Honorable Dressing

What to wear? What to wear? What to wear?!?!

This question haunted me, reminding me of the fleeting seconds and minutes, as I stood in front of my opened closet, still deciding what to wear. I’m one of those girls whose wardrobe is somewhere between plain Jane and Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes. I am also one of those people who thinks about his or her outfit before going to bed so as to avoid wearing the same top and bottom as last week. I plan carefully, but not to the point of being OC.

Okay, maybe a little.

Anyway, for some reason, I discarded my plan Friday night because I felt the heat seep through my skin’s pores Saturday morning; my outfit in mind would make me sweat like a hog. After three minutes or so of choosing, wearing, rejecting different outfits, I finally chose the “perfect” outfit: a loose blue-and-yellow blouse, thin, brown leggings, and brown-gold sandals. To complete the outfit, I borrowed my Mom’s brown Longchamp bag (oh wait the sandals are hers too). Pleased with my look, I rushed outside to say goodbye to my parents and ask my Dad for the remaining balance of my allowance.

Dad, Mom, and my uncle who just arrived from the US were having breakfast when I approached them so I hurriedly kissed Mom & Dad goodbye. As I was walking to the door, I stopped short in front of the master’s bedroom which had a tinted sliding door and looked at my reflection. You look pretty. Okay now leave. My brain programmed Feet to brisk walk alternately–that was, until the command was interrupted by my Mom’s exclamation:

“Shi! Look at Jenny’s blouse! It’s too short!”

*by the way, Shi or Suishi is my parents’ term of endearment for each other. Carry on.

Immediately Dad shifted his attention to my midsection all the way until the bottom, then looked at me knowingly. Before he could even comment about my blouse, I filled in. “But the blouse is long naman. Is this short?”

Dad, as he always did, commanded me sternly: “Jenny, change that. Wear jeans. Or change your blouse. The blouse is not that long and that (pointing to the leggings) is too tight. Remember, you’re commuting.” (Commuting simply means I shall travel via public transportation. That means I get to sit beside and travel with people I don’t know…men I don’t know.)

I seriously wanted to blurt out a “Thanks a lot, Mom” right there and then but my uncle was there. Actually, even if he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have done it because I would immediately be reprimanded, and worse, forbidden to attend to any of my plans for that day. Once more I tried to defend my “perfect” outfit, but my Dad was not to be moved.

“Change it.”

I returned to my room and shut the door behind me. I re-evaluated my outfit. It wasn’t kinky or showing too much skin–not a bit. In fact, my legs were concealed and my chest was covered completely (there was nothing to show off anyway; I have a surfboard with me). He should visit our youth group one time and see the girls there wear shorts. Now I have nothing against shorts, but I don’t wear shorts to church. I reasoned, “If other girls could wear shorts and still not look bitchy, then surely I could wear leggings–clothes that completely cover my legs!”  No matter how many reasons I can come up with to show how unreasonable my parents were being, however, I still changed my outfit. I still wore leggings (I already wore jeans last week), but my top was obviously longer and had longer sleeves. If he tells me to change again,

table flipping like a boss

Thankfully, my outfit was approved.

But because I hardened my heart and valued pride over honoring my parents, I left out house resentful and pissed that I didn’t get to wear what I wanted to wear. My past bratinella took over, and I submitted to her constricting regime (at least for several minutes).

Why am I sharing to you this incident? There are a few reasons actually. This is enough proof to show that preaching “Honor your Dad and Mom” to Sunday school kids is wasted unless you actually honor Dad and Mom whether you feel like it or not. I knew God was testing me, and initially, I failed.

As I processed my emotions on the road, I humbled myself so that I can hear what God had to say. What was wrong with me, God? Was it pride? Oh you bet it was! But my problem, my sin, ran deeper than pride. (Not that pride is bad enough, but it wasn’t all pride)

Who were you trying to honor when you chose that outfit?

I wanted to shut my ears to that question, but I knew God wanted a reply.

“Um, the people in church, I guess.”

Before my outfit outrage, I had my quiet time and I read the following passage from Proverbs 3:9:

“Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.”

