Here’s a mini something inspired by the ✝ = ❤ campaign.
Thank You, Jesus! Happy Resurrection Sunday!
Here’s a mini something inspired by the ✝ = ❤ campaign.
Thank You, Jesus! Happy Resurrection Sunday!
It’s 1:00 AM. Last day of 2017. And I’m sitting on my bed with my air cooler, repeatedly humming the lyrics from the music I’m currently obsessed with, “A million dreams are keeping me awake …”; alternating with, “Why don’t we rewrite the stars …”.
I just had an absolutely random thought. I’m propelled to write something on my blog, pretty much as a year-ender article, or something that could discuss the highlights of my year.
I don’t know. I feel like every passing year brings something so significant that affects my way of life in many, different ways. And I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the people and things and events that I encountered this whole year that had impacted me in one way or another. Things that inspired me, made me value my life a little bit more, and enabled me to rethink my life’s purpose more carefully and thoroughly.
I mean, I don’t know who’ll get to read this blogpost, or if anyone would bother. But I guess, it’s really more for me. I need to write this for myself—to help me reflect on how every one of these (let’s call them) “subjects” had made my year an interesting one; or how each one had made a difference; and perhaps, why I will choose to keep them in my life for the coming years, the coming successes, the coming endeavours. Let’s start.
I think everyone knows that I’m a book lover. No. I’m a book addict. And a book hoarder. Sometimes, even a book maniac. A secretly imploding one. Well, this year was probably the year I bought the most books in my life. I purchased 24 new books in the last 365 days. Twenty-four. Christian life books, Bible study books, prayer books, selected fiction books. Have I touched each one of them? Yes. Have I finished reading all of them? No. Maybe if we had 8 more hours in a day then I’d be able to spend extra time on a couple more. But books give me so much joy. They inform and inspire and intrigue and impel my hungry soul. They’re my treasures. I simply can’t live without them. My love for reading has ridiculously escalated this year. I’ve never enjoyed it more.
2) Music albums
I don’t possess any luxurious things in this life. There’s only two things I treat as luxury—my library, and my record collection. For me, music albums are as much of a work-of-art as the music itself. If I really love the artist and his or her music, I have to have the physical copy of it. I enjoy how artistically the photos, lyrics, credits, and other cool stuff are put together in the one album. It makes you value the existence of the art and the artist a lot more. This year, I bought a stack of albums, old and new ones; some of them were gifts from friends and family. And they’re kept very safely in my room. Some of my favourites include Emeli Sande’s “Long Love the Angels” (2016), and Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of it All” (2017).
I’m in love with tea. Tea is life! It gives me peace of mind and absolute relaxation, particularly Green Tea. This year, I took it upon myself to learn to like the tea types I used to find intolerable like Jasmine, Oolong, Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) and Moringa. Now, I got a good, abiding, vital relationship with these guys. I also got more friendly with White Tea and Matcha. Oh, by the way, some of my favourite brands include: Yogi, T2 and Twinings.
I wrote a lot this year, both in prose and poetry forms. Many of them have not been published publicly yet, because I feel like I can still improve and/or develop them further. They are all stored in my journal. Thankfully, I got more comfortable writing short poems and song lyrics. I also started writing haikus, which was quite interesting, because for some reason, it’s the most challenging one to do. Additionally, I’ve attempted writing some poems in Tagalog; which just makes me realise how badly I need to be in a Filipino literature class to be good at it. Basically, I would write anywhere, whenever I get that unreflective urge to; even in my workplace while working (most of them were done and edited there, to be honest).
I always seemed to have some sort of fear when it comes to composing—fear of not being able to match my melodies and my lyrics, or of not finding the perfect rhymes, or of sounding lame and freaky, or of not living up to my own artistic standards through this medium. I don’t know. But in 2017, who would’ve thought that I would be able to compose, co-write, and orchestrally arrange a musical theatre piece that has been used for a play last September? I spent two days working on the score. It was a very smooth and spontaneous process, which surprised me because in the past, scoring an original piece was not always comfortable and smooth-flowing; especially for someone so fuzzy, scrupulous, over-elaborate like me. It was totally refreshing!
