maybe because I grew up competitive. If you love competition (not athletics for me), comparison is its companion and envy is their begotten child. I hate the whole bunch of them. But I found out that afternoon that I am still their prisoner.

In the evening, I found myself writing feverishly on my prayer journal begging God to liberate me from them. To say that I need His help is an understatement. If I feel vulnerable every time and my peace and contentment are easily shaken and so fragile that they easily dissolve with the things I see, then there is a need for me to learn to live this life God has given me. To learn to live it gladly, contentedly, gratefully, without feeling envious or jealous of others. It would be the biggest challenge in my faith life yet. I desperately want to do that, for to live otherwise is not really living at all. A life that is steeped in envious feelings is a life of misery.

The days that followed saw me studying life and faith and the kingdom of God and how they must be lived in a way that they would bring purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in spite of illness and suffering. This is what I was able to grasp:

This is the life we’re given now. We may dream and hope and pray for a better, brighter future, but our present lives must be lived here, now. And when it is lived, it must not be lived half-heartedly, but with everything we’ve got. We cannot postpone life. We cannot postpone joy to sometime in the future when healing (or answer to fervent prayer) and joy could be had.

For me, that still means deep longings along the journey. Longings to travel with family – to see the beach, to enjoy outdoors life together without sickness. Longings. They are often painful, but I believe that to try to expunge them would be impossible in the first place, so why even try? I am trading the “horrible bundle” with envy, comparison, and competition thrown in, but I am keeping the longings. The longings are what makes me human, alive, with a beating heart. Longings are what brings me to my knees and makes me utter prayers only the Spirit understands.

So, to tackle the gritty part: How do I learn to not compare? Honestly, I do not know yet. But I’ll keep on praying.

After Joni Eareckson Tada had her diving accident which left her a quad, she wrote that to compare her life to others would be an emotional suicide. Perfectly said. So, she learned not to look and compare but to fully depend on Jesus. Easier said than done. I know even for her who has grown to be wise, Christ-wise.

But this is what I will do: To make other people’s beautiful lives inspire and encourage me to do the best I can with what I’ve been given, instead of letting them drive me to envy and self-pity. To remember that a life is most meaningful when lived for God. Faithfully. Everyday.

Let’s then fill our lives and days with things that impact eternity and not the world.

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Rest

Rest is good. But for many of us including myself, we want to avoid it as much as possible and as long as we can hold out. That is, until we are burned out. Or until we hear the voice of the Lord calling, inviting us to His presence where we can find rest and peace for our souls. For the strong who move about in the world “spinning yarn into gold” day and night, they may find rest in their plush hotel rooms as exhaustion catches up with them. What they have is physical rest which their bodies so badly need.

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus'. It's a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( .

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. Although the name was inspired by one of my favorite praise songs,”Jesus at the Center”, I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus’. It’s a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( . Who or what is at the center of your life?

The owner of a large Japanese cosmetic ingredients manufacturer who is a supplier of our own company for the past two decades recently visited Manila. Before his trip here, he passed through China, his days dotted with business meetings. When Felix my husband met him, this ageing businessman looked so tired and haggard he was ready to drop. He recounted to Felix his many appointments before and after his visit to our country. He is so busy and always on-the-go that he got confused with which airlines he was flying in until Felix offered his assistance.

This man may squeeze in rest in-between his wildly busy schedule, but it will just be a physical rest, a few hours of sleep wherein his body ceases to do any activity. But at every waking moment, the mind zooms in automatically on the day’s agenda.

I believe that true rest is free of worries, fears, and anxieties. That the waking moments are sweet, to be relished and not to be dreaded.

True rest is finding a place where our bodies, minds, and hearts can settle in peace and comfort. I believe that it is in this kind of rest that our bodies produce and multiply healthy cells and we recover.

We know that, but often, we forget. I do.

Two weeks ago, about the time I was supposed to write for my weekly blogpost, I had already planned on a topic. But as I collected the thoughts in my mind, it felt like the cup wasn’t filling up. It remained empty. That was my cup. I was running on empty and the Lord wanted me to see that.

I cannot write about what I do not have. I cannot give away what myself is lacking and needing, because it isn’t even there.

Simply put, I cannot give what I haven’t received.

So, I decided to pass the week without a blogpost. I needed a writing holiday. It wasn’t about the writing per se, it was about being filled up so I have something to pour out.

I needed rest – my mind, my heart, and most of all, my body. I posted an unfinished strawberry painting project on IG and informed everyone that there wouldn’t be a new blogpost on that week.

It was very clear that the Lord was inviting me to rest. His rest. And I couldn’t deny anymore the fact that my weak and ailing body was crying out for it.

Rest is God’s gift to His children. Rest is His grace. Rest is His mercy. (For we could be so stubborn sometimes, ignoring the rhythms of our bodies and being cruel to them). To enter into His rest every now and then is an standing invitation. All we need to do is drop everything and enter in.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat. 11:28-30)

These words of the Lord Jesus Christ show how compassionate He is toward us – the weary, the burnt out, the suffering, the stooped-down.

Why do we keep on spinning until we succumb to exhaustion, endlessly doing and performing and achieving and reaching and striving? No matter how much we deny it, we keep on doing because we want to leave a mark. We want our lives to matter. And I believe that is not a bad thing. But I also believe that our performances matter less to God than our deep desire to commune with Him and revel in His presence.

And maybe, we also unintentionally offend God when we work so hard to show to the world a stellar work, claiming it’s for God’s glory, but in reality, our marks and fingerprints are all over the place. We may not realize it but He knows our hearts more than we do. Our work should bear His marks and fingerprints. 

So, I entered into God’s rest and did my best to keep still and be not distracted by the world. It’s easier to do that when there is physical suffering involved. But entering into His rest also requires our humbling down and heartfelt confessing and repenting, if we know there are reasons to, like when we have made a god of our work or something. It is only when peace descends upon us that we can settle in His rest. And even if there is suffering, His unfailing love, His peace and comfort, will steady our hearts.

