Monday, October 14, 2013

Reigniting Passions at TEDx Diliman - "Things that Matter"

TED videos  were a source of writing inspiration in my former job. To those who don't know, TED Talks are short (around 18-20 minutes) recorded speeches from TEDx events that revolve around the general theme of "ideas worth spreading".  TEDxDiliman is just one of many independently organized TEDx events around the world. Today, TED has become a global movement of changemakers and thinkers who are passionate about the things they do and think about.

I never thought that one day, I'd actually attend a TEDx event and listen firsthand to these brilliant minds. The topic for last night's TEDxDiliman was "Things that Matter".  I signed up for it after a friend encouraged me to apply, and after I saw that the subtopics (music, art, books, reason, etc.) were things I'm deeply passionate about. Knowing that only 1 out of 3 people are selected to be part of the audience, I was really happy to have received a positive response!

Another huge surprise came when I saw on the email that my sister was also part of the event. If there's anyone who I'd love to be with during this type of gathering, it would be my sister.

Happy to attend TEDxDiliman with my sister! 
Organized by Gigo Alampay of CANVAS (Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development), TEDxDiliman brought together speakers who are pursuing their passions and loving every moment of it. Some speakers brought tears and laughter to the audience. Some challenged long-held beliefs and gave us fresh ways of looking at things. What was evident though was that each is a source of inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from each speaker:

Joey Ayala and his rendition of Lupang Hinirang in a different time signature

The reward for us is the experience we give you - Gigo Alampay, TEDxDiliman organizer

To be authentic, embrace change - Joey Ayala (musician, cultural artist) on Indigenous Music

Our job is to read and demand good books - Rica Bolipata-Santos (Literature professor and Philippine Star columnist) on Books

Shadows matter because they develop our creativity rather than our fears - Don Sulabayba (from Anino Shadowplay Collective) on Shadowplays

Commenting on Borges' short story On Exactitude in Science: The best map of the world is the world itself. The perfectly accurate map is useless - Popo Lotilla (UP professor and antique map collector) on Maps

Adopting a child won't change the world, but for that child, the world would change - Marina Cruz-Garcia  (visual artist and adoptive mother) on Adoptions

We need lawyers who understand that law is not a career but a profession.  Law is a passion. - Marvic Leonen (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines) on Lawyers

The real competition is found in the rehearsal room where one is striving to be better, knowing that each one is relying on one another to make beautiful music. - Mark Anthony Carpio (Choral conductor and choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers) on Music

I learned that behind something unpredictable, there's actually a process, an order. - Reinabelle Reyes (Filipino Astrophysicist who proved Einstein's Theory of General Relativity) on Science

History is two things: data and interpretation - Paul Alexander Morales, Ballet Philippines artistic director

Why rely on "diskarte" [winging it] when you can prepare for it? - Jonathan Yabut (Apprentice Asia Season 1 winner) on Passion

TEDx freebies: where I took notes.

I was on TED high after the event, and I could say that a lot of the speakers either changed my perspective or affirmed my passions. For me, the biggest transformation was that my world suddenly expanded again.  I was in a cubicle for two years while trying to live out my passions on the side when work was done. I don't regret it, since I felt that God called me there for that time and I met great people. But now, God is telling me to get a move on.  The things that matter to me are books, education, volunteer work, creativity, music, faith, family, relationships, and God.  These are the things I love and value, and I want to focus on them.

Forgive me if I seem to romanticize TEDx and make it about me, but I truly realize how blessed I am to have been given the desires and strengths I have.  Now, the possibilities are before me, and I have an awesome opportunity to do what I love to do. I'm just happy I trusted in God's timing on this.  TEDxDiliman is just one confirmation of my God-given purpose to focus on my strengths, so I can be a blessing to others. Undoubtedly, this event is one of the highlights of my year and a fitting end to my cubicle life.

Thank you TEDxDiliman for the inspiration! You guys are awesome!

To receive updates from TEDxDiliman and view quality photos of the event, visit TEDxDiliman on Facebook.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doors (a short story)

The door closed him. Pushed out of the room, he didn't know where to go. After a few moments of confusion, he decided to just walk away and look at what was ahead. The day was bright and there was a light breeze. For the first time in months, he breathed in clear air. In the small room he had gotten used to, it was often dank and damp.  Slowly, the sadness gave way to a feeling of freedom. He was free.  There was doubt and a little bit of fear, but he couldn't help but also feel the first stirrings of what seemed like joy. With a little smile, he decided to walk on.

Pretty soon, he found himself before a stream.  He didn't know exactly where it led, but the water seemed cool and inviting. Cupping the coolness in his hands, he drank from the stream and was instantly refreshed. The slight wind tousled his hair, and he just felt a deep, deep peace.  He allowed himself a laugh. Immediately, he was overcome by the feeling that he had to go barefoot and follow the trail of water. There was no better way; he was sure of this. And he had time...lots of time to spare. The water was so clear, he could see small fish darting around. They went this way and that, enjoying the gurgling water. But he could also see that the steady current compelled them to move forward, to see what was at the end of the trail.

