In 2012, I had made a pledge to our church’s building project. I finished the pledge in 2014 but even after that, I was moved to pledge anew. I had known that in order to fulfill this new pledge, I would need to cut back on certain expenses…and yes, it was a very big budget cut on certain items. There was a time I felt like being tightfisted towards God but the encouragement had always been this faith that God would provide just as He always had, exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine.
So I entered 2015 trusting that I could not ever outgive God. By the time our midyear bonus was approaching and while a lot of colleagues had been wondering whether there would additional bonus due to the past year’s company performance, I had the quiet confidence that, indeed, there would be additional bonuses because I held on to this: If you build the Lord’s house, He will also build yours (paraphrase of Haggai 1:9).
And so, on the day of the announcement, God once again proved Himself faithful to His promises because we did not just receive an additional month but two more months to our usual bonus payout….called a super stretch in our company. Aptly so, I thought, since it was a period when God also super stretched my faith…asking me to give, to bless others, on both times in amounts I did not ever imagine giving. But today, I am reminded of an evangelist’s word: God does not need your tip. I believe that while I continue to strive for excellence at work, God is also teaching me excellence in giving regardless of my circumstances:
2 Corinthians 8:7 New International Version
But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you –see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:2 New International Version
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
I remember my small group leader’s words: when you are generous, you are creating a platform for God to bless you.
So I pray that I will continue to learn to excel in this grace of giving…and really, for me to be given grace to do so because without it, my tendency is just to spend it according to how I see fit, and to obey joyfully when God calls me to give because if I seek His kingdom first and His righteousness by doing His will, all these things shall be added unto me. And this grace I pray for others who seek it also.
Happy Monday, everyone! Aren’t you glad for the start of a new working week – a week to experience God’s grace so we can excel at work?
At the end of 2013, I wrote about 10 things among the many others I learned during the year and one of those was knowing more about God as provider. I saw how He provided for the construction of my Nuvali home while still enabling me to pay for its monthly amortizations and fulfill my other obligations. God did not only provide for my needs but for my other desires too like diving lessons, personal trips, and giving to causes I support. Indeed, God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). As a friend echoed to me, “hindi mo alam kung paano nagkakasya pero nagkakasya.”
While 2013 was drawing to a close, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that more sacrifices in the area of finances would have to be made in 2014. I wondered what that could mean because I had thought that I had sacrificed enough – fewer travels, eating out less, and being more conscious of my budget generally. Of course, in God’s perfect wisdom, I did learn a lot about my finances and ultimately, myself and my character this year – that while He provides, my part is to be a responsible steward of His blessings; after all, they are still His, I am just a manager. After all, everything I have now is not by luck, chance, or my own effort but by His love and favor. When blessings are seen this way, it can make one humble and so, grateful and responsible. For this year, I can categorize the lessons in three areas:
A friend put a label to what I have been practising albeit on and off for several years now. It really is all about knowing that I have practically everything I need to live. I do not need a lot or many of the same item – tea cup collection? This friend asked me, “akala ko minimalism, eh bakit kelangan mo ng maraming tea cups? San mo ilalagay yan?” Watch collection? My father asked me, “ilan ba ang kamay mo?”…am I not thankful for these wise reminders that helped me be consistent in practising minimalism?! I opened my bag and oh wow, why do I have so many pens in a bag? What about that flashlight?
The rule is to buy or retain only the ones that are useful, necessary, and beautiful. Buti na lang parang lalaki ako mag-isip in decorating/styling my home that I bought mostly functional items; very few are ornamental stuff. Alright, I conceded one corner for my mother who put in flowers and a plate. 🙂
I learned that I do not need a lot of shoes or bags or clothes. I just need a few quality ones (parang friendship!). When it comes to these purchases, the general rule is to buy only when I have something to throw or give away. And the purchases do not need to be high-end brands because there are reasonably-priced brands that are also of very good quality. Plus, I will not feel bad roughing it up with my shoes or bag because I like walking and I do not like changing bags a lot so I take whatever I have from Rockwell to Divisoria! On a deeper level, in a world that increasingly values material possessions and judges someone by his looks, possessions, or achievements, I choose not to conform. I choose to not be defined by brands because what is seen is transient but the ones that are unseen are what matter most. My confidence is not in who I wear but in who I serve – God Almighty.
