Rebreather

Would you like to know the quickest way to get attention from the world? It’s pretty simple: disappear from the online world for a while, make everyone partially aware of a drastic infamous change in your life and then suddenly post these four words on your Facebook wall “i want to die”. Just like that, plain and simple with no punctuation marks and capitalisations. Remember to post it in the wee hours of the morning for full effect. And most importantly, mean it.

I’ll be honest, the result is not fun at all but I guarantee it will do the job if you’re after attention. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t done it to catch attention or gain sympathy from others. I just went so freaking crazy that when I grabbed my phone and the Facebook status bar asked me what’s on my mind that night I foolishly took it quite literally and typed the words. My heart felt so heavy causing my soul so much pain it had to give birth to those words. Right under my nose, I watched them roll out into the world like little monsters that will haunt the introverted side of my ambivert self forever.

So here I am 3 days later, re-opening my blog after two years, in awe of what I read, of the things I wrote about in the past. I don’t know why they haunt me. The past months happened so fast, I look at myself in the mirror everyday and I see myself living a life I never knew. And the next moment, here I am staring at a screen reading what looks and feels to me like someone else’s words. I am so…. lost. I used to describe myself here as someone sailing with the wind. But now, I am not even sailing at all anymore. I am just…

floating.

And it’s so damn scary.

Featured photo is taken from https://au.pinterest.com/iwantmyivy/water-vision-board/

Advertisements

My 2,000-Year-Old Valentine: an Inkspill

A guest blog post by American Kate of thewarmjournal.com

A Shocking Discovery

It began in Romans. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was immersed in the New Testament. I was so full of scriptures on the love of God, they seemed to be overflowing out my ears. Love, love, love, and more love; I was flying high in Romans 8. But at the beginning of the next chapter, my eyes screeched to a halt. Romans 9:3-4. Had I read it right? I scanned it again to make sure, and then once more, still shocked by the words. The apostle Paul, continuing after his glorious discourse of the 8th chapter, said this:

“. . . I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers . . . the people of Israel.” (Romans 9:3)

My reactions were threefold. Horror, admiration for the kind of love that could make such a statement, and finally, obsessive thought.

Think About It

Imagine, believers, what it would be like to be “cut off from Christ”. To no longer have the kind whispers of the Holy Spirit guiding you from the inside. To lose your covenant with God. Imagine being cursed, doomed, condemned; lost to Him forever. Imagine never being able to get Him to turn His face toward you, after being intimately acquainted with His love and irrevocable righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). 1 John 4:16 says that we have known and believed the love God has for us. We know it inside ourselves. Imagine losing that knowledge; that faith. To be nothing but an ache, never satisfied. To know that every unbeliever and backslidden Christian on earth has endless opportunities to run into the Father’s open arms—but not you.

The very thought makes me queasy. It is past my full comprehension.  I wonder how Paul could care about his people so much that he would be willing to trade his salvation so they could have theirs. For my part, there is only one thing I would never let go of, even for the salvation of an entire nation: my covenant, salvation, relationship (whatever you want to call it) with God. I don’t want to admit it, but I just couldn’t. My life, body, relationships, or livelihood, maybe. I’d like to think that with the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit living in me, I could give all these up for love. But I could never give up God Himself. He is my one true addiction. I make no sense without Him. He is the author of every good thing I have become. Without Him, I am nothing. Without Him, there is no such thing as me.

Good News

I would like to point out that the tormented existence I’m describing will NEVER happen to you if you accept Christ into your heart. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life is like or what you have done. You can always come to Jesus. He waits, arms wide open, to wash your filthy soul and stained reputation.  He will clothe you in robes whiter than snow. He wants you even more than you want Him, and He will never stop seeking to adopt you as His own. God’s door is open, so that you and I can come running to Him. Seek the Lord while you can find Him, call on Him now while he is near, and you will not be put to shame (Isaiah 55:6, Psalm 25:3).

And if you already know Christ but find that you have strayed from His commandments, then remember that you can always return to His love. He is ever-forgiving and would never turn you away (John 6:37). His love is available to anyone who will take it. If you have accepted it, rejoice! You will never, ever have to sacrifice that relationship. The day will never come when you must choose between keeping your salvation, and giving a loved one theirs. It could be that you end up risking your life for such a thing, but not your salvation. Rebirth in Christ is yours forever. Paul mulled over the concept of exchanging his own salvation for that of his people, but he never had the option to do so.

Love Enters the Picture

In light of this, why is Paul’s remark even in the Bible? On the surface it seems irrelevant. But as we know that the Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and that every word of Paul’s letters was given him by the Holy Spirit, there has to be more to the story.

And there is. It is meant to point us towards Jesus. I had not meditated on this verse for five seconds before it occurred to me that the awful proposition of Romans 9:3 had already happened. Just once.

There was a man who loved God with everything he had. God favored him and called him His “beloved Son”, in whom He was “well pleased”. This man was connected to the Father in every possible way. In point of fact, He is in His very nature, God (Philippians 2:6). 1 John 4 states twice that “God is love”. Well, we call this man Jesus Christ, and He is love. Love is the very substance His spirit is made of. And it’s because He loved us that He chose to be separated from God on Calvary.

