Dear Random People at the Book Fair

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Random girl sitting beside me

Random girl sitting beside me

Dear random girl sitting beside me at the book fair,

You must have been tired from roaming the Isles, touring the halls of SMX, browsing through the many, many, many bookshelves. You must have been sufficiently intoxicated (as I was) by the smell of books and decided it was enough. Or, you probably simply couldn’t wait to read your new books.

I just had to smile when I saw you, eyes focused on nothing else but the spot on the floor next to me where you immediately sat and opened the book I knew you were dying to read.

At that moment I felt a kinship towards you. Although we didn’t say anything, even though we barely even looked at each other, I smiled at the thought of sharing space with someone who had the same ability to dive into a sea, into the depths of ideas books provide us.  It is one of the rare kinds of silence I love and am comfortable with – the silence shared between people reading.

 

Random guy reading his manga. That's a Cosplayer in front of him.

Random guy reading his manga. That’s a Cosplayer in front of him.

Dear random guy reading his Manga,

You were sitting at the stairs, at the entrance of SMX. People dressed up as anime characters were right in front of you (they seem to be doing Cosplay events simultaneously with book fairs at SM). Those cosplaying kids were really an eye-chatching bunch. How could they not be, with their bright wigs, thick make-up and multi-colored costumes?

I found it a really interesting picture: there you were, reading Manga in front of people dressed up like the characters you were reading about!

But at that moment I felt an affinity with you. Affinity, and respect for you. For someone like you who preferred re-creating and re-imagining characters and scenes in his mind rather than be distracted by material, real, flesh-and-blood eye-catching characters.

I will always have an affinity and respect for people who can use their imaginations.

 

 

Random kids reading their storybooks.

Random kids reading their storybooks.

Dear random kids reading their new storybooks,

You just brought me back to my childhood, seeing you so engrossed with your new storybooks.

I could only wish for you:

That you would keep reading, and find that there are vast worlds yet to be discovered, millions of thoughts to chew on, even more oceans of ideas to dive into, stories of people of the present and from ages past… and they are all available to you, young reader.

 

 

Your Fellow Bookworm and Enthusiast,

Sarah

 

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I can’t write about the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) and not give a shout out to my favorite bookstores.

My default stops during MIBF are OMF Lit, CSM, CGM and Navigators.

OMF Lit left us drooling with their sale bundles and cheap books! I just learned that OMF Lit is trying to make Christian literature more accessible to the masses by lowering the prices and publishing more Taglish (Tagalog-English) books. I totally respect the heart behind that.

CSM surprised me too – a lot of titles with very cheap prices (one hundred peso books!). A lot of their titles were the kind you could give to friends as well (a very good deal, if I might say so).

Navigators is always a great resource for discipleship books. Not surprisingly, Edmund Chan’s books were featured at this year’s book fair.

And there’s CGM, with their tiny but book-filled stall. I go to CGM for heavier stuff written by old (as in, old) authors, some of them dead. In other words, classics.

So far, I’ve finished just one book, one I got from OMF Lit: “Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat?”

"Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat?" by Stephen James and David Thomas. Very fun read.

“Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat?” by Stephen James and David Thomas. Very fun read.

The Choice Every Mother Makes

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This short story was two years in the making. I dedicate in now to my mother, who chose four times.

So pleased was the Lord with His creation, which he called Man, that He bestowed upon him gifts of the most wondrous kinds. He gave this special creature one other Gift He himself had only known, and valued as well – dominion, authority under every other living creature on the Earth.

When Woman was created, the Lord wanted to give her a Gift as well.

“We have given man everything,” the Lord thought. “What shall we give her in addition to what we have already given man?”

And then the most wondrous thought occurred to the Lord. “We have bestowed Man with one of our greatest pleasures. Why, we must allow Woman to experience yet another of ours!”

The Lord remembered the joy of fashioning life with His hands, the thrill of bringing life to existence, and gave this same gift to the Woman.

“You will play a very important role to our plans and experience joy beyond compare, as I have. As I have felt life fashioned beneath my hands, so will you experience life form beneath yours. Rejoice! For we have imparted to you mysteries known only to you.”

The Woman received this gift with great joy. She and Man lived happily, as two parts of a whole, made exactly for each other.

But the Enemy, who hated all good and despised all beauty, was bent on destroying their Paradise.