This is the reason why my heart grieves for those people who have not really known, received, and loved the Lord Jesus Christ and yet, still refuse Him in their sickbeds. I don’t understand. They want to be healed but they do not want to receive the Healer. They do not want to enter into His kind of holy rest. Is it maybe because they do not believe in the first place? Or they think they have been good they don’t need saving? Or they do not have enough divine fear? Or maybe mostly because they haven’t known and understood and didn’t hear enough? Seek enough?

But how can a fragile human being whose life is just a vapour which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (see James 4:14) afford to refuse Him? How can a sick person find rest without the Lord Jesus’ presence, His love and peace? For all our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But this thing I learned: we shouldn’t give up in offering God’s rest – His salvation – over and over until we are heard and He is received. For in the Lord Jesus, there is rest from our labors, ailments, and sufferings.

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Remember Grace

One late at night last week while Felix was away in the province and I was alone in our room, the enemy attacked all of a sudden. It started with labored breathing, then my insides shook like when you feel really cold. But my two layers of blanket couldn’t reach to the core of my body to warm it. The shaking and weakness spread to my legs until they seemed lifeless. The twitching muscles made them limp. I wanted to just curl up and let the strange suffering pass, but I couldn’t do that either. I tried to vomit to relieve me, but the shaking inside continued, from my belly, sides, and up to my abdomen. While sitting up, I raised my hand and prayed and begged God to heal me and relieve me of what I was experiencing, then I cast out the demons of illness that were attacking me. I was becoming scared. I lay back on my pillows, put my Bible under me, turned off the aircon (although the room wasn’t that cold), covered myself with my blankets, then forced myself to lie still in a prone position. My heart was beating fast which was making me feel exhausted. There was nothing more I could do but to wait for the mercy of God.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

This kind of suffering, in all of its forms and insidiousness, has been a part of my life these past 13 years. There are times I wanted to wave my fist at it, at the unseen demons lurking in space, and challenge them to battle, but what good would that do? I want to pound the demons of illness and suffering to pieces, if only I could see what I am up against. This suffering, it leaves a bad and bitter taste in my mouth that I want to spew out once and for all. If only spitting it out would do the trick.

(My scary experience that night reenforced my perseverance in casting out demons of sickness and suffering in full faith and power and authority in Jesus’ name and not to grow faint and give in to the devil’s wishes).

That night, after waiting out for the shaking to stop and for my insides to settle and my heart to beat normally, it finally came after more than half an hour or so. My heart gradually returned to its normal beating and I felt my whole body warm up. The feeling was almost heavenly and I was lulled to sleep because of the warmth and exhaustion.

There had been such episodes of warmth and peace before, healing moments I call them, when the relief from suffering felt like I was being lifted up from the bed and rocked gently in the clouds to sleep. I remembered them then before I succumbed to a peaceful slumber.

In the morning when I woke up, I remembered the suffering of the night before. In my mind, I gave form to the subconscious thoughts that have always plagued me these many years of suffering so much.

Does God really love me? If He does, why does He let me suffer so much and this long? Is He always angry at me? Unfavorable? Displeased? Why does He punish me so severely and would not relent?

But even as I entertained these bitter thoughts, wisdom was squeezing itself hard into the forefront of my brain, wanting to be heard.

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice? (Prov. 8:1)

I listened to wisdom and truth enveloped my whole being.

It is not God who is making me suffer. God isn’t my enemy, the devil is. God, who loves me with an everlasting love, will not do that to me, will not punish me until I am crying out for mercy. He doesn’t take pleasure in inflicting me pain. The devil does.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. (Ps. 103:8)

I took hold of the truth even as it took hold of me. I sat up and raised my hands toward heaven and said,

Father in heaven, in Your name my dearest Lord Jesus Christ. You are a merciful God, compassionate and full of grace. You loved me even when I was a sinner and unworthy of Your love. You cared for me so much You poured out Your love and life on Calvary. You saved me from hell because I matter to You. It is not You who are making me suffer for You are good and faithful to me.

I remember Your grace poured out upon me and I know You love me.

After the storm, the birds come out of hiding to sing. They don’t wave their fists toward heaven and rant why their nests fell to the ground and their young left pitifully as the storm battered and buffeted them. The flowers open up towards the sun slowly emerging out of the parting clouds, greeting the world and their Creator with their radiant faces.

Humans lament and complain.

Remember grace.

Grace poured out upon us beyond measure, more than 2000 years ago, even before Calvary. On a holy, chilly night in the hill country.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14, emphasis added)

good tidings of great joy

peace

goodwill to all men

They all spell G-R-A-C-E.

The spouse, a family member, a friend, or a co-worker hurt you and made you cry because of his/her ill treatment of you? Cry some. Pray big. Fully forgive. Remember grace.

Grace received, grace given away.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (see Rom. 5:20).

Grace is the channel through which all God’s blessings flow.

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The Beauty of Obedience

I am in awe of the faithfulness of the Lord through His Spirit that He has given us. He speaks to us through His abiding Spirit, even of the minutest detail of our lives. That is, if we are constantly attuned to His Spirit’s whisperings. If we foster an unbroken fellowship with Him and are continually connected with Him through worship, prayers, His Word, and a keen awareness of His hovering presence, we will see the radiance of His light ever guiding us. And it is beautiful. His whisperings of reminders and teachings to obey Him in all aspects of life will be a source of joy. And our obedience itself will not be a burden but a delight to us. But most of all, to Him.

obedience

Obedience in the Little Things

These are the things that happen in our hearts and minds and are almost indiscernible to other people. These are little decisions that we make deep inside us even before they are manifested outwardly. And although we may think them as simple and small, they mean a lot to our Savior. That’s why the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts about them. These are decisions we make moment by moment, like:

Not criticizing and judging others in our hearts.

Not comparing ourselves with others and harboring a teeny weeny bit of pride.

Telling the truth as it is without exaggeration or flattery.

Keeping quiet when our silence is needed.

Not talking too much  for In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise (Prov. 10:19).

