A Triumphant Sunday (Literally and Figuratively)

 

Last week was a hectic one for me.

While majority of my friends went out of town for their much-awaited vacation and R&R, I was stuck in the city. (Okay maybe stuck is not the right word, since it connotes not having the choice to leave so let me rephrase).

I stayed in the city (Hello Gen SUN!) to attend and help out with our church’s Easter Cantata rehearsals. It was for Claire Cloninger and Robert Sterling’s “Who Do You Say I Am?”, which was shown last Resurrection Sunday in all of our three services.

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Victory General Santos’ Senior Pastor Nowell Evangelista giving an introduction about the Easter Cantata.

Admittedly, a small part of me wished that I had made plans instead of staying (since I figured I might not have another chance to get away from the hustle and bustle) but after the performances last Sunday, I knew it was worth missing a few days off for sure.

The morning services in Robinsons were packed. And when I say packed, it was STANDING ROOM only for our 10AM services. The 4PM schedule was also full the air conditioning unit can barely keep up with the heat). But more than the attendees, the reaction on their faces got me as I saw many wiping tears away when one of the soloists, Kuya Pops Evidente belted out his haunting rendition of “Father, Forgive Them.”

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Pops Evidente’s soulful singing as the apostle Peter.

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Three days after the performances, I am still singing and spouting lines fromthe songs (talk about major LSS) and I am already wondering how long the high would last.

But even if I forget the lines and the words from the songs, lessons were learned that I will forever take home with me.

TEAMWORK ALWAYS WORK. It is a known fact that projects succeed not only because of a solid plan behind it but the people that made it happen. Of course, the plan in place is very important but without the manpower to run it, even the best ideas will fail.

There is a reason that man has been made for relationships. And the production for this event only showed that we are all created to share not only our lives but the burden and work of what we do.

I am very grateful for the heart and commitment to serve of the Production Team last Sunday. I knew from the onset that the schedule of the rehearsals might cause a conflict but these people took it upon themselves to set aside time to attend the practices and be there on time.

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Technicals and Production Team

I’m sure the whole show would have still run even if the volunteers, instead, chose not to serve. God will see to that. But without them to help out, it might have been a very stressful event for everyone involved.

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Hooray! It is finished!

Special mention also goes to a very talented and creative lady who was not only hardworking but very generous with her skills and time as well.

Sharlaloo (as I fondly call her) donated her time and rest to ensure that the visuals and media for the production were all excellent and ready for Sunday. Never mind that she had other projects that have deadlines looming near. She worked on the videos and boy, did she work fast!

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Tataaa… We’re now off to be part of Taylor Swift’s Production Crew… We wish!

Perhaps, the other thing that I like about teamwork is that not only do you get to maximize one another’s talents for His glory, but that it also provides an opportunity for friendships to grow.

The team last Sunday might have been a one-day thing but I am pretty confident that the memories, challenges and moments we all shared has brought us closer to one another.

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We’ve been wanting to throw our tech scripts since Day 1. LOL.

REMEMBER WHO YOU WORK FOR. The days leading up to the event were more stressful than the others. It required sleepless nights and time spent away with family and friends that the tendency to grumble, feel the pressure and question why you’re doing those things in the first place became commonplace.

I knew I did. For a time, I did ask the question – “How did I get myself involved in this?”

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With Sharla Billena, Head of the Communications Ministry.

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Musical Director Ray Bonilla during rehearsals.

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Crunch time. Cheer up, singers!

But God is a gracious God. At times when I was feeling the pressure and I really thought about quitting (or pretending I was sick, errr), He reminded me that I was not doing it for the church nor was I doing it for the pastors. He showed me that whatever it is that I had set to do is for Him and Him ALONE.

That jolted me and pulled me back to reality. That reminded me that I had been looking inward and downward towards my situation when I should be looking up to Him – the source of Resurrection Sunday.

