When Will You Learn To Surrender?

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“My son, give me your heart,

And let your eyes observe my ways.”

-Proverbs 23:26 (English Standard Version)

A week ago, it was probably almost midnight. I had tons of energy because I decided to take an afternoon nap, so I decided to clean my room a bit to tire me out. I started with a paper bag on my desk that was full of scratch papers, some old documents that I had been reading, and some old receipts and bus tickets that I either forgot to throw away or to keep as “memorabilia” (yes, I am a bit of a sentimentalist when it comes to the little things). Then as I was throwing and keeping some files, I came across an old crumpled memo that I wrote maybe a few months or a year ago.

“When will you learn to surrender?” was written in all caps.

Those words resonated in an instant. I just turned 22 a week ago and it dawned upon me that most of my days in 2018 were battles – and most of these battles I fought all on my own. Despite someone who goes to church every Sunday, I realized that I was holding on to my own plans and my own decisions; to lean on my own understanding because I had that thought in my head that if I wanted things done right, then I better do it all myself. And so I did.

Throughout, whilst preparing for my application an ASEAN-based program, I had nearly planned my weeks as to what to do, what to rehearse, what to bring, what to remember, and the like. It was all me. It would sound normal to an average guy for someone to do tasks and decisions all alone, but ever since I graduated college, I learned to completely rely and surrender everything to God. All my decisions, plans, and thoughts are with Him. He is in control and I am not. But after getting stressed out by certain events in life within the past year, I unknowingly took hold of the steering wheel where the car is my life and let God just sit at the back, not knowing that I am slowly running towards deeper, harder paths.

But God is just. He is just to help me see my faults through the effects of my decision-making and planning. I procrastinated in writing my policy paper, which was one of the requirements in the program; I was overconfident in the qualifying exam that I didn’t review that much, which led me to getting an unpleasing, but passing, score; I didn’t rehearse well with my song choice, which led me to forget some of the lyrics during the actual performance, and I was anxious and miserable throughout. I badly wanted to get accepted that I realized how miserable I was with all the things that I was doing. Poor decisions caused me to be anxious and overthink.

God is also compassionate. Because I saw as to how messy my life was without His guidance, I saw how wretched my heart was. I asked God that if I would prioritize other things over Him, then may He not let me get into the program. Lo and behold, I was rejected. It was the happiest thing that I experienced. Yes, the happiest. Why, you may ask? It’s because I didn’t want to go on with this marvelous program alone. I know that the phrase: “I will get things right with God, if chosen” will not be the ultimate answer to continue on with my quality time with Jesus. I genuinely praise God for letting me fail because this wouldn’t have been a testimony as to how God helped me succeed but it would’ve been a testimony as to how I only needed to believe in myself and not rely on anyone else to get what I wanted. This was not what I had wanted at all. What I had wanted was to please God through the program. My initial goal ever since I learned of this program was for God to use me in sharing His Word to people who I may meet, if chosen.

'When Will You Learn To Surrender' Note

I found this little piece of gem while cleaning a portion of my room. Who knew that this little note would help me remember God’s mercy and love in my life? © Jedd Francis De Luna

 

I found Proverbs 23:26 a year and a half ago when I was facing a dilemma in major life decisions. God revealed to me what I needed to do through that verse and he is slowly letting me understand how vile my heart was, how lost I was, and what it truly meant to surrender everything to Him.

I can honestly say that I am still quite unstable with my walk with God. I have been idle and dry in my bible reading and daily devotions, but through different people (e.g. my small group, my ministry), I am learning to see how wonderful it is to get to know and experience God every single day. I have also been teaching myself to slowly pause and stop posting unnecessary stuff (e.g. opinions on current Philippine political issues, ridiculing those in power for their political decisions, and the like) on social media to decrease the negativity that I may or may not have been bringing through opinions and posts.

Indeed, I am a work in progress, as always, but one thing is certain: He is, has always been, and will always be with me throughout the journey. May I learn the art of total surrender and may He fully take over the driver’s seat of my life.

Please continue to pray for spiritual revival and strength as I continue to lean on Jesus!

