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)

The Host is Yet to Come

Last Sunday (Easter Sunday) and today were amazing. God gave me the privilege of doing one of the things I love the most: hosting or emceeing.

Last Saturday evening, I received a text message from my cousin, Miko, asking me if I can host an event on Easter Sunday, 4 pm. Immediately, I thought of the event  called Hymns Of Glory, an Easter Sunday concert at the Venice Piazza in McKinley Hill, where our other cousin, Deb, will perform as a singer. However, that event (to me at least) was “major” in the sense that it wasn’t held in church nor was it only for church members: it was held in a public place where many people can watch. Since the event was free, virtually anyone and everyone (so long as the place can accommodate it) can watch. I told myself, “Nah, it’s probably not it. Maybe it’s another event.”

So when I got the message, I replied: “What event?”

Two minutes later, Miko replied: “Hymns of Glory. Deb’s event? 🙂 call time is 3 PM in Venice Piazza.” (those were the exact words. Just copied them from my phone)

To say that I was excited would be an understatement. I ran upstairs to the master’s bedroom and told my Mom about it (Dad was asleep so he wasn’t able to join in the fun). I asked her if I could host (i.e., asked her to bring me to the venue and support us hehe), and she said yes. I immediately asked Miko the details of the event, and later that evening, I received the program via email from the event coordinator, Jamie.

Come Sunday, I was super excited. And nervous. I prayed really hard that God will calm my nerves so as not to trigger a dystonia attack. Praise God for calming nerves! 🙂 By God’s grace, even with limited practice, Miko and I performed and hosted to the best of our ability and, I must say, to our heart’s content. Moreover, I enjoyed the music played that night! Hymns of Glory was an Easter Sunday Concert launched by Megaworld Lifestyle Malls and Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati to celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ through praise and worship, as “led” by really talented and Spirit-filled local Christian artists such as Jeff Lucas, Doki Puno, Deb Victa, and Barbie Almalbis!! 🙂 To listen to good music in a concert as an audience member is fun and encouraging in itself. To listen to good music in a concert as a host of that same concert is another story. I’ll share my experience in a bit; let’s take a quick break as you check the photos while I…chill. Haha 😀

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with THE Barbie Almalbis! #fangirl
with THE Barbie Almalbis! #fangirl
with the cousins, Deb & Miko
with the cousins, Deb & Miko

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all photos taken by my awesome father, Ferdie Talam! 🙂 

Hymns of Glory was the cherry on top of my very restful holy week even though I “worked” that Sunday. Although it was physically draining, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually the event was not exhausting at all because it was ministry: the outflow of my intimate relationship with God. Hosting was also my passion as part of my mission to be a communicator of truth. (That’s actually written in my mission statement, which I can share with you guys in another time) If Jesus did not rise from the grave, that event, Easter Sunday, and life in general would not have been possible. Praise God He is alive!

This morning until the afternoon, God gave me yet another opportunity to hone my hosting or emceeing skill. ELEVATE, the youth ministry of my home church, invited its hosts and other potential hosts for a 1-day training with a renowned local host who also happened to attend and serve in our church, Judah Paolo. I’ve been to several hosting training sessions before in and out of church, but so far, the one I’ve attended today was the best.

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First of all, Judah Paolo was an amazing teacher, lecturer, and mentor. Speaking from 11 years (and counting) of experience in show business and in the church setting, he knows what he’s talking about, lives it daily, and makes a living out of it! (Next to serving God, that for me is the best way to maximize one’s hosting/emceeing skills) He engaged us without trying too hard while imparting and embedding truths in our hearts and minds. I really liked his insight on how to deal with fear. But before he shared that, he told us that, according to a survey, public speaking is a person’s no. 1 fear, while death follows in 2nd place. Imagine that! “In a funeral service, people would rather be inside the casket than give the eulogy.”

Fear and nervousness are natural responses to the foreseen fear of messing things up, stuttering, going blank, or being lame. It’s either you flee the scene or fight the fear. Fight is the better option, especially if you’re a Christian because (and here’s Judah’s insight), as Hebrews 10:19-22 says:

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us… let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

“If you can come before God with boldness, how much more man?” Judah said. David also wrote on the same line: “The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) 

That insight on fear was just one of the many things I learned from today’s training. However, personally, when it comes to hosting or being an m.c. (a messenger of Christ as Judah put it), the one thing I always keep to mind, as hard as it may be, is this: the show is not about me. I point to the main attraction.

