For Today

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Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

I’m no exception, I’m one of those who worry a lot about the future, of the ‘what if’s’, of the unknown.  It is tiring to say the least.  There are nights when I could not sleep worrying about my future:  of unpaid bills, of getting the next project, of what my life will be like a few years from now.  Being single and a freelancer has its freedom and perks, but it also comes with some worries.

I’ve read Matthew 6 several times, especially verses 25-34.  These are verses often introduced to the young believers and a comfort for those who have been in the faith for some time.  Though I’m the latter, there are moments that these do not bring comfort.  (Yes, me of little faith!)  How can I not worry when bills are piling up and I start to feel creaks and pain in my body that were not felt a few days ago?

But spending time with my 7yo nephew who has Autism, made the verses 25-34 clearer.  Miguel’s therapists have been teaching him the concept of ‘today, yesterday and tomorrow’.  He has difficulty understanding the concept of ‘yesterday and tomorrow’, but has no problem with ‘today’.  Miguel focuses on ‘today’, the present, the now: what he eats today, the things he could do today, his schedule for the day.  He does not worry about yesterday, more so about tomorrow.  He happily goes about his life, knowing that his parents and family will take care of him for the ‘tomorrows’.  Miguel has faith in his parents and family.

This is what the Lord is asking of me, of us:  to trust Him, to have faith in Him who gave His life for us.  Like Miguel, I could trust in my Lord for He knows everything about me, even my unspoken and hidden desires of the heart.  I could trust my Creator for He created me for His purpose and He works everything for the good of those who love Him.

I could put my faith in Him who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The troubles of today are enough: of understanding His word and applying it to the present; of responding in Christ-likeness when you encounter difficult people or circumstance; of being a trustworthy steward even in the little things; of sharing who our Lord and Savior is to our family, friends and the people that cross our paths; and of thanking and praising Him for today’s abundant blessings.

Knowing that the Lord has our back (and front, center, sides, above and below), we could joyfully rest in His peace!

*My reflection on “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip” by Michelle Bengtson

Martha or Mary

You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one.

Luke 10:41 (NLT)

Am I Martha or Mary?  Sadly, I’m the one who worries and gets busy with doing a million things.  I tag things as ‘urgent’ and put needless stress on myself.  It’s very tiring and I don’t want it anymore.

I want to be like Mary.   That means changing my ways and thoughts and having the right perspective — which is having the Lord’s perspective.  In the passages above, Jesus says there are few things needed.  (Really? The Martha in me reacts.  How about the deadlines, the meetings, the errands, cleaning, etc?)  But Jesus points out Mary.  Mary knew what was needed and she focused her time, energy and thoughts on that.  She pursued Jesus, listened to Him and meditated on His words.  She let the pressures of the day pass her by. 

Or isn’t it more like ‘because she focused on the important matters, the demands of the day did not press on her.’ 

There was a time when, upon waking, that I would eagerly greet the Lord and meet with Him.  More are the days now that upon waking, I mentally list down the urgent things that I have to do.  When did things turn for me?

Re-reading these passages, I am struck with Jesus’ last words “…and it will not be taken from her.”   I want that!  I don’t want my peace, my joy, my faith to be taken away.  I want all those back!  So, I have to do what Mary did and focus on the essentials:  pursue the Lord, spend more time with Him and meditate on His word.  These are the ‘few that are needed’.  And these will not be taken from me — as promised by my Lord Jesus.

*My devotion based on “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip” by Michelle Bengtson

Faith Dilemma

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Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see

Hebrews 11:11 (NIV)

It is easy to profess “I have faith” when life is sweet and going smoothly.  But life seldom is.  There have been times that my faith wavered.  It happened while I was waiting on God to answer my prayer for writing projects.  I was warned that going freelance would sometimes require waiting for replies to project bids.  I took the advise seriously and waited patiently for days and weeks.  And weeks turned to months.  By the third month, I was frantic and anxious.  I started questioning the Lord as to the wisdom of getting out of the corporate world and going freelance.  I questioned the Lord as to how He would provide for me if I can’t get projects.  I questioned, grumbled and whined.  I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I had a faith dilemma. 

But in one of my quiet times, He brought me to Hebrews 11:1.  It felt like the Lord was asking me where my faith was.  That shook me.  Where was my faith?  Did I really have faith in the Lord?  Or do I have faith only when life is breezy?  What was I putting my hope on — on my abilities or on the faithfulness of the Lord?  Could I even assure myself of a great career?  Isn’t everything — small or big — from the Lord alone? 