Which brought me to the last lesson I learned that week –REMEMBER YOUR REASON FOR DOING THINGS. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine of things and just manage stuff mechanically (only because you have been so used to it). But God is not just about that. He looks at the heart and the motive of our actions.

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There was a time last week that I had to pause and really sit down and ask myself – “Am I doing this to bring honor to God or to glorify my name?” It was a tough question to ask, one that I didn’t want to but somehow my devotion that day led me to it.

How convenient to do things and mask it as a way to “exalt His name” and yet see it oozing with human selfishness and pride. It might not have been the case for me but I sure was pretty close. If I was honest with myself, I know that there were times last week that I subconsciously has been putting myself above things – when I did not seek God’s grace and strength to go through the rehearsals, when I made decisions on my own without consulting others.

Thankfully, He reminded me of who He is and what He has accomplished on the cross two thousand years ago, the same reason we are celebrating Resurrection Sunday every year and why we had the Easter Cantata in the first place.

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Looking back, it might have been the busiest Holy Week for me and true, I might not have had the rest I was looking forward to – but I will never regret the memories we made, friendships forged and opportunities to witness God’s grace and mighty power once again.

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Jesus is alive! He is risen!

 

 

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Problem – Solving Lessons from the Book of Job

I first encountered the Book of Job in the Old Testament around 8 years ago. My mom has recently passed away that time, I resigned from work with no new job offer, my brother and I were in debt due to our mom’s hospital bills and my then-relationship has just ended. In short, it was a very dark time for me and I felt that there was no hope anymore.

That time, I had already taken up the Christian faith seriously and was reading the Bible more often than before. But it was quite limited to Psalms. I was a bit hesitant to read the other books because it still has a “mystifying” effect on me and I thought it would take extra-ordinary faith and wisdom to understand those, not advisable for a “baby Christian” like me. But as I read it, I realized that there were a lot of things to learn from Job’s life, which are essential in my walk with God. True, he had it worse – all the trials in his life happened in just a span of two days! Not a day has he recovered from the loss of his properties and children, when the devil has targeted his attack on Job’s own health instead. And many times in our lives, we would undergo hardships, when it seems that God’s hand is upon us and there’s no stopping to the punches and knocks coming our way, that feel like we can’t go on anymore or wish there’s a “tap out” move we can do just to stop everything.

We question our circumstances. We question our actions and decisions. Sometimes, we even question ourselves and ask why it happened to us. Most, if not all of the time, we also question God. Why has He allowed bad things to happen, where was He when it was happening and why isn’t He doing something about it and so on and so forth.
Questioning our circumstances is not a sin in itself. It’s a normal reaction for the confused state we are in. It’s also not evil when we question God. Looking back at Job, there were many circumstances when he questioned God –

     “3 Does it please you to oppress me,
          to spurn the work of your hands,
          while you smile on the plans of the wicked?
       4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
          Do you see as a mortal sees?
       5 Are your days like those of a mortal
          or your years like those of a strong man,
       6 that you must search out my faults
          and probe after my sin—
       7 though you know that I am not guilty
         and that no one can rescue me from your hand?” (Job 10:3-7)

He questioned the God who created him. And that is what makes Job remarkable – that even during the toughest time in his life, he knew who he had to talk to. He knew that bringing his hurt, pain and anger to God is the best thing he could do in that situation. He was going through a challenging season but he still sought an encounter with God.

       “20 I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
              I stand up, but you merely look at me.
         21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
              with the might of your hand you attack me.
         22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
              you toss me about in the storm.
         23 I know you will bring me down to death,
             to the place appointed for all the living” (Job 30:20-23)

He knew that only God could justify and vindicate him. Many times in our lives when we go through trials and pruning, we turn to things – alcohol, drugs, relationships, food, etc. to solve our problem. We put God as the last option. When everything else has failed, that’s the time we remember Him and His goodness. But Job, on the other hand, he knew that his fight was with God, the one who created him and he sought for an audience to the one who knows him inside and out, the one who created him. Job knew of God’s character – that He is merciful, that He is faithful, that He is just so it was not difficult for Job to approach the one who created him and this world.

