Friday, October 21, 2016

Just Because.

Two, simple, everyday language kind of words: just and because. I’m not even talking about the just of justice. I’m talking about the adverb we use all the time, the just that means: simply. And I’m not going to start talking about because, because you know what it means.

And yet the power they behold once put together into a phrase: just because

I’ve heard it too many times. Just because.. 

You are a woman, therefore you are weak. 
You are of a certain race, therefore you don’t belong. 
You are not a size zero, therefore you are to be ashamed. 
You are single, therefore you are to be pitied. 
You dress in a certain way that’s different, therefore you are ugly. 
You are not as rich, therefore you are less and below others. 
You have done many bad things, therefore you are unworthy to be loved.
You messed up, therefore you are a disgraceful mess.

It goes on, and on, and on.

An endless chant of shame, of rejection, of envy and of guilt. It’s too loud and clear, the message our world is telling our generation is this: 

Just because you are being exactly who you are, 
therefore you will never be enough

And the worst part of it all, I believe the extension of the message goes to say that: Since you will never be good enough, you are to do your best to be someone else that is already accepted and leave who you are at rest. 

I was a part of that just because, and in fact I still fall into it many times. And I’m saddened by how powerful these statements can be when spoken over people’s self-worth and identity. Because they are not true. Because they are simply an expression of how broken and disappointed our world has become, how desperate we are to encounter a love that nullifies all the pain humanity has come to know. 

For me, in my walk with Christ, I come to learn there is only one just because that has the right to rule over my life. For me, it sums up the kind of position I should take in times of calamities and uncertainties, which is to be at rest and know God is in control. And that just because is this: 

Just because God loves me, therefore I have all I need. 
(John 3:16; Psalms 23:1)

I wonder if we start to walk our lives with the mindset that we are valued and accepted by an unfailing, unending love. Replace the world’s common just because(s) with God’s truth and promises. Turn our complains into cries of prayer and acts of worship. If we do this, I know for sure that what was an endless chant of shame, will become an endless declaration of grace. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Shame Train.

I am amazed at what shame can do. 

And to some extend, I’m no longer surprised by it. Shame is very powerful. It screws with the core of who we are, convincing us that we should hide ourselves because who we are is not worthy. In my personal walk, shame has clouded me with feelings of inadequacy, discontent and ugliness. I’m sure there are still many more to mention, but these three are sufficient to show how bad shame can be. 

For past few weeks, I couldn’t write. Or maybe I could, but my writing pieces have lost its soul. I couldn’t sense the honesty behind it anymore. It was difficult to break the barriers and bring my own heart to the surface, because I was already scared to find out what would emerge to the surface before the first word came out. And I think recently, I figured out why: I was writing from 

I thought that shame would only stop me from sharing to others what I’ve written. But I was wrong. Shame convinced me that it was better for me to write for others with my heart closed. Hidden from any exposure that would allow people to see me for me. 

Now the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes. Because I couldn’t see who wins when I stop creating art. I couldn’t see who benefits if I stop writing. I couldn’t see how not opening up, and producing writing pieces that are lacking substance and passion, can actually speak to other people. It doesn’t make sense. What shame is doing to me makes no sense. 

There are so many verses in the Bible that point us to understanding who we are in Christ. I won’t list them here, but here are three things I came to learn: 
  1. We are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm139:14)
  2. Shame was a result of sin, not a part of us (Genesis 3:7)
  3. We have been set free from shame by the blood of Jesus (Romans 8:1)
I’d like to think that once this realization comes, I can breakaway from shame that easily. I thought wrong. To be honest, I think I am still somewhere lost in the train station. Off the shame train, but not fully on freedom train yet. Or perhaps, I’m not even off the shame train. Perhaps the train has just stopped, and I’m still standing on the door, wondering if I have confidence to get off the train. Unsure if I have enough courage to embrace freedom once again. 

But then again, isn’t this what we go through every single day? A daily decision to get on the right train, so that we will arrive at the right destination, closer towards our God-given purposes. 

I don’t want to hide, I hope you don’t too. 

Matthew 5:14

"You are the light of the world--like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Memory Lanes.

The past few weeks have been unlike others because of one thing: I went to my old university twice. I know it doesn't sound as grand and as "ground-shaking" as you would hope it to be, but it really was for me and one of my best friends. 

We both were tired from work and life in general, so we needed some fresh air and company. Which meant, it was supposed to be a normal Wednesday night out. That is, until we decided to go for a 40-minute drive, all the way to our university for dinner (Can you believe it?! Just for dinner? We still can't!!). 

It was one of the best night-outs ever! Like I'm not kidding. We ate all sorts of street food that we used to eat when we were still students and they tasted so good! We explored places we used to walk around to, just to see how much they have changed or stayed the same. We met janitors and workers we used to say "hi" to everyday. And there were so many other things that got us going "Oh my goodness!", "Look!" and "Didn't we used to....?". I don't even know how to list them all. It was like every step felt familiar and foreign at the same time, as if this was possible. It was crazy!

So many things stayed the same. I bet the food tasted the same. The streets, though they were renewed, fixed and upgraded by better building materials, they were still the same lanes. So many pieces remained as they were, but the experience was the complete opposite of how we used to feel about college. How could it be, the things that we once hated, desperately wanted to be over with, has now become a source of a joy so pure and so overwhelming? 

