Beat, pump, receive, send: The State of the Heart

It is ever easy to stray from thoughts pleasing to God, is it not. What a struggle it is to keep focused. Focused on the goal that is heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I had fallen ill of late, but in grace, J. C. Ryle’s words encapsulate my feelings this day:

“Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God’s hand in all that befalls us, if we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ. Let us strive to realize a Father’s hand measuring out our daily portion, that our steps are ordered by Him. A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness, a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. We should try to feel, in the day of trial and disappointment, Joy… all is right and all is well done. On the bed of sickness, there must be a ‘needs be’. We should say, God could keep me away from these things if He thought fit, but He does not do so, therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently, I have an everlasting covenant ordered in all things sure (2 Samuel 23:5)

What pleases God shall please me.”

There is peace in acceptance, I do remember Elisabeth Elliot saying this in her good book “Keep a Quiet Heart”.

There is peace in acceptance of His will.

And in all honesty… I don’t think people can tell whether I am sick, or not. I still do run around Durham. God’s grace abounds in this physical body! hahaha…

An eventful couple of weeks have since passed, praise and thank God for opportunities to speak and share of the Gospel with friends old and new. It is incredibly humbling, is it not. That God is Almighty and Powerful, and that He should desire even to use His children even in their weaknesses…. Really, one is stark nothing, without Christ.

Someone quoted Miriam Swaffield:

“Boldness is not simply an extroverted personality type. It is a gift from God.” 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deutoronomy 31: 6.

~

Chinese New Year had begun with hours-long Skype sessions with the Yong family, and this very present which made me think:

If your earthly parents so lavish their love on you… How much more, your Heavenly Father? How much more?

Image

Mom had lovingly sent soup spices in a surprise letter from home, along with gifts from Timmy back home 🙂 This will be my last new year abroad… the next, I will be home 🙂

Having completed an essay due earlier, Friday was a great day of relief and joyful cooking. Praise the LORD for a time of rest. I loved bumbling around the kitchen, preparing dishes and humming along to awesome tunes of old. I had met Cathy at the Language Club much earlier on the Friday noon, and she had come over for dinner, along with Yi Fan (whom I’ve never known nor realized, lives literally 3 doors down from me!!)

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A Durham version of “Buddha Jump over the wall”… Just like Humpty Dumpty!! 

Cathy had brought along beautiful tulips of red and pink… For the New Year season! It brought me great joy to receive them. I have lots of fresh flowers in my little abode Lambton Street now. Sunflowers, blooming Daffodils, and now, tulips in their resplendent glory 🙂 Beautiful, aren’t they? The LORD takes care of the lilies… How much more. It’s the “how much more” analogies which litter the Bible!

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Cathy with them beautiful flowers 🙂

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And the very lovely, enigmatic Yi Fan with clementines (and self-made soap, itself another story altogether) to spice up our Friday evening! 🙂 

One good Friday New Year’s dinner it was!

2014-02-04 14.01.15Watering flowers have become a daily routine now.

It was altogether, a blessed and rested weekend. I had managed to tidy up aplenty of my thoughts, and it was amazing to pray together through the Psalms and Philippians with dear Daphne in the church balcony on Sabbath Sunday. Fellowship in prayer is a beautiful gift, I feel, available to every child of God. The LORD’s presence and nearness is so palpably felt, especially when we meet Him in His Word.

Praise the Lord for a wonderful weekend! 😀

Chopsticks given earlier by dear Renee:

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“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 

~

Monday this week had begun with prayer-mentor sessions with dear Angie and Beng Kwee. As I trekked up to Mackintosh Court in Gilesgate, it was as if, the birds were chirping cheerily still on a wintery morning. The air was incredibly fresh, and I couldn’t help but skip up the slope, because, and all because, it was such a peaceful Monday morning!

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Little birds perched on the top of trees in their skeletal beauty. Matthew 6, anyone? 😀 

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Prayer sessions always come with great treats from these two beautiful independent women 🙂 Beng Kwee had made claypot rice last week, and this week, Angie had very graciously offered “nian gao” (I miss them so!) and really spicy Nasi Lemak. Singaporean treasures!

