Jimmy Needham Concert & A Lesson on Appetite

10006044_475433035889853_49071857_o

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

1491739_10152327521153094_401879872864944415_n

10155115_10152327521178094_384091609951434777_n

1554456_10152327521183094_7809753623043556157_n

 

 

Ms. Right

On our way home tonight, my brothers and I were having a conversation. James, our youngest, out of the blue, told us he hasn’t tasted or seen unleavened bread, and then he asked me why it was so flat.

“Well because it doesn’t have yeast, so it’s flat. It doesn’t rise like normal bread.”

Hearing this, my other brother, Josh, interjected with a “fun fact” on unleavened bread:

Sabi ni Sir RC mas makunat pa ang unleavened bread sa SkyFlakes.” (“Sir RC told us that unleavened bread is chewier than SkyFlakes.”)

Wait, what? “SkyFlakes is not chewy at all! It’s crispy!” I told this rather defensively to my brother, as if I was debating which superhero is better, Captain America or Iron Man, to their die-hard fans.

But Joshua insisted. “No, it’s makunat daw. He said.”

But no! He was wrong, and I was right. I defended my position again, this time, with more passion in my voice: “Ano kang makunat?! Ang lutong kaya ng SkyFlakes! Hindi siya makunat! Pag hinati mo ang dali-daling baliin, ano ka ba–-”

“JENNY!! JENNY! SSHHHH! SSSSSHH!!”

Mom. She cut off my argumentative monologue and aired hers. “Why are you so defensive? Huh? Why do you speak like that?”

“No, I’m not.” (Yes, I was. And  I knew it.)

“Why do you talk like that? You know what, you’re a bully. You sound like a know-it-all, like Ms. Righteous. You don’t always have to prove you’re right!”

That shut me up alright.

My ego was attacked head on, but my heart responded in a rather positive way. Sort of.  I didn’t react or defend myself again (because that would have been really stupid). When I looked at James he smiled at me and stuck out his tongue, and I also returned the favor by smiling and sticking out my tongue as if to surrender my right to be right. And for the rest of the ride (which was only a few minutes away after that “heated” argument), I kept all my rights to myself.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I always want things right, as much as possible. In a world where everything that’s right goes wrong, the way I’m thinking is a tad fantastic. Lately, God has been teaching me that my notion of being right all the time is not the same as Him being right all the time. Mine may be tainted with ill intentions or lead to negative consequences (as proven by my unleavened bread experience); God’s righteousness is always based on good intentions and always results in positive consequences. Christianity is not all about getting things right, about following rules to “avoid God’s wrath.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Christians should be loose and not totally do what’s right; I’m saying we shouldn’t be legalistic. I’m saying that as human beings, we have to deal with the reality that everything we do, say, and think can be wrong because imperfection is in our nature. I realized there are only two things you can be sure about the human race: mistakes and death.

Anyway, back to being right. When I got home and thought about my being Ms. Right, I thought about parts of my life that I always want to be right. The first thing that came into my head was Mr. Right, also known as GB (God’s Best), “the one,” soulmate or whatever way you want to call it. Hollywood has philosophized a lot of times on the subject of finding Mr. Right–how he seems to have all or almost all the characteristics you’ve been looking for in a husband, how he’s got you checking one item after another on your checklist. In church and retreats I’ve attended that talked about waiting and preparing for your lifetime partner, I’ve heard speakers suggest that we make a checklist on the qualities that we look for in our future husband. This suggestion fit my “right theology.” So I made my list. (But that’s another story of its own) Tonight, I rethought about that list and about Mr. Right, especially after what our pastor said earlier this evening in the worship service:

“What many people don’t realize is that marriage is a lifetime commitment to a defective individual.”