In the last two years, I have committed to investing in live concerts, and will continue to do so in the coming years. This year I went to quite a few significant events like Lea Salonga’s concert at the Sydney Opera House in February—this was phenomenal. I came to see Hans Zimmer and his fantabulous team at the Qudos Bank Arena in May. I also got to watch the sensational pop star, Ariana Grande at the ICC Theatre last September; and the extremely talented Leroy Sanchez at the Metro Theatre, mid-November. These concerts were all awe-inspiring and soul-stirring in their own unique ways. I look forward to more live events next year!
7) Ben Platt
Ben made a lot of difference in my life this year, more than I could fully express in words. Earlier this year, for some reason I felt like my love for performing was slowly losing its grip on me. I questioned a lot of things. What used to be meaningful and special to me seemed and looked so superficial and pointless. After watching him perform songs from Dear Evan Hansen, I just saw pure talent and exceptional prowess—something I had always aspired and strived for. He made me get in touch with my passion for performing again. His remarkable artistry ignited a new kind of love for the arts in me. And for that, I will always be thankful. He is my Broadway icon and I will always look up to him.
8) Dear Evan Hansen by Pasek and Paul
I just realised I haven’t formally written anything about this brilliant musical just yet. But I guess, by now everybody knows that I’m crazy for it and I’ve raved about it countless times. Dear Evan Hansen is simply the musical play of this generation that’s given a voice to people who felt inferior and insignificant. It has made a lot of people reflect on where they stand in the society; how each one of us is contributing to the solution and/or the problem with social anxiety, unbelonging, depression, suicide and relationship dysfunction. It mirrors us. Hence, we can take a better look at our own issues, our own dilemmas and rethink of how we deal with them. Furthermore, Dear Evan Hansen has redefined, if not, set a new trend for musicals today because of the amazing work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who seriously deserve the limelight for their genuine talents and innovative approach as composers.
9) The Greatest Showman
Another fantastic work by Pasek and Paul, which I recently raved about on this blog. I am just obsessed with this work of art, this enormous culmination of artistry, zeal, synergy and creative excellence. It’s taught me to “dream with my eyes wide open.” Here’s what I got to say about it.
10) Keala Settle
I said this before, and I will say it over and over again: Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature. This artist just blew me away and continues to do so. She has a divine touch on what she does. And like Ben Platt, Keala offers something inimitable and unique to her audience and to other artists she gets to inspire. Her fire is contagious, and her kind of fire is what our generation of artists need today. I am unspeakably thankful for what she does. Watch her electric workshop performance of “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman here.
Let’s talk about the people I’m thankful for, people I know in person and are related to me. And as expected, family’s always first. This year has been quite a challenging one for my family. And what I got to witness and appreciate is how my family stuck together through the serious hardships. No one’s bailed out. Everyone’s presence is all that mattered. I think our love for each other continues to grow and mature and expand as it also gets tested and measured by difficult circumstances that I can honestly be thankful for. I may not always verbalise it, but I love them inexpressibly. And I’m thankful that they’re the ones given to me in this life.
The sadness when Bimby left us this year was unthinkable. He would have turned 3 today, the day we found him and adopted him. He was an important family member that radically changed our home. Yet still, I choose to be thankful that the Lord gifted us to him for almost three years. Bim brought our family together, and would always mellow the atmosphere, whatever tension or drama arose. And even now, his memories bring solace to us, with a slight pinch in the heart.
Truth be told, I only have a handful of true friends. True friends who I don’t need to see often to keep a good relationship with. True friends who are altogether loyal, honest, trustworthy and reliable. True friends who make me feel loved, understood and accepted. And I’ve never treasured them more until this year. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how I’m feeling. And I believe when people say that you don’t need a lot of friends; just a few good ones you can count on and trust is enough. If they’re reading this, I want to tell them how important they are to me, and how thankful I am for standing by me in the jumpiest and moodiest points of my life. You guys are tops!
