Are You Smarter Than a Butterfly?

“He makes everything beautiful in His time….”


Next to childbirth, a butterfly’s metamorphosis is my most favorite natural process. It is a clear and factual example of ugly duckling-turned-swan–from a fat, ugly caterpillar to a fragile, attractive butterfly. I still cannot comprehend how such a fat creature can turn into something big. It encourages me with two things. First, thinning down is possible. The butterfly “exercised”; so must I. Second, something bad can turn into something good. A problem is a blessing in disguise. An enemy can be your best friend.

The most difficult stage of a butterfly’s life is the third stage–the stage where it has to fit itself–its former, stocky caterpillar self–into a 2-3 inch cocoon.Imagine the struggle it suffers day in and day out. What must the poor creature be thinking? Could it have thought about getting out of the cocoon in order to breathe and live normally again as a caterpillar? What if, halfway through the metamorphosis, it chose to give in to the struggle and give up the challenge? Would it ever emerge so beautifully as an intricate piece of gold embellished with various stones and gems?

Ponder on the last two questions for a while. Relate a butterfly’s metamorphosis to your own life. Notice how struggle applies to both situations. It’s a fact: life is a daily struggle. Life, as you grow older, gets less “spacious” and more difficult to live in. Just like a butterfly, you push side to side and wait. For a looooonnng time. Hoping. Imagining what life must be outside. In a spacious paradise. Where I could fly freely without being decapitated by a cocoon.

Another question: does the caterpillar know that one day, it would become a butterfly? I don’t think so. Actually, I can’t be so sure, but either way, it does not matter because insects cannot think. But we can. That’s what makes humans exceptional and spiritual. We have a soul. If you’re a child of God, you know the promise that awaits you in Paradise. You long for it so much–you wish you could break free from your earthly cocoon and fly freely in your Heavenly Home. Let’s emulate the butterfly’s ‘attitude’. Without knowing the beauty that it would soon possess after undergoing severe lock-up in a cocoon, it waited and suffered a little suffocation and loneliness. But hey, if God cares about a negligible butterfly, won’t He care much for you? You whom He created and loved. You whom He saved from the depths of hell. You whom He thought about since the beginning of time. “Will He not graciously give you all things for your enjoyment?”

So brother or sister, worry not when life seems to trap you in its suffocating cocoon. The Creator has not neglected nor forgotten you. Wait. Patiently suffer affliction. Persevere. Be hopeful for that promise. Because if you don’t, you would be outsmarted by an insect. And you wouldn’t want that, would you? :>

unSHACKled

Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?

Countless people ask this question. Some find answers, some don’t. Maybe they do, but they choose to reject the truth because they think it is too unbearable, too painful to simply accept it.

Mackenzie Allen Phillips asked the same question and felt the same way. He was on vacation with his family when his youngest daughter, Missy, went missing. As time and search progressed, evidence found in an abandoned shack in the Oregon wilderness suggested that Missy may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a mysterious note in his mailbox that invited him to revisit the shack for the weekend. Apparently, the note came from God.

Desire won over Mack’s better judgement. Thus, on one wintry afternoon, Mack left home and revisited the shack where all the pain inside him stemmed from. The succeeding events inside that shack will change his life forever.

Let me be the nth person to say it: This novel is a magnum opus of Jesus– next to the Bible, of course :D. He used W.M. Paul Young, the author, to intelligently and wisely connect the dots of the plot, match the right words and create an extraordinary masterpiece. His working in Mack’s life is an encouragement to all His other children especially those who harbor pain, grief and independence in their hearts.

Mack’s story made me smile, think and shed a tear. Although it’s not and never will be as perfect as the Bible, it somehow corrected my wrong notions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery I have been trying to solve for months, but after reading the book, I decided to just leave it at that. When there is no mystery, thrill does not exist. And who does not love thrills? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I certainly do!

This book is for everyone–Christian or not, in pain or in joy. Never neglect the divine revelation of God–the Bible–but also do not belittle the wisdom and spiritual truths explained in this novel. As I flipped the pages and comprehended every paragraph, I understood the nature of God; His unexplainable and overflowing love, grace, compassion, patience, forgiveness and provision for me and all His children. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are overwhelming but amazing. There is no regret in choosing to trust them. In fact, it’s the only key to understanding the essence of human existence. Depending on Jesus is the first key to being truly human.

Dear friend, as you near the end of this review, I encourage you to go to your nearest bookstore as soon as possible and purchase a copy of The Shack. In the Philippines it’s quite an expensive book compared to other Christian books, but I tell you, it’s definitely worth the buy.

As you read, there will be times wherein you have to stop and think about a statement or principle mentioned in the book. You may not agree with it or find it too difficult to comprehend. It’s okay; I experienced the same thing. You do not have to agree with everything the author says since he has his own values and morals, but as with any other Christian book, The Shack has one main objective: that you get to know Jesus better and in a more personal way. He is the Source of heartwarming, life-changing stories that turns the world upside down.