Peace With God

Let me explain. When I speak of a Christian’s “relationship” with God, here’s what I’m talking about.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Romans 5:1)

Think about it. We. Have. Peace. With. God. That means two things: we are (or can choose to be) at peace with the Creator of the universe; and the Creator of the universe is at peace with us. This is huge. It’s what both God and mankind have craved since the third chapter of Genesis. No matter what happens, I can count on peace with God. I can count on His listening ear, on His lavish and gentle hand in my life. No force in existence has the power or the right to steal my peace. If I have peace with God, then I can have peace about everything and in every situation.

The Price of Peace

Back to Christ’s separation from God. I believe this is a key piece to the “punishment that brought us peace”. In the past, I tended to only consider the punishment Jesus took for us through the crucifixion. But on Valentine’s Day, the very worst torture Christ ever suffered was revealed to me; something worse than just dying in the flesh. He was cut off from God. Since Christ is God, the sensation must have been akin to that of sawing off His head with His own hands. (Even this description is inadequate. How much more pain can God feel than the sensations of human imagination?) Part of the eternal relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Christ found Himself forsaken. He was severed from the presence of the Father, away from His sight and His love. I finally understood the meaning of Christ’s words on the cross, words that had confused me all my life. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ, laden with all the filth of the ages—every sin of the past; every sin of the future, was exactly what Paul described. Cursed. Cut off from God. He, love personified, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13). God couldn’t look at Him. He turned His face away from His Son.

You are Never Forsaken

At that moment, Jesus was taking our place, our punishment. So the pain became not ours to bear—it became His. He was the one who cried, the one who suffered, the one the Father turned his back on. It was supposed to be us—that was supposed to be our cry! We are the ones worthy to be forsaken. But in that great exchange, He cried our cry for us. So you will never ever have to say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Lord wants His children to know that our greatest fear, alienation from Him, was destroyed on the cross. When human beings are estranged from God, we become nothing more than bleeding mutations; helpless. Jesus cried out, but there was no help for Him. Remember, He endured that so we would never have to. Bottom line? God will NEVER forsake you (Matthew 28:20). He got punishment. We got peace. Don’t ever let yourself think that God is turning His face away from you. He has never and will never turn away from His children. He will always listen to you, always watch over you, and always be there for you.

This belongs to us. The Bible says so. The war between Heaven and earth is over.

Love Brings Freedom

I often call my salvation my “peace with God”. And I often call that peace freedom. I suppose you’ve heard the phrase “freedom isn’t free”? It’s true. Freedom always costs something. As far as I have been able to discern, true freedom has only ever been purchased with blood. And mine was bought with the blood of Jesus. You see, to make peace with God after all that mankind has been guilty of, somebody had to be punished. The problem is that even if we got what we deserved and the entire earth was nothing more than a heap of ash in outer space, we would still have unpaid debts of sin. We overdrew our accounts, and it was going to take nothing short of the perfect blood of Jesus, God in the flesh, to wash the evil away. Even more important than that, however, is John 3:16: “. . . God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son . . .” It’s obvious that God’s reason for sending His Son, our Prince of Peace, the author of our freedom, is because of love. His will is for no one to perish (2Peter 3:9). He wanted to defeat our sin with forgiveness, not wrath. So God the Father chose to punish his own Son. Jesus: fully man, fully God, fully obedient to the Father. His pure, sinless blood paid the price of punishment God’s glory required on our behalf.

We couldn’t do the good we knew we ought to. We couldn’t sort out the chaos we’d created. We couldn’t fix what we’d broken, return what we’d stolen, or unlock the shackles we had made ourselves. So He did it for us. After all that, still we were precious to Him. We will always be precious to Him. To Jesus, we are more valuable than His own life. That . . . is love.

Our Happy Ending

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, emphasis added)

And what happened after all this? We were made the righteousness of God in Christ. We wear His cleanness like a robe (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 61:10). And, thank God, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17). Peace Forever. It’s one of the titles of history’s great love story—that between God and man, wherein sin was defeated and love prevailed.

Many thanks to sassycare for her sterling advice, edits, and expansions.

Featured photo is taken from http://theprayingwoman.com/2015/02/23/10-simple-steps-to-healing/healing/

The Heart of Things

He killed himself. Sensei committed suicide. The question is “why?” With the first few chapters, I thought of no other reason but the fundamental loneliness of man (as I’ve come to label it) but when I reached the main part of the book, I learned it was because of dark events in his past that piled up into an unbearable suffering–one that revealed a more profound truth not just about him, but about all of us, humans.

We often hear the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” but the opposite is also true: The road to the best kind of “heaven” this fallen world can offer is paved with evil and selfish motives. The happy and successful life, as this world defines it, often has hidden behind it the underlying ugliness that is humanity. I will try to spell out this truth for you using the events in the book, the title of which I shall try not mention for the sake of its future readers. But I shall call him Sensei, all throughout this post, just as the author did.