14) Second family
They go by the name “Filozart” (I didn’t pick the name, and I’ve always been honest to say that I wish it wasn’t it, Ha-ha!). These people give me a second home, a home away from home. They give me a second family that I laugh and cry with, a second family that I discuss the most random, sometimes unusual things under the sun. They taught me to be honest, to be truthful of what I really feel without fearing judgment by the cruel society. They taught me to face my fears, and work around my insecurities. They taught me to break out of my inhibitions, and leave my comfort zone. They taught me that only I can set limitations to myself; it is only I who will and can determine how far I can go, how fast I can run, how high I can jump. They helped me discover myself in interesting, dumbfounding and uncomfortable ways. I will always treasure them.
15) God’s Word
In 2017, I fell in love with God’s Word like I’ve never done so before; high up to a whole new level. It’s become my lifeline. I read it like my life depended on it (and as it should). My craving for wisdom and knowledge, for more of God’s say and involvement in my life had grown drastically this year. I recognised my weakness and dumbness, and my need for God. His say is all that matters at the end of the day. And He’s given us a chance to know Him and get connected with Him through His Word, through accepting Jesus, the true and eternal Word. I’m thankful that He’s given me that desire and hunger. I developed more consistent Bible reading habits; I read and studied more than ever; I gained more understanding of God, myself, the world, and why things are happening as they are. It’s not always fun and positive; sometimes God will confront you and make you realise the ugly things in your existence (like pride and envy), and how it is your fault that these things remain with you. And the learning does not finish. A verse or a chapter a day is not enough to solve my personal issues, all the more the world’s. Understanding the Word, living it out, obeying it—this is all just the beginning of a life-long seeking for God’s truth and will. And His plans and purpose always prevail.
16) Dirty Bibles
This is the product or the “overflow” of my quiet time with the Lord that came to fruition late in July. It’s like the Holy Spirit had finally succeeded with the persistent divine nudging. This is the place where I share my personal Biblical reflections and insights. I wanted to document what I’m learning and what I’m understanding from God’s Word that might enlighten or encourage whoever reads it; and to somehow help others who got the same questions and confusions as I have. And although I’m being interrogated with the name choice and all the potential “connotations” it may pertain to, the Lord knows the heart behind it. At the end of the day, it got people’s attention—but instead of finding something nasty, they are led to the place they’ve always been running away from: their appointment with God. And I will continue to do my best, use my research and writing abilities to bring the Gospel of Jesus to my own sphere and to the larger world. So help me God!
17) The G-O-D
This year, I went through some temperamental seasons—sometimes I’m awkward, awful and angry; sometimes I have it all figured out. This is my normal. This is my reality. But there’s always Someone who remains the same through these mercurial times. He is my constant. My faithful and consistent companion through life’s scornful roads. The One who reminds me of my identity and my inheritance. He is my Provider and Protector, my Guard and Guide. He is my comfort and pace, my joy and my strength. He is My Saviour and King. The One who was, is and will be in control. And I continue to seek Him and trust Him with my life. I continue to know and learn the things He wants me to do, the things He wants me to achieve, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to connect with. I continue to learn how to live for Him; how to serve Him and bring Him glory wherever He places me. I want to share Him with the ones who forgot about Him or turned their backs on Him. I want to be good for Him. I want to live out His grace, and love Him the best way I can. I am His, and His love for me has defined who I am and will be.
Some blessings come in disguise. Ours took form as a cat wailing at Beames Ave three years ago.
Bim would’ve turned 3 today.
Life hasn’t been the same without you.
Each sunrise that comes /
I will remember your face /
Wherever I am.
To these world changers—life would be unimaginable without you. The young people whose lives you have touched and inspired will be your legacy who will speak for you, and of the wisdom you have imparted, to all generations to come. I honour you and thank you for all you are, and all you do. Happy Teacher’s Day!
Someone needs to be reminded of this right now. God wants to remind you that He is still God.
No matter how bad things look and feel like, He is still the Lord whose name is above every name, whose power is unparalleled.
And you can put your hope in Him.
You can rest in His presence; and in His presence there is peace, there is fullness of joy, which you’ve tried your best to find everywhere else, but failed.
He has the answers; in His Word lies the solution.
In Jesus you are complete and made whole.
You are loved.
You are justified.
You are restored.
You are renewed.
(Photo from YouVersion)
What is one supposed to feel when he realised he’s just turned twenty five? Twenty freakin’ five. Right now, to be honest, I’m still in a huge state of denial. Because the reality is, this number carries with it some inescapable truths and implications that would just rock me to the core, for sure. And that’s for a different blogpost.
