Category Archives: in house

The Ride of Your Life

I’ve been contemplating about the subject of truth and love all week. How, as followers of Christ, we can live in the tension between the two of them. If you haven’t felt the tension, or haven’t really thought about it, think of the last time you had to forgive a friend or a loved one over something BIG. There’s always that struggle in us to forgive because while we want to love and make our relationship right with that person again, we don’t want to dismiss or forget what had happened. TRUTH points out what’s wrong in us, in situations we find ourselves in, the sin that we’re hiding. LOVE is grace, forgiveness, redemption, acceptance. When we’re teaching or giving advice to others, all we want to teach is the TRUTH, not because we don’t think love is important. but because there’s already too much of it. But when it’s our turn to face it, all we want is LOVE, because we already know what we’ve done wrong.

In the Max Lucado devotional Bible (a quote I found in the Owl City blog), he wrote a preface to 2 John that addresses this subject matter, and I don’t think I can add much to what he said (but I did anyway. hehe. but here’s the quote):

The single most difficult pursuit is truth and love.

That sentence is grammatically correct. I know every English teacher wanted to pluralize it to read: The most difficult pursuits are those of truth and love but that’s not what I meant to say.

True, love is a difficult pursuit. Correct, truth is a tough one, too.

But put them together, pursue truth and love at the same time, and hang on, baby, you’re in for the ride of your life.

But that’s the task of the Christian. Love in truth. Truth in love. Never one at the expense of the other. Never the embrace of love without the torch of truth. Never the heat of truth without the warmth of love.

Never would be easier if we could choose between the two, but we can’t. So John, in this second letter, calls for a hybrid.

“I love all of you in the truth, and all those who know the truth love you. We love you because of the truth that lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, will be with us in truth and love.” (2 John 2-3)

Truth and love. Love and truth. Never one without the other. To pursue both is our singular task.

Truth and love in the flesh is messy. It’s Jesus telling the adulterous woman whom he had just saved from stoning, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more.” No condemnation, but an acknowledgement that there is sin that had to be forgiven. Jesus lived in the tension between truth and love the whole time he was on earth and he hung out with the sinners and tax collectors– he loved them and he forgave them and accepted them. Jesus is the embodiment of truth and love. That’s why He died on the cross! God wants to save us, but there is sin that needed to be paid in full.
So, how do we live in this tension? We don’t want to dole out just truth because truth without love drives people away. They leave feeling rejected and even more condemned. If we’re all about just love– sin will just be overlooked and there would be tolerance but no change for the good will happen.
One day at a time, I’m trying to live this in my life by never giving up on people, even the difficult ones. To speak the truth in love (it’s hard!) or just thinking before I speak; avoiding quick judgments or arguments for argument’s sake; giving second and third to the nth chances; holding back “I told you so;” easing it up on tough love; and giving up my right to be right whenever I am and I have to.
I’m not always successful– the big sister in me always wants to fix things and boss people around. But if we need want to reach out to the people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ yet– the seeking, the lost and those who don’t want to be found, the self-confessed sinners, the bad boys, the bad girls, gay people, the broken, the modern day “tax collectors”–we have to be willing to give ourselves to this tension between truth and love.
We need to learn how Jesus loves by going out there in the world and doing it.
This was a repost from the Daily Pandesal at Winmakati.com. 

too many endings

Said goodbye to too many friends, one after the other this year (and we’re only in the first quarter). Parents of friends
have gone as well. I never thought this season will come so soon. My parents go to wakes and funerals all the time, because they are older now.

Death happens with age.

But my friends are all still too young, they don’t even have kids of their own, no retirement plans– let alone memorial plans. They’ve just started. They didn’t battle sickness for so long that it was finally time for them to go. They just stopped, lingered for a beat or two in a coma, before leaving without saying good bye.

My bestfriend texted me, out of the blue, saying that she has been praying for death for a few years now, she can’t wait to see her Creator.

Well, what do I have to say to that?

Thank God He seldom answers better-off-dead prayers?

Death comes for everyone in time anyway.

