Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Food, Parks & Celebrities: Post Christmas in Singapore

My family decided to spend the rest of the holidays in Singapore with my brother and sister in law.  So we woke up at 3am yesterday to catch a 6:30am flight. (Note to self: never take a 6:30am or an earlier flight again.) I was groggy the whole morning until my dad pointed out "John Lloyd" in the boarding area of MIAA. Not that I'm a fan or anything like that.  But I just remembered John Lloyd being my philosophy professor's celebrity crush.  She gushed in front of the class as to how good-looking he was. 

He wore a black jacket, shades and a cap.. the usual celebrity stealthy get-up..which ironically made him look even more like a celebrity.  He had a very fair complexion, smooth skin, and a little bit chubby structure.  Then I also saw Shaina who was pretty in her flowy pants and sleeveless printed top.  She had her make-up on which made me think, she probably didn't get much sleep the other night.  They were with a large group, probably J.L.'s family.  There were kids, teens, and middle aged people with them.

So as an evidence, here's our picture together.  (My mom mustered up the courage to ask for their photos.)

We arrived in Singapore at around 10:50am.  The Cebu Pacific plane was really full.  I felt quite sorry for John Lloyd and Shaina Magdayao because all eyes were on them.  I caught a great number of eyes following the couple (my parents included) as well as whispers and giggles from the plane to the baggage counter in Singapore.  There was no special VIP treatment when they arrived.  The last time I saw them was when they took off in a double deck bus.  Anyway, enough about them.  It's time for some food tripping!

Lunch, 12:00: Sushi Tei

My brother who has been a resident in Singapore for more than five years highly recommends Sushi Tei for Japanese food enthusiasts.  We tried the Sushi Tei branch along the beach in East Coast.

I ordered Nabeyaki Udon.  The tempura was normal for me.  I couldn't taste the difference.  But there were some chicken chunks, soft mushrooms and fish cakes that added texture to the dish. The thick udon was chewy which was, to my taste, good.  The soup was savory and not overpoweringly sweet.  Overall an okay-okay dish.

 I first tried a big piece of tempting futomaki.  One of my criteria for a good maki is an obedient seaweed covering that is soft and easy to bite on.  This maki passed with a high mark.  I could also taste the freshness of each ingredient wrapped in Japanese rice.  When I was ready to take my second piece, the makis were I guess very well appreciated, that there was only one other futomaki left.

Yummy Zaru Soba for my dad -- my dad's personal fave.  He orders this in almost every Japanese restaurant we go to.  An evidence of how much my dad liked it, he said, "I still can't forget the Japanese restaurant we went to yesterday."  

It's milk tea for dessert! I love the teh tahrik (SGD $2) being served in East Coast.  Edivita introduced it to me last January.  It was love at first sip.  I prefer it a lot over the pearl milk teas we have in the Philippines.  I guess probably because it's the real thing.

Dinner, 18:00: Akopo's (Grandfather's sister) residence

We ate in the balcony of their house where the wind was blowing freely through the wooden railings.  It was a lovely & refreshing ambience for a family gathering.  Felt like I was in a picnic.

Here's a classic Singaporean-Chinese dinner spread.  There's misua, spicy fish curry, fried tempura, fried chicken, sticky rice with Chinese longganisa and bittermelon soup among others.

Merry Christmas la from Singapore!

Cheers! Yes, this is their way of digesting after a heavy meal.  And this is also the Singaporeans' (as well as Chinese's) way of bonding and catching up.

One thing I love about Singapore is that playgrounds are abundant!  Children can freely go out of their house, ride on the swings, and then go home for dinner.  In our case, we walked around after a full meal.  This is a park 10 steps outside Akopo's house.

I was surprised when an auntie told me that these logs were for the biceps.

Seems to me that this can also be a playground for adults!  What a healthy & engaging place.

They also have a trail for joggers and a stadium probably for aerobics and other exercises.

The picture below shows the second playground near their place. 

It's such a blessing to be able to walk leisurely, look around and enjoy the clean surrounding in Singapore.  I won't have this much liberty when I get back home. But I read somewhere recently that if the surrounding is not as pleasing, look up.  The sky, glorious and magnificent, is the same everywhere.

So this is how we spent December 26, 2011.

How are you spending the Christmas holidays? :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas: Associations and Reflections

For the past decades, I've associated Christmas with a number of random things.  There was this pair of white school socks I would hang at the head of my bed on Christmas eve, as I waited for Santa Clause to fly through our window (we didn't have a chimney).

Then there was also the 8ft. Christmas tree with golden balls and golden-winged angel ornaments we would put up together on one relaxing October or November day. I get a warm giddy feeling every time I turn on the twinkling yellow lights.  Then of course there are the Santa Clause dolls around the house.  One hanging on our door post, another standing by the Christmas tree, and also there's one sitting on  our dining room TV.

Sometimes, I would also associate Christmas with the activities or festivities.

Plus singing and dancing to the fun upbeat Christmas music.

There's the kris kringle where we act like "mommy"/ "daddy" and give gifts to our "babies."  There are also Christmas concerts, musicals or plays.  And in the recent years, Starbucks Christmas drinks also come to mind.

And I also associate Christmas with certain concepts or thoughts.. like Christmas being a time with family.. or a time to remember the birth of Christ... and of course happiness.  That's why based on observation, a lot of people experience self-pity (one even died of heart attack because of loneliness according to TV Patrol today) if they don't have their families around, gifts received, fun parties to attend and other associations present.

Then last night, on the eve of Christmas, it dawned on me that since Christmas symbolizes Jesus' birthday more than anything else, (1) my associations were not directed primarily on Jesus and, (2) I have already prepared gifts for most family and friends, but I still don't have a gift for him!

What a shame, I was more focused on work, festivities and other visitors, than on the birthday celebrant Himself.  Then I asked myself a very difficult question.  What can you give Jesus who already has the whole world in His hands?

We may have different answers.  After much thought, I realized I would like to give Jesus a heart of worship. A heart that realizes Christmas is not a time for frivolities but for moments enjoyed with Jesus.  (God has made a way for us to be with Him so why don't we make the most of this gift?)  But in order that we may have a meaningful time with Jesus we must let go of a few things.  We need to erase anger, bitterness, hopelessness, envy, greed, pride, etc. by the blood of Jesus and be filled instead with thanksgiving and praise (I realized it's nearly impossible to worship when we're harboring such sins). A heart that gives more room to Jesus, and less room to me.

