Tag Archives: christianity

My Heart, Redeemed

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A couple of years ago, I made a declaration: I’m okay being single forever. I still believe that, by the way. I still believe that I have an ultimate, greater purpose than simply getting married.

One broken heart and a few jilted suitors later, I’ve come to learn several things. And since Valentine’s Day is approaching, I’ve decided to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve been taught.

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I can be Secure in my Singleness and Still long for Marriage

When I decided that I’m okay being single forever, the most common response I got from people in my community was, “So you don’t want to get married anymore?”

The question baffled me, because nowhere had I written, nor had I ever said, that I don’t want to get married anymore. What just happened was: whereas in the past I viewed singleness as a completely undesirable option, and that a life of perpetual singleness was an unbearable fate, I now realize that being single forever could be meaningful and joyful and completely wonderful!

It was the most liberating realization – it lifted a great deal of pressure and reoriented my thinking of the future. I celebrated it as a step of growth towards being more secure in my identity and God’s ultimate purpose for me.

But it got me thinking: Do people in my community really think that being okay with singleness means rejecting marriage? Because I’m not. In fact, I do long for it. I do think about, dream about it, wish for it. I am, however, secure in my singleness too, much more than in the past. Security and longing are not mutually exclusive concepts.

My Response to Men Partly Reflects what I Believe About My Own Identity

In the great, emotional turmoil that accompanied and followed my heartbreak, in one of my lowest points, I wallowed in great self-pity and insecurity. I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that he hurt me deeply. I hurt him deeply too, that much I know (and acknowledge) now.

Now, in the present, with my heart more healed, my head more level, and my eyes finally dry, I see now that the way I related and responded to him (and to other men in the past) came out of certain deeply-rooted beliefs about myself. I believed I could never measure up. I believed I was not enough. I believed I was not worthy to be pursued.

Lies, all lies. But I believed them, and I brought them into my relationship with him.

My Community Must be Part of My Love-life Journey

I know it now: one of the reasons why my relationship with him was toxic was because I hadn’t really been completely honest with my accountability group and certain trusted people from my community.

Proud person that I was, I believed the lie that I didn’t have to be transparent with them. It was one of the first things I repented of, and which I vowed never to repeat again. I failed to realize that these people have been put in my life to journey with me.

In the last several years, I desperately prayed for God to give me the grace to learn whatever He was teaching me. I didn’t want to waste all this pain and not gain anything from it. I wanted my heart redeemed. 

God has indeed been faithful in showing me kindness, and showing me things I had never seen before. He used my heartbreak, and other succeeding events, to show how proud, insecure and manipulative my own heart is. Truly, the heart is deceitful above all things.

And He used men to redeem my view of men! (I won’t lie – there was a period when I truly hated disliked men.) Truly, God is close to the broken-hearted, and He has been such a good Father to me.

As I grow and reflect in my identity in God, my prayer and desire is to image God in the way I relate to men and women around me.

What have YOU learned in your relationships? 

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When Christians are Hypocrites

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A few days ago, an instructor in UP Los Banos allowed a Christian organization to do “Classroom Evangelism” (CE). The CE was documented, and photos of it were uploaded  on the Christian org’s official FB page.

Another instructor saw the online evidence, took screenshots of the FB page and posted it in his timeline, saying that according to UPLB policies, such activities are illegal. Last I checked, the Christian org who authorized the CE, was reported to UPLB authorities.

In a matter of hours, this particular Christian org drew bashers.

And in a few days, similar hostile posts, not necessarily pertaining to this particular CE), were resurfaced and bumped back to the FB newsfeed.

Like this one.

[EDIT: I was told that this post on The Elbi Files was posted before the CE event referred to at the beginning of this blog. In any case, it does not affect the points I tried to make below. My apologies for overlooking this fact and for any misunderstandings I might have caused.]

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At this point, my reaction to the bashing is… sadness. Yes, the post reeks of fallacies and generalizations, but the accusations!

I am terribly sickened and saddened and frustrated and embarrassed… and altogether grieved at the fact that this anonymous poster makes these statements as fact, as something from his/her own experience and observation.

But here are some of my initial thought on the issue (not necessarily ordered in a progressive manner):

The hostility of some of the UPLB students and faculty is fascinating. It somehow confirms what I’ve been telling my international friends this whole time — that just because we Filipinos are outwardly polite doesn’t mean we are listening to you. Case in point: this anonymous poster. His/her message is a very vilifying one, and yet he/she posted anonymously! The anonymous poster could be anyone; in fact, he/she could be someone in the CE class, listening quietly.

The anonymous poster makes references to some questionable (immoral?) org practices that apparently Christian students participated or engaged in. The anonymous poster criticizes these Christian students, calling them hypocrites, even (fascinatingly) quotes Bible verses! The anonymous poster seems to know what Christians should not participate in — such as stripping, or sleeping around.