Being careful in choosing our words that they may minister to the hearers.

Choosing to encourage rather than crush a person’s spirit.

Choosing to be gentle, patient, and kind when provoked.

Not gossiping or talking about other people in a negative way (or if we don’t feel a genuine concern for the other person’s improvement or development).

Being grateful instead of complaining and grumbling.

The list above proves that God is concerned even in our most private thoughts and emotions, what compels us to think, speak, and act as we do. His sole purpose is our total sanctification. Therefore, we cannot ignore the voice of the Spirit that speaks within us.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)

If we walk in the Spirit, being aware of His constant nearness, day by day, moment by moment, our hearts and minds will be attuned to His still, small voice, ever whispering, ever guiding. We obey with gladness and our spirits are buoyed up. Maintaining the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4) then becomes a joy and inspiration to us, a gentle peace settling in our souls, as if God’s river of life courses through our very being.

Obedience in the Big Things

This often requires our commitment and sacrifice. Sometimes they could bring pain. But being determined to be victorious in Christ compels us to obey and trust that God will recompense us for it. These things may be:

Not to worry or be anxious but to trust God completely.

Commit our hearts, minds, souls, time, and energy to worship God. To give of ourselves to Him unreservedly.

For us parents to commit our lives in bringing up [our] children in the training and admonition of the Lord (see Eph. 6:4), being consistent to lead and set a good example for them to follow. To not become lax and complacent in our God-given role.

Still, a few other things under this could be:

Obedience in Prayer

There is an enduring beauty in giving of ourselves to true prayer, not the rushed, half-hearted, half-minded kind. Prayer is talking to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God Almighty. It should involve the highest and complete reverence, awe, and humility. Praying is talking and asking God in full faith, believing without a doubt that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (see Heb. 11:6). If we pray with this knowledge in mind, we will not be blabbering away with vain words that we ourselves think are ineffective.

We will be praying in faith, every word we utter has its own weight, believing that whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22).

Growing faint in prayer may happen every now and then. But the Lord has commanded us that [we] ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1) and even supported it with a parable to bring this home, leaving us no reason to dwell in that discouraged situation.

In fact, He encourages us to be consistent and to persevere in prayer, even in the face of difficult circumstances that conspire against us. It is a command we need to obey and in our obedience with faith at the forefront, it just cannot be that nothing good will come out of it.

Obedience in Forgiving

For Christians, we cannot afford to harbor unforgiveness for long. We do not want to provoke God’s displeasure towards us and so, we obey His command to forgive others so our heavenly Father will also forgive us. We pray to be able to forgive not only in words, but from the heart. That is hard, that’s why we need to pray for it until it happens. But it doesn’t end there. He also teaches to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44).

Love our enemies! Yes, those who have deeply wronged and hurt us. Forgiving them from the heart is one thing, loving them is entirely another! But it is a command we need to obey. How can we love them then, especially when they are not at all repentant? I have written about my own painful and difficult experience of forgiving and loving despite of. You can read it here.

It is more excellent to just humbly obey and surrender everything to Him: our pride, resentments, and hurts. We give it all to Him for He said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (see Heb. 10:30). Our obedience will bring Him pleasure. He will right the wrong.

Obedience in What Delights God

Sunday is the saddest day of the week for me. Sounds ironic, considering that it is a day to worship the Lord. But because I cannot travel to church, only my family goes and I am always left behind. These six years. There were seasons when I was very sick, yet they had to leave for church because “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” and all those teachings we honor. And our children sing in the choir.

Since December last year, my son Tim has gone up to the Children’s Choir (from Cherubims Choir). He’s happy there. He loves the new songs he’s learning. On February 14, our Church celebrated its 41st anniversary. It was a huge and very special celebration and worship service. Such occasions usually last until around midnight (starting at before noon). Tim’s supposed to stay at home with me, and in fact, he expressed his fears in going and singing in the expanded Children’s Choir (other outreaches joining, filling up the risers up and down, center, left, and right).

“Mom, what if I get lost in the crowd?” He asked me. He also went to his Dad with the same concern. Our main church holds its worship service in a stadium. I, in particular, didn’t want to accept defeat, although it would have been more peaceful in my heart and mind that he stayed home. But we wanted to be victorious in the Lord. So, we came up with a plan that Tim would not be “lost in the crowd” as he (and I also) had feared.

For the first time, Tim sang in the Children’s Choir on our Church’s anniversary and we were all glad for our family’s victory.

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Journey with Jesus,

Overcomer

My breakfast tray was placed before me but instead of presenting it with a cheerful “Good morning! Enjoy your breakfast!” as I would have loved, it was accompanied by heavy-handed remarks that plunged my heart and spirits to the floor all at once. If it’s a person close to you who does that, it’s really hard to recover from the hurt and discouragement it brings. That kind of discouragement which holds your heart like a vise grip. When your life is hard physically, you don’t need any more emotional challenges that try to snuff out what little hope you hold onto. You just want kindness and encouragement given intentionally or even sacrificially. You want compassion.

Overcomer

But then, other people have their own issues to work on, too, even if they are able-bodied. One has to consider that. They may have their own problematic attitudes and temper to deal with.  (And even if they don’t see the problem, changing people is not our job. It’s God’s. We have to leave it to Him). In my years of illness and suffering, I have learned to see outside of my situation and try to understand other people even though they are not walking the same difficult path as I am.

The wounds, my heart can absorb and forgive, and overtime, will heal and be forgotten, like a mist lifted off of the surface of the lake, making everything clear and shimmering once again. But the momentary discouragement is another thing. Although it is often momentary, it can still shake our hard-earned peace. When you’re ill, you need all the hope and encouragement you can get. But if it’s the opposite that’s thrown at you, that’s when you need to — overcome.

I stared at my breakfast tray, too sad and frustrated to make any move. Actually, it was already late for breakfast. And my breathing becomes labored and gets more difficult the longer I delay eating. But when you’re discouraged, you want to punish yourself all the more, maybe to elicit pity or stir up guilt feelings in the other person. I couldn’t eat. Didn’t want to eat. Self-pity, anger, frustration were all rising up within me. I hate being pitiful. I hate being weak and needy. I hate being miserable. But that’s what discouragement does.