So I thank the LORD, for blessings as these. I had almost misplaced my phone that very evening, but was amazingly calm through it all, until its discovery. It was good that it was so. As I waited for BK on the stony pavements, Matt Maher’s “LORD I need You” rang through my ears. It was that very day that I discovered this song too.

Indeed, every good and perfect gift is from the Father above.

It was good to commit all things in prayer to a Sovereign God. I cannot even begin to convey how rested I was as I came away from the meeting. Praise the LORD for these beautiful women in Christ. Women of prayer, women of inspiration.

~

Tuesday had flown quickly by with a lecture with Paul Harrison on the “Abject”. Walking through the ‘abject’ matters with Julia Kristeva and a smattering of Lacanian and Freudian theories, flowy maternal metaphors and estranged subjects cramped the early afternoon, and I came away with a great many thoughts thinking about the Abject. My thoughts came upon the Cross. What a strange abject… for whilst abject, it holds great attraction for the Christian.

Repulsive to some it might be, of Christ on the Cross, of the nails pierced in His hands… but yet so Incredibly Beautiful. That Unconditional Love and Sacrifice that paid it all. Who may ever be able to explain that Strong Attraction. What mercy.

What Grace.

Thoughts then flowed like a Deleuzian assemblage into the late afternoon as I prepared to cook Fried Bee Hoon for iFocus evening.. Haha, I think it was the prayer that made the dish turn out okay. (I now understand much deeper, how mass production of food makes food lose its original quality! heheh).

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Hilarious, these two 🙂

I had Nicola, !my sous-chef! to help along in the kitchen, and it was a meaningful evening, I felt, fellowshiping over a meal and great conversation afterwards. We had looked through Matthew 11: 25-30, which reminded us of God’s graciousness and Sovereign Goodness. If there were no one who came to believe in Christ at the end of mission week/missions in all, how humbling, that we should follow Jesus as He praises and thanks our Father (v25), and welcomes us into His arms of rest (v28-30). What rest that transcends the now… this rest is Eternal, in the restored relationship we have with the Father through Christ.

What divine rest, is to be found in Jesus.

He alone is our Hope and Stay.

~

Wednesday.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

~ Karl Barth 

DICCU (Durham Intercollegiate Christian Union) had a 24/7 prayer chain for Mission week, and I had a slot for Wednesday morning in Sanctuary 21, along Saddler Street.

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A little quiet room at the back of the house, there was a simple tranquility to the atmosphere and the strange yet incredibly comforting feeling of ‘spiritual traces’ (for lack of a better word) of people who were praying before me. I had glanced around the little room. A sanctuary it was. Very tranquil, with its dimmed, yellowed lights.

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Metaphorically (and literally), laying our burdens at the Cross

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Littered with verses, words of Strength and encouragement, Bibles, Christian books and heartfelt messages… It was incredible to sit and dwell in the little prayer room, just talking with Jesus.

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A little prayer card, which I found incredibly helpful to pray through

I think, as the year 2014 had begun, I have begun to appreciate, more deeply, the concept of a prayer house/prayer room. I thought to the precious time of fellowship in prayer with the HisChild team at Daughters of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on the very first day. Good spiritual conversations had ensued them, and I came away incredibly encouraged by the heartfelt sharing of brethren, and how amazing God was to be sustaining His ministry.

I do think, however, the place does not matter, as much as the posture of our hearts. For in our hearts… we too, may carve out a little prayer sanctuary. I have been pouring through Henri Nouwen’s evocative writings on the state of the human heart. As he so termed, “the eucharistic movement of the heart.”

The physical heart in the human body is a central muscle with four chambers that receive and transport oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. This amazing fist-sized organ recycles about two thousand gallons of lifeblood in a fourfold rhythm – beat, pump, receive, send – at least a hundred thousand times a day.