Did we miss something? 

Or perhaps they changed, but we were just oblivious to the fact that they did change?

What happened?

I think it wasn't the things that changed. We were the ones changed. It had a lot to do with us. It had everything to do with seeing the glass half full or half empty. Reflecting on it, God reminded me of a verse from Romans 12:2 that said: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

The way we think changes a lot of things. The way we think can turn a tragedy into the best lesson ever learned. The loss of a loved one into the best healing process God has ever allowed to happen. A broken past into the most valuable testimony of God’s plan and purposes. The way we think can turn mundane, seemingly pointless things into things that make a difference. It can turn things we hate into things of joy. 

It’s amazing what a healed heart can see. It’s almost as if we were too clouded by our own discontent that we missed out on all the joy we could have experienced, if only we let God in and embrace His process earlier. But then again, God knows what’s best. There’s a reason why we are where we are now, and why we become who we have become now; not then, not later. 

I say cheers to our memory lanes and to God who always, always, make every part of our lives work together for our good! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dancing Queen

I can’t dance. 

Well, of course it depends on our definition of what qualifies as dancing. Because I guess, technically I can, but not the kind where you dance like an actual dancer, ya’ know! It’s more like I can move and be on beat at the same time. Or like, I can sway and move my feet, shake a little, hands in the air and sing along, yeah that kind of dance. 

The reason why I want to talk about dancing is because recently, I have been listening to a lot of dance music (like a lot!). And I notice that when I put them on, I find myself dancing a little to the beat. It’s a lot of fun (especially when I am with my best friends, driving somewhere in the car, or in our bedrooms, or basically just about anywhere as long as we are together.)! It’s almost as if nothing mattered in the gap of those few minutes of the song, except who I am with, the song itself and the fun we are having. And just like that, God reminded me about the way He works in our worst days. 

I agree, that perhaps from certain angles, the analogy of dance music and God might be a little too far off from each other (or maybe not, it’s really up to you!). But think about it, God did say that we can find joy in the midst of our difficult times. That with Him, it is possible for us to simply have our whole world come crashing down, but our hearts full of joy, dancing to the sound of His praises. Isn’t this what we declare in the lyrics of our praises? That we will worship Him no matter what, that joy is found in God’s love and faithfulness, not in our external situations?

And I have to say, this is what worship does, isn’t it? When we get lost in worship, when we lose ourselves to the truth of who He is, our circumstances become so small and insignificant, compared to His promises and His Words. Our problems and challenges aren’t as scary anymore because we know how big our God is. 

I would never know whether you can actually dance or not. But something tells me that when we get our hearts beating to the right rhythm and singing to the right tune, we’ll find ourselves swaying to the melody effortlessly. In a way that we probably have never done before, but in a way that we know is so much better. 

This is what happens when we dance to the rhythms of Grace, tuning into the truth of God’s love. We’ll find ourselves dancing, not over, but through and in the crowds of problems and calamities that life has to offer. Knowing that no matter what happens, we can rest in His unfailing promises and unconditional love over our circumstances and shortcomings. 

So, care to dance? 

Matthew 11 (The Message)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Little too Late.

I think it’s a gift for all of us to come to a point where we have a dream, we have a vision of how we want our future to look like, and we just can’t seem to shake it off. It’s like that black stain on your white t-shirt that you can’t seem to wipe. And to some extend, it’s almost as if these visions and dreams are both good and bad. It gives us a reason to live, while perhaps at the same time almost suicidal. 

A reason to live is pretty simple, right? Dreams get you excited. When you know where you want to go, you know what steps to take, it makes life somewhat easier (or not! haha). For some of us, that’s still hard to figure out, because we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up. For me, I was blessed to know what I want to do since I was little. I wanted to write books, that’s it. I wanted to write stuff that people will enjoy reading and walk away as a better person from it. And yet even having that vision in mind, I still find myself wondering if I should just quit and do something “normal”. Like working for a big company, or starting a food business (which is what everyone does these days!). 

Because dreaming big hurts too. I know very well the cost we have to bear to pursue our dreams is big. Often times it requires us to give all in, nothing left, holding nothing back. And this process will hurt, we will have to let go of a lot of things. That’s why it’s inevitable for us to feel like we want to quit somewhere along the line. Even looking back, sometimes I still wonder why I started to write in the first place. 

Truth is, it’s not all-fun-in-the-sun to wake up at 4AM for a month or two just to get a draft finished (yes, I’ve done that multiple times!). It’s not fun to say “no” to a night out with your favorite friends just because you had a writer’s block (read here about it) earlier and you still have a deadline to meet. It’s not easy to force yourself to write even though you are having a fever. These are not fun examples, you wouldn’t want to be caught in any of these situations. (Although, keep in mind that on the other side of the story, I still love love love to write!) 

But see, I know I’m somewhere ahead from that first step. I am somewhat years away from my starting line. And knowing that I am in the middle of the journey, that I have sacrificed quite a number of things to get to where I am today, I have even more reasons not to quit. 

So where are you now? I wonder if you are just a step away from becoming everything God has called you to be. Or if you are already in it, being prepared to elevate to your next level. I wonder if all that will take for you to cross your finish line is simple to hang on just a little bit longer, one more lap, one more breath, one more decision not to quit. I wonder if I am that close. But we will never know, I will never know. The only way to find out is to stay and not quit. 