Thank God the Holy Spirit within us doesn’t sleep. He’s alive! He clears up our muddled mind and emotions and speaks truth to us. Wisdom speaks: For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 8:35). And rebukes: “If you don’t eat, who will suffer? Does your not eating solve your problems and put into right all the wrongs?”

“Yes, I know. This wisdom is not from above and I’m being foolish,” I answered in my mind. Then I let James 3:17 land softly and settle there. I took a long, deep, cleansing breath, and as I exhaled, I released these words, squaring my shoulders: “JUST. OVERCOME.” I picked up my fork and began to eat, a smile curving my lips.

With the Holy Spirit and wisdom gained from the Word, we can command ourselves, “JUST OVERCOME”. And just like that, we are strengthened. With these two, the apostle Paul’s admonition to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) can squeeze itself through our confused minds and hurting hearts and we will be able to do the right thing. There’s no use analyzing the other person’s abrasive attitude or insensitivity. It’s not our problem; don’t dwell on it for so long. We’ll just have to step up our prayers for that person in our life.

But it’s not only discouragements that we need to overcome. There are other, maybe harder, things that life throws at us which need our overcoming. It’s either we overcome or accept defeat. It’s do or die. Sometimes I imagine my life like a medieval race where there are almost impossible obstacles, like a giant swinging pendulum that you need to assess its frequency to be able to pass through it without it hitting you, for if it does, you will fall into a pit of waiting, hungry crocodiles.

Didn’t the writer of Hebrews say that our faith journey is a race?

… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (Heb. 12:1)

Running the race in such a way that we obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24) takes great courage, discipline, patience, and perseverance.

In the earlier years after my salvation, I saw how there were so many hard things I needed to overcome: my sickness and suffering, the anxieties and fears it brought, and the constant threat of hopelessness. But after reading and meditating on the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation where the Lord tells us “To him who overcomes” seven times, I understood that I had to be an overcomer. I reasoned that if there was nothing for me to overcome, how could I be called an overcomer? So, I learned to be grateful for trials. For when God sees fit to train me in this regard, then I will have to yield myself to the learning process.

Thank God we don’t overcome on our own. We can’t possibly do that even if we tried. The years when I was outside of the Lord’s presence and protection, I had let all kinds of temptations enslave me. I didn’t have the spiritual strength to stand up against them. Yielding to temptation was easier than overcoming it. But those years are gone. Even so, our life with the Savior is not without tests and temptations. And I believe they have actually intensified when we aligned our lives with God, because we have set ourselves against His arch-enemy. When we wrestle with our thoughts and emotions, we are actually wrestling with the devil’s strongholds. Pride, fears, anger, envy, and all other human emotions that draw us away from God are his territory.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

What do you need to overcome in your life right now? Temptations in all its tricky disguises? For in essence, it’s really all a kind of temptation. It all began in the Garden of Eden. The tempter put out his temptation and got Eve’s attention. Eve failed to overcome it; Adam failed to overcome Eve. Because of their failure to overcome, sin entered the world. Satan became its god (2 Cor. 4:4). But that wasn’t the end. The Lord Jesus came and has overcome the world (John 16:33).

On our own, we can never overcome the world and all its tribulations. But because Jesus has overcome it, we can, too. Our victory is in Him. Whoever is not in Christ can be the devil’s puppet. He or she will never have enough power to stand up against him and overcome his works. But those who are in Christ are given these powerful weapons to overcome their accuser:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)

I thought about that last part – “they loved not their lives unto the death” – long and hard and came to realize that most of our defeats and miseries are spawned by our self-love. It’s loving our lives more than loving God. But the Lord has already warned us about it.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat. 16:25)

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Journey with Jesus,

Start Anew

In my life now, I often find myself “starting afresh”. Those little acts are wedged in any hour or day, all year round. They maybe interspersed in tiny moments, but for me, they could mean my very existence: my spiritual strength, restoration, and encouragement to carry on. They even restore peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, which to me are essential to living life.

I often have them mainly because of the life I’m living right now: lingering illness and physical difficulties.

start anew

One example is when I make the grave mistake of exhausting myself by talking too much. Sometimes when I’m feeling well, I get too excited to talk. I couldn’t seem to restrain myself until I realize I’m already winded. This always scares me because it often sends me frantically “recovering” for at least an hour, gasping for breath and going through excruciatingly difficult suffering in the process. I call it a gauntlet. During those “recoveries”, I always give myself a harsh scolding. Regret is a punishment in itself.

Regret because there might not be another tomorrow to do the things I was called to do. There might not be another opportunity to serve my family. To love.

Then as suffering gives way to relief (for me it’s almost heavenly), I am awash with new encouragement and inspiration to maintain a gentle and quiet spirit. When deliverance finally comes, I always know that it is another precious opportunity to be better than before, to walk on a ground higher than before. To treasure it all. Because it is all so fleeting.

That crossing over from suffering to recovery with a fresh inspiration and strong determination to be a better woman of God and walk worthy of Christ’s calling is a divine blessing drenched with grace.

But there are other crises we may find ourselves in, which are harder to “recover” from. I don’t know your specific experiences but below, I listed some of the sticky situations I usually find myself in, which send my emotions into a tailspin and my mind into confusion. They usually involve loss of self-control (you know, that fruit of the Holy Spirit).

When I resolved to truly love and honor my husband no matter what the circumstances, then find myself in the middle of a “word war” with him, earnestly contending and speaking out words I would later regret and receiving them in return, maybe twofold. The pain, confusion, regret, downright disappointment, and that loud, condemning voice of self-reproach could paralyze one from pulling oneself out of the quicksand and stepping into a broad, steady place.

In those times, I want to break down in deep anguish. I panic in fear of having offended God (I never want to do that). I fear His chastisement. I fear sliding back to deplorable sickness and suffering. So there were times that I echoed David’s desperate cries: “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!” (Ps. 6:1). (Because of my long illness and suffering, I have become fearful of offending God with even the slightest mistake. I can’t help it that that has been its effect on me :( ).

