At peace with my helplessness

If you are like me, you’ve probably come to several realizations about life or about yourself during this pandemic. Let me share to you two realizations (or reminders) that I’ve had during this time:

I am not in control.

It is weirdly and wonderfully liberating to be reminded of this. But to tell you honestly, I’ve also realized that you will only fully and joyfully accept this “state”, so to speak, when you know personally that Somebody else is in control; someone you can surrender to in complete acceptance and peace knowing that that someone knows what’s best for you.

On that note, obviously, that leaves off the government, our landlords, doctors, our spouse, or someone else. In one way or another (perhaps more so now than ever) they too will disappoint us, or will be unreliable, or even helpless themselves. And that’s OK – because there is someone we can fully trust and give us a peace that really lasts.

It’s how I am able to go about my life with joy and with peace, despite not having an income since the lockdown, despite no let up of our bills, despite having a parent with stage 4 cancer, despite not knowing so many things, like how my profession will look like after this, or, “will I still be able to travel to see my mom”, and the list can go on and on…

Who gives me this peace? Quite simply and at the same time, mind bogging-ly, the All-Powerful and All-Wise God of this universe offers to give us this kind of peace. He says in His word:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride
Psalm 46:1-3

Cease striving and know that I am God. (NASB)
Be still, and know that I am God. (KJV)
Psalm 46:10

I offer no other advice but the living word of God, and the encouragement and life I get from His word.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Are you fully rested and at peace with your helplessness? I encourage you to stop struggling with what you cannot control and surrender your fears and anxieties to Jesus. He can handle them. He is God.

2020

2020 has been such a mind-boggling year, and we’re only still in March. So many things have already rocked us. For me personally, Kobe’s death on January 26 was a big one. It was also around that time that the novel coronavirus was starting to gain traction. Indeed, today, the WHO has formally announced that the COVID-19 is now a pandemic. Cases in the Philippines have also started to rise. Globally, the story is the same. There are reports of exponential rise in cases, with no treatment available yet. The end is not yet in sight.

I was just scrolling through my twitter feed and saw that the NBA season has been suspended indefinitely after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Other players he played with and against will undergo testing and quarantine. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson also made the news as they announced they have caught the virus in Australia. Last night, I was hoping to buy some groceries but I couldn’t because the lines were so long. It seems people are panic-buying. The other day, my husband and I watched Onward on what typically is a good movie night and what should have been a blockbuster draw, yet there were only 14 of us inside the cinema. Safe to say, we live in uncertain times.

Yet as a Christian, I am not surprised. You only have to read Matthew 24 to know that darker times are ahead of us. And I don’t write this to inspire a doom and gloom outlook on life, but the Bible does teach that there will be days such as the ones we are seeing right now: earthquakes, wars, distress, chaos, and an age characterized by selfishness, among other things. And don’t even get me started on Revelations. Yet we do not live in fear of these things. I certainly try not to. Is it OK to be afraid? Sure. There are so many things we do not know.  “How long will this pandemic last?” “Will there be a lockdown?” “Is it OK to go out?” “Will my loved ones be OK?” “Where can I go to escape this virus?” “Do I have enough savings in case of massive lockdowns?” “Are there enough supplies to get me by?” These are all valid questions of pressing matters. And I don’t mean to take these things lightly, because these are real concerns. I do want to go a little deeper, perhaps an underlying cause or source of our fears. That is, of a more eternal matter. Of course, I am talking about mortality – of life and death.

One can’t help but think of these things in situations like these. Perhaps we need to be asking ourselves, “Am I ready for death?” Yes, that is the big elephant in the room. It almost seems so profane, like, “why bring up such a question at such a time?” There is almost a hush-hush treatment to the discussion of death, as if by not talking about it, we can avoid it. But if there is one thing this year has really reinforced on me, especially when I heard of Kobe’s death, it is that life is indeed fleeting. Life is fast. We do not know when our time is up. Kobe was 41. Gigi was 13. Like this virus, death is not a respecter of persons. With death, it is not a matter of if, but when. Randy Alcorn in his book, the Law of Rewards, wrote,

Talking about death won’t bring it a moment sooner. But it will give us an opportunity for what lies ahead. If life’s greatest certainty is death, wouldn’t it be foolish not to prepare for what lies beyond this life? Any life that leaves us unprepared for death is a wasted life.