Because wherever you are, I really think it’s a little too late to turn back now. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Learn to Unlearn.

The thing with being in new places is that you're forced to unlearn at a certain level, if that makes any sense. Of course learning is inevitable, but more than ever, I think unlearning is what really makes a difference.

The moment we step into a new place, we are still our old selves. We come with certain perspectives, wired in certain ways. Our old habits and personalities are still there. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, because everyone is somewhat like that and everyone is to some extend pretty stubborn at wanting to keep them that way. But what I find is that the more I let go of what I know about how to function, and unlearn my perspectives, take the risk of not having the perfect day in exchange of possibly a free-chilling-adventurous day, I ended up learning so much.

Simple things as walking slower not to be ahead of everyone else's pace, looking up and around intentionally every few steps to let the surroundings sink in. Making small talks to people I just met, letting other people pick what to order from the menu when we go out to eat. Not setting schedules! It's amazing what you discover in new places when you let yourselves bend you for a bit.

And as I take the time to sit and ponder on this, I find that perhaps this is how God wants us to think too. Because as He call us into His grace, give us new life and start to do things in our lives, we should constantly have our perspectives renewed, right? I'm not saying we should let go of our core values, of our core identity. But I think as we venture to new places, serve in different ministries, get connected to diverse groups of people to share about Jesus, we need to somehow let God bend and shape us to fit what He wants us to become.

Knowing how unlimited and capable God is to do so much, shouldn't we be in a mindset that leaves room for God to be creative? To make miracles beyond what we can imagine? To always (YES, ALWAYS) be surprised and blown away by the ways God just appear out of nowhere, in perfect timing?

I think this is what happens when we go to new places. I think this is what should happen when we step into our new lives. To unlearn from our old selves, making room to learn to become who we need to, ought to and called to be.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Writers' Block.

I don’t get how people say “write through the process” or “you know, if you’re experiencing writers’ block then just write about it”. Because well, first: It’s a block. Dead end. When you don’t know what to write, you can’t write. That’s why you call it a writers’ block. But if you still can write something, you’re not at a block. You’re simply writing something. 


In case you’re confused, a writers’ block is a situation when writers just don’t know what to write anymore. It happens quite often actually. For some of us it happens everyday, or maybe everytime before we’re about to write something. I’ve been having this writers’ block for a while, and it has really disrupt my writing schedules. But what I’ve come to learn is that a writers’ block is simply a state of mind. 

Okay, maybe it’s a little bit more than that. It’s the way we allow our emotions and thoughts to collide and combine into one huge cloud of overwhelming feelings. And it paralyzes because we can’t think straight. Not thinking straight means not being able to organize our thoughts into neat bubbles and lists, and that’s why we can’t write. 

What’s funny about this is I found how the concept of writers’ block is so similar to our relationship with God. Because I find myself on a dead end in my growth spiritually when I allow my feelings and emotions to be my focus, and therefore I can’t see things from God’s perspective. This paralyzes too, because I become dry and confused and lost in vision. But when I get back to training my state of heart to keep looking at what God’s doing, where He’s going, I function very well. And even more, I can write very well too. 

This is why I still believe that inspiration is a divine thing. Because it takes a lot of effort to see things from a different perspective. To find something so insignificant, like an eraser or a shadow of a door, to reflect something deep and meaningful about life. And as artists (especially), it’s such a waste to allow what we think and what we feel to get in the way of this divine process, when we can in fact be at peace and take charge of our hearts (or, for some of us, let the Holy Spirit take charge). 

When we know how to rest our hearts, our minds can think. 
When we can think, we can create. 
When we create, we can inspire. 
When we inspire, we can make a difference. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Make Sense.

This could be one of the most self-centered titles ever for any blog post, but who cares? 

As we all know, a lot of people just don’t make sense. I bet as you read this, you already have names of those so-called “annoying” people in your head. For all it’s worth, it could even be my name popping up among the others. But it’s true, right? Some people (I sure hope it’s not me), just don’t make sense AT ALL. 

There are various reasons why they don’t, let’s look at some of them: 
  1. Immature
  2. Stubborn
  3. Having a bad day 
  4. Grieving
  5. Exams week
  6. Really angry
  7. Really hungry
  8. In love
  9. Just broke up 
  10. Etc. 

I think we all have gone through at least one of them. I can even bet most of us have gone through all of them. And in these moments we do and say things that just don’t make sense. Or perhaps it’s not so much about what comes out from us, but the way we see things. Our perspective suddenly becomes a blur, clouding our judgments and pressuring us to make a collection of unwise decisions. Eventually, we lead ourselves to a pit of shame and guilt and just dark stuff. 

And I love how it annoys people when we don’t make sense, because it’s such a wonderful reminder of how we should function. I believe we should know how to make sense of things. Although we may not know everything, but to some extend we should be able to behave and perceive in a way that is logical and beneficial to ourselves and others. 

