Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alive at 35!

My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Ps 84:3)

I pray this prayer today, to have that longing and yearning come alive in me again.

I have been running and hiding from the Lord recently. Some of you may know that this normally happens to me and that I eventually find my way back, sometimes even on my knees. This has been a little extended chapter of hiding but I'm hopeful that I will recover. Ironic that this has happened at a time when He is showering me with blessings: my career is taking surprising turns, I have a proven set of lifelong friends, and my relationship with my family is as strong as ever.

With God, I am again a petulant child sulking because my plans did not push through and I did not get what I wanted, when I wanted it. I focus on that, rather than the roomful of toys (blessings) that He has given me. I'm getting tired of this sulking, at last.

Some people are born privileged and grow up getting their way in everything, and later on in life realize that they have to give more of themselves, back to God, through His people. My journey is a little more complicated, for I had a conversion experience in my teens, and in my twenties, attempted to be the paragon of service and selflessness. Until I found myself in pieces, tired, and badly in need of rest. So I did rest.

Then it became more difficult to pray, to listen, to wait. The shadow of my former self threatened to negate all my years of renewal. It happens to everyone. It happened to me. So I hope that in time, I will find that balance between faith and good works. And that I will talk and listen to God again, like I used to, for He has not changed, but I have. May I learn to accept that He loves me despite who I have become.

This lesson of accepting God's love reaches new levels every time I encounter it. Love is indeed the greatest of these, and the most powerful. I pray that love enters not just my mind, but my heart as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Productive Rest

Coming from a lifetime of being too hard on myself, one of my latest struggles is about being productive.

Like every obsessive-compulsive control freak, I have come to measure my days by accomplishments. I am seldom at peace unless my task list gets updated with a few checks everyday. I am distressed, guilty, and unhappy in between days of accomplishment, whether at work, and apparently, even at rest.

I am on a couple of week's break before I re-assume the detail-oriented position of being court attorney. Therefore, I should be, literally, taking a break.

So I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Singapore, my first international trip in almost two years, and immersed myself in window-shopping, mall-hopping, and cuisine-tasting.

But then I got back home and faced my cluttered room. Waiting for me were my suits for dry cleaning, books for reading, stuff for writing (two for Lingkod), lessons for finalizing, and other piles waiting to be discovered.

My state of mind is reflected in this mess. I have this habit of stashing things- and thoughts - until I'm ready to sort them out and file them properly, either in the keep, recycle, repair, or giveaway bins.

Rest has scriptural basis, my friends remind me. I should not be guilty for not being productive - whatever that means. If my body needs to rest, my mind needs to process, and my heart needs to ponder, then I should listen and respond, rather than resist, and push myself to do things that I do not exactly want, or need, to do. Like going out.

I have responsibilities and my prayer is that I can fulfill them in the order of urgency. Otherwise, I will try not to be guilty for slowing down, taking time for myself, and not publishing a paper, writing a book, or composing a song (as if I were in the habit of doing those things, but just to illustrate).

Sometime soon too, I hope to reconnect to my God. To ask Him my questions. To sit with Him, even if I don't understand His answers. To surrender to Him my worries. To express my gratitude. To listen. I have not done that, or enough of that, in a long time. I know I should do that first. I may have forgotten how, in my busyness with all things of far less importance.

I wish that God would come to me, and speak to me, and embrace me now. Perhaps that is the motivation that I need to make sense of the chaos that I have surrounded myself with. Yes, His Word, His assurance, His presence, that is all the rest that I'll ever need.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's Pouring Out Here

Many of us complain that "when it rains, it really pours".  We say this idiom complete with a sigh and a shrug.  

Lately, however, I have seen the blessing of having too many things to think of (read: worry about).  It has taught me to let go and let God.

I was out last night with some friends after our prayer meeting was canceled due to heavy rains.  I felt bad when I arrived after two hours of traffic to find an empty, dark church.  Where was everybody?  Not only were cars and people delayed for the prayer meeting, text messages also arrived late.  

It was my last day at work and one thing that had kept me going was the thought that I was attending a prayer meeting afterwards.  My officemates had invited me to a drinking session but I declined.  I wanted to be spiritually nourished.  I felt exhausted, as if I had swam a great ocean and I was on the last few laps.  

