A Warrior’s Prayer

wounded-warrior

 

Dear LORD, 

Most of the times, people think I am strong, bold and confident. Yet, deep inside me, there are moments when I just lay down myself at Your feet – crying out my heart, pouring out these burdens that not even the closest of my friends know. 

Sometimes, I feel afraid. I am fearful to show that beneath the strong armor is a also a child crying out when she gets weak, when she gets wounded, when she feels disappointed or frustrated and so much more. Beneath the strong facade is actually a child cowering in her insecurities and uncertainties. 

I cannot pour out my heart easily, LORD because there were times when I remembered feeling hurt and betrayed by a friend. It hurt, my LORD. It hurt when, most of the times, you allow yourself to be vulnerable and that person saw a chink in your personal armor. It was something that I should have forgotten, but I guess, it left a deep scar in my heart. 

Still, I thank You because You taught me what grace and true love is. You taught me that forgiveness is an everyday decision that I could — and still — give to that person who hurt me. I am grateful that I was able to move beyond these piercing pains, because foremost, You are the One who endured such painstaking death on the cross so that I may live and be free.

You are my refuge and strength, my help in times of need,  my joy in life’s greatest sorrows. 

You are a God who heals. 

When I forget (and it happens for countless of times) that these pains are but momentary and I must count the joy that is coming, I realized how minute they are. Still, I thank You because Your love soaks me in Your ocean of deeper grace and mercy. I am able to give because You are merciful, gracious and generous to give me, which on my own, I won’t be able to do so. 

 

Yes, I am flawed and inconsistent, BUT, I am also graciously forgiven and overwhelmingly loved.

 

These days, I feel I am at the edge. 

I am at the edge of letting go. 

I am torn between staying and saying goodbye. 

Yet, a warrior never quits unless he or she choose to. 

I choose to stay firmly, to fight fiercely in faith, to run with endurance — knowing that at the end of each day, no matter how much I get tired, when I look upon the beauty of Your presence, when I remember that You are my ultimate source of love, mercy, forgiveness, joy and grace, I will sing of Your goodness and faithfulness. 

Yes, I am flawed and inconsistent, BUT, I am also graciously forgiven and overwhelmingly loved.

. . . a warrior never quits unless he or she chooses to. 

It might be a tough battle. I might be pierced on every side. I would have thrown the towel.

At the end of it all, Your love makes me realize the beauty there is in pains and trials, and the immeasurable joy of having You. 

Thank You, LORD Jesus!

 

 

Lights On: Musings for the CHRISTmas season

 

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A few days from now and we will celebrate, as what some poems, songs and largely the population says, THE “most wonderful time of the year”. How exciting it is to celebrate CHRISTmas Day, indeed!   

When I was younger, I used to think that this season is meant for gifts, sumptuous food and the likes. Christmas Day for me was merely a tradition — one that incorporates decorating our home with lights, enjoying the sounds and sights as well as the sumptous food cooked at home. I even thought that this day was only meant for kids alone (such selfish thoughts when I was a child, haha!)

I eventually outgrown the feelings of excitement during this season. Back then, as a growing adult, I used to think that Christmas was a season of traditions bounded by a lot of responsibilities:

What gifts would I give my “incrazy.jpgaanaks”? What sort of menu would we have for noche buena? How would we decorate our home? What theme would we have? How many parties would I attend to? How much would I have to spend on gifts? A little bit crazy, isn’t it?

Then again, I came to a point when I realized that more than anything else – the things that keep me “busy” and anxious about – are not necessarily the things that matter. There is more to life than endlessly having a list to check and re-check after all. 

I came to know the LORD back in 2009. From then on, Christmas became more meaningful and not just a frantic, hyped up, stressful season. As I grow more older and learned that intrinsic values are more important than extrinsic ones, and know the real reason why I celebrate this day, I became more grounded on my thoughts and plans. I learned, in my heart, the core of this celebration — that is JESUS CHRIST. 

Most of the times, we tend to remember the “what’s” of this season, rather than focus on the “Who”. Christmas Day, most often than not, became an excuse to be more extravagant, more profligate and more prodigal in our spending habits and the likes. 

