Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Get Up, it's Christmas!

We wake up on Christmas day all giddy about the gifts we opened at midnight. We get excited about the ham scraps and the coffee that wait at the breakfast table. But we linger a little longer in bed telling ourselves that this is the only holiday when it is excused to be lazy.  

Somehow, Christmas Day has been an excuse for almost everything.

Over eat. Give presents. Be extra kind. Be less sarcastic. Say only nice things. Sing a song. Read your Bible. Talk to relatives abroad. Send a Christmas greeting to someone you are too mesmerized to talk to. Clean the closet. Kiss. Say you love someone. Not be angry. Tolerate your neighbor’s lousy singing. Eat pork. Eat everything. Write a blogpost and not be shout at by your mother for sitting in front of your computer all day. Greet everyone on Facebook or Twitter or across the street.

I don’t know where we get the idea but it seems innate for everyone to be good at Christmas. And there also seems to be a sense of entitlement at Christmas – “I have the right to do this or get that because it is Christmas.” Maybe I am growing old. Or maybe we have glazed Christmas too much that it looks different than it should be.

Family gatherings, yes, but Forgiveness must be evident. We eat together at the table and vomit at each other’s presence the week after. Jesus was born to bring us back into the family of God. And if God has not forgiven us through Jesus, where would we get the idea for family reunions?

Festivity, yes, but joy is necessary. Our houses are adorned with  all things colourful. Our electricity bill goes sky high because of these over the top lights we decorate our homes with. But when the lights are put out and the decorations are put away in boxes, it is what the home is made of that is revealed. After the party laughter fades and you are left with party cups and confetti to throw away, it is the joy of having shared love with people that will give you strength to do the cleaning. And this joy must be from Him who has exchanged streets of gold for a bed of hay.

Gifts yes, but giving is better. Since the start of this week, my FB timeline has been flooded by selfies showcasing the gifts my friends received from people who love them. It is wonderful to feel loved. But in my opinion, we must endeavor to be on the giving end especially to those who can not give back. After all, we have Christmas because God wants to give us a life that is abundant.

Growing up, Christmas used have so much fuss.  As the years went on, it became quieter. What is difficult about getting older is no amount of fancy can cover up fact. And at Christmas, I can not run away from the nagging question that confronts me: When everything is stripped away, what remains?

I woke up today with ham scraps and a cup of coffee waiting for me at the table. I could have lingered a little longer on the bed. But, it is Christmas day! And I would not make it an excuse to be lazy.

Outside my room is a broken world waiting for hope. And if writing this would punch a small hole in that darkness so that light would break through, then I’m getting up.

The ham scraps and coffee can wait.

May your celebration be evident of the true meaning of Christmas! Blessings! 

Christmas Greetings to all my blogger friends! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Help! My French Press is Broken...and Other World Problems

The sound of water boiling in my electric heater excited me. I was looking forward to capping my lunch with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. At times like this, when the school is on semestral break, things are really slow at the office and I get really sleepy. I thought I’d prep myself a cup of coffee to get me going.

Alas, when I poured the ‘just boiled’ water, the glass leaked! It was heartbreaking. I was planning on being on a bad mood for the rest of the day (yes, its possible to plan to be on a bad mood..haha!) until something slapped me back to my senses.

Last Tuesday, our worlds were rocked. Literally. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit parts of Visayas, with the epicentre in Bohol. It hit us too, in Negros, getting a 4-point-something magnitude. Nothing was damaged on our end but in Bohol and Cebu, churches that were centuries old were toppled down to pieces. Lives were claimed and many families were homeless.
2007. Leaning on the sturdy wall of Baclayon Church during a tour.

The internet loomed with photos of the damages the disaster brought upon the islands. Bohol is a tourist destination mainly because of its beautiful beaches and the old churches that were reminiscent of the Spanish life in the Philippines. But all those churches are now reduced to rubble. It was devastating to watch.

Before typing that last paragraph, I sent a message of condolence to a former student who lost her child at birth. She posted pictures of her little angel’s funeral on Facebook. Heartbreaking.