See, I was really keen to share something on my blog like I’d always do when there’s a special occasion. Maybe make a list of some personal stuff like “25 things to do before I turn 25”, or “25 facts about me”, or maybe “25 life lessons” (which I sort of already did on my 24th last year with this blogpost). But really, I didn’t feel like any of these would be useful or fun or engaging anymore.
And so I had to stop and reflect, “What is really in my heart lately? What matters to me the most in the last few months?”
The answer didn’t come to me like an aha moment or an unexpected mental surprise. The answer was simple. The answer can be precised in three letters: G-O-D.
The Word of God (His promises, stories, precepts, wisdom) has become my lifeline. In fact, now I read it like my life depends on it. And the more I get to read His Word, the more I get to know God; the more I get to meet Jesus personally. And I tell you, I can’t get enough of Him.
Now, the Bible records thousands and thousands of God’s promises He made known to humanity, in many different areas of life (i.e., faith, guidance, supplication, protection, family matters, etc.). And God’s promises are always a Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).
I believe we need to cling to these promises, especially now that everywhere we look, there are horrendous things that are happening in our world, one after the other, because of people’s wrong decisions and evil choices. But in the middle of it all, let’s choose faith. Let’s choose to seek God, and trust Him and His written Word.
And so, I am citing 25 of the most inspiring and empowering promises that God has given us in His Word. He’s been faithful to me for twenty five years, whether I have been aware of it or not. I am making a choice to stand on His promises, and declare these over my life day by day, in any season, in victory and defeat, in my highs and lows, whether I feel good or when I don’t. I encourage you to do the same.
1) Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
2) Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.
3) Mark 10:27
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.
4) Proverbs 18:10
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
5) Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
6) Matthew 11:28
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
7) Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
8) Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
9) Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
10) Deuteronomy 31:8
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
11) 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
12) Galatians 5:16
I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
13) Proverbs 1:23
Turn at My rebuke; surely I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you.
14) Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
15) Malachi 3:10
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts,“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
16) Proverbs 3:5–6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
17) Isaiah 65:24
It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.
18) Jeremiah 33:3
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.
19) John 16:13
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
20) Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself also in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
21) Isaiah 40:29
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
22) Isaiah 54:17
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.
23) James 4:7
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
24) Lamentations 3:22–23
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
25) Psalm 91:1-2
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Transitions. Quite a familiar site. A place I have known for so long, I have known too well.
And it feels like I have never left that area. Not that it’s my favourite place.
But it seems fixated within the fabrics of my being.
Every filament breathes out a different story, every crossway speaks of change.
Each endeavour, each hope meticulously interwoven with the fibres of time.
And I walk the tedious walk, along the perpetual intersections.
One transition after another.
It’s finally the 365th day of 2016! And to wrap up a somewhat hefty and meaningful year, I thought I’d share a little something from my creative sheets. Being intoxicated by poetry for the past few weeks, I thought that maybe I would be able to channel my interest and passion for it through actually writing a short prose. This will be the first one I’ll ever publish from my folio, and hopefully not the last!
I wish everyone a great and fulfilling new year!
It’s that time of the year again. The time when we remember the coming of our Lord and Saviour. The greatest scandal in history of mankind—the Architect of the universe and the Creator of all coming down to dwell amongst the broken, the fallen. All for love.
Jesus. The Christ. The Messiah. The First and the Last. The Beginning and the End. The Lamb of God. The Bread of Life. The Good Shepherd. The Prince of Peace. The Great I Am.
He was, is and will always be God Almighty, all-powerful and all-knowing.
His love is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Only He is worthy of all worship and adoration.
Only His name shall be exalted and praised among the nations.
Only His love can save, can deliver, can restore, can heal, can rebuild, can sustain.
His is the kingdom, the power, the glory now and forever.
King of Kings. Lord of Lords.
I turn twenty-four today. That’s right. I’ve almost reached a quarter of a century basically. And yes I’m feeling kinda old. But honestly, I’ve never felt more mature, more wise, more courageous in my entire life.
