Don’t Follow Your Heart; Guard It!

June 17, 2015.

About 8 AM after I finished my daily quiet time and Bible meditation, I opened my planner and took out my pen. Instinctively, I began writing bullet points of the activities I planned on accomplishing that day. Cook lunch. Exercise. Cook dinner. Short prayer time. BLOG! Clean Mom’s bathroom. And a bunch of other activities. Activities I needed to do and ought to do; activities that honored my parents because I’m helping in the house; and above all, activities that gave me opportunities to glorify God with what I can.

When I got out of my room and went downstairs, my phone instantly connected to our home WiFi. (The WiFi range does not reach my room because the level where my room is is too high) Immediately, the notifications from my social media apps appeared: Facebook! Twitter! Instagram! Viber! Messenger! Instantly my mind forsook the plans I wrote and instinctively opened one app after another.

An hour later, I remembered I had to do even more important activities. I reluctantly put down my phone and hurriedly attended to my chores. However, when I heard my phone ring, I opened it to see the notifications. By the end of the day, I only ended up ticking three boxes of the 10 on my to-do list. As this practice turned into a habit, my activities turned into vain attempts at planning. I grew discouraged. At one point, I decided to just do whatever I felt like doing, since planning didn’t seem to work out for me. So I ditched my daily planning and went with the flow, doing whatever I felt like doing. At the end of each aimless day, I felt so discouraged and emotionally unstable.

Can you relate with what I went through? Perhaps you may not struggle with incontinent social media surfing as I do, but in other areas, you ditch self-control and do as you please, and realize you’re worse off than before. You watch a lot of TV even if you have so much work in your hands because you feel so drained from work. You know your body needs to be fit and healthy, but everyday you always feel the need to eat more than what is needed, or buy a tub of ice cream. You know you’re supposed to be kind to this person, but there is no emotional fiber of compassion in you for him or her, so you continually resist and respond in harshness. Whatever you struggle with, oftentimes it’s a result of misguided feelings. I feel you. Therein lies our problem. We feel so much, we forget how to think. We fully embrace one of this world’s defining philosophies: follow your heart.

I grew up watching movies and TV shows and listening to music that promotes this philosophy. Scripts and lyrics have a way of twisting reality in such a way that ‘following your heart’ looks desirable and worth doing. Disobey your parents so you can be with the girl/guy of your dreams? Go for it! Ditch school so that you can be a superstar? Sounds great! Party all night till you get drunk? Yaaasss all the way! I put these situations crudely, but I’m sure you can name several, even dozens, of songs, shows, and films that have these themes. Unfortunately for us who are exposed to it, our minds and worldviews are shaped by them, even in small doses. For us Christians, these doses, no matter how small, will weaken our desire to serve God wholeheartedly, Whose view of the heart is totally opposite.

To God, the heart is “deceitful above all things, and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphases added). Our “hearts are full of evil,” and they are filled with insanity all our lives! (Ecclesiastes 9:3b, emphasis added) What comes out of our hearts are pure evil, according to the Lord Jesus: “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19, emphasis added)

If our hearts are deceitful above all things, desperately sick, and pure evil, why do we follow them so relentlessly?

Because when we follow our hearts, we serve ourselves. When we do what we want, at our time and our pace regardless of what others think and what God thinks, ultimately, we rob God of the glory that is due Him. Deep down, we desire our glory. Our comfort. Our happiness. The “follow-your-heart” philosophy that has pervaded our culture and society has produced a generation of self-serving, #selfieish individuals. Because we insist our own way, we pursue whatever makes us feel good, sometimes neglecting morality, leading us to following another fatal philosophy: hedonism.

Sadly, many Christians are guilty of this–including myself.

How many times have we said “I felt God called me to do this” to excuse our behavior and rationalize sin? God never called us to “feel” His will; He called us to know it, study it, discover it through His Word, and by walking in the Spirit. Being Spirit-filled is the Christian’s defense against the world’s follow-your-heart philosophy. When we are Spirit-filled, we obey God according to the rules He set out for us. Through the reading, meditation, and study of His Word, we discover what makes Him smile and what makes Him mad, and how we should live our lives. Even this is difficult for us sometimes, because we’re so used to following what we want to do and as a result, we loathe rules. We see rules as burdens to carry instead of channels of blessings. I know I do, until I learned the heart of God. God loves me, and He seeks after my good. He will never tell me to do anything that will harm me. Sure, some of the things He lets me do are uncomfortable (and in the future, some might even be dangerous), but He tells me not to fear because life on this planet is temporary. What I do here for Him reaps a hundredfold blessings for me in the life to come–which is eternal! So why should I worry?

I confess that the primary reason I failed to post here and share what God has been doing in my life was because I listened to my heart that told me a bunch of lies:

the timing is not perfect!

your intro sucks. Change it!

Don’t you want to see how many likes your photo on Instagram got? Stay at it. 

Feelings change, but the truth remains the same. If God calls you to do something, do it! By God’s grace, I am learning not to follow my heart, but to guard it, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs. We are commanded to “trust the LORD with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding….acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He shall direct our paths. Be not wise in our own eyes, fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We are called to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind” (Ephesians 4:23) and not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). Therein lies the practical solution: renewing the mind. I’ll talk about that in one of my upcoming posts. For now, it’s pretty clear: we are not to follow our hearts. We are to guard them–ABOVE ALL ELSE as Proverbs 4:23 said (emphasis mine). Make it your top priority. Guard it as if you were the Louvre Museum protecting Mona Lisa from thieves and robbers. Tighten security, otherwise, terror will strike and leave you broken.

