Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year Emote-icons

My FIRST bathroom selfie (i think) because, why not?!!! Have a  Blessed Year ahead! - Jabez
"2018, please be good to me". Such pleadings are pasted on thousands of Facebook walls the moment the clock struck 12 on January first. They should have made a specific emoticon for New Year Apprehensions.

I have always loved the idea of celebrating the New Year. It is a significant period when we are stopped on our tracks to look back and look forward. Somehow, whether we like it or not, the turning of the year gives us a momentary halt.  To some, it is a chance to evaluate what went wrong, what worked out right. To most, it is a time to draw the line between what was then and what will be. But to many, it is a chance to do things over, better. A reset.

However, life does not always get solved by a reset. Most times, it needs a lot of undoing, untangling and most painfully, deconstructing.

And this the part where the New Year makes me uncomfortable. When the fireworks have turned to ashes, and the feasting have been replaced by acid reflux, you sit in one corner, confronted by the realities that make you uneasy. 

How do you manage your way around work, laundry and a social life without getting broke?
How do you speak your mind, your ideas, your convictions and not have second thoughts about being hated?
How do you submit to your superiors and stand your ground?
How do you hold fast to the laws you keep and let grace trickle from your grip?
How do you start to pursue a goal you have long believed was too high for your reach?
How do you begin to plan for retirement when you are only a few years away from it?
How do you sustain the momentum for things you have started when your body tells you to slow down?
How do you inspire others when you are wrestling with your own idealism?
How do you draw the line between "waiting" and "working on it"?

These and a thousand other questions. Oh, I hate how acid reflux impales me sometimes!

And then, you run through your IG Best Nine and experience a pocket of sunshine. For a moment, you smile at the thought of these nine photos you immortalized in this intangible wall called social media. 2017 was not that bad.

You picked up a healthy habit. Lost 20 lbs and your appetite for Unli-rice.
You met new people and wonder where they have been hiding all these years.
You ventured to learning new skills and polishing the old ones and felt fulfilled.
You have failed at some attempts but your spirit keeps going.
You mastered the art of rest. And saying no.
You have finally come to terms with your weaknesses and let yourself be soaked in God’s grace to overcome them.
You keep noticing how your well of joy never dries up despite seasons of drought.
You have tested the limits of your love…and found yourself unbreakable. Malleable.
You love, yet again, though bent.

Just nine out of the hundreds of moments of joy, of hope, of faith.

It is easy to be distracted by questions and weakened by our fears. There are 365 days ahead of us, not one of which is certain and that is overwhelmingly scary. But, through the years I have learned the art of restedness ---- an act of actively resting in God, His promises and His sovereignty.

The New Year is not necessarily a reset. It is a time to recalibrate our hearts, retool our minds and resume with the original plan God has already set for us. Not without adjustments.

Paul instructs in Ephesians 4:22-24  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This exercise of “Putting off” and “Putting on” is tiresome, challenging and definitely not easy. But only when we are no longer entangled in the pursuits of our flesh will we be able to experience the true joy of a life lived in freedom through Christ.

Our weaknesses will only magnify. Our questions will continue to haunt us. Our challenges will continue to mount (laundry, included!). But when we are standing behind the One who has ‘overcome the world’, we can walk into 2018 smiling. There's already and emoticon for that!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Little Light

We do not undermine the value of a little light when the night is at its darkest. 

And at a time like this in my life, I trace my way back to that little light that kept me alive ten years ago when my heart was broken. Sometimes, you can smell heartbreaks from afar. Other times, they make themselves felt like a mini-earthquake underneath, not damaging but definitely alarming. But most times, they come unexpected. And unwanted. 

And so did mine. 

My convictions and peace crumbled before me like a wafer in a child’s hand. I am out of strength and slowly losing words. They say when you have a problem, all you need to do is to go out and stand under the night sky and you’d realize how small your problems are compared to the vastness of space and how few compared to the multitude of stars. I tried. But I could not even gather the strength to open my eyes. 

So this piece is my attempt to crawl out of this heartbreak. Eyes still closed, heart still bruised. Even with my troubled vision I can see a flicker of light at the end. I am not so sure except that it looks like the same light that lead me out of darkness ten years ago. Light in all forms look the same. And so I hope that this one too would lead me home. One more time.

Light, no matter how little is still light and darkness still gives way to it.

John 1: 4-5 " In him was life,and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tiptoeing ( A New Year Post)

The sun shines like it is new. It seems energetic, like it is giving out warmth for the first time. It is only the 3rd day of 2017 and I am still tiptoeing into the new year, fearful I might trip. 