And so I thought I’d share with everyone 24 life lessons I have learned–lessons that have helped mould and cultivate my identity as an individual, in my career and personal life. They are also insightful, meaty nuggets that I have learned from the people who matter to me; things that were taught and imparted by the ones I love and have become significant to me. I managed to write them in my own words, and the closest to the way my mind comprehends it.
While on the train today, I pulled out my daily devotional. And everything that’s written there has astonishingly validated what God has been putting in my heart the past few days.
I’ve come to realise that lately, the Lord has been teaching me an important lesson: how to live one day at a time—how to prioritise nothing but the now, and just live in the moment.
It’s great to be futuristic and always think ahead, but the future will be no good if the quality of the present isn’t well taken care of.
I believe that focusing on the now also helps us develop and strengthen our trust in the Lord—that He will be there from top to finish, that He’s in the beginning and in the end of every chapter, ’cause that’s what He promised.
Failures vis-à-vis Victories
I also learned that the mistakes of today do not define you solely for the rest of your life.
Your everyday triumphs help establish your identity and validate your goals, so do your mistakes. They’re both essential in the process.
Today’s mistakes are tomorrow’s learnings. Today’s victories are tomorrow’s benchmarks.
When I look at this, I’m constantly reminded. I’m reminded that there’s enough reason to face another day with so much optimism, motivation and renewed hope; that I can put my trust completely on my Saviour.
I’m reminded that there’s someone who will look after what I am not capable of handling or changing.
That if my human abilities fail, His grace and faithfulness won’t.
That if my plans and dreams don’t succeed, His plan and purpose will take over.
That if I’m filled with fear and doubt, His promises will be my hope.
That if everyone has turned their backs, His comfort and His peace will be there to remind me I’m safe and valued.
That if the waiting time gets frustrating, His Word will constantly reassure me of His perfect timing.
That if I get lost, or refuse to find my way back, He will be waiting for me to come home.
And He will remain the same.
And He will remind me of these things again in case I’ve forgotten.
What a day it’s been! I thought I’d share a glimpse of that through a few snapshots. So my Lola (Grandmother) has just turned 75 today! And my family and I are just absolutely thankful that she gets to spend her birthday here with us in Syd, after we’ve been separated by distance for some eight long years because she now stays in the US.
Just like my family, my Mommy (that’s what we call her) isn’t very festive as well. When asked about how she wanted to celebrate her birthday, she really just wanted to celebrate it at home with us. No massive feast, no visitors, no frills whatsoever. She just wanted to spend time with us, and celebrate this momentous milestone.
During the day, she wanted to hear a mass (I know, I’m not even used to saying that anymore as I haven’t been Catholic for years now). I think this is her being traditionally Filipino, because if it is your birthday in the Philippines, you have to make sure you come to church within the day to say your thanks, and summon blessings and good vibes. That’s basically it.
And so, we went to St Mary’s Cathedral in the city. It’s one of Sydney’s most beautiful church buildings I believe. Like seriously, it’s so grandiose, so majestic. And it’s been my Lola’s favourite go-to since she arrived.
Then we had a mini celebration at home. My Lola particularly requested my Pancit Palabok to be in the dinner menu, and so I tried my best to perfect the ever elusive recipe of mine.
How do I sum up the day? It’s pretty simple, nothing too festive or ostentatious like she requested. We just stuck together and had heaps of fun.
I guess we’re a family that do not really depend on material things to get happy and feel blessed. The most valuable thing we could offer each other and gift to each other is our time. And just being together overthrows any need for material stuff or lavish settings. We know how to be content with what we have with thankfulness and appreciation.
It is also that time when we realise how important our Lola is, and how thankful we are that she’s been given another year to live, love and serve. Another year to be healthy, happy and favoured by our Lord. Another year full of grace and hope. That’s probably the most significant reason why we all must celebrate birthdays, however simple or grand it may be.
It’s 2016! I know that everybody’s Facebook newsfeed is filled with greetings and cheers, photos of fireworks and sparklers, lots of food and extravagant celebration. Of course it’s a huge festivity, and we want to celebrate all the accomplishments and successes of the past year, and move forward to a bigger, better one.
Phrases and sayings like, “Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!” or “New Year, New Life” have infiltrated the home page of all my social media accounts. And I wonder what these really mean to them.
