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!

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An Audience of One

Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit. – A.W. Tozer

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. – Bill Cosby

In our life we will experience different opinions, points of view, and be given different advice on many important things, such as on “how” to run our life and whom to marry. These are, after all, few of the major decisions we all will have to make someday. I’ve learned, and I’m still learning, that perhaps one of the best decisions we can make is to choose whom to listen to. This speaks both of whom we trust, and what we know to be true so that we can discern whether an advice is wise and godly, or otherwise.

More than a decade ago, when my twin sister and I were about to graduate from highschool and were exploring options on what course to take, several relatives said that we should pursue nursing. It was the “in” thing then.

They were giving assurances that being a nurse would allow us to work in the US, earn a lot, and basically, live a comfortable life, just like our many relatives in the States. It got to a point that my sister and I were being forced to take up nursing. When we, as expected and with the encouragement of our mom, took up different courses, we were constantly persecuted. My sister took up a course in La Salle and my relatives—family—made it a point to guilt-trip her decision by saying the school is too expensive, we cannot afford it, there is no future there, blah blah blah.

A few years later, nursing went down. The US (and other countries) stopped accepting nurses from the Philippines. Nurses here in the country have a hard time finding a decent job, and many are forced to take other non-related jobs.

In other words, I’m so thankful I did not listen to them. I listened to God and to my mom. It is one of the best decisions I made.

Looking back, two things were to be considered. Who to listen to, and discerning the message behind the advice being given.

First, I listened to my mom. Why? Because she has led by example and she fits this description found in Titus 2.

1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

When I said to choose whom we listen to, there are certain criteria we should consider because there are a lot of people who want to give us advice. They may have good intentions but we have to see if the direction is biblical. My pastor always reminds us that direction, not intention, determines destination. People may want good things for us, but if the direction to achieve this is contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, then therefore, regardless of the intention, I will never get to the destination.

The primary reason for listening to my mother, apart from it being honouring to God, is that she is an example of verses 7-8. “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”

I will listen to people whom I know to be godly and has shown this by a PATTERN of good works. I cannot listen to somebody who gives me advice but there is little to no evidence to back up that advice. I cannot listen to people who contradict themselves by the very lives they lead. For example, when it comes to marriage advice, who would you rather listen to? Somebody who has a good biblical, God-honouring marriage? Or somebody who does not submit to her husband? In terms of money, would you rather listen to somebody who makes poor financial decisions or somebody who has shown a pattern of wise financial stewardship? In terms of decisions that speak to integrity, would you listen to somebody who is a chronic liar and cannot keep his promises? Or somebody who keeps his word? All of these answer WHY or WHY NOT we should listen to certain people.

The bible warns us against these kinds of people:

2 Timothy 3:5 – Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

The second thing to consider is to carefully analyse the message or advice being given. What was “promised” to me if I took up nursing?

  1. Riches and Wealth
  2. Comfortable life in the US or elsewhere

These are not bad in themselves, but none are taking into consideration what really matters:

  1. What does God want me to do?
  2. What do I want to do? (Our desires are important to God.)
  3. How will I help accomplish God’s will (such as discipline others, sharing the gospel, etc)
  4. What kind of person will I be?

Many of the decisions we are being asked to do always have to do with material gain, primarily. How much am I going to earn? Will I get to travel the world and live a comfortable life? I don’t know why I’m still surprised when people decide based primarily on these. Perhaps because I’m still in the world and I have to admit there are far too many tempting offers to gain the world and lose the soul. These are all not bad in themselves, but as Christians we always have to decide IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY. What really matters?

If we do not know the truth, or have a weak foundation of the truth, then we will be swayed by every kind of offer. The bible teaches

  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
  • 2 Timothy 1:13 – Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
  • Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
  • Ephesians 4:14 – That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

I constantly need to be reminded of these because when my emotions tend to get the better of me, I make a decision poorly. I always have to be Spirit-filled so that I can decide and discern properly. These will enable me to choose whom to listen and what to listen to.

To end, I want to pay homage to my mom.

My mom raised me and my siblings to make decisions on our own, independent of what other people say, because I think she is confident in our ability to decide for ourselves and primarily because she has faith in God over us.

I once learned that good parenting is not deciding for your children, hovering down on them and controlling them to fit your ideals and dreams for them; good parenting is teaching your children how to decide for themselves. Too many homes are far too dysfunctional because parents are too strict and too overprotective which does not allow room for growth, trust, and even mistakes from which to grow from, for the children. In many cases, I have seen that those that are too sheltered are those that are far removed from reality and therefore are not equipped to handle the real world.

