Prayer Series: Christlikeness

One thing I know for sure that we can all never graduate from is growing in Christlikeness. That is why I love this prayer of how to grow in specific ways in Christlikeness.

“Dear Father, dawn returns, but without your light within no outward light can profit,

Give me the saving lamp of your Spirit that I may see you, the God of my salvation, the delight of my soul, rejoicing over me in love.

I commend my heart to your watchful care, for I know its treachery and power.

Guard my heart’s every portal from the wily enemy, give me quick discernment of his deadly arts, help me to recognize his bold disguise as an angel of light, and bid him gone.

May my words and works allure others to the highest walks of faith and love!

May loiterers be quickened to greater diligence by my example.

May worldly people be won to delight in acquaintance with you.

I commend my heart to your watchful care, for I know its treachery and power.

May my words and works allure others to the highest walks of faith and love!

May worldly people be won to delight in acquaintance with you.

Help me to walk as Jesus walked, my only Savior and perfect model, his mind my inward guest, his meekness my covering.

Cause me to be a mirror of your grace, to show others the joy of your service.

May my lips be well tuned cymbals sounding your praise.

Teach me the happy art of attending to things worldly, with a mind on things eternal.

Send me to have compassion on the ignorant and the miserable.

Help me to walk as Jesus walked, my only Savior and perfect model, his mind my inward guest, his meekness my covering.

Let my delight be the gentle ranks of the meek.

Let me always esteem others better than myself, and find true humility an inheritance to two worlds.” (Lifted from Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision)

I’ve heard it to be said that no one goes through this pandemic “unscathed.” I hope that with these sorts of prayers, by His grace, we are able to put the scathing to good use! 🙂

Prayer Series: Coming Up Short

(5 min. read)

Everyone has shortcomings. Hardly anyone would admit they don’t have shortcomings, and if we see one not admitting to any, then that there would be his/her shortcoming. If we honestly can’t see any, we just simply have to ask the people closest to us proximally and relationally: “Do I have any shortcoming?”. And if they will be honest with their answers, we’ll discover at least one, for our good, hurtful to accept it may be.

Here are prayers from The Valley of Vision, my favorite prayer book and prayer coach next to the Psalms. In reading and praying them, may we have a heart that receives and repents, and along the way, find freedom in the grace and mercy of the Lord in light of our shortcomings. 🙂

O living God, I bless you that I see the worst of my heart as well as the best of it, that I can sorrow for those sins that carry me from you.

I praise you that it is your deep and dear mercy to threaten punishment so that I may return, pray, and live.

I fall short of your glory everyday by spending hours unprofitably, by thinking that the things I do are good, when they are not done to your end, nor spring from the rules of your Word.

My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged, or to look on my good and be puffed up.

The best thing I love about occasionally praying using The Valley of Vision is that it trains me to pray in ways I never would do and in words I never would say on my own! In my sinful nature, I normally would not debase myself to admit I’m wrong. But I’m wrong more than once in any given day and I’m thankful for the opportunity to see and acknowledge this brutal truth in these Scriptural prayers by the Puritans.

By and large, people usually balk at the thought of being corrected. But the Word of God is a mirror, and when we look at it, we see ourselves for who we truly are, and thankfully, who we are to be too in Christ, by the grace of God.

With my wrongs, I really do get discouraged at times, and with my rights, I do get puffed up! Even in times I do something good, if I look inside my heart, they can still turn out to be with motives not really aligned with God’s Word. And that makes them nevertheless wrong.

But Scripture teaches me that your active will reveals a steadfast purpose on my behalf, this quiets my soul, and makes me love you.

Keep me always in the understanding that believers mourn for sin than other men, for when they see how great is your wrath against sin, and how Christ’s death alone pacifies that wrath, that makes them mourn the more.

Although we are on this earth, in the already-but-not-yet state, it is indeed not all briars and barrenness, I do indeed have bread from heaven and streams from the rock. I have light by day and fire by night.

Even in this pandemic, we have the delight of food and drink, warmth and comfort of home, God’s presence, and daily mercies by way of continuous relationship! That in itself more than suffices!

I am sometimes discouraged by the way, but though winding and trying it is safe and short.

Death dismays me, but my great high priest stands in its waters, and will open me a passage, and beyond is a better country.

While I live let my life be exemplary, when I die may my end be peace.

More than anything, a lifestyle of prayer characterizes a believer’s apparent need for the Lord. As Bishop Manny Carlos of Every Nation Philippines taught us regarding the benefits of a life of prayer: Self-reliance is at the core of man’s determination, to live on his own terms and in rebellion to God; however, conversion and Lordship lays an axe at the root of that tree of self-reliance left in us.

