Reflections: Present Love for Future Joy

Earlier today, our pastor preached on re-igniting our love for Christ and others. He shared how he asked his golf mates to show him some tips & tricks, which eventually made him win. One of them told our pastor why he did it: “kung saan ka masaya.” He meant that he sacrificed his winning streak because he wanted our pastor to be happy.

I reflected on that phrase: “kung saan ka masaya” / where you will be happy. Sometimes making people happy means giving them what they truly desire with an immediate positive result, like the excitement one feels when he receives the item on his wishlist. But many times, true love demands doing the uncomfortable & inconvenient, the results of which take time: like waking up at 3 AM to feed a hungry baby. Resigning from a dream career to invest more time with the kids. Respecting an unreasonable parent. Confronting someone with the truth that could rock the relationship. Many times, true happiness & lasting joy is preceded by sacrifice & inconvenience. Many times, our acts of love do not always have immediate, pretty results, yet we must do them because we want the beloved to experience true joy in the future. My parents disciplined/spanked me then so that I can reap the joy of good character & behavior today.

Kung saan ka liligaya” —a Tagalog phrase that roughly translates: “where you will (eventually) be joyful.” Love that is both present & future. “I love you, and because I love you I seek your present & future good even if it means sacrifice on my part.” That’s what Jesus demonstrated when He hung on the cross. He humbled Himself because of the joy set before Him. He loved sinners because of the joy set before Him—the joy of seeing His beloved reconciled to Him, no longer plagued by sin.

This is how we know we truly love: when we don’t just seek the temporary happiness of a person, but their true, lasting joy both now and in the future. Kahit na masakit, mahirap, o matagal. Kung saan ka liligaya. Where you will eventually, by God’s grace, revel in joy.

On Delay & Learning It The Hard Way

If there’s one lesson I learned the hard way this week, it is this:

Do not delay doing the things that you can finish today.

What if paramedics stopped over in a convenience store to grab something to eat instead of heading straight to a car collision scene? What if a weather forecasting agency decided to announce a strong, impending typhoon a day before it wiped out a city? What if Jesus arrived one year late because He wanted more time to prepare for His hard life on earth? Delay does not travel alone. It carries with him uneventful or even downright painful consequences for the one who bears him and those who have been robbed of time opportunity because of him.

When you attach delay with obedience, it sounds even more awful because it equals a grave and serious sin. Delayed obedience is disobedience, my parents always tell me. I used to ask myself, “Why is this so? I mean, it’s not that I’m not going to do what I’ve been told to do.” As I grew older, I learned that obedience consists not only in doing what you have been told to do, but in doing what you have been told to do at the prescribed and desired time by the commander.

Sadly, even this post is a product of delay. Not that I really owe anyone an apology for not posting for 2 weeks since this is my blog, but I did not listen to my gut feeling when it told me to post an entry. A woman’s gut feeling is right 99% of the time (based on experience), but because I mishandled precious time, I “disobeyed” myself.

Another product of delay (that I am still working on and paying the price for) is a video for a special someone. Not a romantic special someone, but a blood-related special someone. Today I was having thoughts if I should even continue with the video, but then again, I thought, better late than never.

I may suffer from acute tardiness (delay’s alter ego), but I consider myself utterly blessed because I belong to a God Who does not delay. A God Whose timing is impeccable; He is neither early nor late, but arrives on the scene at the exact hour, minute, second, and nanosecond that He planned. He does not schedule His day or race against time, rather, time submits to His plans. He did not put me on hold when I cried out to Him for help. He did not think twice in sending His only begotten Son to earth when it was time for Him to go.

If my Father does not delay, why should I? I must learn to be a good steward of time–His time. And I will. I don’t promise perfection, but I do promise diligence & resistance to complacency. There are activities that can still work out even if they are delayed. You can still shed off excess weight by proper diet and exercise today even if you failed to do them in years past. Others, however, don’t share the same privilege.

Would a doctor still be needed if he is one minute short of meeting the victim–alive?

“You may delay, but time will not.”- Benjamin Franklin

PS: I want one of these! Serves as a reminder for procrastinating folks like me.

