Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Bowl of Wisdom: From a Worrywart

There's no place that's safe anymore. When you walk outside, you risk the possibility of getting stabbed and robbed, or kidnapped and raped. When you're in a car, someone may stealthily get in the back seat, point a gun at your nape and force you to drive to the nearest ATM machine. He could get all the money you've saved up for years plus the car. Now you are probably thinking, "I'd spend more time at home then."

Well, guess what? Even your home is not as safe anymore.

A few days ago, something unthought of happened in a quiet neighborhood. When a maid was about to close the gate after the owner of the house had left for work, a hand suddenly crept in. It was from a man, in his forties, who was holding a gun. He forced himself in their house together with three other gunned men. They tied the son of the owner, TJ* (the only family member at home) and their maids up in the dining hall. These men punched the young 20-ish man all around. They asked him where their money, jewelry and other fortunes were kept. They sliced the locked cabinets open, tore the foam mattresses apart, unplugged all their electronics. When he heard them saying, "Abangan natin iyong pamilya niya." ("Let's wait for his family to arrive"), TJ was able to muster up the courage to run out to the backyard, climb a wall and land in the neighbor's house. The gang soon left with a great number of their belongings. TJ also got his share of souvenirs: purple bruises, a small cut in the stomach, a painful lump in the head, and a fractured arm.

I heard the whole story from TJ's mother yesterday. It gave me a quite a shock, a big doze of worries.. and a terrible nightmare this morning. I dreamt that there were some men in hats and bonets climbing up the wall, entering through our glass windows. Eek! This reminds me of Solomon's realization in Ecclesiastes 6:
I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

We may opt to keep our properties in very safe places (i.e. banks) just to save them from those who do not seem to deserve them. As we make them untouchable to the robbers, we unknowingly make them untouchable to us as well. How could we enjoy the cars that have always been parked in the house, or the jewelries that have always been locked in the safe? Evil indeed! Of course, there are instances of thieves breaking in houses and banks. Another evil!

How should we avoid such evil sight? I found much wisdom in what my professor had shared in class a few years back. (I think this is the only thing I can remember from his class.) The reason why the poor steals is because the rich doesn't give enough to maintain equity in society. Sometimes the solution to security from crime is not to gain wealth and hire more protection, but to share God's blessings and eliminate criminal motivation. Hasn't feeding, helping or giving to the poor been stressed enough in the Bible?

Isn't Jesus asking for the same? Here's an excerpt from Matthew 19:20-21:

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The safest place is not to be behind walls or vaults, but to follow the Lord. Let me end here with one of my favorite quotations by Corrie Ten Boom: "There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety - let us pray that we may always know it!"

*Name has been disguised for security reasons.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meteor Garden ~ A Nostalgic Pleasure

After taking three written comprehensive exams in one day, I decided to treat myself to the nostalgic pleasure of Meteor Garden. Nice thing about the series was that it was fun and long. Season 1 has 19 episodes, and season 2 has 30; the pleasure could be extended to a great number of days or weeks. What's not so nice about it was that I had much too fun far too long. As each episode ran, I enjoyed the thrill of running alongside it. The race was long and it was a torture to cut it into shorter laps. On certain occasions, when I could find a tiny bit of self-control in my system, I'd turn the DVD player and TV off. Even then, I couldn't keep my thoughts from racing back and forth. I realized that this Taiwanese series had its claws sunk deep within me. They took hold of my flesh and my thoughts. Even while reflecting and meditating, I was distracted with the popping images of F4 and Shancai in my head. Funny, eh?

I had finished the last episode last night... and was thinking of starting the Korean version titled "Boys Over Flowers" today. However, I had this odd, guilty feeling when I woke up. I opened my Bible and stumbled upon these familiar words "Remember your creator in the days of youth" in Ecclesiastes. I read and reread the chapter. Alas, before logging in youtube, I was convicted.