I wrote that verse on my journal, word per word, and below it, I wrote a practical way to apply this verse. Guess what I wrote: Dress modestly.

Now don’t get me wrong: my outfit was not immodest, but it was not modesty at its best. I suppose if I wore that outfit during a family reunion, my Dad would have permitted me because he was there to watch me and I was with my close family members, not mere acquaintances. As I slowly allowed God to take my pride down, I saw where my Dad was coming from. That moment when I incorrectly justified my “right” made me doubt his goodness.

Three lessons I learned from “outrage,” and I hope you would too, especially if you’re an adolescent female:

  1. Honor your Dad & Mom even if you don’t feel like it. The long, full life that God promised (see Ephesians 6:1-2) is a daily experience. A lot of people live long lives, but unfortunately, they are full of misery and pain. Why? Well probably, along the way, they dishonored their parents (or standing parents), and that mistake brought with it grave consequences. Don’t wait until you suffer the consequences of disobedience & dishonor.
  2. Learning a Biblical command means you will most likely be tested in that area. Was it coincidental that I was tested on honoring GOD with my body? I think not. Although I failed the test initially, because I humbled myself, God honored my humility and “passed me” with flying colors. Thanks, Papa. 🙂
  3. Dress to impress your Creator, not your fellow creature. While this may not apply when you’re joining a fashion face-off or a beauty pageant, it applies to your everyday dressing. This lesson actually goes deeper than external appearance; it deals with heart issues. Girls and boys, when choosing an outfit especially if you know your Christian brothers and sisters will be present, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my blouse too tight? How about my jeans/leggings/skirt/shorts? (for ladies) when I bend, are my breasts showing? (cleavage as well) 
  • Will I be able to show myself confidently to my parents and get their approval? If I’m not as confident, what is the reason behind this?
  • Am I wearing this to honor my Creator or my fellow creature?
You may say, “I don’t see anything wrong with trying to impress the person I like. It’s not as if I’m enticing him/her to have sex with me. I just want him/her to notice me.” I agree with you. I have this sentiment, too. Pray to God for discernment regarding this matter. If you’re going to serve in ministry, then desperately wanting to impress your crush is not recommended. Remember: God looks at the heart. 🙂
In a society where posing nude in a magazine cover is not only accepted but applauded, it surely is difficult for girls (and guys) like me who want to stick to the Book because we believe in the promise it brings. What is the promise? Verse 10 of Proverbs 3 reads:
“It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.”
We place such a high premium on health, but we don’t do our part of the bargain. Always keep in mind your part:
Honor God with your possessions.
Honor Him with your ALL. 😀

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

Struggling With Your Thoughts? Think SPOT

You opened your eyes only to squint them a few seconds later as the sun kissed you good morning. You shifted your view outside your window and smiled as the blue sky and a small maya waved hello. “What a wonderful way to start my day,” you said. “Hey that rhymes! Wow, God thanks!” You sat up, folded your hands, and bowed your head and spent the first few minutes of your day with your Creator. After uttering an ‘Amen,’ you checked your cell phone. Without warning, out of nowhere, they entered your mind. The thoughts. Thoughts of your fight with a friend over the phone flooded your mind. You called her emotional. She called you insensitive. What once was a bright and good morning suddenly grew dim and dull. All because of thoughts that “came out of nowhere.”

Do you struggle with your thoughts? I know I do. It has been my struggle since last year. My thoughts vary from time to time: swear words (even if I don’t swear; I think they come from the movies and books), false views of God, selfish motives, and even hurtful words against others (even if I don’t actually say them). If you’re like me, you’ve probably read this command from God:

“We are destroying speculations and every  lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You’ve probably surrendered all your evil thoughts to God, asked to be freed from the enemy’s bondage, and claimed God’s victory. (If you’re like me, all of these things took place in a Christian retreat where the enemy and his minions seemed to be on leave from duty) After your bondage breaker, you successfully counteracted almost all evil thoughts with God’s truth. For a week you succeeded.

