Friday, August 18, 2017

Water Drops and Comfort Zones

I recently had to make a decision whether I was going to keep my current job, or take the opportunity in front of me and enter a new different field of work and ministry. And during that week, I had a sleepover at a friend’s apartment. It was super fun and a much-needed break because I have been a little stressed out about the big decision I had to make. 

I mean, hello? I’m a perfectionist. Slightly OCD (that stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, in case you don’t know). Order. Structure. Plans. Routine. Significant elements that make up my sanity.  But they all might change. Not in a bad way, but in such a significant way that I lost my ability to breathe just thinking about it. Yes, the most difficult decision I ever had to make in my life (so far). It was obvious I needed a really good break from it all.

So: Five girls, a tiny living room, just enough drinks and desserts, a little too much food, and way too many stories to tell. You get it, it was fun all around. But while everyone chatted their way through the night, one observation came to mind: 

There was a little bit of water dripping off 
from the edge of the sink. 

Normally, I would grab a tissue and wipe it off right away. But I don’t know why, that night I decided to sit back and do nothing. Maybe I was just too tired to even think about it. Maybe the sofa I was sitting on was too comfortable that I didn’t feel like getting up at all. In the end, I just shrugged and let it be.

Strangely enough, after I went home the next day, this observation remained vivid in my mind. I couldn’t shake the fact that I did nothing about the water drops. The scene kept replaying in my head the whole day until I realized this “brilliant” (Ha! Not so. Perhaps even so cliche!) conclusion about about comfort zones, changes, and life: 

I think, sometimes, we need to be ok with allowing 
the water drip, and not do anything about it. 

I think sometimes we need to go against what is comfortable. I think sometimes we need to be ok with things not going the way we plan and trust that God will make it work, even better than how we thought was possible. I think for some of us (like ME), it takes more courage to let the water drip than to get up and clean it. 

Because what if that one step, towards the uncomfortable, unknown, uncharted places, is the very decision that will carry you, into all the things God has called you to be? 

There’s a story about a queen in the Bible named Esther who was faced with a choice: risk her life to possibly save her people or do nothing and let all her people be killed. It was life and death. And as Esther took the time to think her decision through, her uncle (Mordecai) said one of the most profound and powerful statement you could ever find the Bible: 

"Perhaps you were born for such a time as this." 
(Esther 4:14) 

As for her: Esther took the risk. She went to the King to plead for her people and end up saving her people's lives. She was truly made Queen for such a time to save her people. 

The story of Esther is a lot more complicated and exciting than what I just shared to you in that one paragraph (take notes: Queen Esther is AMAZING!!!). But as I look at our own life, the choices and opportunities we have in our hands, Queen Esther, and water dripping off the edge of the sink, I am once again reminded that:

Everything we could be will remain 
a “perhaps” and “if-s” 
unless we step out and become one. 


You would never know and neither would I; until we can look outside our comfort zones, the free-falls and head-first-dives; with all the courage we can find and say: “YES”. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sundays, U-Turns, and Sunset Skies

It was a normal, good Sunday. 

A good day at church, ministry was smooth. Had a good lunch, hung out with people, watched a great movie (OK, great is rather an understatement. It was one of the best movies I have ever seen in my entire life. EVER!). So, then it was time to get into one of my favorite parts of the weekend: a chill 5:30pm-kind-of Sunday drive home across the city. This time from the west side of the city to the east.

It was about a 50-minute drive home and it was 20 minutes in when 


I looked into my rearview mirror and my heart skipped a beat

I saw a glimpse of the sunset sky and it was beautiful. 

I could see it. It was red and orange and pink, with traces of white and grey and blurred flaming yellow lines. I don't think words can do justice. My phone's camera certainly couldn't. 

Man, how I wished I was heading to the west and not the east! I really wanted to see it in full view but my destination was on the opposite direction. Or maybe not?

Without a second thought I did something I have never done before just for the view of a sky: 

I steered right and took a u-turn. 

That's right. I decided to drive west, just to see the sunset sky in full view. The view lasted for less than 30 seconds before I took another u-turn to get back on track to the east side of the city, where home is. 

It was so worth it. 

It sounds ridiculous, I know. Impulsive and rather unnecessary. I mean, it's not like I wouldn't catch other pretty sunset skies, right? (Well, you never know; but you know what I mean!) But it was so worth it. Because in the midst of my ordinary good Sunday I got to bask in God's wonder in full view for 30 seconds. 

Full. View. 

At first, all I saw was a glimpse and it already got my heart racing a bit faster than it should have been. So, I didn't stop. I wanted more. I took a u-turn just to get a full view of the sunset sky, even though the distance from the u-turn to end it was no more than 100 metres away. 

I took a short detour to get God in full view.

