If God be with us

Never give up. You only get one life. Go for it. -Richard Grant

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The truth is we have only one life to live. But there is not one way to live a life. We make our choices because we have a God-given free will. And yes we have free will but we will still be accountable for how we use it. This year 2017 as it almost closes, a good reflection would be how did we use our free will?

With this said, I don’t mean to add up another weighty toll to reminisce the days passed in this year. Sometimes we don’t take time to reflect because we would have not wanted to remember our failures, troubles and heartaches in a year. But that would not be fair  because if we have to really recount everything, there would have been more blessings than we have noticed, only when we really intend to take time and be thankful in all circumstance.

My Christmas holidays did not go as planned and the same actually happened to my whole year. This year I switch to a different company, job and home address. A big bulk of stress went along with it as goes with the changes in environment, culture and people I interact with. Add to that expectations that were not met, plans which did not happen, and desired dreams remain unfulfilled. I was enthusiastic to finally plan my Christmas holidays together with my family in my home island. Then a typhoon buffeted the island which left me stranded and unimpressed I even got sick with a flu. On Christmas eve, there was no awesome laughter nor sumptuous Noche Buena but just me struggling to breathe fighting fever and flu in the company of another family who adopted and welcomed me in a way to spend Christmas with. The Christmas morn came and I felt cold while my body temperature was shooting up. Away from own family and home, I felt my struggle was endless and I was forsaken.

Finding will and courage, I hanged on and prayed and I overcame the fever. I saw the sun came up the day after Christmas and as I walked by the beach looking for my full recovery, I saw many starfish that I could brush up again poetry… ” Some stars twinkle up in the night sky, some stars sparkle on top of Christmas trees, but some stars I found with my head bowed down, lay quiet in the sea…”

It was not the Christmas nor the year 2017, I could have wanted but nevertheless, God remain faithful because He is Immanuel. “IMMANUEL” in Isaiah 7:14, means God is with us. Good to know such truth wherever we spend Christmas holidays, whoever we spend it with and whatever we have. Nothing else matters but all that matters is Immanuel! And if our God is with us, what can stand against us…
And if our God is with us, what else matters…
To Alpha and Omega, To God be the Glory this 2017. Amen.

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What I learned from always moving

Happiness doesn’t have one address. -Anonymous

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Yes I moved again. After I move more than 10 times in the same city I lived for also more than a decade, I stopped counting already. As I stay longer in a place, it is usual to accumulate stuff through the years. Moving could have not been that challenging for me if I live in a luggage or if perhaps I am a turtle who carry her house all the time so I will be perpetually at home wherever.

I don’t quite comprehend it yet why I always desire to move. I move houses in an average of 1.5 years. Even that is stressful, tasking and expensive. It is not easy to pack and unpack boxes and luggage as I move. But the hype I receive when my environment changes or when I change my environment…

I don’t want to discuss further why I always move. I usually just rent a place for residence even I could get a house and stay in one address. I just learned to accept that those moving decisions are mine and I am responsible for those. I release anxieties or wishes of getting stable  in a place because it did not yet arrive with me (alright time will come when I settle down). Meantime, renting and moving is happening in my life and I have no regrets about it. One of the principles I live by is having as much as no-regrets in life. Somebody said, “If you want you can change address anytime, you are not stuck, you are not a tree.” Well I thought even now trees can be uprooted and replanted in different addresses, what is keeping you stuck? Maybe I’m just a typical wandering millennial but moving is primeval as Abraham’s time.

During challenging times when I’m moving I often remember Abraham. You know “Father Abraham”? In Genesis 12 of the Bible, he was this man called by God to  go to a place and he obeyed in faith without knowing for certain where and what to do. But one thing is certain Abraham will be a blessing and he is moving according to God’s plan, purposes and glory. The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”Genesis 12:1-3 Similarly, I hold onto the same promise. I don’t move for no reason of course. I moved for reasons such as to be closer to my workplace, to avoid traffic and commute, to have a safer place, to have a more homey surrounding, to avoid conflict with unjust landlord, to get over a heartbreak, to heal from trauma of burglary, to have an affordable rent, change of environment and many more. Over all, the thrusting reason to move I believe is part of God’s plan. And I am made capable by God’s help, so I move.

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In reflection, here are some lessons about moving I am packed with:
1. Decide from the start to make the place you’re moving in to becoming better than when you found it.
2. You can’t have a perfect place. You just gotta make it work and live with setbacks. That is called living out of comfort zone.
3. You can change and cultivate the environment you move into. People come and go and so does… you. Be a blessing wherever.
4. Some things have to go away. Some things you gotta let go to travel light. No one can keep it all. Everybody came to earth naked as a baby even the baby King Jesus.
5. True friends and family help you move especially when you are boyfriend-less or got a distant one. By then you know who are your true friends and family.
6. Be always thankful for the roof over your head and bed you can sleep on at night.
7. Home is always where your heart is.