If there is anything that this covid-19 is teaching me personally, it is that this is an opportune time to talk about mortality–death–and ask the question many people don’t want to talk about. And hopefully, find the answer to one of our deepest longings – that of eternal security. The bible teaches us to think about life and death:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

This is also an opportune time to witness about the hope that Christians have, in that, while life is fraught with uncertainties, we do not live in constant fear, and that we have peace amidst the chaos, because Christ has conquered death.

Yes, because of Christ’s work on the cross, we need not be fearful of death, or disease. Jesus gives us the hope that as we accept His finished work on the cross, we have the hope of eternal life with Him after this life here on earth. In the meantime, we deal with life’s uncertainties. We are not exempt from problems. In fact, the bible teaches that suffering is part of the Christian’s life.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

I was sharing some words of encouragement to my dgroup because I know that we are not immune from feelings of worry, fear, anxiety and doubt. I myself battle these things daily. I have read so many stories of this virus bringing out the worst in some people. Racism, xenophobia, people looking at you differently because you are Asian or people blaming you for contracting the virus. I sometimes wonder, what if I caught this virus? Will my Christian friends respond to me with compassion and love? Oh, how I wish they would. How I wish we would respond with compassion, sympathy, empathy, understanding, love and prayers instead of being judgmental. Jesus said,

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35

I believe more than anything, these times of uncertainty, fear and anxiety present an opportunity to bring out the best in us. To live out joy amidst the suffering; peace amidst the chaos; faith amidst the fear; selflessness instead of selfishness; love instead of indifference. More than anything, the world needs to know of the hope that Jesus Christ offers.

Kobe, 1978-2020

Photo credit: Kobe Bryant (Instagram) @Kobebryant https://www.instagram.com/kobebryant/

I woke up today at 6 AM with messages from my sister and friends who live in the US that Kobe Bryant has died in a tragic horrible helicopter crash. Shock was an understatement. When I confirmed the news, at the same time, I had to get ready for work as I was being picked up today to go to an off-site eye exam, and so I pretty much had to compartmentalize my emotions, which I failed in miserably anyway as the moment I got into the shower, my tears couldn’t be stopped. Then I had to compose myself as I didn’t want to do eye exams looking like I need one myself.

I went about the day numb, dazed, in utter disbelief. I just couldn’t reconcile that Kobe, the same Kobe I had “idolized” since my childhood days, the same Kobe who only hours ago was active on social media, Kobe, the Black Mamba, seemingly super human, full of life and vigor, is dead. Along with his young daughter Gigi, who was 13. It breaks my heart thinking of how they died, and how much his family, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and baby Capri, as little as she is, are hurting. I also remember the other souls lost in that tragic accident, and how many families were impacted by this accident.

I think about Capri, who will miss out personally knowing his father.

I think about Bianka, too young and innocent to understand death.

I think about Natalia, grappling with the loss of a father and a sister during her early adolescence.

I think about Vanessa, suddenly a single mother, outliving a young daughter, and having to bury both of them.

I think of his family and his friends; those who know him personally; colleagues, teammates, staff, mentors; for the void and sadness that follows his passing.

I think about how short life is, that tomorrow is not promised, and how my worldviews as a Christian frame reality, and inevitably I think about eternity…..

I guess I still can’t fully reconcile Kobe is gone. He had so much life in him. For those of us who followed his career and his life post-basketball, it really is hard to think about not hearing from him again; from making basketball analysis on his show, Detail, or making goofy videos with his young daughters, or dishing out his wisdom culled from years of just being an intelligent thinking human being. To see that 1978-2020 underneath his name, it is surreal. Kobe really is gone. He was such an active part of my life growing up.