After a few minutes of easy trekking, he finally knew he had reached his destination.  In front of him, were rows and rows of doors. They stretched before him far into the horizon. Some were round like those in a hobbit hole. Some were small, he didn't know if he would fit.  The colors were varied - a sea of blue, a verdant green, a splash of yellow, and some colors he didn't even have the words for. What was sure though was that each door was just waiting to be unlocked.

The stream had brought him to what seemed to be infinite possibilities. Which to choose? What to pick?  He closed his eyes and remembered the soothing sound of the waters and the gentle whisper of the wind on his face while he walked.  Then and there, he knew exactly which door to open.

It's been a while since I've written anything that comes close to a short story. This draft was inspired by possibilities and is dedicated to everyone experiencing changes and facing crossroads in their lives.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One night in a coffee shop

I was helping a friend set up her Facebook page and business blog one night at a coffee shop in Mandaluyong.  Since our meeting was also a bonding session, we stayed up quite late. As we were finishing up, two men probably in their mid-twenties sat down on the table next to us. They didn't order anything except for one regular cup of coffee. I wasn't minding them until I noticed that they both kept staring at me. Once in a while, they would chat, but most of the time, they would look at me. I started getting uncomfortable, and since I didn't want to think weird thoughts, I thought that maybe they wanted to use the outlet where my netbook was plugged.  The strange thing was, there were two sockets and the one I wasn't using was still available.

At this point, I started getting increasingly queasy.  I was the only one in the coffee shop with a netbook. The rest of the customers were just chatting with their companions or eating. While packing up, I decided to give the two men the benefit of the doubt, but I couldn't shake off the feeling that they would follow us.  We went down to the coffee shop's first floor where I stopped by the counter to get a drink of water. I was also waiting for them to go down. If they didn't, then my fears could be laid to rest. My fears proved me right, however; the two of them went down and looked like they were ready to leave too. Perhaps they thought that they had given us enough time to go out, so they could follow us. I was still hopeful though that I was just thinking negatively. However, when they saw that I was still in the counter drinking water, one of them also stopped and told his companion that he was going to get a drink of water. It was pretty obvious to me by this time that they wanted us to leave the coffee shop first! But why? I didn't want to think about it anymore and decided to follow my hunch.  Never mind that my netbook wasn't even the expensive kind. The point is, I was the only one with a gadget they had seen.

My friend and I left the coffee shop slowly. I took her aside while we were walking and whispered to her that I had a bad feeling about the two men behind us. She told me that she noticed them staring at me too and also found this strange.  I was wondering what to do.  I didn't want to walk along the highway at that late hour with the possibility of two men mugging me.  I had experienced a similar incident before (read: How my cellphone got stolen again) and needless to say, I was scared out of my wits that it would happen again.

So what we did was to try to get inside the mall, but the guard wouldn't let us in since it was already late. I didn't know what to do. Going ahead seemed so unwise with the two men still slowly following us trying not to look obvious.  Then I remembered that there was still another coffee shop nearby. I told my friend that we should stop over for a while until the two men were safely out of sight.  So that's what we did.  I also made it obvious to the two men that I had noticed them following us.   I looked at them before going inside the other coffee shop.  Thankfully, our strategy worked. The two men didn't follow us anymore and went ahead. After a few minutes, my friend and I felt safe enough to go outside.

I didn't take the bus that night like I used to. I was too shaken up to walk along a dark street. Instead, I went up the more well-lit MRT station and took the train where I could be sure that the two men wouldn't be able to follow me in the girl's section. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got home.

This incident was a lesson to me to be wiser in spending late nights in coffee shops when I had my netbook with me. I hope that you'll also be warned by my experience. I also couldn't shake the feeling that it was a miracle I wasn't mugged that night.  I am usually unaware of my surroundings especially when I'm busy (you can ask my closest friends about this). In fact, I once got almost hit by a bus because of this tendency of my mind to wander. But that's another story :P   I am just grateful that the Holy Spirit warned me that night and guided me on what to do. Alone, I would either have been insensitive or very indecisive.  Thank you God, because you kept us safe.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever ~ John 14:16

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kristel's birthday

Yesterday, we celebrated Kristel's birthday. Kristel is one of my Victory Group members (bible study group) in the office. Let me tell you that I admire this woman so much. I know about her struggles, but through it all, she remains strong and holds on to the hope that change will come through her God.  Happy birthday, Kristel! You are beautiful and you are loved!

our birthday surprise

close-up of kristel's mini birthday cake with makeshift paper dolls

office VG (me, digi, clarice, eden, kristel) +Ram!
super crazy discussion and laugh trip while it was heavily raining outside :P
I honestly didn't expect that Kristel -- and any of these people for that matter -- would become my friends.  But when God brings people together, the differences give way to something much much stronger.

*thanks to eden and ate at yellow cab for the pix ^_^

Friday, August 30, 2013

Refined Woman

Refined woman,
Refined woman you are.
You laugh quietly,
and all the world falls still.
There is a tenderness in you
that makes him want to slay dragons
and move mountains.
Refined woman,
Refined woman you are.

I wish I was more like you --
gentle and beautiful.
he would fill my hollowness with stars,
if only I were
the Refined woman,
Refined woman you are.

But see,
there is a new fire within me,
tempering me with an incomprehensible love.
I am quieted into a dance
that knows satisfaction
in One Man’s arms.
In Him I am not you,
but I am Woman --

I am His
and He is mine.

