Saturday, December 10: The Offering of the Natural

i can only begin to offer spiritual commitments to the Lord when i have made up mind about my natural commitments.  the choice is simple:  either deny myself or deny Him because talking about Christ is meaningless if i don’t match it with walking with Him.

“if we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will resist and defy the life of the Son of God in us and will produce continual turmoil.”  –  My Utmost For His Highest

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“my Lord Jesus, help me.  i have put myself voluntarily under Your authority and You know I love You but i really need Your help with my commitment issues.  

fix my eyes on You,  stir my devotion for Your word , take away my complacency and laziness  with the temptations of sin and worldliness that I may wholeheartedly be Yours.   i pray for the same for my children and their families. 

bless my second son as he celebrates another year of abundant blessings and graces from You today.  bless my daughter that she can carry through her pregnancy to full term safely and in good health for her and baby.  bless my eldest son that he may be strong and generous in his roles as husband and father.  bless my youngest son that he may be enlightened to make the best choices for work and home. bless my children’s families that they may always find joy and fulfillment, love and security in You.

bless the one reading this today that he/she may feel Your loving touch in the areas most needed.  bless the whole of mankind that all may find You in the realities of life.

please stay with me and mine always, dear God.  we need You in everything.  thank You.”

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Friday, December 9: The Opposition of the Natural

repulsed by the obvious evilness of  sin,  i find that it is no longer a matter of  avoiding sin per se,  “but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence, and self-will.  this is where the battle has to be fought. –  My Utmost For His Highest

right to myself.  natural independence.  self-will.

from the world’s perspective, these are distinctive human functions which, when deployed excellently, are supposed to lead us from mundane mediocrity to the pinnacle of self-actualization.  nothing wrong with that at all.

but, no.  the reading today says, “the things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best… they oppose or counteract surrender to God.”

it is our nature to always think of ourselves first, to regard ourselves as the center of interest, to evaluate and control everything according to our standards and needs.  why?  because otherwise, we could end up last in the line.

however, as followers of Christ, we are to regard life in the concept of gift and grace from the God who provides and loves (so no need to scamper for the gold, er… goal) — never in terms of what we can conquer or possess.

what does Christ propose?  self-sacrifice.  self-denial.  self-giving.

tough words.  but let’s face it.

when we avenge, rebel, defy, or impose our wants, brandish our stubbornness in our dealings, control other people, and demand that our  needs be met first, what results?  hurt, anger, violence, division, war.  and no one wants that.

yet are we really supposed to patiently endure abuse, rejection, pain, or exploitation in the name of God?  allowing ourselves to be like poured-out wine—consumed, dry, and numb in spirit?  does Jesus think that’s fine?

yes, He does.

but wait.   Pope John Paul in his homily during the World Youth Day a decade back said that Christians do not really seek suffering for its own sake.  we seek love.

when we embrace our cross following Christ, it becomes a sign of love, of total self-giving, of being united with Him.   and, there is no greater proof of love than that. ( so surely, no spiritual numbness there) 

Christ invites, “follow me.”

why?  because He alone knows the way to the fullness of life and which He alone can give.

but do we trust Him?

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“Lord, as much as Your ways do seem confusing and risky in lay man’s eyes, i am surrendering my self and my rights to You.  i have lived my past planning and working out hard  my own peace and happiness in the ways i knew best  and we both know i didn’t quite make it.   so please, fill my heart with Your Spirit then as i await from You Your peace and joy.  i love You, sweet Jesus.”

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Thursday, December 8: The Impartial Power of God

i used to not understand it.  from a young age, i was taught to pray hard. 

when my father died at 42 and i was 10, my grandparents (mother side) moved into our house for a year to keep us company and lend us moral support.   very religious and holy people, my grandpa and grandma would wake us up at 4 a.m. to pray for the soul of my father.  then, we would go straight to hear mass at 5:30 before attending school.  it was tough for young kids but we managed.  

 that experience inculcated upon our minds that when we wanted something from God, we sacrificed and prayed hard for it. 

now, it is different.  having my mind and heart totally reprogrammed by the workings of the Holy Spirit, i am convinced that the only way for our souls to be saved is to turn to Christ and seek His redemptive power  through His blood and Cross not later when we die but NOW.   (and more often than not,  it is our brokenness that lands us at His feet.) 

no amount of habitual sacrifice, deep emotion, and repetitive prayer can reopen the gates of heaven unless we bring ourselves to that sincere acceptance and humbling resignation that Christ is the Key, Christ is the solution, Christ is the only Way.   He is the prerequisite.   

and only then can the Holy Spirit begin His work in us, taking full charge of our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls transforming us from bad to good.   

but it doesn’t end there.  

unless we cultivate a right relationship with Christ for the rest of our lives, meaning we remain strong, firm, yet humble in our love and dedication to Him,  constantly live in His presence in the here and now amidst trials, and come to Him frequently in unquenchable faith and childlike eagerness,  the Holy Spirit can still be rendered powerless in our present states. 

and now, the misleading part. 

never make the mistake of  thinking that we reach this miraculous point in our lives  by our own doing.  no, it is a consequence of a godly covenant and everything wondrous happens to us — rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, young or old, ailing or healthy, brown or white.  nor that we worked hard for it and finally earned it.  no, everything is a gift, unmerited.

only by the unbiased power, will, goodness, love, and grace of God.

beautiful.

“today i am reminded again why i love You, Lord!  praise God! stay with me and mine today, Jesus.”

