Saturday, February 28, 2015

PPF: Amazing, Inconceivable Love!

 Here are some splotches of paint on canvas.
I'm hoping they will turn into something like below,
but better!

 "Whoever is angry with someone will be liable to judgment." Matthew 5:21
Whenever I search my heart about this, I think, oh there is no one I am angry with. No one at all. There's no one I want to kill. But anger starts with small things like being irritated with my husband when he used to leave the toilet seat up when we were newly married. I was too ashamed to tell him, because I come from a family of 4 girls and one boy, and the seat was never left up. I thought it was the height of depravity! I bore it for 2 years until I could bear it no longer. By that time, I was ready to leave him. Kidding!
We should not wait to root out irritation. A small, absurd thing can build up and even provoke murder. 

 On May 29, 2007, a 29 year old young man was shot dead by the security guard while singing "My Way" off-key with the karaoke machine. There have been at least 6 killings and many more fierce fights fueled by the singing of that song in the Philippines. In Thailand, a man killed 8 of his neighbors because they repeatedly sang, "Take Me Home Country Roads"!!! And how about the results of road rage? Anyone wanted to kill anyone while stuck in Wednesday's People Power traffic?
We should be aware of little irritants in order to root it out. We should not allow it to fester until it becomes a big wound that needs a doctor's intervention. Yes, little irritants can grow into a dangerous thing. That's why Jesus said, "You shall not kill...but I say to you, whoever is angry with your brother will be liable to reconciled with your brother."
Is there any irritation in your heart that needs uprooting? Don't let it grow into a tree!

 "Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart..." Esther C:24
There are additions in the Book of Esther that are found in my Catholic Bible that I could not find in other versions. The verse I found interesting today is found in Esther C:12-25 (inserted Chapter 4). "Queen Esther, seized in mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground together with her handmaids, from morning till evening..."Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion," she prayed.

Esther was a Jewish orphan, raised by Mordecai, and because of her beauty, was chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace his recalcitrant Queen.When the Jews were going to be annihilated by order of Haman, the contemptible, proud, right hand man of the King, Mordecai advised Esther to plead on their behalf.
Before doing so, Esther together with her handmaids, interceded the whole day and night. She asked God to save them and teach her what to say. Her prayer lasts from verses 14 to 30, and concludes with, "From the day I was brought here till now, your handmaid has had no joy except in You, O Lord God of Abraham...Deliver me from my fear."

Queen Esther was rightly afraid of going before the King.She tells Mordecai that anyone who goes before the King without being summoned suffers the automatic penalty of death. (Esther 4:11). We all have to confront fears in our life. Fear of a loved one dying, fear of cancer, fear of the future, of loneliness, of not getting married, losing our job, incompetence, helplessness...The list is long, but faith is the step we need to take against fear. Faith says that what I cannot do, what I cannot control, what I cannot foresee, is all in God's hands. He knows me, He knows the future. AND what's more, He loves me!
There is nothing, NOTHING that happens to me, that is NOT under His jurisdiction and control. I will trust in Him no matter what. I will trust in Him even when circumstances appear dire and spinning out of control. I. will. trust. in. Him. Period.

 "You are to be a people peculiarly His own, His own special treasure..." Dt. 26:18
I think we can never know how much God loves us, not until we reach heaven, our real home. I see how God prepared a special place for Adam and Eve. How beautiful the garden must have been! Out of all the fragrant and delicious fruits in the garden, the forbidden one caught Eve's eye. God prepared an equally beautiful place for us here on earth. Just like Adam and Eve, we continue to make wrong choices. Out of all the amazing things we have to do, we also choose the wrong ones. Instead of praying first thing in the morning, we open Facebook. Instead of reading the Bible, we watch a telenovela. Instead of encouraging someone, we gossip. Instead of forgiving or asking for forgiveness, we harden our hearts.