The Shack. Buy it. Read it.

And may our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ unshackle you from your suffering and pain! 🙂

Beware of Joy-Stealers

Yesterday I experienced a little bit of the downside as a rookie in an ad/media agency: boredom, feeling of being so unproductive, unnoticed. I had no meaningful conversations with the people around me, only simple yes’s and no’s when needed.

My parents have to bring my uncle to the airport by 7 P.M. so my dad picked me up by 4. I was so bored (and quite sad) that I decided to leave at 3, vanishing from the scene. (But I asked permission from my superiors about my early dismissal)

Today is quite the opposite of yesterday’s dramatic scene. We had lunch at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant (though I did not order anything because I had pack lunch!) and finally, I had something productive to do. I also received free teenage magazines and piaya, a delicious Filipino snack. I had meaningful (more than yes’s and no’s) conversations with the people around me.

Today as I type this entry, I analyzed myself: feelings, emotions, reasons for sudden changes. What was the cause of it all? Hormones? The people around me? Those two things are beyond my control, but even they are not the sources of my sudden change of emotions. The problem lies within my character, perspective and object of joy. I am reminded of a very remarkable preaching by our senior pastor. Who is my god? Is it God, the Creator of the universe, myself or my job? “Anyone that can cause you worry or sadness, or the opposite, is your idol.” I realized I’ve made my job my idol–the god I worship. The job determined what I would feel, how I would act and respond to certain situations. If God was my god, I would respond joyfully even if I don’t get what I want.

If ever you feel downcast, anxious or depressed because of your job or ministry, check your heart. Maybe you’ve lost your joy because you focused your eyes on another idol and started going after it. Beware of joy-stealers. They add lines to the forehead and speed up the ageing process. :))

Flunking and Still Going

I recall my first article for the year:

CAUTION: 2010 is Very Hot and Exciting.

Indeed it is. It’s like a dish of hot Thai noodle soup with a hint of chili on the side and mixed with fishballs, ground beef and kenchai. The first sip stings, but the taste satisfifes. As you consume and enjoy its delightful tastes, you experience “small stings” due to the chili and the temperature of the dish. Eventually, you get to enjoy and “bear the pain” of the stings, and when you take that list sip and gorge down that last piece of beef, you are satisified. In fact you enjoyed so much you ask for more.

For the past 4 months I have been experiencing “small stings” due to the problems, tests and temptations that come my way. I hate to admit it, but I’ve flunked already. I get discouraged at times and think that if I keep on committing the same mistake, how could I ever emerge victorious? Sometimes I feel like there’s no hope for me to improve because I fall time and time again.

Then I went to camp. April 6-8, 2010 were by far my best days of the year. Daddy met me in my awful state, whispered, “I love you with an unfailing love”, and lifted me up. Thinking again about Him and our relationship was productive. Until I left camp and returned to my “world” in Manila.

The following day, I was still doing fine. Well, sort of. I was not “sinning” as much as I used to. Then come Saturday.

I do not want to elaborate on the details, but I did something pretty nasty. So nasty that one of the people closest to my heart cried. My heart broke, I cried a river and I thought that this person had finally decided to give up on me after knowing each other for a very, very long time. But this amazing person did not. Moments of silence filled the gaps during our heartbreaking and heartwarming conversation that early Sunday morning. Moments that gave us time to think and think again. And it was ll worth it.

Whenever I fail and get discouraged, I am reminded of my Savior’s love through the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. I recommend that you listen to it as soon as possible. Many times I try to win His favor, and everytime I do, He constantly reminds me, “Don’t try. You are already favored.” I can never earn His grace because He freely gave it.

With all the flunking I did for the past 4 months, am I still looking forward to an exciting year? Of course! I may be in the midst of a “small sting,” but I’ll always end it with a final gorge of my personal beef and joyful smile on my face. 😀

The Sun Never Sets on High School

March 24, 2010. 0930 hours.

This was the day I would either hate the most or love the most. This is a moment so trying, nerve-wracking and spine-tingling that only five people are allowed to witness and be part of it inside a hollow, warm room. Only the fittest  and the strongest shall survive and surpass the nostalgic stage.

This was the moment of truth. The declaration of the top 3 honors  for the graduating batch of school year 2009-2010.

Okay, maybe I was exaggerating a little, but to tell you the truth, this was how I partly felt. The other part of me was scared and relaxed altogether because I know that things can change by just a small factor of one decimal point. The healthy competition I had with my other two competitors, Deuel and Abby, (who happened to be my two bestest friends in our batch) was a really tight, exciting one. Our scores and averages were so close that 8 or more teachers are required to meet together, calculate and decide who receives which. Although it was quite obvious that Deo (Deuel’s nickname) would be our class valedictorian, double, triple, and quadruple calculations and ‘checkings’ are required to avoid biases, miscalculations and other mishaps. To tell you the truth, it seemed like the competition was just between me and Abby. Not that we did not strive for the first, but our averages compared to Deo’s were as far as the distance a person travels by car from Makati to Ortigas on a Friday night. It’s possible, but it would take a heck a lot of patience, determination, diligence and perspiration. For that reason, I only had my hope on the second place.