I felt so ashamed on realizing the flimsiness of my faith.  I was not suffering nor was I being persecuted like other followers of Christ.  My momentary problem was like a slap on the wrist compared to others and yet here I was whining, grumbling and questioning the Lord.  I repented and spent more time meditating on His word and on thanking and praising the One who knows my every weakness.  The more time we spent together, the more my eyes and heart opened to His constant grace, mercy, lovingkindess and faithfulness.

Months later I realized that the Lord did not open work opportunities for me immediately so I may spend more time with my elderly mother.  Unknown to us, she was already suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Those work-free months gave me the luxury to spend long conversations, lunches, dinners and movie time with my mom.  It was going to be the end of wonderful storytelling and sharing of thoughts with my mother, because soon after, her Alzheimer’s took a sudden and fast turn for the worse.

I thank the Lord for those months that He kept me free from work.  I did not see it as a blessing then for my faith was focused on the tangibles.  But real faith is believing and hoping on Him whose promises are true, even when our eyes cannot see.

3 Luggages & A Bottle

I always find comfort walking through the woods, the serenity, the mystery, the abundance of unseen life.  Walking under the canopy of trees clears my head and at present, dark clouds are running through my head faster than my faltering stroll.   A jumble of senseless thoughts and images are flashing through my mind when I stumble unto a battered, gray luggage.  Not so big that you could pack your whole house into.  Nor too small that it could only hold a pair of nice shoes, shampoo and toothbrush.  I’ve always wondered how some people could pack a week’s worth of clothes and food into a tiny luggage.  They must have bought their luggage from Mary Poppins.  Kneeling down, I notice there is no lock but the zipper looks sturdy; the external frame is scratched, making me think that the owner must have used it to ward-off a mountain lion.

I freeze and look around.  I don’t know anything about mountain lions.  Would there be one or two here?  Most unlikely; maybe a bear?  I sigh.  No use frightening myself with the nearest person living more than a mile down the mountain.  There is no bag-tag, no stickers.  Should I open it to find the owner?  Who would leave a luggage in the forest?  Perhaps a person running away from a cheerless home or maybe a teenager running away from a violent father?  Or perhaps someone eloping with a lover?  Who knows?  There are a million reasons to pack-up and leave.  I look around but there is no one and nothing to give more clues.

I stand up and turn to continue with my walk.  My legs feel stiff, my mind racing with unconnected pictures and feelings.  There is a nagging feeling inside, something pressing, but I don’t want to face it, not yet.  I need to chase the dark clouds away to see more clearly.  There is a throbbing pain in my chest but I could address that later.  I take a deep breath and attempt to walk faster and straighter.  The woods smell of pine and old, fallen leaves, a fresh smell.  I’ve always liked this smell.  Not many people like it.  It reminds them of age, of death.  It reminds me of clean air, of sunshine and the joy of being surrounded by life.  Not people, but of mountain and clean life.

I smile, remembering how I enjoyed summers in the mountains with my family:  long hikes, swimming in the lake, fishing and gathering wood for the bonfire.  It always sparked courage and hope in us.  I could still do that.  With that thought, I walk on.

I trip now and then over stones and root, but I am able to get into a slow rhythm until a red square catches my eye.  Not a bloodied corpse, I hope as I hesitatingly direct my steps towards it.  It’s rectangular, not square after all.  Another luggage!  It’s the kind where you pack your whole life in.  Just like the first one, it does not have any identification marks.  Unlike the first one, this has a combination lock.  No use trying to figure that one out.  With three digits, there are a thousand possible combinations.  Slashing through the canvass frame would be easier.  I grab the handle to make it stand.  It’s big and heavy.  The owner must have packed some precious things inside besides clothes and shoes.  How could a person lug a heavyweight luggage up the mountain?  Desperation to get away from someone or something; or desperation to get somewhere or to someone?  Who could you run to in the mountains and in the middle of nowhere?  I sigh.  Unless I meet the owner, my questions will remain unanswered.

I walk on picking up my pace.  The sun would start throwing its might soon and I would like to reach the lake when it does.  A cool dip in the lake would be nice.  No swimming or fishing just yet.  Cool mountain water to wash away the murk in my mind and cool my stinky, sticky body would be nice.

I could smell the lake.  I must be near.  I find it strange that people can’t smell water.  I could always smell whether I’m near a lake, a river or the ocean.  They smell different.  Lakes and rivers smell fresh.  The ocean smells pungent.  Why can’t people tell the difference?

The ground is sloping down.  Pebbles and stones skip and fly as I skid down the slope.  It won’t be good to have an accident with no one around. 

