under the magnifying glass

watch me as i journey to another time and place...

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I'm saved by grace. I have nothing to boast except for the fact that I have the greatest Being on my side.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

for some reason, it's never been the same...

You know, after all that has happened in the last few weeks, my life has never been the same. It all began the day Richard Capili died. It's strange. I didn't know Richard personally (I only know his face), and yet, the impact that he had in my life is surprisingly strong. I think it was the testimony of his life and his service to God that has really affected me in a way I never thought possible.

Servanthood. During the praise and worship retreat, the Lord impressed upon my heart the message of servanthood. What does it take to be a servant of God? Is it easier said than done? Two songs came to my mind regarding servanthood. The first one was from Kids' Praise! called, "Make me a servant." On a whole, the message of the song tells me to stop looking at myself all the time, but to think about other people. It tells me to forget my pride, humble myself, and offer a helping hand to those who need it. In other words, make myself available. I'm not just talking about serving God in the praise and worship ministry, but in every aspect of my life. The second song, "I'm your servant," is a song that we sing in church and I've always loved that song (especially when we're able to blend the tenor and alto parts with the melody: beautiful!). It talks about total surrender to God, telling Him that I am willing as His child and servant to do what He wants me to do for His glory.

I have to owe it to my friends in the praise and worship ministry as well for contributing to the changes in my life that I'm experiencing at the moment. They may not be aware of this, but when I saw their passion in serving God and their commitment to Him, I was greatly "infected" as well. Okay, I'll admit it. I have, for some time now, been somewhat a lukewarm kind of Christian. It seemed as if I was only on fire during the afternoon service (and the youth service whenever I went there), but stale as dry bread the rest of the week. I rarely had my personal devotions, entertained sinful thoughts, swore, and just complained when things didn't go my way. I'm not going to boast that I'm a total saint, because I'm not. It's like I just put up a front when I'm in church so that other people don't see my rottenness inside.

However, after being in the praise and worship ministry for almost 3 years, it's only now that I see how powerful the ministry is in changing my life. Little by little, I saw that these people in the ministry with me (especially the back-up singers) are people whom I can really talk to about my problems, especially since they're going through similar situations. In the same way, I saw myself being used by God to be a channel of blessing to everyone. Before I knew it, I was sending prayers to my friends, blessing them. When I went through a trial in my practicum, I immediately texted my friends asking for their prayers. Little by little, I was starting to realize that I can't do anything myself. There will be a time when I have to ask others for help, and to rely on the Lord to get me past my difficulties.

For these past weeks, my faith has been tested, and it will continue to be tested. Last Sunday, in my prayer request, instead of the usual, "Lord, give me strength and guidance in ______________," I prayed for something totally different: "Lord, direct me in all I have to do in my schoolwork." Direction. I've always considered the end product, but not the process. This time, I did not ask God to bless me with strength or favor, but with direction, because it apparently is what I have been needing for some time. And not just in my schoolwork, but in my whole life.

What point am I driving at? Well, it's pretty hard to explain, but somehow, my eyes have been opened more and more to the powerful and amazing work that God is doing in my life. What is this work? Well, it's still hazy to see at the moment, but I can already feel His presence so much more now in my life. And, would you believe it, it really began to happen the moment I heard about the kind of life that Richard lived. I really wish I met him and got to talk to him when he was still alive. Well, I know I'll see him again. It's just a matter of time and a matter of place.

I'm starting to look forward to the weekend, not just because it's a break from school. I'm looking forward to serving God and singing to and for Him.

I suppose Micah will be delighted to hear that I'll try to regularly attend the youth service again. The Lord has called me back there because I know he has plans for me. In the words of Samuel in his youth, Lord, let me say, "I'm your servant. Here I am!"

Sunday, February 26, 2006

i just have to write this down...

After coming from the Praise and Worship retreat yesterday, I got the urge to create my own online journal (although i'm also going to have to blame peer pressure as responsible for influencing me to make my own blog. haha.) so that I could look back at what happened and remember how much fun I had. While my memories of the retreat are still fresh in my mind, I'm going spill out everything that I can remember--the games, the jokes, the messages, the testimonies, the bonding moments, the mealtimes, and the worship sessions--from those two days which have become so meaningful in my life. And I'm not exaggerating. I really felt such an intense feeling of warmth and acceptance from all those who were there, something that I don't normally experience.