Solomon, probably the wisest man who has ever lived, had sought wisdom, pleasure, toil, riches and knowledge in his life just like anyone of us. He provided us a very important insight about life, that we can live by, on the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. "Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true." (Ecc. 12:9,10)

The 12th chapter is telling us that life is short, it is fragile and easily broken. Before you know it, grey hair would start sprouting on your head (if you are fortunate enough); new lines could form on the edges of your eyes; your back would start to hurt; your knees may start to wobble. Before you know it, time has passed...wastefully.. and your end has come.

Solomon's telling us that while we're still "youth," we must act wisely. For our actions today (i.e. watching TV series) are definitely affecting our tomorrow. Will your tomorrow be a (1) fulfilled, fruitful & joyous life, or an (2) empty, lonely & bitter life? Here are three things to have the (1) fulfilled, fruitful & joyous life:

1. Remember Him... or in other words "think of Him" or "seek Him." This is the first step. It is filling our minds with His beauty, His Word, His burdens, His promises and His love... filling our thoughts of Him. It is setting Him as the first priority. Here's a quick priority test: What comprises your thought pattern today? Is it your business? Or is it a TV Series?

Upon watching this Tsinovela, my thoughts of God paled in comparison to the colorful and interesting characters of F4. I found myself having more thoughts of the series, cherishing each kilig moment as if it was my own, "prioritizing" it over God-ly thoughts. This is when I realized, I've committed a sin that in the olden times was called "idolatry."

2. the days of your youth. There are a lot of exciting activities that can use up our time during these youthful days. The trick here is to discern whether an activity is meaningful or meaningless. To attain the (1) life, avoid activities that will cause you to develop bad habits. These bad habits can make our hearts grow calloused towards God.

I realized that if I were to watch Boys Over Flowers (again) soon, I might get used to the habit of entertaining myself with spiritual junk food that would not only waste my time but would also distract me from growing in my relationship with God.

Be wary, sometimes, a simple guilty pleasure can lead to an addicting, destructive, habit.

3. Honor Him. Honoring may include respecting, speaking well of God, speaking politely & following His teachings. While we still have the strength, and while the doors of opportunities are still open, let's honor Him with our whole heart, body, mind and soul. Let's honor Him with our all.

You may think, "Oh Mitzi, but this is too simple! What about work? What about business? What about getting married? Aren't they supposed to lead us to a fulfilled life too?" Dear readers, all these things will follow. The things that we need to do, God will make it clear. The things that we need to be content, God will provide. Before asking all those questions, ensure that you are doing these three tips.

At the end of the day, when we sit on the rocking chair, with our white hair tied in a bun and our eyes needing a pair of far-sighted eyeglasses, we can still smile and say "... the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: 
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Friday, July 15, 2011

Worst Sin Test: Guilty or Not Guilty?

For me, murder is NOT the most dangerous sin in the world. Although it may turn out to be quite gruesome -- i.e. a woman's body cut into pork-chop pieces with her blood licked by the murderer straight from the chopping board, it's still not the worst kind of immorality.

Do you know that there is one terrible sin invisible to the naked eye? It is a sin that may kill you without you even knowing it, or one that allows you to be unconsciously guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). It acts like a cancer spreading in the innards of person, be it a corrupt politician or a 30-year Christian. It is a sin that no one is courageous enough to admit.

What sin is this you may ask? Make a quick guess.

That sin is nothing but PRIDE. The sin of Israel. If you read the accounts of Israel from Jeremiah to Hosea, God was enraged because of their pride. This is also the sin of the current church. Nothing new. As they say, Everything that goes around, comes around." Or in the words of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3:15), "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account."

And perhaps, the is also the sin of you and me. Here is a short test to check if you are guilty of this very dangerous sin.

1. Do you feel that your relationship with the Lord is dry?

Dryness is a situation where there is no joy and gladness in doing the Lord's work. Each day becomes a drag. You feel burdened, burnt-out and bored. This happens when you depend solely on your own strength. Our strength is (almost always) inadequate to love, to live peacefully and to have hope because of our inherent moral decay. Pride hinders us from turning to the Lord because we think that we can still do everything based on our own strength.

Do you depend on your gifts/talents and resources, just as the Israelites had depended on their own weapons and chariots? Do you depend on your power and network just as the Israelites had depended on their own armies and partnerships?