When I lose my patience with my son when he disobeys me, doesn’t listen to me or do what I say, especially with his homework. I can see these – gentleness, patience, kindness – flying out of the window and yet, couldn’t stop it from happening.

When I haven’t been spiritually productive, minding things that don’t matter eternally, not hungering enough for God’s presence and touch, but soaking up myself with pleasures like a wholesome Hallmark movie or a period drama. And when I stay up so late reading or watching or just endlessly thinking – planning what to write, what to paint or where to go when I’m finally well and fully recovered (Felix often tells me that my brain is overused 😀 ) – then sleep wouldn’t come until wee hours of the morning which could bring mental agitation. I deeply regret those, too. A sign of my lack of self-discipline.

How do you stop things from spiralling and becoming hopelessly irredeemable?

Stop

Stop even though you think you’re not yet done. Stop even though you think “it’s too late anyway so what does it matter?” Stop because the Holy Spirit is telling you to. Stop because there’s grace when you do. Stop because you’ll be rewarded with your obedience, humility, and remorse.

Just stop. Stop what you’re doing. Stop talking. Stop fighting. Stop being angry, being impatient, being unkind, being ugly. JUST. STOP. Shut the mouth. Relish the instant quietness until it extends and expands into peacefulness, reaching and calming the nerves.

Pray

Pray at once. Right in the middle of the mess. Don’t let shame or self-condemnation stop you. Confess your faults and failures, your mistakes and ugliness. Tell God every detail: the remorse, the confusion, the hurt, the not-knowing-what-to-do-and-where-to-go-from-here. Beg for His endless mercies and forgiveness. Pray for light, clarity, and wisdom. Pray (and weep) until His peace descends and envelops your whole being and wraps itself around your heart and mind. Pray until you feel His acceptance like a warm embrace.

Praise

As soon as you get the chance, sing praises to Him. This will further banish the turmoil in your heart and mind. This will make you heal and recover better.

Start Anew

No, this is not only for those who receive the Lord Jesus and His salvation for the first time. It is also for us, His children already. Sometimes we feel so discouraged with ourselves, how we could be so slow learners, repeat offenders (even foolish!), that we don’t have the courage and confidence to face our Savior with our faults – again! But there is really nothing better to do (and nowhere to go) but that: present ourselves before Him, confessing our sins, acknowledging our mistakes and failures, and asking for more strength, light, and wisdom. The One who taught us to forgive seventy times seven, will He not do it Himself?

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Mat.  18:21-22)

And Apostle John encourages us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

All these things – stopping, praying, praising, and starting anew – may come spontaneously, in between our moments. The inspiration and resolve to start afresh begins in the mind until it lights up the whole being. People around us need not know. We need not tell God about it (though He’s aware of the transformation happening within us; it’s His doing!). It is a quiet resolve, something that sustains us to the next moment or hour or day. A new burning desire to do it right. To do it God’s way.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing [we become weak; we break down; we unravel; we become undone], yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16, annotations mine)

Starting anew, then, is really a continuing process, whether we have stumbled or are walking steadily. Morning by morning, we are given that endless opportunity to do better, be better, be like the Lord Jesus Christ. Lamentations 3:22-23 is like a rock oozing with grace:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. 

Starting anew could happen any moment, any hour, any day all year round. Don’t be weary in doing it over and over again as the need arises. ‘Tis grace.

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Journey with Jesus,

Power to Become a Child of God

I asked our housekeeper how her “emergency” meeting with her estranged husband went. Earlier, she asked for a half-day leave to tackle the problem her husband was creating: he wanted to sell the house she and her kids were living in and split the money. Although it was his wife who acquired the lot and financed the building of the house, he wants to claim his conjugal rights. Our housekeeper was distraught. Years ago, they separated because he kept a mistress.

I told her we would bring her husband to our Church to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

sonship

She stopped mopping, looked at me and said, “Oh no, ma’am. Nothing more can be done to him. Nothing can change him.” She continued her work like her slim hope was hinged on the mop rod.

“No man, however sinful he is, can stand against the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to save and change a life,” I answered.

I then proceeded to tell her about the testimony of a brother in Christ I  wrote on my Minister of Mercy blog. He was a drug addict of the worst kind. He would leave his family and disappear for days to immerse himself in his vices. As if drugs weren’t enough, he also drowned himself with alcohol at the same time. When he went home, he would “play” with his children, lining them up against the wall while he threw darts at them. By the mercies of God, He always protected the little ones.

One night, he came home high on drugs. The devil was at his throat, whispering to him to kill his sleeping, emaciated, very pregnant wife to remove all obstacles to his depraved life. And so, he took a knife and poised to stab his wife.

I stopped to ask our housekeeper, “Do you think your husband is more wicked than this man?” She shook her head but said nothing. I continued my story, how the Lord Jesus brought salvation to that man’s whole household. I told her that, years ago, I invited him to our home to record his testimony for my blog and have his photo taken. (To read the whole testimony, click here).

It is almost impossible to absorb, especially for a doubtful housekeeper who saw God as small as her hope, how a man who used to be so evil is now toting a Bible and sharing the Gospel and his testimony wherever he goes. But such is the amazing grace of God.

Apostle John wrote:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

God does not simply make us His children when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but He also gives us power to be so, so that our sonship is not in name only, but is established through the manifestation of that power.

The true children of God, therefore, have power to live righteous, holy lives through the Holy Spirit that now lives in them. They cannot be born of God and still be slaves to sin, neither should they see themselves as lower and smaller than the position of a true son or daughter of God.

One night before my birthday last October 2, while I waited for sleep to come, I thought of the prayers I had fervently prayed weeks before my birthday that had remained unanswered up to that time. Among other things, I prayed that I would be able to bathe and wash my hair well more often and be able to groom myself and dress up for my birthday. But as I lay in bed that night with my hair which had become so oily due to infrequent washing and face that hadn’t been scrubbed clean to look radiant, I had a visit with self-pity.

