My Fruitful Jobless Season & the Fulfillment of my Introvert Dreams

As I write this, I am munching on my almost-midnight snack (appetizer for the actual midnight snack) and hearing only the clicking sound of my keyboard and the rumbling of the AC. I am all alone in our hotel room while my Mom is out partying with her friends. Yes, my Mom is partying. Not clubbing, but attending a birthday party (of course I had to delineate that). I’ve never been this alone in my life and I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Earlier I just had dinner at The Habit–alone; took a long, warm, and slow bath–alone; read Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman without noise and interruptions, alone; cried my heart out to God and blew my nose heavily in between–alone. Introvert dreams that would have otherwise been unfulfilled if I were back in Manila, or, if I already have a job.

Oh yes, that three-letter word that proves problematic to every normal person who just got out of college.

When 2016 kicked in, I was determined to find a job. Just like any person itching to get their minds and hands working, I sat myself down, went online, browsed through various companies and job listings on the big names of job search sites. Just like any other person, I expected answers. I hoped eagerly for a “We would like to set up an interview with you” in the next week or two after I sent out literally two dozen applications. I should have known. I learned the hard way. Job hunting is much like keeping healthy relationships: you gotta wait for the right time, usually a long time, and decrease your expectations.

So I decreased my expectations. After sending my resumes to over a dozen advertising agencies, I realized they probably won’t notice an applicant such as myself, a newcomer, who, although with legal status, does not have local experience. I’ve been told that the job culture here in the US prefers experience over education, which was quite the opposite in Manila. Actually in Manila, it’s 60% who you know, 30% what you studied, and 10% what you actually can do that are the bases for getting hired for the job. Anyway, so the day after I applied for the ad agencies, I shifted my focus to nearby companies (so that I don’t have to travel far) and those with clerical positions. I have to start from the bottom before I can say “now we’re here.” I applied as an admin assistant in the most random but legit companies. That was Monday night (actually Tuesday morning at around 1 AM).

The next day, I ran errands with my Mom, aunt, and uncle. On our way home, my phone rang, and it was from an unknown caller. I picked it up, and from the receiver spoke a man with what I thought was an Indian accent.

“Hi this is insert his name here–because of his thick accent I didn’t comprehend it. You applied for our job opening as admin assistant at insert company here. I reviewed your application and I think you would be fit for the job….”

This is it! It’s actually happening. It wasn’t quite what I expected, though. I thought it would happen around daytime while my mind is more alert and I just had breakfast and not at 7 PM when I can’t wait to get home and have dinner because my stomach’s crying out to me. Good thing my excitement got the best of me and spiked my alert levels with much needed adrenaline. “Oh okay so what time will the interview be?”

“Are you free at 9”

“AM or PM?”

My Mom, who was beside me, chuckled, “Syempre AM ano ka ba!” (Of course AM, what are you thinking?)

Fail. Am I really ready for this?

“In the morning of course. If 9 AM is not good for you, how about 9:20 AM, Wednesday, is that okay?”

“Yeah sure!”

“Okay, I’ll see you then, Jennifer!”

“See you!” (Who are you?!)

I got home feeling excited to have my first job interview for a position I applied for online. I’ve never applied for a job and been notified for an interview ever before, so this was all new to me. Although it wasn’t my first job interview, it was my first interview for a non-corporate company, especially for a start-up company, and most especially in the US! Someone actually dared to look into someone like me, who had no experience.

My Mom and I left the house 30 minutes before my call time. I estimated we had about extra 5 minutes just in case we got lost. Well, we got lost for about 8 minutes and required another 5 minutes to find our way back so I was late for my interview. Strike 2. I wanted to just ditch the interview to save my face, but then to do that would be even more disrespectful.

When Mom and I got to the office’s location, I was shocked. The office faced a railroad track, and its very edifice had no label whatsoever to tell you the company owned it or was in it. No company logo, no signage, nada. Just a plain, old, and low roofed structure with the address number. My Mom and I grew nervous for a bit. The Criminal Minds and CSI episodes all raced through my head in a matter of seconds. However, I still managed to knock at the door and wait for a response. After a few seconds, a tall European-looking man opened the door and confirmed the name of the guy I spoke to last night (he texted his name when he sent me the address). I got in, he closed the door shut, and my Momma remained outside. Poor Mom. I am so thankful for her. Good thing there was a restaurant right beside the strange, plain edifice, so Mom stayed there.