Guarding your heart from outside influence is difficult; but don’t be discouraged, dearly beloved! We are all in this together. Our God who is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20) is faithful in keeping us faithful, so long as we keep on obeying Him. Don’t feel like doing what is right, good, and true? Do it anyway! It’s about time we regain control of our hearts. If we are to change this world for Jesus, let’s follow Him and guard our hearts with all our hearts! 🙂

Thankful For The Delay

I’m baaack, after a 5-month absence! In this post, I share my story of how and why my graduation delayed by a year, and why I’m really, really grateful for it. 🙂

Hi! Hello! MABUHAY! I’m baaaaack! 🙂

5 months of absence and complete silence is way too long. I can explain! I started my senior year (last year!) in college this June, and since it started, I have been immersed in one intense requirement after the other. Even on weekends and holidays, my classmates and I met to work on our presentations, decks (PowerPoint/Keynote presentations), paperwork, and ideas. I am grateful to Jesus and to the people who’ve helped me go through that fun, crazy, and unnerving semester. Our semestral break started two weeks ago, and in two days, I’m going back to the daily grind. Surprisingly, even with all the stress I’ve been through last semester, I can’t wait to start the second one, because I know it’s gonna fly by pretty quickly, and I’m FINALLY GRADUATING!

Speaking of graduation, did you know that I was supposed to graduate last year? If things went according to my plan, I should be finishing my master’s degree now.

However, God had another plan. This verse from the Bible never became truer in my life than in my college experience:

“The human heart plans the way,
    but the Lord directs the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) 

My plan for college was simple and pretty much laid out before I graduated high school. I would enter college in 2010, graduate in June 2014 if I don’t make the required grade for the 5th year (master’s degree) and 2015 if I did. By senior year of high school, I was decided on enrolling in UA&P (go UNITAS!) and take up IMC or Integrated Marketing Communications. The first part of my agenda went as planned: I spent my freshman year in college in UA&P and during the second semester of that year, sealed my application for my course of choice, IMC (because during that time we had to apply for our preferred specializations). However, when 2011 rolled in, the plan started crumbling.

Early 2011, my parents informed my brothers and I that we might migrate to the U.S. late that year, or at most, early 2012. This did not come as a surprise because migration plans have been existent even before I was born. A few of our relatives also planned to migrate (because our grandfather petitioned us), and one of my cousins who was of my age and also a freshman in college stopped school in order to save money for the move abroad. My parents also wanted to save money but did not want me to stop school, so they decided to enroll me in a new, more affordable university, one that was nearer our place. Trusting my parents’ wisdom, I applied for a university within Makati that had a marketing course. So by 2012, I was a college sophomore taking up Marketing Management in FEU-Makati.

The move proved to be great for me while I was in the school because I felt so relaxed! My first year in UA&P really challenged me–from enduring hour-long commutes, going through the day with only 5 hours of sleep, writing papers in the wee hours of the morning, reading ancient text of classical literature and tons of readings! On the contrary, my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was so chill. Although I had early morning and late night classes, I had a long break in-between which gave me time to go home, have lunch, work out, take an hour-long siesta and a shower afterwards. Sometimes after classes, I would meet with my family in the mall and watch a movie or have dinner. Compared to the 23 units I had to take in UA&P, the most I had to take in FEU was 19! The best part is, I instantly clicked with a group of people whom I still communicate with to this day. We were even able to hang out at my place a couple of times where we had lunch and Bible studies. I felt happy and at ease that year because I was in control.

Come 2012, when my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was about to end, God intervened once again.

It turned out we weren’t migrating anytime 2011, 2012, or even 2013. (2014 is about to end and we’re still here!) One night while I was massaging my Mom, she told me how relaxed I looked and told me to consider going back to UA&P. Although I enjoyed FEU, she knew I would do better at a place that challenged me because I like taking on challenges, besetting as they may be. Besides, I really liked IMC. I told her I’ll think about it. I prayed about it earnestly and asked God where He wanted me to go. Although I was going to miss my new-found friends and the nearness of the campus, I knew God was calling me back to UA&P. Trusting that He knew best, I enrolled in UA&P again, excited to take my junior year in college.

Thankfully, some of the units I took in FEU-Makati were credited in UA&P. However, the units were not enough to compensate for the other subjects I missed during my sophomore year in FEU-Makati. I got the worst news of my life in 2012 when the registrar told me that I was officially enrolled in UA&P as a sophomore, not a junior. In other words, I was automatically delayed a year. I felt dismayed as I saw my perfect plan crumble. And if that wasn’t enough, my former block mates (who moved up to junior year the same year I got back), were not my block mates any more, which meant that my new batch mates were total strangers to me. I was an irregular student with no definite block and no set of friends to hang out with on a regular basis.

For the first time in my college experience, I felt lonely. Really lonely.