And you know what, it was worth all the time in the world. It changed the rest of my drive home into a praise party. It changed my heart for the rest of the night. It sure encouraged me when I woke up the next day to face my hectic Monday. 

What if all it takes for us 
to be refreshed, 
to be encouraged, 
to fall back into love with God, 
is to take a short, 
impulsive, 
seemingly unnecessary detour 
in the middle of our ordinary day, 
to see God in full view?

I'm not even talking about a full 1.5-hour chapel session, a 5-chapter bible reading, a full podcast watch on Youtube. I'm talking about 1-minute-prayers in the toilet cubicle. The 1-chorus solo karaokes in the carpark. The 2-minute silent stares at the sky at the balcony. The 1-verse read-alouds in the bedroom. I'm talking about the quiet walks to work and back. The watching kids be amused by leaves moving on the ground blown by the wind. 

For me, it was the sunset sky. I took a short detour to get God in full view and what I got was so much more than what I thought I needed. The destination didn't change, I still needed to head home. West wasn't my destination, but my short detour to bask in God didn't mess up any of that. It was the opposite. I felt joy and peace and love and everything mixed in between. It was the best feeling ever. What small wonders can do to the soul! 

Small, insignificant detours and pauses in the day, where we be still for once, and face God in full-view.

Maybe that's all it would take for you and me to get back up from whatever it is that's been weighing us down. Maybe that's what it takes for us to have the strength to keep going towards our destination. 
Whatever and wherever God is calling us to do and to go to.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Shouting Louder and Life Seasons

I recently preached a message about seasons, life, and the intentional decision to embrace it. Little did I know, instead of preaching a message for the teens at our youth group, it felt like I was preaching a message to myself. 

The gist of the message is this: 
Seasons are ever-changing and 
far too often, we can't choose our seasons. 
We can't control and choose the seasons we are in, 
but we can choose God who is in control over them. 

Have you ever felt like it was difficult to embrace the assignment that God has clearly given to you because you are entering a new season? Maybe it's a new community, maybe it's a new role. A new position, grade. If you do, you're in good company. Because I think this is exactly where I find myself right now.

So, among all the assignments that God has put in my heart, writing devotionals and journals (like this one) is definitely one of them. Have I been doing that lately? Ha! Not so much. And sure, it's a lot more difficult to juggle writing devos plus school research papers (and sometimes plus preaching scripts too!) all in the same week. But I realized lately though, that hasn't been the case. I hid from writing because it was the easier and safer alternative.

I remembered in April 2016 I posted a devo titled "Bare and Naked". And in there I talked about the fear and beauty altogether of being exposed, as an artist of any kind. And I wrote:

"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."

That post was published almost 1.5 years ago. I still agree with that principle. And I still believe that's a key to make great art. But guess what? 1.5 years later: it is still as scary as it ever was to share what I have written. Especially knowing that I am settling into new communities, new roles. 

A new season. 
The idea of being bare and naked, 
raw and honest, 
before a new set of public eyes. 

It was like a scream-fest in my head. 

"What if they judge me?"
"What if I'm not good enough for them?"
"What if they laugh behind my back?"
"Will I make a fool of myself?"
"Maybe I will make a fool of myself. Pretty sure I will."
"What have I gotten myself into?!!!!" 

Isn't this what most of us experience when it comes to being faithful, no matter who the spectators are or what we are up against? That it will feel like ground zero all over again. Like the assignment becomes as unbearable as it was at the very beginning. But we're not there anymore, are we? We made it through, at least somewhere through in the journey. It feels like ground zero, but it's actually just another stonestep along the path. 

The set of skills remain the same.
The passion remains the same
The assignment remains the same. 
It's just the seasons. 
It's only a change in season. 

Like I said earlier: We can't choose the seasons, but we can choose God. And it is in Him too that we find the purposes of our lives. The heart and soul of what and why we do what we do. The courage and strength to keep going despite of what the circumstances are and what the critics say. The shameless, relentless pursuit to show who He is through our artistry. 

As the seasons change, we can choose to stop creating and let the world lose one voice of hope. Or we can choose God, have faith and shout louder. 


I'm choosing to trust God and embrace my season. I want to shout louder.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (The Message)
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
    the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
    putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
    never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
    bearing fresh fruit every season.
x

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Still Believe.

I never post stuff on social media about politics. I believe in keeping my political views and beliefs private. But on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017, a political figure in my country was sentenced to prison, and my nation is now split in two: those rejoicing for the verdict upon their enemy and those grieving for the imprisonment of their hero. And although I’m not here to take sides, this time I can’t help it. I need to speak up. 