In the flashback chapters, we find Sensei in the middle of his story living with a widow, Okusan and a daughter, Ojosan.

Before meeting them, he was disillusioned with the world through the deceit of his own relatives as an orphaned boy. It gave him the impression that all men have dark motives especially when money is involved.

After meeting Ojosan, his perspective changed. Love changed him. But he can’t trust both mother and daughter yet, he was convinced people always have bad motives when they show you good. But in time, his love for Ojosan grew stronger and his views of men changed.

He had a friend who lost everything, disowned by his own family. Out of the kindness of his heart and his sense of responsibility for what happened (because he encouraged him to do something his family didn’t want him to do), the latter being the more likely reason of the two; he asked him to live with him and paid for his rent and food, convincing the two ladies to let the friend stay if he pays for him. They accepted not because of the money but because they learned to love Sensei as their own.

One day Sensei’s friend, K, did what he could not do himself–admit that he has fallen in love with Ojosan. Even when he had more than one chance to admit to K that he felt the same way for Ojosan, Sensei cannot admit that he had also been in love with her ever since. He was a coward and so he did nothing to tell K, evading the gentlemen’s fight for love. But he could not entertain the thought of losing Ojosan to K either…so he did the following:

1. He tried to talk K out of the idea of pursuing his love for Ojosan, never mentioning that he did this because he wanted the woman for himself.

2. He lied about being sick to get Ojosan and K out of the house to talk to Okusan behind their backs, more especially behind K’s back.

3. He asked Okusan for Ojosan’s hand, fully aware that even before K came to live with them, Okusan wanted to marry her daughter to himself because she trusted Sensei from the start.

4. Rejoicing for his success over K, he cannot help but be pleased with his achievement. He finally got the love of his life. And though he believed that he is inferior to K in all aspects, he finally won this one thing over him—and the one thing that matters most.

5. All these time, he did not bother to tell K what he did. Worse, his conscience was no where in action the whole time. All he was, was pleased and triumphant.

6. Since the wedding arrangement was all set, Okusan and Ojosan’s treatment of the two changed, the difference became more pronounced—with special treatment for Sensei, of course. All along, Sensei didn’t bother to tell K, leaving him clueless. He enjoyed his victory over K all the more.

Okusan told K eventually without Sensei’s knowledge. And as could be expected, he was devastated. Being the only person left in the world he could trust and depend on, Sensei ought to have been more responsible for K. Instead he destroyed him–for love. Upon knowing about it, K didn’t mention anything to Sensei. He was, as his usual self, calm. And on that same night, he killed himself. With a brief suicide note thanking Sensei for everything he’s done for him and asking for a last favour to arrange for his burial, he asked him to extend Okusan his apology for all the troubles. He never mentioned Ojosan even once in the letter, carrying his love untold to his grave.

This dropped the bomb on Sensei. He felt guilty, and now he’ll never get the chance to apologise to K for all the evil things he’s done him. No one knows about it, only himself and K. And now that he killed himself, no one will ever know about all these. Okusan and Ojosan will never know of K’s love for Ojosan.

After about seven months, Sensei married Ojosan. He got a bigger, more comfortable house and lived with them there. All went well, and the bad motives, the darkness that looms in the background of the marriage never surfaced in their lives.

Then the guilt that never really went away soon ate him up as it grew bigger than he can handle. He decided to kill himself in the end. He left the author a long suicide letter revealing the full story of his life and its secrets. The last sentence on it was a dying wish to never reveal all these to any other soul so long as his wife is still alive. He would not take a chance of her ever knowing about all these.

There are two contending views on this. On the one hand, he loves his wife so much and as he once mentioned (when he did not allow her to see K on the suicide scene), someone so beautiful and so pure cannot see something so ugly without losing some of her beauty. He was determined to preserve her innocence—in such case, the motive was selfless. On the other hand, he wants to protect his self image. He was determined to preserve the way his wife sees and looks up to him with all the goodness he thought he is—in this case, the motive was something selfish. It was left for the reader to decide.

I choose to believe the former. He loved his wife so much that he never wanted to destroy her image of life and of the one person that mattered to her, Sensei. He mentioned in his letter that if he had revealed the story to his wife and mother-in-law, he is sure they would have forgiven him. It would have eased him of the burden of guilt he was carrying for a long time. It would have been the easier way out. Indeed, the truth would have set him free. But then again it would have also been more selfish. Unloading himself and transferring part (if not the same amount) of the burden to his wife who would have felt terrible about herself had she known the truth about the two friends. Instead, he chose to suffer and carry his secret to the grave. In his letter, he wrote that he would rather have his wife think he has gone mad thus committed suicide  than let her know of the truth. In this regard, it made more sense that he loved her more than himself. In fact, he wanted to die a long time ago to ease him of the suffering. Imagine how every time he sees his wife’s face, he was reminded of his own ugly, disgusting self. Yet, he dared not leave her. He felt a very deep hatred for himself and an insurmountable loneliness that he thought death can be his only hope for relief. Yet he withheld it so long from himself. The reason he said, was because when Okusan died, his wife told him: “In all the world, I now have only you to turn to.”