Although I still met with a few of my former blockmates, I knew practically no one in most of my classes. During my breaks, I ate alone, read in the library, or had my quiet time in the chapel. I made new friends along the way, but most of them alreay had their own groups and cliques, and I was too timid to make myself a part of them unless I was invited. I went home immediately after my last class, and sometimes, when I got home, I cried a bit (okay, sometimes a lot haha) because I felt so alone. I wanted a more solid group of friends in school. At night, I cried some more and complained to God about His perfect plan. Why did He allow me to go through this? What did I do wrong that made Him think of delaying my graduation by a year? God never answered my questions directly; He only reassured me of His goodness and His wisdom and invited me to trust Him completely. Although it was hard to trust Him completely at first, I found myself doing so, because I knew there was no other good apart from Him. Besides, I wasn’t alone; He was with me! My motto for my sophomore and most of my junior year was: Lonely, but not alone. My relationship with Jesus and my appreciation of His presence deepened and solidified during this period of loneliness. If it weren’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have gotten so close to Him.

When junior year rolled in, I felt eager and nervous because, for the first time, in over a year, I would be part of a block! That year, I was no longer an irregular student, so I felt more at home in the university. I remember entering the room of my first majors subject for the first time and meeting my block, SDL, for the very first time. I saw some classmates from my other subjects, but none that I could really call a friend. I felt insecure at first because they seemed to be pretty close. For the next few weeks, I prayed intensely to God that I would fit in and make new friends, and hoped that they would like me. That year, God has been teaching me to assert myself correctly by intentionally befriending my block mates and gaining their trust. In return, they made me feel welcome and entertained my responses to them. By the end of my junior year, I felt even more at home not only in UA&P, but with my new block. By God’s grace, He also allowed me to meet and be good friends with people from my other classes, and those who also went to my church, CCF. I wasn’t humanly alone, after all. 🙂

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After junior year, I thanked God for blessing me with new friends and the feeling of home in UA&P.  I thought to myself, “I’m okay now; not totally ecstatic, but better.”  Once again, God had other plans. He didn’t want me to just be okay; He wanted me to be joyful. JOY is a word of abundance, and abundance is God’s currency. I spent this currency in massive amounts during the first semester of my senior year.

The subjects I had with my batch mates really challenged us think creatively and strategically within a very short amount of time. Almost weekly we had a presentation, which meant that we had to come up with the deck (the PowerPoint/Keynote slides) and rehearse our lines and content. In our subject called Business Process, our batch was tasked to raise a minimum of Php 400,000 in four weeks for a young boy with ALL or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Our class of about 80 students was divided into two teams, product and event, each with a project that should raise at least Php 200,000 so that the combined effort would reach 400K. I belonged to the product team, and we sold shirts under the name Team Galaxy. We chose this name because we wanted to brighten the young boy’s life and his future which has been darkened by his debilitating disease. Each member of Team Galaxy was tasked to sell at least 32 shirts per week. That may seem like a small number, but believe me, it was difficult to reach, especially after the first week of operations. By God’s grace I was able to surpass my personal quota, and so did Team Galaxy as a whole! The other project, a concert called All Out!, also exceeded their quota. A lot of meetings, some arguments, mishaps, coordination, sleepless nights, computations, emails, trips to different locations, and intense contacting of people ensued in a span of three weeks just to make our projects and target a reality.

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For me the highlights of my first semester happened during the final presentations. I never won a pitch during ordinary lecture days, but by God’s grace, I won all the final pitches I was part of! God deserves all the glory because He helped me and my team mates. For one of our presentations, we revised our idea three times and came up with the winning idea the night before the deadline! For another presentation, we changed our strategy twice or thrice before we came up with the winning idea. Great things don’t come by easily, I learned; you have to work really hard for them. The feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment, along with the sweet news of victory, makes the work even more valuable. The experience not only gave me the good feels; more importantly, it molded my character and unlocked the potential I never knew I had.

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Remember what I said earlier about abundance being God’s currency? He is a generous God, and He will use you if you surrender your life to Him and commit to faithfully follow Him. I prayed to God to also use me to revive the campus movement in my school and in the Ortigas area, so that more students will get to know Him. When I re-entered UA&P in 2012, I met regularly with a good friend, Camille, and together we prayed earnestly for God to raise leaders and revive His ministry in our school. Well, guess what?

When school started this year, a number of freshmen from our church enrolled in UA&P. They were not only eager to experience the college life, but also to work together with us, the upper classmen, to impact our school for Jesus. Over the months, we prayed together and even ate together and grew more as a family. Sometime late June, Kuya Marty, the director of our youth ministry called ELEVATE, met with us regularly and told us about his plan to create a weekly youth service for students from the Ortigas area. He also assigned two beloved campus missionaries, Randy and Anita, to help, train, and pray with and for us as we begin our ministry. Around July, Kuya Marty told us that our team, the Ortigas team (because our school is located in Ortigas) will merge with ELEVATE students from The Fort to work together and start the new weekly youth service we called ELEVATE SNL (Saturday Night Live). The people I serve with in ministry have also become my new family. Not only do I see them on weekends, but I also see them in school! (What is clingy?! haha!) Last week, we attended a retreat that sealed our family-ness and God’s plan for our campuses in our hearts. (More about that retreat in the next post, so stay tuned!)