I was supposed to pray, sing, listen, and share, and let my hair down in the process.  But there was no opportunity for that.  A friend of mine also texted that she was stranded outside our village due to the pouring rain.  I went to get her, and then we finally caught up to where the others were.  They had already finished dinner.

I told them, "Next time that I am in transition, please don't cancel a prayer meeting."  I could see their logic. They apologized.  I had forgiven them, but still  I was not my usual self.  I was spaced out.

Fr. B asked how he could help me and what he should pray for.  I shared with him that I was going through several major things all at the same time, and thus I  had not focused on any one concern.  Perhaps one pain was shielding me from the full impact of another.  Perhaps they were sent at the same time to cushion the blow.  I was forced to take it one day at a time and to deal with my challenges in the order of urgency.  As a result, I did not dwell too much on the goodbyes and the pains and the hurts.

"Wake me up when September ends", the song goes.  This had become literal for me again.  I imagine a September when I would have less worries.  And a December 2010 when I would be reunited with my whole family again and we would celebrate many occasions.

For now I get by through knowing that nothing is within my control, and I just have to go through this.  It was my last day at work yesterday.  For the next few days maybe I can deal with everything else aside from work.  And that means I have a whole truckload of things to think about.  And pray about.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lea Salonga's Something More MV

Saturday, July 04, 2009

From Failure to Blessing

I have realized today how God really moves in mysterious ways, yet He uses everything for good.  There was one aspect of my life that I considered a failure, but in hindsight, it paved the way for one of His greatest blessings.

I failed the presidential elections three times in my life.  Three times in my life I ran; three times I lost.  

In grade school, high school, and law school, I was encouraged to run and I said yes.  In the School of Economics, I had the good sense to run for vice-president, and won.  I cried when I lost in grade school, laughed when I lost in high school (such a relief!), and just smiled when I lost in law school.  

But running while I was a law student was very difficult.  My heart wasn't in it, because I was getting tired of politics.  My mentors, the kingmaker who was behind our party's straight win when I was a sophomore (I won as Treasurer), and the President who I absolutely adored, gave me a big pep talk and asked me what was wrong.  I was the standard bearer and yet I could not keep the party together.

The truth was that I only ran out of obedience.  While I was discerning whether or not to say yes, I went to the UP Chapel and attended mass.  I heard a song that had always moved me to say yes to the Lord - "Here I Am, Lord".  So running for president did not become a thing I had to do for my party or my convictions, but for the Lord.  I remember crying so hard because I was tired of putting myself out there to serve and being the object of mudslinging as a reward.  I was too idealistic for politics.  My Ninang already forewarned me about that when I first e-mailed her that I was being asked to run again.

As I said, I lost in that election.  I gave a speech from the heart during the final face-off, more for my friends and partymates than anyone else.  When we found out the results, the party members had lunch at Chocolate Kiss cafe.  There was companionship, friendship, and camaraderie.  I felt grateful for the chance to be part of that idealistic, passionate, and brilliant party.  The party's name was Gabay.  I have remained friends with those people, all lawyers now, through the years after Malcolm Hall.

Two years later, when I was already a lawyer, I resigned from the law firm I was working for without a job in sight.  I just followed my heart.   As usual.  Then I got a call from Cherry, who ran for P.R.O. with me in Gabay, two batches below me so I would not have become close to her had I not run for President, and with whom I clicked as we had the same outlook in work and life.  She said that she had heard that I was looking for a job, and asked if I could work for her mother, who was then an Associate Justice at the Sandiganbayan, a mere seven minutes away from my house.

And the rest is history.  I happily worked for three years in that Court, until I heeded the call to be a volunteer mission worker.  In August, I'm going to work for the same Justice again after four years, and this time with Cherry, who has joined her mother as one of her legal staff in the Supreme Court.  

I remembered this story because this morning, my favorite uncle (from the US) called, and my father bragged to him about me working for the Court.  He excitedly asked to talk to me and then I said, "It's no big deal, Uncle."  He said, "It is a big deal.  Your father and all of us here are very proud of you."

I went back to my room and thanked God for the job opportunity, which I got again so easily, and which as a result, I had taken for granted.  I had tons of friends who worked for the SC so I had forgotten that not everyone could get this chance.  This led me to thinking as to how I got the chance:  by obeying God even if it was difficult, by going through failure, by being tested in fire, by being led to the right people, and by giving my best.