K’s last sentence in his suicide letter was “Why did I wait so long to die?” In Sensei’s life, the answer was, because he loved his wife so much. Only when he met the author, to which he wrote the long letter about his life did he finally allow himself to die. Because, I think, it was only then that he found someone he can trust, someone whom his wife can turn to when he is gone.

The marriage and life of Sensei, though seemingly well and good from the outside, was hiding behind it something dark—the ugly motives and fallen nature common to us, sinful humans. It shows how easily we give up on our morals, how we can let our conscience be swallowed up by the people’s recognition and the world’s approval—if only for the idea that society accepts us as “living a good life”. In that sense, Sensei was bad. For the rest of his life, he suffered and repented of it. He went alone to K’s grave monthly to cry and apologise for what he did.

Going further into looking at his character though, I would say because of all his reasons for staying alive; absorbing all the suffering upon himself, protecting the innocent till the end; Sensei’s character was redeemed. In love, he did right.

And then in the end he finally chose to kill himself, which to me in every way is selfish and wrong. It appears as if he was doing the world a favour of ridding it of the evil person that he is. But that’s a lie. He might have deceived himself if indeed he believed that. The ulterior motive of the suicide is selfish—it was to end his suffering. And then he passed on the burden of keeping the secret away from his wife to someone else, the author. In the end, the selfishness and evil prevailed. Masked in love, his weakness won.

Indeed this book is a story that talks about the heart of things (in its most literal translation). And to me it talks about the things of this world–the truth about us, our story, humanity and our hopeless and sinful state. We will never be capable of redeeming ourselves because it has become ingrained in us–our being selfish, cunning and evil since the fall in Eden. And people who realise and truly, truly grasp the weight of this ugly truth without taking in that opium of society—social humanism, the notion that we are all capable of being good without help from outside or from a higher being—fall into a very deep sense of loneliness, the only cure for which, in an ordinary person’s view is suicide.

This is why humanity needs a saviour, it always has. The story of Sensei only shows that the evil of mankind can only be cured by selflessness, innocence and purity—by true love. THAT is Christianity to the core. No other religion offers humanity a Saviour to redeem us of a situation so hopeless and full of shame, to rescue us out of our own selves that have become too heavy for us to bear. All other religion would have failed to appease what Sensei felt. They would preach to rid himself of his bodily desires and accomplish a list of things in order to be forgiven, all of which he would still not have deemed a fitting retribution for what he’s done. Nothing else but death will be.

Had only someone told him that he never needed to carry the burden himself because someone bigger than him already did it for him, he would have been able to spare his own life and live a new one. He was not the one that needed to forgive, it was not his authority that mattered. It was God that should have been appeased, that his soul was longing to make peace with. And to do that, God already did for him what needed to be done—to die to pay for his sins. THAT is the one good news only Christianity claims.

The book is a tale that gets to the heart of the loneliness, fear, and guilt that accompanies love, individuality, and betrayal.** It shows us that we; left to ourselves, no matter how grand and glittering we make of our lives in this world; are selfish, hopeless and bad and we could never make it in this world on our own without getting lonely beyond what our hearts could bear and eventually killing ourselves. The core of the human heart, even if we cover it up with beautiful photos in social media and our vain obsession over living the ideal life, will always have a hint of this ugly thing that goes with being human. We need a redeemer because the ugly truth is, the heart of things…is nothing short of darkness.

 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. […] the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 3:23 and 6:23, Holy Bible NIV

 

 

 

This post is in response to this week’s Blacklight Candelabra writing challenge, Mephistopheles and the Road to Heaven.

“I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”
—Mephistopheles (In Faust I by Joann Wolfgang von Goethe)

(Spoiler alert: Click link only if you want to know what book is the subject of this post.) **quoted from bookrags.com

 

 

Featured Photo is one by the Swedish photographer and visual artist Tommy Ingberg as part of his photographic series, ‘Reality rearranged’ (2010-2013). It was taken from the article by Andreea Saioc published online in the website theglobalpanorama.com.

10 Reasons Marrying A Christian is Your Best Bet to Happy-Ever-After

Okay, first let me make it clear that I am not saying you can’t have a happy life if you choose to remain single but I assume you’re reading this article because you believe you were meant to tread life with a partner. Whether that is true or not, I leave with you to seek God’s counsel on the matter, but I would like you to consider this when deciding:

An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. (1 Corinthians 7:32-33) But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. […] But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. (1 Corinthians 7:9,28)

While marriage is clearly not a bad thing, that last verse was more a warning than an invitation. It leads to the conclusion that marriage might not be the smarter, more practical choice between the two. But if your calling is indeed marriage then the most important decision would be choosing who to marry. It’s your lifetime of happiness (or misery) that hangs in the balance. So let me be upfront with you with this advice. Pick a Christian. Let me tell you why.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