Forever Not Alone

A cool evening from Manila, ladies and gents! 🙂

I must admit that over the past few days, I totally forgot about my blog. Not that its memory has been erased off my mind completely, it’s just that the idea of posting and encouraging my lovely readers never crossed my mind.  Effect of a loaded schedule, I  suppose. I have so many things to share with you guys, but because you only have a few minutes to spare, I must break down this post into the biggest internal experience that I went through this week: two oppositely-charged emotions and my tumultuous journey with them and most importantly, their Maker. 🙂

The journey began two Saturdays ago. I went to Jzone as usual, wanting to share the Gospel, hoping to bond with friends, and expecting to meet with my fellow Sunday school teachers for our presentation the next Sunday, that is, yesterday. I only got to share the Gospel, which went well–praise God! 🙂 Two new ladies have been added to God’s big and wonderful family. Unfortunately, my teachers attended a meeting which ended while I was already attending the service in Jzone so I missed the meeting. Most of my closest friends in Jzone were absent and friends who were left behind proceeded to their planned dinners and rendezvouses. Needless to say, I was

I am no stranger to loneliness, whether in a bad sense or a good one. However, last Saturday’s loneliness dwelt more on the bad side. Negative emotions and past struggles haunted me slowly, one day at a time. Worry, the meanest of them all,  spearheaded the homecoming. Am I too weird? Maybe I should be more interesting. But I don’t know what to say. If I focus on my God-committed plans (God has been nudging me about planning), I might be too work-focused and in the process, compromise my relationships. These thoughts fueled my desire to seek for things that I subconsciously hoped would relieve me of my loneliness–eating, watching television, 9gagging, reading all sorts of books, and posting supposedly eye-catching statuses on Facebook whenever I so desired. It turned out food did not completely satisfy, laughter was not the best medicine, and entertainment was far from being the joy expert. Suddenly it was first year, first semester in college all over again.

After worry came self-centeredness.  And even though I did not admit it to myself at that time, I acted with this thought in mind: What am I supposed to do to push loneliness away? The answer I found from the world seemed favorable: pleasure. Watch a movie. Eat and be merry. Spend hours on your favorite social networking sites. Eat some more. I grew increasingly insecure of my body, weight, and condition as a child of God. I did not know it that time (which was only last week), but God led me through the wilderness (thankfully my journey lasted only a week and not 40 years).

Because I was full of myself, my heart could not contain the love and patience the people around me had to offer. That was so, until I relented a little. I texted four close people to pray for me (just like I did last year during my 1st semester in college). And again, the one who went to me and consoled me was my mother. She visited me in my room, laid beside me in my bed, and asked and waited patiently for my honest response. I fumbled for the right words to say, but I realized the most important thing to do then was not to be right but to be true to how and what I felt and needed. Tearfully I admitted my feelings of loneliness and hopelessness with unfulfilled plans (especially regarding exercise and healthy eating).

Honestly, I expected Mom to say something like, “You’re going to be okay.” Well she did, but not until she said her timely and unexpected response.

“Your feelings of loneliness? Okay lang yan. (They are okay)”

Loneliness is okay?

“This is the best time for you to spend time with God.”

She recounted the stories of the first Christians in the Bible who were chained and imprisoned. “Mas malungkot yun, kasi sa kulungan wala ka talagang kausap.” (It’s sadder to be inside a prison cell because there you have no one to talk to) Loneliness, instead of removing their worth and joy, brought them closer to God and strengthened their hearts for service.

Our conversation lasted for more than half an hour, and although my heart was not completely healed after that, I definitely experienced relief. 🙂 Bouts of loneliness and worry lingered in the shadows for the rest of the week until the seminar I attended on Saturday.

Agnes Sarthou Ph.D spoke to a group of women on finding and living out God’s purpose. Mrs. Sarthou is the wife of one of CCF’s pastors, Pastor Ricky Sarthou. Years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Instead of succumbing to depression and human strength, she yielded to God’s control and love and allowed Him to work mightily. By the grace of God, she was cured! She now inspires people, particularly cancer patients and survivors, to know and love Jesus Christ because He loves and cares for them. 🙂 Aside from sharing her story with us, Ms. Aggie also shared with us her life purpose: to love and serve her God all the days of her life. To love, submit, and be a blessing to her husband. To love and care for her children. To train people excellently. And then afterwards, she asked us to do the same: Write out your life purpose.

