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Archive for the tag “love”

Shame, the Condemning Teacher

There’s this friend that I haven’t seen for a very long time. I couldn’t even remember the last time I spoke to her, until one night she called me and we had the best conversation, talking about mistakes and how God has been teaching us the value of humility.

I never knew that God can use my pain from the past and the shame caused by my arrogance to reconnect with a long lost friend. Years ago, I experienced rejection after rejection. I jumped from one job to another.

No job was good enough for me. I blamed everyone for everything. I quit anytime I want even if it meant causing my company trouble. I just didn’t care.I’m good at what I do. That’s all that matters, I told myself. It was only a matter of time ’til the consequences of having a proud attitude found me at my weakest point.

I wish I didn’t have to go through it all. I wish I listened to my parents and saved myself the disgrace and pain of being kicked out of a job. I wish I had corrected my attitude earlier. I wish I didn’t gone far out from God. But the amazing thing is, God can use my pain to connect and minister to others, who are going through the same thing.

It is only by God’s grace that my experience can also serve as a warning plan to teach others not to go through the same mistakes. I haven’t had a talk like that with my friend since we became friends. But I trust that by the time we hung up the phone, she knew that she has a friend to whom she can confide with without any fear of judgment and condemnation.

I pray that through my story, she will also learn that God loves those whom he disciplines and that brokenness is not the end but a start to discover and emulate the humility displayed by Jesus Christ.

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore. Psalm 51:17

When the soul has laid down its fault at the feet of God, it feels as though it had wings. -Eugenie de Guerin

“Follow your heart.” But should I really?

Three long years have passed by since Mark and I spoke to each other.

In that three long years, I knew that God had been disciplining me. He’s been revealing to me gems of wisdom that I wouldn’t have known had I continued on from one displeasing relationship to another. But despite of the many problems and humbling turn of events that I had to go through, I’d still say that these single years were good only because God is with me.

But, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

A few hours before the year 2015 began, my mother reprimanded me about how I’ve failed to move on from the past. Of course, this was met with great indignation. I was in denial. I was afraid that the consequences of my disobedience and my impure relationships are just right in the corner, waiting for the most opportune time to get me.

But God, by His mercy and grace, is patient and loving. He led me to this verse from Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

From that point on, I resolved to fight the fears I had in my mind and the condemnation I felt. I also made a decision to repress my thoughts about Mark; no more questions like “Is he thinking of me?” “Will there ever be a second chance for us?”

Then one late afternoon, a few months after I made my resolution, Mark (after his three years of absence in my life) sent me a message. I wish I could say I handled it very well, that I was able to hold up with some grace and poise to welcome a man whom I think deserves neither my love nor friendship. That could have been a fine anecdote. But that didn’t happen.

I was not prepared for this. I have conditioned myself that he will never again become a part of my life. That was his choice anyway; a choice, which I believe was forced upon me at the time.

The bittersweet memories of the time we shared together rushed in, from the very first time I met him to the last hateful message I got from him. The fast cut-to-cut sequence that tossed me in waves of confusion and anger overwhelmed me.

It took me by surprise to know that I still want this man to be a part of my life even if we’ve been separated for so long. I never really believed in getting back together; what’s the point of going through all the motions of desiring to move on, only to let your peace and joy be taken away the second time around. But for him…I want him to be the exception.

My struggle to keep my composure took so much energy. I love him and I want to keep him at a close distance as much as possible–a safe length where I can still keep my heart guarded, while being friends with him. But the problem is…

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

How sure am I that this will be good for us? I was down that road before, executing my own love story before God could even direct it.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

This inner conflict has shown me my own irresponsibility and flaws as well. If I were to put aside the fact that he is an unbeliever and put myself under the microscope, I’d see myself as a total wreck, unfit for the sort of commitment that I have been longing to have. Here I am wanting a man to commit to me–a commitment that can only be expected from marriage–while I, myself, couldn’t even do the same.

Through our week-long conversation, I had a glimpse of what our future could have been, say if we married each other without laying the foundation of our relationship in Jesus Christ. They said that your marriage can either be heaven or hell on Earth. And the latter was the picture that was painted before me as we go up and about our unsettled past and issues.

Even if I were to believe his love for me and my love for him, I saw how it can never be enough to support our relationship. I saw that without the love and grace poured out by Jesus through the cross, we shall never connect to the pains and needs of one another. I couldn’t bring myself to understand him and vice versa.

And how can he see Jesus amid the pain, anger and indecisiveness I hurled back at him? How could he see through the compromise I made years ago, when I suppressed my faith just so I could be with him? Thinking about it, how ironic that in choosing him over Christ, I have lost him.

