Sunday, June 21, 2009

Do Hard Things - That first scary step

Yesterday, I read about "That first scary step".
I'm just going to write down the parts that I underlined.

"If we take a step despite feeling uncomfortable, afraid , or inadequate, our comfort zones expand. We grow in strength and skill. What we consider normal for us changes, sometimes radically."

I've been working in a Japanese company for two years now and normally, we would have Japanese managers. I've studied Japanese now for more than two years and am studying for the next level and by God's grace, pass the exam this December for the JLPT level 2. You'd think that that's really quite an achievement. Well, Praise God for that. You'd think that someone with that proficiency could muster up a "ohayou gozaimasu" or "konnichiwa" when the Japanese President or any Japanese manager would pass by me on the hallway. Well, for the life of me, up until now, I find it really hard. The book put it so well - it was uncomfortable, greeting them didn't seem to be of basic requirement, it's scary - perhaps irrational fear. If you look at it, hey even if I look at it, that's really something really easy to overcome. I remember one lunch time I was struck with inspiration and courage and piped up to my friend and lunch mate that we were going to make a "plan". Something that targeted more respect towards our Japanese bosses, because we noticed, it wasn't easy for most people to speak to them. For me, its so awkward to be in that atmosphere. And I don't think that I could be a blessing to them if we couldn't even greet them! Sure they probably don't mind that and we all just ignore each other. But the first step and it was essential to the "plan", was to be able to "greet" them. So the next day at lunch again, we found out that our plan was harder than we expected. For some reason, we couldn't muster up the "konnichiwa's". One of the people in the "plan" was able to greet them (many of them) on the note that they all passed her desk when they came in for work, and that she was part of the general affairs department. With that said, it's even more frustrating knowing it can be done but we just can't seem to consistently and properly do it.

This narrative is such a small matter but I understand now that it has a lot to do with being uncomfortable and fear. I was challenged when the twins, Alex, and Brett wrote:
"You can't live by fear and faith at the same time." Then they pointed out 2 Timothy 1:7 "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline."

Something in me has got to change. And perhaps such a small step out of my comfort zone will lead to bigger triumphs for God.

I am continually encouraged as they write, "What we're really saying is that we don't want to do things that don't come easily or naturally. We don't want to break through our fears. And by our actions, we're also saying that God isn't good and powerful enough to help us do what we can't comfortably do on our own. And that's a lie the Enemy loves!"

After that and the list enumerated after gave me second thoughts. I've always known that my God was all powerful, creator of the heavens and the earth. Yet I never acknowledged that in things like these. I'm glad they pointed that out. And you know what makes me even happier? It's that God uses my weaknesses so that He will be glorified when I depend on the strength He gives me and not my own.

Right now, I haven't a faintest idea how to go about it, or how God will work things out from this realization. I do know though that I might fail a couple of times to muster up this courage, but I will be able to do it, with His strength.

"It turns out that God loves to take stammering boys and shy girls and use them to change lives for eternity. And it's not about feeling strong; it's about obeying God.
Even when you're afraid."

Thanks a lot Alex and Brett. God bless you and your family for being an instrument in many of our lives. In my life. I will definitely read on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do Hard Things - Thinking Deeper

I just finished Part one of Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris (yes, the brothers' of the world famous Joshua Harris, the person whose book has blessed me in ways he or others may not know). Before I step into another exciting part, I just know that I have to chew on what I just read. This isn't just your everyday easy to read through material. I felt that if I didn't chew on this, I'd miss out BIG TIME.

Here's the book by the way.

I guess I have kind of a different story for most. But sadly I see too that it might be going for the same tragic low expectations imposed by yours truly on myself. But all is not lost! I refuse to let it all be lost. I grew up in a Christian family and my parents have taught us to live our lives for God. We are 3 in our family, my older sister and my twin. I don't really remember why or where excelling was underlined explicitly. It had just always been a tacit agreement, well, as I understand anyway. I've always had this feeling that if we make our parents proud and happy, that God would be proud and happy.

I guess part of it is also that my sister was such an achiever. Personally, I never really thought of achieving as a primary goal. It just seemed like a really good idea. So I followed after her steps though perhaps not so consciously. I thank God for an example like her who set the standards. I know that God was the one who brought me through that.