I learned, in my heart, the core of this celebration — that is JESUS CHRIST. 

Last night, I went to a simple Christmas party with some friends and met some students as well. The menu was not entirely lavish nor were the gifts they received. Yet, I could see the joy brightening their hearts. In the simplicity of that party, God, as if, spoke to my heart about His humble birth.

In the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, Ceasar Augustus ordered every citizen to register. I could imagine the influx of people going “each to his own town” (verse 3). How difficult it might be for Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem with Mary giving birth any time soon. As such, And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”(Luke 2:6-7, English Standard Version, emphasis mine)

Imagine, Jesus being born in such simplicity! The King of kings was wrapped, not in soft, rich clothing, but in swaddling cloths and was laid, not in a warm bed, but in a manger. Such humility that Jesus Christ showed as He entered the world of men! Moreover, his birth was witnessed first hand, not by royalties, but by “shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (verse 8) as an angel heralded “11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (verses 11-12, emphasis mine) then a multitude of angels singing:

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 – Luke 2:14, ESV – 

Yet, more than being in awe of such heavenly sight, the shepherds  16 . . .went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” (verses 16-18) The Scriptures also told us that, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (verse 19, emphasis mine)

In this maddening world of great technology, busyness became an advent of excuse to miss out the most important things in life. I realized, as I was reading this story, God will show Himself to those who are willing to seek Him and to see Him. In the extravagance that this season seem to offer, are we willing, like these shepherds, to, as if, “leave the flock” by magnifying WHO really matters this season? Are we willing to also tell others about the Good News that has come to this world? Are our hearts prepared to worship, glorify and to praise God not just because of what we have seen, or what God has done but because of who He is? 

God will show Himself to those who are willing to seek Him and to see Him.

Christmas season is not about the lavishness of this season, nor the grandiose efforts we put into it, but in the realization that in all these things, there is Someone who matter above them all — that is having Jesus Christ and Him being the center of why we celebrate these things. Nothing else matters; everything else is but a reward. It will not be Christmas without CHRIST. 

Thank You, LORD Jesus Christ for coming from heavens to earth. Thank You for being our greatest gift! Thank You for bringing Light in this world full of darkness. 

It will not be Christmas without CHRIST. 

 

To my friends from here and abroad, a joyful and peaceful (advance) Merry CHRISTmas to you!

Ten Days: A Week After

 

team-vn-at-the-dragon-bridge

Disclaimer: This will be a lengthy one. 

It has been a week. 

Last week, as of writing this, at this time, we were at the renowned Singapore Changi Airport having our late lunch of chicken rice, laksa, Subway Chicken Tandoori sandwich or some muffins. A few hours back in Manila, we had our last Filipino breakfast meal (I remembered having sausages, poached eggg and fried rice that day) then later questioned by the Filipino immigration officer why and where were we staying in Da Nang, Vietnam. (Although with trepidation, I knew, we would be able to answer their questions with confidence! Galing ni LORD, eh!) 

I remembered the feeling of anticipation coupled with excitement and nervousness. But then again, I knew, too even before hand, that God went ahead of us already. He was the One who prepared the way for us. 

It was He who divinely appointed each one of us into one goal — that is, to share His message of great love and hope to the people of Da Nang — without us also realizing that God has His own special mission in our hearts. 

It has been a week of memories being brought back alive by the fact that reality, in truth, bites back. After two weeks of being together, the truth remains that I am a mere government employee; I work an 8am-5pm job and I am a Filipino (I almost dreamt being a Vietnamese, haha!) by nationality and by blood to the core. 

Yet, looking back, only by His grace would have been these things made possible. 

It was He who divinely appointed each one of us into one goal — that is, to share His message of great love and hope to the people of Da Nang — without us also realizing that God has His own special mission in our hearts. 

This journey is a story of many firsts for us. As for me, there are a lot of good memories to look back to 2016; still, this trip will always be a highlight.