In 2011, I adopted a lesson I learned from a friend and continues to be a guide to this day – to invest in experiences rather than in material possessions. So, I have since climbed mountains and done spelunking, parasailing, flying trapeze, and practical shooting; studied scuba diving, water color painting, and creative writing; and strengthened my relationships with family and people who encourage and inspire me over new food discoveries! Of course, I also invest in my health and retirement.
2. Delayed gratification
I have been avoiding the sale seasons at the malls because the SALE sign tells you that you NEED an item NOW so you need to buy it NOW, when you don’t. Some things can wait because my budget can be used for the real necessities now. Of course, if there is a legitimate need for an item, I say go to the mall sale! I actually wait for the sale season when I am eyeing an item or I go to Dapitan or Mandaue Foam (yes, most of my purchases lately were for the home). I realized that when I desired to make wise purchases, God led me to the right places at the right time. A friend actually taught me to pray for where to buy an item from when entering a mall to avoid unnecessary purchases…and it works! It certainly works! The yellow rug in the picture above, for instance, was bought from a souvenir store in Baguio when I went there in early December. It cost me Php1,100 after my mother haggled skillfully. It can be machine washed. In November, I had seen a smaller rug in a mall, priced Php3,000+ after a 50% discount if I remember correctly. One needs to use a vacuum to maintain it; they also did not have my preferred color. If I did not wait, I could have spent Php2,000 more and would have been stuck with a rug I did not really like and would be difficult to maintain.
The more I delay buying certain items, the more time I have to reflect whether I really need them or not. There were items I had delayed buying and I had them nevertheless as gifts from relatives and friends (like bags and wallets that I wished for but could not find the right design or budget for…but God knew the desires of my heart and provided them anyway because “even before a word in on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” Psalm 139:4). There were also other items that I found at a good price after having waited some time. On the other hand, there were items that I bought on impulse which turned out to be unwise purchases. I learned that Jesus Christ being the Wonderful Counselor that He is (Isaiah 9:6) can also be depended on in this area. If there is a voice inside me telling me to delay, then do so. Better things will come my way.
Long before I learned about the biblical foundations of generosity, my parents modeled it to us. My parents wisely gave to people and organizations even when they themselves had their own and our family’s needs to think of. I joke that our family has become a manufacturer of jobs so we could help others earn even a little to provide for themselves and their families. But true to God’s promise that whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25), the harvest of refreshing that comes to recent memory is the funeral of my father. Dying in the Philippines is expensive – the cost can run up to almost a hundred thousand pesos but we were richly provided for in many ways – we received financial provision through my brother’s company, through the generosity of relatives and other people, and we also received the gift of quality time from our friends, colleagues, relatives, and the people my parents had helped. My brothers had friends who accompanied them to wherever they needed to go to fix my father’s funeral and that to me is really, really special because you cannot take back time. And up to this day, I am grateful to the people who braved the trip to Tondo, Manila to be with us during that time.
Now, my journey from being kuripot to generous (though I still have a long way to go) has been a rather difficult journey. There was a time that I practised faulty generosity; it was both painful and foolish. I learned that in the process of helping others, I should also teach them to pray and depend on God who is the ultimate provider. I was told to beware that I might be replacing God’s role as provider in their lives. A pastor told me, “lend her an amount that you can forego if she cannot pay it back and for the rest, teach her to pray to God for the provision.” I learned that while it is in God’s heart for us to be generous, it should also be done with discernment as a way of stewarding God’s resources wisely.
It would be difficult to write about generosity to others without writing about generosity to God. I and friends attest that when we withheld on tithing for some reason or another, we found it more difficult to manage our finances. There was a lack when we thought we would have more. But when we gave cheerfully, provision came. Truly, in obedience, there is fullness of blessings. God does not need our money; it is His anyway. He does not need our small change; the whole world and everything in it is His but for me, it is a question of obedience out of love for God who gave His Son to die for me on the cross so I can have eternal life in heaven.