Many of you may ask, "Shouldn't we have a heart of worship everyday?" Exactly!  Since Christ has saved us, our lives are not for our own selfish gain anymore ("To live is Christ.." Phil. 1:21).

But isn't it ironic that when Christmas comes, we get so tied up with all the busy-ness of the season (whether in business or ministries or parties) and other associations, that we have less time, energy and passion in worshiping God?

What things do you associate Christmas with?

How do you plan to make the birthday celebrant feel special?

What gift would you like to give Jesus today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Prayer Doodle: Ideal and Status Quo

(This is a drawing of a man hanging on a thread of his ideals, trying to pull someone from the status quo.  Two other people in the status quo are disliking the act, while the rest are happy in their current situation.  This doodle is scanned from Mitzi's journal.)

Sometimes when I pray, God encourages me and/or teaches me through images.  This is one of them.

I had been quite down recently when I realized how the church has been different from what the Bible says it should be.  Whenever I read the Bible, how God's people should be on earth becomes clearer and clearer each day.  And as I voice it out, many times I just get shut out.  Like for example, I've shared with some church leaders how the focus must be moved from the technicals (church building, church car, equipments) to the fundamentals (missions, discipleship).. and guess what they've told me.  "Mitzi, you're being too idealistic."

I did not know what to do.  If I talk more, I might be labeled as a rebel or a mere ingredient for disunity.  If I remain silent, I don't know how long I can manage to keep the burden from exploding.

Then last night, I prayed to God about it.  I told God, I can do nothing to help His church because it's just tiring and depressing and utterly frustrating.  Then deep within me, I felt recharged and renewed.  I felt like God was telling me, "No Mitzi.. you're not causing disunity.  You're simply obeying me."

God made me to realize that it's better to aspire for the ideals -- as to what the Bible clearly teaches and be labeled as a rebel, than to remain in a meaningless, united status quo.

May all of us walk on this narrow road (which can sometimes feel like a string) and depend on God's love and mercy.

The world needs idealistic people. They keep the standards from falling. -David Jan Chan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Discover Hope This Christmas

I remember how dramatic (or haunted might be a more apt word) the last few days of my maternal grandfather were.  His nurse would tell me that he couldn't sleep at night out of fear.  Sometimes he would lift both his arms and wave them like he was shooing invisible swarms of flies away.  He'd point to the holes of the exhaust and murmur some intelligible words of panic.  He was seeing some things.  "Dark shadows," he said, pulling him off his hospital bed.

Then, last night, during the Joint Cellgroup Christmas party, Rev. Eugene Hao was also sharing that his 82-year-old ahma (grandmother) couldn't sleep for nights because of those ugly black forms trying to get hold of her.  "Wow, those things are really real," I told my friend.  He told me his grandfather also experienced the same things.

So one day, at an unholy hour of 12 midnight, Rev. Eugene was asked to go to his ahma's room.  He found her seated at the edge of her bed sweating profusely.  When she saw him, she signaled him to cover over quickly and then asked him to pray for her.  "Really ahma? But you don't believe in Jesus naman e," he lovingly kidded his ahma.  "Stop joking around!" she snapped, "Come on."  He then prayed for her and bid her goodnight.  The next day, he found her smiling with such a big smile that would almost reach the ear.  "I've never slept soundly all my life!" the octogenarian lady told him.  "That's great!" Rev. Eugene said.  "So now, I pray to Kuanima, and you pray to Jesus for me, okay?" his ahma replied.

So what happened to ahma?

This ahma had a bestfriend of the same age.  Both had probably played mahjong together, gone wet-market shopping together and prayed in temples together.  This friend of hers knocked at her doors one day and divulged a big news to her, "I'm already a believer of Jesus!"  "What?!" ahma shouted in disbelief, "you've believed in Kuanima all your life, and now you're just letting her go? Letting me go?" Ahma felt betrayed.  Then this friend told her, "You know, I've never felt so much peace in my life until I found Jesus."  That day, ahma also accepted Jesus Christ in her life.  Now, she's probably feasting with Abraham and Peter and Paul, or resting in her lavishly prepared room in heaven.

There is hope.

Dark shadows and other things that resemble "death" have become a taboo to most people older than me.  Like, when I was telling an older relative about this story, she grew quiet and then said, "hmm.. maybe I shouldn't use sky or clouds as my log-in name."

Many busy themselves here by studying to earn some money, having a family then making even more money to sustain this new family.  Then what?  What's the point of all these when the ending would just be an infinite number of years DEAD?  This is the life and the mindset with no hope.  There's nothing to look forward to.  There is no point in living.

Christmas reminds us that life can be meaningful and beautiful, that life can be filled with hope.

Once upon a time in an island oceans away, a baby was born in a humble manger meant for sheep and goats.   He grew to be a very wise child, asking questions and conversing with teachers and religious leaders at the temple courts.  Later on, he put on several hats, such as that of a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, an evangelist and a spirit quester (I'm not sure how you call the person casting out spirits).  He did all these not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the people and for the glory of the Father.

He lived out the purpose set above.   His kind of lifestyle may seem like a waste of time (since he was more often doing stuff for people).  But I guess he lived this way because he knew that life on earth is just a dot in eternity.  There's so much more to look forward to.  There is being with God, the Father, in Heaven.  There is bringing people like you and me there with Him too.  His life has proven that death is not the final ending..  that dark shadows can be overcome.

Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life.  I guess, it's not your nurse, or your spouse, or your money that can save you.  Don't waste your expectations on them.  Hope in Jesus.

In which area of your life are you losing hope in?  

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Story of the PurseBook

Let me share with you the story of the Pursebook.  The story can be summed up in one simple equation:
Pursebook = 2 Passons + 1 Burden

It all started during my soul-searching days two and a half years ago... when I had left the corporate world in search of my purpose in life.  It was during that era when I discovered that what had kept me from boredom was creating products out of whatever I see in my room.  Sometimes I would turn plastics bags into journal covers, other times I would chop a shampoo bottle in half and sew some folded scratch paper sheets in it.  I preferred doing that over watching TV.  People would tell me, "ang tiyaga mo naman!" ("you are so persevering!") But knowing the Sanguine in me, I am not really as persevering as I hope to be.