I became a Laker fan because of Kobe. He made me fall in love with basketball. I played it competitively during my highschool and college years. My highs and lows in my sports life always involved him – when he scored 81; when they lost in 2008 to the Celtics; when he finally won MVP; won the title in 2009 and then again in 2010, avenging that loss to the Celtics; when he visited the Philippines in 2011 and I got to watch him play, and see him again 2x more on Nike tours here; when he tore his Achilles, then returned; when he scored 62 in 3 quarters; when he scored 60 in his final NBA game, upending even the Warriors who finished 73-9… the gamewinners; his patented jumpshot; his defense….I could go on and on. He was Mr. Laker, the epitome of professionalism, excellence on the court; polarizing because of his demand for greatness on everyone, but you can help but respect him even if you don’t like him. Off the court, in his later years after Colorado, he was the picture of a family man, devoted to his daughters and his wife. I daresay, he was an even better father than he was a basketball player.

Kobe.

Gone at 41…. you can’t help but think of mortality. Of how fleeting life is. Death is indeed the great neutralizer. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.

My heart is broken, truly.

Thank you, Kobe, for the joy you gave my life all these years. I will miss you. Out.

A prelude to 2019

This is my 2018, in a nutshell.

**I hadn’t blogged (or journaled) in a while, and I consider not writing a barometer for how “engaged” I was or was not to how my life was going along. That I had not written for a long time says I’ve mostly been just “going along” with life, and that’s a bad thing for me personally.

It’s not that nothing major happened in my life the past year. It’s probably because I hadn’t paid enough attention, or was too unintentional to stop, meditate, journal, and evaluate my life. In years past, I was more intentional in doing those things because it made me more conscious of God’s presence in my life, and also made me more prayerful. This is something I definitely want to change this coming year, and I know I have to be more intentional about it.

Speaking of major happenings in my life, I finally started working again at the beginning of the year.

Those who know my life know I stopped working for 5 years because I went back to school to study Optometry. Those 5 years were a very interesting time of my life, because from being independent and working, I was back to being financially-dependent and studying. So much happened in between those two phases of my life. Through it all, God sustained me. He is really the one constant.

Me working again meant more wiggle room financially (among other things), and one of the things I enjoyed being able to do more consistently again was to tithe, to bless others through financially supporting missionaries and causes we believe in, and having a little extra to make memories with my husband.

Tithing shouldn’t be an issue in the life of a Christian, in my opinion. But there were times I didn’t do it consistently, and so I pray that I will really obey in this area. Giving is also a barometer for Rayjohn and I in terms of our spiritual lives. One of our core values as a family is generosity, and we want to be consistent in this area as well. I believe that God’s economy is so rewarding for givers, and it’s so much more fulfilling than receiving, for sure.

This year, Rayjohn and I traveled together for the first time since our honeymoon. Again, that had to do with my studies, and frankly, as a matter of priorities. We went to Japan for 2 weeks and really enjoyed the experience of traveling together again. (Will blog about this separately).

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We loved Japan so much we’re planning to go back again sometime, but in the meantime, we are saving up for next year so that, Lord-willing, we will have saved enough to visit family in the US. I really want to spend more time with my mom, as she is again fighting an uphill health battle. Please, pray with us for God’s gracious healing.

Also, my twin sister moved to the US just last week. So, that’s another reason to visit often, hopefully.

I am always reminded of this quote from our pastor: “Ever spending decision is a spiritual decision.” Indeed, how we use money speaks volumes on where are our hearts are. That’s why we would rather invest on memories, relationships, experiences and being a blessing, than buying material things that are temporal and could take away from our focus and purpose.

Some of this decisions include not having a Netflix or cable subscription, because we know how addictive TV watching can be, and by having a subscription, our thinking is, we want to maximize how much we’re paying monthly, and so, we’d have to watch. And that takes away from our precious time which we can use instead to make disciples, or make memories, or read the bible, and so on and on. In fact, one of the blessings God allowed me to enjoy this year is to continue to disciple. And to be more consistent in attending my long-standing singles dgroup, 9 years and counting! (which I chose to still be part of even though I am already married and part of a couples dgroup)

Just a few days ago, my dgroup got to relax in Pico De Loro, thanks to our leader Ate Jill. We all had a blessed time of fellowship over food, games, and activities. And I got to bring Rayjohn too :-)

