All posts by cecille.valoria@yahoo.com

My Nine-One-One

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1 NIV

We have three dogs at home. Our fur babies. Although two of them are already 63 years old in dog years, they are still our babies. Luna, our son’s dog, is an Australian shepherd. Being such, she has an inherent instinct to herd. Our two other dogs, Mayer and Pepper, are Dachshund and Dachshund-Chihuahua respectively. Luna terrifies them, especially when she starts herding them. Mayer and Pepper have different approaches to their fear.
With the agility of a football receiver, Pepper dashes to his dog house, slipping from Luna’s grasp. Mayer, on the other hand, finds solace by my legs, jumping up and down begging to be carried in the safety of my arms.
I have had more than my fair share of being scared and terrified. Most of these experiences occurred when I was very young. They reoccurred during my premenopausal years, when I was beset with anxiety, vertigo, and hot and cold flashes. Several times I’ve had to be transported via ambulance to the emergency room. If you haven’t experienced being on an ambulance, IT IS TERRIFYING, especially when the EMT’s and paramedics have their sirens on, and they are weaving in and out of traffic.
Recently, our best friends, my husband, and I went on a three-hour, spur-of-the-moment drive and hike to Mossbrae Falls in Dunsmuir, CA. It was past noon when we started our twenty-minute hike beside railroad tracks, under the sweltering heat of the sun. I didn’t think I could make it. My heart raced. My mind ran scenarios of me dropping down to the sharp-rugged ground beneath my feet in an apparent heart attack. I was not feeling fit for this hike. I had three sleepless nights before this and I was tired.
Then in the distance–a shady patch! This was what I needed.

As I persisted on, I looked for these shelters and it gave me the strength to carry on. Psalm 91:1 reminds us, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” I can run like Pepper when I feel scared, or I can approach my Father and ask to be carried in His arms so I can dwell in the shelter of the Most High. I can hold on to His Words in Psalm 91:1 as my nine-one-one.

We made it to and from Mossbrae Falls!

Survival Instincts versus Complete Trust

 

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” 

It is fun to watch and observe our dogs interact, especially my son’s Australian shepherd, Luna, and our Dachshund, Mayer. And the best time to do this is breakfast or dinner time. Mayer is Luna’s eating-motivator and Luna takes it to the extremes. When they eat together, Mayer takes one piece of kibble while Luna grabs seven to ten pieces at a time. With the morsels secured in her mouth, she moves to a different part of the room then drops her loot on the floor and starts chewing them one at a time. Then she would go back to the bowl, and do the same thing over and over again, emptying the bowl before Mayer has had his fill. I have never seen any other dog act this way and this does not typically happen when she eats alone.
Though the scenario I described might seem cute, it brings me back to the fundamental reminder in our key verse, “to value others above myself, not looking to my own interest but to the interests of the others.” Like Luna, I need to remember that I do not need to hoard things or look only after myself. God will take care of everything I need at the right time and the right amount. This was what He did with the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. They were instructed to collect enough manna for the day, except on the sixth day when they were asked to double the portion so that they can rest from their labor the next day (Exodus 16:4). And God provided for them faithfully.
Whether Luna’s behavior is solely a survival instinct or a sign of her competitive nature, what she does not anticipate is that I would be providing for both her and Mayer’s needs–that she can share and will be provided with more, if necessary. As Luna learns to trust that her human family will provide adequately for her and Mayer, maybe then she will not be hoarding food in her mouth. Similarly, when we embrace the assurance that God can and will provide adequately for our needs it will be easier for us to practice Philippians 2:3-4.

Father, may I always remember that You are my gracious Provider. Help me to trust and have the confidence in You as You completely supply for all my needs. As You said in Your Word, “I shall not want.” I will lack nothing because You provide me with “everything I need for every good work.” Let me not look only to my own interest but to the interests of others.