To cut the long story short, the interview went well. I think the guy saw me fit for the job. Twenty five minutes after I got inside, I went out to my Mom, who, unbeknownst to me then was actually worried and anxious about my state that, so much so that she told me, when I sat with her in the table: “I told myself, ‘If she’s not coming out there in twenty minutes or so, I will come knocking!'” Her inner Grissom and motherly radar were on red alert. Thankfully, I came out alive and actually sweaty (at least my armpits were) because a) I was nervous what the guy would ask…or do and yet b) he was really handsome so I was hoping he’d have a good heart (BUT NOT so he’d get my number or anything like that, okay, I’m just stating facts).

After that interview, Mom and I explored Hollywood via train and our feet. It was a great way and day to bond! I lost one of my favorite scarves though. 😦 Good thing Mom bought me Ghirardelli chocolates so I sorta felt okay about my scarf.

A week after that interview, the guy called me again while I was vacationing at my aunt’s place at Chino Hills. Actually he called while I was sleeping. I only found out he called an hour after he called, when I saw my phone. I called back immediately.

“So are you still interested in the job?”

Interested? Of course I was! Then the image of the place came to my mind, and my Mom’s worries over it. I thought twice. I told him I’d think about it first and get back to him after an hour. I called my Mom (who went to the gym at that time with my aunt) and related the news, and after a bit of discussion, and prayer, I called the guy again.

“When do I start?”

He told me he’d me on Tuesday for training (it was Saturday at the time of our call). After I hung up, I thanked the Lord and wrote on my journal: January 16, 2016. Hired at insert company name. I went downstairs, smiling, that finally my prayer has been answered.

When my Mom and aunt got home from the gym, Mom came up to me and related news from the first job offer that I got, prior to this one from the shady-place-but-handsome-boss place. “I called the person from the company. She said you might have an interview next week!” And that company was an ad agency.

Immediately my phone sounded. I got an email from the said agency stating that I have a presentation due next week. I was devastated. “But I already said yes to this guy.”

“Yeah honey but I’m worried for you! The area is not as…safe. Besides, this is a much bigger company.”

So after washing the dishes and watching an episode of Law and Order, I composed a message saying that I’m turning down the job I already had (in a subtler and kinder way). Once again, I’m letting go. insert derp face

Three weeks later, my introvert dreams came true. In the middle of those three weeks I also got to visit another aunt up north, see the Levi’s Stadium, meet new people, and eat dinner all by myself. Three weeks of pure relaxation, grace, waiting, and time with the Lord.

Finding a job is one thing. Getting the job and staying in it is another. I had so many expectations and misconceptions about work and jobs before I got here, and I’m glad that through my initial experiences, they are slowly being corrected. Indeed, even in my job hunting, God is in control. Moreover, He’s changing me. If I was in the same position last year, at this month,  I would have cried and complained to God for not giving me a job, as if He was obliged to give me one. I would have told Him that I hated being a bum and that He called me to work so He should give me a job. As I wait on Him to hand me greater responsibilities, He is teaching me that:

  • my future jobs are not to be my source of income and of life. He is.
  • He is in control. Always. Forever.
  • I should live in the present and be grateful for the things He sends my way.
  • I am to glorify Him in my present circumstances.
  • I should allow Him to shape my idea of the ideal life. I thought the ideal scenario was having a job straight outta uni. Eight months after graduation and I’m still “pre-employed.” Not all jobs and job-hunting experiences are created equal.
  • I have to work hard and be patient because the best things in life don’t come instantly. You can never get the top quality ramen of a Michelin star restaurant from a cup of instant noodles.

If you’re like me, a fresh grad with the high hopes of getting the job without the hurdles that you’ve experienced in college, I suggest you change your perspective and lower your expectations. This season of waiting is the season of preparation. I like how Jim Elliot put it: “Wherever you are, be all there.” Allow God to work mightily in and through you as you wait. As His child, that future job is not my main job. His work is.