Let’s face it: there really is no Mr. Right or Ms. Right. I realized that when dealing with the human race, mistakes are more common and more predictable than successes. I also realized that looking for a suitable helpmate (in the future, for me) involves more than just looking for someone with desirable qualities; it is also figuring out what specific flaws and “defects” a person has that you can deal with…for the rest of your life. Waiting for people to change is futile. As has been said many times in different ways in so many movies, books, and whatnot on love: “You love a person for who they are, not for what they will become.”

So….what does that have to do with me being Ms. Right? A lot. Tonight, I had a mini-eureka moment. The SkyFlakes argument triggered that. If it weren’t for the question on the unleavened bread, my brother’s interjection, and my sudden outburst, I wouldn’t have realized how much time I’ve wasted displacing my anger and right to be right on things that shouldn’t be fought over, more so, debated on. I don’t always have to prove I’m right. Heck, I’ve never been consistently right! I’ve flunked almost everything, even the things I’ve been doing for so long–school, diet, sleep (by sleeping late…just like tonight), blog entries (I’ve revised this entry about three times), relationships (i.e., friendships), and all my other responsibilities. The Bible already said it: “There is no righteous, no not one.” Me proving myself to be right when I’m not supposed to just proves how wrong I am! The real righteous and good people do not have to prove themselves, just as a cheetah does not need to prove himself to a puppy that he can outrun him. Ms. Right sometimes needs to learn to take a backseat, let things “go wrong,” and laugh. Chill. Keep calm. As for looking for Mr. Right, she should be looking both at his sweet and sour parts, and see if she can deal with both.

Before she even searches for her Mr. Right, Ms. Right must first learn to accept her sweet parts and sour parts, and the fact that she doesn’t always have to be right. She doesn’t always have to win an argument. Or else, she would be no different than a bully.

Ms. Right and her minions a few months back
Ms. Right and her minions a few months back

Craving Grace: A Book Review

Craving Grace by Lisa

For Lisa Velthouse’s whole life, Christianity had been about getting things right. Obeying her parents. Not drinking. Not cursing. Not having premarital sex…..But after two decades of trying to earn God’s favor, she found her faith was lonely, empty, and unsatisfying. So where does a “good Christian girl” turn when she needs answers? More discipline, of course: fasting! For months Lisa managed to fast, but the result seemed to be that suddenly she was falling short in everything else. Then, one night at a wedding, she denied herself the cake but broke an even bigger promise she’d made years before–falling in such an unexpected and world-rocking way that it challenged everything she thought she knew about God and herself.

Have you ever encountered a book that almost perfectly described your current situation and feeelings? Your awkward, humorously stupid, and at times, downright sinful moments and emotions? I have. And it’s called Craving Grace.

I first read a Lisa Velthouse creation seven years ago when my cousin lent me her copy of Saving My First Kiss. At that time I was a tween, awkward, innocent, and relatively simply in every way possible, and I honestly did not understand a big part of the book, except for the fact that the author (who was the same age as I am now) made a vow to God to safeguard her purity, especially that of her lips.

In this not-so-tell-all but completely honest memoir, Lisa Velthouse described her struggle with a seeming lack of romantic activity in her life, understanding God’s grace, keeping her hands off chocolate sundaes and brownies, and dealing with failure. A whole smack of heart-crushing failure, especially for a woman who seeks to have everything in place so that she would not make God sad. While reading this, I felt joy in knowing that someone else’s reality and struggles are similar to mine, and even more joy in confirming that everything I’m experiencing now is part of God’s great, big, and strange plan.

Objectively, I thought Craving Grace was mature, intelligent, funny, and heart-tugging. Although there was no particular or singular story that was supposed to be follow throughout the book, I always found myself wanting to turn over the next page and read on (and I read even if I had a thick-load of other school readings, which were mostly boring. HAHA)  I also liked the fact that the arrangement of the stories and events was not chronological, but thematic, and the theme was, the ever-deepening understanding of a child of her Father’s amazing grace. I also appreciated Ms. Velthouse’s choice of words and use of language because it entailed going to the dictionary to search for literal meanings and looking into my heart and mind for deeper ones (which is why I thought it was intelligent). Lisa Velthouse didn’t just write her story for the sake of writing it (a mistake a lot of memoirs unfortunately commit); she wrote for the sake of change–for herself and her readers.