The internal conversation started like this:

“You shouldn’t aspire to tidy up yourself and dress up to celebrate your birthday. Surely, you don’t have the nerve to pose before a camera and have your photo taken! Just hide in the shadows where no one can see you.” Maybe the pity party intensified that I just wanted to wallow in it, maybe I wanted to put myself down, even lower than what my illness had placed me, that I didn’t realize it was already the devil talking.

The voice said finally, “You are a cockroach! Thats what you are! So go hide!” (Friends, know that the devil is cruel).

The temptation to immerse myself deeper into the destructive sulking was there. A small part of me wanted to say “You’re right, I’m a cockroach!” to let God know how hurt I was that He didn’t grant my simple requests. But to do that would make me dumber than I already was at that moment.

Instead, I suddenly pulled out myself out of the senseless sulking and exclaimed inwardly in exasperation, “Oh, my goodness! Where did that come from? I am NOT a cockroach! Stop this right now, Rina. The devil is taking advantage of it.”

Sometimes, we are more of a sensual Christian than a spiritual one. We succumb to our feelings thinking that we can derive satisfaction from them. But we should have learned by now that doing such would profit us nothing. Among the devil’s many tricks, he wants us to see ourselves as the lowliest, the offscourings of the earth, so that in doing so, we bring God down with us and we sin in the process.

We were not only created in the image of God, we are being transformed in the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. To see ourselves otherwise is to spurn God’s work in us.

But sometimes, it’s not only the devil who tries to bring us down. Even the people closest to us could affect us the same way. And when you’re unwell and suffering, that would be hard to overcome. Recently, I had one of those painful encounters with a family member. I was left feeling so discouraged I didn’t want to eat! When you’re hurt, it is not that easy to get back on your feet, dust off yourself, and move on. Yes, but your mind should rule over your emotions!

Wisdom must rule.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Wisdom is a product of a sound mind, the wisdom from above as described by Saint James:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

If I didn’t eat, who would suffer the more? Who was I punishing with my refusing to eat? It’s just a simple application of wisdom!

I took a huge, deep, cleansing breath, then told myself, “You’re hurt. It’s hard to swallow it. In the midst of the pain and frustration, it is even confusing. But you are a child of God. You have been given power to be so. So, act like one. You can overcome because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).” I picked up the spoon and fork and ate with peace and satisfaction, even smiling to myself for the triumph.

On my birthday, I was able to tidy up, subdue my unruly hair, and put on my new peach blouse. I dared to take a birthday selfie and was shocked to see that the face I thought would show the ravages of illness instead showed the glory of my faithful Father. Hallelujah!

(Photo credit: @zuzu365 via @heart_imprint on Instagram).

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Journey with Jesus,

Encouragement for the Journey

On January 2, 18 years ago, I stood at one of the windows of Cainta Municipal Hall registering my chemical trading business. The whole place was deserted (maybe I was the only over eager person to be processing her business permit a day after New Year’s Day), but I was so full of hopes and big dreams it was hard to wipe the grin off my face or extinguish the brightness of my eyes.

encouragement for the journey

Eighteen years have come and gone since that day, I couldn’t have known then how much stuff could be squeezed into that entire length of time.

On New Year’s Day 2005, while being cooped up inside our Church’s fasting house in Pampanga (not fasting but desperately waiting for healing), depressed and uncertain of the future, the Lord spoke to me, “Go home, my child. Wherever you go, I am there with you.” This was not your ordinary “sensing” the voice of God, but it was the kind which pierced through my darkness, jolted me out of my pity party and sent us packing without delay. Within the same hour, we were leaving the sanctuary of the fasting house headed for home. Between that time and New Year’s Eve 2014, I recovered enough to be able to travel to crusades, give birth to my son Tim, start my blog, then fall ill again.

New Year’s Eve 2014 found me on the throes of death. When I knew for certain that I wouldn’t recover after hours of gasping for breath, I positioned myself in such a way that death may come not too harshly. But after turning, anticipating death to come in a matter of minutes, the struggle slackened. The powerful flow of air entered my system unobstructed. The breath of life flowed in and out of my nostrils, flooding my whole body with great relief. I didn’t know what to make of it: Was it deliverance? Was I out of danger? Has death given up on me? While confusion reigned during those few moments, a frantic voice was shouting in my mind, “Breathe! Breathe the air I freely give you!” I gave all my concentration in inhaling and exhaling. When I could finally turn over and speak, it was about half-hour to 2015.

It has been a year since that scary and glorious night, but I’m still here being held by God.

What do these things tell? Proverbs 19:21 may partly answer this question (for we can never completely unravel the mysterious workings of God):

There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. 

God’s purposes and plans, they will ultimately stand. We may never understand His ways and thoughts. That is not our part. Our part is to believe and trust. When we have finally grasped it, we would have embraced wisdom. That kind of wisdom that cannot be compared with all the things we may desire; it is in fact a tree of life (see Proverbs 3).

The path of a Christ-follower is never easy. It is strewn with trials of all kinds. After all, it is the narrow path and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (part of Acts 14:22). But the marvelous thing is, there is enduring peace and joy even in the midst of life’s storms. That is what walking after the Spirit and in wisdom brings. We are somewhat healed of our deep longings and we carry on day after day after day. That is why the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper in all our travails. Without Him, life is like a desolate land.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)

How thoughtful and caring our Savior is that He wouldn’t leave us alone in this world that is full of troubles and toils! He had it all planned before the foundation of the world. He had it all covered. All we need to do is trust and obey. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us enables us, even empowers us to carry out God’s purposes and plans, even though sometimes we don’t understand. Yes, even through pain. Through Him we are constantly loved and held and kept.