(Heads up: This going to be an “I” post so bear with me.)
When I woke up this morning and reflected a bit on how I’m going to face this year, and how to plan it out basically, this phrase just hit me right away: Renew your mind. I remember it being drawn from the Scriptures, which goes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Renew your mind.
This verse can be explained, deliberated and integrated in many ways, I believe. But one thing is certain: it’s making that conscious effort to renew your thinking, to change your perspective of things; trash the old and/or ugly way your mind works, and start again, start afresh.
But I believe that there is nothing you can do perfectly or excellently without the help of our Lord. I think it is Him, His Holy Spirit that will do the job of “renewing” us from the inside out by seeking Him, listening to Him, communicating with Him, obeying Him, collaborating with Him, and always sticking with Him in all sorts of season.
2015 has been the toughest year so far.
Even up to the last few hours of it, challenges have simply punched me in the face, and on all sides of my body. It was consuming, it was tiring. I was in distress. I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. It was awfully hard.
But one thing keeps me up and fighting: it’s God’s grace. My hope does not run out because I have it, I understand it. Even if I am not deserving, I have been graciously gifted with that.
I just had to keep reminding myself that despite the ugly, unpleasant things around me, I have a God who loves me, cares for me. I do not need anyone’s approval. I do not need anyone to define me, characterise me or validate me.
His grace is enough.
My Father’s love is enough. The identity that Christ gave me is enough.
I am saved. I am loved. I am a citizen of heaven. I am His. And nothing, NOTHING can ever change that.
I know we live in a very challenging world; we are exposed in a battlefield everywhere we go, and there’s already a grand one situated inside our minds. It is not hard to get blinded, to get derailed, to get lost. We are naturally weak, and we got to recognise this inherent flaw.
I am not gifted with a strong character, or a tough heart. I think everyone who knows me knows that. I would need so much support, encouragement and nourishment so I can build a stamina, some sort of defence mechanism. And I would need a lot of time to soak them all up.
One of the best things happened to me this year. I have developed the courage to come face to face with all my weaknesses amidst the adversities. I have learned how to look them in the eye, and identify them one by one and even provide a name for each one. I have tried my best to study how each one comes into existence, grows, and dies, or even resurrects.
And while I’m being pressed down, tortured and strangled by these things, I’ve found myself in a place where I am in need of some big time saving. I became more desperate for God, more thirsty for His presence and help. I would always be stuck in some way, and would always cry for rescue.
And in all those tribulations, I believe that God has never left my side. He has truly become my strength, a strong protective shield. I have always run to him for peace and comfort, which He has generously offered.
I have come to know Him, and got closer to Him on a different level.
I have recognised and accepted like never before that without God, I am nothing. I am no one. I am trash. That without seeking His grace and mercy, I am in complete destruction. Without Him, I am helpless–I am hopeless.
Christ is Hope.
This hope does not run out. This hope is abundant. This hope is available to me 24/7, and is only waiting for my go signal. This hope works. This hope revivifies. This hope renews. This hope sustains.
And so my battles continue this new year. Perhaps, we can say that there might be nothing new in the environment I’m living in, or in the situations I’ve got myself into. I have no control whatsoever in any of these things.
But I have control over my mind.
I have control on how I would react on these circumstances.
I have control on what direction I’d like to steer my vehicle to.
I have control on when to say what, and why and how.
And when I lose any form of control or direction in my body, I know that there’s one that will remain constant. One that will cancel out the noise and clear the skies ahead. One who will breathe life and bring light to my pathways. One who will remind me what I am, who I am, and where I am bound to go.
My Maker. My Captain.
As long as I have the ability to think properly, change and declutter my thoughts, I am hopeful and I am sure that my God will remain faithful and He will never let me down.
He has amazing plans for me. He has changed me and continues to refine me.
The assurance of His love is all I need to face the days to follow. I will remain grounded in that, and wait on His presence.
I will listen and allow Him to take over, and become Messiah in all aspects of my life as He’s always been.
So, to whoever’s reading this, partner with God this year, and see how things will change. Well, the may not, but you will!
Here’s to the new year!
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)
It could a little too overwhelming when you sit down and reflect what we really celebrate during Christmas. And essentially, it can be summarised in this very word, “Immanuel”.