This morning, I was
afraid to die. I wept in my bed as I tried riding out this feeling in my body–pain, lethargy, weakness, helplessness. I thought of my friends who died too soon, and wondered if it was my turn to go as well.

I wonder if it’s a sin to not want to go home to heaven just yet–to still desire momentary things over an eternity of being with the God who I profess to love?

(I’m sorry, Lord. I still want to fall in love with a man who loves me back, get married, have kids and raise them to love You. I still want a house with cats and dogs and a goldfish pond. I still want to publish my own magazine, maybe even a book. I still want to take care of my parents in their old age. I still want to sing, to dance, to write and proclaim your name.)

I don’t know. Maybe “afraid to die” is not accurate– I just don’t want to die. I’m not scared. Ready or not, it will happen. Someday.

But not yet, Lord. Please. Not yet.

Love, Merlin

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In case you still haven’t heard, Merlin (my beloved Cat) had to go through an emergency surgery procedure on his urinary bladder because it was clogged with stones and it nearly burst. Once again, in the 11 and a half years of having him as my cat, I was overwhelmed by just how much I love him. He’s just a cat, for crying out loud! But the thought of losing him, the thought of him being pain still makes me cry, because yes, I love him that much.

 

The verse, “When I consider the your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) always gets to me because it shows just how small and insignificant we are compared to the big picture of the universe, and yet, God cares for us!

 

God uses Merlin time and again to illustrate this point to me. From his first hospital stay (in 2008), I spent over a month’s retainer fee for his bills, and now it looks like I’ll be spending my 13th month pay on him again, and yet it doesn’t bother me. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t even spend this much money on myself, and yet I would– and have–willing plunk down so much just for a cat!

 

A cat whose most constructive contribution to the household was to catch an occasional mouse. Most of the time he ignores me– he even runs away when I try to hug him. He eats my mom’s plastic plants, he demands for hand out every meal, and I he scratches me all the time. Well, ok, he’s learned a new skill– he now gives massages, but still. He’s split my lip twice already! Yet, whenever he does come to me willingly, sits beside me whenever I get home for the weekend, or when I’m sick or sad–for whatever reason a cat has for giving acts of affection– my heart just overflows with joy.

 

I love Merlin because he is mine. And no matter what he does, or will do, I will still love him. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t discipline him whenever he does something bad– one of the first words he ever learned was “no!” The other one was “down!” Guess what he was trying to do at that time.

 

And right there, is a Stef scale model of God’s love for me, not that what I feel for Merlin will ever be equal to God’s love, but it’s a tangible hint of what it is. I don’t really need a cat, but I chose to have a cat– with all his quirks and independence and even indifference. I love Merlin because he is mine– and it’s not because of the things he does or stands for. I feed him, I take care of him, I pay for his hospital bills, clean up his litter box and the mess that he makes, discipline and dote on him.

 

“What is man that you are mindful of him?” Whenever I think of how often I use His name in vain, how I lie, sin, cheat– why does God even bother with me? When I see humanity–all the things that we do and say just to prove that there is no God, or that God is there but He doesn’t care… to go through great lengths to show that we don’t need Him. I just wonder how silly and foolish we look to Him, or how we break His heart every time we push Him away. His great love caused Him to create this universe, to send His only Son to suffer and die for our sins, to give our short existence in this universe a purpose.

 

He didn’t have to, but He still did.

 

Funny, we’re just starting on series called The Love Story at church, and I really like what Manu said about God’s love: it’s inclusive, irrational and immovable. It’s difficult to comprehend because while I’m glad that God loves me, it’s hard to believe that God loved Hitler too. But that’s how His love is– it doesn’t really matter who we are, what matters is who He is– He is love!

 

Once in a while, God uses Merlin to give me a clue of how much He loves me–I just have to raise how I feel about my cat to the zillionth power and then some. And if I think how overwhelming, surprising, and joyful it already is to love my cat right now–God’s love is just ineffably awesome! And I have no credit for it– it’s all Him. It’s because of who He is, and not because of how awesome we are. :P

 

And with that, can I ask for a prayer request?