Writing this brings tears to my eyes, really. Staring at those photos and then reminiscing what went through behind them makes me realize that I not only have new found friends. In each one of you is a family. Thank you for the time we spent together. It will always be a pleasure serving together with you. 

kuya-john-and-ate-joyce

Kuya John and Ate Joyce, I thank you for your leadership. God is mindful for sending the two of you to lead us in this mission journey. Aside from your leadership, your love for each other will always be included in my #relationshipgoals. I hope, one day, I will also find a partner who has the same, if not, more passion and love for God, for His people and for the nations.  Your testimony, from the time you were both single until now that you are happily married, is a blessing and something I would like to emulate, too in the near future. 

Kuya John, the first time you interviewed me for Ten Days, I knew how blessed am I for having you as our team leader. Your passion for God and His Word always reminds me to do the same. Thank You for your patience with us. I know how trying it might be to have an all-female team. I am grateful for you always never let us lose sight of the goal of why we were called to this mission trip. Likewise, thank you for showing us your “other side” — the cool, adventurous, nerdy one. I appreciate the fact that you never hindered us to be daring in trying out a lot of things in Vietnam — from riding at the back of a motorbike (with proper helmet, of course!) to eating out Vietnamese delicacies (from shrimps to frogs to snails, etc. Sayang! We did not see crispy crickets or locusts. I bet, we tried that as well, hehe!). Thank you for being not just our “Kuya” for two weeks, but sometimes, a “Dad” as well (remember the time you allowed me to travel in motorbike going to Hoi An? You just told me, “It’s okay ; just be careful. Wear your helmet.”). Always being mindful of our whereabouts, it showed how a great father you would be in the future. We are looking forward to see little  “Johns” and “Joyces” in the future. 

Ate Joyce, your administrative skills is noteworthy. From the requirements we need to accomplish to our team budget to finding the most affordable flights and hotel accommodations for our team, you did it with such excellence and grace. I admire you for that. Thank you, too for being an attentive and gracious listener (remember back at Cong Cafe? I almost cried pouring out my heart to you, haha!). Your timely and wise advise  will always be something I will carry in my heart. Thank you for being there when I do not know whom to talk to. I hope I can bond and talk with you more in the future. 

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I always thank the LORD for having you, Sheen, as my buddy and room mate for the last two weeks. It was fun being with you almost everywhere. I can see a passionate and joyful woman in you. I know you will make a great campus missionary back home. Thank you for being like a “little sister” to me. Hearing your stories when you decided to go full time in the ministry always serves as an inspiration for me as well. I see your love for the people, your unwavering energy, your practical thoughts in life, your love for your family and your inner beauty (Aba eh, kaypalad ni Inan sa iyo! ). Thanks for always reprimanding me not to eat shrimps, in spite of my anti-allergy meds at my bag’s pocket (I truly appreciate your concern!) I love you, Buddy Sheen! I hope to be in the same team with you some day soon! 

nosie

Your humility and your leadership is outstanding, Norie!  You could have as well take the lead in our exhortations for the prayer meetings back in Da Nang, but then you willingly take the back seat and let other people “shine”.  Thank you for showing a different side of you back in Vietnam — your hearty laughter, the not-so-serious one, the lady with thought-provoking questions, the photographer and the actor (naks! Yan, eh after nating mag-photoshoot sa ilalim ng mainit na araw sa Dragon Bridge). Your heart for the people as well as your love for God is always visible with the way you engage with people. I hope to work with you in the mission field again. 

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Elaine, you will always be our team’s Miss Harmony. Thank you for sharing your laughter, your love for adventures, great landscapes and photos and your love for life. Your energy and wit is always amazing. Thank you for always reminding us of our schedules (Yes, you may never noticed that but I really appreciate it!) and for always being optimistic about almost everything. Your prayers are always heartfelt. Thank you for sharing a part of your life back in Vietnam. I look forward for more bonding times with you back here in the Philippines, and to be with you on the same team again! 