Hence, these two passions were born and recognized: (1) creating unique and functional items, and (2) recycling.

One event late last year probably also contributed much to this story.  One of our maids, who was in her early 20's, suffered from a severe complicated case of dengue and passed away.  She was young and beautiful.  She was sweet and a bit quiet.  She was away from her family, with no one to care for her, except strangers.  This ignited a burden in my heart to help people in her situation, be it financially, mentally, spiritually or emotionally.

It's really sad, if you can just try to put yourself in their shoes.  You leave your loving parents or even your very young baby just so you can earn way below minimum wage.  You let go of your dreams to become a teacher or a lawyer, since you cannot escape the poverty eating your family up. If you don't work, there won't be food on the table.  When you leave your family, there's also a possibility that your husband or boyfriend may become unfaithful, and you can do nothing in the big house you are in, but cry.   Imagine that.

From then on, I usually ask our maids what they want to become.  I was overly ecstatic when I discovered that one of our kasambahay named Faye loves to sew.  To quote her words, "Gusto ko maging mananahi."("I want to become a seamstress.")  Little did I know, the eureka moment was just around the corner!

I asked her if she would like to try sew some journals.  With a big smile, she said, "Sure!"

And so we created the Pursebook!  The Pursebook is a stylish innovation that blends the function of a notebook and the function of a purse together.  It has a generous amount of pages (196 in total) and a compartment where you can place your pens, scissors, rulers, money and even your cellphone in.  The pursebook is made from recycled jeans and recycled papers.

Here are some of our works:

If you would like to help some women financially, you may:

(1) Order these pursebooks for just Php290.00 (or $8 as a starting price).
(2) Allow me to teach your maids how to do these purse books and I would pay them for their work.
(3) Spread the word by sharing this link to as many friends as possible.

You may email me at or reply on the comment section below.  Come and let's start a Purse Book revolution!

God bless you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting to Know You: Fun and Friendly Psychological Tests

One of the things that I love to read and talk about is Psychology: the art and science of studying human behavior.  It's very interesting if you come to think of it.   You can easily observe how people who tend to be very goal-oriented can be very insensitive towards other people's feelings.. those who are perfectionist can be very depressed.. and others who are warm-hearted can be very forgetful.  Different people definitely have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and knowing about these allow us to understand, accept and celebrate other beings as well as our own.

I remember being someone who was obsessed enjoyed assessing people and even myself based on Psychological frameworks. There is the left-brained vs. right-brained concept.  Where they say, left brained people are more logical, analytical, mathematical, etc.  Right brained ones are more artistic, creative, flexible, etc.  I took a test when I was in 1st year college and landed equal on both sides.  I thought it was a confirmation that I had a Bipolar Disorder. :P  Years later, I discovered that I was in fact a right-brained person.  And just two days ago, I learnt that right-brained people think better when they're lying down than when they're seated up.  Anyway, want to take the test?

From analyzing two personality types, I shifted to the four temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic.  It all started early on in my relationship with David, when  I was very frustrated with too many of our differences.  I was very much a people-person and he the opposite.  I was very much on-the go, and again, he the opposite.  And so when I went into a bookstore and stumbled upon a book titled "Understand Your Man" by Tim La Haye, I instantly bought a copy.

After I discovered that I am in fact a Sanguine Choleric, I was quite disappointed because I wanted to be a little bit more perfectionistic, analytical and introverted.  Then I realized, merely thinking about that, I was already coveting!  Later on, God taught me two things:

(1)  God has created me fearfully and wonderfully.  Thus, He has wired my personality, strengths and weaknesses, quirks, gifts and passions in a particular way.  I can use actually my being talkative and cheerful in writing and speaking to inspire people to do something great and beautiful for the Lord.  My forgetfulness as a Sanguine allows me to keep the rumors from spreading and to forgive people more easily.

(2) I need not limit myself to the boxes above (particularly to the Sanguine and Choleric boxes).  These boxes can serve as a guidance, but is not a complete image of reality.  If we were to follow this framework completely, then the world would be a very boring place.. because there would only be about 4 to 16 types of people!

Now, just a few days ago, I again shifted from the four temperaments to the 16 Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  I had been asking my mom, dad, friends, business partners and any other people I catch online to take a four-question test to know their MBTI type.  And visit if you would like to read your results.  Change the four letter word to your respective type.

I discovered that I am an ENFP (The Inspirer) or an INFP (The Idealist -- when I'm feeling introvert).  The explanations are quite accurate.  I learned that:

(1) As an INFP, words are my bestfriend! Indeed, I feel comfortable, giddy, and excited when faced with a piece of paper and a pen, or a keyboard with a clicking cursor and a monitor.

(2) As an ENFP, it is true that I have quite a broad range of interest and that I find it extremely difficult to choose just one, making me feel directionless.  But the test result was an encouragement when it says, "ENFPs are always consistent in their value systems," making me realize that what brings me forward really are my values, philosophy and beliefs.

Why don't you try it?  There's no harm in doing so.  The results won't tell you who you exactly are, so don't limit yourself to what it says.  But it can somehow open your eyes to a "yes, that's me!" (like a Eureka! moment) information about yourself.  May this encourage you to further discover and appreciate the gifts God has prepared for you --especially those wired within you- and use them for His glory.

~ o ~

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Confused Quarter-Lifer : If only polls were available on Blogspot..:)

Sometimes I feel like Mr. Jack who has all the trades yet master of none.  You see, I'm currently enrolled in my thesis program (first of three terms) and still, I can't even decide which route to take.  Sadly, two years of soul searching hasn't given me the answer -- the much awaited eureka moment hasn't arrived.  All I'd been given were more discoveries, more opportunities, more choices and more forks in the road.  After two years, life seems to be more complicated than ever.

Okay, let me share with you my options.  I'd be more than happy to hear your thoughts, counsel, etc. on these.

1. Artsy Fartsy : Homemade Journals
I just love papers.  I'm obsessed with them.  I love writing on, drawing on, and even sewing papers together.  There's some kind of freedom I feel when working with papers.  People have told me that there's no market for it.  I'm not really sure, because some friends who'd seen the actual thing found it nice (unless they're just being courteous to me which could also be possible.)  And there are kids who love to write and draw.  Artists who love to draw.  Thinkers, writers, and plain journallers who love to write.  Yuppies who love to plan.  Mommies who need to write their shopping lists.  Daddies who want to plan for a family outing.  I am hoping to make this social entrep. -- helping out of school youth or housewives -- but I still don't know who could be the target beneficiaries... who are willing and able to do these kinds of things.  Any suggestions?  Is it possible to mix social entrep. with direct selling?