How do we do this? I find that for me to ensure that I make sense, that life spins according to how it should spin, is through worship. In my dry-est seasons, the times when I’m so disengaged with God’s plan and purposes that I don’t even know what to have faith in, I find worship to be a place that ties the knot together. And I think it is not rocket science to figure this out, because we humans were made to worship God, weren’t we? We weren’t made to live for ourselves. So the minute we do forget what we’re made of and what we’re made for, the universe will seem to spin in all its chaotic orders. Because in our heads, it’s not in order. But when we worship, we inevitably enter a state of putting God as God, and ourselves as humans fulfilling our purpose: glorifying God. 

I make sense when I consciously worship. It doesn’t mean I sing all the time, but I learn to intentionally make everything about worship. From as simple as saying “hello” to someone, to helping a student pick up a pencil on the floor. It could be anything. But I found that when my heart and mind is focused on worshipping God, what I’m doing and what I’m supposed to do becomes clear. I come alive, I get excited and I don’t annoy people that much anymore. Because for once I finally make sense. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Full Stop.

I can’t say that some writing days are bad. Because as an artist of any kind, I think we bear the privilege to see life from a different perspective. Where no days are necessarily bad, they are just more challenging and less conducive for us to produce art. Having said that, every part that makes that particular day beautiful and ugly are still worth observing, understanding and pondering upon. So, I won’t say that there are such a thing as bad writing days. 

But I do want to pour my thoughts on days when it gets so challenging to overcome this cloud of emotions and facts and just life in general, that the best thing we could put on paper is a full stop. Not even a short paragraph, not even a sentence, not even a word. I don’t even think there’s even a letter that would fit the situation. A comma won’t do because it opens a conversation. A question mark goes the same. An exclamation mark would signify some sort of an attack. A colon, semicolon, apostrophe and the rest just don’t seem to make sense. Except for one: A full stop. 

I love this particular punctuation because it perfectly explains the halt that all artists need to go through. A moment (or moment(s) because they will definitely happen more than once) that allows us to rest and rethink. Recalibrate the reasons we embark on this artistic journey to begin with and start again. Find those deepest parts of us that inspire us in the first place and go from there to, not so much start from zero, but resume what we have paused for the sake of our sanity. 

I think, it’s not just how our minds are wired. How muses, even though they are technically there around us all the time, require a rested mind to go through ourselves and connect the wires in our heads to create something beautiful. It speaks a lot about the way we live. That even in the most in-order, minimum-risk and routine lifestyle, we still somehow need to pause and have a moment of silence. This is when we come clean and be true to ourselves. This is when all the ugly breakdowns, the screaming and roaming around the room feeling sick of reality come in. And when they do come in, the most powerful encounters within us happen. Because we are finally willing to accept the fact that we are at a full stop, in need of a new sentence to resume. A new goal, a new spirit, a new heart. 

And until we accept and embrace our full stops as times in our lives when we are being refilled before we move forward to take another step, we will continue to operate drained, tired and sick of being alive at all. Because we just don’t really see the point at it anymore. But when we do allow the silence to sink in, we begin to slow down. Give ourselves space to make sense of things and listen. 

Psalms 23: 1-3 (MSG)
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath

and send me in the right direction.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Talk about Love.

Unexpected conversations are the best. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love the spontaneous topics that friends bring up on the table, and how one simple question can lead to a whole deal of real talk and heart-to-heart sessions. When I say heart-to-heart, it has nothing to do with sentimental topics, it’s just the kind where you tear a little bit of your skin and show the world who you really are. The things you really think and wonder about, the kind that only certain people know. So, over the course of the past few weeks I have had the privilege to get to know new people and make new friendships. And I have to say, it has been so refreshing to sit down with people I never thought I would ever get to know, and actually hear them share what’s in their heads. 

This week, I was given the honor to hear a friend’s story on how he came to know Jesus through his community. What got me excited and filled with joy was that he decided to believe in Jesus because he saw that love was evident in this community. The way they showed affection to others, to him and to each other moved him. I didn’t get to see and experience first hand the kind of love he experienced in his community. I wasn’t in his community and frankly it wasn’t through community that God encountered me. But, man, love is powerful. Have we forgotten this? Because I have, to some extend. 

I think the church has never been so vocal and upfront about Jesus until this day and age. I think more than ever now we are given the freedom and access to easily proclaim what we believe through so many different channels. And it creates a room for us to move like never before to reach out. Which is amazing, because what the early church needed to do to reach thousands we can accomplish using a click of a button and a bunch of complex-interconnected network. But have we forgotten the true essence of it? That it was never about all the fancy lights and cool songs. It was never about the programs and events. It wasn’t about the size nor the buildings. Not that they don’t matter and I don’t like them. But it’s just, the essence of it. At the core, it was always about one thing: love. 

I wonder sometimes if we are losing our power to reach out because we forgot that the only way for the love of Christ will ever get through to other people is for us to actually love them. And I’m not saying it’s possible for us to truly love them the way Christ would. I mean, HELLO? We are not 100% like Him, yet. We are striving to become more and more like Him everyday, but we are certainly still so far away from being like Christ. But even if we are still miles away from being like Christ 100%, it doesn’t give us an excuse to forget that love is the key. It doesn’t allow us to escape that we (me!), followers of Christ, bear responsibility to at least, give a glimpse of what true love is like. 