This is our reality, and it should sober us: while not everyone here in the Philippines possesses a Christian worldview, many do have an idea of Christian morality. And how could they not know? We stop strangers and talk to them about the Bible. We post about our Christianity online. Christian TV networks freely do broadcasts. They know, they are exposed… and they hold us to that standard.

I hope this incident makes this particular Christian org (and all other Christian orgs and affiliations) rethink or evaluate the current evangelism methods and approaches they practice. Yes, evangelism still must happen. But I believe we need to be more creative, discerning, and wiser about this.

I hope this incident causes Christians to really think of our convictions regarding contemporary issues such as the LGBTQIA. EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, I hope we are convicted to express and live out these convictions in a relevant, but also loving, and humble way

I truly am grieved with this situation. I, too, am sobered by the reality that at any given moment, without God’s grace and power alone, I could be one of those who compromise my faith. Really, the ease with which I can fall into temptation frightens and frustrates me. And yes, I have been a hypocrite more times than I would care to admit.

Whatever the turnout of this situation may be, I hope we as a Christian community learn from this. And also repent. Oh, we must. After all this, we must.

[EDIT: I was told that this post on The Elbi Files was posted before the CE event referred to at the beginning of this blog. In any case, it does not affect the points I tried to make. My apologies for overlooking this fact.]

Yes, God loves me.

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The Divine is reaching out to me.

There are those moments, when you are so desperately and acutely aware of your own hopelessness and inability to please God.

Why am I so love-starved? Why am I so forgetful?

You’d think that growing up in a Christian family, working in a missions org, and studying in a seminary where I read and study the Bible every day (something I never imagined I’d ever do, to be honest) would cause me to not forget the very basic, fundamental truth that God loves me no matter what.

Why am I so inclined to think that I am worthless, that the things I do are insignificant, that I do not have purpose? 

Have I (yet again) started believing lies?

It’s a self-destructive mindset, one that is a result of the fall — I know this much. This, I realize now more than ever, is one of the devastating results of sin. It hurts me too. My own sin hurts me.

And why do I almost always tend to believe that I have disappointed God? This is me right now: burning with the most miserable feeling of embarrassment at being a disappointment to God.

But then…

He reaches down and reminds me of nothing short of His… love.

He reached down last night, as I prayed and mulled over my shame and struggles.

He reached down this morning, in Theology class as we discussed and reflected on Propitiation and the Hypostatic Union of Jesus’ Two Natures (of all things!).

He reached down at Chapel Time today, when kuya Craig, one of the Professors, exhorted us, “We need to be reminded of this, and we need to hear this: ‘God loves you.'”

It is so simple, and so profound, and so true.

I may have failed people. It’s okay, God loves me.

I have hurt others. Still, God loves me.

I am not who I think I ought to be. It doesn’t matter, God loves me.

I believe I have disappointed God. That is not true, and God loves me.

The Divine is reaching out to me, and yes, He loves me.

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Kuya Craig at Chapel Time.

 

Weeping for the Fallen 44

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Sundays are supposed to be peaceful.

Filipinos go to church, or mass, or sleep in. But last Sunday, news broke out about the forty-four who got killed in a brutal 11-hour clash. Forty-four. That means fourty-four lives ended. Forty-four families grieving.

I’m not sure what I feel. I am a mere observer, located safely in the opposite side of the country from where the incident happened, and yet the impact and grief I feel is real. I cannot imagine what pain the families may feel. At least one of them, we know now, was engaged to be married… fiancés widowed way too soon. How many other fiancés are now widowed? How many children will now have to live with the absence of their father? How many wives are now widowed?

In this week since the news broke out, I’ve felt raw emotions well up, and I’ve had a variety of thoughts.

JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO taken from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/669066/dead-safs-kin-ask-why-how

I’m praying that I would be able to respond to all this in a way that honors God.

This includes how I feel about PNoy and the government. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about PNoy.

I refuse to slander him, or question his leadership. Just… I feel… disappointed. This is a critical time when his presence would have made an impact.

I’m praying against hatred.

Events like these easily create fear and hostility. I’m praying against that. I want to be a source of grace and love. The MILF… they are people too, and they are lost too, and yes, Jesus died for them too.

Thinking about it… I may not be as distant an observer as I think I am. And maybe we are not as distant as we think we are.

The incident feels personal, because two years ago I lost a soldier friend at a clash in the South. I met that friend in Baguio, when he was still a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Owing to connections, and friends of friends, my world was exposed, a little bit, to PMA, and to military life.

Very recently, my parents, who are based in Baguio, “adopted” four fourth-class cadets. Thus my world has inevitably been exposed even more to PMA. I got to know these cadets last Christmas break. It doesn’t matter that the time I spent with these new foster brothers was so short – I love those boys. I can’t think of anything more devastating than hearing them lose their lives in such a way.

We may not personally know any of the forty-four, or may not be remotely linked to the military, but we are inevitably affected by these events.

I am moved, again, to really pray for my country.

Events like these have always made me wonder if peace really is possible. I was disturbed hearing about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and other similar news in other countries. Consequently, my prayers have been about these overseas events.