1. A Christian will see you as a blessing, a wonderful gift that is NEW every morning. We often hear that after the honeymoon stage, romance runs dry and the once burning passion begins to fade. Many, especially those who experienced the pains of former break-ups, will see this as a deterrent to wanting to make a lifetime commitment to someone. The Christian perspective doesn’t view the world this way. Rain or shine, energised or tired, excited or bored; the fleeting mood of the day will not in any way thwart the way he or she sees you—a wonderful gift from God that he/she never deserved and should always be thankful for. The Christian believes that God never makes mistakes, and if you are from God, you will never cease to be her/his Mr/Ms Right, regardless of your day-to-day situations.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:24-25)

2. A Christian knows what it means to lead and to submit—to give and take. There is no arguing with a Christian about who should be who. He/she knows his/her role when she enters into marriage. A Christian man will lead not to abuse or boss you around but in the same way God leads his people. Therefore, his leadership standards are very high. It means he is patient, loving and understanding. He will give you enough room for you to learn and grow and to play your own role. At the same time, he will be just, firm and strong. When it comes to the big ticket decision items especially, you will be able to rely on him. He is a good leader because he is first a follower and a servant of Christ. On the other hand, a Christian woman knows how to submit. It doesn’t mean she’s a push-over or is weak. It means she will respect you and your authority as God’s anointed leader of the marriage and your future family. She will support you, which doesn’t mean she will not have any say on things. Instead, she will argue with reason that she gains from studying God’s Word, and if need be, she will lovingly correct you towards what she knows is right in accordance to the Bible. She will not play tag-of-war with you about whom final authority belongs to. She will treat you as her king with faith that you do things out of your love and care for her.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

3. You will unlikely have problems competing with your in-laws for attention. A Christian knows, regardless of cultural background, how serious marriage is and how God designed it to be. He/she knows the principles of leave and cleave (that means leaving the parents to cleave to the spouse PERMANENTLY). He/she knows that when he/she vows to a life of being with you, he/she transfers all his/her loyalty to you and the family you are about to form. While it does not mean he/she will cease to respect and honour both sets of your parents, it surely will make you feel more secure knowing where to stand when it comes to his/her priorities. When you are not insecure, it will always be easier for you to give to and love your own in-laws more.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, (Proverbs 31:30) […] but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

4. You don’t have to worry about getting old, fat or bald, having wrinkles or being less attractive than when you first met. A Christian will always have high standards for living. But his/her standards is not the same as of this world. He/she will not take it against you if, years into the marriage, you no longer look like a super model as when the first time you two ever went out for a date. He/she will see you beyond that. He/she looks forward to seeing you become a more beautiful person in God’s eyes, not in men’s eyes. And as you grow together, he/she will celebrate and will be grateful for the person he/she will see you become as you let him/her influence you in following Christ.

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)

5. No decision will be too bad and regrettable in your marriage as long as you go through it together. Your Christian spouse will know how to pray and if he/she loves you, he/she will teach you how to. Decisions, especially major ones, will not be made without lifting them unto God and consulting his Word. With that, even if consequences do not necessarily reflect your expectations or personal desires, you will believe that it is still the best and that, in the bigger scheme of things, all things work together for good. If you are not convinced, your spouse is sure to be. And with that, despair will always be far from your home. He/she will always be optimistic and will always believe God is in control, so that nothing can go wrong that God can’t get you through with or that God doesn’t intend for your good and his glory. You may go through the strongest storms together but he/she will keep bringing you sunshine until you, yourself, understand where he/she gets all her hopes from.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

6. A Christian won’t hold grudge against you. With him/her, forgiveness is not a very complicated idea. Pride won’t get the better of him/her when it comes to facing your shortcomings or your faults because he/she knows how imperfect and awful he/she is as a person. A Christian cannot be one without realising and having had to admit to him/herself how helpless a sinner he/she is and how desperately prone to sin all of us, humans, are. He/she is not self-righteous, instead is poor in spirit. With a self-image like that, he/she will find it relatively easier to forgive you for your sins as he/she knows he/she needs much more forgiveness from God for every day of his/her imperfect life. With him/her, past dramas are easily forgotten and readily replaced by new and better memories.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

7. A Christian isn’t perfect but each day, he/she strives to be better and will never lose hope for oneself and for you. No depressed moments, no suicidal tendencies, no emotional baggage is too heavy for him/her or too serious to last a long time enough to break him/her or your marriage. Your Christian spouse walks with Christ, and thus is his work-in-progress. He/she might have had a dark past or might experience phases of personal dilemma or may have a bad habit that annoys you which he/she struggles to overcome, but with Jesus in his/her life, he/she will overcome those in time. You will be blessed to witness how God transforms his/her life right before your very eyes. The good thing is, no matter how many times he/she falls, he/she keeps trying because he/she believes in his/her ability to succeed and overcome, with strength which is not his/her own but God’s.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. (1 Corinthians 7:14a)