And while you’re still jobless (“pre-employed”), go do the good things you’ve always wanted to do when you were still working! Now’s the time! 🙂

PS: This week, I actually have interviews (yes, more than one, yaaay) so please include me in your prayers. 🙂 Until then, I have to finish my reading list and rehearse! 🙂 

The Struggle Is Real: Forgiving, but not Forgetting

The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I deal with them. Good news: you're not alone in your struggle. Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. :)
The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I respond to them. Good news: you’re not alone in your struggle! Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. 🙂

We were watching our favorite television show in the living room. Wanting to relax, I put my legs up and sit in an Indian sit position. She immediately slapped my legs repeatedly and whispered: “Ibaba mo yang paa mo! Ayaw nila nakataas ang paa!” (Put your feet down, they don’t like it when your feet are up on the couch)

The moment I recalled that scene, negative thoughts and irritation sunk in, and I felt vengeful again. Instantaneously I thought of hurtful words that I wanted to lash out at her in my defense. Who do you think you are? You’re not the owner of this house. Uncle H and Aunt G aren’t prohibiting me from putting my feet up; in fact, they want me to feel at home. If I were the owner of the house, I won’t tell that to my guests, especially not my relatives! Of course at that time, I didn’t tell her these. How could I? She’s my grandmother.

Hours owning up to that flashback moment, I chose to forgave my grandmother for her nasty habit of nagging me and being sweet to the hands that feed her and not so much to her “co-tenants” such as myself. I forgave her because I loved God and God loves her. Also, even if I don’t quite like her, deep down I still love her. I want her happiness and blessedness. However, every time I remembered that scene (and others like it) and the ill feelings and negative thoughts come back to me, I questioned my forgiveness. Was it real? Wasn’t I sincere enough? If it’s not real, how do I really forgive her, then? Is forgetting the sign of true forgiveness?

Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me hard lessons on forgiveness, humility, and love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not keep a record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4a,5b) Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) When Peter came up to Him and asked up to how many times must he forgive his brother who wronged him, Jesus trumps Peter’s seven-time comment with His own number: “No…but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Through the course of my study, the Lord asks me a question: Jenny, do you notice anything similar with these verses?

Being the grammarian that I was (and still am), I replied: “Yes Lord. All the main verbs of all the sentences are in present tense.”

“Very good observation. You see, true love is present tense. That’s how I love. It goes on and on as long as you have breath and life. The same goes for forgiveness. I commanded you to forgive as I forgave you. And how did I forgive you? Although all your deeds are written on My book, I do not hold it against you. I may not forget (as if I have amnesia), but I choose not to remember. You sin everyday, don’t you? Then guess what? I forgive you everyday! Every single day I still provide for you, teach you, guide you, and uphold you with My righteous right hand. That’s how I forgive you, and that’s how I want you to forgive your grandma.”

I learned that God commanded me to forgive, not to forget, and forgiveness is present tense. If I must forgive my grandma every day, I should. Forgiveness also applies to how I treat her. Even if I don’t feel like honoring her, I would. I would still obey her commands and hold her hand when we walk in the mall not only because she’s my grandmother, but because it’s what love would do. In the moments when I feel hate and dislike for her, I would remember the words of my Lord Jesus: “I forgave you, so forgive. Love, as I have loved you.” I can only fulfill this command because the Holy Spirit is in me, and He gives me the power to forgive. Jesus showered me tremendous amounts of grace, and through Him, I can do all things. Some situations and some people just require heavier doses of His love and mercy (myself included).

Is forgetting the sign of true forgiving? Not at all! God did not forget our sins, He chose not remember them. There’s a difference. Do we really think God actually forgets, as if He had amnesia? Of course not! He’s God. In fact, He has a book that records every single day of our lives (Psalm 139:16). I our good deeds and misdeeds are recorded there, too. However, He chooses not to hold a grudge against us. When we confess and repent, “He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I have grown so used to living by my feelings that I base the sincerity of my actions on whether I feel good about my present circumstance. We are not to love according to our feelings. I like how C.S. Lewis puts it: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” 

The day my Mom and I moved out to live with another aunt and uncle of mine, we had breakfast with my grandmother. She told stories of how she met my grandfather (Dad’s dad) and her colorful circumstances with difficult members of the family. In each one, I noticed how grandma always seemed to defend her loved ones–her sons, siblings, and her grandchildren. I realized she always wanted things in order, and for many years she fought her way to keep things in check. Maybe that’s why she slapped me on the legs. My Indian sit position was a threat to her order, and she wanted things to be in order because to her, that’s a sign that her family was okay. Nothing brings her greater joy than seeing her family in great condition and in good spirits. Remembering that, plus the many times I annoyed my own parents on purpose, humbled me and reminded me that I, too, was in dire need of forgiveness and mercy. I, too, ought to be forgiven. Did my parents ever forget the times I hurt them? Perhaps not. But did they ever hatch a plan to get back at me? Never. They still sent me to school and even let me graduate. They still let me eat at my favorite restaurants and give me gifts, sometimes even on ordinary days.