(Full disclosure: we’ve also been flip-flopping on whether to buy a gaming console (Switch) or not. Weighing the pros and cons–having one makes get-togethers more fun, but also increases the temptation to play–and for me personally, I’m aware of the weakness in me. I have claimed before that if I were not a Christian, I’d absolutely have no problem spending hours of my time gaming. End of disclosure :-)

Speaking of buying stuff, I recently helped my friend move in to our house, because she had been looking for a place for some time, and we just happened to have a spare room to rent out (because Kz had moved out already). When she arrived with her stuff, I must honestly say, I really was blown away with how much stuff a person can have (haha, love you Mel!) Having experienced life in Japan, I really appreciated their emphasis on minimalism and simplicity. Just look at how simple our accommodations in Japan were:

And I realized, there’s so much we can learn in that respect. One goal that we have going to 2019 is to live with as few stuff as we need and not have an attachment for things. I’ve spent the last 2 days decluttering and I’m still amazed at how much stuff there is in the house when, to be honest, Rayjohn and I have not been buying anything at all. Mostly, it’s stuff from all who lived here–my parents, my siblings, even with my uncle–and, seeing how much there is makes me want to move out to a smaller house and live with the essentials. Haha!

Speaking of which, again. we are really praying to move in to a simpler, probably smaller house, with fewer clutter and dust. Living in the only house I’ve known my entire life has it perks, like being cheap and central in terms of location and convenience, but also, I think the time is coming for us to let go of this house and make newer memories elsewhere. Wherever that is, and whether that’s in 2019 or much later on,  only God knows. Please join us in praying for these things we’re working on as we approach 2019. Thanks for reading!

Naiveté

Today, I added “natural medicine” to the list of “Things You Only Talk About To A Select Few”. Politics is obviously right there. You want to lose some friends? Bring up Duterte and Marcos. (Thankfully, religion is something I will not hesitate to talk about. Specifically, my faith in Jesus, because this is THE one topic worth dying (and living) for.) I remember what my pastor told us in church one Sunday, that there are some debatable things worth dying for, and there are some debatable things that you don’t have to win. Drums in church. Unclean meat. Women pastors. Tattoos. All controversial, but not worth losing sleep, friends, or your life over.

Still, I have to admit it does bug me how difficult it is to deal with people. (late-bloomer, eh?) Specifically, realizing how different we all really are. It doesn’t matter whether you both are Christians, or you’ve been friends for a long time, or that you hold shared values and beliefs…there will still be some things you will disagree about, things that people just respond to differently. That’s what makes relationships so beautiful and hurtful at the same time. That’s why in instances like this, where I said something with no other intention but to simply share something I assume would be worth thinking about, and got back an unintended effect, I go back to God’s word (sanity-saver) that teaches me important life lessons:

  1. Before you react, stop. Be quick to hear, slow to speak… James 1:19
  2. When you stop before you speak, before you type, clarity takes over the impulse to react. Proverbs 14:29
  3. With clarity of thought, you clarify the message:
    • What do you mean? (Removes misunderstanding, allows you to ask for intention)
    • Can you clarify? (Allows you to state your position clearly)

The key, I’m learning, is still communication. It has to remain open and intentional. When people react instead of respond, offenses take place. Instead of reacting, we can ask questions so that the things we do not understand, we understand a little or a lot better. I think this is responsible, mature, and demonstrates integrity.

Also, what comes to mind is how crucial empathy is to making relationships work. If we make it a habit of placing ourselves in another’s position, or better yet, to defer to one another (Philippians 2:3), how different our responses would be!

Unfortunately, many life lessons come as thorns. My naiveté in the protocols of relationships, in the Things You Only Talk About To A Select Few, in the life area conveniently called Experience, temporarily cause me heartache. Things like, “why should people complicate it?” Or, “why must the response be adversarial instead of accommodating?”, or “why not just say, thanks for sharing” nag at me. See? Naive. Experience is indeed the best teacher. Tomorrow I’ll laugh about it. Today, I’m learning. And hopefully I’m a better person for it.

How then shall Christians respond?

I think, in my lifetime, I’ve never been part of such a time as this, where people are so divided over what they think is right versus what is wrong.