Job eagerly sought the face of God because He wanted to bring up his case to the One he knew would be able to justify him.

          “But I desire to speak to the Almighty
            and to argue my case with God.” (Job 13:3)

While he listened to the counsel of his friends, he knew that only God can help him at that time. What’s more remarkable with Job was that more than his desire for his suffering to be taken away, he first and foremost, yearned for the presence of God. He knew that God’s mere presence is balm enough for the ache and anger in his soul. When God finally answered Job’s cries, he was repentant and his anger has dissipated.

          “1 Then Job replied to the Lord:
           2  “I know that you can do all things;
               no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
           3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
              Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
              things too wonderful for me to know.
            4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
               I will question you,
               and you shall answer me.’
            5 My ears had heard of you
               but now my eyes have seen you.
            6 Therefore I despise myself
               and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Job’s tone changed, his demeanor has shifted and faced with God’s majesty and greatness, he sought forgiveness in humility. That’s what an encounter with the Almighty can do. Though questions may be unanswered and suffering remain, God’s presence is enough to change us and our perspective. Even in the worst storms of our lives, we know that God is faithful when we humbly and earnestly seek Him.

Writing for God

Blogging. It seems so simple. A string of sentences here, added to another phrase there to form a paragraph and voila, you have written an article. Click publish and you’re good to go.

I wish it was that simple though. For me. I have read numerous blogs to get inspiration, joined writing challenges, listed blogging prompts. Pretty much anything and everything I could think of just to get me started but still. Procrastination? Probably. But my main concern for the past few weeks (when I thought I’ve overcome my “fear” of blogging and putting my thoughts out there) is WHAT TO WRITE? Initially, I wanted to make it more of a journal but then who’d read it? Next, I figured I would make it a photoblog or book blog. But I read books too fast for me to write each and every one of it a single review. (But I’m still planning on adding book reviews here, don’t worry). Then by some weird chance, I thought of making this a fashion blog. With the teeny, tiny problem that I am the LEAST FASHIONABLE person I know. (Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration) And lastly, I decided I want my blog to reflect my thoughts as a Christian. But I don’t know where to start. And so it went on and on and on until today. When I realized I can’t put it off anymore.

I was so busy with finding my niche (while that is mostly effective for the professional bloggers out there), my blog is still in infancy. Anyhow, I came to realize earlier that I was so focused with thinking of the right topic that would interest people when i should just be writing about what interests ME. You see, if I continue writing for the people (mostly, if not all, whom I don’t know), then I lose the joy of writing. This is a tool for me to express myself, my thoughts, opinions, and yes, even my crazy, not so fashionable style. So why give in to the pressure when the only person pressuring me is myself? Also, trying my best to make my writing sound so interesting for others so they will be impressed really got to me. I know of only ONE that I should impress. And that is GOD.

Yes, you heard me. God gave me the ability to write, the creative mind to put words together, the talent to paint pictures out of words. Of course, I should write for Him. But no, not to impress. But TO GLORIFY. Because what else can I do to impress the One who created everything in this world? Surely, NOTHING! So why bother to impress? But to glorify? I have all the reason to do so. Aside from the fact that He is God and He created me, never mind that He just happen to offer His Son as atonement for my sins (and everyone else in the world) cause really, who else would do that, right? God gave me all the abilities I have to honor Him.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

The Word already says it. Who am I to argue? While I focus on the shallow things, God has called my attention and directed me to the things that really matter most. The transformation of the mind that only comes from Him. And there simply lies the answer, I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT AS LONG AS I DO IT TO HONOR GOD AND GLORIFY HIM.

That’s how it should be.