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Wednesday, December 7: Repentance

when i came back from a two-year hiatus in melbourne,  one of the first privileges i had was a chance encounter with the mother of my ex-husband at a birthday dinner for my eldest son who also happened to be visiting with his family at that time.   although we both had already been warm and genial with each other (brought together casually on previous family occasions),  deep in my heart i knew i owed her something.   i knew she deserved something.

when the opportunity came that we were by ourselves at the dinner table, i told her straight, “mom, i know i caused you so much pain and humiliation in the past, i would like to apologize for the choices i made.  i’m really sorry…”

before i could finish, she stopped me and said, “joy, i had forgiven you a long time ago already.  that’s alright. i bear no grudge against you in the same way that i don’t hold any grudge against any of my sons and daughter when we have a misunderstanding.”

then i went on to say, “mom, honestly, i never fully realized the extent of my sin until i was away from it all.  but out there i saw how bad it was.  i’m so sorry. could you please extend my apology to the rest of the family because i know they, too, were hurt by my actions.” 

“repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, ‘I have sinned.’   the surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it.”  — My Utmost For His Highest

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“Lord Jesus, thank you for each new day that we can live in full appreciation and enjoyment Your countless blessings, Your gifts to us.  thank You more for the opportunities You send us to mend broken relationships and restore them in Your love and grace.  we owe it to You, dear Lord.

bless mom, her family, and everything close to her heart that in her generous spirit, she may live her life to the fullest in good health, peace, contentment, joy, and divine grace. 

watch over me, please, that if ever i hurt another unknowingly, i may realize it before sundown so i can make amends, all for the love of You. 

bless my family, all my loved ones, and the whole world for that matter, that we all may receive Your sacred and healing gift of repentance and have You in the center of our lives.”   

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Tuesday, December 6: My Rainbow in the Cloud

“why doesn’t God do everything that we ask?  because that is not the basis of the God-and-man relationship.  man must go beyond the physical body and feelings in his covenant with God, just as God goes beyond Himself in reaching out with His covenant to man.”  —  My Utmost For His Highest

His covenant with us is this:  that if we believe in His only begotten Son, who came into the world to save us, we will not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16-18)

if we believe —  as in totally, wholeheartedly, sincerely, and exhaustively believe in Him regardless if there is no food on the table, He gets us fired, or He allows someone close to us to pass away.

we remain firm.  His promise, His covenant is our rainbow in the cloud.

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“my dearest Jesus, my Lord and Savior,  thank You for today.  it has been good and full. 

not long ago, a full day for me would have meant meeting deadlines, juggling schedules,  and me screaming my head off over stupid, costly, and unacceptable mistakes at work.  but by Your grace, wisdom, and providence,  i have finally gotten out of that roller-coaster of a life. 

today was full, yes, but easy.  praise You, God! 

i only have to lift my life to You in firm and absolute trust and confidence, my Lord,  and things will fall into place.  grant me the grace of Your Spirit to honor You by living the remainder of my life for You. 

i love You, sweet Jesus.  i lift up to You my children’s concerns, too.  please look after them and bless them. 

thank You for my special friend who gives and helps without counting the cost– an angel from You, no doubt.”

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Monday, December 5: The Temple of the Holy Spirit

“my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, including all my thoughts and desires.”  —  My Utmost For His Highest

if truly the Spirit of God dwells in us,  then why do we struggle?  

because the desires of the Spirit are not of this world. 

because we do not believe enough. 

because  we suppress Him with our stubbornness. 

because we are too  busy. 

because we don’t pray. 

because we don’t listen to Him.

okay, but is the Holy Spirit really watching us, leading us, guiding us, and empowering us?  

when we have not yet been overtaken by  Him through conviction of our sinfulness and, thus, do not believe that He  is indeed in us, cares for us, watches over us, loves us, and we do not allow Him to be involved in every detail of our lives, ( after all, we were purchased at the highest price) then we will always be in a battle.  

we will, more often than not, yield to our natural, human tendencies — always being near yet too far from His wisdom, joy, and peace. 

emptiness.  waste.  constant regret.  confusion.  discontent.  apathy. aimlessness.

but if we pray to the Spirit every day in absolute trust and surrender, we will immediately gain the power and grace to live a life according to the will of the Father and ultimately be pleasing to the Lord.   

eternally.

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“thank You Jesus for this relationship with You.  thank  You, dear Holy Spirit for looking after me.  increase the level of my faith that i may unfailingly abide in You as You are in me.  i love You.”

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Sunday, December 5: The Law of Opposition

“how much do you want it?   how far are you willing to sacrifice for it? are you ready to go the distance, setting aside emotions, to see it to its fulfillment?”  these were the probing questions  my entrepreneurial  son asked me last night.

Focus.  The minute we lose our focus on the bigger goal over personal disagreements and mishaps along the way, we are most likely to come face to face with misery and failure.  and i will not let it happen again.

thank God for the people we love!

“spiritually it is also the same.  ‘in the world you will have tribulation…(John 16:33)  which means that anything that is not spiritual leads to my downfall.  but Jesus said, ‘be of good cheer… i have overcome the world.‘  i must learn to fight and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness.  then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.”  — My Utmost For His Highest

a delight to meet opposition.   only by the grace of God.

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“i caught You there, Lord.  but thanks for saving me in the nick of time and for sending clever angels along my way. 

 thanks for the 3 things i remembered/realized/learned  today, Jesus:  

1) that the  turn of events don’t define me.  it is how i react to it that does.

2) that i am a sum of many parts.   a loss or failure in one doesn’t need to bring the rest down.

3) God is faithfully watching me, teaching me, perfecting me.

Praise to You, Jesus! i love You!”    

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