I am here in my office desk, writing this as I wait for the lunch break. I have so much to look forward to this year. However, I am still somewhat hinged to 2016 that I don’t know where to start. Thus, the tiptoeing.

A very good friend asked me what were my highlights for 2016. I paused for a few seconds to recall. Somehow, qualifying events as ‘highlights’ was a little difficult. I knew exactly why. The past year, I was beat up with work concerns that I hardly had time to pause and thank God for what was happening in my life. Yesterday, I took out my annual prayer notebook and wrote down my thanksgiving for the year. Today, I’m sharing some of them with you.

Highlights of 2016 (Best Twelve)

1. Attending the Global Discipleship Congress 2016 in Manila and hearing Ravi Zacharias speak again. It was a time of refreshing and realigning to God’s purpose in my life.
2.Writing short poems for the whole month of February. Writing used to be a breeze but for the years that went by,  it was a struggle. Maybe for the lack of a muse. Or maybe for sheer laziness. But, for the month of February, I was able to write 14 poems. Exercise is the key. You can read them at A November Miracle.

3. Earning the Masters in Ministry degree. The highlight is not the degree but graduating with my father.

 4. Turning 35 and enjoying the last stretch of single-life. (Why not?) Hahahaha!

5. Training young people to be better leaders. This year, two of my friends and I started a Public Speaking company. We called it The Speaker Crafters. We trained young children not only to speak well but also to become better citizens of this country. 

6. Visiting our students during their Gospel Team deployment. It was an experience that is one for the books. I went to far-flung villages to find out the situation of our student-pastors who were on Summer Internship. I am not an outdoorsy person but the lot fell on me. I was joyful enough to take the challenge. It turned out to be exciting!
7. Making myself available to be God’s mouthpiece in many places and different occasions. God gave me opportunities to speak of His love to people of all ages, in churches, campuses, youth fellowships and even the Police force. I am humbled by this calling. 

8. Studying Introduction to Hebrew. I can now read a little and write a little Hebrew. 

9. Coordinating benefit concerts.  The latest was in December. It was a production that brought me out of my comfort zone. It was only by trusting God that we made it through. Not only am I ecstatic that I am working with world-class performers, I am awed at how they are all-out in serving God. 

10. Being with high school friends is always a yearly highlight. These are the people I grew up with and somehow, being with them makes me forget momentarily the troubles of adult life.

11.Spending time with family. We had spur of the moment reunions and they were all fun!!! 

12. Having a family that accepts me for everything that I am not and holds the hope for everything I can become. 

I started this piece by saying how I am tiptoeing into 2017. Now, having looked back, I can say, there is nothing to fear! God has been faithful and will always be faithful. 

I am reminded of what I read yesterday in Psalm 106. It was a recounting of how the Israelites turned away from God and how, each time, God came to their rescue. But, as the pattern repeats and the plot worsens, verse 44-45 say:
"Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love."
I know now why the sun shines like it has not seen the troubles of 2016. It was created by a God whose love is persistent, endless,  unceasing. That fact alone steadies my wobbly feet.

Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

To Teachers

I was raised by teachers. My parents were Public school teachers. Manila paper was a staple and the smell of Pentel pen ink was always present in the house. Back in the day, teaching using the computer was unheard of. Chalks were the medium and dustless chalks a luxury.

I am a teacher but admittedly, not a very effective one. As to why, I will explain it in another post. Today, in celebration of World Teachers’ Day, I dedicate this piece to the teachers who made a dent in my life. 

To the teacher who opened my world to the wonder of stories. I looked forward to every Sunday School, paid close attention to how your eyes would grow wide, and most importantly, your nail polish. I copied you at home, lining up my dolls and retelling the stories I heard from you.

To the teacher who taught me to read. It was not the reading I remember the most but how, one surprising day, we cut bananas and papayas in class and made fruit salad. It was the first time I wore an apron.

To the teachers who helped me discover new things. You taught me the word ‘kidnap’ and it was a fear that haunted me daily. You taught me the words ‘noisy pupils’ and I was careful not to be on that list. You taught me the word ‘quiet’ and I had a hard time being one, even until now. But, you also taught me the words assignment, cleaners, and pass your papers. With those I learned that some things have to be done on your own, you need to pick up after yourself, and most importantly, opportunities have deadlines.

To the teachers who gave me time on stage. You helped me conceive a dream I never knew I had until later when the stage became my avenue for influencing others.

To the teacher who made me take over her class when I was 14. You were right. I was going to need that experience to toughen me up six years later when I had to go on Practice Teaching.