I am refined.

This poem is inspired by my friend Shen who is being refined by the greatest love. 

Shen commented during one bible study about how we were "lacking in poise" unlike other girls. This made me think about the times i  felt insecure that i wasn't like other women. i laugh loudly, i'm not afraid of going off alone to who knows where, and i spend on books when i know i should be buying a new set of clothes or going to the salon for a haircut. Sometimes i want to pray to God to make me like the "refined" women I see guys always fall for. But then i realize, God has made ALL women special. We are captivating in our uniqueness, and there is no one that walks the world who is like me (thank God! haha).  Our beauty and "gentle spirit" primarily comes from the peace of knowing that our identity lies in Jesus who is the lover of our souls. I made this poem for all women out there who are struggling with feelings of insecurity. I want you to know that in your struggles, you are being refined by your Maker. I want you to know that are loved.

"This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" ~ Zechariah 13:9

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dealing with change

I can't adjust easily to changes. I guess it's because I form attachments slowly yet deeply. These past  days, I've been feeling as if the people I love most dearly have been changing so much. It scared me to feel that I'm being left behind. But a discussion with my sister one afternoon reminded me that it's normal for people to change. We can't be swept away by our constantly changing feelings.

If you feel the same way I do, I encourage you to celebrate the positive changes in your loved ones' lives and to mourn with them when situations make a turn for the worst. Even if people change, stay true. Rather than create walls to protect yourself from the pain of change, love deeply. Don't take people for granted, because you never know when they'll have to say goodbye.

Most of all, remember to fix your eyes on Jesus. Through Him, you can hold on to the hope that the big and important words -- commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, love -- remain big and important. He remains faithful even if you are faithless. He loves you in your confusion, pain, sadness, fear, and distress until you can be still and attain a peace that transcends all understanding.  Even in change, you can rely on a steady anchor and a steadfast love.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God  who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, ~ Deuteronomy 7:9

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:22-23

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tough questions from a 10-year old in Kids Church

These questions from a 10 year old in Kids church surprised me:

1) Did God create evil?
2) Why can't we hear God like we did in the Old Testament?
3) Why do I still want to do bad things?

We were talking about creation and the Christian perspective on how everything was created.  Her introspective questions were humbling. I'm pretty sure that adults themselves have the same questions.

The experience made me realize that we can't be afraid of the tough questions, thinking that our kids might become corrupted if they learn about how the world views such things. Young as they are, kids deserve honest and intelligent answers to honest and intelligent questions. Parents and the church have a responsibility to provide answers about our faith when our children ask them from us, and this means that we ourselves have to equipped to handle their questions in a non-overbearing way or to say "I don't know" and go back to studying and meditating when we don't know.

While we probably don't have to launch into a difficult, theological discussion with our kids, we'd still need to have the faith, skill, knowledge, and humility to explain things in a manner that's appropriate for their age. We can't just brush off an argument against evolution or explain the existence of evil by simple-minded answers when the questions get tough. With the information they can get from the Internet, children will soon realize that we don't really know what we're talking about, that we didn't even try to understand the "scientific" explanations. I realize that this is easier said than done though.

I remember our church preaching on Daniel. Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity and was educated in Chaldean thought, but he never wavered in his faith of God. This story and the questions from the 10 year old made me realize the importance of grounding our kids in faith as they grow up. We can then have faith that their faith will stand amidst the alternative truths that the world is presenting.  Like Daniel, we have to rely on God's wisdom.  I believe that we can have an intelligent discussion with children about the world's perspective on truth at the right time. We just have to remember to teach them the Truth that is more powerful than the world's truth. Just as important, they'd have to see that we're actually living out this Truth we say we believe in. If we let the Gospel do its work in our lives and our children's lives, we don't need to fear the lies.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. Romans 1:16

This entry is based on my own reflections and experiences in my short time as a Sunday School teacher for 10-12 year olds. I am in no way an expert on such matters. I'd love to hear your own comments and perspectives.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


you fall like the stars expecting
he will be moved the same way
as you have been by beauty

There is nothing beyond what you perceive
And nothing beyond what you feel
And nothing beyond what he shows

One day, your tears will fall
for a Love much greater
than the love you have been hiding

He will let you take flight
He will give you wings like eagles
He will make you as surefooted as a deer

you will stand on the heights
you will conquer your fears
you will Know Love, Show Love, Be Love

you will be nothing
yet you will have Everything
you’ve ever Desired and More.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Won't He Ask Me Out?

I read this article on Relevant Magazine entitled Stop Waiting for Him to Ask You Out. The article builds on the case that a woman shouldn't be stuck waiting on a man she likes (and who she thinks likes her back). Instead, she should just initiate and voice out her desires. The biblical basis for this, says the author, is Ruth who took the initiative with Boaz who eventually became her husband.

I believe that the author has raised some valid points. And I'm happy for her, since she eventually married the man she liked.  I, on the other hand, have my own opinions about this issue but I'm not married (so, it's up to you if you're still going to hear me out on this despite my disclaimer).

It is rather torturous for the woman to wait while the man seems to be sending hints and flirting. I've had my share of experiences of hanging out exclusively with a boy. I don't like wasting my time with men I don't like, so I honestly thought along the way that the relationship could be leading somewhere only to find out that the hanging out was only exclusive on my end or he only thought of me as good friend. In other words, I fell into the trap of assuming too much. The experiences were heartbreaking and put a dent on my relationships with these men.