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Looking back, I can only thank God for bringing me this far and allowing the Grand Delay in my college experience. Four years went by too quickly, and now I’m about to cross the finish line! Now, I laugh when I remember my drama back in my 2nd sophomore year and how I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year old self: “Now don’t you go cryin’ over that one year delay because you don’t know what’s going to happen! It’s gonna blow your mind!” Through my experiences in college, I affirmed the reliability and veracity of God’s promises. God told me of  “great things beyond the reach of my knowledge” as He promised when I called upon Him and looked for Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He comforted me when I felt alone. What I thought was a bad plan turned out to be a successful one when I entrusted to Him my plans (Proverbs 16:3). He blessed me with good company, rich experiences, closeness to Him, and not to mention knowledge and depth of insight. Above all, He was so patient with me when I became cranky and lazy under stress. And now, He gave me the privilege of writing this beautiful story. 🙂

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Last Sunday, our pastor preached about embracing Gods’ amazing plan. As I listened, I remembered how God had worked behind the scenes as I went through college. He has been working all along even if I thought He wasn’t. Sometimes when we have to take detours, we think God is sleeping on the job or made a mistake in His plan. Our tendency is to fret and regret trusting Him. This will be our biggest mistake. If you truly are a child of God and are walking in obedience to His will, you can be certain that He will carry out His good and perfect plan for you. God’s ways are higher than ours, and higher often entails discomfort, uneasiness, and even pain. As I mentioned earlier, great things don’t come by easily. God is willing to risk our physical comfort so He can accomplish His greatest work: unique Christlikeness in each of us. He is purifying our hearts, perfecting our character, and molding our personality reflect His own.  God works, day in, day out, and He won’t stop until He finishes what He started.

If God is interrupting your plans and agenda, fret not. Keep calm and trust Him because He knows best. Embrace His amazing plan for your life! Trust Him and you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t. 🙂

Photos (c): Facebook photos of Ina Villegas, Patricia Depante, Mai Arcano and Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF Main)

Perfection-er

In my previous post, I talked about feeling quite depressed over my lack of inactivity and my feeling of uselessness, as I stayed home in most days. Turned out I was just bored and that I needed to change my perspective and attitude. God was preparing me for something bigger, better, and busier.

Last week, I started school. (I can’t believe I’m already in my senior year!) I knew that over the next ten months, I would be needing a lot of strength, wisdom, and grace because not only was I going to be busy, but I was going to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. Thus, on the eve of my first day of school, I posted a status on my Facebook account:

statusI didn’t realize these verses would be applied immediately, on the first week of school! God immediately granted my desire for useful activity, and oh, how much responsibilities He gave me! Firstly, the requirements for my majors (which comprise all of my subjects this semester) required intense, long hours of reading, reading, reading, reading…did I mention reading? Secondly, God revived His movement in my campus and specifically told me to be part of its core team when our youth pastor, Kuya Marty, told me to contact everyone and set a meeting. Then a friend of mine from a department in our youth ministry, ELEVATE, informed me that both of us were made admins of the host team. Add to that my commitment to meet two girls in school for Bible study, plus my own Dgroup upline (i.e., the group I attend for my personal “spiritual feeding and nourishment”), blogging, and Sunday School ministry. My hands and my plate were (at least from my point of view) overflowing with tasks!

At first I feared taking all these responsibilities (and until now I’m still praying and asking God if He can, if He will, put some on hold) because I feared not being able to juggle all of these with the growing demand in school, which was my primary ministry. Earlier this afternoon in our school chapel, this fear of incompetence and failure gnawed at me again. After my last class, I headed to the chapel to pray and have my quiet time because I wasn’t able to do so in the morning. I started thanking God about the fun day I had, and then I proceeded to the more serious stuff that really bothered me: the growing responsibilities and my fear that I would fail to deliver excellently. I reminded Him that I was bad at fulfilling my commitments, that I don’t want to fail Him and the people who were counting on me. I also told Him about my confusion about how to balance all these things and to deal with my insecurities (which still bother me)–my bad skin, increasing weight, baggy eyes even if I sleep early–and my unanswered questions about Him. In short, I was confused, disorganized, and fearful–all the things I utterly despise and do my best to escape from! As I dwelt on these negative things (a bad, bad idea), I started to cry. First in the volume of cologne sprays. Then a 500-liter water bottle. Then faucets. Inside the silent, public chapel. That’s when God, in His love and mercy, began conversing with me in my mind. I started it when I prayed, silently:

“Man, why did I even stay here? Why do I have to cry here? It’s so embarrassing…..Lord, You know my struggle. You know I’m bad at commitments. You know I want everything to be organized. Please guide me.”

Then amazingly, God replied.

“Honey, I want you to trust Me. I brought you here because I wanted to hug you, to let you know that I delight in you. I love you! I am delighted at you because you are walking in My will. Don’t worry! I love you, child.”

Of course, the pessimistic me did not believe, at least not completely. So God said:

“You’re here to have your quiet time, right? Okay open to Psalms, the chapter’s number is the date today.”

I said (in my mind): “Yeah, right, how am I sure I’m not just making this up and going after my feelings? Does God even do this?”

