Category Archives: Princess

Honor the Builder

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There is a universal reaction when you see someone who was just beside you go ahead of you.

It’s not like you’re in a rat race. But there’s a twitching feeling in the heart when you look down at the ground you’re still on while someone else have gone up the pedestal way farther.

Call it jealousy. Call it low self-esteem. Call it pride. Whatever it is, it’s an unholy feeling.

I had that feeling recently when a classmate who self-admittedly wasn’t the most studious kind is now a lawyer holding a top post in the government. Yes, at our young age! And me, I didn’t pursue the law path, did journalism, went abroad, dabbled on creative projects, and if not for God’s sustaining grace, would have been a starving artist by now.

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On a blue morning, I was randomly flipping through my Bible when I found an unlikely verse that I never thought was even there. Hebrews 3:3, “He who built the house has more honor than the house.” It was a right-on slap-in-the-face comment for my sentiment.

How many times have we had a good meal and repeatedly shout out to the world via social media how good the food is, yet miss honoring, or at least, thanking the one who made it? How many times have we looked out into the great wilderness and gasp in awe at such magnificent rock formation yet dismiss the “maker of all things”? How many times have we credited the conspiracy of the universe for letting us be where we absolutely wanted to be instead of praising the one who has the sovereign will?

The Bible verse did more than just remind me of a God who created everything. It made me look beyond the accomplishment of other people and thank the God who was behind such achievement. Instead of letting this acid creep into my bones (“Jealousy is like cancer in the bones,” Proverbs 14:30), the wisdom of the Bible is teaching me to look up to Him who has transformed my classmate for the better and given her a very big break. And instantly, the unholy feeling dissolved in the mist. And I had added yet another praise list to an amazing and awesome God who does not settle for where we were, but brings us to where He wants us to be.

Let us worship the Creator, not the created. And that, in essence, recalibrates our wandering eyes, steadies our hearts, and puts our emotions in a good countenance.

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—June 11, 2015

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Come Pilgrim, Come My Princess

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God wants us to be more than His creation. He has invited us to be a member of His family.

To be created is indeed a privilege. To be breathed life into is a gift of grace. Yet to be led to enter into the presence of the Maker and dwell in His Kingdom is privilege beyond privilege. It is a prized invitation that should set our feet into dancing, our lips into unceasing praise, our hearts into rejoicing, our minds into leaping!

The invitation is not based on past merit nor of present excitement. Just as Jesus’ disciples, having been invited to become His followers, went on to sleep when they should have stayed awake at such a precarious hour (Matthew 26). Instead, it is an invitation based on the sheer choosing of the inviter. In Love Letters from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd, the King empathizes with the invited: “I understand that you don’t know how it started, nor do you know how to become the who I have called you to be.”

I can’t understand it, I confess. Why God?

Him who invites bids us, “Rise, let us be going.” (Matthew 26:46) It is a call to “let the past sleep, but to let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.” (February 18 My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers) Just as how His calling is based on His redeeming love, our future with Him is all based on His redemption. We come because we have been invited. We are able to come because His grace and mercy enable us to do so. We are coming because His love sustains us. If His grace, mercy, and love were not overwhelming, we would have fallen away from our own despair. Yet His is a well that does not run dry.

He bids us to come. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He bid us to come, and to come as we are, not in princess clothes, but even in pilgrim sackcloths, because it is He, not us who will clothe us with the “garments of salvation” and cover us with “the robe of righteousness”.

“My princess, My child, I have chosen you, come, arise, let us get going.”

Remembering and Delighting in the Saints

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Tomorrow is All Saints Day and as in most years, it’s a time when families go to the tombstones of their dearly-departed loved ones. The metropolis roads are close to empty as most people are back in their provincial hometowns. And the normally eerie cemeteries become festive with droves of candle-bearing, fruit-basket-carrying aunts and uncles. The white-washed tombs are heavily-decorated with pasted color paper. Some are in roofed mausoleums while others are under neatly-manicured lawns. You can kind of guess it’s a Chinese clan’s when there’s a small drum of burning gold paper on the side and extra large red candles embossed with red dragons.