8. You will be sanctified through your Christian spouse. If you are not a Christian, it will be unlikely that you will look at this reason as a factor in choosing who to marry. But if you think of what you are signing up for in a marriage contract, an entire lifetime is at stake. So it will always be practical to be assured that you will be lead to a better rather than a worse version of yourself through living a life with your spouse. To be sanctified means to be set apart for God. Whether it is your original intention for marrying or not, that simply means you will be looked upon by the eyes of God in a special way because he will see you as one flesh with his child. God will set you apart THROUGH your spouse. If you share a life with someone who walks in the light, it is close to impossible that you will not be able to enjoy that light in your own life as well. Think about marrying an heir—there is nothing in your blood that makes you worthy of the inheritance, but by virtue of marriage you become eligible for ownership of that wealth. Think of how much more the kingdom of God is worth than any material inheritance this world can offer. Marry a Christian and you are one step closer to being co-heir with him/her.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

9. Your future children will be considered blessed. Christians lead, teach and discipline their children in accordance with the word of God. Nothing can teach better than examples shown to them and there is no doubt your Christian spouse will be someone you can rely on when it comes to this. You may even be more blessed if your spouse is involved in Sunday School or Youth Group Ministries, for he/she will already be experienced and trained when it comes to dealing with kids. He/she would know what it takes to raise kids who fear and love the Lord. They will value high moral standards and will seek a life of peace that pleases the Lord. Extra perks: Christian kids will be exposed to the bible and to other kids in Kids’ Church so they are more likely to become more sociable and comfortable with studying texts and understanding ideas than other kids their age.

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16)

10. A Christian will not see separation, divorce or annulment as an option when the going gets tough. Unless you commit adultery (Matthew 19:9) or you insist on rejecting his/her Christian faith and decide to leave him/her (1 Corinthians 7:12-15), your Christian spouse will never think of giving up on your marriage. He/she will fight for you and continue to believe and pray for you no matter what happens. Even if the opposite has already become societal norm, he/she will never leave you and will honour the vows the two of you made as something sacred. Because to a Christian, that’s what it is and always will be—a sacred covenant with God. It follows that he/she will stick with you through thick and thin. And when he/she promises you “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, ’til death do us part”, he/she knows how to keep them (asking God’s help to fulfil them). So with a Christian spouse, you can be sure that NOTHING, except the God who also gave, can take him/her away from you.

If you are not a Christian and you have been searching or waiting for your perfect partner, I hope you consider these things and that I somehow managed to give you a glimpse of how wonderful it is to be in a Christian marriage. My prayer is that God teaches you to come to him to ask him for your life partner instead of looking elsewhere or trusting anything else (i.e. signs, compatibility test, feng shui, fortune-telling, destiny, your own skills, etc.) when making that choice.

If you are a Christian reading this, pray with me that we do not disappoint the spouses we now have or are yet to have, with the great expectations set by the claims of this article. May we always live as the Godly spouses our Lord intends us to be, through his unfaltering strength and guidance.

Featured Photo taken from www.huffingtonpost.com

What Kind of Idea Am I?

I am the purist, the absolute.
       I’d rather have it whole or nothing at all.
I persevere and am resolute.
       I neither doubt nor fear, I know who to call.

I am the unpopular and outdated,
       accused offensive and close-minded.
Though I’m the idea long lost in Eden,
       I stand my ground, I wait for heaven.

Unwelcome in this world, I strive to be heard.
       Small voice, big message, who will take heed?
Give me a chance I plead, you have been misled!
       Of this good news, won’t all be in need?

Wise men insist I’m nothing but cowardice.
      They hold fast to their ‘to dare is to live’
They say “I’d rather break than sway with the breeze”
       But pray if they do, will they then believe?

I was once that damn fool, too. I’m no better
      ’til one did come to give me his name.
He touched me and threw the old into the fire
       —that bloody-minded, ramrod-backed aim.

I am wisdom wandering to everywhere.
       On history’s pages, there I am found.
I fought against death to tell about power,
       Hope that makes even the empty abound.

Does it not take more courage to leave oneself,
       Kill what you knew, abandoning all?
Is it weakness to leap and jump to a cliff,
       Trust but in one to not let you fall?

When everybody laughs and says I’m a fool,
       I look up, trust he knows more than I.
Am I not the one always labelled uncool?
       You act like you’ve got sole right to cry!

I have it easy you say, you’re the rebel.
       But is not the world applauding you?
The new world grows weary of me, I can tell.
       I’m unbent though, I’ll uphold what’s true.

One day I’m certain the light will shine.
       Those who now are blind will discern at that time.
On that day I dread not to be me.
       I’m no fancy idea, in time you’ll see.

“But God shows his love for us in that
       while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And is that not enough for me to live by?
       What good is this life? A short mission!
So what now, what kind of idea am I?
       The one Christ died for—I am Christian.

 
 
 

I wrote the poem above as a response to The Blacklight Candelabra Event‘s January 12 challenge, “What Kind of Idea Are You?” based on Salman Rushdie’s novel “Satanic Verses.” This quote from the book was turned into the participants’ writing challenge:

“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.”

