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.
This is honestly the most significant 30 seconds of my life so far. And I wish I had more than that.
I did not intend to write a “concert review” or a tell-all anymore because my words would not do justice to how it really felt on the inside. It’s a struggle to put into words. The encounter is almost divine. Pretty elusive. (I should also say that having no photos taken during the show because my camera was considered a professional type somewhat discouraged me to recount things and events in detail like what I’d always do.)
I guess I should keep this experience in the list of things I’d prefer to store in my massive vault of unspeakable treasures. All I know is I’m thankful that I got to watch her perform live, and to witness with my own eyes and ears the brilliance, magnificence, and soul extraordinaire of Brandy. That is just more than enough.
I could absolutely say that this is just one of the best birthday gifts I have gifted to myself. You just gotta spoil yourself every once in a while, you know!
I also almost hyperventilated after she gave me a super tight, sincere hug during the short Meet and Greet. She emanated joy and gratitude. The feeling was indescribable almost. She was just so dang kind! It’s like all the sass and pizzazz she would display each time she performs were stripped away, and she was just an ordinary person humbly thanking her fans for coming out to see her show, which she verbalised in the most profound, soft-spoken fashion.
This experience made me appreciate her more; her artistry, her personality, her appreciation for her fans; especially her receptivity and equanimity because I understand how tired she must have been after the show, but she managed to welcome her fans with open arms and with the sweetest smile.
Hands down, she still reigns in her realm. And this encounter will always be special and treasured in my mind and heart
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.
The start of the year has been pretty rough for me. I know, we’re only in Day 8.
Well, there are just things that are beyond your control, even your knowledge sometimes. Your limitations as a human being become utterly exposed no matter how hard you fight it and pin down the problem.
In all angles and views, you are weak. And nothing that you have can make you any stronger or wiser. The issues become incremental and remorseless; the issues just keep on piling up without the previous ones being resolved. And you’re caught in the middle somewhere, confused and distressed.
But if there’s one thing I have learned, experienced and practiced in the last few days, it is to seek God and His peace continually–to just sit down with Him and rest in His presence; to lay down everything: your pride, your fears, anxieties, inhibitions, your bare self before Him, and just take a break in His comforting presence.
I know to some that might not make a lot of sense. But it simply means that you call upon the Lord, and cast everything up on Him, good or bad. Bible says to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), and He’s always ready to sustain us (Psalm 55:22),
Be honest and bold before Him, keeping in mind that you are loved and forgiven and that He knows you from the inside out.
And the most important part of it all is to trust Him and hope in Him, give your complete dependence to Him, and His will and plan for you. Give to God what only God can handle. I always remind myself of Proverbs 4:5-6 that says, “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.“
When our thinking minds fail, when our weak hearts collapse, when our plans just don’t work out in these tough situations, there’s nothing we can do but rely on God and wait for Him to move, wait for Him to look after everything with us. Psalm 27:14 says to “wait patiently for the LORD; be brave and courageous.”
Our problems are designed to put us in our mettle immensely. But I believe that God allows this sometimes so we would know our selves a lot more, our strengths and frailties. And more importantly, so we would know Him a lot deeper, too–that He is God, He is almighty and powerful, and He knows us, loves us and cares for us, and is able to rescue us from the quicksands of life.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” And that exactly what I have strived for–to sit quiet, trust God and wait on Him.
Isaiah 40: 31 is also well embedded in my heart: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
And so, the Lord has become my lifeline, my nourishment, my counsellor, my psychologist and physician in all of these. Nothing and no one else but Him.
Resting in God
I have come across this article by Joyce Meyer that spoke to me in the middle of the chaos and confusion I’m going through. I’m sure Joyce wouldn’t mind me reposting this for the people who happen to be reading this post. If it is your preference to go directly to her site, find the article here.
But here it is. The article is called “Living in God’s Rest” :
God wants us to enjoy our everyday lives. John 10:10 (AMP) says that Jesus died for us so we “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)”. But it seems so many people who say they believe in Jesus are not really enjoying their lives. It’s tragic to think that Jesus paid the price for our sins, that He suffered to make that sacrifice, and yet there are Christians who are struggling just to get by and make it through each day.
The key to having abundant life in Christ is living by God’s grace through faith. Because grace is His power working in us that enables us to do whatever we need to do in life.
When we try to do everything in our own strength and leave God out of the equation, we just get worn-out and frustrated by our mistakes and failures. But when we lean on God, we actually enter into His rest and can enjoy our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be.
Hebrews 4:9-11 (AMP) says, So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; for he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors…. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves]….
Now the rest of God is not a rest from work—it’s a rest in work. It’s partnering with God to do what He is calling you to do by His grace, and leaving the part you can’t do in His hands, trusting Him to do it. Hebrews 4:3 says it this way: We who have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on God) do enter that rest…. So we start by believing.
When I’m trying to believe, I haven’t entered God’s rest. But when I do believe, I have complete rest in Him. Living by faith is not a struggle—it’s rest. And you can enter into God’s rest in every area of your life.