The Mamasapano incident, happening right here at home, reminded me to pray for my country.

I’m reminding myself that God is still in all this.

A friend based in France wrote something recently, regarding the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I quote her: “As a believer of the Bible, I have known that things will get worse in this fallen world, but that also gives the best things the opportunity to stand out. ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.’”

God is weeping for all the precious lives lost. This is comforting to me, even just a little bit, at the moment – to know that God understands loss, and hurt, and pain.

After this incident, I am reminded of the great need for personal change.

We all long for peace, but as a Christian, I believe that real change must begin from within, and true change can only come from Jesus. I echo my friend’s sentiments again, “This [incident] is a very personal encounter of how ‘belief in a god’ can either lead you to your fullest potential of being good or your fullest potential of being bad. That truly depends on the kind of god you believe in. And in the end I am so sure we will see that there is only one true God!”

I am well aware of my own tendencies towards evil!

After this incident, I am reminded that there is hope.

There is hope.

I weep for the Fallen 44, but I do so knowing that there is hope.

We are not okay, but we will be.

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Picture not mine.

 

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. 🙂

Tunnels: Journeying in the dark.

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“Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” ~ Edith Edman

Four months ago, something happened to me.light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_by_dragonwolface-d5xlooi

It was a very painful something — in a nutshell: I poured my life and my heart expecting something. People encouraged me, urged me on, coaxed me. There seemed to be affirmation on every side, and from God’s word.. I believed I heard God right. 

Then it all fell flat.

As a result, my life right now is a tunnel. A dark tunnel of lingering and fleeing possibilities, massive hopes and dreams, but a dark tunnel nonetheless. The weight of the darkness and uncertainty presses all around me, and I struggle. Oh, how I struggle.

To be really, really honest. I want to disappear. I wish to leave. I wish to be elsewhere – out and free, to bask in the sunlight and breathe fresh air. To take flight! To have a renewed sense of purpose. Surrounded by such heavy darkness of possibilities and unrealized dreams, the temptation to succumb to despondency grows ever more frequently.

Only knowing that sunlight and freedom and purpose are at the other end of the tunnel keeps me fighting and hoping. Tunnels, no matter how dark they may seem, are finite, aren’t they?

Now I am in one. Still, could this darkness have been given for me to have a better appreciation of the sunlight?

A time will come when all this will be a memory, that I have no doubt of. I will look back on this, and my heart… my heart will quicken as it remembers the pain it had to endure, the ways it had to stretch and carry so much beyond its point.

Then I will smile, because all that pain notwithstanding, my heart had grown purer, stronger and larger. After all these testings, I know that my heart will become purer, because it will be able to look beyond its own pain and into the pain of the rest of the world.

It will be stronger, tougher, and less susceptible to break from the stings and agonies the world may bring.

It will be larger, large enough to carry burdens more worthy to be carried. His burdens.

 

What if my Prayers do not bring me a summit experience?

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I remember the first time I climbed Mount Pulag. 

The sky was gloomy that day. That morning, I was almost convinced not to join the hike.

And when I stepped out from the Rangers’ Station and saw the mud resembling chocolate pudding in vast quantities, and when I felt the first slap of wind on my already nearly-frozen face, I was almost completely discouraged. Still, the prospect of standing at the summit and having an amazing experience was very strong.

Ahh, the summit. The thought itself was very tempting.

So I climbed.

I climbed despite the continuous drizzling. I climbed despite the spectacular mud trails. And despite the extreme numbing cold, and the muscle pains, and even indigestion. All for the summit experience.

Aaaand when we finally arrived at our destination….

It was NOT. Worth. It.

No, it was not. We clearly arrived at the wrong hour. The summit reserved its displays of beauty at sunrise. At that hour, when the sun first peeked from the east is when the glorious is revealed.

Sometimes, as I go through prayer and fasting, I remember that first Pulag experience. To be sure, physically, it will be challenge… but haven’t I always told myself that difficulty breeds quality, breeds excellence? As my pastor once said, you pray and fast for the results, for the end, that is of having specific concerns answered, or payers answered, and most especially having God reveal Himself more to me.

As I draw near to God, He will draw near to me. But what if my expectations are not met?

What if, despite my pleas and prayers and meditation, God chooses to respond with silence? What if there is not glorious summit experience?

I will choose to believe that even in His silence, God has a purpose.

I will choose to trust that He will reveal Himself to me in His own perfect time.

And should this be the case, unlike my Pulag experience, I will not leave empty-handed.

Besides, in the Pulag experience, I only had the “glorious summit experience” to look forward to.

This time, the Glorious Himself is with me, every step of the way.

The Sea of Clouds: What we should have seen at the Summit, and what tourists and hikers come for. This artsy photo is by my friend Louella Marie Pader.

The Sea of Clouds: What we should have seen at the Summit, and what tourists and hikers come for. This artsy photo is by my friend Louella Marie Pader.