I woke up last Friday, Feb 24, with the announcement ringing in my ears that there was no school because of an attempted coup. At first, I was pretty frustrated by the fact that the announcement came too late. Had it been earlier, I would have gone to the retreat site with my friends from the youth and pm service. Then, Kuya Bobot texted me and said Tita Ruthie could wait for me at the church and that I could ride with her. I jumped at the opportunity. I was overjoyed when I found out that I still could make it to the retreat site (Tagaytay Haven) that morning.

I got to Tagaytay Haven a little past 10 am, I think. It felt so good to finally be there and to see all my buddies. I had been looking forward to this retreat for a long time.

Well, there was not much time for chatter. Almost immediately, Kuya Bobot announced the start of the first activity, which was a race. We had to first collect a number of items listed in a piece of paper. It was a good thing we had Tita Ruthie in our group. She seemed to have everything in that purse of hers. In the end, I was just able to contribute one item: a receipt for my tuition fee payment. In the second station, we had to make a cross out of a whole sheet of paper. We were given a pair of scissors and the instructions that we were supposed to make only one straight cut with the scissors to make the cross. It took us some time to figure out how to do it, but Tita Ruthie managed to figure it out in the end (She was the most active and competitive of us all). After the origami (?) challenge, we cheered Patrick on to collect 20 marbles from the swimming pool (had I known, I would have already worn my swimming trunks then and there), before proceeding to the rooftop to inflate and tie balloons which kept on flying away (Kuya Bobot has a picture of me clutching about 6 balloons in between my arms and legs to keep them from going anywhere). This had to be the funniest of all challenges, especially since Micah started developing muscles from using the pump, and that Vini seemed to able to blow up balloon's much faster with his own breath than Micah could pump air into the balloons! Come lunch, we were all tired, hungry, but excited and looking forward to the day's events.

Later during the day, our speaker Bro. Roy, shared with us two inspirational messages. The first one was on teamwork, where he used the context of the eco-challenge to drive at his point. The second was on time management. The second was especially significant to us, particularly for those in the afternoon praise and worship team, because, I'll admit it, we usually start practice late; and even though we manage to finish before 5:00, I feel that we as a team could have put more effort into our practices had we started earlier. Besides, as Bro. Roy put it, how you manage your time is a reflection of God and how you regard the Lord in your life.

After dinner, we had a really marvelous praise and worship time with Kuya Bobot leading us. God's presence was just so intense and refreshing that I didn't want it to end. Our speaker, Ptr. Padim, gave us more insights on what it means to work as a team.

Earlier that day, my friends and I planned to go swimming at 10:00 pm after the worship service. Well, it pushed through, despite the insanity of it all (the weather was freezing and so was the pool water). That was probably the most memorable time for all of us. We stayed in the pool for about two hours, but I didn't swim as much I wanted to because I got cramps on both legs (sucks, huh?) and was unable to go into the pool for some time. But it was okay. I was able to swim again later on. After swimming, the others went to play a little basketball (what stamina!), but I went to take a bath for fear of catching hypothermia (haha!). Well, to make the story short, I slept at around 2:30, while my friends stayed awake until about 5:00. The next morning, I felt refreshed while my friends were all..."sabog."

I was supposed to wake up at 6:00. I ended up waking up at 7:00. I immediately got up, had my devotions (while wondering also "Why do I feel like I was by myself the whole night?"), and went to have breakfast. We were supposed to have a session at 8:00, but because of certain "stuff" we ended up having it at 9:00. Well, there was some praise and worship, then some members of the pw team shared their testimonies, me included. And I got some really great insights from this session. First of all, it really is true when they say that "God looks at the heart, not at the talent." Puts me in mind to what God told Samuel the time he was supposed to anoint David as king. I've always seen the truth about this, but I guess the Lord reminded me about it and made it clear to me that I am his servant, not a performer. For another, I got to appreciate the members of the pw team more, especially Kuya Bobot for the time and efforts he gave and continues to give for all of us.

I guess the biggest insight that I got was from what Ate Liza and Ate Glo said about me. I had not expected them to say what they said (I was even surprised that they said anything), but I sensed that God was somehow speaking through them to me. Sure, in a way they were complimenting me, but I felt so sure that God was somehow speaking to me and telling me, "There is something that I can do through you if you'll allow Me to." Lord, show me your will.

After the session of testifying and blessing, we had lunch (I took a bath first, which was sort of a mistake because nauubusan ako ng caldereta) then we left for church. I rode back to church with my friends in the church van.

Well, I'll leave it at that for now. I'd still want to include details about Richard's tribute service, but I'll save that for another time.