Although my question went unanswered at first, I went to Psalm 18 anyway. What I read shocked me and opened another valve in my eyes for more tears to flow. Here were some of the opening verses:

I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Verses 7-15 talked about awesome and terrifying things God did–earthquakes, consuming fire, blazing coals, darkness, hailstones–the apocalyptic sort of thing. I thought: “Seriously, God? Lord, are You…mad at me?” I wasn’t getting the idea. Not until I started reading from verse 16 all the way until the end in verse 50. Here were some of the verses that struck me:

He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;

The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

As for God, His way is blameless;

The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?

– Psalm 18:1-3,6, 16-3,25, 29-32 (emphases added)

By the end of the chapter I was lamenting. Thankfully I kept it inaudible, except for my occasional snorting, but I was relatively quiet. But wait…there’s more! God replied with an even more personal message.

“See? Of course I still speak to My children in a very personal way! You see, I am delighted in you. You are not in sin in the sense that you remain in it habitually. Honey, I know that you are very particular about the smallest details. I am, too. I like details, too. I also think they are very important. And yes, I am after perfection. But you see, I am not a perfectionist in the sense that I judge you and condemn you for your smallest mistake. I am not a perfectionist; I’m a perfection-er. I am perfecting you. I know that throughout the perfectioning process, you won’t have it all together. And that’s okay. As long as you trust Me and obey Me and fear Me (and you do, all these things), I am with you. Okay?” 🙂 

I thought the overwhelming emotion I felt was a result of the difficulty of management. I haven’t even started some of them! The real issue was that, I was afraid of making mistakes. I feared failure so much, I recoiled at the idea of having too much responsibilities and a lot people to be accountable to. God also told me that time that the key was not to avoid responsibility, but to eliminate everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me so that I can run with perseverance the race that God marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1-2). I had to remove the distractions and just focus on the main thing, and to keep it the main thing at all times. God wouldn’t have allowed me to be given these tasks or He would have told me to let them go had He not given me the strength, power, and ability to fulfill them. 🙂

I also learned that God wasn’t utterly strict in the perfectionist sense. I was. It’s unfortunate how the “don’t-sin-or-else-God-will-thunder-lightning-on-you” ideology from Greek mythology and other pagan literature still influenced me. I had an erroneous view of God. Surely God feels saddened when I sin, even the smallest one. But that doesn’t mean He is totally displeased with me that He won’t talk to me or that I should expect to be disciplined tomorrow. No matter what happens, we must always remember that God is LOVE. Everything He does stems from His love. Nothing He does is done out of hatred the way we humans hate, or apathy. Even God’s “hate” towards people is grounded on love. Especially with children who sincerely seek Him and do His will, He is ever gentle, patient, merciful, and gracious. He knows our weaknesses. That’s why He’s perfecting us, because we have deficiencies. That’s also why He’s patient, because He knows we’ve been so used to this faulty system that we think it’s normal. But, no. His perfection and His holiness should be our norm. There is no middle ground.

If you have a perfectionist tendency like mine or if you, too, feel like escaping responsibility for fear of failure, may I encourage you today to pause, take a deep breath, and know that God does not desire to condemn you? Really, He doesn’t. The process hurts but it doesn’t mean God hates you. In fact, the fact that He’s investing so much in you–disciplining, molding, mentoring, discipling, guiding, providing for you–means that He really, really, really loves you! Also, I pray that you (and I) will realize that failure is not final. Neither is success. We fail, we get back up. We succeed, we move past that, otherwise we become complacent or even recalcitrant when we’re told to move forward. C.S. Lewis put it perfectly when he wrote in his book, Beyond Personality:

“…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.”

So trust His character. It’s the only thing that remains constant in this ever-changing world. 🙂

After that drama session with God, I wiped my tears and went out of the chapel with my head held high. I may not have all the facts together nor am I relieved of the chance of failure, but I know that I am kept safe by the One Who goes before me, the One who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side! Above all, this Perfection-er of mine loves me. And really, that’s more than enough. 🙂

Reference:
Lewis, C.S. (1947). Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
New American Standard Bible (NASB). (1995). The Lockman Foundation. via BibleGateway.com.

 

Missing Out On Life?

Earlier this evening, I browsed through my Facebook news feed and saw the various activities of my friends in church and blockmates in school: attending & witnessing a prestigious awards ceremony in the media industry; going to the beach with friends; volunteering in the freshmen orientation; attending youth group (ELEVATE) meetings. After a few minutes of browsing, I signed out of Facebook and stared at my laptop screen. A thought sprang from my heart and entered my mind, and bothered my entire being:

I’m at home, doing nothing productive of that sort that my friends are doing. I’m missing out on life. 

Remembering Philippians 4:4-7, the passage I read this morning for my quiet time, I anxiously prayed: Lord, how can I share you with my friends if I’m here stuck at home? You told me to build relationships, right?

The Lord answered me, although indirectly. My gut told me to grab the Our Daily Bread journal right across me, from my Mom’s book shelf, and open it to today’s date (June 5, 2014). I opened to the correct page and searched for the passage for the day: it was 1 Timothy 4:10-16. . I took Mom’s living application Bible from the shelf and opened to 1 Timothy, but for whatever reason I read verses 7-10 which said:

“Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually and practice being a better Christian, because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too. This is the truth and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe it, for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted His salvation.”