I’m speaking of President Duterte; his unconventional, even controversial ways of implementing the changes he wants to see in our country. So much has already been said and written about him and his methods, and while I have my own opinions on the matter, I’m not here to write about those things. Rather, I want to address this post to fellow Christians who, like me, struggled or are struggling with how to respond to what we are seeing and hearing on the news, and what we are reading on social media and the Internet.

First, as Christians, how should we treat President Duterte?

His presidency is ordained by God. Therefore, we are to live in submission to his authority.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

Secondly, what does the Bible say about speaking evil or blaspheming God-ordained rulers?

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

In the opening verses of Acts 23, we see Paul standing before the Sanhedrin, addressing them to defend the gospel and his actions. As he spoke, men beside him were commanded to hit Paul on the mouth, to which Paul responded angrily and carelessly with a curse against Ananias, high priest of the Sanhedrin. Paul was rebuked and in humility, admitted that he had done a wrong thing by speaking evil against Ananias.

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. Exodus 22:28

This part of the story could have been left out of the Bible, but everything that is in the Bible, God has a purpose and a lesson. Aside from this being contrasted to how Jesus responded against those who hit him, I believe this also teaches us that regardless of who is in authority, be it Stalin, Hitler, Trump, Obama or Duterte, we are to honor them (context, of course, as long as it does not contradict obedience to God’s commands, which are paramount)

Of course, lest people take this out of context: While Paul’s short outburst was an issue between him and God, God still vindicated and honored him for his confession before men. Therefore we have the assurance that injustice committed by God-ordained authorities will not go unpunished.

The bible talks also of submission to authority:

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 1 Peter 2:13-14

Therefore, we must check our hearts if we are sinning in this respect.

Finally, having established President Duterte’s authority, how then do we respond as Christians, whether we are in agreement with Pres. Duterte’s methods or not?

We all know how social media amplifies thoughts and opinions, and how quickly one can go viral or be subject to cyber-bullying.

I have had my moments of posting my thoughts on Facebook. Thankfully, I have not been trolled (since my posts are private) but I’ve seen some spirited discussions from friends, some of them from Christians, partaking of the vitriol, the mockery, the sarcasm, the ridicule, the hate, the anger.

I took a step back and asked myself, is this what God wants from His people? How can we be salt and light to the world if in our Facebook posts, our conversations, and our actions, we contribute to the confusion, hate, anger, and distrust, whether intentionally or unintentionally?

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Matthew 5:13-15

What then sets us apart from the people who do not know God?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be vigilant of what’s happening; that we should turn a blind eye or live as if everything is fine. I’m not even saying we should not complain, or not have any say at all.

I’m saying, as Christians, what do our actions (posting critical thoughts and articles, engaging in debates or arguments) achieve?

  • Does it glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

  • Does it build up other people? (Ephesians 4:29)

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

  • Does it promote unity in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

  • Does it point people to Christ? (Matthew 5:16)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

I’m saying, as Christians, we ought to exercise more restraint, especially in this day and age of social media where it’s so tempting to join the fray and let our thoughts be heard, because the world is looking at us. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1 Corinthians 10:23

I’ve realized, more than ever, we ought to pray. In prayer, we can bring all our complaints, cares, worries, fears, and anxieties over what is happening in our country.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

In prayer, we acknowledge that we are sinful and tend to worry. In prayer, we bring all these things to the proper authority. There, God will meet us and assure us He is sovereign.

As I began to think about these things, I checked my heart and motivation. What did I hope to achieve? To have more people on my side? (nope) Knock some sense into them? (probably) Just air my grievance for friends to know where I stand? (a little)

Ultimately, to what end?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and these other social media platforms, are powerful platforms. They are neutral in themselves. We can either choose to use these platforms to glorify God, or turn people away from God, through our words and actions. My prayer is that we choose to use it in a God-honoring way.

I am still learning these lessons, and in the past have failed by sharing my thoughts needlessly. I have realized, more than anyone, it is God to whom I should be sharing my thoughts and anxieties, and allow Him through His Spirit to work through my heart; to help me be prayerful instead of critical; to see the good instead of the bad. Situations do not make character; they reveal them. My prayer for you and I is that we will develop the spiritual maturity in responding, as we ought to.

prau