If love is patient, then an extra dose of patience will do more than you think it would.
If love doesn’t keep a record of being wronged, then an extra dose of forgiveness can bring a bunch of healing. 
If love always assumes the best out of everyone, then perhaps an extra dose of positive thinking and just a little bit less of prejudice will go a long way. 
If love gives without tire, then perhaps an extra cup of coffee for that friend who is going through a hard day will work its magic. 
And so on. 

I don’t know, there’s too much of love to talk about in just several paragraphs. But I’m all the more empowered to love. It was so encouraging to see friends, who look crazy and wild on the outside, experience a touch of love that brought them to Christ. It was encouraging because it proved that God is real and love is real. That God works in love, with love and through love. 

Yes. Coffee and raw conversations are the best!

Monday, May 9, 2016

So I Keep Calling.

(More poems on Instagram: @levinamo)

Dry season sucks.

Dry seasons are those times when you feel like God is far away. Like He is just not within your reach. It’s like being in a relationship with someone, in good terms, but not knowing how get the call through. Like you miss them so much, but you just don't know how to get to them anymore. Every means of contact seem to fail. All messages unread, phone calls either they don’t get through, or they go to voicemail. (Well, of course this analogy is inadequate to properly picture our relationship with God. Because He is always there and He never leaves us. But, I guess, it’s one of the best analogies I can think of.)

See, as much as I’m having a hard time to understand this, but dry seasons are for real. They are not necessarily all bad through and through, because even dry seasons are used to forge us and shape us to become a lot of things. For example, let’s say God wants to teach us to get serious about our devotionals and private times with Him. But yeah, dry seasons are for real, and they just suck the life out of you. 

For me, dry seasons make me somewhat disoriented and dysfunctional. It messes up my clarity because at times when I feel like a lost puppy in my spiritual walk, I lost sense of where I need to go, what I need to do and what I need to become. Sometimes, I even feel like I don’t know what having faith means anymore. And the crazy thing is, dry seasons for me don’t usually come at the bad times. Often times it comes when life is steady. It’s like that gap when you are sitting down at an amusement park waiting for the next rollercoaster ride to open. And in this gap, you just don’t really know what to do. In my case, I just lose my spirit to wake up in the morning. I can’t really think. I can’t write. I don’t feel inspired and I constantly want to be somewhere else, wherever I am. Because every place doesn’t seem to get me closer to where God is and it distresses me. 

But if God has promised He will never leave us, then He is always there. So, the problem isn’t Him, it’s just us. We are simply, maybe, too clouded with our own emotions, bad days, disappointments, the list goes on. It’s like trying to call someone, but our signal jammed because we are in a place where it won’t pick up reception. Or, maybe we are calling from a place that’s too noisy, that we can’t hear what the other end is saying. Then in this case, until we are at a place where there is good signal and it’s quiet enough to hear, that is when our spirit is in tune with God and the noises of our thoughts and feelings have died down, we will be able to hear Him again. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, and what I think everyone that’s going through a dry season should do too: 

I’m going to keep calling. 

I’m going to hold on to my phone and keep on hitting redial until I can finally hear Him loud and clear once more, until I find flowing water in this desert of my dry season. And I’m going to believe that in this waiting period that seems to go nowhere, my feelings play no part in the fact that God is always taking me somewhere further in His promises.

Deuteronomy 31:6

6 “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

Jeremiah 29:13 

“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bare and Naked.

I was told from a very young age that any piece of writing I produce would always have a piece of me in it. I could try to create 100 completely different fictional characters and at the end of it, every character would still contain a piece of me. Because I can try my best to draw a picture of being in someone else’s shoes, but a the end of it, the only shoes that I would ever have had the chance to walk in is my own. So, I can try to take in someone else’s perspective as the basis of my stories, but in the end that will only be a copy, a reflection. Because the only perspective I will ever get to experience first hand in life is my own. 

I think this applies to not only writers, but artists in general. To create a piece of art that moves, it requires an outpour of heart and soul. Because if what makes your art speaks is the piece of you put in that art, then something needs to be outpoured into your masterpiece for it to actually become one. 

But this outpouring process… man! This isn’t something easy to master. I think “master” is perhaps not the right word to apply in this case. It isn’t something easy to embrace. The thing with outpouring is that, you will have to show who you are in your art. I’m still scared of this a lot of times. It gets me giddy and jittery every time I had to post my poem on my Instagram. Even as I’m writing this blog post, I get nervous still. 

Outpouring is real. And being real can be terrifying. But I have to be real. If I want to write things that really speak to the hearts of many, they need to speak from my heart first. There needs to be honesty, an essence of truth - my truth -  plastered all over my artwork. Which means, I have to show the world a little bit of who I am in every work of art I produce. You have to show the world a little bit of who you are in every work of art you produce. 

A little bit of that person you have grown to love,
a little bit of that shameful past you have been trying to deal with for a while, 
a little bit of your stubbornness, 
a little bit of your fear,
a little bit of your perfectionism, 
a little bit of your insecurity about your weight and appearance, 
a little bit of your hatred towards your arrogant friends, 
a little bit of the dreams you have been wanting to reach since you were a kid, 
a little bit of the things you hate to encounter, 
a little bit of your favorite lyrics,
a little bit of your favorite books, 
and so forth. 

The list is endless. 