To the teachers who made science and math the most important subjects in the world. You made me religious! True enough, algebra, trigonometry, chemistry and physics are nothing compared to the complexity of romantic love. I am glad I was trained in your class to survive!

To the teacher who taught me how to be a homemaker. I can bake, I can sew, I can arrange furniture, I know the color chart, I can make fruit preserves ,I can embroider,  heck, I can even dress a chicken all because you did not accept anything less than perfect from us. As to having a family, I am working on that.

To the teachers who had to deal with our adolescence. Today, as I deal with young people I have one question: How did you maintain your sanity without punching us in the face? *clap clap clap* I have many words but all can be summarized in two: Thank You!

To the teacher who made me fear my English class. You unearthed a wealth of courage I did not know I have.

To the teacher who scribbled notes on my essay. I fell in love with writing because of you. Also, I was slightly in love with you until you left us.

To the teacher who gave me an 80 in a major subject. Hahaha!

To the teacher who made me interpret my Dexter’s Laboratory comics in class. I discovered my humor because of that experience.

To the teachers who instilled the love of country to us. I am fighting because of you. I will not be quiet because of you.

To the teachers who showed me the bridge between Theology and Practice. I am having a swell time because your lives are living examples.

Lastly, to my in-house teachers who until today check my attendance, give me occasional lectures on matters I usually evade, and evaluate my performance in life, thank you. You were our first teachers and will continue to be after every one is finished with us. Thousands of unruly, hard-headed pupils came and went out of your classrooms but, bad news, we’re staying! Sorry parents, you can’t get rid of us. Haha! After years of leaving the service, here you are still teaching us tirelessly about life and the one true God we serve. I guess, when you are a parent, you never retire from teaching.

I was raised by teachers. I hope that in this generation, I can also raise some. With everything that is happening in the country and around the world, I fear for this generation. The world is full of monsters ready to pounce at these young people. Therefore, I have committed to fight for them and with them. And education is my weapon of choice.

I am a warrior. I teach. 

Back in the days when my ideas of entertainment were cutting my bangs, and letting my Grade 2 students interpret the skit "The Cat and Dog" on their own. They made their own costumes and did their own make up.

These kids are in college now and I, well, am tempted to cut my bangs again.Hahaha!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CPU Christ Emphasis Week

I just came back from a week-long preaching engagement. It is a miracle I have even managed to write. My body is weak, as of the moment, suffering from Acid reflux – the kind where you can not eat but you have to eat. I think it is my body demanding some rest. Or maybe it is my mind that needs to. Whichever it is, I will not let that stop me from writing about this. 

I have never realized the depth and width of a Christian university's ministry until I had this opportunity to speak at Central Philippine University last week for their semestral Christ Emphasis Week. I was invited to speak to the high school students of the university for five days. It was daunting to face 1500 young people, full of energy and all with different backgrounds. It was only by the grace of God that I was able to go up on stage, speak the word and invite them to commit their lives to God.

But 1500 is nothing compared to the 10 thousand plus college students the university has, and all these  heard the Gospel all week. And this happens every semester. Imagine, if each college student stayed in the university for 8 semesters, that’s 8 chances of telling them the Good news! Not to mention the many campus ministries who are also doing their best wining the students for Christ! Kudos to Rev. Cris Amorsolo Sian , Rev. Francis Neil Jalando-on and the pastors in the Chaplain's Office for putting their heart, mind and body into this, making sure the Gospel will not be delivered unsatisfactorily. 

I am glad CPU is still going against the tide. These days when it is even difficult to call yourself a Christian School, CPU is standing up, bearing strong the legacy of the missionaries who started it 110 years ago! May God protect the hearts of its leaders. It is my prayer that It will continue to put Christ central to its objectives. 

Isaiah 55:11 "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Looked For the Living Among the Dead

“Where do I go to take a break?”

I heard myself ask this question a few times over for about three months now. I felt that I was in dire need of refreshing. No, I was not bent from work – just a little chipped maybe. Normal, I guess. I was not going through an emotional problem. I read my bible. I prayed. These were the things I told myself that were NOT the reasons why I needed to get away.

Or maybe, these were the reasons why I needed a break. Because everything was normal on the outside but inside, things were a little messy. We know the mess we keep inside. I ‘try’ to keep the office table tidy by dumping all the things inside the drawer. The table looks clean but the drawers are another story. This was how I felt these months.

I tried to read the Bible everyday for fear that if I don’t , I’d fall off completely. I walked the way of wisdom but during the day I find myself making some foolish decisions or spilling ungodly talk. It was terrifying to go to bed at night and realize how horrible I lived the day.