I’ve discovered that the stress in my life is caused by the way I approach my circumstances and the attitude I have toward them. It was a turning point for me when I realized that the world will probably never change, but I could learn how to change the way I go about handling situations that are challenging.
One key to this is knowing that as believers in Christ, we are partners with God—we have a part and He has a part in everything He calls us to do. When we don’t do the part we can do and we try to do His part, that’s when we live stressed-out with worry, fear, anxiety, frustration, no peace and no joy.
The reason this happens sometimes is because we think God needs our help. We meditate on the problem—rolling it over and over in our mind, worrying, trying to figure out how things should work out. It’s like we’re telling God, “I kind of think You need my help, and I’m not sure You can take care of this situation, Lord.”
We need to realize that worrying is useless! It’s like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking all day, wearing yourself out and getting nowhere. Trusting God means we give up worrying, reasoning, and anxiety and we enter into His rest with simple childlike faith—we live by grace through faith!
Ephesians 2:8-9 is a great scripture that says we’re saved by grace through faith. And we walk out our relationship with God and His plans for our lives the same way we receive salvation: by grace through faith. This is possible because Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for us when He gave His life, taking our guilt and condemnation and paying for our sins. Through a personal relationship with Jesus, we access God’s grace so we can do what He’s calling us to do.
It’s so amazing to know that God is always with us, giving us His grace for everything we need to do in life. Trust God’s unconditional love for you today. Do what you can do and give Him everything else. And when you find yourself getting frustrated or feeling overwhelmed, like you just can’t do it anymore, remember to stop, get your focus back on Him and enter into His rest once again.
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!
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.
Sometimes you gotta experience the bad to appreciate the good, to always work hard for the good, to be motivated to strive to achieve nothing but the good.
Here’s a major major learning from today. Hit me big time.
OMG. Everybody (well, so many people in the same league) is graduating! And yes, it is quite a momentous time–time for cheesy speeches, ostentatious online sharing, and lots of picture taking! And yet, I’m completely not on the bandwagon, simply because I do not have the time to even think about how I’m gonna carry it all out, mainly because I’m too occupied with so much uni work to do for the next couple of weeks.
I don’t even have the parmesan-filled graduation monologue yet, nor the decent garments to wear. That just reminds me that I will need to get a hair cut a few days before the ceremony.
In short, I ain’t charged for it yet. And I haven’t already imbibed the earth-shattering fact that I am about to graduate for the very first time in a black robe like I’ve always dreamt before. Must be exciting. However, I do not know what to feel or how to react to it.
But at the back of my head, I have realised and I am sure that this is the time to be altogether grateful, and to just be appreciative of the events that have unfolded in the past three years of my uni life, which is a mix of good and (awfully) bad experiences. But I’m grateful for all of them.
Nothing would have been in the realms of possibility without God’s provision and grace, and His plan and direction for me.
Also, it is important to acknowledge and thank the amazing people who have given their support and encouragement in this long and arduous journey that is just pivotal in my growth and existence.
I have just realised, as I conclude this post, that I really must find the time to just let this whole episode sink in and be sunk titanic deep in my system, and just recollect–with lots of thankfulness, joy, and optimism towards what is ahead. God’s will prevails.
All right, it’s Day 3 but I seriously did not feel like blogging today. Maybe because I already had a long, tiring day in uni. Seriously, how do you (or could you) endure the 3-hour break between lectures in this really crappy, indecisive weather? Not to mention the lack of decent sleep, and the absence of coffee in my system (i.e., by firm choice).
But, fine. Since the topic today is about the thing(s) that make me happy (which I must say is an innately broad question), I had just put my answers in bullet points so they’re much easier to say, much easier to read. Pardon me for the sloppy, inconsistent writing. All the answers were very off-the-cuff. I was writing this during my breaks and finishing it on the train going home after an almost 12-hour first day back in my uni life.
Here’s the list:
So, it’s Day 2. Here are some of the quotes that I love and are very vital in my life:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
“Truly to sing, that is a different breath.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“God has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.” —Clive Staples Lewis
“They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“A cat pours his body on the floor like water.” —William Lyon Phelps
“If God said it, then it doesn’t matter what people say.”
Comparing yourself to others distracts you from your own purpose and destiny. Comparison is the cancer to contentment. Comparison is opposite to wisdom. —Robert Madu (Paraphrased)
Robert Madu brought the house down at Hillsong church this morning carrying the Good News of paramount significance in this day and age. And that’s a small glimpse of what I drew up today. I was definitely dumbfounded by God’s message and it felt like it indubitably did stir something in my innermost being. This kind of message just propels you to rethink about yourself, about how you think, your current situation; what is and must be the way you see and receive the things around; and how to appreciate what God has wholesomely endowed you with. You are unique, a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), created by God for a great purpose: and that’s to serve Him and love Him. Part of our job is to pursue God, dream big, aim high, work diligently and to the best of our ability while eschewing the bad habit of comparing ourselves with one another. Focus on your own stuff and be the best “you” you can ever be. Call it cheeseballs or cliché, but for me it makes a lot of sense.