Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stepping Out

“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus.

Matthew 14:29
This morning, I played the electric keyboard at church for the very first time. I was part of the worship team that led the singing for the morning’s service. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun while playing the piano or keyboard. I’d been playing for years (mostly on my own) but nothing beats the way worship was, today. For years, I’d also known that I’d be playing just like I did but I just didn’t know exactly when and where. It finally happened at today’s service and I am overjoyed.

Before we became missionaries, Eng and I used to attend Friday night prayer times at our friends’ house just two streets away from where we lived. This goes way back to the early 90s. One night, I received prophetic prayers. My hands were held out in front of me (as I postured myself to receive) and my eyes were closed. Our prayer leader rested his fingers on my left palm and continued to pray. Involuntarily, my left hand suddenly started to go up and shake uncontrollably! This went on for a few seconds until the shaking slowed and stopped and my hand finally descended on my lap. Because I was being prayed for, it never occurred to me to stop my hand. I probably could have stopped it from shaking but I didn't want to. Far from frightening me, the experience excited me. It seemed like my mind was just a second or two away from what was going on. By the time it began to sink in my brain that my hand was shaking by itself, it stopped. Then, as the thought began to form in my head, “What about my right hand?” there it was, already shaking and doing exactly what my other hand did. When my right hand finally rested on my other lap, the first and only thing I could think of was, “Now, I know, I can play.” I knew the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, touched my hands and made them shake. I also knew I could then begin to play the piano. Up until then, I’d always played the same pieces that I’d memorized by rote (like the theme song from “The Sting”). In my life, I might have had a summer or two of piano lessons but that was it. I enjoyed playing however, so I used to finger the melody of songs with my right hand. I never knew how to play and what to do with my left hand until that time of prayer. After that night, the same prayer leader taught me about chords and so I did begin to play with both hands.

For the next 20+ years, I played mostly at home and hardly ever publicly. I didn’t have the nerve to play anywhere else! I didn’t think I was good enough to play with trained people. It was only because I was here on my own over the summer and had more free time that I thought I’d give it a try and find out if I could play at church. Last Thursday, I attended the worship practice and I struggled. I actually wondered if they’d fire me for not playing well enough. =) They asked me not to play the melody with my right hand but that’s all it knew to do since childhood! I was in trouble and frustrated. This morning, our pastor actually talked about how it is in the frustrating environments that we are more fruitful. He said faith takes us beyond where we’re comfortable to a new place. In the passage above, Peter left his place of comfort to a new type of shaky surface. But yes, he couldn’t stand on the water until he was off the boat! I didn't realize it but from Thursday onwards, as I practiced and trained my right hand to play a variation of the chords instead of the melody, it was new territory for me. And playing at church was also my actual stepping out to a new environment. In both cases, I’m glad I, in effect, stepped off the boat and stood on the water. I would not have known the joy and exhilaration of playing and worshipping with a crowd of people. What a thrill it is!

This morning, I also woke up to a line of a song that repeatedly played in my head. It was “He (the Lord) shall reign forever.” When I heard it, I knew the Lord was going to reign over the whole worship time. I knew I could be confident that it’ll turn out well because how else would it be if He was the one reigning? He’s too good to let it be otherwise. And this was affirmed by what the pastor said that our confidence should not be on the journey but on the living God. Yes!

Thank you, Lord, for the new challenges you gave me and that you actually prompted me to “Come.” Amen to that. Bless you!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Giving’s Reward

…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35
I was asked to share a story about our kids and when I prayed about it, this was the one that came to mind. It happened when we were still working in the south of the Philippines over a decade ago. May it bless and encourage you. =)

“Are you sharing your other lollipop?” is what I asked 7 year old Eric since he had two pieces and neither of his two brothers had any. We just finished our lunch and I wondered what our two sons would do with their treats. Eric said, “No, I’m not. It wouldn't be fair since one (brother) would get one (lollipop) while the other wouldn't.” I was a bit surprised with his answer but carried on, “What about you, Eli, are you sharing your candies?” He had three candies while 10 year old Evan had none and Eric had his two suckers. Almost 5 years old, Eli quickly responded with, “No, I wouldn't, because Eric would end up with way more than me!”