This poem is also in response to Blogging 201’s assignment on participating to blog events. I responded to this challenge through a poem ’cause I wanted to try my skills at poetry. So I’m also joining another event, How Do I Love Thee Poetry Party that challenges participants to write a poem about love. I’m an amateur poet but I absolutely loved writing this. I’m passionate about what I was writing about and the challenge was really mind-boggling. I’d say poetry writing is therapeutic, something everyone should try. So why not grab your pen and try it now?

*I would like to apologize if the poem’s font size is too small for you. I need to accommodate mobile users and using this font size is the only way I retain the poem indentations and style on a mobile view. I will change the font size back to regular once I discover how to adjust the mobile view only.

 
 
 
Featured photo was taken from www.wallpapervortex.com

Running Against Our Eternal Limitations (and never getting tired)

I was supposed to sleep early today and thus, skip a post for the day. However, I just can’t sleep yet. It’s my mom’s birthday and I haven’t had the chance to talk to her. I left facebook messages and tried calling her but she’s out of the house without her phone. I just miss her. The perils of living abroad!

Suddenly in the midst of an internal battle trying to force myself to sleep, I remember my grandfather. I call him Lolo. Just last month, I heard one of the saddest news, my Lolo has lost one eye’s sight. It was due to the late diagnosis of high sugar levels affecting eyesight. I know him too well, even if he feels something’s wrong, he won’t tell about it. I don’t know if his eyesight can ever be recovered. The night I discovered it, I knelt down in tears under the shower asking God to bring my Lolo’s eyesight back. I wished for no one to see me, but I felt so sad since then. I hate that feeling of wanting to do something for someone you love so bad and not being able to do anything about it. When God reminds us of our own helplessness and weakness, it can really be so painful. The last time I felt this was when my brother died. There’s no feeling like it. I can only call on to God and surrender to His will.

I want to take Lolo to this place where I am now. And my mom as well. But right now, I’m just scared. Scared that time is just slipping away. I don’t know how long my Lolo’s remaining good eye will remain good enough to appreciate the beauty I now experience in this foreign land and have the pleasure of calling home. His knees have long been weakened by arthritis. My Lolo is the closest I’ve ever had to a normally functioning father. His strenght was my inspiration as a little girl. His hardwork made me say to him once “Lolo, when I grow up I’m gonna marry someone like you!” But now, that strength is failing and I can’t do anything about it.

My Lolo and his first cup of a Starbucks drink 4 years ago
My Lolo and his first cup of a Starbucks drink 4 years ago

I’ve always wanted to give my mom the kind of love she lost when she married the wrong guy at a young age. She dedicated her whole life working for us so we will have a normal, decent life that doesn’t lack anything. “When I graduate, I will….”–those are the words the promises I made to myself start with. But seven years down the road since I offered her my diploma and medal, I have done little to rid Mama of hard work. She still wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and works til late night to keep the business running. I know she’s tired. To other people, she might seem to choose this kind of life because she likes it. But these other people are not her daughter. I know better. I sometimes act upset trying to tell her she shouldn’t work this hard as we’ve now grown up. But the truth is, I’m just masking my own anger…at myself. I can’t do anything. She told me once before that she’s tired of this kind of lifestyle. But there’s no better choice. My mom grows one year older today, and I’m no way close to taking her to the life she deserves, the youthful years she lost when she dedicated her time working for us and raising us. Sure she’s been fulfilled in a number of many different ways for having us and in watching us grow up but she never had a me-time, like most moms have. She lost that sense of freedom of bonding with herself. I’m not sure she realizes that but I feel really sad thinking about it. She’s never met friends nor attended reunions. The best conversations she had was with her own sisters and nothing else. She wasn’t able to catch up with her classmates she’s shared memories with. She has barely ten birthday greetings on her facebook wall, mostly from relatives. I wish my mom could catch up on lost time–all those she invested on us. Now that we are experiencing the life she always wanted for us, I wish I could let her have a taste of it, herself.

Mama on my wedding
Mama putting my wedding necklace on me

I wish Mama and Lolo could both experience the life they worked hard for to support. But I guess they are growing old faster than my wealth does. Time runs quicker than I could ever run the rat race to reach that capacity that can support the kind of life I dream for them.

But from this eternal loneliness springs also the realization of an eternal hope. I am weak, I have no influence over time. I cannot give the people I love the better lives they deserve, the one they afforded me to have. It is in vain for me to trust me. Seven years and I learned, I can only do so much. I might never reach it. I find rest in the fact that God isn’t me. What joy is it to remember that God can give so much more than I could dream for them. And the best thing I can ever hope for them is not to experience the life I now have. That’s being too short-sighted. The best thing I could dream for them is heaven. I shall not only hope for it, I should pray for it. I might fail them here and now but my God won’t. In forever and beyond, they’ll live a life so much better than I could ever have imagined. Then, there’ll be no worrying about time overtaking me.

But then again, every now and then I still ask God: Prolong their lives and strengthen me through this lifetime. It doesn’t hurt to seek the joy of making the ones who matter feel how much you love them. Maybe that’s what this life is about, what makes it beautiful, and what makes every waking day in this world worth living for.