The southern part of the Philippines is still recuperating from the wounds of war that I think was pointless. Frustrating.

The US Government just ended a shutdown. Scary. (Although, I don’t understand half of it.)

Somewhere in the world, a child dies of hunger, or gets trafficked, or wanders aimlessly, ignorant of the world around him because he has no access to education. And yes, he could not care less about whether I will get my coffee right now or not. Or that I prefer brewed over instant.

The earth broke open and still keeps on turning.

I should not fuss over this broken French press.

Philippians 4:6-9
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

p.s. I had tea and some cookies instead.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Faith for the Unexplained

This is a page from Elizabeth Elliot's book "Keep a Quiet Heart" which I am re-reading.

There was a time in my life when I stared at the blue sky and asked God to literally write the answers on the clouds. I had questions. Questions that starved for explanations. I pleaded, I wailed, I fasted. But God seemed deaf. I waited. I gave Him an ultimatum. He seemed unmoved. 

I let out deep sighs most times. I have been telling God, I need answers but that if He chose to not give me any, I would painfully trust Him and believe Him, still. At one point, I gave up. I surrendered and promised God I will never raise the issue again, nor will I ask for answers. This was the time when I wrote To Feel Right. 

There were bouts of sadness, still, but no more questions. I thought, some things are better left untold. 

The other week, without any hint of expectation, God gave all the answers to all my questions back then. It was wonderful to hear an explanation that was carefully, and chronologically presented as if it was crafted through time. The better thing is, there was no pain attached to any of those issues anymore. It was like hearing a narrative in history class. All accounts are painted with equal importance, yet, there is no longer any  paint attached to it - only a deep appreciation for the present. 

The Lord makes all things beautiful, in His time. I am looking forward to even more beautiful things as He keeps adding to my Faith Experiences. Oh, what a glorious moment it is when you taste the rewards of faith. 

Proverbs 25: 2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter..."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Songs Do You Sing In Church?

When we sing uncommon songs in church, it turns the singing into a concert of only a few - that of the Worship Team. I have nothing against contemporary Christian songs or upbeat/new P&W songs (because I love most of them too), but I feel that community singing in church must have songs that the congregation knows by heart. Otherwise, it’s just another emotional moment for a few, while the rest is torn between trying to decode the words of the song and marveling at how beautiful the voice of the singers are, or how good the bassist is (the latter is always the case for me).


Maybe my heart is not right.

Or maybe it is just longing to publicly declare the goodness of God in a language I know. The language of songs that I grew up singing in church. The language of songs that are already imbedded in my heart. Songs like “Great is thy faithfulness” was what I blurted out many times God has given me victory. When I felt unstirred, singing the lines “There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,..” and welling up in the chorus “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...sweetest name I know” brought me back to the excitement of having Jesus in my life.

There’s Victory in Jesus. I know whom I have believed. What a friend we Have in Jesus. Amazing Grace. All the way my savior leads me. I could go on mentioning all the beautiful hymns that has been the soundtrack that plays over my head in this life I live with Christ. Even the words in their titles are already powerful. And should we start talking about the history of these hymns? There’s a vast array of stories that only heaven is big enough to accommodate.

My favorite heartbreak song is “It is well with my soul”. That, and “Farther Along”. And I am only 32. Haha!

Everyone in our family enjoys singing hymns and familiar gospel songs. And no, we don’t wear long skirts. And each one of us has a ‘chipped edge’ he is not proud of. We are so not the "holy, holy -type".

When I was in high school, one of our projects was to cook Palitao in our Home Economics class. My group mates and I were sitting around the kalan waiting for the dough we dropped in the boiling water to float. A few minutes passed and the palitao still did not float. We were so scared that we will fail at this attempt and face the wrath of our teacher. (Those who have been in Mrs. Ascura’s class know what I mean. Hello Maam! ) We were helpless but not hopeless. Then my classmate and I started singing “God will make a Way.” A couple of minutes later, the dough started to surface in the boiling water. I am sure it wasn’t the song that made it float. (I found out later it takes a few minutes and a certain temp for the Palitao to be cooked). But we countered our seemingly defeated spirits with words from a song in church that summed up our hopes. Thinking about that incident makes me laugh. Faith over palitao doesn’t sound so monumental as compared to Moses’ facing the red sea. But for me, it was.