So why did I say I identify with this book so, so much? Because while I was reading it, I was at the point of my life where I struggled with God’s grace, love, Word, truth…and just God Himself. I also struggled with fasting (I am eating my 5th or 6th serving of peanuts for the day. :O)  I couldn’t understand how I, the professing smart, intelligent, organized, and “I-have-it-all-together” girl, could eat too much food, watch too much TV, think vain thoughts, become so utterly selfish, fail academic requirements, and hurt the people I love the most (and who love me even more). In some parts of the book, Lisa Velthouse told stories about her experiences with sheep and how much she wished God didn’t compare her with sheep, which are downright stupid, helpless, and stubborn animals. She really got me when she wrote the following lines on page 145:

My preference–and my default mode–is to go on believing I am mostly good, just occasionally misguided. It is soothing to me, this illusion that I am not small and insignificant…that I am not undisciplined and unprincipled….that the core of my character is not at all ugly or awkward or unseemly….

She helped me accept the fact that I am an awkward, stubborn, and helpless sheep that is loved, cared for, and protected by a good and gracious Shepherd. She helped me understand even better that, while God hates sin to the core, He loves the sinner, and more importantly, to those He calls His children, He does not rest nor does He get fazed by failure and trials until His kids are perfectly aligned to His will for them.  She made me crave grace and search for God’s sweetness without shoving it at my face. Grace, indeed, is beautiful. 🙂

Ms. Velthouse, thank you for sticking to God in spite of the struggle, and living on to write your story about His grace. 🙂

As for YOU reading this right now, go grab a copy of Craving Grace: the book every person who ever failed in life and searched for God and continues to seek revival and hope should read. 🙂

Special thanks to OMF Literature for publishing her book here in the Philippines! :) Our God is indeed Jehovah Jireh! :D

 

Happy Birthday, Girl in Purple Speedo

photo (3)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who didn’t know how to swim. Because of this, whenever she and her many cousins would swim, she wore floaters or salbabidas. One day, her family &  relatives vacationed  in a mansion in Laguna, and there, she and her cousins swam in the pool. The  little girl wanted to try out the new floater her Mommy brought for her  baby brother. It was a car, and swimming with  it made you look like you were driving…a car. 🙂 The little girl sandwiched her body in the floater car and  gave it a spin. In deep water.

Without her older cousins noticing her, the little girl swam towards the deep. She started kicking her legs, “steering” the car, and swimming farther into the deep. 5 feet….6 feet….she swam! everything was going smoothly until…

She kicked and steered too hard, so the floater flipped sideways, and eventually tumbled upside down. The little girl submerged in the water, and started to drown. She flapped her arms, struggled for air, screamed for help, but all her efforts failed her. Tears flowed from her eyes. For 8 seconds the little girl felt like it was the end of her world–until, suddenly….

Someone in a purple Speedo swam towards her, hugged her by the waist, and immediately plunged her up out of the deep water. Her savior calmly placed the little girl in the gutter as she continued crying. It took the little girl a while to calm down, and when she did, she faced her lifesaver: the beautiful girl in purple speedo. She was one of her many cousins.

As the years passed, the little girl learned how to swim and the girl in purple Speedo traded her one-piece for a bikini.  She and the little girl grew apart over the years because of geographical distance, but distance did not faze their love for each other and things they shared in common. The little girl found a fellow bookworm in her lifesaver, and shared her love for words. Last year,  they enjoyed watching Glee, Modern Family, SNL, and Big Bang Theory in the lifesaver’s house in San Jose. Another thing they have in common? They both have mothers (who happen to be sisters) who always reminded them to drink their vitamins and wear their “agimats” a.k.a Skalar Energy Necklaces (which they both found unfashionable). Admittedly, the little girl didn’t feel as close with her lifesaver as she did with her other cousins, but she and the girl in purple Speedo shared a unique bond. At least, that’s what she thinks.