I’m writing this because I believe there is an awakening happening in my country. I believe that beyond the celebrations and tears that took place after the verdict: hope is rising. In some ways quietly, in some ways very loud. Can’t you see? I have never seen so many hearts broken for injustice in my country. And these hearts are screaming their lungs out! Making sure their voices are heard. These hearts are not just speaking life, but they are shouting life over our country. Can you hear the desperation? The begging-on-their-knees kind of prayer for a breakthrough? 

I have never heard an outcry for justice so loud in this nation. And you’re telling me we have lost hope? I believe that if there’s ever a time that we must believe revival is so close, almost at hand, for our nation, that time is now. 

The circumstances might be the complete opposite of what we hope our country to become. I know we are brokenhearted, discouraged, and disappointed. But light shines the brightest in the darkest nights. So if our nation has to be split in two, why don’t we take a step back and instead stand in the middle to be a bridge of hope for our nation? 

I agree, our country is filled with flaws. Perhaps too many to count and mention. I'm not gonna lie; learning to love this country has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my life. We know that even though there are so many reasons why we should be proud of my country, there are all the more reasons to be ashamed and bitter towards it. But if all we do is curse our nation for what it has not become, will we ever be a nation we long to become? If we stay grieving and walk away, will we ever see the change we long to witness? 

No, I don’t think so. 

I think what this nation needs is our voice. A voice that speaks faith, speaks service, speaks generosity, speaks love. A selfless generation that understands it has to begin with someone at some point. As much as it hurts to see devotion paid with hate, I believe revival has to start with a seed of sacrifice. So perhaps it has to begin with us.

Seeing so many voices cry out and hearts broken over the past week have shown me how far we have come. With all our shortcomings, we have come so far. We have become bold and strong. We finally have the courage to speak up. Finally fighting for the things that matter. Finally realizing things have to change for this nation to move forward. We have come to the point where we understand hope matters. Service matters. Determination matters. Excellence matters. Love matters. Our nation matters. 

So, I choose to stand on the side of hope. I choose to take the side of revival. There is hope for this nation. There is a breakthrough waiting to make its triumphant entrance. God is rising up a new voice, a new generation. I believe God is doing something new. I believe He is making new rivers in the desert, new roads in the wilderness. I think revival is ready to shake the grounds of our nation. This is just the beginning. 

I still believe revival is ahead. 

Isaiah 43 

18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Backstage Pass. #BTS

I think one of the best surprises when it comes to celebrities and concerts and all that, are backstage passes. I love watching vlogs, snaps and stories of what happens behind the scenes of a movie filming, backstage of an award show, passes to the makeup rooms and all that. Why? Because these things are for real. I love how before these people get up on stage, step into their character to film a scene, and be seen by us through the lens of TV and big screens, these moments are those raw moments where they just be them. 

Once they are off stage, they freely jump up and down in excitement from winning their first award ever. They would express their frustration over the sound failures that happened during the performance. The ladies would probably take off their heels and rest for a minute or two before going back out into the crowd. 

Backstage is where the real action happens. 

Behind the scenes is where the real journey, the real hard work, the real emotions, the real effort, the real growing pains are exposed. 

As I ponder on this random thought about backstage passes and behind the scenes footages, I found myself thinking about our own faith journey. How our roles in the society, our work and our ministries many times look like a stage. Areas where we just have to be what other people expect us to be. How other people expect us to look and what they expect us to achieve. 

I don’t think it’s much different than the stage or the movies. And it’s not so much about being fake either, but I find ourselves discouraged and bitter way too soon in the process. We just give up on God and give up on life because we but far too often we forget that the real deal is what happens after the show is over, before we even get to the venue, while we are in our own solitary spaces doing ordinary daily things.

The real deal happens behind the scenes. 

The real deal is the faith journey. 
The real deal is the growth process where God invites us to be honest with our struggles and come raw and bare before His presence. 
The real deal is where we don’t shy away from our doubts, but we cast our anxieties and uncertainties to God in surrender. 
The real deal is the moments where we allow God to show us the areas of our lives that need shaping and pruning so we can become more like Him every single day. 
The real deal is when we cry out in disappointments and heartbreaks, asking God why it has to happen the way it did. 
The real deal is when we realize that the pain of life is real, and that living a life called bears such a high cost, and yet we push through anyway. 

I believe that the backstage is where God speaks to us the most, works with and through us the most, and shapes us the most too. It is in the silence and the fervent prayers, one-on-one time with God. In the daily tension of running away from situations or facing them head on. And I think if we choose to remember that, the behind the scenes won’t be as tiring and burning out as we thought it would be. 

That the process can be as rewarding and worthwhile as the destination. 


That the behind the scenes be as fun, memorable and meaningful as the movie we watch on the big screens. 

Hebrews 10:35-36 (MSG)

So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mental Illness, Friendships and Bravery.


"I am mentally ill."

In December 2016, a student of mine told me that he was diagnosed with a mental illness. It wasn't a recent thing, but it's just that he decided to tell me about it recently. I was devastated, my heart was heavy and I wished the news never came to be true. 