However, these experiences don't necessarily make me an advocate of taking the first step with a man.  Why? Because while it's true that  waiting can be torturous, a man who doesn't/can't ask you out on a proper date (he's clear that it's a date) says so many things about him and yourself...not one of which is exactly ideal. For me (and I emphasize for me), a guy who can't ask you out and be clear about his intentions falls into one or more of these categories:

 1) He just doesn't like you

2)  He does like you, but you're just a "friendgirl" - To read more about "friendgirls" click this enlightening article Your Friendgirl Deserves Better. It's a highly recommended read.

3) He's too insecure to do so - he's afraid to get rejected. He might be "playing it safe" for a while and waiting for you to get attached to him or for you to have deeper feelings for each other, thus lowering the chances of rejection.

 4) He's not sure about you - you might be number 2 or 3 on his list of considerations, and until he's sure that you're number 1 forever, he doesn't want to make a move. I think this is have the privilege to choose who to court. However, this is not cool if he's not sure about you, BUT he's already making it seem -- intentionally or unintentionally -- as if he wants to commit in the near/far-off future (again, read:  Your Friendgirl Deserves Better), which is defrauding.

  5) He doesn't have the money to ask you out. 'nuff said.

...which all boils down to: he's not ready to commit or he is, just not with you (the movie, He's Just Not That Into You comes into mind haha)... It might hurt, but better the truth than a lie. Think about it, would you really want to be with someone who can't make up his mind/doesn't like you but is already flirting with you, waiting for himself to be ready or waiting to "feel" a "connection"  that you're The One?  When Jesus decided that He wanted a relationship with us, He wasn't confused. He died for us while we were sinners. Love was a decision and not a feeling. It was difficult and He cried out to His Father to take the cup away. But He pushed through. Loving us was  commitment, regardless of whether we responded with a yes or no.  Romans 5:8 says,

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

I had to realize this the hard way, but I'm still happy God made me go through that, so I could appreciate this truth about Himself.

Just like a godly man told me, a man who has the heart of God will protect me not just physically, but emotionally. He will not risk my feelings or make me feel confused. He will be resourceful and he will pray about his decision. And when the right time comes, he will be clear about his intentions and he will pursue me.  Am I being too idealistic? Just to be clear though, I say this not to bash men or put them down. Rather, these are my standards as a woman (which I didn't have before).

To the men, maybe I am presumptuous about my conclusions. I'd like to know, why won't you be clear about your intentions/ask a girl out instead of just "hanging out" exclusively?

More than that though, my question to my fellow women is, what are we doing twiddling our thumbs (or flirting back), waiting for a man to ask us out when instead, we should be seeking God and His Kingdom?  Why aren't we out there being salt and light to the world?  Why are worrying about tomorrow if we know that God's will for us is good, pleasing, and perfect? Why aren't we guarding out hearts? Why are we offering our minds and hearts to another man when we should be offering these to God, our ultimate Lover?

I say we, because I've asked myself these questions many times. What am I doing about my singleness? Am I  being good steward of this season in my life?  Is God still the focus of my life? As Song of Songs 8:4 wisely admonishes us:

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
    Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires.

God cares for His children and He is in control of everything.  As women, we don't have to worry that we're ugly or unloved  just because the man we like is not asking us out or that our biological clocks are ticking and we're losing time.  I've felt this way many times, and it breaks my heart to see other women forgetting their identity in Christ.

It's painful to realize that we've lost our focus on God. But guess what, God still pursues us and loves us. He wants us to live life to the full, whether we are single or married. He wants us. He wants YOU, completely and without any inhibitions  And He's absolutely clear about His intentions; His sacrifice on the Cross is enough evidence of this. Don't wait on man. Wait on God.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock [...]

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

~Psalm 27:4-5; 13-14~

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
~Psalm 130:5-6~

Monday, May 6, 2013

And You Call Yourself a Christian?

Identifying myself as a Christian has sometimes led me to acquire a holier-than-thou attitude.  For instance, just because I have moved on from a particular challenge in my personal life quite easily makes me think that other Christians should be able to move on from similar challenges just as easily.  I also have the tendency to “preach” and tell people how they should feel and what they should be doing when listening and reserving judgment would have been wiser.

Just look to Christ, geez!

I have my own biases about how things should be done, because I have this tendency to think, “I’ve been there, done that. You’ll get over it.”  Or worse, “You’re just being plain un-Christian by putting yourself in that situation. Stop sulking and just look to Christ, geez.”

Being in relationships with others has revealed to me my lack of compassion and my tendency to condemn others of their faults.  We each have our own personal relationship with Christ, and it is not mine to assume how God should move in a person’s life.

Someone who is emotional and in pain sometimes begins to doubt that God is in control all the time and that God is good all time. He needs God's Word to realize that these are truths regardless of his feelings and circumstances. But he most probably won’t truly realize this through my self-righteous postulations and hate attitude.