Whenever we remember the faults of others, let’s remember our own. How many times have we been on the receiving end of mercy? More importantly, let us remember how the Lord Jesus forgave us and how much He sacrificed to forgive us and save us from all our sins. We may not forget, but let’s choose not to remember. For the times when we do recall (especially on wayback Wednesdays and throwback Thursdays), let’s choose to forgive. Seventy times seven. Let’s choose to love in present tense. It’s hard, but it’s the golden ticket to eternity. Let us love and forgive in spite of our feelings. Let us love continually and forgive presently.

 

Perfection-er

In my previous post, I talked about feeling quite depressed over my lack of inactivity and my feeling of uselessness, as I stayed home in most days. Turned out I was just bored and that I needed to change my perspective and attitude. God was preparing me for something bigger, better, and busier.

Last week, I started school. (I can’t believe I’m already in my senior year!) I knew that over the next ten months, I would be needing a lot of strength, wisdom, and grace because not only was I going to be busy, but I was going to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. Thus, on the eve of my first day of school, I posted a status on my Facebook account:

statusI didn’t realize these verses would be applied immediately, on the first week of school! God immediately granted my desire for useful activity, and oh, how much responsibilities He gave me! Firstly, the requirements for my majors (which comprise all of my subjects this semester) required intense, long hours of reading, reading, reading, reading…did I mention reading? Secondly, God revived His movement in my campus and specifically told me to be part of its core team when our youth pastor, Kuya Marty, told me to contact everyone and set a meeting. Then a friend of mine from a department in our youth ministry, ELEVATE, informed me that both of us were made admins of the host team. Add to that my commitment to meet two girls in school for Bible study, plus my own Dgroup upline (i.e., the group I attend for my personal “spiritual feeding and nourishment”), blogging, and Sunday School ministry. My hands and my plate were (at least from my point of view) overflowing with tasks!

At first I feared taking all these responsibilities (and until now I’m still praying and asking God if He can, if He will, put some on hold) because I feared not being able to juggle all of these with the growing demand in school, which was my primary ministry. Earlier this afternoon in our school chapel, this fear of incompetence and failure gnawed at me again. After my last class, I headed to the chapel to pray and have my quiet time because I wasn’t able to do so in the morning. I started thanking God about the fun day I had, and then I proceeded to the more serious stuff that really bothered me: the growing responsibilities and my fear that I would fail to deliver excellently. I reminded Him that I was bad at fulfilling my commitments, that I don’t want to fail Him and the people who were counting on me. I also told Him about my confusion about how to balance all these things and to deal with my insecurities (which still bother me)–my bad skin, increasing weight, baggy eyes even if I sleep early–and my unanswered questions about Him. In short, I was confused, disorganized, and fearful–all the things I utterly despise and do my best to escape from! As I dwelt on these negative things (a bad, bad idea), I started to cry. First in the volume of cologne sprays. Then a 500-liter water bottle. Then faucets. Inside the silent, public chapel. That’s when God, in His love and mercy, began conversing with me in my mind. I started it when I prayed, silently:

“Man, why did I even stay here? Why do I have to cry here? It’s so embarrassing…..Lord, You know my struggle. You know I’m bad at commitments. You know I want everything to be organized. Please guide me.”

Then amazingly, God replied.

“Honey, I want you to trust Me. I brought you here because I wanted to hug you, to let you know that I delight in you. I love you! I am delighted at you because you are walking in My will. Don’t worry! I love you, child.”

Of course, the pessimistic me did not believe, at least not completely. So God said:

“You’re here to have your quiet time, right? Okay open to Psalms, the chapter’s number is the date today.”