We ended our week-long conversation as enemies. I wish I could have done everything differently. Be kinder, be more patient, more forgiving. Be the light by which he is able to see God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

But this is how it should be for now, so I could learn, perhaps: to let go and to stop acquitting myself; just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean that I had no part, no role to play in this failed relationship. I am as guilty and at fault as he was.

The only consolation I could get from us parting (yet again) is the hope that I could turn all that I have learned into wise application; the hope that wherever he maybe, God will find him and bring him into His loving arms.

Ours is a story that started in the shallow plot of boy-meets-girl set on the flaky world of music and movies. And has any of it–the chemistry, the similarities, the romance, the perfect date night, the little black dress, the perfect kiss, his sweet short posts on my timeline, the efforts, the laughter, that one long night of warm embrace–mattered in the end? How could I have missed the most important element, that is Jesus Christ?

 

The Only Question that Matters: Was It All Done with Love?

I began to lead a group of single women a year ago, but the group eventually dissolved. Leading people to Christ gave more pressure on me than pleasure. I should have felt more privileged because it is indeed an honor to be used by God for the expansion of His kingdom. But I was trying too hard back then to please people. I was more concerned with trivial, unimportant things like wanting to be liked or be more eloquent in my speech. The focus was on me and not on God. It came out to be more like a burden than a gift.

Then a year later, God gave me another opportunity to lead a group of single women from a retreat. This time, I made sure that I brought with me the lessons of last year’s failed attempt to disciple. So I let God move, stepping one level forward or backward as He commanded. I tried to shrug off of my mind the pressure of discipleship and of wanting to have good “fruits”. I learned that bringing people closer to God is all about building relationships.

After the retreat, our group took off. It fared well, I guess, for a few months. God provided plenty of rooms to improve our relationships. But the thing with relationships, everyone is vulnerable. Pretensions can only go too far. Sooner, your true character will fill in the holes and eventually you will be known for who you really are, no matter how hard you try to hide your flaws and character defects. Too bad for me, my bad temper found me.

I haven’t given much thought about how people from different backgrounds with different attitudes and struggles may clash with one another. I was all on cloud nine, thinking what a fresh start it was for me. I didn’t think of the cost it’s gonna take for me to protect and care for my group.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? Luke 14:28

So it happened… That while my disciple and I were exchanging e-mails about her struggles, we got into a heated conversation that spiraled out of control because I yielded to my impatience and irritability.

It started with me giving her an advice,which she took the wrong way, impelling her to retort in a manner that was rather rude to me. I felt in me a very strong urge to fight back. So without considering how God wants me to handle the situation, I replied tersely, allowing my irritation to get the best of me. I even suggested that she consider moving to another group. I was rationalizing my reaction by citing Scriptures that will prove how right I was and how wrong she was.

But does it really matter who’s right and wrong? Does it matter how many Bible verses I support the argument with? What was the most important thing I should have considered while dealing with the situation? From giving the advice to fighting back? What did I miss?

I consulted a friend and through her, God channeled His wisdom, gently rebuking me and pointing out what I did wrong. Over the phone, she recited this beautiful verse from 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

How can I have missed on love? When I shot that angry e-mail at her, was it driven by love? Was any of my action rooted from love? When I gave her an advice, did I do it out of love?

Honestly, I felt obligated to give her an advice; I was afraid that she will see me as an incompetent leader who couldn’t even shed light to her problem. These thoughts and feelings only lasted for a brief moment but little did I know that these little “wickedness” in me have began to pile up, becoming a hard-bound book that influences my actions.

I failed to count the cost…And what is the cost that I must be willing to give to every person that God brings into my life: the cost is love, patience, humility, self-control, gentleness…

From the onset, my focus on myself shows how absent love was in my hopes to sustain my group. I am reminded by what Dannah Gresh said in her book Get Lost: we don’t win people by being right. We win people through love. It is all that matters.

Once Ashamed to Stand Up for Jesus

I’ve just finished watching God’s Not Dead.
God's_Not_Dead
I am one for cinematic, breath-taking and critically acclaimed movies and I won’t pretend that God’s Not Dead is one of them. Yet it’s moved me to do one of the most important things one can ever do in life: first is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and second, which I would emphatically talk about, is to proclaim the good news to the whole world.

There are no accidents in life. Like the multiple mentions I gathered today on Matthew 10:32 is no coincidence. It was one the verses used in the movie to move the protagonist named Josh Wheaton to go face-to-face with his professor as the defendant and the rest of his class as the jury and convince them that–well, God’s not dead.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

And the truth is I have been a lukewarm Christian, avoiding discussions about Jesus most especially with my parents. I couldn’t take that risk, that leap of faith. I have been a coward. And this movie showed me the kind of mediocre faith I profess.

This quote from C.S Lewis produced the same effects on me as it did on Josh.

“Only a real risk tests the quality of a belief.”

So I asked myself, “What real risk have I taken for Jesus?” Francis Chan said in his book Crazy Love, “Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God.”