It's not only what I say that matters

I was called to be “salt and light”, to speak words that “build up” and encourage others, that show compassion rather than condemnation. Yes, there are times when I have to rebuke, especially when a person has given me permission to speak into his life or when I see that what someone has been doing is detrimental to himself and others as well. But I am asking God to help me towards a healthy balance of speaking what is true and speaking this truth in love. There are many ways of conveying the truth. I not only have to watch what I say but also think about how I say it and examine why I say it.

The perfect Christian

Observing my non-Christian friends rant about Christians, I think one of the common complaints is that Christians are self-righteous and tend to sound as if they’re perfect.  I know I have the tendency to be like this, as well. But I thank God that He has been exposing this about me.  I want to cut people some slack and be patient with them.  This is hard for me, because I can be a bit of a control freak. It's also hard for me to hold my tongue when it comes to injustice and emotional abuse. But I know that even as I speak now, the Holy Spirit is doing His work to cultivate gentleness, self-control, and patience in me. I'm not saying that we should just be passive when faced with wrong. I'm just saying that we can't tell people to do the right thing by using the wrong means.

A text message

Last weekend, I was particularly touched by a friend’s text message.  She knew that I was going through a challenging period, and she told me that she thought of me and couldn’t help but cry.  I appreciated her message, not because she cried. But because I knew she was letting me know that she shared my burdens.  I have given this person every right to rebuke me, but she knew that that wasn’t what I needed to hear at the moment. Listening to me the past days, she probably knew that I had rebuked myself enough and had been feeling God’s discipline.

There is a time to speak. There is the time to give advice. There is a time to challenge. There is a time to listen. There is a time to stay silent. At all times, I hope I never forget to love just as Christ loved me.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I come to You
emptied of all I am
to be filled with all You are.

You come to me
removing all
that is not of You
transforming all
that is of me
endlessly flowing
into all
that is me
that is You.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Room by Joshua Harris

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files.

They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

 A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.”

 The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I Have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed At.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

Suddenly I felt an almost animal rage. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

 And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

  By Joshua Harris

Monday, March 18, 2013

Level up!

In an RPG (role-playing game), you'd have to undergo quests and battle monsters in order to level up. I love a good RPG, because there's the thrill of story, strategy,  and transformation. As you go through level after level, the "big boss" you have to battle becomes a bit meaner or a bit wiser.  In any case, there's that sense of accomplishment when you see a monster disappear and you see your strength, stamina, and other skills fill up.  Sometimes, you're even given a new ability or a new weapon.

I've often seen my life as one big RPG.  When I reflect on the past victories and the challenges I've encountered, there's that fulfillment knowing that I've somewhat "leveled-up" and gained something from the quests and battles.  The past days though, I felt that my life has been stagnant, as if someone had pressed the pause button on the game console. I fell into self-pity, blaming even the people I love the most for what was happening in my life. It was hard for me to write about this, because I see myself as a strong Christian woman and here I was falling apart and being emotional.  Where was my joy in Christ?

I shared this with my bestfriend Tiffany and after listening to me, she prayed for me. I can't forget what she said, which went roughly like this: "Lord, I pray for this beautiful woman who doesn't realize her worth in you."

I immediately started crying when I heard her words, because they were true. I had forgotten my worth in Christ, that He himself purchased me with His precious blood, that I was part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. What was the daughter of a King doing?  Self-pitying and neglecting her inheritance!  Here was someone I had shared the gospel to, reminding me about what I had shared to her just months ago.

It was a humbling experience.  I remember reading that it is not the length of our walk with Christ that matters, but the depth of our walk with Him. And for the past days, I had fallen out of step with God. The experience was a wake-up call.  I had to make a decision once and for all. Was I going to allow myself to stagnate or was I going to level up?  I had been in this exact same situation before, crying because I felt that God was not giving me what I wanted.  Now, I am put in the same spot as if I hadn't learned my lesson.  Actually, I was being put in the same spot to make me realize that I still hadn't learned my lesson.

In an RPG, you die and you resurrect in the same spot...or you go back to the start.  You DON'T level up if you don't face the monster and defeat it. I had forgotten an important fact. The monsters in my life had been defeated even before, when Jesus died for me on the cross. What was required for me right now was to show up for battle and to obey, in full faith that  I will be victorious.  I wasn't a baby Christian anymore.  I couldn't run to my disciplers all the time, asking for prayers and crying whenever I faced challenges of any kind.  I know they would pray for me and help me, but I myself also had to learn how to stand on God's promises.

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

My lover is mine and I am His.

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

I will be with you.

I am with you always, to the end of the age.

It is finished.

If I feel defeated, it is not God's fault. He had already given me victory. I just chose to feel defeat.  I didn't want to level up and step out in faith.  I told Jesus that there was nothing more in this world that I wanted but be His disciple.  He answered me, come and follow me. But I was just like the rich young man who couldn't leave his worldly riches behind. Sure Jesus, I'll follow you, but can I bring this bag with me, just in case?  Well Gaby, this journey doesn't require anything but you and me. Are you still willing to follow?

I wanted to stay where I was, because I was scared of losing whatever I had. I forgot that what God has in store for me was greater than what I could ever imagine. I didn't want to believe because I didn't SEE the promise. Instead of trusting in the character of God -- that He is faithful and good -- I chose to put things under my control.