And Woman, who once sang and danced with a sweet beauty that was enrapturing, now shuddered with dread and guilt – emotions once foreign to her. Man, who once praised her and sought to please her every moment, was now blaming her.

Woman lay prostrate on the ground, with Man beside her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Serpent slinking away, bearing the curses the Lord had just pronounced.

The Lord’s punishments were severe.  He took Woman’s gift away, as well as Man’s.

Man, shaking with utter fear and shame, kept silent, prostrate on the ground where he had dropped in an effort to hide from the Lord’s searing gaze. Beside him, Woman was trembling, miserable as well.

Unlike Man, however, Woman did not keep silent – she could not help it. Heavy sobs rose to her chest and broke the silence after the Lord’s Voice pronounced His judgment. She knew He was angry, and she was frightened. She had never known anger before. That she was an object of anger of such magnitude – it was too much! The novelty of it all added to her fear.

Dare she speak to Him? But she did. With a silent, halting, quivering voice, she did.

“My great Lord, I am ruined! But I implore you, mighty God, take everything away, but not the Gift. Might not I know what it is first? Oh Lord, Man has known his gift, why not I? Have mercy, Oh God!”

It was insolence, for sure, yet she could not help it. For although Woman had not known exactly what her Gift was, she had sensed that it was to be extremely valuable. She sensed it in the very fibres of her being.

The Lord had mercy on her and consulted among Themselves. “She does not know. Perhaps if we tell her, she will refuse to have it back.”

Woman lay with her chest heaving, awaiting the judgement.

“I may return it to you, but it is now cursed. Your disobedience has brought it to its state.”

If more anguish could be borne, surely it was added to what Woman can bear. How could she have disappointed her Life Giver, her Creator, her God?

“You were to bring life into this world, to bring your own kind into being, to feel life slowly fashion itself beneath your hands, feel it within you. You were to bring life with joy, with singing… with ease. Without pain, or fear, or death.”

She caught her breath.

“It is tainted now. If you wish to still receive it, if you wish to bring life to this world, you must be willing to trade your life for it.”

And so it was that every Woman who chose to be a mother always made great sacrifices.

For nine months, her body is not her own.

When she finally gives birth, she faces extreme torment and pain, sometimes, even the prospect of death.

Still, after months of pain and discomfort, with the child already in her arms, she knows her life will never be hers. She will continue giving of herself, knowing that this precious child will bring her joy and love and laughter, but also pain and grief.

In choosing to give life to another, she chooses to give up her own.

My mother and I way back in '92. The first time she chose.

My mother and I way back in ’92. The first time she chose.

 

 

My Ultimate End

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My Ultimate End

Note: This was my Icebreaker Speech for the Toastmasters’ Club, which I just joined a few weeks ago. The assignment was to prepare a speech to introduce myself. 

Everything is a means to an end.

The thought has been running in my head in the last three weeks. Without sounding overly dramatic, I think this is most spectacular epiphany I’ve had in my entire life so far. Now, I’ve known and heard this idea my entire life, but I don’t think it really hit me full force until three weeks ago.

It is this: that everything I have, everything I am going through and will be going through, everything I should do – all of this – is a means to an end. Everything is a means to an end.

This idea revolutionized me, because I am naturally… well, I am naturally selfish and self-serving.

I remember when I was younger and I had just started college:

I joined the Debate Society even though the practices ran late into the night. My parents were furious – I was only sixteen and I was coming home at 10pm?! Oh, how I fought with my parents for this. I remember yelling at my mom with all the teenage angst I could muster, “Ma, college na ‘ko!”

Eventually they relented, as long as I always texted them when I was going home.

But why did I want to join the Debate Society so badly? Because they were an elite group in campus. I told people I just wanted “to improve my speaking skills”, but actually, I wanted more of the association.

I also volunteered as a Peer Facilitator, offering my time to “shepherd” the freshmen. People saw the sacrificial side to this, and I exploited it by not telling them otherwise. Actually, I just wanted influence and popularity.

Then I joined a Choir associated with the Philippine Madrigal Singers. The practices took a lot of time, but I told people the quality of vocal training was worth it. Actually, I thought it would be a great way to get connections for when I decided to seriously pursue Music as a vocation.

These are just some of them, but these things – the Debate Society, the Peer Facilitators, the Choir – they were all a means to some end I had in mind.