It’s about God coming here to be with us, to dwell among us.
That the King of kings, the Lord of all lords would come to live with us so we could live with Him.
That the almighty God, the giver of all things would come to be so close, so near, so personal with us.
That Heaven’s most precious Son would come to reconcile us to the God Most High, ransom us, and bring us back to life.
There aren’t enough words and expressions we can use to convey the weight of these truths. And that the best thing to do in this season is to be thankful, to celebrate the goodness and the graces we have experienced, and we continue to receive.
Our King is with us, our Saviour is with us. He loves us and is always for us. He fights for us and He justifies us. He is always near.
Wishing you all a merry and glorious Christmas! And here’s to wishing you a successful year ahead!
It’s been a week since the big event. I’m not a huge fan of celebrating anniversaries, commemoration days, and all that (except for Christmas and Easter perhaps). But realising that seven days have already passed since the project, I can’t help but look back on the previous months and everything that took place in those few, strenuous months—the several episodes and stages that the kids and I have to go through so that a musical event will effectively materialise.
(Heads up! This might sound a little too mushy-gooey. But please bear with me.)
It was a first time for me. First time that I was the “boss”, that I was on top of everything. First time that an entire show has been placed solely on my shoulders. Interestingly, I had to get to grips with how much power and authority I actually possess being the boss, the pilot of the plane. I called the shots, I ran the show. I could do everything that I wanted.
But at the same time, I had to face a myriad of responsibilities and demands, which all have piled up week by week during the preparation season. (Absolute buzzkiller, hey!) Demands from the show itself, from the theme and design, from the group’s purpose, and every single individual’s personal goals. I had to measure up to the group’s standards, my head directors’ standards, the parents’, the audience’s, to my own standards; and somehow find the right balance between all of those.
At one point, It was all just elusive. Listening to and looking over what everybody was saying and expecting, how on earth would you do it? How would I cater for everyone’s needs? How would I wedge everybody’s favourite songs in an 80-minute repertoire? How would I do all these without losing my identity and personal touch? How far could I take it?
It was fearful. It was difficult. There were times when my mind would just go blank, that all the complications around would just swoop me out of my disposition, and got me floating flaccidly with the clouds, pie-faced. Revisions were endless. There were at least twelve drafts produced before we locked in the final songs and their order in the setlist. If a particular number didn’t work (in terms of music and/or impact), then it needed to be either replaced or completely cut, regardless of the hours spent in preparing, arranging and polishing it.
As the director, I had to turn limitations into possibilities, and into actual acts. I had to enable the kids to work and succeed on their own pace, but without sacrificing the desired artistic quality; and making sure that only their strengths and passions were displayed on the night, and nothing that could vitiate their image as budding artists. It was also my job to look after their motivation, their engagement and enjoyment in the project. I mean, they’re kids still. You gotta give them a reason to stay focused and driven.
Oftentimes, it would just feel like the project was in a precarious state. Criticisms were getting too hurtful and alarming. Everybody was feeling exhausted. But then, there’s no turning back anymore because the date has been set, the venue’s been booked, the ad’s been released, people have been informed about it. So quitting was never quite an option at all. There were lots of frustrations, arguments, breakdowns. But we had to stick together and believe that it will all work out in the end.
Alright, for a supposedly “experienced”, “professional” person like me, I’m sure everything that I just said would just sound lame and dumb. You could be thinking, “Oh, what is wrong with this guy? He should know what he’s doing! He’s already done heaps of that! He’s already earned a lot under his belt. He should be ashamed of himself.”
I mean, I’ve been in several productions before, directed music for a lot of events and stuff. But for some reason, this one’s quite different. It felt like I went miles and miles down to zero, and start everything from scratch—and starting from scratch never felt so intense and gruelling. I was bogged down on the ground with all the clutters and scattered pieces, and I had to assemble them all together right along with my own self.
Now, I’m sorry if all those sounded so melodramatic. It was not the intention! You might even think that I am exposing my own weak side. Well, you may think that but it’s precisely what happened. And you can’t succeed until you learn how to face your weaknesses. I am a work in progress who is currently going through a rigorous state of refinement before I can self-actualise. And the best thing to do while in this phase is to be open, honest and accepting of your own flaws and limitations; and just be teachable. Strip away the prejudice and the inhibitions. Shut up and just do it!