I was  surprised by the straightforwardness of the language of this version, and for a while I was captivated by the beauty of its meaning. However, my anxiety did not go away. Again I recalled my quiet time passage this morning, Philippians 4:4-7. I opened to it from the same Bible, excited to read how the verses would be put.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (emphases added)

I was anxious and unpleasing to God, and I knew it. I put down the Bible and started praying. I told Him everything that bothered me. That nagging feeling that I was missing out on life by being stuck at home. That I feel scared I might not be as productive again in ministry in school. That His promise of the abundant life wasn’t being fulfilled in my life. I cried and prayed, and then, waited.

This time, God came to me in a rational way. He made me think. First, He asked me a question: “How do you define ‘life’?”

I knew the answer to the question, but He pressed on with more, and in the process, answered the first one.

“Is life the sum of all one’s activities and relationships built? Is life just that? Isn’t life–at least this one on earth–the training ground for your path to Christ-likeness? Isn’t real, abundant life one that lives out My good and perfect will?”

I kept quiet as the questions kept coming in  (in the form of thoughts, God talking to my mind, as if audibly, but not, because that would have been scary). “Okay, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are missing out on life. Tell Me: what is it exactly you’re missing out on? What other thing could you possibly be doing now that would have been My will for you, since that’s what you want and pray for everyday?”

I kept quiet and thought about these things. I kept silent for a while. I realized how shallow and selfish my thoughts were. However, the problem went deeper than that.  When I pinpointed the root cause of my anxiety, I cried some more. God spoke to me again.

“Your problem is, you have trust issues. You believe that if you make a mistake or don’t feel satisfied with the rate your spiritual walk is going, you are automatically removed from the path of abundance. You base your spiritual growth on activity and feelings, not on My grace, My mercy, and My love. Not on Me. You still think that I’m not doing My job of taking care of you, and so you think there must be something missing in your life. Well there is. The joy that you should have been experiencing is replaced by anxiety, because you did not trust Me enough to guide you.”

The tears kept gushing like a waterfall.

“Besides, if you’re really missing out on life, I would have told you. I just need you to trust Me and obey whatever it is that I tell you at the moment. You will be okay.”

Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re like me, thinking that you’re probably missing out on life. There will be times that you will miss out on life, and God will surely tell you about it and show you how you can get back on track. However, if you’re like me, you’re just probably bored because your parents won’t let you out of the house and you’re stuck at home browsing the Net all day and watching TV. I realized my desire was misdirected. By thinking that I was missing out on life, I was actually thinking: I was missing out on fun activities that will make me happy and less bored. In this kind of thinking, the will of God is irrelevant. Whatever makes you happy, do it. This is a product of hedonism, of which I am very much guilty.

This whole drama is a test on perspective and proper definitions. God taught me to view life as a process of temporary refinement for eternal glory. I’m just an alien here on earth. Everything God allows me to go through is intended to make me more like Him and to make others (whoever He wants me to come in contact with) know Him. Somewhere in between, abundance lies. Joy overflows. Peace envelopes the mind. I was not missing out on life because I was fulfilling the command of the Lord to obey and honor my parents who commanded me to stay home. During the past few days, I have been discovering good and bad things about myself, but mostly bad. God has been teaching me how to overcome these things, although I must admit, I am a slow learner. There are certain areas in my life I still have a difficult time obeying. After my dramatic time with God, I thanked Him for letting me stay at home and realize these things at home, before I go out to “the real world” where I probably would have suffered the consequences of my ill heart before I even knew my heart was a wreck.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that doing activities as those I mentioned earlier makes you a more noble Christian or refined person. Perhaps they do, if that is God’s will for you. One truth remains: as long as you are in the center of God’s will, you are NOT missing out on life. God never makes mistakes when He places us where we are right now. We are wherever we are for two purposes: to honor Him and to become more like Him. After a few moments of silence, I thanked God for the blessings staying at home brought me: epiphanies of truth, rest (lots of sleep!), more time to myself, and preparation for the tougher stuff in the future. God kept His promise to me right after I prayed by allowing His peace to guard my heart and my mind in Him. 🙂

Everyday, we should pray for God’s will for our lives. How He wishes to carry that out is His prerogative. Our role is to trust Him, let go of control, and obey whatever specific commands He has for us. If you fail to do these three, then you are missing out on life! God never wanted for us to live in misery. God, by default, is joyful, and He wants us to be the same. 🙂

If you’re like me, a stay-home on-break student and you share my “missing-out-0n-life” feelings, don’t despair. Chances are, like me you’re just bored. Boredom is a dangerous situation because we often resort to doing nonsensical activities to fill our time. I suggest you consider doing the following things:

  1. Read the Bible and other Christian books so that you will grow spiritually. Remember what 1 Timothy 4:7 said: Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. If you’re not a big fan of paper books, try audio books. There are also articles on the Net that can help you out, but for me, the written Word is still the best.
  2. Work out! Summer is the best time to do this because you sweat by default. Make the sweating a fun event by dancing or doing whatever sport you love! (or if you don’t have any, just dance whatever! Be a bit crazy and spontaneous)
  3. Clean the house. Even if you have househelp. It’s training for diligence, because it forces you to work. Laziness starts at home, you know.
  4. Learn a skill. I find it  unfortunate how we see the Internet only as a source of music, movies, gossip, and social media sites. It’s way much more than that! You can learn a new language, the history of the world, how to bake a cake, and even make a cool video by just clicking your way through some sites!
  5. Spend time with your loved ones. This works especially if you have siblings. Play games with them (if they’re not yet that old). Talk with them! Watch movies together. Clean the house together! (my brothers and I have been doing that the past 2 days) When you go back to school or start work, you’ll have less time to do this, so do it now!