Growing up, I never quite understood what November 1 meant, except that I knew it’s coming when scary stories are featured on television and the Halloween costumes line up along the escalators of SM Department Store. Then I knew that it’s time for the pilgrimage to the crowded cemetery to do the customary lighting of incense sticks to my grandparents. Sometimes I’m given two sticks, sometimes three. When I was in fifth grade, my mother told me to ask my grandfather to help me study better. I don’t know how he’ll do it lying on his tomb, but apparently if I ask it from him while waving the incense sticks with my two hands together, he’ll find a way to make it work. True enough, I made it to Top 3 that year and I wonder if it’s the wish I made or it was because I was just more studious that year because a family trauma kept off all other distractions in my life.

Now that granted, it doesn’t justify having a twisted view of what All Saints Day is. I hear that other people say it’s when the souls of the dead people roam around and pick up from where they left off. That’s why the people who are alive offer food, flowers, and burn incense to appease their spirits. Then I hear that some people don’t believe in such but just visit the tombstones of their loved ones to be reminded of their days together in the past. This sounds biblical because reading through the Old Testament I can pretty feel how God wanted us to remember our ancestors, for both their mistakes and good deeds. Of course we don’t want to follow their failures and we’re expected to learn from them, and we’re supposed to be encouraged by how they followed God and walked in the right path.

With that, I remember my dearly-departed AE who took care of me for 24 years before she went to paradise. She showed me how it was to be a servant of the people whom she chose to serve. She would complain and whine and get mad, and sometimes I would think that disqualifies her from being a good servant. But somehow, I realize that’s what makes her…real. I visited her weeks ago in the province and before her tombstone I asked her why she had to be gone so soon. I was mad at her for being too quick to let go at 76 when she could have waited for me to make a name for myself whom she’ll be proud of. How can she see me walk down the aisle or how can she accompany me to my trips abroad when she went rushing back home too soon, I lamented. The air stilled after my protest. There were no sounds or emotions apart from the ruckus of the children who were staring at me and asking if I needed help in sweeping the tomb. I politely said no. No tomb-sweeping can clean up the memories of the past, not even for the sake of the P20 the children were asking for.

Remembering a loved one has its way of scraping so many raw emotions. And I remember what the Bible says about being witnesses to these great people. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

The above passage reminds me that instead of looking down on the tomb of my loved one with so much drawn-up confusion, anger, and doubt, I should look up, up to Jesus who saw everything, who started and finished the race, who made my dearly-departed loved ones finish the race too, and who will make me finish mine, up until the end.

Someone once said that life on earth is just a matter of who goes first and who goes after. Everyone finishes at one point in time. Just like a race. When you’re stuck in the middle and the time gun shoots, then I suppose it’s rapture. But normally, we get to finish the race at the pace we were built for, cheering on to our left and right for those contemporaries, aiming for those ahead of us, and if we’re kind-hearted enough, turn our heads back and wink on the ones behind.

And I suppose that’s how life is supposed to be lived. Racing. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.

The Bible also mentioned about delighting in the saints who are still on earth. In Psalm 16:3, David says “As for the saints who are on earth, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.” So All Saints Day doesn’t just mean going to the cemeteries and remember the dead saints. It’s also a time to honor those who are still among us. Top on my list are my pastors and mentors throughout the years. They’ve seen me crawl in the faith, answered my doubting queries, shook heads on my delinquencies, mentored my life direction, and were basically witnesses to my life here on earth. If I were to name these heroes who would make it to my hall of fame, it would be a dramatic list.

I’d spare the drama and instead commit them to a prayer of thanksgiving. Occasionally, I should say hi to them, too, and make them feel that they are being delighted upon.  God has been very good to me for letting our roads cross. Without such saints, I wonder where this sinner could be found.

So on the occasion of All Saints Day, I remember the saints who have moved on to be with the Saint of Saints and delight in the living saints who are in the land.

Happy All Saints Day to all, if I could even say such! Remember your saints and most of all, remember our God who made saints out of the sinners in us for His glory!

 

Drop The Name

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I was rushing to go to downtown today to be a panelist on a thesis presentation. You see, Downtown Manila is all about narrow one-way streets, pedicab drivers loitering by the nonexistent sidewalk, pedestrians who imagine the asphalt road as their sidewalk, tricycles maneuvering to make U-turns and lefts at their own whims, and fruit vendors on their wheeled cartons. Now these are stuff that immobilize unexperienced drivers such as myself. The little smarts in me thought that it’s wise to chart my route way ahead of time. So yesterday, I made a mental map on where I’d make my turns, and more importantly where I’d park. 


