Saturday, November 24, 2018

Bleed Thankfulness (not to the Universe)

"There is nothing to writing. You just sit in front of a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway

Yes. I used to just sit in front of a computer and bleed. Words flowed like water seeking its own level. They came out of my head through my hands like restless birds waiting to be freed. Sometimes, they were shy, like a young love dreading to be found out but also dying to be known. These days though, they seem like treasure hidden deep down that takes too much trouble to unearth. 

I  also read somewhere that writing is like surfing, you wait for the perfect wave and then ride it. I feel a wave coming along today. So, while my laundry dries out on the clothesline, I will write. 

It was thanksgiving in America the other night. Here in the Philippines, it is a church celebration brought to us by the American missionaries who pioneered the Christian churches. While thanksgiving is supposed to be a lifestyle, it is helpful that we have a holiday to actually think of the things we are thankful for. Because, truth is, when we are wallowing either in wealth or worry, gratefulness is the first virtue that goes down the drain. 

With that in mind, I will try to make a short list of what I am thankful for this year. (Hey, the year is ENDING! Where did 2018 go? ) 

1. Thankful for Health. Truly, health is wealth. I know I am not in tip-top shape but I am thankful for the way God has engineered our bodies to heal themselves. I do have health issues. I battled with one the beginning of this year. Most nights my joints and my allergies conspire to make me remember the future of this body – rotten. But, I have always believed in the Proverbs written in the Bible which said, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine” because “the heart is the wellspring of life”. I have not perfected the art of having a ‘merry heart’. But I am trusting God to transform my heart to be always cheerful. 

2. Thankful for Growth. Spiritually, Mentally and Emotionally. I wish I could boast of a prolific spiritual life. What I can only claim is that I am step-by-step working towards growing. It is not a race but a journey towards maturity. Being in the ministry does not help me grow. It even poses a challenge because complacency is the real enemy that I fight with everyday. 

God led me to further my education and that is one of the things I have always been thankful for this year. if you read my previous post, it talked about how I finally embarked on this new journey. For a person living on a-little-above-minimum wage, in a third world country, enrolling in Law school would require a miracle. And that is exactly what is happening to me. Plus, the bulk of studying I have to do while at the same time working, requires a lot of ‘imploring the aid of the almighty God”. 

There are days when my emotions are out of whack. Thank God I can blame it on hormones. Seriously, I am seeing some growth in the way I handle my feelings toward a person or a circumstance. I still have to work on completely eradicating my flawed emotional budget and just love unlovable people completely the way Jesus did. 

3. Thankful for Genuine Relationships. Being with people are the hardest challenge that God had to let me handle. Not because I don’t like them but because loving people require a lot of energy. And I am on the lazy side. There is no such thing as a relationship hack. You have to go through the long and hard process of maintaining relationships. Family is one feat. Friendships are another. Nevertheless, I close my eyes at night knowing I am loved and accepted by those who truly love me and for that I am thankful. 

Let me get this straight. I am not thankful to the universe for letting everything fall into place. I am thankful to the Lord of the Universe, He who created it in an instant by merely speaking it into existence. He holds the entirety of human existence, making sure the heavenly bodies don’t collide – tough job! Yet, at my slightest discomfort, when I have a bruised ego, or I needed my printer to not act up at a crucial time, or that when I needed ice cream on a very very bad day… he slips into my world* to calmly reassure me – he’s got me in the palm of his hands. I am thankful mostly for God’s love. 

Today, my life is not perfectly put into place as I wanted it to be. I still have bruises here and there from the battles I face on a daily basis. I struggle to be compassionate, forgiving and loving. I struggle to be grateful for what I have been given and for the things that are withheld from me. But it turns out, Ernest Hemingway is right. You just sit in front of a typewriter and bleed.

Today, I bleed thankfulness. 

*now, don’t go debating me on the Theological correctness of the phrase ‘slips into my world’ Lol!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Walking on Water (#TheLAWngRoad)

For  Peter to go to where Jesus was, he had to get out of the boat and literally step on the water. He had to stand ON the water to be able to walk on it.*

I have studied and preached on this story of Peter several times already. Each time, a new understanding of faith is unfolded and a deeper knowledge of God is gained.

Stepping out in faith is one of my favourite topics. But not until last year did I realize that I just tested it in calculated proportions. And so, I took a leap out of the boat.

Last year, I was convinced by my friend to take Law classes. This idea had been hovering me for quite sometime already, about eight years in counting. What was stopping me was my financial incapacity, my ministry and my feeling of inadequacy when it comes to the academic demands of the course.

So I brewed the idea in prayer for a year.

I have also known that things don’t just ‘fall into place’. For the Israelites to be able to live in the promised land, they had to keep moving in obedience until they get to the place God prepared for them.

My leap of faith started when I registered to take the PhilSat. It is the national Law School admission exam. From there, God confirmed that this was the way to go when He helped me pass the exam.
Tuition fees are another story. I get a decent salary as a staff of the Bible School but it is clearly not sufficient to send me to school. So, for the past year that I was praying about it, I starting calculating how much I would save each month to set aside for the tuition fees. I also mentally noted down the areas of my spending that I need to cut down, including food, so I can come up with the amount needed to pay for my education.

I took another exam in the university and an interview with the dean before I was accepted in the School of Law. There was no doubt this was God’s plan for me this season of my life. I am entering my seventh year in the ministry and somehow I already mastered, to a certain degree, the routines of the ‘job’. My position as college registrar and our challenges in implementing the Disciplinary sanctions most times need an understanding of the laws of the land. I took this leap, far from my comfort zone, because I have the convinction that God is leading me through this path, in this season. 

On the first day of class, I was floored by how God IS God! I found out that I was granted a scholarship that will cover 75% of my tuition fee. I did not apply for it. I did not even know there was a scholarship grant for Law students. It turned out I ranked 2nd of all the applicants and they give grants to the top 3 of Law school applicants. I cried happy tears. 

I borrowed books. My work schedule is lighter that it was years ago. Another friend was used by God for more provisions. My family helped me set up my living arrangements. One after the other, God confirms that he wants me to walk on this water with Him. 

I happened to talk to different people on separate occasions sharing with me their dreams and plans. I smiled at them and, with more conviction than ever, told them "Step out in faith". 

Yes, calculations and preparations must be made. But, it is that act of faith of taking the first step toward a legitimate dream,  goal,  plan that will introduce you to another chapter of God's grace. 

Peter stepped out of the boat, took a few wobbly steps on the water, sank at the sight of wind and was lifted out of it by the hands of the Master crafter of waves and winds. We will have our own stories of 'walking in faith'. But, none of us will ever feel like what it is to step on water like glass. 

When Jesus calls you to walk with Him on the water, step out of the boat. Yours will be quite a story. 

I'm still tiptoeing. Nevertheless, I am already on the water. 

*Matthew 14:22-33

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."