But does God condemn us? No. He loves us more. He comes nearer. He does not love us because we are perfect. He loves us because we are His sons and daughters.
Peter probably committed the greatest sin. He denied Jesus 3 times and left Him at a time when Jesus was so alone. And Peter didn't have the chance to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

Did God give up on Peter? In Mark 16:7, after the women found Jesus' tomb empty, an angel instructed them, "Go tell His disciples AND PETER, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you." Out of all the disciples, Peter was singled out for this message. Whenever we sin, whenever we believe we fall short of what we believe God wants us to do or be, we should remember this. God never condemns. He calls us closer.
In Zechariah 2:8, we read, "He that touches you, touches the apple of His eye." "Apple" is translated from the Hebrew for "little man" or "pupil" of the eye. Consider how protected the pupil is- hemmed in by our eyelids, our eyelashes, and our eyebrows. So is God the Father's love for us. We are protected, hedged, guarded, looked after. Thank you Lord for Your amazing, inconceivable love!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WOYWW: The Sign of Jonah

 I have been hard at work with my canvases
for an annual Art Fair,
Sometimes I do not know when
a painting is finished!
I thought this one was finished,
but only because I was super sleepy!

Here is my planner for the week February 16-22.
My aunt died on Tuesday!
She was 98 years old, so we were happy she could rest!
She wanted to live till 100, but it was just too much for her!

"The only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah." Luke 11:29
Trying to test Jesus, the crowd asked Jesus for a miraculous sign from heaven, and Jesus replied that the only sign He would give them was the sign of the prophet Jonah. The sign of Jonah is the sign of repentance.
I was quite impressed with Angelina Jolie's movie "Unbroken". It is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American prisoner of war, who survived horrible maltreatment at the hands of sadistic captors. During his 47 day ordeal at sea before he was captured by the Japanese, Louis vowed that if God would save them, he would devote his life to serving Him.
He forgot about this prayer, especially during his harrowing captivity, but remembered it when he and his wife joined a Billy Graham Crusade. After Louis accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he suddenly had respite from years of having nightly nightmares about strangling the "Bird", his especially sadistic and violent torturer. "It was a miracle!" he said.

 In 1950, he went to Japan, and embraced and forgave some of the guards from his prison camp. Some even became Christians. In 1998, he attempted to meet with the "Bird", but Mutsuhiro Watanabe refused to see him.
How sad that Watanabe could not see God's gracious sign of forgiveness and His calling His son to return to Him and repent! No matter how black our heart is, no matter what evil we have done, God is ready and willing to accept us if we repent. Are there any signs we are missing? Or perhaps we need to be God's sign to someone badly in need of God's healing presence?

 This is what was written in pencil on my Bible. I don't know from where I copied it, except for the last part:
The “Our Father” was a secret prayer. The first Christians were taught this only after years of learning and baptism.
“OUR Father in heaven…” shows necessity for us to be missionaries, with the goal that God would be known to all. By saying “ABBA Father” Jesus shows that prayer is a disposition of the heart, not just a matter of the right words. Thus the Lord’s prayer is based upon an intimate relationship with God. Similar to the 18 benedictions and the Kaddish of synagogue liturgy, to which He added addressing God as Father. This suggested a childlike trust, intimacy and readiness of access. (The Eighteen Benedictions are praises and petitions directed to God that ask for wisdom, forgiveness of sins, help in times of trouble and so on. The Kaddish asks that God’s name be hallowed and glorified throughout the world, and that God may soon establish his Kingdom in its fullness.)
“Hallowed be thy Name..” May Your Name be known on this earth. Reveal the holiness of Your Name so it may be respected and revered by all. Make known Your greatness, that all praise Your majesty!
“May Your Kingdom come…” Let it come now Father! Let Your will be done in our lives. Show us Your will. Give us the zeal to accomplish it here on earth. ,as it is in Heaven. Father, free us from selfishness, fear, worry, and sorrow, and let the joy of Your Kingdom come into our hearts.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” Father, the storehouses of heaven are Yours. Open them to us, and pour out to us the treasures of Your wisdom, knowledge, courage, and patience, self-control and love. We hunger and thirst for you- feed us with the Bread of Life, Your Son, Jesus. Fill us with His presence and power, His healing and compassion. Nourish and sustain Your life in us today.
“Forgive us our trespasses…” Forgive us our unbelief, our grumbling, and our fear. Cancel the debt we’ve amassed through our lack of discipline and restraint, and through our bitterness, resentment and disregard for others. Father, You make all things new: Make our hearts and minds new! Not just ours, but all on the face of the earth! Help us to forgive those who have hurt us as completely as we want You to forgive us.