In Jesus’ Precious Name,
Amen

Given to Wisely Give

“As each of us has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10 NKJV

One of the challenges I’ve had in life is the lack of the ability to say “No.” Ending up with too many things on my plate, I find myself overwhelmed, frustrated or giving less than my best.
This challenge seemed to have stemmed from several different things. The first culprit was the need to get the approval of my peers or those of significance to me. I wanted to please everyone in my circle and sometimes ended up pleasing no one, including myself. I also convinced myself that I enjoyed doing different things–kind of the “Jackie-of-all-trades.” I was always open to trying new things. So there goes another “Yes.” Additionally, I had this internal monologue that frequently went through my mind, “If no one volunteers, who will do it?” “I should.” So I did. This happened when I served as a Missions Chair for a church we attended. Though I did not seek the position, it ended up in my lap. I started as just one of the committee members serving alongside our Mission Chair. She discovered she had cancer and so she passed the baton to me. I was not sure the job was for me but, you guess right, I said, “Yes.” Even if the job to be done was not one of my strengths or gifting I took it on. And a Mission Chair I became for about 15 years.
Our committee of five accomplished a lot of things with the congregations’s support, but in retrospect someone more qualified might have done better. I am not saying God did not bless or use the ministry, I am just saying we all have our specific gifting and talents and we are each called for a specific purpose.
A clear illustration of specific gifting came to me after a month or two of being with my writing critique group. All of us have different styles of writing. I marvel at how some of my fellow writers are able to adeptly write historical fictions; or autobiographies; or biographical reports. All these genres are foreign to my writing genes.
One thing pellucid according to our key verse is that we are all given specific gifts to use to minister to one another. This is also echoed in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Yes, it is good to serve, but I learned that I cannot hug every job that was dangled in front of me. I have to seek God’s leading. I have to seek wise counsel and confirmation and I have to be honest about my gifting. We have been given talents, gifts, and abilities and we are to give back, but I learned I had to do so wisely. That is good stewardship!

Perspective

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”

James 1:2-5 NIV

As the Yearbook Club advisor, I have been teaching my students how to take well-composed, captivating, and interesting photographs. Early on I trained them to take pictures using different perspectives. Frequently, we take pictures using our normal range of vision. So I coached them to capture images using a bird’s point of view and a worm’s eye view perspective. This changes the picture dramatically and causes a shift in the way you or your audience interprets the picture.

James 1:2-5 points out that when we face trials we need to consider it pure joy.  This is very much opposite to what we normally do. We don’t equate trials and problems in life with joy.  However, akin to taking pictures, looking at challenges through different perspectives can dramatically change the way we perceive or deal with them.  This adjustment in our perspective takes wisdom. God gives us that wisdom.

A baby learns to walk by first crawling, standing, falling, and pulling himself back up. Being a parent, it is not easy for us to see our children go through difficult times. But they are necessary growing steps. That applies to our challenges in life as well. As difficult as it is to admit it, we learn through and from them.

One of our pastors constantly reminds us when he prays, “Thank you God, that  You love us the way we are, but You love us too much to leave us the way we are.” I believe God allows us to go through trials so that we discover His faithfulness. As we do, we can lean on Him, endure and mature in our faith.

Trials and troubles in life are unavoidable, but we have God’s faithfulness and promises to rely on. We can approach our problems and challenges in life making molehills out of mountains or we can make mountains out of molehills. We can choose the way we view things in life and remember that “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways.” Isaiah 55: 8 (NIV).  We can remember that our God is bigger than our problems.

Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV).

Together let us take heart, my friend. God is our life editor. He knows us from every angle and perspective. He is for us and has declared victory over the world.   He is the One who can change the scenario in our life.  The only One who can provide an incredible picture of a life of abundance, love, joy, peace, satisfaction, and contentment in Him, no matter what our circumstances are at the moment.

 

Humility in Humiliation

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (KJV)

I stood there, mustering all the strength I could to stay and not fight back, but wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. Have you ever felt this way?

According to vocabulary.com, “Humiliation comes from the Latin word humiliare, which means ‘to humble.’ So if you are caught in a situation that causes humiliation, you are humbled.”  Humiliating someone to make a point is never right.  You can be humbled by someone through humiliation because of a wrong-doing or someone can humiliate you for doing what is right.  It is also different when you humble yourself for the cause of Christ.  Humbling yourself is challenging.  Boasting and bragging are effortless.  We saw this in the life of Joseph (Genesis 37).  First, he was favored by his father Jacob.  Then he was given dreams of a future life of eminence.  He bragged about it to his brothers, and the results were not good.   I can easily see this in me.

I recently launched a nonprofit organization called Flowers for Elders, a ministry that provides floral arrangements to patients in convalescent hospitals. Toward the beginning of this ministry, God made me cross paths with a manager at a local grocery store that carried flowers. I asked him if the store would be willing to donate flowers to my nonprofit. He was enthused! He saw the good in what I was doing, and so right there and then even without showing him my credentials, he provided me with several bouquets, “to start me off.”

He escorted me to my car with all my groceries and had the chance to see the two dozen roses I bought for the same purpose. He reassured me he would check with the head store manager and schedule regular bouquet pick-ups. I did a few Saturday pick-ups but was informed by him that he learned they already were obligated to another ministry. However, he still wanted me to come by and pick up every other Saturday.