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Hold On To Jesus: The CCF Black Gospel Sunday 2018

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CCF Exalt Team for Black Gospel Sunday 2018

With the Black Gospel Sunday 2018 Exalt Team! © Joyce Amonoy

It’s been nearly two months since I last trained with the CCF (Christ’s Commission Fellowship) Adult Choir because of personal commitments, and I was unsure as to what was going on with the practices because I can’t seem to find any updates. I’m still new, have only rehearsed with them a handful of times, and only know a handful of people – most were only acquaintances. Then I saw a post about the upcoming Choir Training in relation to the upcoming Black Gospel Sunday celebration. The Black Gospel Sunday celebration was no stranger to me. Even back when the congregation was in St. Francis Square, CCF already had a yearly Black Gospel celebration. I always see the stage packed and full of singers, and of course Ray Sidney, who would always lead the worship during that grand celebration. It was always fun to see a different way as to how we can worship Jesus in the church. I was curious and was interested in singing with the choir for that joyous celebration.

For the choir, our training would be led by Ken Taylor. I didn’t actually know who he was before the workshop started but he looked familiar. I didn’t do any background check on him (which I usually do when it comes to various speakers, regardless if it’s a conference or a training) and went on my way to the workshop, which started at one in the afternoon. Then Ken (now I call him Tito Ken) came in. I didn’t really expect much because I don’t know him that well – or at all, rather.

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Hindi po talaga kami nag-practice kasi may pa-Zumba po si Mayor HAHAHA! (We didn’t really practice at all, we just did Zumba instead HAHAHA!) © Michelle Moscosa Tan

He started our session by giving us a short background of who he is and what he is doing. Never did I imagine that Tito Ken was living in Japan for over how many decades already. He lived with his family in Japan since and has been coming back to the Philippines, yearly, to help out in the Black Gospel celebration in CCF. I never noticed him because in my mind, whenever the CCF Choir would come out and sing in any occasion, it would always be conducted by [Kuya] Jomar Ferreria, the CCF Choir’s conductor who was already conducting the adult choir since I was still a part of the kids’ choir. Tito Ken and his wife were musicians even before they got to know Jesus personally. He was a jazz pianist and his wife, Bola, was a singer. The Lord called them to Japan to evangelize and minister to the Japanese, so that’s what they did. In the early ‘90s, “Sister Act”, which starred Whoopi Goldberg hit the charts and Black Gospel was on its peak. Japanese people were interested in Black Gospel and thus started the idea of using Black Gospel to share Jesus with the Japanese. Ever since then, the Taylors have been ministering to the Japanese through Black Gospel and has slowly but surely been an instrument in making a mark to the latter.

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During the Choir Workshop, Ken Taylor teaches the different harmonies per voice. © Jedd Francis De Luna

He then refreshed us after a five-minute break with the song “Praise the Lord with Me” (which is often one of the song choices during Black Gospel celebration in CCF) and taught us a new song called “Grateful” by Kurt Carr. I learned the steps that they often use in “Praise the Lord with Me” (which was a blast, by the way) and moved on to “Grateful” where Tito Ken emphasized why he wanted us to try the song out. He explained that the song, despite its tune being distinctly familiar with the Blues genre (which would depict a range of emotions – usually expressed with anguish, sadness, or despair), the lyrics on the other hand would emphasize the opposite – to be filled with gratitude because of what Jesus did, is doing, and will do in our lives.

Ken Taylor Talking During Workshop

Ken Taylor giving his introduction during the Choir Workshop last July 14. © Michelle Moscosa Tan

He elaborated later on that “Grateful” was personal. “Can I be grateful for that? It’s a hard picture for me to look at.” he uttered, showing a photo of his wife’s resting place in a Japanese cemetery. Bola (or Tita Bola as I would’ve called her) passed away three years ago after battling with advanced ovarian cancer. Tito Ken said that instead of using cancer as an excuse, Tita Bola would continue to let her family and other people fix their eyes on Jesus. “She taught me how not to do it my way, but to go to the Source. She taught me the life lessons of not to be fearful, but to live by faith. Not to panic, but to have the peace of God, and not to worry, but learn how to worship,” Tito Ken explained to us.

What struck me the most (and almost made me tear up as well) is when he shared to us what he would think he would do after Tita Bola’s passing. “[Y]ou know, I wasn’t sure if I should stay in Japan. My kids all have gone, and then God took home my wife, and I was saying ‘There’s really no more reason for me to be in Japan’. Really…except for God. One month after Bola passed away, this is what God revealed to me – everyone would’ve understood if I went back to the US and left.”

He then continued to show us a picture of a thousand people in a choir-like formation with him looking at them. He then continued, “[t]his was 1,300 Japanese Gospel singers and we have been planning for it. One month after Bola passed away, I had to be so far back by myself, standing, and there were three rafters up there. It was a lonely place for me and I felt very, very alone, except that God said: ‘Look at all these Japanese’. And it became very clear to me that my life, my calling is to be faithful to God.” When Tito Ken said those words, it made me think about my mission for Jesus and if I have been faithful to God after trials and struggles of my own. ‘Have I been faithful in the places that he has been putting me, or was I only complaining because it wasn’t within my comfort zone,’ I thought to myself. I saw in Tito Ken’s eyes that he loved his wife and I also saw his love for Jesus and his commitment to God’s calling in his life.