Good parenting prepares children for the real world by instilling good values, godliness, and by leading by example. Is it possible that you have parented your children the best way and somehow they still end up in disaster? Yes, of course. Because there is always choice. I am not the perfect daughter. I’ve made so many poor decisions that I regret. But, God’s grace is greater than our mistakes and our frail human limitations, and I’m grateful for that.

I’m thankful that my mom taught us how to decide, that she allowed us to do what we want to do in life and not control us to do things we do not like. I’m so thankful that she always encourages us even when everyone else is against us. She always reminds me whenever I get so confused with all the dissenting opinions, unsolicited advice, and persecutions, I should always strive to please only an audience of one: God.

 

Digital stones and grace

Personal note:
It’s been a while since I last wrote a post here. My excuse? Well, nothing really. Just plain laziness. (Because, really, when you want to do something, you’ll make time for it.) But I’m not gonna write just for the sake of it. I have several thoughts on some of the current issues in the Philippines, but for now, I’ll write about one issue only. Hopefully in the coming days I can write again. 


A UP graduate, Mark Joseph Solis, recently admitted to plagiarizing a photo which had won him an award. (Apparently, he had also used different stolen photos in 5 more contests). You probably already know the story, but if not, you can read the initial story here, his admission here, and the UP response, here.

I won’t dwell too much on his plagiarism – obviously, it is wrong, nor on the sincerity of his apology. I’m gonna touch briefly on his reason for plagiarizing, which in a general sense, is a commonly used reason by those who commit wrong.

He attributed his decision to plagiarize to poverty – because they were poor and needed money. You probably know stories where snatchers or petty thieves and other people say the same thing – they justify their deeds because they were poor. Poverty becomes a license to do wrong things. It’s important to remember, though, that the difference of Solis with these “petty criminals” is that he is educated, and they are not. Having said that, I’m not here to bash him, nor condemn him more than he already is by netizens who are so quick to cast a stone. We condemn the act – it’s wrong, obviously. But we should be careful not to succumb to cyber bullying. And that’s the primary thing I want to write about.

It’s so impossibly hard to make a mistake in this day and age of social media because people are so quick to pounce on you and devour you with all the vitriol of foul, self-righteous language. Even if we can argue his was not a mistake because there is a pattern of serial plagiarism, the point is: once you screw up, you’re dead. Bet on it within minutes, people will search your profile, your twitter, your linkedIn, your instagram and virtually everything about you that’s on the Internet, leaving no page unturned. Your privacy is kapoot – gone, and in an instant, your life is open for everyone to scrutinize and judge, as if they know you.

This happened exactly to Christopher Lao. The former Dean of Law of UP had to defend him from all the cyber bullying at the height of that incident.

“You may be amused by the mistakes or misfortunes of others. But this does not entitle you to degrade their entire character or make conclusions about their whole person,” said former UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen in a Facebook post defending Christopher Lao, the driver whose car was seen on television floating on a flooded street with Lao behind the wheel.”

In this day and age, there is little room for grace. People who make poor or foolish decisions (in other words, all of us, at certain points in our lives) and have the misfortune of having them documented (unknowingly or knowingly) will probably be victimized by cyber bullying, and the bullying goes to such extremes that some incidents end tragically.

How do we combat cyber bullying? I can think of two practical things.

1. “Think before you click”. This is usually an advocacy for responsible posting, such as posts we make on Facebook. But this is also applicable to cyber bullying. Before giving a comment, think, and practice restraint. I try and go by this principle from the Bible.

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…Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:29,31)

2. Emphatize. Put yourself in the situation of the person subject to bullying. The only thing we can control is how we respond. How would you feel if any of your family members experience the same bullying? My guess is you’ll feel bad. You’d want to protect them. Whether people like Solis are guilty or innocent, we still have to be humane and just. Most of the people who bash and participate in online bullying do not know the very people they’re bashing. Just because we have an opinion doesn’t mean we have to be heard.

Whenever the topic of cyber bullying is talked about, inevitably, this biblical story from John 8 comes to mind:

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Let us step on higher ground. In the eyes of God, we are all equal–equally sinners, that is. Whether we commit one sin or many sins, the Bible teaches that, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) When we keep this in mind, we will be less quick to judge and condemn others. Instead of focusing on the mistakes of others, we should look at ourselves, and how we can become better persons. At one point, we may have been guilty of indirect cyber bullying, either by clicking “like” on the misfortune of others, or jumping on the bandwagon of hate. Let us be more responsible, more gracious, more compassionate, more forgiving. We all need grace.