2. Do you have time to work and no time to listen?

Here is the word of the wise (Ecclesiastes 5:1), "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong." I've witnessed several times in the church that people are ready to serve the Lord, and yet when asked about their relationship with Him, it's nada. They don't spend quiet time with Him within the week. Neither praying nor reading His word is part of their agenda.

God is NOT pleased when anyone sacrifices through one's own ways or means. Doing something for God without the love for, listening, and being with, Him is nothing but an empty mockery to Him. If you are guilty of this item, pause and listen to Him. Do what He wants you to do, not what you think He wants you to do.
  • "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." (Isaiah 1:11)
  • Though they offer the sacrifices to me and though they eat the meat, the Lord is not pleased with them. (Hosea 8:13)
  • "What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me." (Jeremiah 6:20)
Of course, we do not see much burnt offerings as "sacrifices" in churches nowadays. There are still sacrifices being made though. The time and effort we put into preparing projects for the Lord (i.e. Evangelistic events, camps, Medical mission). The voices we exert when we sing praises to Him every sunday. The tithes and offerings we place in white envelopes. The small groups that we lead with tears, perspiration and dedication.

However, the degree of effort that we put in does NOT equate to the degree of God's delight in us. God may not be pleased with our hardwork when our heart is away from Him. He asks us instead to "Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord." ~ Hosea 10:12

3. Are you tired of other people's actions?

Or, do you think you are any better than them? Pride magnifies the sins of others in order to minimize one's own. Pride pushes the other people down by looking at the speck of dust in the other's eye, without realizing that there's a plank in one's own eye. I was guilty of this too. It was God's word in Hosea that pierced my heart and convicted me that: I get ticked off by actions of other people of which I myself am equally guilty of. The character traits that we abhor in another are most probably the same character traits that we fail to see in ourselves.

Try observing and analyzing. If you are irritated with a brother who seems to be not caring, check yourself.. Have you been caring for other people? If you abhor people who are boastful..have you been humble? Before you criticize another, look at yourself in the mirror.

4. Do you see yourself as good?

When was the last time you repented wholeheartedly? When was the last time you acknowledged a sin and sought the Lord? Pride blinds us to our faults and our weaknesses. Pride hinders us to accept the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, because we do not see a need for it. The more we do not need Christ, the more we need Him. Pride leads to death, dear readers.

~ ~ ~

If you answered YES to at least one (1) question, this is what you must do:
Return (Israel) to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. (Hosea 14:1-2)

If you answered NO to all four (4) questions, this is what you must do:
Find a mature Christian, accountability partner or a cellgroup mate that you trust. Ask them to do the same assessment of you. If their answer is still no to all four, then praise be to God! At the same time, "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DIY Journal: Old Boots' Shoelace & Junk Food Wrapper Purse Book

My friend calls this project a Bipolar Journal because of it's contrasting (1) subdued & classic side and its (2) colorful wacky side. Why two sides you may ask? This two fold project can be your journal and pouch in one.

You may do this with the following:
1. Old Jeans
2. Cardboard (for filling)
3. Junkfood wrappers (for lining)
4. Decorative fabric (optional)
5. Old shoelace - mine was taken from a ten year old boots

6. Black crochet thread (for stitching the text block or signatures together)
7. Paper
8. Eyelets
9. Glue

To do this, first divide the cardboard into five parts -- the front cover, the spine, the mid cover, the spine, the back cover. The front, mid and back covers are 6" x 8", while the two spines are 6/8 of an inch. Fold the cardboard accordingly.

Glue strips of junkfood wrappers on the cardboard. Place a heavy paperweight on top while waiting for it to dry. (I used a stack of magazines and thick books.) After it's all dried, glue jeans on the other side.

Place text block with at least five signatures of five sheets (measuring 7.5" x 11") on one side of the two fold cardboard. Poke two holes on each signature, one on top and the other at the bottom. Insert eyelets on the top and bottom spines of the cardboard for the stitching of the text block.

With jeans as the inside cover...

For the pouch side, generously pour some eyelets on the sides of the pouch. Tie it with a black shoelace.