The Choir With Ken Taylor After Workshop

Ken Taylor and Ray Sidney along with the CCF Choir after the workshop © CCF Exalt

After that workshop, we (the choir) met with Tito Ken two more times within the week for the actual rehearsals for the Black Gospel celebration and would study the songs. From vocalizations, harmonies, blockings, and technical rehearsals, we would do our best for the Lord. Then Saturday came. It was hours away before the Black Gospel celebration. It was during those days that I was able to get to know more people within the choir. Slowly but surely, I have met, talked, and laughed with a number of people. I was able to get to know them better and even share common interests and countless stories. I felt at home – finally. I was out of my shell and was confidently engaging with them.

Prompters and Choir with Ken Taylor and Ray Sidney

The CCF Choir and Prompters with Ray Sidney and Ken Taylor last July 19 © CCF Exalt

It was Sunday. I had woken up eerily as I get ready for over 13 hours of dancing and singing with the entire congregation for four worship services. We were all dressed up in our dark denims, our plain white tees, and our black Exalt jackets as we arrived at the CCF Center for soundcheck. We also joined the Saints Dance Ministry in their warm-up and stretching exercises (out of curiosity). We lifted and surrendered all our preparations to God and sung our hearts out.

Warm-Up of Saints and Choir

Warm-up po talaga ito ng Saints Dance Ministry pero naaliw kami kaya sumali na rin kami! (This was actually the warm-up of the Saints Dance Ministry but we were so amused that we decided to join in as well!) © Jedd Francis De Luna

We were invited by Dr. Peter Tan-chi, the Senior Pastor, to attend the first worship service after singing. In his message, he talked about being a ‘peacemaker’ and how to have peace with God. The answer? With Jesus. How? By faith – we need to start trusting God instead of ourselves. He said that a peacemaker takes initiative (Matthew 5:23-24); a peacemaker speaks the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); a peacemaker asks for forgiveness and forgives others (Colossians 3:13); and a peacemaker reconciles people to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:18, Matthew 5:9). What struck me the most is when Pastor Peter gave the question: “When people look at us, do they see God?” Sometimes, we would often fail to see that even the minutest of our actions would affect other people’s perception of Jesus, since we should be ambassadors of Christ after all.

Throughout the day, four services of intense passion, power, (perspiration because the lights on stage were so hot despite the Main Hall being so cold) and perseverance kept us from straining our voice. I had so much fun throughout the day that I would gladly continue on for at least four more services before my body would ache all night long.

Men of CCF Choir with Ken Taylor

Some of the men of the CCF Choir with Ken Taylor © Jedd Francis De Luna

During in-betweens, the choir would often do three things: we would either (1) eat, because the food given throughout the day was so sumptuous; (2) chat with each other and would get to know each other more; see how are they with work, family, and would ask if the harmony that they know is correct; and the crowd favorite is (3) TAKING LOADS OF SELFIES! Believe me when I say we would take selfies while sprinting our way to the backstage. We even have one along the hallway near the backstage doors because we thought that it looked like we were in an airport (#ChoirGoesToDubai HAHAHA). We would take numerous selfies with each other, with Tito Ken, and with Ray. It also warmed my heart when they brought out cakes for the birthday celebrants from May to July. They sang “Happy Birthday” to us and of course, we all took a slice of those wonderful cakes. It made me see how strong the choir is as a family. I was, indeed, filled with joy.

CCF Choir July Celebrants

The cake was a super sweet gesture! Loving this family! © Divine Grace Marquez-Laciste

Selfies of CCF Choir

The CCF Selfie Ministry Choir! HAHA! You can see how every smile illuminates! © Charlislah Amper, Jo Ann Tolentino Castro, Jedd Francis De Luna, Jun Jacob, Divine Grace Marquez-Laciste, and Mardy Razon

Throughout our performances, what hit me close to home was the song “My Tribute”. Why? Because of two things: First is, I remember that whenever Tito Ken and Ray would go to Manila for Black Gospel Sunday celebrations, this song would often be sung by Ray and Tita Bola. Only this time, Tita Ayen Veria-Amargo sang the female lead with Ray. I would look at Tito Ken looking at them and would feel the nostalgia and how he felt. I know that he is secured in God and to see him stand faithfully before God, leading us through the song four times, was an awestruck moment (that almost made me tear up again). Second is, as I reflect on the song and after what my attitude is with God, I realized that God doesn’t deserve the things I gave Him after He has given so much for me. I have been trying to boost self-confidence by boosting myself, but I fear that it would lead me to boosting arrogance instead of Jesus. For weeks, I know that I have not been putting Jesus in the center. Just like the lyrics in the song, if I gain any praise, whether it be through my voice, my actions, my writings, or my decisions, let it go to Jesus.