2.  Technology related : Mobile Game Apps
This is fairly new.  I'm not really that techie.  I don't know if there's a market (whether corporate or mass) that's willing to sponsor or pay for these things.  I'm just there to think of concepts and my partners will program and design them.  The thing is I'd be a little bit guilty if kids would get even more addicted to games than they are now.

3.  Out of School Youth in the South : Bagoong
My prof is suggesting that I start with one actual product that already has a market and that sells.  She's suggesting that I can use my creativity in marketing a poor man's meal and making it high end.  Sony, according to her, was started by Mr. Ibuka who really loved music.  But he didn't start making the walkman or the laser disc player until much later, he started with rice cooker.. that's where the market was.  Is there a way to make a Martha Stewart business model?

4.  Writing..
And drawing are my first two loves.  I don't know how they will fit in my thesis though. Since they're more of a passion and a profession, and not really a real business.

So there.  I still have some other options in mind.. this is just about two-third of what's on my plate.
For now, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to post your comments below. :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mom's Love at the Red Table

Whenever I walk in my parents’ room, I pass by this square red table -- folded, clothed – standing by the wall.  Once upon a time, this table was my favorite table in the whole world.  Once upon a time, I would sit there everyday, not because I was forced to do homework, but more of bonding with my mom.

One of the earliest memories is set during a sunny summer month of 1990.  I was four years old then, and I had just finished my nursery year.   I was in my parents’ room with my mom.  We were seated around the red table with our sketchpads, crayons and some monggol pencils.

Two drawings of my mom

During that time, I remember my mom would show me pictures of different characters and we’d draw them together.  Everyday.  My favorite characters were this cute green big-eyed dinosaur and kero keroppi – another green big-eyed frog (or “monster” as some calls it).   At the end of each afternoon, we would exchange drawings.  And I can still remember how my mother would marvel at my rough, childish drawings.  She’d even say “Wow!” to an odd little monster drawing.

Fast forward to today.  I realized how much time my mom had invested in me, in teaching me, and in trying to appreciate my odd drawings.  The table has been left unused and standing by the wall for years, but my mom’s great effort to support me has not changed in any way at all. 

Unlike other people my age who are climbing up the corporate ladder, I do not have a conventional profession that any mother would be proud of.  I’ve let go of my marketing manager dream 3 years ago and replaced it with the oddest dreams and list of jobs. I write food reviews.  I think of mobile game concepts.  I create homemade journals.   These "jobs" are fairly simple compared to the jobs of my contemporaries.  Nevertheless, I love them and I acknowledge that these are gifts from God.   (Thank you, Lord!)

I was a little bit embarrassed, yet pleasantly surprised, when my mother told my aunties over the phone about a new entry I’d written -- that they should read it and "like" it.  Sometimes she would show visitors my homemade journals tucked in the shelf while I was away.  Other times she would suggest ways of improving my writings or creations.  She would even cut out newspaper clippings and encourage me to take the featured classes to improve my skills (which I’m very very thankful for).  Then there are also times when she would be up late at night, just to reread what I’d written and then she’d tell her groggy and sleepy daughter that she has improved.  I'm happy that my mom is not forcing me to live in a pre-determined mold.  What a fortunate daughter I am to have a mother that not only allows her, but also encourages her, to flourish in whatever field God has placed her. 

It's truly fun to have my mom as one of my top two fans.  The other one is... none other than my dad. (Hehe!)

Thank you mom for your love and support -- from the summertimes at the red table until now. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sheep for Slaughter: Warnings to Leaders

As a passionate observer of the modern church, I have observed some "meaningless activities done under the sun."  I have seen churches lacking vision, the will and the power to fulfill God's mission in the world.  I've seen churches focusing on annual one-time-big-time achievements and yet failing to develop sincere, loving relationships amongst the members.  I've also seen preachers not getting the respect that they deserve.  The people are not able to listen to, and be changed by, the message God has sent through the "messengers of His Word." Instead, they dwell on the imperfections, the problems and the faults of these leaders.  Although the churchgoers do want to grow, they suffer a spiritual plateau, or worse they go astray.   They simply cannot put themselves under the guidance of these "faulty leaders."

When I placed these observations under the lens of the Scripture, I've found two reasons why churches are bound to go astray.  I've mentioned one reason in my other blog entry: Sheep for Slaughter: Shepherdless, that it is because (1)the church people  have rejected God as they reject His messengers.  Instead of listening to the message, they criticize the pastors.  Instead of seeking God for His leading, they depended on their own shallow understanding.  Instead of relying on His grace, they depended on their own strength.  Instead of showing mercy, they offer abominable sacrifices.  Instead of repenting, they continue on in their disobedient ways.

Now, hear ye, the second reason is just as important.  It could be (2)the church leaders are leading the church people astray.  

Malachi has provided A WARNING TO THE PRIESTS in the ancient Biblical times, and I think these are just as applicable today.  The priests preserve the knowledge of God; they provide people instruction; they are the messenger of the Lord of Heaven's Armies (Malachi 2:7).  Although in today's times, there are no priests that do ancient church rituals (i.e. burn incense, offer sacrifices), our church leaders and pastors serve the same purpose, as they help direct the entire congregation in their relationship with God.

They are warned to:

A.  Honor God's name
Honoring God's name means "acknowledging God for who he is -- the almighty Creator of the universe, who alone is perfect and who reaches down to sinful people with perfect love" (NLT Study Bible). Knowing that we are a bunch of sinners that deserve death, we must prioritize God who has given us life.  "How?," you might ask.  Begin by "loving Him with all your heart, soul and strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5).  This means listening to what God says in His Word, and then setting our heart, mind and will to do what He says.

Truth be told, our church is not growing.  In fact our numbers are getting smaller.  And sadly we are still holding on to the same ways and structure as we did in the past.  True, the church may have the money to spare, but is this how we should spend our money?  Priests, have you really asked God how to spend the money?  Are these the sacrifices God really wants from you?  Have you prioritized God with your heart, soul and strength?  Are you sincerely seeking Him?  Are you sincerely willing to do whatever He says -- even if it means drastic change?  I cannot forget a "priest" telling me about how he does ministry, "I admit that I am okay with doing what's been tried and tested."