My Saturday pick-up time came but this was different.  There I was at the back of the store, following directions to pick up flowers, and I was given a third-degree by the person who was marking the flowers. He told me that they were already giving them to another ministry. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to take away from anyone, but my words bounced back like a ping pong ball. There was just no getting through to him. My flesh would have stomped, left, and vowed never to shop at this store again. Pride would have claimed its crown. After the first explanation, I stood, did not argue but expressed my gratitude for whatever I would be given. I walked away, bouquets in my arms. Even with the bad taste in my mouth, I felt victorious–not because I got something, but because the Holy Spirit enabled me to think more of who I was doing this for and not of–me.  It is  the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to humble ourselves and overcome our natural tendencies to boast.

 

Noah’s Wait

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

“But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”

We live not only in a “material world” as Madonna’s song goes but in a fast-paced world as well, where immediate gratification is sought after. Fast foods, bullet trains, instant messaging are the words of the day.

However, as many as there are innovations, gadgets and gizmos that help us get things done in lightning speeds are situations that cause us to have to wait. We wait at the doctor’s offices. We wait at the DMV. We wait for all our papers to come in to be able to file our taxes; and in most public places, as women, we wait to use the restroom.

Waiting is hard.

Cambridge defines wait “to allow time to go by, especially while staying in one place without doing very much, until someone comes, until something that you are expecting happens or until you can do something.”

Just recently, I had to go through a time of waiting. I have been experiencing some pain on the right side of my upper abdomen. My doctor and I agreed it might be my gallbladder. To rule it in or out, he sent me for an ultrasound and blood tests. That was on a Thursday and Saturday.
I got the results early the next week and both the ultrasound and blood tests had some not so good results. My doctor usually sends me results but this time it was silent on his end. Having had medical training I knew this was something I shouldn’t just dismiss, but why has my doctor not emailed me as he usually does? My mind raised, “maybe he is consulting with other physicians before he gives me the bad news? Or could it be he is just sick, busy or preoccupied with some family matters?”

Another time of waiting happened at the emergency room. It had been four hours since I was triaged and in the waiting room. I was not the only patient waiting, there were many others. Towards one side of the room, in a wheelchair was an older woman who was sobbing and complaining to herself in an indistinguishable language. As I paid attention more closely, I realized she was speaking a dialect I knew and spoke quite fluently. I approached and started to talk to her. Unburdening herself, she shared that she was dropped off by her caregiver and was just left by herself. Then she continued to tell me about the pain on her knee, her panic attack and other symptoms she was experiencing and how long she had been waiting in the ER. Waiting is hard, especially when we feel so alone even in a room full of people.

At the end of 2016, I decided to commit to reading through the entire Bible this year. Rereading Noah’s story in Genesis 6: 9-8:22 inspired me to ponder on the idea of waiting. In Noah’s mind, God’s command for him to build a boat probably did not make sense, but without question he immediately got to work obeying God’s command (Gen. 6:22). He was “600 years old when the flood covered the earth (Gen.7:6). It rained for forty days and forty nights and the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:12,24). It took 12 1/2 months for the earth to be dry. It took 12 1/2 months of waiting before God told Noah, his family and all the animals to leave the boat. Talk about waiting!

Our key verse, Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) says, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” God sustained Noah, his family, and all the animals in the ark throughout their wait. Noah was 601 years old, had been cooped up in the boat for more than a year and he waited for God to say, “Go”. When they got out, the first thing Noah did was build an altar to the LORD. He recognized God was God and he revered Him. God provided and was faithful.

Waiting is hard but God is in control of time and His timing is always perfect. When I wait on the LORD time will never be wasted, for in His perfect appointed time ~ waters part, babies are delivered, flowers bloom, we see His blessings and our wait is no more.


Psalm 130:5 (NIV) “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.”

The Tortoise and the Hare in Me

Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIV) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Have you read Aesop’s, “The Tortoise and the Hare”? This was one of my favorite childhood stories.

The hare boasts of his speed and taunts the tortoise for his lack thereof. Tired of the incessant bullying and arrogance, the tortoise challenges the hare to a race. The hare agrees. Armed with his strength and knowing the weakness of his opponent, the hare takes a nap while the race is in progress. The tortoise keeps on in his slow but steady pace. The tortoise wins!

Distinct as they may be, the tortoise and the hare both remind me of me.

At times I find myself in the hare’s shoes–arrogant and a know-it-all. I dash through things without first seeking the LORD’s guidance. Distractions come my way and I take bunny trails, forgetting where I’m headed and not getting there on time. Sometimes I take on ministries God didn’t commission me to and discover I neglected what was most essential (Luke 10:38-42).

I take naps, too. Rest is good. “And God blessed and made the seventh day holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:3). A good thing can turn bad with the wrong attitude. The hare rested because of his overconfidence in his ability. I can have the same attitude.