Featured Photo shows my Lolo and Mama walking me down the aisle.

From Agnosticism to Love: a Journey

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Good Faith.”

“By Birth” doesn’t mean “By Faith”

I was born to a Catholic family and was raised as a Catholic though academic institutions made me a passive Catholic. Growing up, I began to question a lot of the church’s teachings until I gradually became an agnostic. I stopped going to mass. I was not sure whether there is a God or not and that didn’t really matter.. During tough times though, I would still pray to what felt for me was an unknown, distant God. Maybe it was a habit that was hard to break.

First Encounters

I had Christian friends back in College who would ask me to join them in their small group and church service which I did, but at that time I wasn’t ready. I always ended up concluding such sort of stuff wasn’t for me. Every time I try to be a good person, I fail the God I knew. I still held the notion that my “goodness” or “badness” will determine my being a child of God. Realizing I may never learn to stop failing Him, I would keep on sliding back. And so, that’s how I was—lost, unsure, living a life of a constant struggle. It was tough, carrying everything by yourself. I remember I used to relate to the quote: “Despite my rage, I’m still a rat in a cage”.

A Sharp Curve

Having things my way went very well for me until at one point in my life everything fell apart. I was so badly broken I felt I was beyond repair. I faced a sudden tragic death of a loved one, a loss so massive it changed the way I viewed the world. Suddenly, the idea of death became so real. I was no longer in control. I couldn’t do anything. My worldview came crumbling down and I could not help but watch the pieces fall apart. It didn’t make sense to think that a person who used to walk this world with so much life and passion can cease to exist just like that–in a fleeting moment, everything was gone. I knew that men get buried into the ground when their hearts stop beating but is that really the end to their stories? Where does ‘the person’ go? It was too hard for me to swallow the idea that he’s just gone like that. Suddenly what seemed an appealing, rational theory became unacceptable: that we are merely flesh and bones existing by some random chance, which if by another random series of events, our bodies fail, we just stop being alive–this does not make any sense. The person that was, all his thoughts, all his feelings, his dreams, his desires, the very core of the person he was… just *poof* gone like that. No, I cannot accept that! It just doesn’t feel right.

“Seek and You Shall Find”

So, I began my search for the truth about what happens when a person dies. It was a pathetic way of coping up with the idea that I can no longer do anything about the loss. If I could bring my loved one back to life, I would. In fact, in my head I bargained with the God I barely knew. “Bring him back to life, take the days off of mine and transfer it to his account so that he may live longer. Bring him back, I’ll give up a portion of my life, surely we can share it.” You know how crazy people expect that things like this can really happen? That when they wake up in the morning the thing they wished for will really be there waiting outside their rooms? I was THAT crazy. I realized later, it was pointless so I looked elsewhere. Thinking that, at least knowing the truth about his departing would ease the feeling of my helplessness, I searched tirelessly, doing everything I can to know what happened to him after he’s gone.

In the midst of my quest (and tears), my then long time boyfriend left me. Don’t ask. For no reason, he just woke up one morning and realized he could no longer bear the fact of being with me. That. That was the last straw. That got me completely lost. I started asking people randomly about where they think dead people go or if they wanted to die too like I did. I was freaking people out. This was when an officemate responded to me with a friendship I would value for the rest of my life.

Almost There

I had so many questions. He untiringly tried to answer all of them. He told me about God, about Jesus and how he died for me, how he has planned everything that happened in my life so that one day I would learn to know him. Later on, our conversations became more frequent. I was thirsty for more answers. I wanted to know more about this Jesus. He answered me not through his but God’s own words, through the bible. When he shared bible verses to me, they sounded like echoes of my own painful lamentations. To my amusement, all my questions have been asked before, they were all there, written down in the bible. Where the questions were asked, there also were the answers.

Heading Home

He then invited me to church until I felt comfortable attending the service and listening to God’s word. I learned that being a Christian is not about having a change in affiliation but having a change that is deeper, something personal. It is a journey that begins with accepting Jesus and letting him take control of your life. I came to realize how lost I’ve been and learned that nothing I can do can save me from my hopelessness. I need God, I always did.

Until this day I still wonder why God chose to save me after all that I’ve done, after what I have become. But he didn’t doubt me even for a second. Since I accepted him, life ceased to be a constant struggle or a search for meaning. There will always be moments when I’ll fall short of the expectations but I no longer worry. I know that slowly, my life would be transformed. Life is no longer heavy on my shoulders. I learned to let go and completely trust him.  I have never appreciated life so much more since then. I found the answers to my questions about death and in the process, also found life. Death is not permanent. In Christ we are bound, and in grace and love, even death cannot tear us apart. Surely, my brother and I shall meet again.

Today, I am no longer a ‘rat in cage’. I was freed, bought for a price. Admittedly, I am still wandering through this life, sailing where the wind blows. This time though I am assured, that wherever this wind takes me, I’ll be safe.