I have this verse that I am reflecting on:
Hebrews 13:15-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
My prayer is that we will learn more and more to be a good steward of God’s blessings and that this will well up in right generosity to God and to others.
When I became a Christian, one of the lessons that served as an eye-opener for me was the lesson on generational curses. I have personally seen cases of adultery, pregnancies before marriage, and even poverty persist from generation to generation. We often think that health problems, relational and family dysfunctions, sexual issues or sins, and even financial difficulties are “inherited,” “mana-mana” and sadly, we settle with having them – there is no escape, “yan talaga ang kapalaran, eh,” “minana mo na yang sakit na yan,” “ganyan sya, dahil ganyan ang magulang nya”…But while it is true that many of the curses or problems we have now may be due to what our ancestors (grandparents, parents…) did, it is also true that in Jesus, there is victory over these curses!
Listen to Derek Prince…after having listened to this, I threw away stuff that I otherwise thought were harmless! Oh, the occult can mask themselves in harmless objects!
Whilst reading this blog by Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio, I was reminded of an email conversation with a good friend last January. It was about recovering from a hurt caused by somebody. At some point, I told her that perhaps, it would be easier to heal if this somebody would apologise (that was why this other blog by Rica also struck me), to which my friend replied “wag mo na antaying mag-sorry siya sa’yo…una, baka mafrustrate ka and remember Jesus died for you when we were still sinners…”
I must say that one of the things that used to surprise me is when people wouldn’t apologise even when I had told them that they had hurt me. Instead of receiving an apology, I was blamed for having been sensitive or over-reactive or because they had thought okay lang sa akin (to which I had wanted to reply: kung totoong kaibigan kita, alam mo kung ano ang ok at hindi ok sa akin) or told that I had no right to be hurt because it wasn’t their intention to hurt me (as if there is always a direct correlation between one’s intention and how that intention is expressed through words or actions, which are many times the ones that become offensive). And I realised that the surprise over the shift of the blame (ako na yung nasaktan, ako pa yung nasisi) was because of false expectations – I have learned (and continue to learn) to humble myself and say sorry if I hurt someone even if it wasn’t my intention to do so (sino ba naman ang gusto makasakit consciously?) simply because I hurt him no matter what my intention was. It was all about shifting the focus on the person I hurt instead of myself – so others should be able to do the same, but truthfully, can I or should I expect other people to have the same mindset as I?
I cannot and should not because as a friend always reminds me, having no expectation from others will spare me from a lot of hurt and disappointment. And the bigger lesson is that I cannot expect others to understand being accountable for the consequences of their actions (and not of their intentions) and being humble and receiving mercy because it took a lot for me also to get to this place – I am only able to forgive in spite of myself or the absence of an apology because I myself was forgiven when I humbled myself before a mighty, merciful, and loving God who in spite of my wickedness decided to let His Son die on the cross so I can have eternal life with Him in heaven – a love so great I cannot fathom no matter how hard I try to wrap my brain around it. I can humble myself before someone I hurt because I know there is mercy waiting if not from him, from God. I can extend mercy to people who offended me because I myself received mercy. I can love (and a sign of that is being accountable to someone I hurt because love is not arrogant) because I was loved first. Indeed, you cannot give what you do not have.
Once upon a time in a not so distant land called Memory, in a dark dungeon in the land, there lived a princess called Pinkmary, but she didn’t know that she was a princess because she was bound in chains by a dragon who fed her with lies…lies that she believed. The best times of her life were spent in bondage with the dragon.
In the same land was an exile called Princess Tinkerbelly, err, Tinkermary.
She saw what the dragon was doing to Princess Pinkmary so she sought to set her free. She went to Princess Pinkmary’s dungeon and loosened her chains one day at a time. Alas! Princess Pinkmary seemed to have been deceived by the dragon very well. Even with loosened chains, she thought she was still bound to the dragon and had to be with him. Even with opportunities to escape him, she chose to stay…with the dragon…in the dungeon.