Ate Trish, thank you for saving my life that fateful day in Villa Juliana. Thank you for handing me down your books. Thank you for teaching me to love others as they are–however different they may be. You showed your true colors even if at first I found it unnerving.  Beneath the cheetah trench coat, leather boots, and eyeliner is a beautiful & kindhearted person–a good friend and cousin who finished strong.

Thank you for the wonderful memories, Ate Trish.  One day, we’ll see each other again there in our Father’s Kingdom. We’ll hang out in each other’s mansions–watching  reruns of our favorite shows  (in clean versions), eat pizza, and write songs (for you) and stories (for me). We’ll be drinking Nikken water and wearing a more fashionable version of our agimats, aka, the Skalar Energy Pendants.

I love you, girl in Purple speedo. See you soon!

Love,
The little girl 🙂

(The eulogy I gave for my dear cousin, Trisha Jarlego Solomon, last May 18, 2013)

Belated happy birthday from down here, cousin dearest. I know Heaven is a wonderful place. I’m actually quite jealous of you. You have no more struggles to go through, no more giants to contend with, no more pain to endure, and no more sadness to deal with. I (we) still have to deal with all that. But you know what’s even sadder? Dealing will all those things without you.

We weren’t really that close when you were still here. In fact, when I saw your photos back then on Facebook, I thought to myself, “What is she wearing?!”  You were weird and eccentric. Then later I realized: your weirdness and eccentricity is what makes you beautiful.

You were kind to everyone around you. Everyone. Even to Lola, no matter how many times she pesters you to eat (para may kasabay siya. HAHA). You weren’t a perfect daughter, but you were loving, thoughtful, and grateful nonetheless. You were a really good friend. I really wish we could have become better friends, but, again, I realized, I’ll see you up There really soon, so I wouldn’t really miss out on anything now, would I? 🙂

I’m sure if you were still here last week, you would have cried at the sudden and tragic passing of Cory Monteith. You were a Gleek to the core. Upon hearing of his death, I remembered you. I remembered how much you liked Glee and the story you told me when you met some of the cast members at a bar in SanFo. I thought to myself: 2 people, both young, beautiful, exceptionally talented, and yet, gone so soon. I know God has better plans, but sometimes I wish He would take out those plans on “less deserving” people, you know? The only thing I regret even more about Cory’s death was that he died alone. But you, Ate Trish, didn’t.

Your ever-loving mother told us how your friends ushered you into Heaven with a beautiful song. She told us she was really sad at your departure, but you (and God) assured her that she would be okay and that YOU would be  even more okay. She had the strength to let you go. During your memorial service here in Manila, our cousins and friends reminisced our memories we had with you growing up. I’m sure you heard all of that. We thank you for impacting our lives in a positive way.

Never judge a book by its cover. That’s the best lesson I learned from you. I sorry I judged you, thinking you have backslid and forgot your relationship with God. Perhaps at some point you did, but regardless of what you did, I still had no right to judge you, or anyone for that matter. I have ran away from God myself. Who am I to point my finger? You taught me to be real and authentic, even if it entails bearing the demeaning looks of others. You loved and respected people in spite of them. Just like Jesus, you befriended what society would consider as “outcasts.” You saw the beauty in life, and you translated that beauty through the spoken word and through music. I have your CD, by the way. I downloaded the songs to our iTunes so that I can hear your voice over and over again, as if you were singing next to me. I’m sure the Heavenly chorale is happy with you there. 🙂

Thank you for your life, cousin.