 

100 Happy Days Challenge

 

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It’s not that I’m not happy or finds it difficult to be happy. I thought this would be a great exercise to remember and appreciate the things God continues to bless me with. Sometimes, with the busyness of life, we tend to forget and take for granted the things which makes us happy. Those moments that makes us smile. Sometimes, with so much negative fodder the world feeds us, all we see is the pain, hurt, lack, discontent that lives in every corner of the world. This challenge aims to keep that in check.

I really hope I get to finish it. Maybe you can too. We can do the challenge together! Just visit the 100 Happy Days site to know how the challenge is done and register. I will be posting my hundred happy things/thoughts/points in my Tumblr page. Hope you can visit and be reminded that everyday is a chance to be happy and grateful.

THIS 2014

I would find more time to read books. And write/blog.

I would find more time to cook at home. Lest my husband should go hungry.

I would write more handwritten letters, snail mail is the way to go. Or emails. Anything as long as i build and cultivate my relationships and friendships no matter how far they may be from me.

I would read my Bible daily. THIS IS A MUST. Feed my soul, transform my life.

I would take more photos and capture LIFE.

I would reconnect with long-lost friends. And family members.

I would save up for a rainy day. And a sunny day, a windy say, a shopping day and so on and so forth.

I would wake up early. Please, Lord, help me. I REALLY NEED TO WAKE UP EARLY.

I would fight the good fight of faith with Jesus’ strength.

I would weed out the unnecessary things that eat up my time. Like clicking the refresh button on my Facebook and Twitter timeline for the nth time in 2 minutes.

I would learn a new skill. Or hobby. Whichever, comes first.

I would lessen my caffeine and drink more water.

I would exercise more. Futsal and football, yes?

I would eat healthier. Cream Dory, hello.

I would visit towns and travel more. Explore the Philippines, explore the world.

I would believe in God for all these things and rely on Him to make it possible if it’s His will.

I would continue dreaming and hoping and praying because essentially, that’s how our lives should be lived.

2013: The Year That Was

I wonder why most of the New Year’s post i encounter recall how “2013 was such a blast!” and that they “can’t wait for 2014 and its surprises” with much “!!!.” Not that i don’t share the same sentiment. I guess, the negative side of me just seems to think that too much recognition of how 2013 was amaaaaazing really is one’s way of sugar-coating how unpleasant it was.

OKAY. That was such a douche-bag thing to say. Fine. I take it back.

I was planning on starting a post that would outline my whole 2013, good and bad. Of course, my tiny mind wouldn’t be able to recollect every single thing that happened. And I guess a list of highlights would just do.

1) CITY GIRL TO SOUTHERN BELLE. Of course, when i say Southern, i’m pertaining to the third largest island of the Philippines – Mindanao. Moving to Mindanao or General Santos City to be exact, was the farthest thing from my mind when 2013 started. Just a background, i got engaged to a doctor in 2012 and he was about to set his medical practice in his hometown, which happens to be in Mindanao. To cut the long story short, after I marry him, we’d have to settle in Gen San. ANYWAY. I honestly thought that things would probably still work out for him and his career in Manila. I was born and raised and lived for my whole 29 years in Manila, there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY i am moving. But, God has a plan (of course He does! but more of that later) and while i was absolutely resistant to the transfer, i still am adjusting by the way, my April 25 flight to General Santos City opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me that I’m pretty sure I would never have encountered had I stayed.