Early this year, I had prayed for many things. Two of these were,
1) a deeper relationship with God
2) Godly character -- more self-control, patience, and gentleness

When you ask God for things like this, be ready. He will test you through the fire, and He will give you exactly what you need. When I told my sister about my struggle, she told me,  and saya nga nyan eh! (that's something to be happy about!). She even sounded envious!  I thought she was crazy.  I wanted to shout, God take this cup away from me!  Until she explained that this was going to build my character.  I was surprised to hear this from her. Just like Tiffany, my sister is a younger Christian than I am.  Again, I was reminded about why the Christians around me were living victorious lives. It wasn't about who has been Christian the longest. It was because these people chose to level up. They chose to be joyful in the midst of trial, because they knew that their suffering would produce a greater faith, a better character, a deeper walk with God. They chose to level up, because they were compelled by the love of Christ on the cross. They were confident that He was going to be with them every step of the way. Our pastors always say that God doesn't guarantee His children a storm-free life. He even promises us that we will face trials and persecutions! But what he does guarantee is a storm-proof life where He will be with us.  As a book I am reading says:  Often, you'd have to choose between comfort or Christlikeness. Which one do you want?

I want to be Christlike. I don't want to stay where I am, but first I have to obey. I have to be faithful in the little things, so I can be entrusted with the bigger things.  Last year, God told me to meet him in the mountaintop just like Moses in Exodus. I thought I had reached the peak and had become content. I realize now that to think this way shows a lack of understanding about God's character. There is still so much more to know about God. You won't run out! Each day is supposed to bring a fresh revelation, a new word from Him. If I wasn't hearing from God everyday, then I have to ask myself if I'm spending enough time with Him so I could hear from Him.  Well, it seems like for the past days, all I had been hearing was myself.

I am weak.  But the bible says, When I am weak, I am strong.  It is in my weakness that God's strength will be revealed.  He will do amazing things in my life, and He will be glorified.  I have to leave behind my past victories and defeats and make room for the new things that God will be bringing into my life. I can see growing pains in my future, and I have to admit that when I focus on the "pains" part, I am shaky inside (please pray for me!).  But if it means that the prize is being closer to Jesus, then this is something I choose to go through. I pray to God that He will keep me brave, determined, and joyful all throughout.
 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Gift-Giver

The first flower I ever received was a lone carnation. I went home one day after class and it was hanging on my doorknob.

I was confused. I thought it was a joke until the days passed and the identity of my gift-giver was revealed.

A single flower doesn't seem like much. As I see it now, I know the effort that placed that flower there was worth much more than its price.  It was the element of surprise and thought that made it special. He hoped I would be curious.  He hoped he would make me smile. He hoped that my answer in the end would be a yes. When I think of  the gifts I received from this person, that lone flower stands out because that first step took the most guts. 

This encounter, similar situations, and our current church series on love made me realize a few things about relationships.  I am no expert on love...far from it! But if you find some wisdom in what is written here, I pray that it will be a wisdom that comes from God.
Women are designed to be pursued and men are designed to pursue.  I loved being pursued. It made me feel even more beautiful. And I know he loved pursuing me. It made him want to best himself day after day.  If I had pursued him, I know I would have felt insecure about the relationship. Pursuit is a public act of courage for men.  It doesn't hide in the conveniences of "mutual understanding" or "friends with benefits". Call me a sexist, but I don't believe in men and women who say that it doesn't matter if it's the man or the woman who pursues.  I believe that men were designed for the adventure of pursuit. Unfortunately, some of them are content with the thrill of video games and action movies to fulfill this craving for adventure.  I also believe that women want to be pursued. Unfortunately, some of us lower our standards because we simply can't wait or we're pressured by society. 

The intention of pursuit must be clear.  If you're not being pursued with marriage in mind, then ask yourself, what is the pursuit for?  Are you willing to share your deepest desires, your grandest vision, and your divine calling with a person who doesn't think of you as forever?  Where would you be when you realize that after sharing yourself with this person, that person thinks of you as disposable?   

Friendship is the foundation.  Pursuit can consume us and make us blind to the faults of a person. But if you build on your friendship first, you'll enter pursuit with more wisdom.  You'll know that you're not pursuing and being pursued just because of physical attributes or common interests. You'll see how each other is with friends and family.  You can reflect if you can stomach waking up with this person day after day. You'll know if you can work together.  You'll know if you can decide to love and forgive even when faults have been revealed.

The pursuit is committed and exclusive. A man who is serious about you will pursue you and only you. He won't be pursuing other women while pursuing you. This is why friendship is all the more important. Friendship gives you time to develop this kind of  love that leads to marriage. This love has romantic attractions and desires; but it is also self-sacrificing, committed, responsible, and exclusive.

Jesus comes first. The bible says, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. It's you, him/her, and God. The thread that binds you together should be Jesus.  It's not enough that he/she believes in God. Even the devil knows the Lord. The question is, does this person actually have a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible? As Christians, our eyes should be fixed on Jesus. If your eyes are fixed on Jesus, and his/her eyes are fixed on something else, then how can it work out?  If someone is not for Jesus, then who is he/she for? Someone has to give to make the relationship work. Before you know it, you'll be compromising for the sake of "love".   Can you really be with someone who can't pray with you? What standards will you use to raise your children?
Men can have courage in the knowledge that they are the sons of the One who pursues us with abandon. They also have the courage to pursue. And we women, we can rest in the knowledge that we are loved no matter what.