B. Preserve God's Message
Malachi was angry at the priests who were appointed to be God's messengers -- they did not know God's will!  Imagine having pastors, elders or deacons that don't meditate on God's Word or are not acquainted to the different books of the Bible because they were too busy.  How could they preserve the knowledge, if they have no knowledge?  How could they provide instruction to the people?  How could they become a messenger?  How could they lead people to the right path?

Perhaps the book of Malachi would like to keep pastors and leaders in tune to God's Word. Priests, may you be encouraged to dwell on the Scripture more than on any other books and references.  You need to know what it says, what it means and how it applies to daily life.  As a messenger of God, you need to live out the knowledge that you have, and to share the knowledge that you have preserved, in order to turn many from lives of sin.  If you fail to do this, the church would surely be led astray.

On the other hand, we as the flock, also have to responsibility to read the Scripture.  We need to verify if the priests are teaching us rightly about God.

C. Show No Favoritism
There are several classifications of people in the church.  Some have BMWs, while some barely have food on their table.  Some are Filipinos, while some are Chinese.  Some are already octogenarians, while some are still in their teens.  Malachi warned the priests from showing favoritism to the influential and favored people, to those who supported them financially.  "The priests were so dependent on these people for support that they could not afford to confront them when they did wrong" (NLT study Bible).

It is very tempting to give a higher priority to the older and the richer, but God abhors this kind of favoritism.  "If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers" (James 2:9).  
This is not simply an issue of equality.  Having favoritism shows that we honor men more than we honor God.  The real sin is not in insulting the poor or the young; It is actually insulting God when we despise those whom he has equally given the gospel of grace.  Showing favoritism is the same as questioning his grace, and ultimately, deeming his grace as worthless! (from: Spiritual Favoritism and Why God Hates It).  Let's remember that our significance doesn't lie in the talents, the offerings, the sacrifices, the ministries that we bring before Him.  All of us stand equally before God now that we are a new creation, it is Christ that He sees in us.


Many of the priests today have indeed given up their all for the sake of the call.  They have withstood the initial tests of raised eyebrows and questions like, "Why be a preacher? There's no money there!"  Now that they are in their important appointed positions, the enemy is all the more itching to take them out of the picture, or if not, use them to lead the people astray.

I hope that as messengers of God, you will take heed of these three warnings.  If you forget to honor God and become complacent to your past successes, if you fail to share God's relevant message to the flock or if you show favoritism, God will indeed make you "despised and humiliated in the eyes of all people" (Malachi 2:8).  Your people would know if you truly care enough for them -- you would be sincere in guiding them according to God's will.

As for us, the flock, let us pray for our pastors and leaders that they may not be discouraged in leading us to grow in our relationship with God.  The devil is working against them.  Let us not work together with the devil and give them a harder time.  Instead, let us become a source of encouragement to them.  I've tried becoming a church leader, and when you are in that position, rarely do people you serve affirm you in what you do.  So let's be generous in giving encouragements. It's not that difficult.

The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

~ Malachi 2:7

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Lovers' Quarrel

If you are using Yahoo Messenger, you have probably seen the red "angry" emoticon with wisps of smoke coming from its ears.  Well, I could pass as its live version last night.  Not only did I feel smoke blowing out of my ears, I could also feel it pushing out from my nose.

You see David and I had to meet some friends by 7:00pm.  He told me he'd be leaving the house before six to pick me up.  So by 6pm, I was fully packed and ready to go... only to find that I'd be sitting and wasting my time away in the next hour and fifteen minutes.

When he had arrived, I was fuming.  I closed the door, locked the car, and remained silent for some excruciating number minutes.  He apologized, "I'm sorry that I was late.  It's because I had to think through and plan..."  I was still fuming; I could feel smoke puffing out of my face.

"Are you going to treat me like this for the rest of the night?"  He was pertaining to my silent treatment. My silence meant yes.

I was thinking to myself, "Why did it take him so long?!" and.. "How could it take him that long?!"

A few stoplights later, the Lord started to convict me, "Don't you remember that earlier this week, you were also late for another meeting?"

Yes, I was late for 40 minutes, "But Lord, it was not my fault!  I didn't know it would take me two hours to enroll in school."

Then He seemed to reply right into my heart, "That is not the point Mitzi.  When you were late in that meeting, your teammates had shown you grace by pardoning you.  They even took time to share with you what you had missed.  Shouldn't you impart grace to David as well?  Shouldn't you forgive him just as how your teammates had forgiven you?  Shouldn't you forgive him, just as how I had forgiven you?"

"Okay, Lord. I get the point."

I then told David, "I forgive you."  It was indeed the Lord's work to take away my anger and replace it with forgiveness.  It was almost like in an instant.. way before we reached the meeting place.  I couldn't do that on my own.  Neither could I talk to myself and gain wisdom from an odd schizophrenic dialogue.  If it were up to me, and my sinful state, I'd probably remain angry a lot longer.

God helped me realize that my anger was out of proportion.  I was like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-34.  This unmerciful servant was forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents (millions of dollars), but he was unwilling to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii (a few dollars).  I, like this servant, owe a BIG debt to God... I cannot pay off my debts, my sins, even if I were to live another lifetime.  Yet, through the blood Jesus Christ and in the name of Jesus Christ, He has forgiven me.. erased off my debts.. and even adopted me as His princess.  Shouldn't I be more than glad to impart His grace to other people as well?

Please forgive me, Father.  I thank You for your patience in teaching me.

 If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
~ Matthew 6:14-15

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Five Whispers of Satan to Writers

"We are not only forewarned, but we are also forearmed," I heard a preacher say.

What do we --believers in Christ-- have to be warned from and armed for? Isn't the Christian life supposed to be a great life since we have already been saved from sin? I guess not, the Christian life is a far cry from a walk in the park. Once we enter the Christian life, we all need to be forewarned and forearmed, because we are entering a battle in the spiritual realms.

All the mumu, the monsters, the demonic thoughts, the serpent, the exorcism, they are all real. This battle is definitely SERIOUS because Satan and the demons are real. That's why as Paul says in Ephesians 6, we need to wear the full armor of God daily.

