Out of the dust

photoYesterday, through happily teary eyes, I witnessed my good friends Daphne and Aleks get married.Until now I can’t tell their story without getting a lump in my throat because it’s just heart-achingly beautiful. Yes, it has a lot of heartbreak and a Great Sadness at the beginning, but it also has courage, faith, redemption–and love that just did not give up. Watching it come together in that fine end of summer afternoon in Tagaytay was just amazing.

“Your story gives me hope,” I wrote at the back of my place card that served as their guest book.

I saw how Daphne got her heart broken and her first wedding called off. She shared her healing process to us, full of grace and humility–without an an ounce of bitterness. And I got to watch as she opened her heart to love once again from the man who could’ve easily given up long before. She told me about the “unforced rhythms of grace” in her journey to the altar with Aleks. And now their prayers have been answered, and at the end of that road is another one where they will walk together as man and wife.

There is no heart too broken for God to make whole again.

And God, in His amazing and awesome power, once again makes beauty out of ashes.

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. 

Dear God, it’s me Stef

Dear God,

It’s me again.

I need you, because I’m doubting again. I’ve been doing (and not doing) things that make me doubt that I belong to You at all. Is this how to approach this realization from the other side– from the side of someone who’s grown up on everything that a good Christian should know, all the words that are needed to be said and heard, all the catchphrases and the terms of someone who is in the inner circle?

But then, I know what I ought to do, but I don’t do it. But the things that I know I shouldn’t do (or think of doing or even say), I do. Gah. It’s the whole Paul thing again!

Lord, please give me the wisdom to know what to do (I think you have already) and the courage to do it.

God in the Tornado

Last Monday (US time), a massive tornado ripped through an Oklahoma suburb and killed 24 people. Ten of them were children who were in the elementary school at that time. I remember reading a friend’s Facebook status last Tuesday that she won’t sleep until all tornado warnings are gone and breathed a sigh of relief that even with all the typhoons that we get, we don’t get tornadoes–which is kinda like living in an area where dinosaurs can come rampaging through your neighbourhood at any time. At least, from what I’ve seen on TV and the pictures online. 

This morning, I read a post at John Piper’s website about a couple of Twitter posts that he had to take down because people were being offended. It was a passage from Job 1:19-20 and he had to split the post into two:

when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship

I guess, if you only read the first message, it would be rather off, but I get what John Piper was trying to say– we can still weep, mourn and wail, but in all the suffering there is still room for worship. If you notice, Job worshipped upon hearing the news, even as he tore and shaved his head in mourning.


oklahoma-tornado-88a3f9c204dfe596

We are no stranger to natural calamities here in the Philippines, it seems that our typhoons are getting worse each year and even as we are recovering from the last storm, another one comes to bring destruction once again. Literally and figuratively, our lives are never without storms. There are seasons of calm and seasons where all we could do is hang on so we won’t be swept away, I guess this Daily Pandesal is just here to remind us that there is always room to worship even as we weep.

Worship reminds us that there is this hope we have in God that never disappoints, that despite the chaos and destruction, God is still in control, that He is compassionate and merciful. It is not wrong to mourn, but as we mourn, like Job, let us hold on to the purpose of the Lord. 

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)

 

originally posted as “Daily Pandesal: Tornado Thursday” at the WinMakati website.

I need a reason to sing

When the pieces seem to shatter
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I don’t feel you anymore
No I don’t feel you anymore

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing

When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate everything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go
Oh Oh Oh

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing

Yeah

Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Oh
Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now
Oh Lord
Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Oh Lord
Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
That is a reason to sing

(All Sons & Daughters)

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.

Only

Only You
Dusty my soul tonight.
Earth has been dear.
Bewildered, I come to You,
Father God, hear.
Idols that charm me,
dreams that allure,
pains that alarm me,
suspense to endure,
memories that linger,
thoughts that ensnare,
a heart that is aching,
all crumpled by care,
unsatisfied, restless,
scarce able to pray—
everything, everything
take it away.
Only You,
none but You,
Jesus alone:
ashes the rest to me,
songs with a groan,
take them each one away—
mind not my tears—
lift me above this earth’s
joys and its fears,
give me Yourself alone—
nothing beside—
so will I be with You,
content,
satisfied!

(“Only You” by Ruth Bell Graham)

Tagged

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

 

Since I was 13 up until 30, I used to cry myself to sleep nearly every night. Sometimes I knew why I was crying, other times I didn’t. I just felt bad and I had no idea why. I couldn’t ask for help because whenever I did they would tell me that Christians aren’t supposed to feel depressed, and that only made me feel worse. I held on to this verse (among a lot of others) and hung on to my God, knowing that all these tears didn’t go unnoticed and just dismissed, and one day, there would be no more crying. These days, the depression is just a memory (even if things aren’t always peachy), and I can only stand amazed at God’s amazing grace.

It was three years ago, February 26. I will always remember because it was such a weird feeling, to have your heart whole and unburdened for the first time for as long as I could remember. I kept on tapping my chest, because it was so strange, considering the circumstances that surrounded it.

I am still amazed.

He meets us where we are

This is where I am right now– in a temporary office, alternately waiting and working on a magazine that is, for the rest of the world, still not real or whose presence they cannot totally acknowledge yet, not until its first issue. I am waiting for articles to come, for the scheduled shoots, for overdue articles and photos, for my boss and coworkers. I am waiting for documents. I am waiting for appointments.

I’m back in The Waiting Room, and I am reading a copy of Hola!, one page at a time.

After a tiring 2012 that left me emotionally crawling on all fours (especially after the death of The Cat), the beginnings of 2013 were spent in bed, sick and bewildered. The second month is almost done and everything is up in limbo, hanging steady for each of its completion in its appointed time or, by hook or by crook, its deadline. I look at them, and go back to my work, trusting that everything will work out at its right time as long as I do my part.

And here is a new thing flickering, a newly-discovered desire that I dare not name sometimes.

Out in the world, children are being born, loved ones pass away, people are falling in love, getting engaged, some getting their hearts broken, some are rebuilding, some working up the strength for something big, some are staying, some are preparing to leave, others in their own waiting rooms. And I am here.

How am I? I am steady. Both feet planted on the ground, eyes on a fixed point to keep my balance.

Where is God? I look around and He says, “Right here.”

 

Merry Christmas

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us!
In our mess, muck and filth, God became human to live here with us!

May this story never get too familiar, this mystery remain unfathomable.

Oh, how You love us so.