And guess what happened? I kid you not: the Debate Society got disbanded. The Peer Facilitators group was dissolved. And I got kicked out of the Choir.

That was a very, very humbling period in my life.

I thought I’d learned enough, until very recently.

Last year I began a lot of things. I began new relationships, new pursuits. But again, I began these things with a different end in mind.

Towards the end of last year and early this year, some very painful and humbling things happened: a very close friend died. She is believed to have committed suicide. And yes, the pain was unbelievable.

Then early this year, I had my heart broken when I got rejected from a job I wanted so badly and prayed for so hard.
It was a very stinging lesson, and I belatedly realized – I held on too much on relationships. And I made an idol of an idea of what God wanted for me.

But there is redemption, even for a hard-headed girl like me.

In the last few weeks I’ve been meditating on what my ultimate end could be, what my purpose could be. I’ve been telling myself over and over, like a mantra, that “there is a reason for this.” There has to be a reason for all this!

I was created with a specific purpose. I was designed for specific roles I am meant to fulfill in my lifetime. It is with these things in mind that I look to the future.

I recently joined an amazing Life Coaching Group called The Significant Woman, and we’ve been talking about design. God designed me and ingrained in me some passions and values that are essential to who I am.

Things like Creativity and the Arts, how I must have avenues for expression. Or my desire to defend Truth, and let others see Truth about Life and God. Or most importantly, my desire to bring the Truth about God to people around the world who have never heard of it.

It scares me, actually. Thinking of the future, and how inadequate and immature I am. It scares me to think of these things, because I cannot see how I can ever be prepared, or be adequate, or be mature enough. Truth be told, it rocks me to the core of my being.

But I press forward, because something else scares me. What do I fear more than that?

In the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Aragorn asks Eowyn the same question. “What do you fear, lady?”

I love her answer, because it resonates within me so deeply.

So Aragorn asks her, “What do you fear, lady?”

And she replies, “A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.

Everything is a means to an ultimate end, and mine is to accomplish deeds for my Creator. And no matter how small or seemingly insignificant these deeds are, if they are accomplished well, then these deeds are great.

This, I believe, is my ultimate end.

"Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless 'til they find their rest in Thee."

  “Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless ’til they find their rest in Thee.”

What do you think your ultimate end or purpose is? Is it possible to find out? Or what do you think about all this? Tell me in the comments below. :)

Film with Surf

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It’s about time I wrote about Surf and the Film Workshop I’ve been attending the last few weeks. It’s been weirdly awesome.

“The Weird became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Let me tell you about Surf, my teacher.

“Have you heard of the saying, ‘The Weird became flesh and dwelt among us’?” Surf asked us at our first session. “That’s me.”

He is like no one I have ever met, and is therefore by far the most interesting character I have ever met in my life so far. He is an artist through and through.

I went to CCP with him last Saturday. It was for the 100-year celebration of Gerardo “Gerry” de Leon, National Artist for Philippine Cinema.

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At the Dream Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

There were esteemed guests – most of whom are veteran filmmakers, actors and producers themselves. Surf Reyes, my teacher, was invited at the screening, and he thought it a good idea to bring his students with him.

During the screening, Surf was recognized in public for the fact that Surf actually worked with Gerry de Leon back when Gerry was still alive! The Screening was in celebration of Gerry after all, so they gave Surf some time in front of everyone to share a bit about his experiences working with the esteemed Gerry.

That was when it hit me: Surf is the real deal.

It was a special moment for me when Surf pointed at us, introducing us as “his students”. I felt honored to actually learn from this unself-conscious (is there such a word?), crazy, weird, and extremely talented 69-year old man.

I didn’t mind that nobody knew us. The fact that I had a right to tag along Surf and stand nearby while directors and cinematographers and whoever in the film industry shook hands and chatted and took pictures with Surf were enough.

That was when I had the second hit of the night: everything that Surf is doing to us, with us, and for us – everything! – is no less than discipleship.

Indeed, Surf takes every moment as a teaching moment for filmmaking – whether it’s in the technical aspect, the creative storytelling aspect, or artistic / mystic philosophy.

With my film teacher, Surf Reyes

With my film teacher, Surf Reyes

On that note, let me just say: Surf is prolific evangelist of his own philosophies and beliefs. And while these are beliefs I do not necessarily agree with, his boldness and strong proclivity to share his faith is a characteristic I respect.