David was a man who was acquainted with troubles. But he knew whom to trust and cling to. In all his tribulations (and there had been many!), he never grew weary of God. Yes, he had questions directed towards Him, strings of them. He walked so intimately with God that he knew He could very well handle them. Through deliverance or desperation, his sight was always heavenward. His praises and prayers became the psalms. Psalm 63 exquisitely expresses his dependence and awe of God:

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. (vv. 3-5)

In the midst of David’s stark difficulties, he learned that God’s lovingkindness is better than life. Life could be cruel. But beyond all this, there is hope that never dies. It is the life in Christ in the here and now that transcends all pain and hopelessness. It is this life in Him, in His enduring lovingkindness, that life on earth becomes bearable, a little piece of heaven. It is Christ in [us], the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

But some of us are more like Asaph (I am one occasionally :D). In Psalm 73, Asaph had been downright honest of what he’d been through. He was envious of other men, the ungodly, so much so that he admitted he almost stumbled in his own faith walk. He went on to enumerate the ungodly’s perceived “blessedness”:

They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.

…They have more than heart could wish.

…[they] are always at ease… (vv. 5,7,12)

Then he looked into his own life and saw the huge difference. He saw how he had humbly subjected himself to God’s continual correction and for what? And as he tried to assimilate it all, it pained him too much. Until he went into the sanctuary and God gave him deeper understanding. He realized his error and his heart was grieved, so much so that he goaned, “was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (v. 22).

God made him see that he was the one who was truly blessed, not the ones he was envious of. He then wrote these beautiful words:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (vv. 23-26)

Oh, what truth! What great encouragement!

In our own faith journey, we were like Asaph one time or another. Isn’t it so wonderful that we have these treasures of wisdom now for our own counsel and edification? Oh, praise God for continuing to speak to us powerfully through His Word!

Like Asaph and all the other heroes of faith and early Christians that had journeyed before us, our journey of faith is peppered with lessons both painful and sweet. We have to embrace each one with humble hearts then echo Asaph’s praise (vv. 23-26).

I invite you to read and meditate on Psalm 73.

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Journey with Jesus,

The Wisdom of Proverbs 3

Before December rolled in, I stepped up my prayer life, praying at 12 noon and 6 in the evening, Monday to Saturday. I set my alarm so as not to miss my schedule. I was on a mission. My purpose was to bombard heaven with my prayers for healing, much like the widow at the beginning of Luke 18 who harassed the judge with her constant cries for help. I wanted to receive my miracle on Christmas and be able to go out with my family at last.

proverbs 3

December came and I noticed the lump on my chest (just below my collarbone), which has been dormant for years, suddenly becoming painful. Within a few days, it became inflamed, red, and seemed to be growing bigger and wider. I added a 3 o’clock prayer to my prayer regimen just for the healing of this lump that was becoming intensely painful each day.

Days before Christmas, it became so big and swollen it looked like a little apple ready to burst. It also brought terrible pain, it was hard to make the slightest movement. I couldn’t shift my position in bed and even if I lay still, intermittent pain tore at my flesh. I cried out in pain. I can’t count the times that I sat straight up, tears spurting from tightly-closed eyes while riding out the pain, and cried out to God for help, relief, and clarity. For this got me confused beyond words. One time I cried out, “Oh Lord Jesus! Do You still love me?” I realized that pain could turn a human into a beast and I determined to myself that wouldn’t happen to me. I have the Holy Spirit.

I spoke back His words to Him. You know, the son asking his father for bread and will he give him a stone? Or fish and will he give him a snake? I asked for my healing but I got another disease on my chest instead. It hurt me. It deeply hurt me that the Lord Jesus would do that to me. I thought we were very close. I thought we were friends. And if it was Satan who was doing it, why would He even allow it? These were really big, serious questions I had. In the midst of physical pain and suffering, disability, and confusion, conflicting thoughts roiled within me.

For the more than 12 years that I’ve been ill and have suffered, I had tried every spiritual and mental remedy and trick in the book that I knew of. Believe me: been there, done that. When your life is faced with difficult challenges, you want to hold onto something sturdy and stable. Generally, your faith and God’s Word ably play the part. But in the daily struggles, your mind wants to latch itself onto things that see you through moment by moment. They could be sources of inspiration and encouragement, like God’s promises.

To be able to bear life’s hard trials, the mind needs to sit on a steady flow of peace and the heart on some measure of joy.

But a very present physical pain sends everything into a tailspin. On those nights that pain stole my rest and peace, my mind refused to rise up to the occasion to fix everything as usual.

One night before Christmas, I groaned in pain, “My mind cannot absorb all this anymore. It has come to a dead-end. All this suffering is beyond me.” I sat up and cried my soul out. “Lord, in the midst of all these hardships and confusion and hurt, there is something, one last thing I’m not giving up and will never give up: my desire to get healed and live. I want to make this clear, my Lord Jesus: I. Want. To. Live. Satan can never steal that from me!” Suddenly, words stopped tumbling out of my lips. The stillness gripped me. Physical healing hadn’t come but something peaceful reigned over the turmoil in my mind and I didn’t want to utter a single word anymore.

The light in our room was dim but even with my closed eyes, I sensed a light shining around me. And there was peace and quiet. At the center of it was the Lord’s presence. Then, I just wanted to sing. Sing in my suffering! But that was what my soul yearned to do.

So, I sang. I sang the song that was most meaningful given my situation.

Ikaw ang ilaw ko sa dilim

(You are my light in the dark)

Ikaw ang gabay ko sa gabi

(You are my guide at night)

Ikaw ang pag-asa ng buhay ko

(You are the hope of my life)

Ikaw Panginoong Hesus

(You, Lord Jesus).

Copious tears came. Cleansing tears. Good tears. Tears of peace.

And the love of Jesus embraced me. It caressed my weary soul and body. I continued to sing. I sang not in desperation. I sang not because I needed healing. I sang because it was what I was created to do. I sang because the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy. I sang because I love Him, adore, and worship Him. I sang in trust, in peace, and in surrender. He owns me. He holds my life and future in His hands. There was nothing more to worry about.

I lay down to sleep, exhausted, but restored.

In the morning, I opened my Bible to Proverbs 3. Its wisdom spoke to me like it never did before. It was an affirmation of what I had experienced the night before.