I marched through a ceremony, bowing my head not much as a sign of commitment but in shame for how unworthy I am to say yes to a task for the chosen. Me, chosen?

Most times, I felt God was a little far. No, not that He was. I FELT He was. It was a foreign feeling. I justified it by saying maybe this is how I should always feel so that I would always seek Him. I told myself maybe this is what they mean when they say have a “hunger for God”. But it wasn’t.

I figured, a personal retreat would cure it. A special time of meditation, a special revelation and a dramatic visitation would be the turning point for this.

Until this morning.

My unexcited self went to church (thanks to also being sick for days) unaware that what I was longing for will be answered. My pastor talked about Jesus being alive in our lives. She talked about how, in our daily living we say we believe Christ is alive but live as though He isn’t. It was the prelude to how God revealed to me the truth about everything I've been going through.

Then we sang “He Lives”. And all that has kept me chained came loose.

I serve a risen Saviour, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living, Whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He's always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He live, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.
In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading Thro' all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing Will come at last.
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs To Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, The help of all who find,
None other is so loving, So good and kind.

I saw what was wrong with me. I did not remember that Jesus, this God I believe in, is living in me. So,I desperately looked for him elsewhere. I was like one of those women during the resurrection morning “looking for Jesus among the dead”.

I looked for him in the songs I sang. I looked for him in the feeling of accomplishment at having read my bible. I looked for him in my ritualistic service. I looked for Him in my theology. There, I fooled myself into believing that I can look for him. I. As if my eyes were clear enough to see Him.

But there He was, having not left at all, loving me through my pride, arrogance, my constant defeat against my flesh, my anger and my unforgiveness just to name the ‘majors’. Believe me, people who are in the 'ministry' have a longer list.

I forgot that He was walking with me “along the narrow way” as the song says. I always thought that this refers to some problem or devastation but today, I realized THIS IS MY NARROW WAY! And what comfort it is to know that I don’t have to keep walking to find Him. He’s here!

I forgot that He took the long and dusty road from heaven to earth to find me. Me, the lost one.
And all this time, I made myself believe it was I that should look for him. He's here!

I forgot that He bore to be forsaken by the Father so he can win over death. Win over any form of death anyone can imagine so we don't have to keep looking for him like sorrowful lovers. He's here!

I do not boast of a steady spiritual life  nor a strong one. But one thing I boast of is this, that the Christ I believe in has conquered death and lives every day to bring life to me.

I may need a break, but no longer to 'find' God. He's here!

Today is Easter. Indeed, my Easter!

Happy Resurrection Morning!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Challenge to Love

November breezed through. We are in the Christmas season. "Time flies" is  cliche but there is no better way to describe what it does than exactly that - it flies!

I just finished reading a blog post by Dr. Everett Piper, President of the Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He wrote about how we have taught this generation to be self-centered and narcissistic. It was brought about by an incident where a student went to him and complained after a chapel service that he felt 'victimized' by the sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 by making him feel guilty that he does not love enough according to the terms in the Bible. Piper went on to say that this :

If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.
He then concluded with the statement : This is not a Day Care, this is a University!

(You can read the whole article here:OKWU)

I share his sentiments because I am working in a Bible College. We train young people who answered the call of God for full-time ministry service. It seems like a noble place to work in. A cause that is a  major player in the Kingdom Agenda. But 4 years into the job, I am slowly coming to terms with what Jesus really meant when he said "take up your cross and follow me".

We try to help the students maximize the learning experience by enclosing them within a set of rules.In my opinion, boundaries help us discipline ourselves. And so, these boundaries were set so they can stick to their goal and grow while keeping at it. But this is where the struggle comes. Obedience is not man's impulse, sin is.

When some students are reprimanded for their obvious violation  of rules, there's usually a retaliation. Because for them, their judgement was right. And no matter how logically you present things, they will always see you as the adversary and will feed on self-pity and anger against the implementors of the rules. And this is the hard part - no amount of reason can win them. Only genuine love.

Man's impulse is not love, sin is. And puttting love to work the way Jesus did, is difficult. It is during these times that I tell myself "when Jesus said, 'take up your cross and follow me' he wasn't exaggerating!!!" This, here, most times feels like a trip to Calvary.

Giving up is the easiest option. Or apathy. But both will not let me taste the sweet fruits of victory when these young people are transformed into what God has called them to be. I, too, will  be transformed.

Everyday, I wish I could say what Dr. Piper has said. But following Christ has a taller demand.

And so I wait, and I work, and in the meantime, put Love into action until love becomes my compulsion.