 

Please keep on praying for Merlin? :)

 

(v.2 of an old blogpost)

Mercy

Forsaking morbid introspection and fruitless heart excavation trips. Instead, recognizing and receiving R.A. Torrey’s encouragement that ‘if there’s anything that always comes up when you get nearest to God, that is the the thing to deal with.’ What a relief and a good mindset even in working with helping people through their stuff. 

Oh, we are a bottomless pit of brokenness and woundings. But God in His mercy does not drop on us the full extent of all our issues because He knows we are but dust. He knows the best time and way to deal with whatever ails our walk with Him and He will decide when each one needs to be dealt with. Alleluia! “ 
- Germaine Santos, Facebook status

When I read this post, it was an early Thursday morning– too early to even get inside our office–a few minutes away from finding out about a contemporary’s suicide the night before. Just a couple of days before that morning, I witnessed a terrible display of the inner struggle of one of my nearest and dearest. And I wonder, what was God doing when these things where happening, did He even see these events as they unfolded?
More importantly, did He care?
I can’t remember from which verse I had read in the Bible about how God feels the pain of our suffering. Each one of us? Yes, I guess so. It don’t recall it mentioning any exceptions. In my feeble mind, I can imagine it the noise of a single cry of agony sustained in an ending breath. It’s so unrelenting that my mind’s ears just give in to the noise until it fades to a numbing and steady buzz. But oh, to God, the Creator of this big universe, is powerful enough to know each one of us who cries by name and mourns as He keeps His hand on eternity.
Sometimes I really can’t understand why He lets these things happen, but it is all for His glory–which is our ultimate good. He didn’t even spare His own Son from pain because He had a great plan that had spanned from the time of creation to Jesus’s last breath on the cross– and even beyond.
Reading it now, it sounds like I’m just trying to convince myself that God cares. To be truly honest, sometimes I do wonder if I’m just Godspotting out of wishful thinking or it’s just my Christian upbringing kicking in. But faith in God is as much of a choice sometimes, as it is a gift from God himself too. He knows that without His help and His desire for us to to have it, we would be stuck in the past and the present with dread for the future by the overwhelming nature of reality.
It may not make sense at the moment, like most things that are still unfolding, but someday, I know it will be clearer. There may be weeping and mourning now, but dancing comes in the morning.
So here, but by God’s mercy, we move forward.

God of small hours

For some reason, Mondays have been especially hard to face these past few weeks. And today is no exception. I slept at around 5am (it was a little bit light out already when I turned in) so when I woke up at 8am, my body’s buzzing with lack of rest and I spent another in bed just staring at nothing until the buzzing died down.
On the way to work, I randomly chose this song to walk to and start my day with, Rob Thomas’ “These Small Hours” (the song from Meet the Robinsons)
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain
I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I need to get through something stressful and difficult, I always remind myself of the bigger picture– that God has a great plan, a very good and very valid reason for troubles in this life, that this sort of moments are just a blip in eternity. 

But then, I am reminded how God– in all his awesome glory, the same God who holds the universe at the palm of His hand– is also the God of the minutiae– of tiny details. I often praise Him for being the God of small things, because even with the big picture in mind, I know that He is still present in the small hours, the little wonders that we encounter throughout the day. And that by itself, makes each moment count for me. 

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course,

but the Lord establishes their steps.”


es·tab·lish/iˈstabliSH/

Verb:
  1. Set up (an organization, system, or set of rules) on a firm or permanent basis.
  2. Initiate or bring about (contact or communication).

“Establishes their steps.” Can you imagine God laying out the foundations for each step we take to get to whatever destination we go to? Even the steps we don’t think about or do on purpose, those steps we have forgotten even as we make them. 


As David wrote in Psalms 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!” 

This day may not be the best of days, but God was there each step of the way, and even then, He had already set up all the details that took us through this Monday– be it a happy one for you, or a boring one for some, or an excruciatingly busy and difficult one like I just had. 

between two sides

Ever since Obama announced his support for gay marriages in the United States, there have been a lot of comments and posts from people who either support it or who are against it (but then again, this issue has been hot for a long time anyway). Prominent people who are vocally against it are soundly blasted by the gay community (and by people who care about them). I must admit both sides’ statements bother me, well, mainly because I’m a Christian and when I read Christians saying hurtful things online (or hear it live for that matter), it hurts because it’s not what Jesus is all about. While sometimes I do think the same things, I’m not inclined to say them because such thoughts require further inspection against God’s Word (and good old-fashioned discretion), and I can expect the resulting backlash. And, it incites so much hate and anger from the people at the receiving end of the hurtful comment (because what do we expect? It’s not like we can get away saying such things), and there’s already too much hate in this world.