To bare this out to the world is no difference than being sort of “naked”. Exposed, out in the open. And for once, to some extend, we reached a point where we are simply vulnerable before the world. Giving the world a chance to enter the parts of our lives we have so dearly kept, only to give them a taste of true art. Crazy, right! What makes our works of art a masterpiece is simply how far we allow our works to get a taste of who we really are. The more of ourselves are poured into it, the stronger it will be when it comes to moving people. 

When I really think about this, I came to this conclusion: That if every piece of art, at the very core, is a display of a part of ourselves, then the better we can showcase what makes us who we are, in a way that is relatable and moving to the world, the stronger our masterpieces will be. 

This outpouring process is a process that we need to embrace as artists of any kind. To be vulnerable and to be okay with everything that makes us who we are, including all the guilt and shame. It doesn’t mean we don’t deal with them, but we simply feel okay to expose them to the world up to a certain extend, just to show that we understand. And that at the end of it, our works of art are mere vessels to give others a voice. To be honest and open about what we feel, what we believe. To be okay with our own skin and to find that being enough simply means accepting the skin you’re in. 

To be real. 

To be bare and naked before the world. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cliches and Growing Up

I have a love-hate relationships with cliches. It’s like things you say that don’t even mean anything anymore. And it’s not because they don’t mean anything, it’s just the fact that it has been used too often. But like I said, love-hate relationship. On the other end of that, is how I still believe that they become cliches in the first place because they are so true to begin with. How else could you overuse something if they have never been used in the first place? 

So, here is a classic of all the classic cliches we have come to know: 

To grow older is inevitable, but to grow up is a choice. 

Highly overused, highly ineffective and to some extend, it has become highly meaningless (especially when said on birthdays!). But, I got the chance to sit down and think about this throughout this week. And I hate to admit, but this is true. I can’t keep myself from growing older in age, but I can make up my mind to grow up. And I don’t know, it just got me thinking even more. If growing up was a choice to begin with, what kind of choices should I make?

This is what I end up with: 

1. Community 

The first decision that grown ups do is to choose the right relationships. They hang out with the right people and they are not afraid to cut off those relationships that are destructive. See, the way I observe it is that the people that I look up to, their communities are so healthy. They get that they need to act as mentors and role models to friends that are way under their age. They get that those who are in fact within the same range of age, are those they should most closely associate themselves with, allowing them to be stretched and shaped together, side-by-side. And the ones that are older, those are their mentors. The people they need to look up to. 

People that grow up know these relationships and they are willing to grow in those relationships. Friendships between junior high kids should be totally different to friendships between college students, and even all the more different to friendships between working people and families. But if we are unwilling to grow up and allow our friendships to elevate, in terms of transparency, support and just being more and more brutally honest about each other (because that’s how the world works!) as you grow older, then what’s the point?

Proverbs 13: 20 (MSG)
Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

2. Perspective. 

The second decision: perspective. People that grow up realize that they need to learn to change their perspective. I think it’s a lot like wearing glasses. So many of us thinks that you can’t adjust your glasses. Technically you can’t, because you have to go to an optician to actually change its sizes. But it is still adjustable. The willingness to change the lenses will change what we see. This is what grown ups do! They understand that the way they see things need to be changed as their age grows. 

The more I observe mature people, the more I see that perhaps what makes them mature at the core is because they assess situations from all possible sense that are outside of themselves, and then at the end of it they close in to a focal point of their own judgment upon the situation. And this focal point matters. Because if they close in too soon, they become a selfish person. But if they don’t close in at all, they will become naive. So, people that want to grow up will do their best to find the balance between how far should they rely on their own feelings and opinions and how far should they let others put a case in point. 

Which, I think, takes a lot of intentional discipline to get there, since we are all selfish, to some extend, at our core. 

Proverbs 28: 25-26 (CEV)
Selfish people cause trouble, but you will live a full life if you trust the Lord. Only fools would trust what they alone think, but if you live by wisdom, you will do all right.

3. Effort

Last one: effort. People in general count the cost of their visions and dreams, but grown ups actually make sure that they have put in enough effort to pay the cost. 

What I love about grown ups is they understand totally where their limitations are and yet they don’t stop doing things to pursue what they want to achieve. And this ranges from just a simple career goal, to a world-size dream. People that grow up know that as their age grow up, the effort they need to put in for their life to work must be greater too. Even Spiderman gets this: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s right! Older, stronger, more knowledgable, more freedom to access so many things and opportunities in life. Of course this comes with a great cost. 

Counting the cost is one thing, because even 5 year-olds can count money. Even little kids know they have to work hard to get somewhere, but only a few are actually willing to work hard for it. What I see is that, for example, they know for a long distance friendship to work, they need to make the effort to catch up. They know that when you are putting the effort to be honest, you will not get in trouble. The list goes on. 

Luke 12:48 (MSG)
Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!

So, apparently you can be entering your mid 50s and still have the mentality of a 5 year-old. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Kobe, Basketball and Other Legends

“If you love the boring,  agonizing process 
then you know you found something true to you” 
-Kobe Bryant-

April 13th, 2016. What a historical day for basketball! The Golden State Warriors broke Chicago Bulls’ record on getting the most wins in a season (73-9). Stephen Curry, perhaps the best player in the league right now, broke the record of scoring his 400s three-point in a single season. And the biggest one of all, is Kobe Bryant playing his very last game with the Lakers, scoring 60 points and a victory over the Utah Jazz (101 -86). 