I see something shimmer between the bushes.  The lake!  I made it!  I take off my sneakers and wobble to the edge of the lake.  I dip my toes to the edge where the water laps the stones.  The water is cold.  I look up at the clear sky and speak to no one in particular.  But yes, there is Someone in particular I’d like to talk to again; it has been a long time.  Do You still know me, I ask in my heart.  I could use some help — maybe You could make the sun shine brighter?  I stand at the edge, letting the water slap and kiss my toes and feet.  It was just the water, sky, sun and I.  And, the chattering birds and bugs of course.  They must dislike my intrusion into their private world. 

I remain standing for a long time, doing nothing, thinking of nothing.  What a relief to have to not think of anything or anyone.  He kept His promise as always — I could feel the sun warming my face.  I look up and whisper a thank you.  Tentatively, I enter the water.  It’s cold but bearable.  I stand waist deep in the water before plunging my head.  I feel the cold tightly clamp my head then slowly release it’s hold.  I stay underwater for as long as I could, until my lungs start to scream for air.  I shoot up and take a big gulp of air.  I look around:  the trees standing tall and proud, loyal sentinels of the mountain for years and years; the birds flying here and there, busy with their lives; the ripples of water smacking gently against the stones and pebbles; and His signature all over.  And me, still breathing and alive.  He is closer and nearer here.  But of course, it’s me that has been staying away.  But I’m here now.  A deep sigh escapes me. 

Everything is all right and life goes on.  I could feel something in my heart stir, a quickening.  Perhaps hope?  I don’t know, but I prefer this feeling than the dark, swirling pit earlier.

I get out of the water, not minding the cold that makes me involuntarily bristle.  I take in my surroundings.  I haven’t felt this close to Him for a very long time.  I quickly put on my sneakers and walk towards the cabin.  I take a different route, a shorter, more direct but steeper path.  I almost forgot about this path, perhaps because it’s challenging and the other roundabout path is more scenic.  But He is prompting me to do something and this time, I would like to listen.

Panting and sweating, I reach the cabin from the rear.  My legs are shaking from the climb, but it’s still a good and healthy pain.  As I approach the cabin, I see a small, half-opened, lavender-colored luggage leaning against the stack of firewood.  It’s a small luggage where you could only fit a pair of nice shoes, soap, toothbrush and instant food — the most basic of essentials.  On the ground near it is an empty bottle.  I know this brand.  It tastes of aged wood and cherries.  I know because it’s mine and it’s my favorite whisky.  My knees give way and I slump to the ground.  I gulp for air in-between racking sobs.  I look up barely seeing the sky through my tears but I know He is here — which calms and comforts me.  I rock myself, violently at first then gently. 

A jumble of images flash through my mind and I try to make sense of it all.  I turn on my back and look up again.  Help me, please, give me strength, I whisper.  I close my eyes and see red and white spots.  How long have I been in the cabin?  With how I feel and smell, I would say a few days, perhaps three days, huddled in the cot, shutting out the world, trying to forget the turmoil inside me. 

I take deep, steady breathes.  I am running away from someone, no one violent, but just as painful. Flashes of hurried packing and filling the red luggage with my life:  clothes, books, jewelries, laptop, family photographs, even a coffeemaker.  But it could not hold the blankets and shoes, so out comes the gray luggage.  Then the long drive without saying goodbye, not letting anyone know.  What was the use?  He made his decision with his actions and so will I.  A whirlwind of events, a stop at a convenient store to buy the bottle, then the long, urgent drive to here. 

How could I have lugged the three pieces of luggage up the mountain?  A laugh escapes from me.  I picture a frenzied, desperate and intoxicated woman lugging all three pieces of luggage. But of course, only the essentials and the easiest to carry would remain:  the basics of toothbrush, food, water and the bottle.

I am the one doing the running after all and nobody else.  I am running away from a deceitful lover, not running to.  I am running away from a house to this deserted place, this cabin, my home.  I am running away from a hollow life to what and to whom? 

To what and to whom, I ask myself again.  To what and to whom, I implore Him.  He answers with a long, resounding silence.  I won’t run away from You, not this time, I tell Him.  And still, silence.  I’m sorry, I sinned against You, I murmur.  Still, He answers with His silence.  I know You love me, I whisper.  I love You too, I whimper as tears fall again.  Silence again.  Very faintly and slowly, a quiet peace fills me.  It grows stronger, filling my heart, mind and body.  He hears me and He is with me, I know this for sure.

To what am I running?  I am running to peace, to hope.  To whom am I running?   I am running back to Him who loves me most.