Use the other strand of black shoelace as the enclosure of the purse book.

Drop in your keys, pens, and small wallet... and you are good to go! :)

Happy upcycling!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DIY Journal: Aveeno Shower & Bath Oil Bottle Journal Notebook

Last night, I rummaged through a layer of used perfumes, body oils, and facial and body wash tubes in my bathroom and I found this Aveeno Shower & Bath Oil bottle at the back end. It was still half full (or empty) when I "saved" it for an upcycling project. And based on my estimation, it has been abandoned for at least a year or two.
In order to make your very own message in a bottle, cut the body of the bottle vertically in half and tear the front and back portions off the base and the shoulder (where you find the screw mould).

Sew in some paper scraps.

Happy upcycling! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

DIY Journal: Apple Box & Clam Shell Travel Journal

We had clam soup for dinner last night. And it was a joy to see our house-help, Fay, washing the shells instead of throwing them away. I asked what they were for. "For my notebooks," she said. Beautiful! I think she's a bit contaminated with my recycle fever (hihi!). This reminds me of the sand I had brought home from Boracay last year.

To make the travel journal, I used the corrugated cardboard from the apple box we got a few months ago.

I applied the same technique as the Biscuit Box Journal, by sewing the spine.

This is how it looks with a spineless joint.

This is the inner cover of the cardboard box.

Add some bling-blings on the front cover. I used clam shells, sand, a pearl, cut-outs from magazines, and my very own mini-envelop.

Wee! Wouldn't it be lovely to have your very own travel journal? :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DIY Journal: Biscuit Box Journal

My sweet tooth was craving for a sweet and sentimental creation. So today, I looked for a sweet thing from my sentimental (which parents equate to trash) box. I dug through it. I found this little treasure - GINBIS Party Animals box - and decided to make a journal notebook out of it.

I cut the box and utilized the front and back portions as my notebook cover. Then, I measured the drawing papers to 15cm x 38.1cm, which is the size of the Ginbis box and cut them accordingly. I used 16 sheets of paper, divided them into four sheets per signature.

In order to texturize the plain cardboard on the inside cover, I placed a layer of glue and sprinkled some fine sand I got from Boracay.

Score four holes on each signature and on the front and back covers. It is important to make them parallel to one another. Sew the spine with a prettyful bold colored thread to match the front cover. I opted for a bright yellow-orange yarn.

This is how it should look after it's done. :)

I attached a flap to the opening of the Journal. I utilized the side portion of the GINBIS box. Like the cover, I added a sand texture to it. I glued in a rectangular 0.5" x 1" velcro on the inner flap and on the corresponding portion of the front cover.

There you have it, the Biscuit Box Journal!

Create art to inspire! Let's be responsible stewards of God's Kingdom.

If you would like to donate 'trash' such as old boxes, used plastics, good-to-throw-away cardboards to my sentimental box, you are very much welcome to do so!

God bless you, and Happy Upcycling!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DIY Journal: Powerbooks Plastic Journal

I was in the mood to do some recycling, or upcycling, of plastics I've collected (and left wandering) inside my cabinet.

The following are the ingredients of this recycled journal:

1/2 Powerbooks plastic bag
1 Terranova plastic bag
2 parchment papers
a pile of blank pages from old notebooks (thank you Kat!)
a foot of nylon cord
a handful of beads
a two hole puncher
a pair of scissors

Iron out the plastics and turn them into plastic leathers. To do this, turn the plastics inside-out and fold them twice. Sandwich the plastics between the two pieces of parchment paper. Ensure that the inks of the plastics are faced inside to prevent any blotting. Turn the temperature of your iron to low to medium heat. Then press on. Keep on pressing until the folds of plastic inside have stuck together. You may glue two ironed plastics together to add height... in case your notebook leaves are quite long.

Once you're done with the cover. Let your papers and plastic leather cover undergo the drilling process of a two-hole puncher. Clamp the cover and notebook pages together. Insert a nylon string in one hole then fill it with beads on both sides. Slide one end of the nylon string in the other hole and tie both ends together.

There you have it! You're very own Recycled -or upcycled- Journal.