 

 

These photos are not enough to say how grateful am I being with you in this wonderful, unforgettable journey. Thank you for teaching me things in life, leadership, humility, kindness and A LOT in between! Thank you for sharing a part of you. It will always be something that I will carry in my heart and will tell my future children, that once, I stepped out in faith with such great people like you. 

team-vn

Until our next journey, Team Xin Chao!! 

The Afterthoughts

danang-2

Dear Da Nang, 

It has been four days since I stepped back to my real hometown. Once again, I savor the usual commotion of the almost long-forgotten Manila noise and traffic. 

Still, the memories, the places, and the people still linger.

I miss all of them. 

It seems like those twelve days I was with you is a dream — one that captured my eyes and my heart — which transpired like fairy dust. Being with you is a bittersweet experience. It was enough to build memories and friendship, but short enough to say goodbyes. It left me longing to be with you and once again, see how every place and people remind me of how gracious the Author of my life and Creator of the universe is. 

You taught me valuable lessons in life, Da Nang. These lessons, which life graciously gave me, were the ones worth keeping. Thank you for opening my eyes to the wonders beyond the comfort zones I know. I saw your beauty in a different light — one that tarried in my heart and mind — which was a diamond waiting to be polished by His Almighty hands. 

Whenever I remembered looking at the vastness of your skies, I remembered thanking God for setting my foot in a land that was – and still is – rich in history, arts and culture yet hungry for His Word. 

I long to see you again, Da Nang but I know, one day, in His perfect timing, my heart will not long for you anymore.

I will, once again, see your blue skies tainted with white clouds, your mountain embracing the vastness of the sea, your people teeming with friendly warmth, your gastronomic cornucopia, your adventures waiting to be discovered, your rich history and culture that felt like my own, your struggles and your victories and everything else in between. 

My heart may be restless to see you now; still, I will wait. 

. . . I know, one day, in His perfect timing, my heart will not long for you anymore.

I will always carry you in my thoughts and prayers. 

I may go to different lands afterwards, yet I know, you, Da Nang, has already etched such place in my heart. 

Until I see you again. . . 

To the 500 Days with You

500 Days of Summer

Now, I am saying goodbye to the great what ifs of yesterday.

I bid farewell to those childlike hopes and dreams — one that seemed to reach the stars and the moon overhead. Perhaps, I am waxing poetic to the fact that once, I realized that I was not as apathetic as I used to be.

With you, I realized that I could be vulnerable because I allowed you to strip me open of my innate thoughts, of my fears, of my simple joys and happiness, of the shallowness that I often masked with my indifference from others. You see, in a season of my life, I allowed one person — that was you, my dear — to break down the fortress of my sheltered life. I allowed you to see the hurts and pains of my life’s dissatisfaction, the unrelenting inspirations while having meaningful conversations, the passionate way I speak to something that captured my psyche, the song I sing and the poems I write through the rollercoaster of emotions that I hid and carried. You saw a different side of me which, almost, nobody did — the unsuspecting, free-spirited, weird, melodramatic, happy, complicated me.

You’ve seen a part of me that was broken, shielded only by that fact that more than anything else, my soul cried out — and still is — to the Maker of the stars and the heavenly I gazed at every night (except when it was too cloudy or when it rained).

You see, a life with you then was a life filled of inspirations, of unexpected surprises, of dreams untold, of love, of expectations waiting to be turned to reality.

That is, until reality sank in.

When such distance divided us — the intangible to the tangible, the real from the tales, the you and I (or the “us” that was never be) — that was when, in my perspective, colors faded and pains shattered the glass-like dream of us being together.

That is, until reality sank in.

 

I carried your heartinto my heart, but you chose to take yours away, leaving me dancing in the smithereens of such brokenness, of shards of glass flying nowhere in dreamland.

You left me in the tangled daze of confusion, of self-anger, of not believing in the pretend magic that used to be ours…alone. You left me longing for the warmth of hand that used to envelope mine.

You said, “I’m sorry”, but t’was too late.

It was because there was never an us, dear — it was only you; it was only I.

The dream faded; I did, too in the aftermath.

Until, sunshine broke.