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Suffrage: How Should a Christian View Politics?

A quick definition of suffrage – a right of voting. It has certainly fallen out of usage! Globally, fighting for and significant wins towards suffrage for women in national and local elections ranged in the 1840’s to 1920’s. In the Philippines, the winning date was 30 April 1937 – women were allowed to vote!

Suffrage, as with thousands of English words, comes from Latin, suffragium, which originally meant to pray for or intercede, but which was later broadened to voting.

Incidentally, this fits right in to the era of my current favorite leisure series, Downton Abbey. Set in 1918 Britain, Lady Sybil was their down-to-earth, interesting, and forward-thinking daughter who advocated for women’s right to vote.

So, as I sat there in the Comelec (Commision on Elections) waiting area, all decked in face mask & face shield, expecting to have my voter’s registration transferred to my current city, as well as changed to my married name, it got me thinking about what has transpired through the years before I got to this place.

I mean, being a free country, a sovereign democracy, with a young woman like me having a privilege to vote.

It was not so long ago that women were not allowed to vote. It was not so long ago that our country was in a Martial Law. So it is indeed a privilege, one that is easily taken for granted.

An Ombudsman of the Philippines 10-page Citizen-Voter Education Module entitled “Your Vote, Our Future.,” states that the human right to vote is embodied in three instruments:

We are governed by these documents which all mandate universality of right, equality in access to public service, and secrecy of votes.

What is the Ombudsman? The thought of it takes me back to college days in Makati Med, we were the only college there, right smack in the Central Business District, walking around and eating where corporate workers and executives walked and ate. We frequently passed by the Ombudsman’s office. I didn’t know it then, but it was the government agency tasked to investigate and prosecute government officials accused of crimes, especially graft and corruption.

Waiting Online?

One thing that hit me too was that in the days before the Kindle, the smartphone and Facebook or Spotify, we humans used to do either of two things while waiting in line:

  • stare blankly somewhere, 🙂 or
  • make new friends.

Seeing as I had too many errands and forgot the Kindle at home, I just settled for my usual upbeat lo-fi beats on Spotify to pass the time. Sadly, unlike my husband who is apparently good at it despite his introversion (for purposes of evangelism), I on the other hand wasn’t able to make new friends, as most of the ladies in the voters’ registration queue were absorbed in their phones playing games and scanning Facebook.

In the end I got my details in and was successfully transferred here. I can vote here now! Granted that must be my last government identification to be changed to married name (after 8 years!), and the elections will still be in May 2022, but I’m excited!

But Why Vote?

Most certainly, God is in control, but surely, we can’t just do nothing to further His will. It is our duty and responsibility; to give to Ceasar what is due Ceasar; to do everything as unto the Lord; and to submit to our local authorities (provided they are not making us do anything dishonoring to God).

I understand that even among believers politics can spark heated debates. That’s why our leaders and mentors wouldn’t ever endorse or talk about any political candidates and we don’t do so as well. We simply choose the candidates to vote wisely as to the best options there are, do our part, and trust God for the results.

Voting and positions on issues also don’t have to be choosing just one political party. Timothy Keller would say in a New York Times article: “For example, following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”

Also, ultimately, it is the Lord that puts people in authority, He merely uses circumstances for His purposes. The Lord even put and used Daniel and Joseph in powerful pagan governments!

"For this has been decreed by the messengers;
    it is commanded by the holy ones,
so that everyone may know
    that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world.
He gives them to anyone he chooses—
    even to the lowliest of people.”
Daniel 4:17 NLT

“Political entities are not the savior of the world. The salvation for all mankind has been manifested in Jesus Christ. God knew that our world needed saving long before any national government was ever founded. He demonstrated to the world that redemption could not be accomplished through the power of man, economic strength, military might, or politics. Peace of mind, contentment, hope, and joy—and the salvation of mankind—are provided only through Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

How Should a Christian View Politics,

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Daniel 2:21 ESV

Close In.

Last Sunday we closed in on a week full of fun ministry opportunities, it seemed like one of our busiest since the pandemic, still, I recall how much pleasure we derive from ministry and how blessed we are to get to do what we do.

Being part of building the church here on earth is a small picture of an eternity with the Lord, and right around the corner is an eternity of unhindered fellowship with Him!

Obedience to God’s call may have a cost, but in it is an unspeakable reward that none in this world can compare.

On one of our women’s leadership group meetings, we talked about John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, chapter 5 and 6. It’s comforting to have conversations with them that all of us need God’s grace, all of us battle the sinful nature, all of us lie at the foot of the cross.