Jedd and Tito Ken Taylor

So much love and respect for Tito Ken Taylor! One of the most humble persons that I’ve ever met! You can really see Jesus in Tito Ken! ありがとう、テイラー先生! © Jedd Francis De Luna

Jedd with Ray Sidney

The versatility of his voice is extraordinary! So glad to meet you Tito (TITO???) Ray Sidney! You were such a blessing to be with! © Jedd Francis De Luna

After that celebration, it dawned upon me how gracious and glorious God is in my life and how he uses other people to lead me back and closer to Him. He used the choir to help me understand the importance of unity in diversity – different voices for one purpose: Jesus! He also used Tito Ken and Ray in molding and honing our skills as singers for God’s Kingdom and to let us understand that in spite of different callings, we are to serve Jesus and to always continue to be faithful, no matter how hard and difficult circumstances may be. Lord, you are indeed an awesome God! Let us continue to hold on to Jesus! KU JESU BAMBELELA!

 

 

UPDATE [July 24, 2018; 11:34PM]: If you guys missed the celebration, here’s the video of the Praise and Worship last Sunday! Turn the volume up and celebrate Jesus with us!

Jeremiah 29:11: A contextual analysis

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It says in Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version), “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is my life verse. My second, actually, after 1 Timothy 4:12, which tackles the youth battling out low expectations from adults and taking the step up to responsibility and challenges. But what is Jeremiah 29:11, the second most used life verse1, really all about?

Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse

Before we dive into the specifics and technicalities, let me share to you why this verse became close to my heart: you see, there came a time in my life where I learned to doubt God. And these doubts turned to despair, and eventually despair turned into disbelief. I was questioning God and His existence. I had lost hope because of challenges and events that have been occurring in my life in and out of college. But through a simple scroll down Facebook, I saw this bible verse shared by an old high school classmate. That really didn’t hit me in the guts until I started thinking about it more and more. I was in the state of going to agnosticism. I felt abandoned and alone, going into that short state of depression despite continuously smiling and trying to make people laugh (to prove to myself that I don’t deserve to feel melancholy for the rest of my life. But this verse helped me to hang on and to continue to hope; to never fret or overthink about the future – my future – that I can never predict. And up to this write-up, this is still my life verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 in context

Now, what does this verse really mean? Well, the book of Jeremiah, based on my understanding is that Jeremiah had predicted the “Fall of Jerusalem” because of the havoc and chaos that the people have been doing. They have submitted themselves to evil and have forgotten all about God. So what does that have to do with 29:11? Well, let’s go a chapter back. In Jeremiah 28 comes Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet…or so we thought. He was boldly proclaiming that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years (Jeremiah 28:11), but God revealed to Jeremiah that it was a big fat lie. So what happened to Hananiah? Seven months had passed and he died (Jeremiah 28:17). Bummer.

 

So what now? Well, in Jeremiah 29:5-7, God instructed people to build houses, settle down, marry and have sons and daughters and increase in number and He also said to obey the authority of Babylon, which during that time was being ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar II, who was also considered as a brutal, powerful, and ambitious king. But Nebuchadnezzar also served as “God’s instrument of judgment on Judah or its idolatry, unfaithfulness, and disobedience (Jeremiah 25:9)”2. You could possibly think that this couldn’t get any worse, but if you look at Jeremiah 29:10, God is telling them that their people would be able to go back home after seven decades. This means that the current generation of that time won’t make it back home alive, or there’s that super small chance of getting back alive, but you’re now as fragile as a wine glass.