I’m human just like the rest of you guys, and I struggle. A lot. (Hence, a blog on grace) One of the things I struggle with is pride and self-centeredness. I want to be known. A part of me desires people to applaud at my awesomeness even if I don’t have it (at least in the measure I want). A part of me likes seeing my name etched on everyone’s minds (or at least a lot of people). I only said  a part of me because, just like a lot of people, I don’t want the “perks” or the responsibilities that go with it. I don’t like my privacy invaded. There are days (and they are many) when I want to be alone and I can’t do that when people hound me (that is, if I’m a celebrity). It’s weird, right? I’m weird! I thank God because He loves and likes weird people like me. I also thank Him for not giving up on me just because I’m proud and self-centered (because He opposes the proud, James 4:6 says). Lately I’ve been hearing from Him from one of the Gospels, which talks about the world’s (or at least the Bible’s) first ever host or m.c.  Can you guess his name?

Clue: the book I’m studying now is the book of John.

Answer?

John the Baptist.

The evidences are clearly laid out in chapter 1. John the Beloved (the author of the Gospel, the “disciple whom Jesus loved”) is described as the witness sent by God to testify about Jesus, to prepare the way for Jesus, to point others (particularly Israelites) to Jesus.

Isn’t that what hosts do?

As hosts, we don’t ramble to the audience about ourselves, although we may share some things about ourselves just like John kept telling folks he wasn’t the Messiah or the Prophet. We guide the audience, the recipient of the message, as they receive the message of the main attraction, whether an artist,  keynote speaker, or even a video presentation. The show is not about us. How would you feel if you invited an m.c. to host your birthday party, and then after introducing you suddenly shouts out, “Oh by the way, my birthday was on January 3rd, three weeks ago. Happy birthday to me!” How would you feel? I would have fired that m.c. on the spot! M.c.’s are supposed to lead you to a better experience of the event, not of themselves.

As I reflected more on this while recalling Sunday’s event and today’s training, I realized that the art of hosting is a humbling event. For people like me who sometimes crave for attention, it’s quite disappointing to find out that even if you’re given so much airtime, there’s still an 80% chance people will forget about you after the event (unless you’re Ryan Seacrest whom I remember more than the American Idol grand champion). More than that, I think the most humbling thing about hosting (which I find to be the most beautiful thing about it), especially in the church setting, is that Jesus gets all the glory. When people come up to me and compliment me after a hosting gig, I smile and revert the glory back to Jesus. When people say they look up to me, I think to myself, “Wait what, me?! I’m not even a pro! Wow, thank you! Thank You!! This voice is Yours.” God gave me a voice not only to express my views or opinions, but more importantly, to voice out His views and His will for man. I am, quite literally, God’s mouthpiece.

Earlier I mentioned Judah’s revised the definition of the abbreviation m.c. (which really means master of ceremonies) to messenger of Christ. Personally, I think this applies not only to actual hosts, but to any person who has the brand marks of Jesus, who is His legit child and servant. You are a host, leading and pointing others to Jesus. Like John the Baptist (or John the Witness as I would call him), you can prepare the way for others to meet Jesus. You and I, we’re bridges people will walk over so that they, too, can enjoy a personal encounter with the Lord. When you communicate truth and grace to people, you are, in a sense, an m.c. Of course it’s still different from an actual event host, but hey, that’s still the greatest job in the world! Not only are you enjoying in the present, but you are also investing in eternity.

I hope God will continue to use me as a host, and I’m sure He will as long as I shall live. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be an m.c. and if you feel God is leading you to become one, do whatever it takes to be good at it! Read books. Watch Ryan Seacrest. Practice, practice practice! Practice some more. Speak. Talk. Read a loud. Do your homework!