Surf practices what he teaches. At sixty nine, his passion to keep mastering, re-mastering and improving in his craft still consumes him. I love that about him. I am impressed that he is neither daunted nor intimidated by technology. He sees technology as a means to “better tell his story through images”. In fact, he is currently finishing up a documentary he’s been working on for about three months now.

Surf is a mentor forever – lifetime discipleship. At yesterday’s session he told us so: “You can come to me for consultation! All we need to do is schedule it.” I just love how devoid of snobbery he is.

I miss Campus Field Time

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I didn’t realize how important Field Ministry is for me… not until my Field Time was reduced to just two afternoons a week.

After the Digital Day of Outreach and all the hustle and hassle it brought, everything right now has winded down back to normalcy, and unfortunately, boredom.

Sigh.

Because last year was exhausting and expensive (compared to my lifestyle now), but was also full of life and laughter and all the unpredictable happenings of campus field ministry. I immensely enjoyed talking with UP students, connecting, playing Dutch Blitz or Monopoly Deal (so much so that our senior staffs talked to us about how inappropriate it was to play that much Monopoly Deal at the tambayan. Oh well.).

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ADG with Danielle. I love this girl.

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Some of our disciples playing Monopoly Deal at the Tambayan. Is that a guilty look on Jeff’s face? :)

I especially loved talking to students whose worldviews are worlds apart from mine, and I loved getting to share my own perspectives about life and faith and whatever else. And when these conversations actually led the person to re-think his or her own worldviews, I was a happy person.

Probably best of all, I loved finding the girls who would eventually become my disciples (such a weighty word! It gives me chills just thinking about it). I loved getting to know each of them, getting to be part of their lives, getting to pray for them. Some of my most treasured moments were when each of these girls opened up and allowed me into deeper levels of relationship with them.

I enjoyed the challenge of motivating these girls to share their faith, and casting the vision (over and over and over) of helping fulfill the Great Commission! Then there was the burst of wonder and amazement and awe when they finally told me, “Yes ate, I agree with you. I will share my faith”, and actually going with me in Witnessing Blitzes!

I loved the messiness and complications of the relationships I created and built in Field Ministry.

And now… I’m at an office. Facing a computer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate my job now. 

Being in Operations certainly has it perks and funsies, like I wrote here.

But in the two weeks I’ve been here, I’ve arrived at the inevitable conclusion that working with Operations (Ops) is a calling.

Sitting at a desk and getting things done so the rest of the organization could function, the rest of the Field Missionaries could actually “report to the Field” is not a joke. I have nothing but respect and admiration for my Ops teammates who really, actually love what they do.

I’m not sure if the rest of Philippine CCC fully understands nor appreciates what Ops does. The Finance Team, for instance. Few know that ate Nancy willingly cuts her lunch break short to arrive at the office before 1pm. “Kasi may magtu-turn in na,” she says.

Or how kuya Jojo, the Finance Manager, stayed at the Dorm for an entire week just so he could study the finance systems.

Or how incredible and immense kuya Jess’ patience is, being the lone IT person.

I’ve also arrived at the conclusion that, while I appreciate my teammates, and while I see the value of our work, I think I’m getting certain that this kind of job is not something I can do forever.

Still, I am here. I do want to make the best of my time. I do want to honor God with what I do. I do want to always operate with joy. Pray for me?

How about you? Have you ever been stuck doing something you don’t really hate, but don’t actually love either?

Forgiving my Bully

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High School: Teen Girl Upset at Others' BullyingLast December, I met a childhood friend, after about 8 years!

I went to school with this girl. There were very few of us in our class, and as little girls do, we bonded. Naturally, we reminisced a lot of our childhood, elementary days.

We talked about our how chubby she was back then, we talked about our teachers, we talked about the crush we shared... aaand about our bully.

Man, he was such a bully like no other. Of course, to anyone who was bullied, his/her bully is always someone like no other. So, to me, he was a bully like no other. He consistently terrorized me with what mattered most to me in those days, and even now: WORDS.

He teased (and “tease” is a rather conservative word, trust me) me endlessly!

About my nose. My eyes. My height. My skin color.

He called me names I would rather not repeat and choose to forget but some I simply cannot erase from memory.

He called me ugly.

That I went to a private Baptist elementary school mattered little, not to mention the fact that this boy was a pastor’s kid. Actually, that made matters worse. I felt he was untouchable, that the reason he could get away with everything was because his dad got up in the pulpit.