That’s when it hit me: I lost track of my purpose. Instead of pleasing God, I pleased myself. No wonder I was so depressed! After clearing my conscience before God, I wrote my life purpose, and in one sentence, it is this: to love and serve my Heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior all the days of my life, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus. 🙂

God changed my perspective regarding loneliness. It’s not a negative state that  one should avoid entirely. In fact, when you’re alone, there is nothing and no one that stands between you and God, and that for me is the best state. To just stand before Him and be moved by Him. Many people fail in their relationships because they thought being in a relationship means escaping loneliness. Loneliness, I learned, is vital for growth. Alone time is essential. Jesus Christ did not muster the strength to keep calm and carry on by perpetually bonding with His family and disciples; He withdrew intentionally to the wilderness to be alone with His Father from Whom He gained real and lasting strength, Besides, with God speaking to me, I’m really not alone. There is a time to bond and be with people as well as a time to be alone and bask in the presence of the Living, eternal God Who will never leave you or forsake you, whether you are in green pastures, the valley of the shadow of death, or the wilderness.

If you are a bonafide child of God, regardless of your situation, you are always safe in the Father’s hands. 🙂

PS: On a totally unrelated note, I cut my hair! New hair, new vibes! 😀 hihihi What do you think?

The Battle Between the Good and the Best

If there is one thing that will never cease to exist in a Christian’s earthly life, it is struggle–emotional, physical spiritual, you name it. The battle between the heart and the mind shall always prevail until the Creator and Lover of one’s soul weaves perfection in His beloved’s entire being. I am feeling the struggle now more than I did four, five years ago because, by God’s grace, I am willfully putting to death the evil that longs to be part of my sanctified and precious body. Sometimes the struggle is between good and evil–clear-cut black and white. Should I answer back or hold my tongue? Will I trust God and fear no evil or worry and fear everything? The Bible does not beat around the bush when it comes to  the consequences of obedience to God and disobedience against Him; blessings and curses are explicitly stated. If  you honor and obey your parents in the Lord, expect a long and happy life on earth (Ephesians 6:1-2). Refuse to believe in God and die in your sins; repent and believe in the only begotten Son of God and you will live (John 3:16-19).

But what if you have a struggle that a command or a principle in the Bible does not explicitly state or explain? What if your struggle is not exactly sinful, but a battle between the good and the best, the mediocre and the excellent? This is where the going gets tougher.

When I eat out with friends, should I order beef or chicken? (very shallow I know, but it’s hard to choose when you want to eat everything!)  When my Dad tells me he’ll buy me one book and after canvassing for an hour and a half in the bookstore and finally collecting four to five various titles in my arms, which one will I choose–romance, mystery, or humour? When my crush sits next to me and my heart tells me that having a boyfriend is not so bad an idea, should I make the first move or wait until he talks to me (even if he does not eventually pursue me)? The battle between the good and the best is harder than I thought.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent….” -Philippians 1:9-10a, NKJV

The reason many people don’t experience the abundant life (even Christians) is that their choices are mostly good, not excellent, and the reason people would rather settle with mediocrity rather than to pursue excellence is their love is based on feelings and man-made ideas. “I’ll do anything that will make me happy. I know he or she’s the one when I’m unexplainably happy with him or her.” What is wrong with this picture? C.S. Lewis shed light on this topic in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…. In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last….But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will, and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because no matter how hard I try to repress the romantic emotions inside me, they always surface. Even if I commit to remain single until God tells both me and my future partner, “You’re ready. It’s time,” I cannot help feeling a little sad (but not depressed–no, not me!) when my girlfriends have their guy friends asking them out and acting way too close and I’m just sitting there like..

Okay, maybe that GIF which I got from Tumblr is exaggerated, but I hope you get my idea. 10% of me wants to experience her first kiss, holding hands with a guy, and receiving love letters NOW; the other 90% sincerely seeks her True Love, Agape–Christ Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot’s struggle back in 1948 remains to be same and true in me present day, 2011:

“‘Clogged with wishes.’ I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there.”