Cross by Neal E. Johnson

As Christians, we are all in a spiritual battle, and we “haven’t yet resisted up to the point of death,” as Evangelist would say to Christian and Faithful before they cross Vanity Fair.

The road to the Celestial City passes through Vanity Fair.

Three things that stand out for me as Christian and Faithful walk across the severely evil Vanity Fair (and many evils offered to them) is that:

  1. They have a different raiment – they are wearing the armor of God, which is certainly unrecognizable to the Fair’s residents.
  2. They have different speech – they speak the words of the Lord.
  3. They will “only buy Truth” – they will purchase and have interest on nothing of the lusts offered in the Fair.

We certainly had a great discussion on this, us Christians could definitely be considered an “oddity” in this world. When others would tell you to seek revenge, we would forgive; others would succumb to worry and panic, we do have a lasting and unshakeable peace; when others would be stingy in trying times, we would be generous.

In my short military career, one of the cooler options (for me atleast) would be a close in security or medical team of the president.

I was too junior of an officer to get into that, but now, I have a better close in, I have Jesus in me, His presence is always felt and keeps me safe. He would envelope me in his embrace.

With that I take comfort in all challenges, specifically now, as I prepare myself mentally, physically, and emotionally for another homeschool year.

Recently, we’ve deemed it productive and soul-satisfying for us to go to Alona beach once a week or so, to spend about an hour or two just walking and playing. It’s cleaner, less crowded, and swimmable now, certainly one of the blessings of a halt in mass tourism.

Jd and I thought that it can be good exercise for all 4 of us too! We certainly hit our 5000 steps goal and more!

I’m reminded of the differences of the beach each week, one day its sunny & perfect, one day its super windy and almost stormy, on another, its closed for water testing by the Department of Natural Resources.

Just when I let them wear swimsuits, they don’t swim, but just run around and build sand art instead. Just when I let them wear casual clothes for “only” feet dipping, they end up swimming and frolicking their hearts out! What unexpected joy & adventure parenting brings.

All in all I’m grateful, and my heart is full. Praise God!

On Coronavirus, Loss, and Gain

With Covid19 well on its way in “destroying” what we knew life to be, some countries are in better places, most are still far off in defeating it; it seemed rational to be talking about losses and gains.

People lost relatives, friends, businesses, jobs, ways of living, more terribly, hope.

I haven’t had much experience on loss of people apart from grandparents — natural causes due to old age — those could be somewhat rationally expected.

But I do have experience on loss of material things, pride, anger, and most other toxic goings on in my heart.

Take for example my engagement ring. How terrible that I lost that! Ever so ironically, it was lost during our pre-nup photoshoot, through swimming on the same beach where we got married! It would’ve been a great heirloom! I had suffered that in bits and pieces for quite a long time.

I guess all loss is felt that way. You do feel it in a burst at the beginning, then feel it still from time to time (in my case, how horrendously careless I was for losing such a valuable thing).

Such the military woman & trooper that I was, I wasn’t hysterical, no one knew except JD 2 days later. (Even as the prenup shoot was an out of town campus ministry team effort and we accommodated them in Mama’s home afterwards.)

It was such a shameful loss because it was such a public proposal. It was an elaborate movie house proposal, (he’s such a movie nut!) He did rent a whole cinema and treated a 100 or so of our friends and colleagues to that extravaganza, complete with a composed song and a music video!

Such a pursuit that he made of me, and inadvertently, the campus church mates and some others would tell us somewhat of what we now call “goals!.” A handful of my closest Victory groupmates and friends were genuinely elated for me, heck the whole church was rejoicing with us!

The loss of that ring in that beach was terrible, and yet, the loss of my materialism was not so terrible. In fact it was great! I had gotten well into the book of Job that time. I had mustered up the courage to tell my fiancé that I lost my ring. I thought he would be mad and I was really expecting that he would break up with me over my stupid carelessness. But ever the gentleman that he was, he just said words that were never forgotten: “Bakit ka umiiyak? E engaged parin naman tayo kahit nawala yung ring diba?!” (Why are you crying, aren’t we still engaged even if the ring is lost!?)

I was crying because I lost such a thing of beauty and I thought I lost what it meant too!

I was flabbergasted as I had never thought of it that way!

I had wrongly pinned everything of meaning in the beauty of marriage into a “shiny new toy,” much like a toddler.

For a time I struggled with questioning my worthiness to be responsible for taking care of our future children, if given.