To think that I pride myself for being a risk-taker. When I am asked about the few good qualities that I possess, I would unabashedly answer risk-taker. But I couldn’t take losing my face, losing everything for Jesus. How can this be when all there is in life only points out to Him? What good am I if not to give my 100% to the one true King?

A month ago, I volunteered to usher for a photo exhibit that the Missions ministry in our church organized. And I read in that exhibit that according to statistics, everyday, 100,000 people enter eternity without Christ; one-third of the people in the world do not even know a Christian who could tell them about Jesus. It was good research but my stance remained the same: I have to wait until my life embodies and mirrors what a true Christian really should be. But when is that perfection going to happen?

I have been hiding behind my pretentious rationale while millions of people live and die as a lost sheep.

I ought to do better for the One who died and gave up His life for me.

Love After Valentine’s Day

Is it always a good time to talk about love? I didn’t really expect me to talk about such a mystical and yet ubiquitous subject matter like love but I got quite a handful of readings about it the other day, which I intend to share with everybody.

I’m reading the book Inferno for the second time. As I was going through Canto V, where one of the most celebrated writers in history, Dante Alighieri, illustrated the damnation the lustful suffers in hell, these lines caused me to pause for a little bit so I decided to read it over and over again:

Love, that can quickly seize the gentle heart, took hold of him because of the fair body taken from me—how that was done still wounds me.

Love, that releases no beloved from loving, took hold of me so strongly through his beauty that, as you see, it has not left me yet.

Love led the two of us unto one death.

Such beautiful composition! Aren’t they?

Then I remembered that for this week I’m actually studying the life of Rachel, Jacob’s second wife. And her story tells us of a predicament about love—presently a cliche—the love triangle. It was Rachel whom Jacob loves and adores but Leah had him first; it was her who bore Jacob his first sons. God sees the unloved Leah as He sees the barren Rachel, and both He blessed (Genesis 25 – 35).

All these make me wonder. Do any of us in this world know what love really is? Are all the definitions we have assumed, reflected, analyzed through the course of our experiences enough to grasp its full meaning?

Relationships isn’t really my strength. In fact, I already had six failed relationships and currently have several complicated ones with family and friends. I discovered that love is too big a word for me that I could never truly understand it apart from what Jesus did on the cross. The thought of love without God, without knowing who He really is is an impasse, a dead end. Love is too incomprehensible because that is who God is.

It is funny that as I think of ways to end this post, I found out that the devotional I read today was wrong. I accidentally advanced to the next chapter. But it did provide me a fresh insight about God who has purposefully plotted all the details of my life. I skimmed through the page that I was supposed to read today and I truly felt God’s love speaking to me.  Earlier this week, I was being skeptic about Genesis 30:22 that says, “God remembered Rachel; He listened to her and opened her womb.” And I felt dismayed because to me it implied that God forgot about Rachel, but I am wrong. To prove that He listens to my thoughts, He answered me straight to the point and with such great humor and love; my devo reads:

God remembered Rachel, but He had never really forgotten her. When the Bible uses the word remember, it doesn’t mean that God forgets and then suddenly recalls. As if the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe suddenly hits his forehead with the heel of His hand and says, “Oops! I forgot all about Rachel. I’d better do something quickly!”

No, when the Bible says God remembers something, it expresses God’s love and compassion for His people. It reminds us of God’s promise never to abandon us or leave us without support or relief. He will never forsake us. He will never forget us. He will always remember us. (Source: Women of the Bible, Spangler and Syswerda)

To give my short musings about love a perfect ending, let me part not with happily ever after but with this verse from Luke 1:49 which to me is equally romantic:

The Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.

Descending to an Ascent

There is no better day to revive what has been lost than new year’s day. It’s time that I descend from my usual state of fear and doubt so I can break into a new ascent. Today is a great day to revive hope and passion… 🙂

To start off madweord’s 2014 is this light movie, The Descendants. It is emotionally charged with charm, fun, and sadness. I wasn’t really a fan of George Clooney; not the type who was taken by his Ocean’s 11 cunning cleverness. I so thought–even after watching Up in the Air–that he is one of those whose reputation and alarmingly charming personality obscure poor acting skills, shallow characterization to boot. In this movie, however, a great piece of writing came to an elated state of art with Mr. Clooney taking a role of a cuckold, that is very much played with acute and precise depth.

So much to digest like love, betrayal, death, grief, family, and a great inheritance of a land–which now makes me think which among the possessions we have in life can we really call inheritance–all these issues are in the grasp of a talented cast; this movie gave me more than what I have expected from a neglected and old DVD stored in one of the plastic drawers at my parents’ house.

Now to all my weord readers, munch some popcorn while you watch director Alexander Payne’s The Descendants.

The Descendants

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