And never forget: at the end of every gig, revert the glory back to Him who gave you your mouth and your voice. 🙂

P.S. (a.k.a. plug shameless HAHAHA): If you’re looking for someone fun, relational, and engaging to host your birthday party, debut, or what have you, you can hire me ! Hihi 🙂 go to the contact page here

Jimmy Needham Concert & A Lesson on Appetite

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Exactly a week ago, April 9, I attended the concert of one of my most favorite Christian artists (and since that day, speakers): Jimmy Needham. If his name doesn’t ring a bell,  go to the end of this post and watch him sing my favorite song of his, “Forgiven and Loved.” Seriously, stop.  However, if you do know him and have heard his music, you’ll know he’s really blessed and wonderfully gifted. I said gifted because not only is his music entertaining and pleasant to the ears, but it’s also very heart-stirring and mind-activating. Jimmy (yes close kami? Haha) is currently on his “Guy, Guitar + Gospel Tour,” and I was so thrilled he dropped by Manila. The fact that the venue of his concert was at our very own church, CCF, made the event even more thrilling (because I feel so at home at that place, even with its magnanimity). To say that I was blessed that evening would be an understatement. Convicted and pierced are the more appropriate terms.

Before I continue sharing my concert experience, I must confess something. Prior to the concert, my relationship with God was pretty lukewarm. Two weeks have already passed since my second semester ended, and yet I still carried with me the habits I formed during my stressful days: an ‘okay, not-so-on-fire’ quiet time, a lack of passion and interest to pray and study Scripture, and the obsession with my self and my thoughts and desires. I promised God and myself that I would make it up to Him (to us) for the lost time and revitalize our relationship. I made up a list of things to do and goals to accomplish to keep my life in check. “As long as I remain consistent in doing these things, I will be successful. God would be happy. I’ll be joyful again, just like before.” Yeah right. On the night of Jimmy Needham’s concert, I was, yet again, proven  wrong.

One of the things I appreciate about Jimmy Needham is his love for Scripture. Towards the latter part of his concert, he shared with us his testimony, his walk with the Lord, and a passage from the Old Testament that really struck him the most. He loves the Old Testament so much, calling it the book for train wrecks. 😀 I agree with that nickname, because that was what Israel and man in general was. Stubborn train wrecks always being rescued by a loving and faithful God. Jimmy also went on sharing that the problem of most people today, especially Christians, is not a problem of doing, but of being. Within the heart, not the hands, lies the issue. Man’s issue with the living God is more than just a mere judicial problem of doing or not doing, but that of desire. How did he come up with that conclusion? Jimmy quoted the verse from which he gathered this insight, in Jeremiah 2:13:

“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.”

“Broken cisterns that can hold no water. The problem of Israel was not that they weren’t good enough. Israel’s greatest sin was that it did not desire the Living Water. They had no appetite for God.” (Needham, 2014)

When he said this, I was shocked. It was my first time to hear the verse, but already my heart connected with my mind. Our problem–our biggest problem–is a lack of appetite for all things Heavenly. This really struck me the most because…I have a huge appetite. Caveman’s, actually. Not for God, but for worldly things.

Sure, I love God. I do. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” I show my love for Jesus by obeying Him. I don’t obey Him so that I would love Him, but the other way around. Obedience is an expression of love. I know this. By God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit I am applying this, albeit very imperfectly, and I am striving to love Jesus more and more each day.

However, to look at my love for Jesus from the “appetite perspective” was a totally different story. Do I desire Him? Do I crave Him like I would with bacon, peanuts, and a romantic relationship with a loving, Christian guy? (yes you read that last part right. I’m human, too,  you know. It so happened I was female.) Was I willing to go on a spiritual feast everyday just so I can savor the richness of God’s Word and the loveliness of His presence?

The answers to all my questions, sadly, was a big fat no.

I loved God and obeyed Him, but oftentimes my obedience was a mere routine, “because God says so.” Because I would be a bad leader if I didn’t. Because I would feel like a hypocrite. Because it won’t be worth it if I don’t obey Him. All these reasons are valid, helpful even. But after Jimmy Needham brought the appetite issue, I realized there was more to God than just obedience. He really, really, really wants a relationship with me. God did not create creatures that would just obey Him; He created rational and social creatures that would love Him back and enjoy Him for all eternity.

Satan knew that if he introduced something overtly evil to us we would have just laughed at him, so he used something we love the most, use the most, and crave the most: FOOD. I was talking with my discipleship group two weeks ago, and I told them of my observation, how the food industry has been so prevalent in our lives today compared to a few years ago. There are over 25 million posts for #foodporn and over 2 million for #foodstagram on Instagram (most likely that also means 25 + 2 million posts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media sites). Food is a basic human need. God gave us food for our enjoyment. Solomon himself said that eating and drinking is a gift from God. However, we’re human, and we have a knack for messing things up. We make curses out of  gifts because we place them above the Giver. We are more than willing to sacrifice our appetite for a life of inexhaustible joy for that of a temporary life and depraved existence. No wonder a lot of us (myself included) do not get to experience the abundant life Jesus promised.