For length of days, long life, and peace: Never depart from God’s commands. Hold onto them.

To find favor and good success in the sight of God: Retain steadfast love and faithfulness (do not be tempted to rebel in your heart or succumb to hopelessness).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (v. 5) (Trying so hard to wrap our brain around things that are for God alone to know is an exercise in futility. It is so liberating to let go and let God).

For healing of the flesh and refreshment to the bones: Be not wise in your own eyes (or rely on our own wisdom and understanding as is often the case).

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom…

nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor. (vv. 13,15,16)

To trust in the Lord with all our hearts; to hold onto His truth no matter what: That is wisdom! And if we have taken hold of this – WE ARE BLESSED! Nothing we desire can compare with it. Yes, because this wisdom will always be higher and stronger than our longings, our deep desires. It will always bring peace. It will always triumph. [We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us] (Phil. 4:13).

In the morning of December 27th, I woke up drenched in sticky fluid. The lump in my chest had ruptured and I didn’t even feel it!  I was instantly relieved of the intense pain and within 24 hours, the lump gradually deflated. Hallelujah! 

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Journey with Jesus,

The Lighted Path

If I could I would be too busy doing life I may not have time to visit Facebook, except maybe to post something encouraging and inspiring to others in their faith journey, and for those who are still seeking, to point them to the Savior. I always tell my husband that if I wasn’t bedbound, he would rarely see me in front of my laptop. There are so many things to do outside of the Internet and social media – the real world – that given the chance, my hands and days would be so full. And my life so fulfilled.

lighted_path

Why would Facebook or other social media open up my day when there is my Lord and King waiting to spend precious hour with me? And yet, though I spend my mornings in prayer, in His Word and other devotionals, I feel it’s not enough. If my diaphragm were strong, I would fall on my knees in praise and worship after I’d seen the kids to school. In the glorious circle of God’s presence, love, joy, peace, power, and answers to prayer are let down from heaven in a huge sheet which one could feast on. Why wouldn’t I want to enter into that?

I dream of preparing hearty breakfast for the family even before the first light of morning peeks through the windows. Maybe freshly-baked buttery and crumbly biscuits with omelet as soft and fluffy as the clouds. Crispy bacon, a glass of fresh milk in front of each school kid, and lunch boxes with maybe  scrumptious chicken salad sandwiches, napkins with my message on them, and all my love, before we click them shut and they kiss me goodbye as they run for the waiting car. And I would smile to myself, heart about to burst in gratitude. I would whisper it, of course, put words to my heart-praise, not wanting to let the moment pass without blowing a kiss of thanks toward heaven who had wrapped its loving arms around me.

No, during those glorious moments, there wouldn’t be thoughts about Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. In that life, I would have learned that it didn’t take any social media to etch every precious memory, every heartfelt praise into pixels, but rather into His Books which couldn’t be erased for eternity.

When tears of adoration and thanksgiving had washed over me and cleansed me that I would feel like a new creation once again, a lamb whose wool is as white as snow in the heart of winter, I would rise from my knees and maybe spend some time in the garden. I’ve always known the joy and contentment derived from working with earth, with vibrant flowers and lush leaves in infinite shades of green covering the place like a colorful quilt.

In the afternoons while the kids are still in school, maybe I would walk around our neighborhood, say “Hi!” to folks who, like me, stay at home, and engage them into a warm conversation and tell them about Jesus. On the succeeding days, I might walk the same path, talking to the same people, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Then try a new, unbeaten road, where the light of the Gospel had not yet shone.

This and more is how I envision living my life after illness. Hallelujah! Praise God!

But while I wait, I’ll do my best not to spend too much time on FB. Why? Because my FB newsfeed, with the exception of Church posts and testimonies, has become a microcosm of the world. And whatever is wrong with the world? The beloved Apostle John gives us an answer:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

FB is a good place to connect and reconnect with family, relatives, Church brethren, and friends old and new. It may serve as a free diversion to those who have plenty of time to kill. I miss my friends that I only see now on my newsfeed. Had my circumstances been different, I would have loved to visit with them, at their place or mine or at a cozy cafe. How wonderful it would be if I could invite them over for tea, play catch up, and tell them about the One who forgives, saves, heals, changes lives, and loves faithfully!

But that’s not happening. At least, not yet. In the meantime, my FB newsfeed shows a window to the world which, if I’m not careful, if I let my guard down, will do me more harm than good. Everyday, there’s an overload of photos of grand vacations, travels, celebrations, dinners, shopping expeditions, gifts, acquisitions, material possessions, and yes, a wealth of selfies. An overdose of all that can influence our hearts to embrace the world’s superfluity, the antithesis of the life Jesus exemplified. In His own words, we see the stark simplicity of the life He lived: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mat. 8:20).

It’s with sadness of heart that I have to say these things, but they speak the truth, for even some Church brethren fall into one or more of the above-mentioned categories and I often wonder, “What will happen to the anointing?” Yes, whatever happened to the admonition to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God?

In times past, I had been guilty of the same, but the Holy Spirit has been convicting me for so long, and now, I only desire to be an authentic Christ follower, by God’s grace. Before I post anything on social media, I pause and examine my heart and ask these questions: Why do I want to post this? How will it affect those who see or read it? A motive-check behind my actions is set in place like a brake. Apostle Paul reminds us to make edifying of others be the motive behind our actions. Edifying is defined as “enlightening or uplifting so as to encourage intellectual or moral improvement”. A few verses about edifying:

Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1 Cor. 14:12)

…Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:26)

…But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. (2 Cor. 12:19)

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph. 4:29)

Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. If that is what we see on our FB feeds and they stir up ungodly thoughts and emotions in us that our spiritual growth is hampered, linger not too long that we might leave unwhole. That is not the lighted path the Lord wants us to walk on. Facebook and all other social media and the secular things we see in them should not be the lifestyle of a Christian. Next time we go there, may we not forget that we are supposed to shine as lights in the world. May our posts and comments reflect that truth.

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Journey with Jesus,