It got me thinking– what’s my stand on the gay marriage issue? I choose not to have one. I think I’ll just stay here, right in the middle. I don’t really know where I should stand in this issue, what I do know is that I don’t want to be defined by what I’m against for, nor be known for judging people (who does?). Love requires me not to hurt other people, to know their stories first before I get to have a say in their situation (if I have to in the first place). Jesus approached people differently, He didn’t have the same approach for every person he encountered in His ministry. Come to think of it, he was rather tough on the church people in those days…

While I’m still trying to figure out this whole, “What does love require of me?” thing, I’m not going to encourage more anger and hate– especially online, where it’s just so easy to get people going with a single post. I’d rather encourage and give grace and healing, light and love where there is hurt and ignorance and hate. I can’t say that I’m wise/wiser or I’m better than everybody else. Gosh, I’ve made more than a lifetime’s worth of stupid statements and stupid mistakes. By myself, I’m no better than anybody in this world.

All I know is, if Jesus were here today, he’d be hanging out with those we Christians call the “lost” and the sinners. And he would love them, they would feel loved, even if they are so different from each other. They would feel Jesus’ acceptance even as He would show them the way, the truth and the life. Jesus would certainly not be hanging out with the likes of us church people (who would probably wondering, “If he’s the Son of God as he says he is, how come he missed out on the weekly fellowship?!”).

If I want to be where Jesus is, I should be right smack in the middle, where all the action is, being the embodiment of truth and love. I would want to be His disciple, learning, observing (most likely baffled by his closeness with people who don’t have anything in common with Him but accepts Him just the same) and trying to do things just like how He did them.

I’m sorry if I’m rambling, I’m still trying to figure things out (help me?).

My friends (and I do have a lot of gay and lesbian friends– one of my closest friends is gay), if you’ve ever been hurt by a Christian, or by any of our statements or rash judgements, I apologize for us. Most of us (all) are still trying to learn our way through Jesus’s command to love one another just as He loves us (John 13:34-35), and learning is kinda messy.

Someday, maybe, there will be a time for me to take a side on an issue, but I don’t think that this is the time. Not at the cost of misrepresenting Jesus Christ to people whom He loves as much as He loves me.

 

 

Hide and Seek

I haven’t been feeling well since Saturday, I did more than keep calm and carry on– I moaned and complained, even as a I carried on (even posted about this on Facebook!). I focused on all the aches and pains in my throat, my back, my head, my limbs. I thought about how I hated to breathe through my mouth because the snot in my nose couldn’t seem to ever run out– no matter how much I blow and the sticky yellowish things out into a tissue paper.

I know I should pray–I’ve asked people to pray for me, but for some reason, I didn’t. Not until this morning. 

I know I have just been coasting along with God. I have treated Him much like my friends these days, I know He’s just there, on call. But for some reason, I never called or texted. I just know He’s there, but I chose to languish in my sickness alone. When I wasn’t sick, I worked and worked and worked. Sure, I mentioned Him all the time, listened to songs and talks about Him, but to actually be with Him? Not really.

This morning, I decided to call Him. Acknowledge that I miss Him. Apologize for not calling until now. It sucks to treat my Creator– my Lord, God and King– my Father this way, but for some reason, He let me.

Of course, there are days when He drives us into a corner until it was either face a wall or Him. Sometimes His presence is just so palpable that we’re reduced to tears even before we even knew it. Sometimes He’s Pillar of Fire. Sometimes He’s a landslide. Sometimes He’s a still small voice.

And sometimes He lets us come to Him in our own time.

I don’t know why He does this, but I find it amazing that in the midst of everything that screams out His name, He chooses to be silent and lets Himself be found, when we feel like it. Patiently waiting, never asking what took us so long?