I said (in my mind): “Yeah, right, how am I sure I’m not just making this up and going after my feelings? Does God even do this?”

Although my question went unanswered at first, I went to Psalm 18 anyway. What I read shocked me and opened another valve in my eyes for more tears to flow. Here were some of the opening verses:

I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Verses 7-15 talked about awesome and terrifying things God did–earthquakes, consuming fire, blazing coals, darkness, hailstones–the apocalyptic sort of thing. I thought: “Seriously, God? Lord, are You…mad at me?” I wasn’t getting the idea. Not until I started reading from verse 16 all the way until the end in verse 50. Here were some of the verses that struck me:

He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;

The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

As for God, His way is blameless;

The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?

– Psalm 18:1-3,6, 16-3,25, 29-32 (emphases added)

By the end of the chapter I was lamenting. Thankfully I kept it inaudible, except for my occasional snorting, but I was relatively quiet. But wait…there’s more! God replied with an even more personal message.

“See? Of course I still speak to My children in a very personal way! You see, I am delighted in you. You are not in sin in the sense that you remain in it habitually. Honey, I know that you are very particular about the smallest details. I am, too. I like details, too. I also think they are very important. And yes, I am after perfection. But you see, I am not a perfectionist in the sense that I judge you and condemn you for your smallest mistake. I am not a perfectionist; I’m a perfection-er. I am perfecting you. I know that throughout the perfectioning process, you won’t have it all together. And that’s okay. As long as you trust Me and obey Me and fear Me (and you do, all these things), I am with you. Okay?” 🙂 

I thought the overwhelming emotion I felt was a result of the difficulty of management. I haven’t even started some of them! The real issue was that, I was afraid of making mistakes. I feared failure so much, I recoiled at the idea of having too much responsibilities and a lot people to be accountable to. God also told me that time that the key was not to avoid responsibility, but to eliminate everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me so that I can run with perseverance the race that God marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1-2). I had to remove the distractions and just focus on the main thing, and to keep it the main thing at all times. God wouldn’t have allowed me to be given these tasks or He would have told me to let them go had He not given me the strength, power, and ability to fulfill them. 🙂

I also learned that God wasn’t utterly strict in the perfectionist sense. I was. It’s unfortunate how the “don’t-sin-or-else-God-will-thunder-lightning-on-you” ideology from Greek mythology and other pagan literature still influenced me. I had an erroneous view of God. Surely God feels saddened when I sin, even the smallest one. But that doesn’t mean He is totally displeased with me that He won’t talk to me or that I should expect to be disciplined tomorrow. No matter what happens, we must always remember that God is LOVE. Everything He does stems from His love. Nothing He does is done out of hatred the way we humans hate, or apathy. Even God’s “hate” towards people is grounded on love. Especially with children who sincerely seek Him and do His will, He is ever gentle, patient, merciful, and gracious. He knows our weaknesses. That’s why He’s perfecting us, because we have deficiencies. That’s also why He’s patient, because He knows we’ve been so used to this faulty system that we think it’s normal. But, no. His perfection and His holiness should be our norm. There is no middle ground.

If you have a perfectionist tendency like mine or if you, too, feel like escaping responsibility for fear of failure, may I encourage you today to pause, take a deep breath, and know that God does not desire to condemn you? Really, He doesn’t. The process hurts but it doesn’t mean God hates you. In fact, the fact that He’s investing so much in you–disciplining, molding, mentoring, discipling, guiding, providing for you–means that He really, really, really loves you! Also, I pray that you (and I) will realize that failure is not final. Neither is success. We fail, we get back up. We succeed, we move past that, otherwise we become complacent or even recalcitrant when we’re told to move forward. C.S. Lewis put it perfectly when he wrote in his book, Beyond Personality:

“…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.”

So trust His character. It’s the only thing that remains constant in this ever-changing world. 🙂

After that drama session with God, I wiped my tears and went out of the chapel with my head held high. I may not have all the facts together nor am I relieved of the chance of failure, but I know that I am kept safe by the One Who goes before me, the One who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side! Above all, this Perfection-er of mine loves me. And really, that’s more than enough. 🙂

Reference:
Lewis, C.S. (1947). Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
New American Standard Bible (NASB). (1995). The Lockman Foundation. via BibleGateway.com.

 

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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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