See you soon! 🙂

579593_3770339533621_251569998_n

21847_237881832016_8358430_n

22652_226764222421_7845978_n

 

By the way, this song is awesome. 🙂 #ForeverFave

Coming Clean

I grew up thinking that the Christian life was an uphill adventure. Every year, life gets tough as your faith muscles are being flexed to their maximum capacity, but whatever happens, you’re always improving. God only knows where I got this absurd idea, and now He tells me to delete it from my system because not only is it wrong, it’s deceiving.

The Christian life is not an uphill adventure. It’s a struggle-packed, roller coaster mess, but beautiful nonetheless.

I received Jesus into my life seven years ago, in February 2006 at the age of 12. Although I grew up in a Christian home, it was only after the Holy Spirit entered my life and started working in me that I felt, experienced, and knew what it was like to be really Christian. I developed a passion for reading and studying God’s Word. My quiet times usually lasted one to two hours. I served in various ministries and tried almost each one–tech, music, Sunday School (we call it NxtGen in our church), hosting, ushering, and retreat organization. For the first four or five years in my walk, I felt like God and I were the closest of friends. Sure, I fell every once in  while. I struggled with self-control, discipline, loneliness, a very mild case of depression, and self-esteem issues. Nevertheless, I really saw God’s hand at work in my life, and I felt His power work in and through me. I stuck to God’s Word like masking tape on paper.

Then I started drifting away.

I don’t remember how The Drift started, but I know when it started: when I let my heart, instead of the Holy Spirit with my knowledge of God’s Word, dictate my actions. Feelings usurped the throne; the Holy Spirit and the mind was deposed. Instead of guarding the heart, I let it take the lead. I behaved and acted on impulse.

There was a time last year when I had ill feelings for a certain brother in Christ for no apparent reason! I just didn’t like the way he spoke because I thought he was pretending to speak good English when he occasionally spoke with wrong grammar. I served God with him with these feelings because I did not surrender them to the Lord.

There were times (and sometimes I still do) avoid the gazes of my friends (except the really close ones) and people I know because my heart told me: “They might think you’re feeling close. Don’t greet ’em. Wait for them to call you.” So I looked the opposite direction when a person was heading my way or looking towards me and avoided them instead of making their day extra special with a smile and a sincere “Hello.”

When I’m with friends, I pretended I was a health-freak. I ate healthy food, said I exercised regularly, and counted calories. I did do those things, but I did not tell them that I also binged almost every night, had regular guilt trips to the fridge, and failed almost all my “healthy living” resolutions.

My mind brimmed with me. I’m pretty sure my mind got sick of me. I meditated on the things I wished I had–clothes, shoes, a successful career in the future, a thick checkbook, a desirable boyfriend…the list never ended. Materialism became my philosophy.

The worst side of me appeared at home. You are who you are in your comfort zone. There were weeks when I did nothing but watch television, eat gluttonously, and yell at my brothers to stop eating the snacks that were supposed to be for our baon (packed lunch), when I myself ate them. I played Pharisee pretty well. When my parents made lambing to me and asked me to massage them, I hesitated, but eventually agreed with great reluctance because “I had to ‘pay’ them back for what they did.'” In my head, I questioned what I was doing: Why was I being forced to serve them? Shouldn’t service be done voluntarily? I resented massaging them for 15 minutes, but I never hesitated to ask my Mom for my allowance and my Dad to pick me up from school. Moreover, when they told me to do simple errands for them, it’s either I delayed doing them or thought of things I should get in exchange for doing their errands for them. The list could go on and on. The perfect girl wasn’t really perfect after all.

I realized that something was wrong and that I was not being Christlike when, one night (which was last night), I grew tired of it all. I grew tired of watching too much TV, eating too much junk food, hurting too much people, and leaving myself hurt, depressed, confused, and worst off than when I started. I kept telling myself that I want CHANGE, but CHANGE wasn’t happening. I tried going back to my healthy living resolutions, character-building books, and all the other things I thought would help me bring the change I wanted. Most of them failed, and the others worked only for a short period of time. Where do I turn to? Then suddenly, sentences formed in my mind.