"How can you fight the enemy if you don't know your enemy and if you are not even aware of your weapons?" The preacher continued with his preaching, "There are two mistakes we make against the enemy:

a. We magnify him.
b. We underestimate him."

We should acknowledge that Satan is a powerful being, but he can be overcome in Jesus' name!

My quiet time today brought me to the wilderness where Jesus was tempted. Satan is indeed the most cruel and cunning creature in the whole universe. Talk about provoking Jesus when he was at his hungriest, thirstiest and perhaps physically weakest point in time.. right on his 40th day of fasting.

Satan did not think of giving up. He touched on the physical need of Jesus by tempting him to use his powers and turn the stones into bread. When Jesus declined with a powerful verse, Satan shifted to the human's emotional need for security by suggesting that Jesus jump off the mountain and have God the Father save him. Again, Jesus who was well-versed with the Scripture responded well. Satan persevered and banked on the human's psychological need for achievement and esteem, when he asked Jesus to bow before him and he would give Jesus all the kingdoms under his rule. Jesus sited from Scripture, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."

What beautiful ways to shut Satan up, don't you think? This made me reflect.. what are my needs? What thoughts have Satan been feeding me? What are he tempting me to do? What can I do to rebut him?

There are several ways Satan is tempting me as a writer. I started writing last year with a message in mind. I just wanted (and still want to) tell the world about my God. But Satan has been playing a very big role in distracting me.

Let me share with you FIVE whispers of Satan (based on my experience as a writer) that can pull you from obeying God, as well as FIVE biblical comebacks (BC) lifted from the Bible to resist Satan.

1. "You are not a good writer. There are a lot of better writers than you." This can pull you back to your shell, blur your faith in God, and make you feel incapable and ineffective in doing God's work.

Biblical Comeback (BC): "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." (Ephesians 3:20)

2. "Why write? Nobody reads Christian literature much." Satan is so good in discouraging us from letting other people know about God. Tsk. Tsk.

BC: "But my child, let me give you some final advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much story wears you out." (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It is not wrong to study about arts, culture, food, life, philosophies, etc. But because our time here is limited, it is better to prioritize lessons that would affect both life and eternity.

3. "Look at how many people read your piece. You are doing good!" The "you" here means you and not God is good. Satan here is feeding your needs for achievement and esteem.

BC: "As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Galatians 6:14)

4. "Avoid writing topics that can run so deep and touch some painful roots. Don't write honestly, people might not accept you."

BC: "Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man." (Luke 6:22)

5. "Why write? Writing won't feed you."

BC: "Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?" (Matthew 5:26). I believe when God blesses you with a gift, and instill in you a passion, use it and do it no matter what it takes, because God has a purpose to be fulfilled through you.

Satan is moving about without you knowing it. He is real. He is cunning. He is fierce. So do keep yourselves armed everyday. Let your strength rest not on your own might and power, but on the Spirit of our magnificent, great God!

You have been warned! God bless you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Family Project

When Ondoy had recklessly hit Manila two years ago, I remember our first floor was turned into a swimming pool. The tall vase in our sala floated on a thick brown colored muddy waters. The cars at the garage were all drenched and dirty. My parents were away for a couple of days and I was the only family member at home.

On that rainy 26th day of September, almost all of my aunties and uncles called my cellphone one after the other. Since they couldn't pick me up from the house due to the flooded streets, they resorted to calling me up on the phone every 10 minutes. One auntie told me to turn off the electrical switches at home. Another auntie told me to call them up for updates. An uncle asked if I could still take out the batteries from the car. And many other calls were made that kept me busy all day and night.

The next morning, my phone got drained which meant I couldn't be reached in any way. I walked to an aunt's place and she welcomed me like her own child. We had lunch together. After lunch, we passed by the house. I was surprised to see other aunties and uncles already at home sweeping the floors, fixing the electric circuits and drying out the cars. More relatives came later that day; they helped wash the kitchenware that floated in mud. All of them did different tasks with a smile, like they were working together for a big project.

Two years later, our maid suddenly got sick when my parents were not around. I was afraid that it was going to be another dengue case. I never thought that what had happened to Joy could cause me a bit of trauma. Even after much prayers, my heart still palpitated, my breaths were short and shallow and my sleep was tiring. Again, my relatives surrounded me during this time of, should I say, trial. One brought our kasambahay to check-up. Another aunt even brought some tawa-tawa leaves from Malolos, Bulacan to our place. Many others offered rides if I needed them.

I am simply overwhelmed with the love and support from my big family. I praise God that they enjoy helping out when the opportunities arise. It is a joy to see families being there for each other through thick and thin.

Last week, one of my teen cousins needed help in creating a commercial for his school project. Who were there for him? Who had enjoyed being his actors? His family of course! Hihi. :)

This is the final product from an amateur director and amateur actors and actresses:
Fountain Dew commercial.

Praise God for blessing us with big families -- whether families in blood or in Christ! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sheep for Slaughter: Refocus

Just a month ago, I was asked by a dear friend to answer a survey of today's Fil-Chi church. This survey consists of the strengths and weaknesses of the church, the vision for the church, and the next steps the church must do. It was indeed a very difficult task. Who am I to think about the direction of plenty of hundred people, I thought.

So I closed my eyes and prayed about it. An image suddenly popped in my head. I believed it was God-given. Because when that image had come, I knew what to pray for and I was instantly filled with God's peace, the peace that transcends all understanding, the peace that I couldn't generate for myself.

If you are curious as to how the image looked like, here it is:

The image shows a wooden fence, topped with a much nicer fence, topped with a strong sturdy cement wall with fine glass doors, and then covered with an equally strong roof and a cross. This signifies the church. The tree on the other hand is the life the structure seeks to preserve. It is the body of Christ.

I realized from this image that we, the church, have been building on a previously set structure, improving it, making it more efficient and grander. But it does not mean that we are effectively participating in the building of the universal body of Christ.

Our focus, our visions, our strategies, our tactics have been set on the internal, very limited people... and not on what the Bible is claiming that we should: the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the orphans, the widowed, basically, the marginalized.

Based on Isaiah 1, the Lord is not impressed with our offerings and sacrifices (works, ministries):

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

What I'm trying to say here is that we need to seek the right focus; we need to build the structure on where God wants His tree to grow. I know many will disagree with me here when I ask you to seek the right focus, and change the wrong focus to the right focus; because many are allergic to the word change, because it is like "rocking the boat" or ceasing unity. But what I'm saying here are all based on what God wants, not on what I want.. They're based on what the Bible says and not merely on a random book I've read somewhere.