When I committed to be wholly pure for Jesus for His glory, I thought that I would never yearn for a boyfriend until I’m after college or maybe even two years after that. I thought I would never feel even just a little bit insecure when a girlfriend of mine shares with me the number of guys who are courting her presently. I did not foresee the time when my own cousins, now grown-up and enjoying their jobs, would come to our family Bible study with a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Maybe Donkey’s right. At least the boulder won’t change or grow tired of me.

But I am not made to talk or associate with boulders and certainly not self-pity and loneliness. God made me for someone, and that someone is God Himself. The battle between the good and best persists because my heart that seeks for eternity often looks for permanent satisfaction in things which are carnal and temporary. I am so grateful to have a Father Who is gracious enough to understand my pettiness and foolishness when it comes to love and emotions. He’s the perfect Lover because only He understands exactly what I’m going through and when I offer up to Him my everything (which I’ve been doing slowly but surely), only He can bring good out of all of my negative emotions. What once was a battle becomes a field for a joyous celebration.

Why do we love in the first place? Paul continues in verse eleven of Philippians 1: “to the glory and praise of God.” For His Name’s sake. I need to remind myself constantly that I or my world is not about  anything else but God. For God. Because of God. Even the battle between good and evil, the good and the best, will turn out the way that He wants it to because He is the Source of everything. Man may have started sin, but God has already conquered it. For that, I am truly grateful.

So what am I to do with loneliness? With that longing to be “close but not romantically related” with my crush? I surrendered it to God so for now, it’s not in my hands. What will I do with something I don’t have? That’s right.

Nothing. 🙂

Sources:

Elliot, Elisabeth (2000). Passion and Purity: Learning To Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila: OMF Literature.

The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Inc., 1985. Biblegateway.com

“Do Not Fear”

Dear child,

Do not fear; I am with you.

My plan for you is working perfectly as I expected, beginning the moment when I formed you with My very own hands. Your wholehearted obedience both in surety and in the unknown makes me swell with joy because you are living according to My design for you. Blessing you is one of my actions that I look forward to do. Continue pursuing excellence and seeking Me in everything you do.

There are certain footholds in your mountainous journey that I wish to eliminate, and you, my child, must do something about them. I am fully aware of your weaknesses and limitations, but haven’t I told you that no one can snatch you away from My hand? My hold is firm, tight, and permanent. I am the LORD God, enthroned between the cherubim, Maker of Heaven and earth. I am unequaled in strength, glory, power, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I am before anything came to be. Is there anything too hard for me?

You say, “Father, I know that already;” do you? Because your response to your circumstances does not align with My truths. Fear lingers in your heart still; this is where your life’s footholds are founded on. Fear of the inevitability of failure, the future, the response of the people around you–these fears are not healthy. As a matter of fact, they are sinful in nature.  The greater your fears, the wider your comfort zones. My work is accomplished in the realm of divine possibility which will always seem absurd and impossible to fearful men.

There’s only one way out of fear, and it is faith. It’s always about faith and trust in Me. Always. Constant. Unchanging. If I can conquer the grave, I can also conquer your fears. Give them up. Your fear of failure will only inhibit you from trying, persevering, and eventually, succeeding. I am pleased with authenticity and faithfulness and not perfection; obedience, not heartfelt emotions; excellence, and not merely good. Besides, you don’t have to win the victory because it has already been won! Never lose sight of the goal: Christ-likeness. Let go of your fears, and let Me takeover. I’ll show you what I can do. 🙂

I am delighted with you, My child, because your heart is slowly but surely becoming more attuned to my own heart. Many times, I see you in Me. Your heart longs to be perfect and dwell in eternity. You seek joy and gratitude, which is My will for you in my begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Be patient with Me, my work is far from completion, but it’s getting there. Oh, how wonderful that day will be when I weave you into your final stage of perfection! You shall see Me and talk with Me face-to-face. 🙂

Do not fear; I am with you.

I love you.

Sincerely,

Dad