‘Jesus gave us a prayer which in its simplicity contrasts sharply with many of the very fulsome formulations used in Jewish and Greco-Roman prayers of His day. Despite its brevity, Tertullan called the Lord’s Prayer “truly a summary of the whole Gospel”- the expression of our chief beliefs, as the first disciples had wanted. In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired.’ (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, n 2763, citing Thomas Aquinas)

Joining the lovely Julia Dunnit for a 
peek at desks and projects!
I find a lot of inspiration
visiting my friends here:


Monday, February 23, 2015

Best Life Now!

 "Love your neighbor as yourself." Leviticus 19:18
I think we can all say we want to be better people, or as Joel Osteen and Oprah would say, to live our best life now. It's funny though that most people would rather read a self-improvement book, or go to meditation classes, or pinterest for advice rather than go to our "instruction manual", the Bible. If there is something wrong with my sewing machine or juicer, I scan the manual, because the manufacturer could tell me how to fix it. Invariably, the manual says I have to read all the instructions before using, or for for optimum results, something like that. We have an instruction manual too, from OUR manufacturer!

In today's reading there are so many instructions on how to live our best life. A lot of people think these instructions are a way to get to heaven, but they're not. These were given to a people already saved by God, a people of faith. God had freed them from a life of bondage in Egypt, and God told them to keep His laws because they were His people, a people set apart.
God can be so detailed in his instructions. For instance, I did not realize that if I did not pay my Ate Lucy (helper at home), that this was against God's best for me! "You should not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer," it reads in Lev. 19:13. I have to confess I have been delayed in paying my helper for all sorts of reasons! In Matthew 25:40, it says, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Whenever I do not pay Ate Lucy on time, or get angry or impatient with somebody, or slander someone's name, I have to remember that I do it to Jesus.
When God instructs us to love, it is because He loves. He cares, not only about my Ate Lucy, but He cares about me. That I live my best life now.
 God can be so detailed in his instructions. For instance, I did not realize that if I did not pay my Ate Lucy (helper at home), that this was against God's best for me! "You should not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer," it reads in Lev. 19:13. I have to confess I have been delayed in paying my helper for all sorts of reasons! In Matthew 25:40, it says, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Whenever I do not pay Ate Lucy on time, or get angry or impatient with somebody, or slander someone's name, I have to remember that I do it to Jesus.
When God instructs us to love, it is because He loves. He cares, not only about my Ate Lucy, but He cares about me. That I live my best life now.

 "Follow me," Jesus said to Levi. Luke 5:27
Jesus saw Levi, a tax collector, sitting at the customs post. This is where he usually sits. He collects taxes, and like most publicans, perhaps even all, he was reviled by the Jews for his collaboration with the Roman oppressors. A tax collector during Jesus' time could stop Jews on the road and tax them for the baggage they were carrying! Jesus calls out, "Follow me," and Levi left all the money bags on the table, and walked with Jesus.

Like Levi, Jesus calls us where we are, whatever we are doing. We may not be occupied with sinful things like Levi, who would have been greedy and kept part of the collected taxes for himself. But even while we are washing dishes, teaching, playing golf, looking though friends' posts on Facebook, Jesus calls us.
When He calls, and we decide to follow, we have to leave certain things behind. We have to avoid sin. If we knew what sin does to us spiritually, we would stay far away from it just as we stay away from the Ebola virus. We can see what this virus does- it makes people bleed internally and externally, and it kills up to 90% of those infected.