Appetite for Jesus–wanting Him, craving for Him, desiring Him–was my greatest problem. Jimmy Needham helped me realize that. Thankfully, he didn’t just end with pointing out the problem. God is a restorer, not a demolisher. He breaks down for the intent of building up again. Trying harder, being good, coming up with a better plan were not plausible options. What then? Simple.

GRACE.

To be honest, I felt uncomfortable when Jimmy brought up the subject. That was what I least deserved. I’m like most people in that I find grace hard to accept because I feel strongly about the need for reparation of my sins. I fear falling on one end of the scale,  licentiousness, abusing grace, without realizing I fell on the other end: legalism, abhorring grace. Grace, if it is to be true, demands complete surrender and total acceptance and at the same time, realizes true life transformation. Actions are important, but only after the gift has been received. For a person who loves gifts and whose second first name is Grace, I found it surprising I was rejecting grace. It really is for the undeserved. God was handing out to me because HE LOVES ME. He loves you. When Jimmy Needham started singing “If I Ever Needed Grace,” I tried hard not to cry. I failed. Grace and my tear ducts made a contract I wasn’t aware of. On that evening, as I sat there and allowed God to work His magic, I felt at rest and at peace. I was home.

Our appetite for Jesus has to be constantly fed because the enemy competes for appetite for him. We must not surrender to the enemy. Trying hard to be goo or coming up with a “new and all-improved” program won’t do the trick. Coming to Jesus and feasting on His presence will. That’s what Jimmy Needham did, and that’s how God set him free from the bondage of pornography. I believe that’s how He’ll also set me (and you) free from a life of depravity, sin, loss, and just mere existence.

Truth be told, I still struggle with appetite–both physical and spiritual. Who doesn’t? God is good; He’s always willing to take me in when I humble myself before Him. I believe He’ll do the same for you. If you ever needed grace (and I bet you do), He will always be willing to give it to you.  All you need is a humble heart and a contrite spirit.:)

 

How’s your appetite for Jesus? Craving for Him lately? You don’t have to wait for the next sale or purchase a coupon online to avail of the buffet because He’s always available for the taking. 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” – Jesus Christ (Revelation 3:20)

 

PS: Sharing with you guys photos to the concert. I went with my brothers, Josh and James, and my cousin, Jared. My other cousins and friends were there, too. Jimmy Needham you’re the best! 🙂

With camille

With Josh_Jimmy Needham

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Emotional Roller Coaster

In the second TVC of Jzone Wired Camp (which was awesome by the way, more about that soon), I went all out in saying that I am a blogger. Since that video was posted on Facebook and aired in our church’s Sunday service, people never stopped addressing me as “The Blogger.” I’ve never felt more compelled to blog! I should have just said writer. That way a 3-week “leave of absence” can be justified as…well, an absence. #ansaveh

I apologize for failing to update The Lifeline regularly. I think I’m having my busiest, craziest, not to mention HOTTEST summer of my 17 years of existence (which will soon be 18. Yay). When adults (especially my aunts) remind themselves of my impending debut, they always tell me, “Aba! Dalaga ka na! Hindi ka na bata, ganap na dalaga ka na. San ang party?” Um actually po pag twenty-one ko na gustong samantalahin yung pagiging dalaga ko kasi surfboard pa rin dibdib ko (unless yan na talaga ang tinadhana sa aking ng aking Manlilikha) at hindi pa po ako marunong magmaneho. Party? Tinatanong niyo po ba kung may kakilala akong caterer para pag sinurprise niyo po ako at least man lang kahit pumalpak ang program at walang dumalo, okay ang food ? Italianni’s po okay lang? #uyjokelangto

Anyway, back to now. Last Monday, I came home from the Wired Camp. It was life-changing! Really. It was also my most memorable camp to date. Not only because I experienced God in a whole new level. Certainly not because I met a guy who swept me off my feet and promised to wait for me until God says yes. (Gosh that would be kilig but really scary. A Walk to Remember ba ang peg ng buhay ko kaya pinapa-aga ni Lord ang pag-meet namin ng GB ko? haha)

It was the first retreat when I came home not feeling so okay. Actually, I was not okay. In fact, if anyone asked me if I had fun during the camp and the bus ride going home, I would immediately burst into tears.