At other times, I can relate with the tortoise. He might be slow but he sure got his sights on the target. The Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The tortoise did not concern himself with his limitations. He commenced with the first step and kept on moving. As we continue to read Scriptures, listen, obey, and make decisions with discernment from the Holy Spirit, we move closer towards what God intends for us.

I am most like the tortoise when I give my talents and limitations to the LORD for His glory and honor. I grew up with anxiety but I was able to obtain a medical degree to the astonishment of many. This is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power.

Have you ever been like the tortoise? Have you ever been like the hare?
Or maybe both, like me.

We are all in the same race. How we allow the LORD to use our lives, makes the difference. We are all on equal footing in God’s loving eyes “for God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). Those who “fix their eyes on Jesus and run with perseverance” finish the race (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). May it be you and me.

The Possibilities of Impossibilities

 

Matthew 19:26 (ESV) “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Peter walked on water.
When I think about this story of Peter walking on water, I am often reminded of the more obvious lesson: Peter’s failure to keep his eye on Jesus caused him to begin to sink. This is a very important teaching, but I want to rewind the story and go back to the very beginning.

MATTHEW 14:22-30 NIV
Jesus Walks on the Water
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
‘LORD, if it’s You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to You on the water.’
‘Come,’ He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘LORD, save me!’

Jesus allowed Peter to see His miracle. He was even allowed to see the wind. I remember the poem by Christina Rossetti that we recited when I was in primary school, ‘Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you.’ God equipped Peter with the ability to go beyond his humanity. To see the impossible become possible. It is our LORD who creates possibilities of impossibilities. Nothing is too hard for Him. Nothing is impossible for Him. It is not just about us. It has never been about us solely. We could never please God on our own efforts, “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Growing up in a strict family, my siblings and I were always told to look at whoever was addressing us in the eye. Not keeping our eyes locked in with the one who was talking to us was disrespectful and could also mean we were hiding something or not telling the truth. In my 20 something years of teaching, I have always taught my students the same lesson, to look at their audience and establish eye contact when they do presentations or even when they are talking to each other. I also have them look at me when we are having a lesson or discussion. It validates their interest in what we are doing and it makes me see the depth of their understanding. Where our focus is, is important.

I am sure a lot of us have heard of the profound saying, “the eyes are the windows to one’s soul.” In our main verse, it says, “But Jesus looked at them…” Jesus, looked at them! He showed them they were important. He also wanted them to focus on Him; to establish that relationship with Him and to show their readiness to engage with Him.

I could just imagine what it felt like to gaze into Jesus’ eyes. Moses in the Mt. Sinai was not allowed to see God as he wanted to. But here are Peter and the other disciples, given the chance to see a glimpse of God as revealed in human flesh through Jesus’ eyes. What a privilege!

How do we see God turn impossibilities to possibilities? We need to gaze into His eyes. We need to keep our focus on Him. We need to see beyond the mountains and surmounting challenges that come our way. We need to maintain our gaze and lock into His. God’s eye is always on us for “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV). We need to do the same with ours.

Here we go!

How do I launch my blog?

This was the question that bugged me for days.  Finally, I decided to start it the way I commenced my summer break this year.  I asked the LORD and He lead me exactly where.  His Plan.  His Redemption.  Our Response.

His Plan

His plan has always been for our good.  When He created the heavens and the earth; laid the foundations; brought light and darkness; the land and the waters; the plants and animals; man and woman; He deemed them all good (Gen. 1).  He created all things for our good.  Until that day when the deceiver was allowed to deceive.

His Redemption

God is a Holy God.  He will not, and cannot allow sin to continue to plague His creation.  This is what caused a separation between Him and His created ones, what destroyed the good that He has always purposed, and caused a chasm too wide and deep to traverse.  He needed to provide a sacrifice that would cover all the sins of this fallen world.  A sacrifice that would bring back the good that He intended for all mankind.  It was to be no ordinary sacrifice.  It had to be one that was unblemished, untarnished by the world of sinfulness.  Only One fit, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The One who dwelt among us and knew no sin.  He was the sacrifice that could wipe away the sins of the world and bring redemption to us whom God has always loved.  The One who loved us enough to lay down His own life.  It was by His blood that we have salvation.

Our Response

Ephesians 5:10 says, “and find out what pleases the LORD.”  You will never know what pleases someone until you have a relationship with that person.  When we get attracted to another person and want a relationship with him/her, we pursue him/her, spend time, and make a conscious choice to establish that relationship.  In the same way, until we come to the foot of the Cross and surrender our lives to the LORD, Jesus Christ; acknowledge our sinfulness and need for His saving grace, we will not have the privilege of getting to know Him or what pleases Him.      He says in Revelations 3:20, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” NIV.

He is waiting.