Then came week two. The battle was on again. Satan and his mini monsters resumed their positions. The awful past, a lazy present, and an anxious future clouded your memory. Your heart followed suit. Then your hands and your feet. From a confident, joyful, and strong Christian, you turned cranky, depressed, worried, and critical. What went wrong?

One of three things usually led to the pervasion of evil thoughts in my mind:

  1. Rationalization. I entertained a half-truth, half-lie, conformed it to my lustful desire, and attached an “it’s-okay-it’s-not-that-bad” string to alleviate the pain from the bump of my conscience
  2. Complacency. Similar to exercise. Couldn’t I let my thoughts wander for just a moment every once in a while?After all, my mind is the only place where my crush comes up to me to tell me he shares my sentiments.
  3. Selfishness and Pride. Why should I apologize to her? Okay, fine, she’s authority, but she’s wrong too! Am I the only sinner here?
One word sums up these three evils: Misalignment with God. Pastor Peter Tan-chi, our senior pastor, warned us against misalignment with God: it is the root of our sin and at times, our problems. In a preaching on overcoming discouragement and depression, Pastor Peter wisely said:
“To overcome negative emotions, you need to address the root problem then align with God.”
I believe that the same principle applies to overcoming evil thoughts. Emotions, after all, are products of our thoughts.
This morning, God reminded me that I am His mirror and that He is the Source; I am to reflect His glory. Along with this wonderful truth is the harsh reality that I am utterly self-centered. He wants me to change and He wants to change me. I know that I can do nothing of myself. After addressing the root problem of self-centeredness, God revealed to me 4 steps with which I am to counteract temptation. I called it the SPOT technique.
the desire and intention to do things for myself and all my expectations. God can’t work out my problem if I won’t give it to Him, and the longer I hold on to a temptation, its pull on me will only grow stronger.
that God will replace my evil desire with His desire; that He will show me a way out of that temptation (He promised this! Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13); that He will tell me what to replace with sinning. It’s not enough to just run away from temptation. I need to do something that will actually glorify God.
The wonderful thing about God is that He speaks. Maybe not audibly, but definitely clearly. In high-definition. I just need to lend Him my ears and my heart. This step becomes easy because it is God Himself who empowers me to obey His will. And lastly…
give God the glory–He alone deserves it. I learned that I should not miss this last important step because if I did, I will trust in my own power instead of God’s. Also, I should thank God even if  I encounter disappointments because I trust Him. He is God, He knows better, and He loves me dearly. 🙂
God holds me responsible for my thought life. You, too, are responsible with your thoughts. We should not let our minds wander and underestimate our thoughts’s power to control us. Next time those nasty, demonic ideas penetrate your mind, think SPOT. 🙂 And remember: this is all by God’s amazing grace. You and I will still fail and make mistakes, but when we let Him, God promises to pick us up, take us by the hand, and lead us to Paradise. The journey with Him is a struggling adventure, but you’d rather choose that over a depressing, miserable life. Right? 😀

Highly Favored

“And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace….The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins….”

– Esther 2:15b-17b, NKJV (emphases added)

I love receiving compliments. My liking of a compliment depends on: 1. who gave it and 2. the level in which it is given. I usually get the best compliments from the people who know me best: my parents, and boy, are they ever good at giving them. 😀

Three months ago I was privileged to host a dear friend’s birthday party. My dad, who is currently teaching himself digital photography, offered to take a few shots of me hosting. Apparently his idea of few was more than 200 photos. 🙂

On our way home, I asked my dad if he could critic my hosting. Parents have a knack of “complimenting” their children because they are their offspring, but my parents do not condone such pretentiousness. They are like magic mirrors which truthfully and gently rebuke the wicked stepmother or praise the amiable Snow White in me. Usually I was in between–a Snow White stepmother–but that night, I acted more like a princess. At least in the way I hosted.

Magaling, magaling. Mas angat ka dun sa kasama mo. Nakakatawa pa.” (You were good, good. You stood out compared to your co-host. And you were funny too)

“Angat” (stand out) stood out of all the words he said. There was something about being excellent superlatively, being cut above the rest. In my heart I thanked God for blessing me with the gift of eloquent speaking. I am also grateful to Him for placing me where I am at this moment in time to develop me holistically. As I dismounted our vehicle that night, my heart swelled with glee over what my dad just told me. For a moment I forgot about his more candid and extrovert other half waiting for us.