When you saw the show, it may have looked so smooth, so easy and simple. Yet behind all the fun and fluidity were the many challenges, failures and hardships experienced individually and as a group. But like what I said, I believe that the group managed to pick ourselves up, and overcome the hurdles, and proved that determination will enable us to survive.
And I am just very proud of our kids who have displayed determination, maturity and stamina in order to deliver a good show. Of course, they’ve done that the past year for Wait For It and have succeeded in a lot of ways. But this time, I have witnessed it first hand, and got involved in many of their personal struggles, insecurities, uncertainties, confusions. Nevertheless, not one person gave up. Not one person stepped back and chose comfort and convenience. Everybody was on board regardless if rehearsals were demanding, boring, uncomfortable; even though their Kuya Rie nagged, complained and criticised nonstop.
I will also never forget how incredible it is to be mentored by our head directors, Tito Ferdie and Tita Geraldine “Ging”, who we normally call the Master Yoda-Queen Bae tandem. This time, I felt like a kid sitting on their lap, listening attentively to their stories, lectures and important lessons that have become my nourishment in this journey. They did not give up on me, and they choose to deal with my tantrums and crack-ups.
I cannot imagine doing this venture without them. I cannot imagine myself finishing anything without their invaluable say. They were the lifeline of this project, of this group. They’re the flickering rhythm you see on the cardiac monitor after someone got revived from a near-death scene—that after you see it, you know that you are safe, the chaos is over. They are my doctors. They are my role models. They have become Mom-and-Dad.
Again, I will never get tired of thanking our amazing parents for the indubitable and unrelenting love and support. They drove us to rehearsals, prepared our meals, opened up their homes for rehearsals, spent their weekends and lots and lots of time helping in the production and making sure that we didn’t get hungry and dehydrated. I wish I could state everything in detail to express how thankful we are. They are our champions!
Many could be wondering why a long-af essay as a backstory for a 1.5 hour long gig. It’s just a gig. Well, we in Filozart, do not just prioritise the end product of our undertakings. We value and and attach so much importance to the creative process—everything that is discovered, learned, experienced and solidified throughout this stage. It is where connections are formed, relationships are strengthened, and bonds are treasured. It is what we all remember and take home with us after the lights have gone out and the curtains closed. It’s what engenders growth. It’s what whips up the motivation to become bigger, better and bolder. It’s what makes us Filozart.
Easter season. It’s that time of the year again that we remember the death and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of humankind from sin. However, oftentimes, many of us forget how the story’s ended. Luke 24:1-8 recounts,
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered His words.
The rest of the chapter talks about how Jesus, after abandoning the tomb, has appeared to some people including His own disciples. I can imagine Him entering his homies’ hub with a huge smile and His trademark hailing, “Peace be with you” (verse 36).
So the story ended with Christ ALIVE. Off the cross and away from the tomb. My God is back to life and has ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19). My Redeemer lives and reigns forevermore, and because of Him we are set free (Galatians 5:1)–we live under God’s grace (Romans 6:14); we’re ransomed from sin and reconciled with the Father (Romans 3:23-24, 2 Corinthians 5:18). We are able to obtain and experience salvation because of what Jesus has done, and by believing in the power of the cross and that Jesus is truly Lord (Romans 10:9).
He is the reason why we can celebrate and be thankful for being justified, free, saved and loved.
We may not fully understand why or how this all took place, or what it really means for us. But I choose to believe in what the Scriptures say. I choose to feel gratitude by reflecting on God’s goodness and grace–by recognising that I’m a sinner and I need a Saviour; that I am nothing without God; that everything is in vain if I don’t make God a part of it.
I choose to believe in God’s promises and what’s written in His Word as we wait for His return. I choose to celebrate His love and share that with others to the best of my ability, however challenging it may be. I choose to continue to seek Him and get to know Him better and deeper.
Let us not forget that Jesus did not only die for us; He also rose again to live and reign, to justify and to save us, to find us and direct our ways. He LIVES. His love saves.
It’s all about Jesus, it’s all about His love.
Happy Resurrection Sunday!