So there we were–the three of us–inside our memorable room together with our adviser, Ms. Abarca, and  another high school teacher, Mrs. Cayanan. After a word of prayer, Deo, Abby, Mrs. Cayanan and I sat on our unusually cold and plastic armchairs while Ms. Abarca remained standing. She explained how the deliberation process took place yesterday evening and a past session with all our subject teachers. They made sure that all the papers and grades were quadruple checked and calculated. She pointed our attention to the set of grades she wrote on the whiteboard earlier. Our final grades were written, but our names weren’t. This added tension. Ms. Abarca then wrote our names on the board. As expected, Deuel ranked first. The question now is, who’s second and who’s third?

It was an unexpected result. Abby and I tied. Our averages were exactly the same. To the very last decimal point.

If our ranking would be based on our scholastic grades alone, then our batch would have two salutatorians. Thus our school created a system for ranking graduating honor students. The 70% would be our academics, 20% extra-curricular activities and 10% character (since our school is a Christian institution). As for the extra-curricular activities, Abby ranked 1st, Deo 2nd and I third. As for charater, Deo ranked 1st, I ranked 2nd and Abby ranked third.

The question is not who ranked first since it was quite obvious that Deo aced the competition. The question is, who will be called the salutatorian?

Ms. Abarca did a mathematical evaluation with each of the three parts of our grades (academics, extra-curricular, character) to arrive at the weighted rank. The person with the lowest number is the 1st and the person with the highest number is the 3rd. (This is because our final averages were multiplied according to the factor indicated. Our final grades in academics were multiplied by 7 [70%], extra-curricular by 2 and character by 1)

Deo had 12 points. Abby had 19 points. I had 22.

As I saw those numbers, my world nearly crashed down. I thought I would emerge victorious. I thought I would land at a “Heavenly place.” Sa Tagalog, masayado akong nag-akala. Nakalimutan ko na lahat ng akala mali. Sobrang mali.

I can feel the tears about to rush out of my tear ducts and pour profusely down my face. I chose to reserve those tears for my alone time with God. I kept a firm yet happy countenance as we opened the dividers and let our other batch mates in.

We proceeded downstairs to head to our school-church’s auditorium. I wore my black, filtering shades because I realized I could not hide the tears any longer. I chose a path not-so-distanced from my classmates to avoid empathetic questions. I only had one question and it’s directed to God and myself. Why?

I took my iPod and wished I had the song “Just Once” so I could sing to the first verse and relate. I sung it in my head.

“I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough. ‘Cause here I am back where I was before….”

Here I am again, back at #3.

Later that evening, as I knelt down in prayer, I burst into tears, the tears I have been trying so hard to control. This time, I can cry all I want and the Person I was gonna cry to would never push me aside nor be judgmental towards me. Once again, God humbled me. He made me realize that I had even more potential and diligence to pour on my education; I wasn’t just seeing it yet. It was not impossible, but it’s certainly difficult. I would rather win third in the most challenging and difficult race in the world than first in the race I know I would ace so easily. When I read the Bible that day, I was encouraged and amazed by the strong and courageous leader, Joshua. An astonishing and seemingly impossible story about him and the Israelites could be found in the 10th chapter of his book. After hearing how Joshua and the Israelites defeated the kings of Jericho and Ai and how the Gibeonites made a peace treaty with them, five Amorite kings conspired against the Gibeonites and attacked them. By doing so, they actually planned their own tragic demise. God used Joshua and the Israelites to help the Gibeonites defeat the evil kings because the Gibeonites were the only foreigners kind enough to God’s chosen nation. As the battle waged, Joshua did an astonishing thing. He commanded, in the presence of God and Israel, the sun to stand still and the moon to stop moving. As a result, “the sun stopped in t he middle of the day and delayed going down about a full day!”

Scientifically, that is impossible! To me, it is very astonishing and amazing! I am also encouraged by the story and Joshua because I know what kind of God I am serving and entrusting my whole life to. Not because we’re sinful, He no longer listens to us. In fact, He delights in answering our prayers, as long as they are aligned to His will.

I may have landed third place in high school, but that is not the end of everything. In fact, it’s just a taste to what the real competition looks like: COLLEGE. I thank God because He never bases His love and acceptance and my worth on medals and other earthly achievement. As long as I performed the best way He wanted me to, I know He’s proud of me. I can see Him smiling.

The sun has not set over my time yet. It’s only beginning to rise.