As a woman, I had a tendency to feel ugly and unloved when I wasn't being pursued.  But this was until I realized that I am being pursued by the best Lover of all. Unlike other men, He is perfect. Unlike other men, He can complete me.  He told me, you were separated from me because of sin, but if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that I am Lord, then you will be saved. 

I can only decide to say yes, because Jesus pursued me first with utter abandon. He pursued me even while I was a sinner.  He wasn't turned off by my faults. Instead, He chose to forgive and tell me that I am being sanctified in His love. To prove His love for me and His hatred for everything that separates me from Him, He withstood shame and torture.  My first love gave me flowers to win me over. The One Who First Loved Me gave me the cross. 

What man can give you the same gift?  Only a man that is filled by the same Love. If he/she understands this like you do, you can be strengthened. You can be filled and refilled. You can be forgiving and patient and kind and humble.  Choose the One who pursues you everyday.  Choose the Ultimate Gift-Giver. Choose the Perfect Love.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Alone at Worship

I went to Worship service alone for the first time in many months. Waiting for the familiar strains of the guitar to start, I remembered those first few months You felt like a stranger.

Back then, I didn't know most of the lyrics of the songs. The melodies were strange, just as much as the dancing, closed eyes, and raising of hands of the other worshipers. All I knew was that the people around me were basking in a Presence that I longed for but Who seemed so far away. You knew every part of me, but I could only touch a part of You.

I loved losing myself to the voices, guitar rifts, and drumbeats though.  I tried imagining the keyboardist's fingers gliding over the ebony and ivory, marveling at how each note seemed to float straight to heaven. I once desired being on the piano myself, just so I could feel my own Spirit intertwining with their Spirit-filled music. So I stayed even when I didn't know what words to say during the prayers; and I went Worship Night after Worship Night, even if it meant that I had to be alone.

Last night, I was alone like before but not as I was before. I could sing most of the songs with my eyes closed. The lyrics float in my mind before they could even appear onscreen. I raise my hands and long to touch Your face. Your Presence has become like that of a Friend and Lover. I am getting to know You, loving what is revealed to me day by day.  I sometimes think it's hard to love you; You love me so much and I am not even worthy. But You always come through. You assure me with words and with promises fulfilled.

I have loved you with an everlasting love...

I'm humbled by the wonder of Your majesty...One thing I know I find all I need in Your unending love, in Your unending love.

I sometimes argue with You, questioning why and when and and how and why not now.  In the end though, I still find myself running to Your arms.

Last night, I was alone. But I had You.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Relationships are formed with trust

"The key to faith is knowing the person you want to trust. Faith only makes sense with a good God. Faith only works when you realize that God is good all the time.  Christianity is not a process of blessing. It is a relationship with Christ.  You cannot have a relationship with someone you do not trust.  You cannot trust someone you do not know."

These words from Bishop Juray Mora struck me last night. Why do we falter in relationships? It is because we do not trust, and we do not trust because we don't know the person enough.

Trusting involves time, choosing to be with a person when you could be with someone else or somewhere else.  When we want to form friendships or relationships with people, we take time with them. We try our hardest to be consistent, so that they would know that we value them and respect their time.

Sadly, we sometimes fail in this department. We take people for granted, we move on from one relationship to the next, we are not sincere in our yes and in our no, we are not transparent with our intentions...and sometimes, when we are the ones who are hurt, we fail to forgive.

I guess this is the essence of why Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. To give those who hurt us the chance to start anew, to emphasize how valuable relationships and people are, to teach us how to love so deeply that we are prepared to lay down our life for another.

Out there, many hearts need healing because trust has been broken. There is one Person who offers this healing. He is Someone you and I can trust. He will never fail.

Before He formed me, He knew me.

Before I was born, He had already set me apart.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;..."

He knows every strand of hair on my head and values me more than anything in the world. 

"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows..."

Even before I knew Him, He chose to love me.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;..."

Even before I could say sorry for hurting Him, He already forgave me, because He wants me to be with Him forever. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us..."

 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

I pray that I would know Him more and more this year. I pray that I will spend time with Him. I pray that I will be filled with the assurance that whatever my situation is, my God is a good God.

 "I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance." Ephesians 1:16-22

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goodbye 2012 (plus a pic spam!)

I wrote this blog entry in January 2013 but never got around to posting it until now. I think this is the best period to be reminded :)

"A bride who is more interested in the gifts than the groom misses the point completely. I have missed the point repeatedly." 

This tweet from David Bonifacio sure woke me up today. Which bride is more excited about the wedding gifts than the groom himself? It only took me split-second to realize that I was that bride.

For the past days, I have been feeling a bit ungrateful because I had been feeling that I never really get what I desire the most.  I was pursuing the blessings from God,  forgetting that the biggest reward is God himself and that He is in control.    

So I thought about sharing the goodness of God first with this note of gratefulness. I want to honor God in my life, just to be reminded that He has been faithful since I came back here in Manila.

March-April 2011 -  So many changes I didn't expect. I was also going back to my family after 11 years of staying away. I didn't know where the road was taking me. I didn't even know if I really wanted to go.