The copy-pasted verse above is just one of the many commands of God to help the poor, feed the sick, etc. And if we are aiming to be like Jesus, I think we need to study who His target markets were. Were they the greatest businessmen then? The high officials? The pharisees and the sadducees? No. They were the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the worst of all sinners -- prostitutes & tax collectors.

I pray that we, the church, would not be contented with all that we're doing now. Being contented would lead us to: (1) become ineffective for God's work. We miss God's plans. We miss God's purpose. We miss what's important; (2) depend on ourselves. Since we are contented, we are in the comfort zone that disables us to see God at work. And in Jeremiah, a church that depends on self is like a dry and parched land, with no love that builds the church up, which leads us back to point number one; (3) fail at worship. We focus only on ourselves, and what we want and can do, and not on God, and what He wants and can do. And this is very dangerous, because we could wrongly identify worldly successes for God's blessings. We might even get to the point of mixing worldly values for biblical ones.

Church, I'm not saying that we should give up everything of our budget for the poor. I would just like you to read your Bible and identify what the Bible wants us to focus 0n. Who are the target markets of Jesus Christ? What are the things that God wants us to do? Is God glorified when what we spend for the camps in hotels and high budgeted events is higher than the amount spent in helping the poor? Is God glorified when we create one big-time medical mission, rather than having many small minimal-budgeted activities targeted to the poor?

Many have told me that we have a different target market.. we target the ones in our network (which is mostly the rich). But is this enough of a reason to disregard the "target market" God says we should have in the Bible? Are we going to be like Sodom and her daughters who were described as "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49)?

I'm not encouraging you to do good works by helping the poor just to be saved. By all means, no. We have been saved through Jesus out of the great mercy He dispensed to a dust like you and me. And we need to share about Jesus to our humbled brethren who have experienced heavier
effects of sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ can free them not only from spiritual bondage but also from the effects of sin in this world (i.e. poverty, slavery, injustice). God achieves this through the church.

May we become a blessing to the least of our brothers, for they too deserve to know Jesus Christ. Before we think of who to reach, let us remember why - the compassion of God for the lost.
Our families, relatives, friends, and colleagues all need Jesus. But so do the poor, the hungry, the sick, and everyone outside or network of friends. We need to reach everyone, with no favoritism.

Read Church.

Reflect Church.

Refocus Church.

~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~

The content above, particularly the need of the church to help the poor, has become a burden when I started reading Isaiah from the Old Testament; and it just kept on growing as I journeyed through the Old Testament during my quiet time. But I think what frustrated me more than our lack of compassion for the poor, is the missed focus of the church. The church has not been seeking God in humility and trust anymore... and this is such a sad sad thing.

I'm not sure if you agree with me when I say we should add to or shift our focus to the poor. Whether you do or you don't, I respect you. Whether your burden is to disciple the young ones, to help the old people, I am happy for you and I would like to encourage you to go do it! I just hope that more of us will read and be changed by His living Word. The Bible has it all..It can provide us the burden that also burdens Jesus. It can also set out the mission vision of the church.. and of your life!

Let me share how God moved to erase the frustrations I had. It was very humbling actually. Last Sunday, I woke up with an indescribable joy. It was like God, through the Holy Spirit, had placed a lingering truth in my heart.

"The church may have its wrongs, but you also have your wrongs, Mitzi. You have not completely obeyed me too. One disobedience means you've already missed the mark.. you are not considered right anymore. It is not what you did or will ever do that has caused me to make you my daughter. It is only because of My mercy and grace.

"Just like the church, there's nothing you, your pastors, or the leaders can do to make it right. It is only through My mercy and grace that the church will be cleansed."

I realized I myself have to do a big refocus. I am not someone "right" to correct the wrongs of the church. I must shift my eyes from looking at the imperfections around me (that can trigger my Messianic Complex) to the Lord above who is the ultimate source of life and love on this dry and parched land. It is not by my might nor power to right the wrongs in the community, but by His spirit!

If you are also seeing some imperfections in your church, do not allow these thoughts to frustrate you. Perhaps, you can pray this prayer with me?

Dear Lord,

Please teach me to focus on you and not on the problems that I see around me. I lift up the church into Your hands. It is now in Your control. I hope Lord that You will have mercy and teach us, the church, to really depend on You and make Your Word our compass. Even if it will be painful, refine the church, so that each and everyone of us will shine brightly like diamonds.. and nations will see that we are indeed Your people.

May you also enable me to remain faithful, to trust and obey you at all costs, even if it may seem like I am rebelling against the status quo of this world and maybe even of the church. May Your Word enlighten my path each and everyday as I read Your Word. And may You use me in Your grand masterplan.

In Jesus' name I pray,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sheep for Slaughter: Warnings to Sheep

Recently I've been hearing about issues of pastors having conflicts with church leaders, pastors having conflicts with church members, and church leaders having conflicts with church members. It's like the church is in complete disarray. Funny thing is I am not surprised to hear all these, I have been expecting them actually. Because the problems of the Israelites then -- Old Testament time, are the same problems that we are facing now. These same problems have been reiterated over and over again through the different books in the Bible, and sadly now that we have the complete view of the Bible, we, like the Israelites, haven't learned from history. Solomon's very smart to say something like, "History repeats itself" in Ecclesiastes.

Go for a short adventure to Zechariah's little book, and jump to chapter 11. You would find there the heading, The Good and Evil Shepherds. When I was reading it, I couldn't help but utter, "This is sooo true" more than a couple of times. Because it is. It talks about pastors having no compassion for their flock and maybe some of them are even causing the flock to go astray. But before you sigh with discouragement and defeat, and decide to just leave your church, let me tell you something, don't sigh and don't leave...

In chapter 11, God used Zechariah as an illustration of God being the shepherd and Israelites being the flock. God removed the three unfit shepherds and placed Zechariah as a shepherd during a time of spiritual confusion. Later God used Zechariah to play two types of shepherds: the rejected shepherd and the worthless shepherd.

In v8 we see that God through Zechariah became impatient with His sheep because the flock fed on their own greed and evil desires. The sheep hated the shepherd, the sheep rejected the shepherd, and these made the shepherd vow in anger, "I won't be your shepherd any longer. If you die, you die. If you are killed, you are killed. And let those who remain devour each other."