Find out God’s will for you right now and fulfill it.Trust Him and leave all the worrying to Him. For sure, you’ll be missing out on misery and unnecessary pain, because you’re too engrossed in living the joyful, abundant, and exciting life! 🙂

 

P.S: always be grateful! ALWAYS. Too often we forget. I always do. It’s time we remember. A few photos of how my week went. Thank God for smartphones! 🙂 Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. :)
midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. 🙂

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lunch date with my Dad after enrollment. I AM ENROLLED! 🙂 Thanks Dad!
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first time to have my hair curled! 🙂 felt extra girly.
I liked the curly hair so much I didn't shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
I liked the curly hair so much I didn’t shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
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a beautiful butterfly posing in our bamboo tree! 🙂 the wings are so beautiful 😉

I’ve Got The Drive!

baby Jenny driving

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamt of driving my own car, or just driving a car, really. It was so cool being behind the wheel (or the manibela in Filipino), steering it whichever way you wish. That dream of becoming a non-professional driver should have been fulfilled summer last year if only I wasn’t such a professional procrastinator. This summer, however, I decided to make a U-turn. I made a vow to myself to learn how to drive before ending my teen years.

And so, three days ago, I embarked on my first ever driving class!

The experience was thrilling, quite nerve-wracking, and fun all at the same time. I can’t begin to describe it. Oh wait I just did.

Wednesday, 7:10 AM.

Dad brought me to Socialites Pasong Tamo in our car. When I got off, Ate Grace, the receptionist, ushered me to the vehicle, where my trainer, Mang Vic, patiently waited for me. I sat behind the wheel for the very first time in a long time (since that photo, maybe?).

Mang Vic started my lesson with a short lecture on the use of the brake, clutch (I used a manual car), and the gas pedals, as well as the handbrake and the gears. The lecture lasted about fifteen minutes. I was listening–really, intently, sincerely listening–but sadly, my mind wasn’t able to keep up. I had absolutely no knowledge about car things prior to the lecture, except for the fact that the brake is used to stop the car. Other than that, I’m a dummy. I didn’t tell Mang Vic that I was practically clueless, so just imagine my mild shock when he told me:

“Okay neng, ready ka na? Lalakwatsa na tayo, ah. Sige suotin mo na yung seatbelt mo. Gear 1 ka muna….”

I WAS GOING TO DRIVE ALREADY!!!!

I used to imagine my first driving moment as blissful, with a very relaxed me sitting behind the wheel, so sure of life and my future. Instead I was like,

“Dang, am I really driving?! Like, seriously. I don’t want to kill anyone today–not now, not ever! What if I run into a post?! Did my fee include insurance? What if this guy’s actually a phony?! Huhuhu where’s my Daddy???”

Okay, okay, laugh at me. I don’t care. 😀 I’m a scaredy-cat.

Well, I was a scaredy-cat until I remembered the men behind me. I remembered the Man who died for me and gave up His life for me, Who promised me that I can trust Him with all my heart. And trust I did.

There was another man–the one who inspired me to drive in the first place. The best driver in the world because he took me places even if he was tired (and he didn’t show he was tired, except when he wanted a massage :)). The man who made sure I was safe that day, so he followed me around in our car, waiting patiently for the hour to end.

My Savior and my Lord, and my Dad, literally behind me as I drove. How safe can you get? 🙂

So Mang Vic gave out the instructions. Press on the clutch all the way down, change gear to 1 (primera), step on the gas, then slowly release the clutch.

THE CAR MOVED! I ‘moved’ it! This is awesome!

We didn’t go that far, only a kilometer or two around Makati City. We were just going around Pasong Tamo, Metropolitan Avenue, Evangelista St.. When I traversed half a kilometer, I couldn’t believe what I was doing! I was actually driving! Driving was pretty simple, at least at first, when your trainer is beside you and assisting you with the steering wheel, and the greatest Men in your life are behind you, watching over you. 🙂

Although driving was easy in principle, it wasn’t easy in actuality, especially if you’re driving a manual. Dad wanted me to train in manual because it required a different discipline compared to an automatic, and he would most likely lend me our manual car because the automatic one gulped gallons of gas. I get shocked whenever the engine would die out because I let go of the clutch too much. :)) Thankfully, Mang Vic was patient, and by God’s grace, I was pretty alert and responsive to getting back on track.

When class ended that Wednesday, I was exhilarated, to say the least. I still couldn’t believe I drove a car around, and I wasn’t in Timezone or some arcade! 🙂 I was shaking a bit when I walked to our car and sat beside the driver’s seat. As I walked to our car, I saw Dad smiling beaming widely at me. I think my gladness infected his own. 🙂

I thought I was the only glad person about actually driving, but as it turned out, my Mom and my lola (grandmom, Dad’s mom) were even happier. When I stepped inside the house, they were seated in the dining table, smiling and eager to ask me questions. And ask they did!