Man, KOBE. I have no words. I legitimately cried watching him take his last walk into and out from the court for the last time. The speeches and tributes done by other people for him and his final words before leaving the court got me tearing up. I don’t think he could’ve ended his career any better. I think it was a perfect way to exit the game that he has grown to love so much for good. What can I say? I love basketball, I really do.

The first time I was introduced to basketball was when I was in elementary school. I learned that there was a ball that was made to bounce. That you were meant to run and allow it to bounce with you within your hands, as you draw yourself closer to the ring and take a jump to aim for a point. It was the best game ever since. I can’t quite describe it and I was never really that good at it either. But there’s always this adrenaline rush of fitting into the rhythm of the game and just feeling it. Dribbling the ball and shooting it, especially when the ball splashes into the ring. Oh, the sound it makes! It’s one of the greatest satisfactions in life, I tell you. 

So yeah, Kobe retiring got me feeling sad and a bit emotional. But deeper than that, was a feeling of great admiration and inspiration upon this amazing basketball player. I was praying a lot about dreams during this week and watching someone like Kobe Bryant pouring all that he has for something he is passionate about was overwhelming, in the best way I could describe. 

Shouldn’t we all be doing what Kobe did? Shouldn’t we all be pouring our lives for something greater than ourselves? This is what makes him a legend. He understood what it takes for someone to become one. Which is to push through, stay within the process and not give up. Break one standard after another, creating new barriers to break. Legends weren’t made to dream small and remain stagnant in their life accomplishments. Legends also weren’t made to dream big by becoming a couch potato. But legends were made by constant, continuous, relentless, passionate hard work. 

Legends, they are serious about what they want to pursue. They don’t let this burning desire to be the best die before they actually become one. I was so moved by the heart that Kobe showed for basketball, I came to a point that I was almost embarrassed because I was asking myself: Have I shown enough heart for Jesus, who has not only gave His heart for me, but His entire life for the sake of my eternal well-being? 

Basketball didn’t give anyone anything. I love the game simply because it’s the best game ever (bias, much?). I bet Kobe Bryant loves the game simply because he loves it. I don’t think he can quite describe it in ways that will fully comprehend the love he has for basketball. If we, as flawed human beings, can show such deep passion for something, that is merely made of a ball and two poles with rings and baskets, how much more capable we should be to love something that has given up so much for us. How much more capable we should be to show our love for Jesus.

Legends in God’s Kingdom go all out. Legends like Paul, Peter, David, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Abraham, John, the list goes on. They didn’t hold back. They stayed in the process and remained steadfast for God. What allowed them to do this was their love for Christ. They were passionate about Jesus and the cause of His Kingdom. This is why they ended up being world changers. I don’t know about you, but I want to be legendary. I want to be a legend in God’s Kingdom. 

“So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. 
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, 
you will receive what He has promised.” 
Hebrews 10: 35-36

Friday, April 8, 2016

Logically Illogical.

We overthink. 

As much as this statement probably doesn’t apply to everyone, but I believe it does to most of us. Be it conscious or unconsciously, we push our minds to think of things we are not yet able to figure out. We put pressures upon ourselves to decipher something we can’t even define, yet. 

So, I was sitting down with a scrap paper that’s half full of scribbles wondering what to write about. And this grand, ever overwhelming word: FUTURE. I was almost laughing to myself because I never really pondered on the weight that this word holds. We say it, fret about it, cry about it, get depressed about it and even perhaps commit suicide because of it, all the time. Its usage bears no resemblance to how powerful this word can be when it comes to living a meaningful life while discovering the meaning of life altogether. 

I came to this reflection that we worry too much about the future, don’t we? We think about it too much. I think some days we don’t have any spaces left in our heads to think about anything else but the future. And I’m not even talking about those grand future schemes, of who we will become in 10 or 20 years from now. I’m talking about the simplest thoughts about the future, which can be about tomorrow or the next hour, maybe even the next minute. 

The thing with future is that it’s called the future because it is yet to come. It is not here yet. It is about something after the present. There’s a reason why it is called the future because we’re not quite there yet. The problem with this concept is that there is no way we can know for sure about the future if we’re not there yet. It is humanly impossible for us to be sure about anything when it comes to the future because the very essence of future is uncertainty and unknown. If we know what’s going on, it’s not the future. It is “for the time being” and the “present”. 

See, we are hurting ourselves when we do this. We are placing our minds to figure out things that are not within the reach of our dimensions. The future was never made to be figured out in the present, therefore it is called the future. The present is meant to be figured out now, that’s why we call it the present. How in the world did we even begin to think that we can comprehend and define something that is outside of our time and space? 

It’s like a loophole without an exit route. We think about it, we can’t figure it out, we stressed out, we think about it some more, we still can’t figure it out, we get stressed out even more, and so forth, with its degree of intensity going up at every loop. But we’re not supposed to figure it out, right? So why are we even putting efforts to figure it out in the first place? 

This is one of the things that I don’t understand about human logic. It completely, fully understands what it serves, which is to make sense of things. To serve as a foundation for us humans to operate as sensible and reasonable beings. I believe our logic tells us that the future is not possible to be defined. Predicted, maybe. But not defined and figured out. Predictions are merely guesses about the future that are sometimes true and sometimes false. Still holding uncertainty though, because if it is certain then it is a fact, not a prediction. What we call as fact isn’t based on the future, but of the past and present. So, we can’t figure out the future with facts because we need to figure out things according to its dimension of time and space, right? Context, that’s the fancy word for it. And facts are a thing of the past and present, not of future. 