As their mother, I was befuddled. I thought I always taught them to share what they had but it obviously didn't work. I considered forcing them to share but I truly wanted them to do that out of their own volition. Not wanting to waste a teaching moment, I opted to tell them a story. I told them of the 4-5 year old Muslim kids that I taught in pre-school. My kids knew they were poor and didn't own much since they’d seen them and had been to the little nipa hut that housed our school. For a peso (a few cents worth), we served snacks to the students since several came to school hungry. The children didn't eat to their heart’s content. They usually were only given a snack packet of biscuits or a piece of bread with their drink. Yet more than once, I saw two of my students keep the rest of their snack after one bite. Concerned that they didn't like their snacks,I asked them why they didn't eat them. They said they wanted to bring it home and share it with their little siblings. My heart broke when I heard their reason. I hoped it would have the same effect on my sons regarding their sharing. I said nothing further to them.

Later, Eric asked me how many students I had. “Twenty”, I responded. He then gave me P20.00 and asked me to give each of my students a peso so they wouldn’t have to give up their food. They could just buy their siblings a snack. =) I was pleased. The next day, I did exactly what he told me to do and then I led my students in a prayer that God would bless Eric back for what he’d done for them.

Two days later, Eric was invited by our friends to go to the beach with them. I gave him P100.00 to pay for his expenses. When he came home that day, he excitedly told me that he had P200.00. “What?!? I told you to pay for your food! How come you have twice the money I gave you?” He explained that our friends paid for his expenses as their guest. And the last P100.00? He found it when he was digging in the sand.

That day, Eric saw first hand that when he gave to God (directly or through others), the Lord blessed him back ten times more than what he’d given. Try it. I'm sure you’d be as pleasantly surprised and shocked as he was. =) I'll be sharing more stories on giving in the weeks to come.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Changes

Change – verb (used with object) to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one’s name; to change one’s opinion; to change the course of history.
A few years ago, while attending a revival meeting at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF); the speaker encouraged us to offer our coins by throwing them on the floor. He was teaching on “change” and how suddenly or quickly the Lord brings it about. When the walkways were littered with coins, he organized us and got us to walk on them (in one direction) as a prophetic act. Change, symbolized by the coins, was going to be a part of our lives but we were not to be overcome by them. Instead, we’re to be on “top” of it. I wasn’t exactly sure how that would look as I lived it but because I’d never done that before nor since, I’d never forgotten it. Since then, I also began to choose to view changes in my life positively. The changes may not be easy nor pleasant but I choose not to complain, whine, nor fuss about it.

In a previous post (“Change”, posted on August 28, 2011), I wrote that a lot of us resist change and do not welcome it but it’s undoubtedly a part of our lives whether we want it or not. I said change was necessary. Papa God always wants to transform us so we can be holy just as He is holy. We must desire, or at least welcome, change, so we can be more like Him faster.

Yesterday, while my friend and I took our early morning walk, I saw a coin on the road. Immediately, because of my experience above, I said, “Oh look, change!” We walked by it but as I realized that I was just talking about what I wanted to happen with my situation, I thought it was prophetic that I all of a sudden found change. My friend was asking for my prayer request and as I was explaining it, I saw the coin. =) I saw that as the Lord’s way of encouraging me that indeed, change will come about. Yes! I then told her that I wanted to take a picture of it so we returned to the coin. After taking pictures of it, I took it and put it in my “Place to be Quiet” spot. Now, every time I see it, I can be reminded that change is coming. =)

I also know that I need to perceive incidents and my circumstances in new ways. I’ve always appreciated flowers but when I saw it through the eyes of my friend who took pictures of them, I understood the need to dig deeper and look more closely at whatever I’m dealing with. Sometimes, especially in arguments, it isn’t just always about the issue at hand. It is often far more complicated. My added prayer is that the change in me, will be, that I’ll understand what is going on beneath the surface of our situations. I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit has been prompting this. Thank you, Lord, for not leaving me alone but for helping me change.