In May, I attended the Global Discipleship Congress in Manila at the new facility of CCF. We had over 7 thousand people in the auditorium. People from different countries, denominations, discipleship programs, modes of worship...and yes, choice of songs. During singing, many noticed that the building was swaying. Especially if a familiar song comes up on the playlist. (And we were told the swaying was normal…hehe). On the 2nd day, when the youth praise team came up, the sound system broke down before they could even start. The technical glitch took a few minutes to fix. While everyone was blankly waiting, an instrumental version of the song “I love you Lord” was faintly playing in the background. It didn’t take long before the whole congregation started singing the words to it. And an even more beautiful thing happened. The music died. The whole auditorium was turned into a giant acapella choir. All 7,000 of us…singing one song. Without lyrics on the overhead. In tears. Spontaneous. No worship leaders, just worshipful hearts. It was a glimpse of heaven.

I work (and live) in a Bible school and so I hear these new worship songs night and day. They have become familiar to me. I can sing them if they are played in church. I am glad in my church we still sing familiar songs. But whenever I attend churches who have eliminated hymns, my heart would break for the old people. They, who have seen God’s mercies longer than we, the younger generation have, are not given the opportunity to declare it. Their hairs have turned gray from watching the church’s seasons turn. And they are still there because they have anchored their faith in a timeless God. And maybe, they wish to sing timeless songs too.

Last year, my friend and I attended the dedication of our common friend’s daughter. When he saw that the opening song in the liturgy is “To God be the Glory”, his face lit up and proudly told his partner “I know this song!” He sang with all gusto as if the words were coming out from his heart. After which, he turned to me and said, “I missed going to church.”

I saw right there the power of singing together as a body of Christ. Congregational singing is supposed to connect us, not alienate us.

Again, I am not against contemporary music in church. I am against singing it when only a few know the songs. And it’s not hard to tell when that happens.

Have I hit a nerve? Or you think I am just getting
 old? Haha!

Disclaimer: i believe worship is more than just singing. But that would be for a totally different post. Hehe

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stories Will Never Be Silenced

You made me flee Egypt
In search of a promise
Away from slavery
Away from fear
But with me now are tears

Away from comfort
Living with doubt
Walking on scorching drought

The army behind me
The sea before me
Oh, may the fires consume me

But then you said
“Stretch out your hand”
Since then
My stories never go silent


You gave me words
When my lips quivered
Away from innocence
Embracing harbour
You coated me with favour

Away from suppression
But living with depression
My dreams in suspension

My wounds behind me
The famine before me
Oh, may the cries deafen me

But then you said
“Stretch out your hand”
Since then
My stories never go silent 


You called me by name
I followed you
Away from hunger
Away from danger
Each moment in sweetness savoured

Away from the shore
Into the sea
The waves are suddenly bigger than me

The waters behind me
The storm before me
Oh, may the wind take me

But then
YOU stretched out your hand
And so
My stories will never be silenced.


 Written: August 19, 2009, Venus Speaks

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Waking Up to Walk

I am oversized. Classified Obese 1 by health standards. At least, that’s where I fell on the scale 5 years ago. I don’t know now. But the fact is, I am over weight. I am not only talking about how my culture typifies me. I am talking about fact.

I have struggled pushed the weight issue aside thinking that as long as I look good, I am ok. People around me have witnessed how I did crash diets. Every time I was on one, I got mocked. I even tried Beyonce’s famous “Master Cleanse”. Two days into it, I vowed it was the most doable weightloss plan. On the fourth day, I woke up nauseated. I vomited and almost passed out. When my father found out what happened, he ordered commanded that I immediately “stop this nonsense”.