So, while we know that it is logical to conclude that it is illogical to figure out the future, we still try to figure it out. I guess this makes us illogical, smart people. (Or mere humans facing a hard time to accept that some things are just beyond our control. For example: the future.)

Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, 
and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. 
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up 
when the time comes.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Everyday I Mop the House: Thoughts on Perspective.

Perspective changes everything. 

This has become a common theme of my life in the past few months. I learned that the way I see things changes things. Of course, the things don’t change just because I look at it in a different way. A blue T-shirt is still a blue T-shirt, no matter which angle I choose to stare at it from. An illness is still something to be healed from, a problem between friends is still something to be solved. Many things stay the same despite their changes in perspective. But I realized that it changes the way we respond to things on so many different levels. 

If I treat my daily chores, like mopping the floor, cleaning my bathroom, making up my bed, - the list goes on- just like that, then I would be wasting many hours in the morning doing nothing. I may physically be doing something, but what do I get? I guess being a perfectionist plays a big part in this reflection too, where I come to a conclusion that if I have to mop the floor everyday for about 30 minutes and I can’t find anything more to take away from it than just a cleaner house, then it has become a wasted 30 minutes. Unless, a clean house is something that can enrich my life. But it doesn’t, or at least not that much. It makes me more comfortable, but it doesn’t add value to my day-to-day being. 

Now. Would you believe me if I tell you that the simple act of mopping the floor can actually be a life-changing 30 minutes if we see it as so much more than just cleaning the house? Keep reading, let me try to convince you. See, what I did was that I prayed about it. As silly as it sounds, I started praying about this routine of mopping the house. I asked God what the deal was with mopping, what kind of attitude and mindset I should have to make this a more meaningful daily experience? 

What I got in return was not much of a surprise, a bit silly, but nonetheless life-changing. God was challenging me: what if mopping the floor was a part of walking in His purposes? If I believe that nothing is outside of His control and that every detail is a part of His plan, then mopping the floor (which I cannot escape from) has to be included in a much more bigger picture than just helping to keep the house clean. Right? The mopping stayed the same. It remained a simple house chore that I had to do every morning. But when I shift my perspective into God’s plans and promises, and how every investment I made was leading me closer to where I need to be and what I need to become, mopping become so much more glorious! 

I didn’t want my mopping routine to be just a cleaning duty. I wanted to be able to grow through this simple process. And truth be told, as silly as I still find it to be, it has become one of my most cherished parts in the morning. It gives me time to pray, to worship and even to ponder on things about life. I learned about discipline by doing it every morning without fail. I learned about being faithful in little things. I learned about being meticulous by paying attention to the little corners that are hardly seen but dirty nonetheless. I learned about the willingness to serve others, which in this case are my parents. And a bunch of other things, that I am yet to learn in the years to come. 

Perspective. Mopping isn’t just mopping anymore when I learn to see God in the process. Crazy isn’t it, how God shows Himself evident even in the smallest things of life, the most mundane things we can imagine. 


Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Disciplined Muse

Last year I had the chance to spend weekend at Singapore’s Writers Festival and it was truly an experience like no other. To sit in the midst of people who appreciate the craft of the written world as much as you do is simply inspiring.

In some cases, these people that I bump into, they are not regular people. They are my “people” who has successfully become an established group of my kind of “people”; writers, poets, essayist and literary visionaries. And from all they have described as to how they eventually get to the place that I believe I would one day want to get to, they have one thing in common: disciplined muse.
I am yet to learn the art of disciplining my muse, for as therapeutic, fulfilling and addicting writing can be, the process of curating your thoughts from the most outside of its layers to the deepest parts is, without a doubt, one of the most tiring and frustrating process one could imagine. The way I see it, muse is the catalyst that helps this process, of breaking the layers and revealing what’s truly screaming out from the deep layers.

What’s all the more interesting is that as powerful as muse can be as a catalyst, this muse can somewhat be directed and practiced, everyday. Because I don’t believe that our imaginations have times when they stop working and times when they do work very well to exploit ideas beyond the borders of possibilities. I believe that our creative energies are constantly at work. However, having said that, tuning into this scope of mind is a different subject. It requires determination and focus. It requires effort and a relentless pursuit.

I don’t believe that this is what makes a writer, a writer. Being a writer is an identity, a state of heart. But I believe that this is what makes a writer published, known, finally having a voice in this loud world that they can call their own.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hello, there. I'm finally back!

After a few solid years in hiding, I have finally decided to come back to life and start sharing stories to the great unknown. I was quite surprised to find so many posts in this blog. I didn't realize that I was actually quite discipline in posting stuff on it. Not sure why I stopped in the first place, but what matters is going back to the work where I belong.

Looking back, I can see that this blog used to be about a lot of things, which lived up to its previous name: "A Million Things to Say". I saw thoughts on books, writing process, celebrations of completed goals and so much more. Well, what I know is that everything that this blog is going will be nothing like what it was about.

New visions, new goals and new perspectives.

I'm excited!