So wait, how does that make any of us feel better? Well, God was basically saying to trust Him. He knows the situation sucks right now but He has our best interest in mind, and that’s what the next verse is talking about: Jeremiah 29:11. God used that verse to let them understand that all hope is not lost. According to Mary DeMuth3, she said that we must “remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy” meaning that the hope that God is talking about here is that in “the midst of your suffering, cling to Jeremiah 29:11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that he will give you hope in the midst of it.4

Final words

Throughout the trials and tribulations of life, we must always remember that God is always with us, whether we experience delights or trials. The trials and tribulations that He let us face are not to let us suffer but for us to realize how we have been astray and how we’re getting lost. God wants us to realize the importance of His “rules” in preventing anarchic events in our personal lives. Accepting Christ does not mean that we get to live a pleasant sin-free, worry-free life. The Christian life is not difficult, it is indeed humanly impossible. But what changes? Our response, our character, and our heart. We become warriors and soldiers, tougher and stronger than ever. But God is with us throughout and God won’t let us go astray. Why? It’s all because of His love for us. And to experience God’s unconditional love is one of the most amazing experiences, for me. So, let’s continue to hope and to hang on. God isn’t finished with us just yet.

 


Author’s Note: This was actually our assignment for our small group and I wanted you guys to understand my insights from my research and opinion. Hope you like it!

SOURCES:

1http://www.coylindsey.com/2013/03/20/whats-the-meaning-of-your-life-verse-jeremiah-2911/

2https://www.gotquestions.org/Nebuchadnezzar.html

3http://www.marydemuth.com/jeremiah-29-11/

4http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/stop-taking-jeremiah-29-11-out-of-context.html

Doing What I Love Most Again

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It’s been a while since I last updated my blog. I really have this habit of not being consistent with many things, but in the very end, I go back to them once again. I had abandoned nearly three personal blogs because I wanted to revamp my site and not let people see how inconsistent I am with my posts. But from what I’ve learned, I shouldn’t be ashamed of my mistakes and shortcomings. Hey, these things are what help me grow more and more, not only as a writer but as a person.

 

Twenty one months of silence will end. Sure, I may not blog that often but just like everyone, I’ve got to start somewhere, right? But I think that one big reason why I lose motivation could be because of lack of priority and discipline, or because I really find writing entries to be time consuming. But nevertheless, writing helps me say what I want to say and helps me ease out the “dramas” of life. It has, is, and will be my passion. I love writing, and so do many people. We just need to find out the right words to say and how to express ourselves. I am still a writer in progress but by God’s grace, I will be able to excel and might even regularly fill up this blog with numerous entries. And since I also don’t believe that you should have long blog posts as a requirement for people to read your work, I’ll just end it here.

 

Happy reading…again!

THE LOVE OF READING: The 36th MIBF

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I was supposed to be in Nasugbu, Batangas from September 16-18, 2015 for a retreat with other seniors who are taking AB Journalism in UST. I was halfway done packing for the retreat when I decided, with my parents, to rest at home. Since Monday, I have been getting dizzy, I’ve been sneezing everywhere, and have been blowing my nose off. I also had fever the night before. So, while my blockmates were off to spend time with each other, I was in bed to spend time with…well, my bed. I needed to rest.

As I rested, I was thinking of things that I wanted to do but can’t because I’ll be going to the retreat. Then, I remembered that some of my friends and I were supposed to go to the 36th Manila International Book Fair on the 16th; so, I decided to rest up so that by Friday, if I’m feeling much better, I’ll go to MIBF and buy a few books to read and add to my collection.

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I assessed my budget and researched what books I can buy from the exhibitors. I made a list of what to buy and where to go to just see if there are some cheap books that I can purchase. But I was still hesitant to go. I still had a lot of unread books and adding more would just make my room chaotic. By Thursday, I was already feeling better so I decided to push through with going to the MIBF this year. I had planned what I will do, where I will go, and what books & how many books I will buy…at least I think I did. After scanning Facebook posts of different exhibitors, I finally finalized my plan for the next day and slept.

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I rode the local bus at 10am, ate two bags of peanuts (my stomach grumbled after 15 minutes inside the bus because I forgot to eat), and arrived at the SMX Convention Center at 11:45am. I was supposed to attend a small fun calligraphy workshop in the fair but I woke up very late so instead of arriving at the venue at 10am, I left the house at that time. So, instead of going to the calligraphy event, I decided to just eat lunch at Bonchon, the same place where I ate after going to MIBF last year.

This might mean that it may be an annual tradition to eat here. HAHAHA!

This might mean that it may be an annual tradition to eat here. HAHAHA!

After going to MIBF for around four years already, I decided to start from the very left of the fair. There, I found the Christian Strengthening Ministry (CSM) booth.

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The CSM booth is very interactive, they have games, raffles, and have very interactive hosts. I even got a free pin while I was paying for the books that I got! I remember going here last year to get a signed copy of Miriam Quiambao’s “He’ll Catch You When You Fall,” to give to one of my block mates. I decided to get two more copies: one for a block mate and the other for a good friend. I also bought Rommel Guevara’s “#UsapangWorshipMinistry,” which was a fun book to read!