2) FROM 1 DOG TO 4. Yes, FOUR. Okay, so here’s where the blessings and favor of moving to Gen San started. I initially had a shih tzu dog named Rafa given by my best friend Abby that i totally adore. Our pastor from church and also ninong and ninang in our wedding, presented us with not just one but two dogs as an advance wedding present. Pepper, a standard schnauzer and Shadow, a miniature (NOT SO) schnauzer became Rafa’s playmates at home. Come October, Jay’s aunt asked me what gender i’d prefer for a labrador and i thought she was just asking for my opinion when she buys her own. Turns out, she already has two labs that had puppies and she decided to gift me one (another advance wedding present) to add to my growing “collection.” Oh, sorry, I meant family 😛

3) I GOT MARRIED. Which was a testimony of God’s greatness in my life. From the time I met Jay and we became friends, during our engagement, favor in planning and wedding suppliers, provision that usually comes out of nowhere (jay and I had absolutely NOTHING when we got engaged and God provided everything for us), GRACE during the whole time and FAITH to believe that He will see us through. More than marrying the man of my dreams, the one i prayed for – our wedding was evidence of God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises. I had never felt so precious in His eyes (and there were gazillion of times that God saw me through but this one is different) than during the time that we were planning everything and until we said our vows in front of God (and our guests) knowing that I am obeying His will for me. Also, my brother and dad walked me to the altar and it was the sweetest and happiest moment of my life, I cried. So everyone thought i was crying because I saw Jay’s face when in reality, i was really crying because I can imagine my mom with us that day and our family has never felt so complete than it was that day with just the three of us in front of God.

4) NEW FAMILY. NEW FRIENDS. NEW CHURCH. Jay’s family welcomed me immediately and regarded me as their own soon as I got here. Tita Let (Mommy) and Tito Jun (Da) made sure that I was more than cared for and was thoughtful and considerate enough to adopt me when i was still looking for an apartment. Even Jay’s brothers and aunts welcomed me with open arms. Friends from the Dog Club (Yes, i’m a certified member of the Canine Club of South Cotabato now) have not just shown hospitality to a newcomer like me but also taught me a lot of things i now know in taking care of my dogs. Without them, i would probably have cried already, not knowing what to do when Pepper gave birth (Thanks Rizza and Wella for adopting her for a while) and wouldn’t be able to travel to Manila for wedding preps because there would be no one to look after the monsters, i mean, doggies. Also Uncle Bot, who has always treated me like another daughter (and who gave me the monster-lab) would always be willing to adopt ze dogs and give free vet advice whenever necessary, thank you. It saved us a lot instead of going to the vet clinics here in Gen San. HAHA. Next is Victory. Ah.. It’s always the same wherever church you go – HONOR GOD and MAKE DISCIPLES. I am now again, being discipled. Thanks to this spiritual family, I have new friends i can share my life with, laugh and discuss struggles whenever sadness comes over me about being in a “foreign” place. Lasting friendships with these people are being developed even as i speak (or write).

5) WRITING. I have always wanted write. I have always dreamed of being able to write. I have always decided to write. But then, I have never gotten over my fear of writing. I used to write/blog as a release. My thoughts were so personal, reading them now makes me wanna get run over by a bus because it was not just too personal and graphic, it also has no point. But thank God for the free time i have as I got to writing and blogging again (not as much as I would have wanted but still a good start). It also provided an avenue for me to improve the way i string the words and thoughts together. And while i still have a long way to go, an online news daily took the risk (I don’t know what they were thinking and i hope they never find out) of getting me on board to write and rehash news for them. WHICH IS SOMETHING I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO SINCE FOREVER. Well, maybe not forever but ever since I realized that maybe, JUST MAYBE, Recruitment and HR is not the job for me.

So, while I cannot say that my 2013 was “soooooooo amazing i could die”, I definitely could say that it was truly a blessed and fulfilling one for me. I have been pushed to my limits, rejected and praised, sure and unsure of so many things during this year. But God has always been the constant one in all of these situations, transitions and milestones. I will always be forever grateful for the year that was because I know that my God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Stop it with the Christmas Countdown

I’ve been seeing Christmas countdowns on my Facebook and Twitter Feed and it’s driving me nuts. I know it’s a hundred days before Christmas but can we please slow it down a bit? I’m not even done planning for my wedding and it’s stressing me out!

(Please Lord, please come through for us on this one. You know what we need and when we need it. Please, please, PLEASE.)