I’ve run out of creativity hahaha…sabi ko na hanggang non-fiction lang ako eh…for now…not even creative non-fiction…
I am Princess Tinkermary and I happened to have known Princess Pinkmary at one point. I reached out to her but she broke my heart in a way I did not imagine – I was blindsided. So, I moved on. But someone said, “pray for those who hurt you and the hurt will go away.” I did not give it much attention. I was hurt and disappointed and terribly so! But I was continuously nudged by the Holy Spirit to pray for Princess Pinkmary. And I answered, “but why me?” Somewhere at the back of my mind, I was reasoning, “ako na nga sinaktan, ako pa magdarasal sa kanya?! Marami naman siyang ibang kaibigan…” But the nudges continued to the point I had headaches trying to reason with God why I should not pray for her. At one point, I asked a friend, “pwede ko ba syang ipagdasal…because praying for her would bring back memories…?” and she answered, “wala naman akong nabasa sa Bible na wag mo ipagdasal ang tao.” Wahahah, tama nga naman. So, I reluctantly obeyed and prayed for Princess Pinkmary to accept the freedom that the Prince of Peace was offering her, for her to be set free from the dragon by the Real King as He had been doing all along. More leading came to pray for her, her family (father, mother, and siblings), and her provisions. I remembered some of her prayer points and prayed for those. I hoped that she would finally see that God had been leading her out….she just could not see that and that’s the consequence of having been in the dark for so long, you cannot see the truth.
I highly suspect that like the lessons on patience and managing finances well that I have had to learn, this is part of my lessons on forgiveness and I better pass this so that I can move on to the next lesson; if not, I wonder how I should continue to learn this. Because I learned that most of the time, God’s lessons are never head knowledge, hardly theoretical. They are practical. He has put me in situations where I would be so hurt so I would learn to forgive, in situations where I have had to be with people I thought I would not be able to stand so I could learn patience, and He has put me in situations I could not control so as to learn to trust God. After all, He is more concerned about my holiness than my happiness, in my character than in my comfort.
Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
The Miracle of Prayer
I had committed the land of Memory to Oblivion. But when I obeyed to pray for her, I felt my heart of ice melt to give way to a heart of flesh.
A friend once told me that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference. And that was true for me. I did not really hate her but I was beginning to be indifferent towards her. My initial prayer was (kasi nga pinagbibigyan ko lang si God di ba? Masabi lang na ipinagdasal ko sya.), “Bahala ka na sa kanya, God. Pwede ba yun na lang ang prayer ko?” Waahhhh…I had continued debates with God for a season but He always wins! So, ok, ipagdasal ang kanyang tunay na pangangailagan…
I was reminded “to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” but she wasn’t even my enemy. More and more, I began to see that she was just another lost soul who was as deceived as I once was. The mystery of praying for your “enemy” is experiencing how hurt can be replaced by love, mercy, and compassion that come from seeing the lost through the eyes of Jesus.
Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless,like sheep without a shepherd.
The Fairy Tale Ending
I saw that there is a king waiting for Princess Pinkmary – a big person whose bigness is not just in physical size but in leadership. He will rule his kingdom with Princess Pinkmary, whom he will treat as his queen, with authority. And the king has a heart big enough for Queen Pinkmary’s Little Princess Pink.
Then they will love happily ever after.
And that is a vision, not fiction.
When I reached out to Pinkmary, I held on to this verse:
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.
After all the hurt, it is still my verse.
If I keep a heavenly perspective and believe Romans 8:28, enemies are not really enemies… they are some of the best friends I have. What is sometimes meant by some to hurt me actually helps bring about a work of grace in me that wouldn’t take place any other way.
When a supposed enemy attacks, God exposes the sinful blind spots that lie hidden in my heart. When friends extol my good virtues and praise me, I appreciate their expressions of love, but it is more important that I be told the truth especially when it will wound me deeply (Proverbs 27:6). Otherwise I will not work to become more like Christ and the blind spots I have will grow and further infect my soul…
Without people doing what they think will hurt or destroy me, I would never find the way to being more like Jesus. They are a required part of becoming holy. And because of that I must see them as my best friends!