After that, I stopped by the VIVA PSICOM publishing because I saw a book that looked very interesting for me: “Notary Not Included” by Atty. Erwin Zagala.

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He had a book signing by 5pm but I didn’t want to spend around three or more outrageous hours in the middle of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) where the traffic is so bad during that time that vehicles move around one feet a minute (Yeah, I’m exaggerating but that’s how it feels, man. You do not want an armpit in front of your face…or do you?) So, I’ll get it signed when I have the chance in the future.

After roaming around Fullybooked and National Book Store, I went ahead to the Christian Literature Crusade (CLC) to supposedly buy 2-3 books.

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But since I was very conscious with my budget (I think I really wasn’t), I decided to find David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ “Unchristian” (which was only a hundred bucks!!!!!). As I was looking at other books, I saw Roy B. Zuck’s “The Speaker’s Quote Book,” which was filled with quotes and illustrations that I can use for future references, either if God gives me the wisdom to speak to a crowd, or as I write entries in my blog.

I went to Instituto-Cervantes Manila and got a free diagnostic exam to check if I was still knowledgeable with my basic Spanish, then went next door to Goethe-Institut Philippinen to find information about their German courses and their library. I also got a free baller and bookmarks, plus I got a fan for playing their game: find the two non-German brands. Unfortunately, I chose Adidas instead of IKEA for the Swedish brand, but I got Nestle, a Swiss brand, correct. So, I don’t know what prize I could’ve won if I got both correctly. (*cries*) But still, I love that booth. (#Freeloader HAHAHA!)

I was walking towards OMF Literature while checking if my budget would be enough if I would buy an OMF Inspiration box, a box filled with books and other surprises for a reasonable price (I’ll let you research how much it cost), or just new selections. I saw a picture of a woman opening her Inspiration box in their Facebook page so I was intrigued and interested. I really had planned to buy around seven books in OMF but I was still checking if I would really be able to read them all; I haven’t even finished reading a few new books at home (#BookloverProblems; #FirstWorldProblems) so I was still calculating numbers in my head as I slowly walk into their booth.

As I entered OMF Literature, I saw the books that I wanted to buy on display. At the left side, facing the booth, there was a storytelling event ongoing. I immediately got Joy Tan-chi Mendoza’s “When A Good God Allows Rape,” and Harold J. Sala’s “Why Wait? But Why Not Wait?” I was looking at different books over and over. I even checked the “up to 80%” pile (which had awesome books, by the way) and got a copy of Joshua Harris’ “Stop Dating The Church.” After looking at more books and as I keep calculating numbers in my head, I decided to buy Darlene Sala’s “More Precious Than Diamonds,” for a block mate.

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I was thinking if I should buy the Inspiration box or not, so I just decided to pay for these four books. When I got to the cashier, I made the decision to buy an Inspiration box after all. I got the one at the counter. One of them even told me, “Sir, sabihan niyo po kami kung anong laman, ah?” (Sir, please tell us what’s inside, okay?) I nodded cheerfully. Also, I bought enough books to get me a free Kaibigan privilege card at OMF Lit and got a free notebook!

I was very tired already so I did not stay and wait for the 4pm book signing of Harold Sala and his wife, Darlene. I decided to leave the fair, get take-out at Jollibee, and went straight home at around 2:30pm. After arriving home, I got my scissors and opened the Inspiration box that I bought.

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As I opened the box, a CD popped out. It was an album with the name: “Disciple: Horseshoes & Handgrenades.” Then, as I continued to open the box entirely, I was surprised to find eight books inside (that’s a lot for me if I were to buy books, but since the books were on sale…) where one of the books inside was a children’s book: “Sandosenang Sapatos (A Dozen Pairs of Shoes)” by Luis P. Gatmaitan, M.D., and even a softbound copy of the Holy Bible in New King James Version (NKJV)! The OMF Inspiration box also had “Making Marriage Work” by Dr. Harold J. Sala, “Fourth Dawn” by Bodie and Brock Thoene, “Faith in the Corridors of Power” by Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano, “Fresh Air” by Chris Hodges, Ronald Molmisa’s “Lovestruck: Sexy Edition,” and “The One Year Signature Series: Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar and Dr. Ike Reighard” in it! (So blessed, I can’t contain it! – yeah, I’m bursting out into song lyrics.)