May 2011 - Went on a retreat. Went running again, had "long dates" with God, had overnights at my Christian friends' house, listened to podcasts and worship music all day long.

 Unexpectedly, He gave me a disciple at the lowest point in my life.  He was pointing me in the right direction -- to the mountain top. It was an awesome spiritual revival, thanks to my supportive friends.

Ignite Youth Conference 2011

My Surprise Send-off Party -- also a time of prayer and believing God for disciples in my old job

June 2011 - Back home. Surprisingly, I got a freelance job as a contributor for a food mag. I was going to have pocket money -- yay. Best of all, I was finally going to fulfill my dream of writing about food and getting paid for it.

Being back at home was also an unexpected comfort (read: Going Home).

July 2011 - Decided to take on a new job (Read: My New Job).  Grateful for less stress at work. More time to do the things I want to do!

My new workmates who just love eating!
Started bible study sessions again, started meeting my high school and MA friends again.  My world expanded. Wrote a long blog entry about healing: When People We Love Hurt Us.

August 2011Renamed my blog Divine Amnesia.

October 2011 - I don't remember September much. But I do remember October.  I loved my birthday (read my birthday entry).

November 2011 - my first Christian concert! I blogged about it on Saved Festival 2011.

December 2011 - December was an exciting period for our Victory group! We launched our first VG outreach. It was also a time of bonding with new friends.

VG Pangarap, so named for our outreach in Pangarap Village
New year date with mom and a New Year card for my sister...who will also later on get to know Jesus :) 
2012 was a time for building and strengthening relationships, making disciples, and just enjoying the day-to-day blessings.

January 2012

Prayer and Fasting 2012 with Ching and Ting!

Prayer and Fasting 2012 day 3 with Ting and family
February 2012

We had to split the big VG for bible's our small VG called Hardcore with Ate Vivian. 

March 2012

Zambales trip with Tere and Shen...also met some nice new people!

VG Los Banos Valentine's Outreach activity

Meeting Early, a dormmate from college!

Growing VG Pangarap! 

Ang dami namin!!!

eating out with some VGmates, including my new 121 partner CHEEK! I love her!
more good times with high school friends

April 2012
Marianne's Wedding - meeting God's best is worth the wait!

More VG bonding nights!
Our VG watching Phoebe. First time I watched her perform. She's a jazz/wedding singer :)
Planetshakers and Israel Houghton concert with VG LB :)

with VG Pangarap

May 2012
basic photography lessons with Gail from Foreverday Photography

Month of the Oceans 2012...

...where we helped paint the longest dolphin mural :)
June 2012
VG Pangarap Outing
date with Ting and my inaanak Juju

High school barkada
July 2012

More outreach activities! This time, with my workmates!

painting a school in Payatas
The whole team :)

VG Maginhawa: The group that is really special to me this year. Before I left LB, someone prophesized that I would disciple 2-3 students. I wondered how that could be, when I was already leaving! Well, guess what. When God wills it, it will happen! My VG of UP students with some of my friends:

How it all started...a date with Ching and the three girls below :)

VG Maginhawa with my bestfriend Ting
At Burger Project with their Kuya Ian
I love these girls!
And of course, I had more fun times with my HS friends...if our VG is growing, so is our barkada!

our growing group
Mid-year fast with VG mates
 A time to recharge

August 2012

Started my capoeira lessons this month (read: Kicked in Capoeira class). I'm struggling, but I love them.  They help me develop patience and discipline.

With capoeira buddy Stella :)

VG relief operations for Typhoon Sendong victims

September 2012

Outing at Hidden Valley with office mates

assignment from VG maginhawa

first time to watch a play at CCP

Mom's 56th birthday

October 2012

Beyond Borders projects (now called The Isaiah 41 Project) brainstorming starts with Ian, Jho, and Kate. This outreach project in Sibuyan Island, Romblon was proposed to us by Kate. We're off to help an IP community with their classroom materials! Pray for us!

My first 3k run...
with Sorority sisters and...

officemates :)

Cheek's Victory Weekend! woohoo!
Cheek's water baptism
with VG during my birthday and other VGmates' birthdays! 
birthday date with my very good friend Leo

November 2012

My first 5k run...

haggard but happy!

with buddy  Raiza :)
December 2012

A VG wedding - Joc and Oliver's
VG Christmas Outreach 2012 -- the second year!
SPIN Collaborative Cascade with my sister - a gathering of individuals and social entrepreneurs who are changing the world!
Christmas Day with my family
This was also the month that I got promoted in my job. So yay for that :)

To end my uber long pic spam, I just realized that I have a lot to be grateful for.  God replaced my sadness with all of these meaningful activities and more importantly, these wonderful, beautiful people. My life wouldn't have been this awesome without them.

Thank you to all of you who were part of my 2012 :)

More than all of these people and things though, I learned or was reminded of four very important things:

1) God is my Provider - I was never in lack!
2) God is my Comforter - I am always at peace when I give up everything to God
3) God is my Strength -  I can always depend on him!
4) God is Faithful - even when I am not!

Thank you God for loving me this much.

I now empty myself of everything that happened in 2012 to make way for newer, greater, and better things.  There is only one Person I want to be expectant about, and that is God.

Here's to 2013 :)

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy... -  Psalms 30:11