Don’t worry, I was not bullied physically, verbally, or emotionally. My body was sorta bullied with food, though, and it was the only type of bullying I’ll ever enjoy. What went wrong?

After reflecting on my life during the camp, I realized the negative emotions I felt and sins I struggled with–loneliness, envy, self-seeking shyness–were merely the overflow of my lukewarmness prior to the retreat. Intimacy with anyone, whether it’s God or your Mom or your spouse, requires a daily effort to go deeper with a person. I allowed the fleeting pleasures of this life to fill in the gap that only the Diving Being could fill. And that, my friends, is a very stupid, foolish, and crazy decision. If you have experienced what I’m saying you could bear with me. I just proved to myself that I am human when I did such a stupid thing. Thankfully, my God ain’t stupid and He certainly won’t give up on me.

Remember my post on the 3 reasons why you should attend Wired camp (or any other Christian retreat for that matter)? If you don’t, do check it out. Basically I outlined 3 reasons why a college student should sign up for a retreat even if he does not know anyone. I am starting to learn that the things worth spending your money, time, and energy in are those that are very purposeful and soul satisfying. Did I do my post (and self) justice with the 3 reasons?

YES.

I may have cried–lamented–before my God, but I  found rest. Physically I was relaxed because the weather was very cool and so unlike the 39-degree Centigrade temperature here in Metro Manila. I may not have found all the answers to my questions, but I did find answers. When I asked God what was wrong with me, He told me that I needed to stop looking in myself for the answers because it’s futile to look for in a place that’s obviously empty. What I needed was HIM–His presence, His filling–Him. Just Him. I also found love. During the second night, I talked with a good friend of mine, Billie, and she encouraged me greatly. Also the girls who were under me (because I led a small group) encouraged me by listening and simply being there. A lot of times I don’t ask for answers from people; I just need their ears and heart. 🙂

Right now if you ask me if I’m okay, I’d say no. I’m doing great! I’ve learned (and still learning) that emotions will always fluctuate. You have a choice whether to let them reign supreme or to let yourself reign supreme over them. I serve and belong to a God Who is greater and more powerful than my emotions, positive and negative, Who understands my weaknesses and loves me still. Right now if you’re feeling down, depressed, or on the other side of the line–extremely happy and excited–fret not. Cry it all out to Jesus; share your laughs with Him. You’ll be amazed at how He will fill your heart with peace and joy incomprehensible. 🙂

Pictures, quotable quotes, insights, and other updates on my life shall be posted soon! I also have to tell you guys something but I can’t disclose everything right now. 🙂 But please do pray for me. Just pray for God’s approval. If it gets approved (or even denied, it’s okay), I’ll tell you all about it. Right now I have to go to sleep! 😀

Sembreak Part 2: ONE Retreat

The following day after my classic vacation in the breathtaking island of Boracay, I went to Tagaytay for another 3-day retreat, this time with more than 400 college and fresh grad students. If Boracay enthralled me with her turquoise-pearl like waves, amber and baby blue sky,  and smooth, granular sand, CCT Tagaytay impressed me with her air-conditioned, blowing winds and pollution-free air which I deeply inhaled every chance I got. (Friends of mine shared this sentiment, too. We immediately missed the cool air of CCT a day after arriving in Manila :D)

As much as I enjoyed the abiotic factors of the retreat, I treasured the spiritual component even more. I was unable to bring home a bag of Tagaytay winds back to Manila, but Spirit-filled, action-compelling memories and insights I was able to.

One of those insights dwelt on the subject of Master–knowing and following your ONE and true Master. On the first night of session 2, Pastor Jonathan Fenix exhorted us wisely:

“Entering into a relationship is entering into a relationship of authority and responsibility.”

Unless a woman willingly submits herself to her boyfriend (and future husband) or a child to his parents, a healthy, growing relationship between the parties cannot exist. No wonder a lot of us fail and give up on our relationships. The problem lies not in people being difficult, but in people resisting submission to authority.