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I shared what I bought not to brag, but for everyone to know that buying books can be a great investment, especially if you wait for book fairs and book sales! If you see a great new book, you can either choose to buy it immediately or you can wait for events like these. As a book lover, IT IS VERY TEMPTING TO BUY AT LEAST ONE BOOK IN A BOOKSTORE. You might even doubt if I can read all of these, well this is the fun part: I only have to read around a dozen more books out of all the books (It’s around 18 if I’m not mistaken) that I bought. I’ll also be making a book review about Joy Mendoza’s book by the end of October. (So, stay tuned for that!)

Most of you might have also observed that I mostly bought Christian books. This is because I want to indulge myself in different authors and see their responses and views on certain topics on Christianity. And yes, I love learning more things about my faith. I actually want to learn more about defending the faith as well. That’s why, I’m so thrilled that I got a printed Bible (I like YouVersion, but print is still different from digital) so that I can easily highlight and read it without “scrolling” or checking the “settings to get the right font.” (Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!)

So, will I go back to MIBF next year? It depends if my work/studies/time lets me. But if I were to choose, I’d go back there, not just for the freebies (yes, I said just. I love the freebies), nor the book signings, but because of the love for books and the love for reading…but seriously, who would reject a freebie?

THE START OF A MORE INTIMATE, CHRIST-CENTERED FAMILY

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About a week ago, an idea suddenly popped from my head: to start a family devotion. A few years ago, I saw a picture of a friend of mine doing devotions with their family and I thought that idea was a great one. But for some reason, I never really took the initiative to ask my parents if they were willing to have a family devotion once a week. But suddenly, just last week after I met up with my parents somewhere along Commonwealth Avenue, the idea came back to me, as if God was telling me to go for it and ask my folks about it. Without hesitating, I asked my mom if she’s interested, and agreed to have one, as well as my dad.

We decided to have our weekly devotion every Sunday night because it’s the only time within the week where we’re not too busy thinking about work or school, and at the same time, it is also a great time for us to bond and catch up as a family. We decided to start today, 6 September 2015. And because I thought of starting one, they asked me if I can start the devotion. I agreed to do it; my only problem was what should I share to them?

First, I found a message from our home church, Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), which was preached two years ago. I wanted to show to them why discipleship begins at home but as I dived into the message, I realized that it was not a great first devotion to start with because it only tackles the role and responsibility of a father, not the entire family. So I decided to keep it for future reference and to use it maybe when God wants me to use it as a devotion.

After a day or two, I found a copy of a booklet we bought years ago from CCF, entitled: “Christ-Centered Family Devotions.”(You can download it online by clicking HERE) So I took the booklet and reviewed its contents. I decided to use the material as the series for our weekly devotions. So as I prayed and reviewed for our devotions, I created a slideshow to make it look pleasing and interesting. I ran through my devotions and so as I finalized everything, after dinner, I went down with my laptop and with the booklet.

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My message was about God’s fear – how it is not for us to be frightened nor for us to feel threatened, but God’s fear can be considered as reverence, wherein love and respect would match its definition. Then as I started with a prayer and run through the questions, they gave insights on what do we mean by fear, and is it good or bad to name a few.

Then things got awkward for me when they started asking questions about my relationship with them in the past, if I feared them in a way I fear God or did I fear them the way I fear people who might want to take my life away. I was a bit shocked and did not know how to transition back to the topic so as I explained what my perceptions were when I was young, the more questions became personal. I was telling myself that “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea,” and “Why did I pick this booklet? I could’ve picked any other devotions from the internet,” but then I realized that as I share more about what my insights were with them, it looked like an open forum, wherein unanswered questions dare to be answered. And for me, that experience made me more open with my parents.

You see, having an intimate relationship with someone means that you trust him or her your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and explanations wherein he or she knows that everything is personal and that he or she will treasure your answers. I know that many parents want to help and know their child more often, especially if they’re at their teen years wherein everything might be confusing and scary (I’m not just talking about puberty, kids) and that’s why they ask you questions like “How was your day?” and “How are you?” It’s because they want to be intimate with you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I like it when people share personal things with me because I know that they trust me and they want to hear my opinion about certain topics or issues. Same with our parents, they want you to trust them that whatever you say (or in some cases, we can use the word “reveal”) to them, they will try to help you in understanding you better, and maybe even finding a solution to your problem if they can.

After the devotion, I felt happy and thanked God for this idea that He gave me. I know that He let me find the booklet, not for me to “lecture” my parents, but for us to be open with one another. Next week, my father’s going to lead the devotion, while my mom will lead after a fortnight. I am very blessed to have a wonderful family wherein we can trust each other and be open and intimate with each other.