I showed mom the photos dad took during the party and asked me questions about the program, my former classmates, and my hosting. After a series of questions she proceeded to commenting on my attire, makeup, the venue–basically everything.

“Ang galing mo na mag make-up, ah. Aba, ang ganda ng dress ng debutante. Next time close your legs!” (You’re good at applying make-up! Wow, how beautiful the debutante’s dress.)

Ladies, close your legs. All. the. time.

Since my dad failed to take a video of me hosting, mom was unable to comment precisely on my beloved skill. Compliments of people thrill me, but nothing gives me more joy than hearing God commend me.  I appreciate my parents’s remarks because they know me well. Therefore it’s just right for me–or anyone else for that matter–to accept as truth what God says I am.

When I read the verses above (first paragraph) earlier this morning, I was awed. The verses gave me more reasons to love and adore Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia, even more. The Bible repeatedly mentioned the words “all” and “more than all the others…” to describe Esther.  Talk about supreme beauty!

How did Esther obtain favor and grace in the sight of all who saw her? How did she earn the king’s favor? Was it because of the 1-year intensive beauty treatment she underwent? The other virgins in the king’s harem underwent treatment, too. I wish the Bible elaborated more on Esther’s life prior to her queen-ship, but later I realized, it need not write additional chapters. I learned an invaluable lesson:

Favor is earned through the working of character being built over time.

Sure some individuals are naturally gifted with some skills or physical traits, but that does not make them favorable to all people. In fact, the more a person knows and believes he is exceptionally gifted or smarter than his peers, the more he would succumb to bossiness and pride.  Esther chose the narrow path of humility; she submitted to the leadership of her guardian and cousin, Mordecai. You can see it all throughout Esther (18th book of the Old Testament). A truly beautiful woman keeps her will and entire being under God’s control not because she’s weak, but because God is stronger and knows what is best ahead of her. Probably the other virgins were bossy over the eunuchs (“assistants”) assigned to them so they were instantly disliked. But not Esther. As an orphan and a captive in a foreign land, she learned how to treat others with respect and dignity. She could have seen and experienced for herself oppression–verbal, physical, or emotional–and so she decided to return the kindness to the people around her no matter how badly they treat her so as not to become like them. Therefore, her Commander-in-Chief openly commended her in His Manual.

I know there wouldn’t be a 67th book in the Bible named after me, but I am more than happy in hearing God commend me as His servant through my fellow servants. 🙂 He accepts me as I am, but I strive to earn His approval so that I “am a worker who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15) I hope that you, too, will choose to be a woman or man approved by God–a person of noble character, highly favored both by God and man. 🙂

“How Can I Give You Up?”

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it can be personalized. Albeit unknown to many, God’s Word is His love letter to man. 🙂 Even if a verse, chapter, or book was written to a specific person or people, God’s words still apply to people today because it’s the only truth that will last forever.

” The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

– Psalm 119:160

“ All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

– 1 Peter 1:24-25

My quiet time this morning left me in awe of God’s amazing love. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but I had to, because it is the truth. This is the personalized version:

 “ I taught Jenny to walk,
Taking her by her arms;
But she did not know that I healed her.
  I drew her with gentle cords,
      With bands of love, 
And I was to her as those who take the yoke from her neck.
I stooped and fed her.

How can I give you up, Jenny? 
      How can I hand you over, Jennifer Grace? 
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.”

– Daddy God (Hosea 11:3-4, 8)

If you are a child of God, claim these verses!! God can’t and won’t give you up no matter how bad you get. However, God is also just. He cannot let your sin go unpunished. As a Father, He will discipline you when you do wrong.

“For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

– Hebrews 12:6

God’s love has no threshold, but His patience does. Don’t abuse it.

I’m sure you will agree that it feels good to know you’re loved–really, actually. This feeling, which actually transcends feelings, is amazing! 🙂 Thank You, Jesus.