Another of the most memorable insights from the retreat I learned the following day, from Mr. and Mrs. Hans Pe. The beautiful, fit, and Godly couple taught us principles on waiting and preparing for our Mate. “Wait actively, not passively,” they told us. But what I liked the most  about their message (even if it wasn’t my first time to hear it) was when they suggested that we do: create a non-negotiables list or a set of character traits and values our GB (God’s Best) must have. Frankly I haven’t started actually writing down my non-negotiables list, but when asked, I can mention more than 5 qualities in less than 30 seconds. What are those 5 qualities, you may ask? (not that I’m looking for a GB now, but…it’s good guys know what I want HAHA)

God-fearing, filled with the Holy Spirit, loves his family, passionate about the Kingdom, and generous. (I might post an exhaustive Non-Negotiable GB list soon! watch out for it! :D)

I heard a saying: “Lessons are best learned outside the four walls of the classroom.” In ONE retreat, the saying applied, too. By God’s grace, He gave me the opportunity to again lead a group of girls. Eating, sleeping (in the same room), talking, bonding, and sharing stories and secrets with them even for just 3 days taught me things I wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. Listen eagerly. You don’t have to know everything. Every lady reflects beauty uniquely, in a way only she can show and no other. Juzstine, Daisy, Denise, Pauline, and Pat were receptive to God’s message for their lives, and I was thankful to Jesus for their company. 🙂 They endured me singing the Nescafe cliche jingle “Good morning sa inyoooooooo!” while looking out our room’s window. Eh kasi naman yung overlooking scenery mala-haceinda ang dating. 😀

(L-R) Pauline, Denise, Pat, Juzstine, Daisy)

Aside from sharing my time and life with five ladies, I was also privileged to testify before my brothers and sisters in Module 2. Sobrang nakakakaba to the highest level of levels at pinipigilan ko pang umiyak (I was so nervous to the highest level of levels and I kept myself from crying), but God’s grace and hand carried me through my 5-minute, ala-fairytale speech (according to a friend). May I preserve my testimony not by might, but by the Spirit of God! 🙂 Likewise, friends of mine also shared their testimonies and I was also moved to the highest level of levels! What amazed me was that they were far from who they were in their sinful past. I wouldn’t have known Michelle Aquino, a testifier and friend of mine, used to be anti-authority until she shared her sans-Jesus past because when I headed our teaching group last summer, she was so submissive and cooperative! I praised God all the more. 🙂

photo c/o Billie Gonzales Thanks dear!

The retreat was the venue of 2 of my “firsts” (excluding the fact that it was my first time in CCT :D): first time an invited friend actually came (Myvee Lusterio, praise God for you!) and first time to dance to a Christian song with choreograph and lots of people. o_____________o I usually just dance by myself (and you wouldn’t want to see me if I were you) or at home as exercise, but not in public. But God said (through Tin Advincula, superbly talented dancer), “Dance!!!” So I’m like

Haha.

Moving on.

Having organized a largely populated retreat for the first time, the admin team and other committees did a really swell job. Although the retreat was flawed, it served its purpose well: to unite college students in seeking God and His righteousness. When God’s grace fills the hearts of many, you just seem to overlook the imperfections and dwell on the fruits bearing from consistent walks with Jesus. Some of the people in the retreat just started their walk, others have been walking for some time now,  but we enjoyed our Savior right where He brought us. I met new people who made me smile, laugh, think, blush (in a good way hahaha), pray, and even ask God for forgiveness (when  I looked at how they lived their lives and saw my sinfulness). Mas masaya talaga pag madami hindi dahil mas madaming gwapo o maganda (pero totoo talaga yun), kung hindi dahil mas madaming channels of blessing si God. (Ang paghahanap ng GB hindi sa college retreat, kung hindi sa singles. HAHA joke lang #pretendyoudidn’treadthat) Kidding aside, the energy of the 400+ people (a quarter of which are hyper 99.99% of the time) intensified praise and worship as well as competition in the session games and the Amazing Race.

Joe and his evil banana :))with Myvee! 🙂another rainbow! It appeared when we stopped over in Caltex

To summarize the retreat, it was ONEderful and ONE that glorified our Master and touched the lives of many. Our collective prayers were granted to us–not because we pray intensely, but because our God works mightily. I didn’t want to leave CCT Tagaytay so soon, but my Master prepared a Mission for me in Manila. I returned home, and the family I kissed goodbye when I left Friday morning greeted me jubilantly Sunday evening.

Until the next life-changing retreat! 🙂

Thank You so much, Father. :>

Photos courtesy of the talented and beautiful volunteers of Safelight, Jzone’s photo ministry, and my iPhone 🙂