There ought to be more added to the list. Perhaps when I move again but not so soon yet. But I mean who knows? For now, I’m thankful where I am, where the Lord brings me and because it is Thanksgiving month! 🙂

 

Mere Outward Appearance

“Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.”
― Emma Goldman

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Do you know that feeling when you bump into somebody you know like an old high school friend and then they make comments seemingly interested in your life but remarked more on their own judging expectations of you? Few days ago, I just did ran into two former high school classmates from a girls high we both went in my childhood hometown. It was such a surprise to cross path and noticed them in a big mall of a metropolitan city where I’m now residing. Of course, we are glad to have an unplanned meeting of each other. The conversations were typical girl talk and gleeful until it went more personal. The other girl was actually pregnant and yeah from another guy in our hometown. We are now in our 30s (although many believe I look younger since I’m kinda petite). The pregnant one said the most important thing for her is that she is soon having her desired baby. The other one is also married.

And then when they asked if I too am married. I replied not yet. As I often hear it, the resounding… “Why?”  which almost sounds as if I have been charged guilty of a crime. Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question. I always desired to be married and have children too. Most women do. According to author Kevin De Young, “The question to marry is not for women but for men”. It was not the only time, I was asked this resounding question. It is always. Then their hypotheses come flooding like maybe…”you are too picky, maybe you are stalling,  intimidating, you are too brainy, you are a snob, maybe you have high standards, maybe you entertain wrong guys, maybe you are self-centered, selfish, bitchy or worst maybe you like girls?” Do they even realize they almost stabbed me to hemorrhage with these judgments. (I mean these presumptions also do not come from women only but also from some men I know. God protects my heart! )

Along our conversations, I mentioned that I was taking a higher degree. They really looked at me concerned that a man might find me more intimidating now that I just took it a notch higher, he might not be able to level up with me. Well, I am almost to faint like a computer hanging up in confused error at their remarks. I couldn’t see the problem there because in the first place I don’t think that way they think. I know it in my culture, women to be low-profile are preferred. And I’m not the type. I’m not saying I’m high-profile. I’m just more out of profile box or better yet not boxed at all. Who said there should be a box?!

I always believe in marriage and even yet in choosing a partner for marriage is not 50-50 or a better-half thing. It is for me a 100-100. I always believe that I should give my best self to my partner and he gives his best self to me. Note that best is not perfection. It is not about a degree, or the looks, the bank account or the attitude but the best and more of these truly to the heart. I mean if my refrigerator is loaded with good and healthy foods why would I accept an offer of crap spoiled unhealthy pizza from a guy. I’d go for a guy who shares me also good and healthy foods, shouldn’t I? I believe our authentic pursuit to be the best will draw and attract also the best for us especially if we keep our heart diligently. So let  no one cut in a rather backward thought.

When Samuel looked for God’s anointed, all of Jesse’s son in ideal stature to be king were brought to Samuel, but they are not the ones the Lord has chosen. 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The chosen one to be king was David.

The bottom line for this post is to give a reminder to all not to give unsolicited judgments by looking at merely outward appearance. For most, the heart of the matter is the heart; what’s inside more than what is outside. I would like to borrow this beautiful statement from a wonderful man like Nick Vujicic, the man without arms and legs said in his speech one time, “Some men can hold their women’s hand but never her heart. I might not be able to hold my woman’s hand but I will always hold her heart”.

I perceive this article is becoming lengthy as I finally face and air out my views on this topic of prejudice on a woman’s status and marriage so hang on til my next post as sequel. 🙂

 

 

No Blame Game

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

IMG_4468web1Sometimes when I flip the pages of a newspaper and passes by a corner about Horoscope, I wonder what is the need for such that people will have to consult the signs of the day according to stars alignment to say something about how they live life? Frankly, I’m not a believer of any horoscope stuff. Although sometimes perceptive, I find the predictions very general and eventual such that as people think about it, they might just connect or believe it and then it happens almost eventually. Nah, I’m not talking about horoscope or astrology here but actually more about self-responsibility or no blame game.

We don’t notice it too often but as humans we have the tendency to make decisions but we would not feel necessarily responsible of. When we are confronted with  decisions the moment we wake up and through the unfolding of the day, some of us seem to have the blame somewhere else-
because we woke up at the wrong side of the bed,
we did not have enough sleep last night,
it was the weather, the horoscope, the traffic, for women PMS,
the grumpy fastfood cashier, your nagging mom, your bitchy colleague at work,
because of the company, the economy, the president, the vice-president,
because you are stuck with your ex for like a thousand years’ sake,
because of poverty, because you are helpless… blah and etcetera,
all these excuses and blaming.