A hand lifted me up; strong arms carried me tenderly and a soft whisper encouraged me to let go and to forgive. It was difficult, I must tell you. It was more difficult to say goodbyes to the dreams, to the failed expectations and to the great what ifs of our brief life together.

Yet, I had to because letting you go is the best way to love you, not in my eyes but His. To let you go means I am also allowing you to grow deeper in the love of our Father in Heaven.

It hurts, yes. There are still remnants of pains in my heart from time to time, yet I know that I am freed from my own disappointments and expectations. I hope — and that is my prayer — that your heart will be filled with His love, the way He did in my wandering, hurtful moments.

. . . letting you go is the best way to love you, not in my eyes but His. To let you go means I am also allowing you to grow deeper in the love of our Father in Heaven.

I learned that the best way to love is to forgive, that life continues even if a part of you seems ramshackle and you feel falling in a bottomless pit of despair, that there is always hope to the lost and the broken, to the longing and the forlorn.

I was there, my dear.

Now, I am free again — to write, to dream, to love and to forgive, to give grace and mercy, to run, not in endless circles but in the race set before me, and win. Yes, I lost you; however, I gain redirection and focus to the things, moments and people who also matter.

It’s not just you.

In my lost and brokenness, I realized one thing: there is a greater love which can only fill the expanse of my heart’s vacuum. It’s a Love Who came down from Heavens and died for my freedom’s sake.

Now, I dance in such freedom and in the second chance of life. .  .

Today, I bid farewell to the lost girl and welcome a new me: the Creator’s adored princess, God’s chosen — redeemed and brought from death into life.

Until we meet again, my dear . . .

From Death into Life

holding hands

Last month, after coming home from a memorial service, I came home with a feeling in between melancholy and hope. It reminded me a lot of things about death  . . . and life.

Truly, death is the greatest equalizer. It is what keeps every man – young or old alike, rich or poor – to grasp the brevity of this life.

In this lifetime, we try to make things last through creating memories, which tie us all into something quite fleeting yet powerful enough to change and to make us look back and be grateful, no matter how short-lived or how enduring it may be.

Memories, no matter how poignant or how simple they are, create a lasting impact. 

As I write this, the recollection of that memorial service gives me such glimpse of God’s grace thru the bereaved family’s stories. Somehow, I realized, to be able to smile and to still thanks the LORD in spite of grief is a showcase of His love, grace and mercy. It is the outpouring of His love that enables someone to truly recognize that in times of sorrow, one can still be grateful of the LORD.

Honestly, what moved me into tears was when my friend retold the story of how she clung on to her late husband’s hand (even after the doctors pronounced him dead). To cling on to the warmth of a love one’s hand even after he or she is gone is…intangible. I guess, there are moments which submerge one’s soul into speechlessness. Or perhaps, it is another proof of how God also reached out to us in terms of our vulnerability and mortality.

In a sense, I realized, God holds on to us even after we are, spiritually, dead. From the beginning, God knows that to be freed from spiritual death itself, a sacrifice has to be made. In His abhorrence of sin, God the Father demands that it must be justified through death, through a perfect sacrifice. Yet, in the illogical manner that set such sacrifice withstanding, God the Father send His begotten Son, Jesus, to die for the sins He did not commit and to pay the penalty that should have been ours.

It was Jesus Christ who atoned for mankind’s sins and was imputed the punishment and the curse that should have been ours. In this great exchange, Christ’s righteousness became ours. Jesus Christ bore our shame through his death on the Cross.

Is it finished?

Yes.

Mankind’s salvation is a freely given gift — one that died for our freedom and broke the chains of our inquities and our unworthiness. It begins when we only trust Jesus Christ ALONE for our salvation. Nothing else. What a gift it is, indeed!

I guess, real life begins when we understand its brevity and the greatest act of God’s love. How ironic, though, when one Man’s death actually commences new life — a life that is hope-filled and secured. It is a life which can still thank the LORD despite the pains because no matter how quick our life span be, our greatest hope is anchored to the One who gave us everything — Jesus Christ.

Free Scripture Verse 1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.