Can you see the similarities of then and now? The church members and leaders reject our pastors. The church is more critical with the personality of the pastor than with applying what the pastor is really teaching. I don't think the pastors God has placed in our churches lacked compassion for the flock earlier in their ministry. It is the fault of the flock -- the church leaders and members -- who have grown to hate them. The church people who have not only rejected them but also looked down on them. Check verse 12. Zechariah asked his people how much he was worth to them. These people (his flock) said 30 pieces of silver -- this is an insult because this was the price paid for a slave.

Let me ask you..
How much is a pastor's worth to you?
How much respect do you have for a pastor?
How important are the messages coming from his mouth?

If you say little to no importance to at least one of the questions above, then I would understand full well if you do not feel any compassion from your pastor.

Moreover, if you are looking for a new shepherd, to become something like a.. umm.. Senior Pastor, just because you have rejected the current shepherds. BEWARE!!! You might just experience the second type of shepherd. I couldn't help but feel the remaining verses (15-17) is a prophecy. Israel would not only reject the true shepherd; it would accept instead a worthless shepherd. We might suffer the same fate.

I believe that pastors are given a burden to serve a particular flock by God. It is not their option to choose where and when they want to serve. I don't think anybody in his right mind would give up a high-paying corporate job to minister in the church unless God calls him to do so. It is ultimately God who places this pastor in a place that would fit His bigger masterplan. God sets the timing, the place and the pastor's heart for a ministry. But if the rebellious flock intentionally looks for a shepherd and provides him extrinsic motivation (only God can provide intrinsic motivation), then I would expect this shepherd to care for his own well-being. "This illustrates how I will give this nation a shepherd who will not care for those who are dying, nor look after the young, nor heal the injured, nor feed the healthy. Instead this shepherd will eat the meat of the fattest sheep and tear off their hooves."

If you are part of a flock that is ready for slaughter, why not work together with your pastor for common good -- God's good? He may not be the perfect shepherd, but He is still God's appointed one. Listen to him. Respect him. And instead of thinking what he can offer you, which is VERY selfish, think of what you can do to edify your shepherd who has a big responsibility.

Remember your pastor is not perfect and Satan works double time against him. Isn't it more reasonable for us to have double prayers than have double standards?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SEMPER FIDELIS: Jubilee Evangelical Church Powercamp 2011

For the first time in Jubilee Evangelical Church's history, Powercamp - a camp once for yuppies, but now for all ages - was scheduled in the third quarter of the year. The big jump from the hot summer days to a rainy, potentially typhoon-filled August was considered a big risk, yet I think it was a risk worth taking.

Even though the powercampers had met (typhoon) Mina in Hotel Kimberly, Tagaytay, the camp was as my cousin says, "rebuking, refreshing and renewing." It was fully-packed with faith-invigorating messages and fun bonding activities. And in between those two were three buffet meals, two snacks and loads of laughter and heart-felt kwentuhan.

The first night was all about make-up and make-believe. We all got dressed up in classic storybook outfits. I was Nancy Drew for a night.

L-R: Wendy, Alice, Snow White, Nancy Drew, Maid Marian, Another Detective

I was invited to solve a mystery in an old English library. Believe it or not, someone had the guts to kill/kidnap King Henry VIII! I quickly dressed up in my black trench coat, cowboy cap, tights and long socks and brought with me my handy-dandy magnifying glass. There in the crime scene, I met Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and her three bear friends, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and many more!

L-R: Evil Queen, Goldilocks, Dorothy, Juliet

I was surprised to find Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and also Crocodile from Peter Pan too. Oddly, they were not included in the prime list of suspects.

The Alice in Wonderland Cast

The next day, we started the morning with a devotion. I loved my counseling group of three ladies. Not only did they come prepared, they were also very open and honest about everything. The make-up and make-believe ended the same night when the mystery was solved (Cinderella burned the king by the way. Gasp!). They also understood my indecisiveness and my inability to expound on the word, "generative." There was a time I had felt that I was not worthy to be their counselors. I was not mature enough, knowledgeable enough, nor experienced enough. But praise God for making me realize that this drowning thought came from Satan. As a counselor, I can't change lives, nor can I make them grow in their faith. I could only listen and encourage them through God's word. The time and ability to listen as well as the words and ability to speak all come from God.

The praise and worship made jumping to the beat very tempting. I could see our praise and worship leader's and the band's passion in leading the campers to sing praises to the Lord. The success was apparent 12 hours later, when I caught myself still singing, "Home is heaven, one day Lord I will live in your courts.." I hope in the next Powercamp, there would be more slower, reflective songs in the though.

The messages in one word was, POWERFUL. Perfect for POWERcamp. We toured the ancient days when Noah and his family were the only people in the world. Followed by Abraham's willingness to go out of his homeland.. travel to wherever God leads him.. and give up his "one and only, beloved" Isaac. Then came Joseph who had undergone severe trials in His life, being sold by his brothers, being accused for something he did not do and yet remaining faithful to the Lord. These biblical characters were not perfect like you and me, but they were faithful. It was their faith in the Lord that had counted them as righteous. (I haven't actually touched the gist of the messages yet. This is simply a minute tip of the iceberg that killed Titanic.)

"Are you willing to commit to be semper fidelis?" That was asked of us. Many of us said yes, yet we knew at the back of our minds that it's not possible, especially to do it 100%. This made me appreciate God even more, that no matter how unable we are, God is and will forever be faithful. Although Noah got drunk and lay naked and Abraham knowing full well God's promise still agreed to sleep with Sarah's servant, Hagar, God was faithful to them. He did not forsake them. Instead, He still fulfilled His promises.

The highlights of the camp for me were the heartfelt sharings and teary prayers. Those were the times of sincerely lifting "Isaacs" up to God. Another were the sudden commitments to do something for the Lord (which I hope and pray will not die down). There were also springing up of accountability partners and prayer partners. There was the sudden surge of love for the brothers and sisters in Christ. There were biblically-guided decisions made, i.e. to forgive and to accept, to be still and wait for the Lord. There were those who acknowledged and appreciated God leading them through a painful, yet wisdom-filled, journey.

All these only God can do. All the praises and glory be to God indeed.

Semper fidelis, because God is Faithful!