In those days we usually hung out with the campus kids and one of them said “I was with kuya Jd when he bought that!” Then he proceeded to tell the whole group the 6-digit monetary amount it cost. That knowledge firstly impressed me and told me of how special I was. Then later it was totally, “Wow thanks for adding salt to my wound!”

When God takes away something, it is for our good and for His glory. We can’t immediately see it, but it is.

God knew me better than I knew myself. He knew that I was purely running on materialism at the time. I was all about me, my money, what I did, could do, and what I could buy, what I had. He knew that pride and earthly things occupied my heart. But He was in the business of changing me for the better, as if He wasn’t done in saving me. I thought I was all that and more, and He thought, come to Me, and I’ll define to you how special you are, who you really are.” He’s not finished with me yet.

I know that losing a ring doesn’t at all compare to losing a loved one, let’s say in war, (as I’ve seen many times before) or in the current covid19 pandemic, but still, but let me just say that any loss that makes me grow closer to my Lord and Savior, I’m fine with that. I know He has plans and purposes for me, and He is sovereign.

In the book of Job, Job was tested, he lost his entire family, his possessions, the loyalty of his wife, his friends, even his health! In all that, he didn’t sin and he praised the Lord! Towards the end they have a question and answer portion and its amazing, I certainly love the father-son exchanges of Job and God in the books’ very last chapter.

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:20-21

My husband jokes about it now. And I can now certainly laugh and tell it to those who ask too. Well he’s been joking about it since day 1 (or day 2 for that matter)! He has this sense of the more important things in life and death, and he’s all things I’m not. I am mighty glad God put him as my leader then! I wouldn’t choose any other!

These are our Suarez wedding rings, and the Unisilver engagement ring we got for photo ops! Haha!

During that time, I did lose a ring. But I did gain my husband, an extended clan of loving and supportive in-laws, lifelong friendships, and great life lessons I brought with me till now. Eventually God gave us kids to love as well.

Nowadays one would be hard pressed or find me dead, rather than pin my hopes on nothing less than Jesus. (I wonder then what taught me that?!)

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5: 3-5

The Gift of Marriage and Parenting

What happened to that thin lady who used to work in the military? Salvation happened. Marriage happened. Kids happened. Life happened.

It’s been 10 years with Christ, 8 years with JD, 6 years with the kids around, the gift of marriage and parenting has grown us a lot, in ways I never would’ve experienced as a single woman.

Motherhood has grown me in ways I never would’ve imagined, emotional agility is being exercised everyday. I grow as they grow, we laugh, we play, and we fight and makeup. It’s all part of the package.

Children are wonderful blessings, granted they need a ton of care, discipline, and hard work, but in God’s wisdom, I think He put children as babies that need a lot of care as a form of test for us.

We depend on him more, to get up each day from a long night of breastfeeding woes, to get up and work to provide (in the case of husbands) and still, to get up, even if sick and work to present meals, activities and maintain a certain home rhythm. We depend on him more to work in us, as we raise and disciple our kids, to lead us parents, as we lead our kids, to grow in our walk with Jesus, as we show our kids the narrow path, by God’s grace, into their salvation.

We hurdle through the hill of difficulty, stumble through mistakes, all through the recognition that Christ is our righteousness, our redeemer, our wisdom.

We hurdle through the hill of difficulty, stumble through mistakes, all through the recognition that Christ is our righteousness, our redeemer, and our wisdom.

As the days draw near to start my firstborn on “formal” grade school homeschooling, I can’t help but feel excited for the all the more shall I say, “serious” fun we get to have as the lessons become a tad longer, a lot deeper, and wider in scope; then it isn’t just going to be letters, numbers, and finger painting anymore. As it unfolds, I am certain of my hope, that God is with us, and that’s just what makes it all shall I say, doable.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12,14

The Wisdom of Pilgrim’s Progress

Few books other than the Bible have been so reprinted as much as John Bunyan’s 1678 classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is To Come, Delivered in the Similitude of a Dream.

Why is that? Is it because of the long title? Paradoxically, it has been read by common folk in the evangelical protestant communities to their children through the centuries. Not only that, but it has also garnered praise by scholars as well.

It was surprisingly, and astoundingly written while John Bunyan was in prison, it is an allegory of adventure, trials, and triumph, of a Christian as he walks from the City of Destruction, toward the Celestial City. Its second part is about the equally perilous and exciting journey of his wife, Christiana.

What’s ridiculously amazing about it is that it is great at the literal “as it is” denotation level, and yet it refers and encourages too at its parallel spiritual connotation, meanings and equivalents.

In my personal copy of the book, it bears illustrations and biblical passages inserted inline for reference, and I have to say ” Wow! How biblical can a work of fiction be?!”