“O, kamusta? Mahirap ba? Nag-drive ka ba? Ano, madali lang? Anong pakiramdam? Traffic ba? O ano, marunong ka na?”  (ulit-ulit?! hahaha)

It was like nursery class all over again, with my parents asking how school went and how I felt. I wanted to tell them every single detail but I only skimmed through it, as there was crispy bacon lying seductively on the table, luring me to partake in its lardy glory. Nonetheless, I think they saw how happy I was because I could not find the words to describe everything.

The next two days were more challenging, especially today’s session. Yesterday, Thursday, Mang Vic taught me how to “hang” on an incline and turn left and right. Turning left and right was harder than I thought, especially around Makati’s city streets with the hard, thick gutters! Again, my Dad followed us around, this time, for two hours.

Friday, 7:05 AM

Although Dad was supposed to accompany me at my last and most challenging driving session, I didn’t ask him anymore because he was tired and slept very late from a photography, work-related engagement Thursday evening. So, for the first time in forever, I went to my driving session alone. (my Savior was still with me, though, so no worries. :D)

By the third day, I trusted Mang Vic even more. I regret not getting to know him and really engage him in a Godly conversation because I was quite nervous on the road. Nonetheless, I got to know him a bit. My level of trust for him increased when I found out he’s been teaching driving to various people of different sizes and ages for more than 26 years! Although he spoke fast at times and kept mentioning “kaya maraming naa-aksidente” (that’s why a lot of people get into accidents), I appreciated his honesty, clarity, and concern. Today I had to trust him even more because we did the thing I was very nervous about: driving in the highway.

south super highway? Piece of cake. #not :P
south super highway? Piece of cake. #not 😛

Again like the first day when he shocked me with actual driving, Mang Vic gave me the jitters again when he told me to go straight along Zobel Roxas st. along the riles (railroad track) and turn left, exiting Makati proper, going to South Super Highway. It was about 7:45 AM at that time, traffic was light, and I was quite agitated. What if I suddenly stop in the middle? Will I get bumped from behind? Will it be the end of me as I know it?

“Calm down, child. Daddy’s got ya.”

I almost forgot I had a Heavenly Father aside from an earthly father. Unlike my earthly father, my Heavenly Father never gets tired or weary. He’s always with me, and I can always count on Him. (though my earthly father is very much reliable indeed. Love you Dad! :D)

And so, following Mang Vic’s instructions closely, keeping my cool, and enjoying the ride, I drove along South Super Highway! It was really cool. (to the pro-drivers out there, please be patient with my kababawan [shallowness]. Remember your first date. Yes, date.)

When we left the highway several minutes later, Mang Vic taught me parallel parking. The technique most people fuss over, by God’s grace, I was able to finish with ease (although with much reminder & instruction). But who cares?! I was able to parallel-park without bumping the car behind me! HAHAHA 😀

After two hours of driving in the streets of Makati, I drove Mang Vic and I back to our base in Pasong Tamo. I was a bit saddened, to be honest. Three days went by really quickly! I knew I had to document this in some way, so I took the infamous selfie with Mang Vic. Thankfully, he was game for the photos! 🙂

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What was once a figment of my imagination is now a reality: I can drive! I’m not good at it (not yet), but I know how to do it already. I just need to practice, practice, practice. And practice some more. Some more. A lot, actually, until changing gears, stepping on and releasing the clutch without stopping the engine, and parking parallel is as natural as singing the alphabet song (i.e., the English alphabet).  🙂

I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to driving, but in those three short days of my interaction with it, I already learned a few things about life. Life, like a car, can only be run by one person. Just one. Although Mang Vic was giving me instructions, I was the one running the car. I was the one primarily  stepping on the clutch, lifting the handbrake and steering the wheel, which makes me responsible. Whoever is driving is and should be responsible. Driving entails more of responsibility as it does enjoyment, because after those three days, I realize it was funner sitting at the back or beside the driver, calmly waiting to get to my destination. I realize a lot of people pay the price for bad driving because a lot of drivers forget that they are responsible. Parents lose their children way too early because a sleepy or drunk driver smashed into them along the highway. I hope and pray I may be a responsible driver! Or, should I lead people to Heaven, I pray that riding in a car with me driving will drive them to go on their knees! HAHAHA! 😀

Until I can apply for a non-professional license, I have to have someone with me (someone with a license) whenever I drive. Thankfully, I’ve got my Daddy. He’s the best driver I know. You can sleep even as he drives along a literally rocky road. He can get a car out or park it in even if it’s only 3 inches away from hitting a wall or another vehicle. My confidence in safety lies in his expertise, and of course, his love for me.

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I guess it’s the same with life. With God on the driver’s seat, I have nothing to fear. Running life has been His expertise even before life (as we know it) began! 🙂 His love is unfailing and constant, and worthy of all our trust. Why not trust Him? He’s got the best destination anyway. 🙂

So if you see me rollin one of these days, you better be ready….

…be ready to be ignored

…because I might not see you out of nervousness, focusing on the road and all, making sure I don’t let go of the clutch too much or the engine might stop. 😀 HAHAHA

8dhda

EDSA, here I come! Binondo, see you in a few! 😀 #buwisbuhay