But it was and I knew being down about it won't do any good. In fact, more than ever, I realized an urgency to learn more about mental illnesses, about how I can be the best support as a mentor and teacher. I needed to gain knowledge fast, so I can be more equipped to deal with students dealing with this mental illness. 

Of course there was Google, and there were a lot of other sources accessible through the internet and books and all that. But I didn't want theories. I didn't want just some medical background, and support groups 101. I wanted a real story. I wanted to learn from someone who has been through it, who can give me first-hand advice from experiences and personal encounters.

Little did I know, God has answered my prayer, even before I knew I was going to ask for a friend that can assist me in this. 

In November 2015, I went to a writer's conference abroad. I got to attend panels and chose classes about all sorts of subjects on writing. One of them was a seminar by the founder of a legendary magazine in my home country. 

So I chose a seat randomly, scared but excited to make new friends. 

It just so happened that I sat next to this girl. She was friendly and welcoming, and so we ended up becoming friends. Attended classes together the following day, had lunch, stayed in touch through social media and all that. 

The highlight of this encounter though was our conversations. What always reminded me of her was her passion to be the voice for those who had mental illnesses. She wanted to share their stories, and show the world their side of the story. I've never met someone like that and I was greatly inspired. 

This is why a year and so later (a few days ago), after receiving the news of my student's diagnosis, I contacted her. I asked her if she knew anything, knowledge or encounters or experiences, that could help me to assist my student. I figured if she had passion for this, she might be knowledgeable. And because of that she shared her story, that she was diagnosed with the same condition as my student

She was the friend I was looking for. 
She was the answer to my prayer. 
She was the advisor I needed. 

My heart is still heavy, thinking that many people out there has to go through what my friend and my student went through and/or is going through. But God works in mysterious ways. It was not a coincidence that I went to the writer's conference that year, to that seminar, and sat next to her. Really, God worked it out together for good.

The bravery of my friend in sharing her story to others allowed her situation to be a blessing for others, to be impactful and to change lives. Look how her courage to share and use what the world counts as a weakness to be her source of passion, to be her weapon to encourage others. 

Her story matters. A lot. And I am grateful for her. 

So, thank you, friend. For not letting the shortcomings bring you down and instead, push through. For your generosity in sharing to others. For embracing who you are. For being brave. 

This post is dedicated to you. 

(PS: Names of people, places and events and other details are not shared in respect of the people I am referring to in the story.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I Choose Joy.

Psalm 61:2 (KJV) 
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, 
when my heart is overwhelmed,
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

New years are sentimental. 

Just like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and so and so. And it's not that you can only make a change on specific dates and days of your life. But, there's that common agreement that we have indeed entered a new page. New pages are blank, clean and pretty to look at. By the end of the year, of by whatever chapter of life you are in, when we look back at that paper, we will probably find it messy, dirty, and slightly crippled all over. So I guess every time we get a blank page freshly given by the universe, we somehow always want to keep it that way. Or if we can be honest to ourselves, what we really want is to paint beautiful things on it. 

That's why new year resolutions are everywhere, new-year-new-me post its, goals and plans are jotted down as we anticipate the hour to reach 12:00AM. It's not a surprise. But more than anything, I think it embodies a certain truth. It shows our longing for growth, for better tomorrows and for good changes. It shows our wanting for hope and grace. It invites us to reflect on blessings and pains, and successes and hardships.

And I think we will realize that many times, those failures are inevitable. We woke up with our knees scraped, problems unsolved and hearts discouraged. Things happen, shit happens. It's impossible to keep the page clean. The flaws and stains are what shapes us, grows us into better characters than we were in the previous chapters and pages. 

But the paintings. The images and writings we jot down on them, the beautiful parts that we value most. They all happen by choice. It's intentional that the page is colored red, not blue. That it has a 4-line poem instead of a whole page of short story. Perhaps it has your dog's picture and not your own. You choose. It's completely within your power. 

For me personally, this year I’m going to choose joy. I know that in the previous years, of course I’ve chosen joy many times. Of course I’ve had great times, rolling on the floor laughing out loud and all that. But I’m not just talking about that. I’m talking about a perspective. I’m talking about that contentment, a sense of knowing that I have been made whole in Christ and actually living it out. I’m talking about that conscious decision to respond to circumstances in the right attitudes. I’m talking about rising above, beyond feelings and facts. Because if the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10b), and I know I will need to be strong this year, then I’m choosing joy. 

I choose to rise above. I choose joy. 

What are you choosing this year? 

James 1: 2-3

Dear brothers and sisters, 
when troubles of any kind come your way, 
consider it an opportunity for great joy
For you know that when your faith is tested, 
your endurance has a chance to grow.