Who are we fooling here? What can we achieve if we play the blame game? If we want to change the world around us but cannot change within ourselves, how can we ever change the world around us? James 1:23-24 of the bible says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.…”
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The reflection here is that there are things that happen beyond our control but we are not also held responsible for those. The sun shines at the day and the moon by night, we are not held responsible by that. We are all equally given 24 hours a day, we cannot ask for more or less hours, but we are responsible for the given 24 hours. After autumn comes winter, spring, summer then it goes on and on for millennium. It is how we face the seasons which matters. Because some things were already set-up before we came to this planet.

Indeed it is not so much of what happens to us but what we do with what happens to us. No more blame game. I will take responsibility:
To go after my dreams,
build my plans,
fulfill my mission,
smile at the world even if it does not smile back,
to love more,
to forgive first,
and to ask God to grant me serenity to accept things I cannot change and
courage to change the things I can.

Quit playing blame game.

Promise.Plan.Prayer.

Love Him totally who gave Himself totally for your love. -Clare of Assisi

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“I’ve heard a tale that a man would climb a mountain just to be with the woman he loves, I’ve heard a tale that a man would swim an ocean just to be with the woman he loves…” These are just lines of the song from Third Day entitled Love Song stating about how a man tries to show the strength of his love to a woman. And well we know more- from the cheesy lines and pick up lines of men just to get a woman’s attention up to her devotion… “I’ll catch the stars for you and give you the moon…for you I will… etcetera” How women love to believe exaggeration. But are promises made to be broken?! And what could be worst damage to a woman’s heart than a man’s ‘lead-on’ by awakening love and yet delivering no promises at all, nor a plan and neither a prayer.

Going back to the two lines of the song from above, it actually continued with a nice refrain which goes, “Well, I’ve never climbed a mountain but I walk the hills of Calvary, I’ve never crossed the ocean but I walk upon the raging seas… Just to be with you, I’d do anything, I would give My life away…” And the first person in the song “I” did, referring to Jesus.

Much like and even more than a man who courts or proposes to a woman he loves- he gives a promise, he makes a plan to deliver the promise and he works out his faith praying the promise and the plan will come true. How difficult it is for a woman not to take a man with a promise, a plan and a prayer. Yet even before all of these gestures from a man and woman began. God exemplified it first. In Genesis, the first man and woman fell into sin, they were separated from Holy God because of sin and the wages of sin is death. Both then experienced spiritual death (cut fellowship with God) and physical death (the decay of their flesh and end of breath) which carried on to their generations. Who can save a wretched man? God because God is love. He made a promise, a plan and a prayer.

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But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” -Romans 5:8 Through the course of the Old Testament, God (YHWH) have always mentioned of redeeming His chosen people Israel. Find it in the Scriptures from prophets of old pointing to a common thread prophecy of coming Messiah Savior. God made a promise starting with Abraham being the “father of many nations”. The promise had an outstanding plan. From Isaac, son of promise for Abraham, to the genealogy of King David, a Savior is born in Bethlehem by a virgin birth. And He was known as Jesus; He preached the good news of God’s Kingdom. And He prayed the hardest prayer ever uttered unto God by His own begotten Son… Matthew 26:39, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And so happened the plan and the promise was delivered, Jesus died a sinner’s death by crucifixion yet He is without sin, to repay all mankind’s sin. And then He rose on the third day overcoming death. And He is now resurrected seated at the Father’s right hand and His love continues. Now, He left us with a promise that He is coming again… Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.

And so this story goes on and on because God is loving and man is failing, there will always be a promise, a plan and a prayer. How man (and woman too) can learn from this “3Ps” -Promise, Plan and Prayer, if only very well…

 

Evidence of things not seen

“Believe in your beliefs and doubt your doubts. Do not make the mistake of believing your doubts and doubting your beliefs.” -Anonymous

IMG_4678edAre you familiar with this verse? Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.” I encountered this verse for the first time when I was a teenager and was trying to figure out reading the Bible. The concepts: “substance of things hoped for” and “evidence of things not seen” sound so abstract or gaseous striking me with a challenge to explore these as I grow in faith.

But having faith does not mean it will come so easily. As to what faith really means, I have learned that we acquaint ourselves in it as we go through life. There will be tests, trials and temptations that will buffet us and expose our faith to us. So much has been written explaining what is faith but I guess we cannot definitively exhaust explanation for faith. So much that in the first place faith suggested by its definition is somewhat there but not yet. Through the lessons I’ve learned so far in life about faith, I try to capture what it is not in 5 points and then direct it to what I found the Bible states it is.