 How about sin? We can't see what it does to our soul, and our soul is the one that lasts forever. Our bodies will just be consigned to the crematorium or left in a hole in the ground. I am sure that sin does worse things to our souls than the Ebola virus!! If we are able to stay away from sin, we can celebrate and Jesus will celebrate with us, much like Levi rejoiced in his new found freedom!

 "...He remained in the desert for 40 days tempted by Satan..." Mark 1:12
Isn't it amazing that Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days? That He allowed Himself to be tempted by Satan? The way I see this is Jesus was aware of the life and death battle to come and He needed to prepare Himself. To win a battle, like Jesus, we need to know our strengths and weaknesses, and we also need to know our enemy's strategies.
It's amazing how many people don't know themselves! Just look at some of the aspiring contenders in American Idol who think they can sing. They get so mad and curse when they are not chosen. Do we know ourselves? Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 that we need to watch and pray so we don't fall into temptation. Watching ourselves is of primary importance. We need to know our areas of weakness, our character flaws, and the times when we are most vulnerable. Dr. Charles Stanley said we must never get too hungry, too lonely, too angry, or too tired. This is a set up for sin.

If I am prone to buy expensive things and I am already in debt, I should never go to the mall during pay day, or get a credit card! If a friend likes to gossip, and I do too, I should avoid that friend! In 1 Peter 5:8 we are warned that we should be alert and vigilant because the devil, our enemy, is like a prowling lion, seeking someone to devour! He is like a chess grand master, devising strategies on the chessboard, building up his pieces till we have little room to maneuver, and our king falls!
But as a Christian, we have the Holy Spirit. If we say no to temptation, if we keep sin out of our lives, the Spirit gets stronger in us. But every time we fall into temptation and say yes to sin, the voice of the Spirit, our conscience, gets weaker.
Lord, help me to watch and pray. Help me to say no to sin, and to uproot it from my life!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Paint Party Friday: Choose Life!

Another work in progress for
Art in the Park!

 "Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live..." Deuteronomy 30:19
Not many of us realize it, but the minute we are born into this world, we enter into a battle. That's why we are to choose- choose life, or choose death.
Last Monday night, my 98-year old auntie died. Yesterday she was cremated and her ashes placed into an urn. My sister carried the urn in the car as we brought the urn home, while we awaited interment. It was so fitting that we had ashes with us on Ash Wednesday. From dust to dust...that is what we read in the Funeral Service in the Book of Common Prayer. Dust and ashes. That is ALL we will amount to in the end, if we do not choose to live a life poured out in obedience to God, in loving service to others.

 Lent is a special season. "Lent" comes from the Old English word for spring, and spring is a time of renewal. A time when we can choose to go back to God. To look at the way we live our life and the choices we've made. In this spiritual battle we are in, let us look to the One who won the victory for us. How He remained faithful to the Father. How He took time to go to desert places to pray. How He served and gave His life for us. Choose life! Fullness of life!

 "This is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly...setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry..." Isaiah 58:6-7
Today, the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church has made it so easy to observe fasting and abstinence. One priest called it Lent for sissies!!! There are only 2 obligatory days for fasting for 18 years old and older- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We need only to abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday for 14 years old and older unless we substitute some other form of penance for abstinence.

Before, fasting was obligatory for all days of Lent, which meant that only one meal was allowed for the 40 days, except for Sundays. For that meal, one had to eat only vegetables. Even milk and cheese were not allowed on the menu! Which is why, Easter was celebrated with the giving of Easter eggs!!

Today, many decide to abstain from all sorts of things. Candy, Facebook, TV, Starbucks, etc. Perhaps more importantly, what we save from fasting from meals or buying things we don't need, we should save to "share our bread with the hungry." And the additional time we gain from abstaining from watching soap operas on TV, we can use for praying or reading good Christian authors.
But how about "releasing those bound unjustly, breaking every yoke"? If we cannot go to the prison to share the good news with the inmates and break bread with them, perhaps we can think of someone we need to forgive? Or perhaps we can help restore a broken relationship?
Lord, help me to fast in the way you wish! Who do you want me to free? Is it myself or someone else?

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You are appreciated!