Yes, discipleship does begin at home and it makes the family closer and stronger than ever. Please continue to pray for our devotions; pray that we may have consistency and accuracy when it comes to sharing God’s Word through the booklet!

I can’t wait for next week’s devotion!

A FORTNIGHT WITH MY PARENTS

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Two weeks ago, my grandmother decided that it was time, that the ceiling in my room should be repaired. You see, I live in my grandmother’s house – an ancestral house – and my room was my father’s room when he was still a child, and my cousins and their family stayed in this room for a while before getting a place of their own. Since the room has been unused for quite some time, I decided to ask permission if I can use it as my own, considering the fact that I have been sleeping with my parents ever since I was born. I occupied this room just a year ago and whenever my mom or dad is on a business trip away, I would stay with my parents’. I’d also like to point out that my grandmother’s house is right beside my parents’ house, but we live in one gate, and we eat together in the main house so there are no boundaries within the family, except for the structure itself.

My room had a white-tiled ceiling where some of the thin strips of wood are slowly peeling off of it. My walls had a white coating, along with a few coats ripped, and wooden planks for flooring with a layer of plastic (the plastic is coming off and it is a bit uncomfortable if you walk unevenly with “polished” and “not polished” wooden floor. Also, my room is the second storage room in the house. Here lies all my uncle’s trophies, my grandmother’s incredible collection of novels (it’s more than a hundred, I tell you), and luggage bags and suitcases along with boxes filled with computer-related stuff. The problem with my room is that the ceiling started to leak whenever the rain would pour heavily. The leak wasn’t that big but you know what they say, if you don’t take care of little things, they’ll turn into big problems.

It was around 10 in the morning when I got the news to get all my important things and get out of my room because the workers will start taking off the entire ceiling. So I grabbed my school bag and filled it with a filler notebook, all my essential needs and important items (cellphone, school ID, eyeglasses, etc.) and took two books with me while the rest of my stuff that was left were covered with blankets. I expected that the job would be done in two, maybe three days tops. So while my room shall be “murdered” then fixed, I will sleep at my parents’ house.

My parents’ house is no stranger to me. I always go there whenever I like, because I still have half of my stuff there and why can’t I visit my folks every now and then? The house consists of only three rooms: the living room, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Yes, it may be hard to believe but that, my friends, is the house where I grew up and slept ever since I was born. It was supposed to be a small clinic for my grandfather wherein his patients can go right in, but he passed away back when my father was still in elementary; that plan never came true, so they decided to use it as a house instead.

I like staying with my folks; the internet is fast and I don’t have to climb stairs just to drop my bag in my bed. Whenever I stay at my old house, my father would sleep on the couch in the living room, while my mother and I would take the bed in the bedroom. After a few days, I thought that I would be able to go back already, but they told me that the workers will also repaint the walls and the cabinet, but they have to clean first. So I had to stay longer.

As I spend more time with them, the more I remember the times when we would all laugh and play together as we enjoy a movie at home, or whenever we would eat together in the living room while sharing stories of how our day went. Every day, I would sleep before 11 in the evening because my dad sleeps in the living room while I can no longer watch TV nor can I go to social media using my laptop so I would often immediately go to sleep as well. It didn’t bother me because I had nothing important to do during the night.

Today, August 24, my room was finally clean, finished, organized and ready for occupancy again. They painted my ceiling with creamy white, my walls with a darker shade of sky blue, and the cabinet and dresser with a river blue color. The floor is still the same (and most of the plastic is ripped off already making it even harder to pass by) though but everything was more organized than ever. That also means that I can already leave my parents’ house after lunch. But because I still smell a hint of paint odor, I told myself that I would just move in when my folks arrive back home. It was around nine in the evening when my parents arrived home. After going upstairs to check how my room was, I slowly got my stuff and moved it back to my room. It took me four trips to get my things but as I was going back to pick up the last items: my toothbrush, toothpaste, and water bottle, I hesitated to go to my room. To spend a fortnight with my parents really made me happy because I missed the feeling of going to sleep with someone right beside you, protecting you and making sure that no one can ever hurt you as long as they’re around. I still went to back my room because I wanted to prove myself responsible in owning one.

Going upstairs to my room alone made me a bit teary-eyed. I was laughing at myself because I knew that it was just two weeks yet it feels as if I miss them already. I know that I will still see them, eat with them, and talk to them daily, but the feeling of being close with your folks, it’s not the same. But even so, I’m still happy that I got my room back again, and it looks better than ever. I just wish that something would be broken again so that I can sleep with my parents’ again…just kidding! But I would love to just go there and spend a night or two with them. You know what they say: home is where the heart is.