1. Faith is not positive thinking. Faith is allowing the word of God to affirm, guide or correct what you believe in. Romans 10:17, “ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
2. Faith is not praying your worries. Faith is praying with thanksgiving as illustrated in Philippians 4:7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
3. Faith is not “to see is to believe”. Faith is “believing therefore seeing”. John 20:29, Then Jesus told him (Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
4. Faith is not religion. Faith is believing in The One who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22-23 states,  “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold resolutely to the hope we confess, for He who promised is faithful. While Religion is defined in James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
5. Faith is not a feeling. Faith is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9, 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.”
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In Matthew 21:21-22 was written, Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Indeed faith does not make things easy but it makes things possible. The challenge and possibility do increase as we live by faith and keep the faith.

 

Silence Please

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams

For few days, I went together with a group to a quiet mountain place at the outskirts of the city. The goal is to be quiet and spend time in silence. In a fast paced motion of a lifestyle we live in the city, silent retreats are intentional so don’t find it weird. No, we are not attempting to become monks or nuns. Just to do a retreat and spend time in silence in a place like a monastery. Okay, so silence was the goal. I can’t speak for the whole experience of the group but I can share a bit about my personal experience here.

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At first I thought, spending time in silence would be fine and easy and maybe boring. Since I’ve already lived alone in the city by my apartment, silence sounds familiar. When I arrived in my own solo room accommodation at the monastery, I just loved the quiet. So I slumped my bag in, took my packed stuff out throw those in the closet and mounted my books and camera on a table. I thought this quiet room would be my nest and I’d be quiet. I fell into my bed, closed my eyes… and I tried to  propped well my pillow. Took a deep breath. I felt warm so I rose up to put on the electric fan. Fell back into bed, closed my eyes… and my thoughts flew back to… what I did this morning, what we talked about in the car coming to this place, what is gonna be there for lunch? And I said to myself, “Shut up! I want to be silent and maybe sleep please”. I thought a bit of music might help  disentangle my issues in mind so I put on a soft instrumental music til I was half-asleep. The bell rang for lunch. We ate quietly in a group then again went back to spend time again in silence and solitude.

Day after day, we did this. If you are anything like me, firstly, a woman and an extrovert although I don’t have really high extraversion (by personality gauge I’m 60% extrovert and 40% introvert), there is still a real struggle to be quiet in my heart, in mind and in acts or movements. If I don’t talk, I always seemed to make noises: I forgot to close a door gently or pull a chair quietly, I always grabbed a book to read when I can’t quiet my thoughts, or my journal, or a guitar… to the point that when I avoided to do these, I found myself in the pantry stirring and jingling sounds as I make a cup of tea. When I come across other fellows in the monastery hall also trying to be quiet, I try not to chuckle when I think inside of asking them how is this silence thing going on. Outside in the garden, I try to really be quiet, but as I see a lot of things around me, I just make reflections of my observations in the sky, on the soil, and I try to talk God. Oh, please God, can I really be silent? Silence. God was silent.

“God is silent. Now if only man would shut up.” ― Woody Allen

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The three days in silence was not without a struggle for me but was really beneficial to learn few important things that one might experience in a silent kind of retreat:
1. It takes some hours or days to actually put your whole being into a silent mode.
2. Your physical body is the first that might want to be at rest and become quiet. After day 1, my body starts to slow down and become restful because I always just wanted to sleep and sleep. I slept almost 24 hours in Day 2 only rising to bath and eat briefly.
3. After your physical body is rested, your thoughts might be the next to calm down. Your bugging thoughts about the past dissolves and anxious thoughts  about the future puffed out. Your thoughts are with you in the present. And this is what I enjoyed the most.
4. It is okay to be quiet with God and to be okay that God is quiet.
5. Silence could be passive but powerful as it makes you focused and strengthened.
6. Silence is beautiful. It gives an opportunity for beauty to surface without words.
7. Silence is intimate. When two people are in love and in an intimate relationship, sometimes words don’t even matter and silence is enough when you are together. Never did I felt love when I know God is there with me. No words but just The Word, Himself.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

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The whole group I was with was glad when the silent days were lifted and we could once again normally talk and fellowship with one another. As human beings it is an integral part of us to talk, share and converse with one another but as we also take time to be silent, we appreciate even more our common sharing and focused thoughts. Just like a good music has always an interval of silence symbolized by a rest note, a psalm with a selah or a pause, and so it is also good for us have intentional silence once in a while in our thoughts, words and deeds.

“We sit and talk,
quietly, with long lapses of silence
and I am aware of the stream
that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of
your eyes
which has no speech”
― William Carlos Williams poetry

Have you ever tried or thought of trying to spend time in an intentional silence like this? I’m interested to know about your experience or expectations. Please share in the comments below 🙂