I have been at it for about two years now , repeatedly, and its so abounding in wisdom, there’s always something new to relate to and be encouraged with; especially now in the pandemic lockdowns, wherein everyone has more time to read.

Such a pleasurable read, it’s our steady topic in conversation & studies in my women’s group, and I am certain that my kids will grow up reading, hearing, and talking about it too!

Can you be Christian and plant-based too?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Well my husband would always say, “It VEGAN in the garden.” Then he would explain many things of which I sometimes zone out of due to the kids screaming & interrupting. But yes, you definitely can! The original design was that Adam and Eve really did eat of fruits and veggies in the garden. We know what happened next.

The more important questions would be: Is there thankfulness in the table for whatever is there?

Are we giving other people around us reasons to stumble because of a legalistic set of food choices?

AND are we even enjoyable to be with in a party?

What even prompted us to start plant-based inclusions in our family food intake? Well it is really the skin asthma/allergies of my youngest. There sprung a need to remove allergenic food like chicken, egg, and shrimp. You may ask, “O so what do you eat?” The answer is a lot of tofu (anything soy for that matter), carbs, fish, and vegetables! We are serious about our soymilk, dark chocolate, and peanut milk. We thoroughly enjoy flatbread with hummus and baba ganoush.

These ideas about our food intake nowadays can be so complex, its multifactorial in nature, as I have learned in college nursing problems. Every problem is multifactorial. Some would argue animal rights and welfare, racism and environmental care in today’s agriculture, some would lean towards the health benefits (surely I’m on this side), and still others might prefer the relatively cool look, sound and feel of being plant-based, keto, etc.. I once stumbled upon a phrase “chubby vegan girls,” and I could so relate! Portion control girl! But really, for us, the heart of the matter is, as Christians we are called to steward our bodies in such a way that we can honor the Lord in all we do, and equally important, to be thankful for His provision.

For us, the heart of the matter is, as Christians we are called to steward our bodies in such a way that we can honor the Lord in all we do, and equally important, to be thankful for His provision.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Cor 10:31

We are in no way purely vegetarian, or vegan, or anything of the strict sort. In fact a personal favorite of mine is chicken tinola, bangus belly, all sorts of fish fillet, and the beefy spaghetti that I grew up eating. We let our youngest eat as much fish and pork as she prefers. My husband mourns the loss of chicken on the table. Hey we are Pinoys after all! He would be the quickest to have pork barbecue, pork adobo, and the like. I then scramble to learn new recipes apart from sauteed veggies and tofu spam, but I am afraid the daily demand is more than I can supply. The struggle is real.

If its avoiding those allergenic food for the sake of the youngest, then so be it, if it’s such a treat from time to time to eat things other than fish and veggies, then let it be so. For us, most of the time there’s 4 types of dinner in the table and you know how odd that is because there’s just 4 of us.

In our home, food is one of those “I choose to love you even if I don’t love what you’re eating sort of thing.” It’s one of those “I’m glad there’s food on the table so we can continue on our God-given purposes” kind of thing.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:17
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Why a blog?

Why did I start this blog?

There may be plenty of reasons to blog for some, and still a number of reasons for others. Personally, doing something tangible has always been a way of making sense of life in general. In different season of life, there have been many, i.e., reading, tennis, baking, badminton, swimming, boxing, reading, jogging, and rather recently lately, adulting by breastfeeding, chores, and homeschooling. In all those there is a semi-constant habit of journaling.

In short, I am kinesthetic, and so that really coincided with a habit of journal writing, and as it is, a desire to actually create a blogging page was birthed and yet not yet fulfilled.

I do love to write too, since those pre-pubescent and adorable gradeschool days in the hallowed grounds of my alma mater and also my home.

If you asked my about things in life in recent days or months, I can’t really describe them to you sensibly, but if you asked me about life events 3, 4, or 5 years ago and beyond, that would be something I could possibly make sense of, in light and with the power of God’s Word. I would have been able to process that already.

Somewhat I consider that as natural progression of getting old. The bible does say gray hairs are a mark of wisdom. Writing is good, by God’s grace and leading it produced the Bible. He knew we needed words of comfort as we navigate our already-saved, but-not-fully-sanctified yet state.

With the advent of an unprecedented global health crisis of this magnitude, it seemed a good a time as any to all the more make sense of what’s happening in light of God’s Word.

There seems to be a sense of calm and solitude as one would set about to write and unwind, (staring at a screen typing away, with a ghoulish blue light shining on your face?) but seriously, it’s another avenue of honoring the Lord with much that He has given me.