No one, as far as I know and remember, told him off.

The one time I finally got the moxie to talk back to him and tease him back for his dark skin, his mother (who was also a teacher at the school), called me to her office and scolded me. So unfair.

I went to high school bearing all the damage elementary school and this kid gave me. I became very insecure. My previous experiences with him taught me to be as unobtrusive as possible, to try to not get anyone notice me, and as a result I became very quiet, always hesitating to participate. I had no real friends.

Why bring up all this past?

I bring this all up because this is part of my life that God redeemed for a very long time.

Because kids constantly hurt each other, and those wounds can scar for a very long time.

Because these wounds can cause significant impacts, and we grow up one way, sensing that something has gone wrong, but not knowing what it is, and what caused it.

Because adults can take a proactive role in teaching children that this is wrong. In my case, no one told me that I was wronged. No one told my bully that what he was doing was wrong.

I’m still single and do not have a kid yet, but I can say with certainty that parents’ and other adults’ roles in the formation of a child is important and cannot be taken lightly.

It is with peace in my heart and ease of conscience that I say that I have forgiven my bully.

Years of encouragement from loving people around me, years of discipleship and mentoring, years of learning to get affirmation from God  and His Word has helped me forgive him and realize that he has likely been going through some difficulties I could never even imagine.

He is a pastor now, just like his dad, and the last time we spoke, I learned that he is helping out to get a new ministry started.

God has redeemed me, and He has redeemed my bully.

 

 

I need more non-Christian friends on Facebook (and other thoughts about the Digital Day of Outreach)

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We had our Digital Day of Outreach last Tuesday… and I’m still trying to take it all in. 10505555_704033839664553_7561683648455893440_n

What. Just. Happened?!

Over A THOUSAND AND SIX HUNDRED exposures to the gospel and spiritual conversations? What?! Where did that come from? How did that happen?!

GOD, of course. Amazing, amazing. As one of the people who planned and oversaw the event, it was amazing to see this come into fruition. Because truth be told, I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting everyone to be so game.  Because we were trying to anticipate tech difficulties, especially in setting up the WatchThinkChat platform*, we were worried that people, especially the not-so-techie people, would be overwhelmed or get discouraged. But everyone was so game! Oh, they were!

The students, predictably, easily got the instructions and were able to immediately use WatchThinkChat for their conversations. The older people, despite some challenges, were so teachable and patient in learning how.

And what about the other 5 teams in the regions who also did DDO simultaneously with us?

It made me realize: We have a gold mine of human resources, a vast pool of laborers just waiting to be mobilized.

I need more non-Christian friends on Facebook. I’m picky when it comes to Facebook friends. I reason, “It’s my privacy at stake here! I need to protect myself! We don’t talk anyway!” And all that jazz. Still, that reasoning falls flat when I realize the time, influence, resource and platform I waste when I don’t consider Facebook as a mission field. That goes for all the other social media.

I am not really that intentional in sharing the Gospel online, one on one. Not yet. Sure, I blog. I write. I use online resources. But I haven’t developed the habit yet. I have yet to develop that mindset. When I go on Facebook, I don’t instantly think — “Hmm, who is online at this moment? To whom can I share the gospel?”

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Prudy Verzo from YouVersion the Bible App, Jeff Lucas from YesHeIs Philippines, Mike Medlin and Lyn Balasico from UCB Media Philippines

How cool was it that people from YouVersion the Bible App, UCB Media Philippines and YesHeIs Philippines showed up? I don’t even have any words for that, except: AWESOME. It is so encouraging to talk to like-hearted people with a Kingdom mindset. Already we are talking about partnerships!

“How did you get wind of our DDO,” I asked them.

It was Jeff Lucas who saw the link (a friend showed it to him, actually). Then his boss required him to attend. He in turn invited Mike, Lyn, and Prudy.

Also, it was so funny how they all but pounced one me when they found out that I’m a writer. Apparently, in this kind of ministry (maybe just in the Philippines), there is a deficit of writers or content-creators.

Makes me wonder — what would it take to raise up a pool of content creators for the digital ministry?

What do you think about Digital Outreach?

Did you join our Digital Day of Outreach? How was your experience compared to mine?

 

 

 

 

*WatchThinkChat is a platform for online evangelism. Ask me about it! Send me a PM or email at sglawagan@gmail.com