The Christian heart… a four-chambered spiritual muscle constantly beating to the rhythm of life, pumping life-giving blood into the chamber of God’s presence, receiving the sufferings of the world into the ‘oxygen-rich’ presence of God in prayer, and sending blood back out to enliven and renew the rest of the spiritual body of Christ in an ongoing cycle: beat, pump, receive, send.

Beat, pump, receive, send.

For Henri, spirituality was a personal matter of the heart. Is your heart open or closed, contrite or stubborn, soft like a pillow or hard like a stone? The sacrifice or offering God desires is an open, clean, broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51: 17).

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the transformative possibility of turning ‘a heart of stone into a heart of flesh’. The Psalmist cried out ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.’ Spiritual formation is the spiritual awakening, purification, growth and development of a divine heart in the body of a human being, lived out in community and service in the world.

God looks upon the heart. The centre of our being, where God comes to dwell with us and bring us the divine gifts of trust, hope and love.

Indeed, the human mind tries to understand reasons, grasp problems, distinguish truth from falsehood, probe the mysteries of life.

But the heart.

The heart allows us to enter into relationships and profoundly experience the Truth that we are sons and daughters of God. In the hidden place of the heart, known intimately by God, a divine penetration and human response occurs. “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee” said Augustine. “Within the heart“, says Henri, “human beings meet God’s Word directly and decisively which results in conversion and transformation.”

The heart.

“The central and unifying organ of our personal lives. The place where time touches eternity, where earth and heaven meet, where God’s Word becomes human flesh. It is our primordial access point to God, where there are no divisions or distractions, and where we are totally one. There, in the place of the heart, infinite divinity and finite humanity are spiritually united.”

Henri goes on to talk about the primacy of the heart in relation to cognitive beliefs, religious feelings and moral choices – orthodoxy (right beliefs/worship), orthopathos (right affections) and orthopraxis (right actions)… all just as important as a right heart (orthocardia).

Every human being is born to be in intimate communion with the God who created us in Love. We belong to God from the moment of conception. Our heart is that divine gift which allows us to trust not just God, but also our parents, our family, ourselves, our world. Before there is original sin, Henri believed, there is original blessing – our natural, primordial communion with God. For we were made to be His. In Love.

Thomas Merton did once write on the ‘Le point vierge‘, the virgin point, ‘the centre of our nothingness where, in apparent despair, one meets Godand is found completely in His mercy’. Merton understood that our own access to God was connected to the penetrating and penetrable hearts of all God’s people.

Oh, Christian, to meet God daily in our hearts. Something to strive towards, surely. Something very rewarding, it is promised.

Like Henri, like Merton, may God so grant that we experience and understand the importance of the place of the heart, in contemplative prayer, and the way of the heart as communion with God.

I do remember, as the hour of prayer on Wednesday was over, the door to the prayer room had burst open from the wind outside. I do not know how symbolic this is meant to be. Yet it did not take me by surprise. The cold beauty outside, this wintry February, was a refreshing sight to behold.

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So someone too wrote in the mass journal on the little table…

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God” 

Ephesians 2: 8

& so, why not go out today & share this GIFT !! 😀 

Mission week, alongside all other burdens along on this pilgrim journey as Heaven awaits & the soul years for Home, have been committed into God’s Loving hands.

“Cast all your cares unto Him, for He cares for you” 1 Peter 5: 7. 

The day trundles on. I hope to write again soon.

~

“If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan. . . . Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. Quite suddenly she sat up.

“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said. “I’m ready now.”

“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan. “And now all Narnia will be renewed. But come. We have no time to lose.

He got up and walked with stately, noiseless paces back to the belt of dancing trees through which she had just come: and Lucy went with him, laying a rather tremulous hand on his mane. . . .

“Now, child,” said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, “I will wait here. Go and wake the others and tell them to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

– C.S. Lewis, “Prince Caspian” 

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Though none go with me,

still I will follow;

no turning back, 

no turning back. 

Let Jesus lead the Way. 

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