“You were bought with a price. It was for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, and do not be enslaved again by a yoke of slavery. I did not save you to waste your life on worthless things, Jenny. Wake up! You are a child of the living God. Don’t waste your life away. Come back to Me. I love you so much, daughter! Come home, please.”

A thousand times I failed Him, still His mercy remained. Still His grace enveloped me. Still His love welcomed me with open arms.

Last night, I repented. Today, I come clean. I’ve been meaning to “come clean” a few weeks back, but I suppose God did not put the words in my mouth until I have been truly broken and humbled. The girl who thought she was  steadily “pressing toward the goal of her upward calling in Christ Jesus” has really, been stuck in the mire but was too proud and too egocentric to see her dire and depressing predicament. She forgot she was in the state grace, which was accompanied by power. She gave up the power she had access to to gratify the passing pleasures of her sin.

I wrote this and shared my experience, hoping to encourage those who have fallen behind and warn those who are standing strong, that they may watch themselves or they, too, may be tempted. I learned three things. First, starting out perfectly does not mean you end up (or continue) walking perfectly. You trip, stumble, and fall. The Christian life requires hard work! It’s true that God is the one at work in my life, but He refuses to work alone. He wants my cooperation. He wants to teach His stubborn daughter responsibility and obedience, and He can only do that if He gives me work to do.

Secondly, it takes only a small lie to deviate you from the truth should you choose to entertain it. Do not give the devil a foothold! One of Satan’s widely used tactics is Messing With Our Minds. What’s our defense? God’s word! Those times I struggled and refused to come clean before God were the times when I neglected my quiet time and study of God’s Word. Never, ever neglect your quiet time! It may just be your greatest defense for a day of combat against the Deceiver.

Thirdly, the heart is DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS AND IS DESPERATELY SICK (Jeremiah 17:9, emphasis added). It’s not just sick–it’s DESPERATELY sick. This is truth. Forget about the “follow your heart” philosophy movies, songs, and celebrities advertise. It’s the worst piece of advice in the planet. To follow the heart means to allow it to hold the reins of your will and make your decisions for you, instead of you directing it towards making Godly decisions. The Holy Spirit taught me that I should drown my heart with Biblical truths via the mind in order for it to get used to following Him.

However, the greatest lesson I learned from my troublesome experience is not any of the things I just mentioned. They are nothing compared to this: God really, really does love me. Gently, sweetly, benevolently, passionately, mercifully, graciously. He is one of a kind. He did not give up on me, leave me, or forsake me as He promised. He disciplined me because I belonged to Him. He broke my legs and carried me through the consequences of my actions because He was my good Shepherd. I can’t thank Him enough for giving me the nth chance. God is indeed good, and I testify to that!

If you’ve been standing firm in Jesus, praise God for you! Just be careful, and keep walking by the Spirit. 🙂

If you can relate with me, and you’ve been struggling for some time now, know that there is HOPE. Forgiveness and restoration is readily within your disposal. But here’s the thing: you need to repent. God made it clear to me: once I returned to Him, I will do, think, and speak on His terms. I will work according to His timetable, His will, and His plan for me. Jesus desires not just to be your Savior, He also wants to be your LORD. He asks simply this: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. To do that, you must repent or make a 180-degree turnaround to Jesus. He can and will transform you! But you have to let Him. You have to admit, as I did, that you failed and need help, and that you don’t know everything. As for me, I had to accept the fact that I won’t be completely perfect as long as I’m in my earthly body, and that I was going to be perfect on God’s terms and in His time, not mine. (As a self-confessed perfectionist, this was hard to accept at first).

Forget perfect. You are being transformed.

Forget uphill. You’re in for a rollercoaster ride filled with ups, downs, and occasionally, loops.

Forget pride. Get rid of it and repent. Saints need repentance too, you know. 🙂