And as I change, with the Lord’s instigation, He will forever be just as faithful, reliable, dependable, loveable, helpful, kind, glorious, and patient. He will, Himself, never change. He is the only constant. He is perfect. There is nothing in Him that needs changing. =) And that is still a comforting truth. Praise You, Lord!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

60 Days Later

I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2
My family finally joined me last Saturday. =) Considering that my love tank had been empty for awhile since no one had been around to give me lots of hugs and kisses, it truly touched me that as I pulled up in front of the airport to pick them up, my teen son opened the car’s door and before I was able to get off the car, he gave me a long, tight hug. He told me that he missed me and that he loved me. That warmed my heart real good but he also told me later that he truly missed me because he wanted to talk to me about his predicament with his friends while he was still in Toronto but he didn’t want to do it on Skype. That statement warmed my heart even more. =) My son and I had not always been on the best of terms so hearing that was like music to my ears. The Lord is so good to me.

Now, the house is suddenly messy in several places and the noise level increased several notches, BUT, I am glad they are home. It is good to have them back. I will miss my extended time of being responsible to no one and the freedom of just doing anything I wanted (sing, play the keyboard, sleep in, not sleep, not cook, not eat, eat oatmeal for supper or just fruit all day, leave the house, come home any time, etc., etc.). I will look back on this time of my life as nothing else but a gift. I thrived and enjoyed it. It was good to be on my own, enjoy the Lord, and the ways He protected, provided, looked after me, and loved me exceedingly and abundantly. The other day for example, I was out for a buffet meal with friends and we were surprisingly presented with roses by the hotel’s staff (they even knelt while giving the small bouquet to each of us). They also gave us chocolate bars and a gift each. When we asked why we were being blessed that way, they explained that it was because we were special. =) Some days, I thanked Papa God because I knew people around me were kind to me just because I belonged to Him. It shouldn’t have surprised me that we got treated that way but it’s always such a pleasure!

As our new normal begins with Eng and just our two younger sons back, plus the school year starting, I’d like to specifically thank the Lord for:

• The end of bug bites on my feet. There were 26 by the time it stopped! I literally walked around the house with a bug spray on my hand, sprayed invisible enemies where my feet normally were, when I stood or sat, and it worked!
• The way He became so real to me especially during Chris’ death (please see previous posts). He soothed, comforted, cradled, and powerfully ministered to me.
• The peace He gave daily. Sometimes, I even walked in the dark. I felt no fear.
• Helping me understand the creator side of Him. I started a “Place to be Quiet Project” just outside where our dining table was. I worked with flowers and plants which I placed around Eng’s water fountain. When I decided which plant got transferred to pots or when, or which got tossed out, I related with the Lord so much. To be surrounded by beauty is wonderful and creating/giving (?) life is so fulfilling. I’d cut off a stalk, soak it in water, and in a few days, there’d be roots growing from it. New life formed from the stalk and when I planted it, the potential for more beauty got started. What fun!
• Abiding in me. This became so crystal clear when a friend and I went out for coffee. I went to the washroom (toilet) and there at the door where it would typically have a figure with a skirt was the baffling sign “Abiding”. I don’t know why their sign displayed that. It just did and it definitely spoke to me.

And, of course, my best friend from Manila visited me for five days. I don’t think I’d ever be able to duplicate that. My online course ended so I had no responsibilities (to my family, work, nor school) and just had time to relax, enjoy, and have fun. It was such an amazing gift, all of it, 60 days of grace. Thank you, Lord! I love you, so much.