Oh, how He loves us so.

 

Do we really see?

(post Palm Sunday reflections)
After a few years of being adored by the masses for His miracles and his teachings, hated by the Pharisees for the same things, the days near the end are starting to get darker and more ominous. When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem in the midst of cheering and adoration of his followers, He knew that He was riding to His death, and that the same people who were singing hossanas to Him will soon be demanding for his crucifixion.
I think there were only a couple of instances in the Bible that Jesus cried– the first one was outside of the tomb of Lazarus, and the other one was after his triumphant entry to Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44):

 

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Jesus wept because He knew what was going to happen to Jerusalem 40 years after His death. He went into Jerusalem to redeem it in his life and ministry, yet Jerusalem didn’t recognize their Messiah. They were still looking for a Messiah to overthrow the Roman Empire, not overthrow the power of sin in our lives. Their vision of the messiah was grounded on earth when Jesus is giving us eternity. This is why the people’s thrill on Palm Sunday quickly dissipated to a bloodlust for his crucifixion. They didn’t get it.
I remember what Pastor Murrel of Victory pointed out about Palm Sunday, a true encounter with Jesus results in repentance and changed lives. Singing and waving palms about, yelling Hallelujah does not mean that we get it– the people of Jerusalem certainly didn’t. An encounter with the Christ is an encounter with the reality of who we are in the light of His great and awesome love– sinners in need of forgiveness that God has freely given through His Son.
How do we see Jesus Christ? How do we view God’s grace for us? Do we feel that God owes it to us to bless us and answer all our prayers just because we attend church, know all the songs on the lineup, raise our hands, pray and read the Bible everyday?
What does it really mean to have Jesus enter into our lives?

Our little River

Our littlest baby girl
You are a wonder

What makes you smile in your sleep?
Just how big is the world for you in your cradle
and in your mommy’s embrace?
Do you remember where you came from
before you got here?

Our little River
Our small wonder

 

 

God uses Cats redux

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about cats on this blog. But upon coming home to my Imus home tonight for the weekend, I was immediately greeted by cats. So I decided to do Godspotting with them. And as I type this post down, Merlin is seated beside me on the couch and, to my mom’s bemusement, is intently watching me write about him once again.

As I scratched him behind his ears, I wondered if there’s anything in the Bible about pets. Did Jesus have a dog or a cat while growing up in Galilee? Did God put in dogs and cats’ genetic codes makes them be kept by humans as companions? Was it God’s will that we have made some animals friends while some for food?

I don’t know. But if you have some insight to this, dear reader(s?), do share it with me.

In any case, I’m grateful for my cats (we now have five official cats at my parents’ house), dog and hamster. I’m grateful that I grew up in a household where everybody loves pets. Sure, my mom and Ate Mina would complain about them once in a while, but I don’t think they would have it any other way. Growing up, pets taught me and my siblings to be less selfish and to take care of others. My first pet was a chicken (according to my mom, at least. She also told me we eventually ate her.), then we had dogs, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, even an iguana for a while. We’ve always had stray cats around the house because we couldn’t help feeding them, but Merlin’s my first official cat.

Merlin’s already 11 years old and he still surprises me with his quirks. He has recently started giving people massages, and he’s been extra snuggly with me whenever I’m home. If you know Merlin, he’s always been characterized as a snooty cat– he doesn’t rub against your legs or be conventionally affectionate– but lately, he’s starting to become strangely sweet to people. Who knew that a cat can change his stripes? Figuratively, at least. Looks like he’s still not done growing up.

As I look back on our history together, there were plenty of times I could have written Merlin off as a non-affectionate, non-conventional cat and would have still loved him for it. But as he grew from a loud skinny ugly kitten to a handsome husky fellow, from playful to mellow, from aloof to sweet, I catch a glimpse of how God may be seeing us as His children. He loves us for who we are then delights in us even more as we grow, patiently seeing us through our mistakes, detours and failures, celebrating with us in our victories, drawing us even closer to Him.

Maybe this is why we have pets (and/or children), to see God’s reflection in us as we love and take care of them without condition.