My mother goes to the local Catholic church on Wednesdays for Bible study, and its spacious lot seems perfect for my drive-reverse stunt. It was actually my mother’s idea when I told her I’d drive to Manila instead of taking the bus-LRT-pedicab-walk commute which I had predicted would stress me out like last time. She told me to mention the name of the husband of her friend who is an active member of that church, if not an elder or a major donor. I presume they wouldn’t be there at church, but they should be renown enough that their names hold such a steam of influence. And surely, when a guy in T-shirt, whom I would assume is a parking attendant, walked to my parked car as I rushed to alight, I blurted, “Kay Brother XXX“. And with that, I was a fairy in wings who just sprinkled magic dust in the air with her morning breath. I brisk walked past him and he nodded in acknowledgement. 

 

What happened today made me think about the power of a name. It can surely let me park for six hours without pay. Then I’m reminded of those days when I had dropped our boss’ name so I’d look cool in front of colleagues from the same industry. Or when I introduced myself as my brother’s sister so they’d acknowledge my existence at a church event. Well, the farthest my 31-year-old name went was getting a free box of tikoy (sticky rice cake) when my sister bulk-ordered from a bakery owned by a friend. At least my name’s sticky!

 

There’s this story about a soldier whose servant is sick. He didn’t want to bother the Master Healer, and He’s busy for sure. So he said that it should be enough that He say something and the sickness would be gone. The soldier knew the power of a name as he himself is in a position of power and can command a troop with just a seal of his name. This time, it actually was effective and the Master Healer commended the great faith of this soldier on His name. Luke 7:1-10 is more than just a story from the ancient days. It’s a Bible passage that is proof of the power of Jesus’ name. 

 

I end my prayers with “In Jesus’ name” as though it’s like a signature on my email messages. It’s a template I’ve known to use ever since I learned how to pray. I just didn’t realize how much power that holds. If I had, I wouldn’t be worrying ten thousand thoughts after I had cried them over to God. If I had really believed in the power of Jesus’ name, my Amen would be a very loud resound of an advanced thank you for what would be coming my way.

 

 

 

So IN JESUS’ NAME, my unbelieving younger sister wouldn’t be a wanderlust in this world, my other younger sister wouldn’t be hypnotized by the charms of this world, my father would be at peace in his heart, my mother would have everlasting joy, my older sister would walk her talk in the Spirit, my older brother would have the spiritual leadership of Moses, my extended families would be out of poverty, and myself would grow in maturity in His will and grace. In short, my whole family will belong to God’s household, AMEN.

 

–March 3, 2014

 

Turning 30

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“Writes 30”. In journalism, 30 means “end”. It is often used when someone in the media industry dies, in reference to the traditional marking “-30-” that writers put on the last page of an article to signify that there won’t be another one behind.

I may not be writing 30, yet…who would know but the master writer of my story? I am but the blank page to be written on and I realize, today, I’m turning 30.

No Birthday Cake

The day is about to end and this might be the first time in my 30 years of breathing life that I do not have a birthday cake.  No chocolate mousse, no cheesecake, nothing…oh but I ate a slice of leftover last night from the fellowship last Saturday. That won’t count because the clean-up crew just stashed the cake in my bag because everyone else was rushing to go home. Where’s the thought in that?

The thought of not having a cake saddens me. Some close friends have forgotten to greet me, too. And I can count in my fingers those who remembered. The usual BBQ and misua that mommy always prepares on birthdays (which is almost every month for our family of 7) are being enjoyed by the six other family members in the Philippines. While me, the birthday celebrant, some hundreds of miles away here in Taiwan, is alone and not eating anything.

I just sounded pathetic and pitiful there, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate my 30th year otherwise. I decided to fast today because at this season of being alone and lonely, someone whispered to my ear this morning and said, “Your flesh and your heart may fail but do you know who is the strength of your heart and your portion forever?

I may not have a birthday cake, but I know I have my portion.

No Birthday Wish

I don’t have a birthday wish, either. This year, I chose not to make a genie out of God and did away with it. Of course, I have a year-long list of prayer request, but that doesn’t count!

Reading Ephesians 1, I realized I have all that I need…I’m lavished with every spiritual blessing, every treasure is made available, a glorious inheritance is awaiting, and most of all, the fullness of Jesus will fill me in everything in every way. Today, when I felt so complete and satisfied, I felt the paradox of ineffable contentment yet deep longing for something that cannot be articulated within three birthday wishes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

謝謝袮30年陪伴著我走這條恩典之路,袮真是我的sweet consolation, constant companion, great comfortor, and eternal encourager.