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

“Do Not Fear”

Dear child,

Do not fear; I am with you.

My plan for you is working perfectly as I expected, beginning the moment when I formed you with My very own hands. Your wholehearted obedience both in surety and in the unknown makes me swell with joy because you are living according to My design for you. Blessing you is one of my actions that I look forward to do. Continue pursuing excellence and seeking Me in everything you do.

There are certain footholds in your mountainous journey that I wish to eliminate, and you, my child, must do something about them. I am fully aware of your weaknesses and limitations, but haven’t I told you that no one can snatch you away from My hand? My hold is firm, tight, and permanent. I am the LORD God, enthroned between the cherubim, Maker of Heaven and earth. I am unequaled in strength, glory, power, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I am before anything came to be. Is there anything too hard for me?

You say, “Father, I know that already;” do you? Because your response to your circumstances does not align with My truths. Fear lingers in your heart still; this is where your life’s footholds are founded on. Fear of the inevitability of failure, the future, the response of the people around you–these fears are not healthy. As a matter of fact, they are sinful in nature.  The greater your fears, the wider your comfort zones. My work is accomplished in the realm of divine possibility which will always seem absurd and impossible to fearful men.

There’s only one way out of fear, and it is faith. It’s always about faith and trust in Me. Always. Constant. Unchanging. If I can conquer the grave, I can also conquer your fears. Give them up. Your fear of failure will only inhibit you from trying, persevering, and eventually, succeeding. I am pleased with authenticity and faithfulness and not perfection; obedience, not heartfelt emotions; excellence, and not merely good. Besides, you don’t have to win the victory because it has already been won! Never lose sight of the goal: Christ-likeness. Let go of your fears, and let Me takeover. I’ll show you what I can do. 🙂

I am delighted with you, My child, because your heart is slowly but surely becoming more attuned to my own heart. Many times, I see you in Me. Your heart longs to be perfect and dwell in eternity. You seek joy and gratitude, which is My will for you in my begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Be patient with Me, my work is far from completion, but it’s getting there. Oh, how wonderful that day will be when I weave you into your final stage of perfection! You shall see Me and talk with Me face-to-face. 🙂

Do not fear; I am with you.

I love you.

Sincerely,

Dad

On Faith and Focus

About two weeks ago, a new show was introduced in the weekend schedule of Fox channel. The program showcased the world’s greatest magicians and tricks that could be mistaken for miracles. I enjoyed watching the pilot episode, albeit several minutes late, because it was a show that needed only my eyes and awe and not my head for analysis (unlike Criminal Minds which followed right after). Magic tricks relieve stress, but when it’s my mind who does the tricking, stress and sin are written all over it.

Most, if not all, of the reasons behind my struggle for the past three months rooted out of erroneous and sometimes utterly repulsive thoughts which turned into beliefs which translated into actions.  Instead of walking in the Spirit day after day, I boarded the roller coaster and braved the loops, plunges, and lifts on my own strength and wisdom. Living with me, you won’t realize all the nasty things going on inside my head because I often kept mum about. I shared a struggle or two to my closest Christian friends and family members, but that tidbit of information was only the cherry on top; layers of sin lay beneath it.

Last Sunday, God spoke to me in a most personal and convicting way. I wasn’t going anywhere in my walk with Him because of two things I lacked: focus and faith. I leaned more on disobeying God rather than doing His will because I did not foster a high view of Him. To me, God was always gracious and forgiving. He is always gracious and forgiving, but He is also righteous and just. He established a rule called “sowing and reaping” through which I shall bear the consequences of my wrong decisions. Through Pastor Peter’s message last Sunday and a rebuking but redemptive quiet time session earlier this morning, God brought me back to basics: faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

– Hebrews 11:6

Faith is a requisite to pleasing God. I did not please God on a regular basis (somehow I was still good) because of my unbelief. Instead of believing God according to what His Word says He is, I formulated an image of God that suited my plans and desires. Dear reader, beware of thinking the same way I did! God simply requires you to believe in Him for Who He says He is–nothing more, nothing less.

The lack of a proper focus also contributed to my aimless living. Your life can really be simplified by sticking to one goal. “Lord, what is this goal? What do you want me to do?” This morning God made me realize that this prayer was an incorrect one. If David knew right on that his predecessor, Saul, would grow jealous of him and hunt him down, would he entrust his life into God’s hands? God sustained him day by day, moment by moment; He revealed His plan on a daily basis as David trusted Him on a daily basis. After realizing the error in my prayer, I asked God for forgiveness and His wisdom and understanding so I could make right decisions today.