Yea, my life is hidden in Christ.  I thank Him for directing me and taking me to new places.  

He does this for all of us.  So let us not look at failures as final, but just as means to make way for even greater blessings.  I know.  I have failed a lot and He has worked miracles through each failure.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Grateful for God's Megaphone

In his book "Where is God When It Hurts", which I had read years ago and must have blogged about here already, Philip Yancey tries his hand on a topic previously touched upon marvelously by C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain".

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  --C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Expounding on this, Philip used the medical findings of Dr. Paul Brand who studied lepers for years to appreciate the value of the body's pain mechanism in pointing out to humans the areas where they are ailing, and thus, prevent further damage.

Philip's proposition is that pain is God's gift, for without pain to warn us of harmful and dangerous situations, we would all injure ourselves to death.

I woke up appreciating the pain that I felt strongly a few days ago, for it pointed out to me an ailing area of my life that, if left unattended, could have burned and used me up.  At first I was surprised at my response - for pain could have physical manifestations:  a real heaviness in the chest, difficulty breathing, recurring headaches - as well as mental dimensions: I have been distracted in my driving and almost collided with other vehicles for two days now.

I felt, surprisingly, that while I was being delivered the bad news, God was with me.  So it was with courage that I faced the verbal abuse.  I knew that my conscience was clear and the accusations were baseless, and in fact I could have argued my way to death, but I found myself exhausted emotionally.  I had no strength left to think, for the one who was hurling accusations was someone I knew and trusted.  

It happens to everyone, I told myself.  No one can ever know us fully.  We shouldn't put our trust in man, but in God.  So I let go.  Later on, the surface of the area where I was blackened and bruised hardened, and I felt a shield of anger envelop me and provide clarity.  Righteous anger is a gift, much like pain, for it showed me my convictions, as well as the other person's, and how starkly different they were in the first place.  Definitely time to move on, I thought.

When the anger melts, I know I will have to peer at the wound itself and open it up for further healing.  I am confident that God is sending me people who will be messengers of His love.  But it's my instincts that showed me lies from truth.  I am stronger than I initially thought.  Perhaps pain is not new to me.  Perhaps I have seen God's handiwork in challenging times like these over and over again.

I am in pain now but I am not alone.  I am grateful that God used His megaphone to wake me up from my blindness and deafness.  Such is the tender care and concern of The One in whom I trust.  It may take time, but as cliche as it sounds,  I know that God is with me, every single step of the way.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My True Worth

I'm currently reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns".  It struck me how the girl Mariam did not know that she was living on scraps thrown her way by her father until she saw his house and how his other children lived.

Like Mariam, I was happy about a certain area of my life, until I was brought to an astonishing shock that I was living on scraps, leftovers, and throwaways.  Then I had a choice - settle for that, or move towards a different kind of life, one where I would receive as much as I gave.

Sometimes, in life, we are taken advantage of.  And we don't mind.  We are even happy to oblige, thinking that there is no harm done in the long run.  Until we wake up one day to find that we have given away our inheritance to become a scavenger.  Friends tell us that we deserve better, but we insist that we are where we're supposed to be.  We believe tenaciously in our dreams, not seeing reality for what it really is.  

I was struck by a line from this morning's Psalm reading:

"The great grow poor and hungry;
but those who seek the LORD want for no good thing."  (Ps 34:11, NAB)

I stayed with it until I heard an invitation to seek the LORD and to lay before Him my pain.  Surely, a sister told me yesterday, this cannot be God's last word on the matter.  So deep and massive was my hunger that I had forgotten how I got there in the first place.  In this verse I saw an assurance of my true inheritance as a daughter of God.  It was something I had never thought possible.  I was willing to stay on the sidelines, to feign happiness, to shun success.

Unlike Mariam's father, my Heavenly Father does not treat me like an outcast in His own household.  I am the one who thought I was an outcast, unworthy of a seat in His table, tarnished and blemished and forgotten.  During times of prayer, however, I hear His voice calling me as His own, and reminding me that He has a plan for me.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

The blurry image of my identity as His daughter is slowly gaining clarity again.  I pray that I may have the strength to continue to seek the LORD, to put my trust in Him, and to believe in His promise of a future and a hope.

I will not settle for scraps again.