I tried working out. I went to the gym. I tried zumba. I tried Tae Bo. I tried walking miles. I tried jogging. Consistency was my problem.

I tried skipping dinner. Bad, bad choice! Who am I kidding? I always had excuses to NOT skip dinner. “I had a long day.” “I will have a long night.” “I am stressed out.” “I am happy I should celebrate.” “I am sad.”

So my weight story was, “I lose some, I gain some.”

Until last year, when I started making an effort not to lose weight but to live healthy. In September, I tried taking Coke off my diet. I was a “this-goes-well-with-Coke” eater. And so, the first seven days without it was a monumental victory. Then I thought how proud of myself I could be if I can make it till the end of September. By the end of September, I challenged myself to a coke fast until the end of 2012. By the end of the year, I was Coke-free. And then, just when I was about to resume my Coke life, I thought if I can do it for one straight year, then I can have one more achievement on my wall of discipline. To date, by the amazing grace of God, I have not had coke and I am losing the desire for it.  I  still have to completely eradicate “Royal Tru Orange” from my body though.

Yesterday, I read a blog by Rica Peralejo- Bonifacio on how she became a vegetarian. She also gave links to some websites that helped her in the process. I was challenged again, not to lose weight but to live a healthier lifestyle. Meat and rice is 80% of my daily diet. I have decided that I will try taking red meat and pork off my diet for the whole month of February.

Having just declared that to you, my stomach churns with fear that I may not be able to sustain it. I  just buy food from the cafeteria so I don’t really know how this will work for me. But I have already written down some options. I know that this looks like a small feat but God knows how this is going to be hard for me. And so, I asked Him to help me do it. And one more thing, I am allergic to poultry and seafood so that leaves me with lesser options. I am hopeful though that this diet will help me cure of those allergies.

I have also began taking rounds at the stadium every morning. Two weeks ago, my friends and I decided that we should start working out. And so, every morning, at 4.30, we jump out of the bed and drive to the stadium. Morning walks are awesome!

Today, the shy sun was peeking while the full moon was still in view. What a beautiful, beautiful world, this is! 

This leads me to the account of Jesus when He healed the lame man by the pool of Bethsaida. He was there waiting because no one would push him to the pool when the angel stirred it. Then Jesus told him, "Stand up, take up your mat, and walk!"

And so, I wake up, I'm folding my long mats of excuses, and I am walking into a healthier lifestyle. 
Me and one of my walking buddies (my favorite among them.hehe!).
Sshhhhhhh! I hope he doesn't find out that this photo is posted online.
This was taken by one of the students walking behind us one night while
taking a stroll in CPU.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A 'Mary' Moment

Hopeful  Anticipation.  Two words that met my 2013.  

Over the holidays, I pondered upon how Mary, the mother of Jesus, went about everything – from hearing Gabriel’s news to running off to Egypt to escape from Herod. In all the accounts of the birth of Jesus, Mary didn’t say much except when she asked the angel how it was all going to take place -
Luke 1:34  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”.
That, her reply to the angel, and her beautiful short song. Very few speaking lines for a very important character, I must say!

If I was Mary, half of Luke would only  be just about my argument with the angel. No wonder Mary was called “highly favored”. She had a quiet spirit full of faith. She received the task without much question. She believed the ‘Word’ even if it was beyond her imagination.

On January 1st, I left my parents house (despite my mother’s insistent declaration that the holidays are NOT YET over) and went back to my ‘cocoon’. For many years now, it has become my practice to commit the first day of each year to prayer and fasting. It is amazing how much my wonder of God grows when I list down what He has done for me the past year. This year, I made a list again that led me to a “Mary Moment” –
 Luke 2:19 “ …Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
 I don’t know what is ahead of me in 2013, the same way that I never guessed what God  did for me in 2012. But, as my list testified, He has something for me that is way beyond my imagination. I pray for a quiet spirit of faith as I wait in hopeful anticipation.

Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Picking up one of the kids during our Christmas Outreach Party
  Have A Hopeful 2013!!!