Because of my gracious, just, and patient Father, my eyes are opened once again and I am breathing and living on a renewed focus:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

At some point in my tumultuous journey, I discarded setting goals because I thought goals would just add to my confusion. How foolish was my mindset! Why should I quit planning when Father Himself is a Planner? I would be inexistent and condemned if it not for His plan to send His one and only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for my sins. 🙂

If you’re a Christian experiencing “theological confusion” right now, it’s time for you to go back to basics. Believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Humble yourself before your God and ask for His forgiveness, for “He is faithful and just and will forgive all your unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Be completely honest with God; cry out your heart to Him.

“Lord, I’m sick of going through this sin cycle. Help me love You more than I love sin.”

Recommit your life to Him and watch Him work. I know I will. 🙂

To watch the inspiring message last Sunday (it was CCF’s 27th anniversary, by the way!), click this link!

images c/o Outlaw Army and my Tumblr page

“I Don’t Need Easy; I Just Need Possible.”

Bethany Hamilton not only said that; she lived it.

Yesterday, my family and I watched Soul Surfer, an autobiography on the victorious and inspirational life of professional surfer and Christian Bethany Hamilton (played by Annasophia Robb). While surfing off Kauai’s North Shore back in October 31, 2003, Bethany encountered the beast that changed her life forever: a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her, leaving her left arm severed and causing her to lose 60% of her blood.*  In spite the near-death situation she faced (literally caught in the jaws of death), Bethany survived the shark attack and lived to proclaim the hope, love, mercy, provision, joy, and care she received from her Savior, Jesus Christ.

God couldn’t be anything but timely when He allowed me to watch the film (Malacanang suspended classes yesterday).  I have been very complacent with my physique, prayer life, studies, writing (especially that novel that is soon to be born), and serving others.  If my life were a game, I was living the life of an easy-goer, an amateur–not exactly the plan God had in mind. The Christian life is anything but mediocre; in fact, it is impossible. Nevertheless it is possible because of the God Who can make all things possible. Since I wasted a lot of time in the valley of complacency, my passion for all things Heavenly slowly eroded. God was not impatient, but He had to jolt me out of my lethally dangerous lifestyle. I am so thankful He did and did so without costing me anything. At least for now.

To say that  Bethany Hamilton is tough is an understatement. She is a living, breathing example of living by faith and not by sight. Like most, if not all, Christians who have encountered ferocious “shark attacks” that left an area of them severed, Bethany questioned God’s plan for her life. After all, how could God have made her for surfing then take away a part of her that enabled her to surf excellently? Any person in her shoes would conclude that way from a “zoomed in” perspective. As explained in the movie, you don’t appreciate a photo when you look at it too close; however, once you step back and see the picture as a whole, what you saw as unattractive or vague you now consider beautiful or at the very least, understand completely. The same principle applies to life. We tend to be disappointed with God because we don’t see life as He does. God’s eyes are “zoomed out;” He sees the picture as a whole. Sometimes we really won’t see the big picture, and for this reason, we are to trust God. Bethany Hamilton trusted the Lord to carry her day by day, and He kept true to His Word. Until today, Bethany inspires young men and women, handicapped and otherwise, all over the world that God “knows the plans He has for them, plans to prosper them, plans to give them a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I want to thank Bethany Hamilton for allowing herself to be used by God to inspire people with her testimony including me. 🙂 I quote God’s Words to me after watching Soul Surfer:

“Just like I used surfing and a shark attack in Bethany Hamilton’s life to help her know me better and inspire people to have faith in Me, so I will use your dexterity in writing, knowledge, dystonia, personality, temperament–YOU–to bring honor and glory to My Name as well as to bring people to My presence.” 

God can work with people who only has an arm, a leg, or none at all! Easy is a dangerous word; it kills the passion innate in every person. Don’t settle for easy. Plunge in the impossible that is possible only because of JESUS CHRIST. 🙂 

Check out photos of Bethany Hamilton in action! 🙂 (c/o of Google Images)

* taken from Bethany’s website

By the way, this is my 160th post! 🙂