In the book, I understand that if one pushes himself/herself in an early stage, one can accomplish great things. I'm just a bit sad no one, not even me, pushed myself harder on the talents that God has blessed me with. It's so amazing to see that in my life. When I was a child, I learned to draw and actually thought I was quite good and patted myself for being a good enough artist (I drew people and anime). Then I went to highschool. I found out that there was someone else who drew so much more beautiful drawings than me. And then another and another person. I remember rising up to the challenge, looking up and learning to draw with principles. I remember drawing way into midnight (I believe it was summer) until I felt I was satisfied with my work or too sleepy to go on. I look back into that now and realize that that was definitely kind of the hard thing to do. But when I step into college, I stopped drawing when school became frantic and developing the skill was too much time consuming. I've always thought to myself up until now that I'd pick it up again someday. Recently, when I've started working, I have picked it up again and now want to hone it even more. I have this, shall we call it, passion, to come up with a manga that revolved around a story of teenagers, highschoolers, discovering a life with Christ and standing up for Him. I know now that unless I get out of my comfort zone and actually do that with the strength and grace that God provides, that it will just be another great oppurtunity lost and another dream that did NOT come true. An oppurtunity I have to account for before God someday. As I read through the book, I pray for more insight why it's turning up a little harder to just get to it.

I'm also learning a new language - Japanese. I've always been interested but I've only started learning it 2 years ago when I got my current job. In two years time, I have passed level 4 and 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency test. Now I know that God really does have something really amazing in store for me. Each time I took the tests, I've always prayed, God, if it is Your will, I know that I'll pass. I don't know God's plans, but someday I know that I'll be able to use this new skill for His glory. God has made me find it so interesting that I'm studying for the next level and hope to take the exam this December and perhaps even pass it if it is His will. From what I've just read from the book, I now have no second thoughts if this endeavor is worth the effort or the weird feeling I get when others are just okay if they don't quite make much effort and then it's different when it comes to me. As I went through college and work, I now recognize this struggle of being 'in' by doing just like everybody else, because after all, you'll be really singled out if you excel. If it weren't for God and 1 Cor. 10:31, maybe I'd have given up pushing for the next level right after I've passed the level 3 (which just became mandatory in our company this year). Maybe we're all just teetering on the line between doing just okay and excelling because we're not sure it's really worth the effort or if anyone would just give us reason to excel, like set an expectation, wouldn't you say so? I want to set an example and challenge and help my fellow language learners and anyone really to step up and do harder things.

Thinking deeper I realize now that I may be guilty of singling others out. Even the young people in my church. This is such an eye opener for me. I teach them all about doing the best for God, especially the praise and worship team and yet still single out, even if it isn't that obvious, like a joke, a tease at being great at something. By God's grace, He may show me and correct me when I do this. It really is amazing how taking a second look at our ways just reveals God's ways. It reminds me of a verse from Proverbs "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways; but the folly of fools is deception". If we don't look hard, we will be deceived. Just like the myth of adolescence. Deceived.

It's really cool to see that a life lived for God is a life being pushed by God to do harder but better things for Him. I never imagined in my college years that I would be living by myself. You see, I live in Cebu most of my life. My mother moved to Manila and built houses there because there was land to build it there. My brother moved to Manila for work. And my sister was assigned to Japan for almost 3 years now. I never thought that I would have to actually be independent and learn to take care of myself, budget for myself, and really get to where I am now. Of course, I have my share of misgivings in time and budget management. But I see that even though I've always thought this situation was hard on me, God was shaping me. I wasn't all that ready to leave Cebu and work in Manila, live in a house in Manila where I didn't have to pay rent, and Mom was always there, because I was convinced that God hadn't given me the go signal for it. I couldn't leave the youth ministry just yet. It has been fulfilling to see young people's lives changed, when they make the right choices, and trust God in their everyday living, I can really say, I've done something by God's grace to truly impact someone else's life other than myself. But through it all and what's to come I know, He'll get me through them not just and not necessarily painstakingly but truly "a life lived abundantly".

I know that God has placed into my hands so much I can do for Him. I understand now that in many ways, I'm still held back by that same twine that holds the elephant back. I hope to learn more about doing hard things for God, living up to His expectations, and being able to do them.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How do I number my days aright?

February 14, 2009
Psalm 90

Teach us to number our days aright
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


Life is too short. Will I be able to do the assignment
God has given me?
How do I number my days aright?
- v1-6:
by seeing my life compared to God's eternal existence
by seeing my life compared to God's time frame (ratio-> 1000:1 day)

I really want to be able to do the assignment
God has given me by the time my time is up.
I'm still not sure what it precisely is though.
Is it just one thing? Or is it the many things that
He has given me right now? Or are they going to
be things that have yet to come? Either way, I know
that by obeying God, seeking His will, and numbering
my days aright, I know I won't miss it, even though
the assignment is not that clear as of the moment.

How do I want to live my life in this short span of years?
Will it be:
1. In fear and under God's anger?
"We are consumed by Your anger and terrified by
Your indignation. You have set our iniquities before
You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
All our days pass away under Your wrath; we
finish out years with a moan." v7-9
2. Or in joy and gladness?
"Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing
love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all
our days. Make us glad for as many days as
You have afflicted us, for as many years as we
have seen trouble." v14-15

I would very much love to live my days under number 2.
But how? How can I sing for joy and be glad all my days?
By God satisfying me with His UNFAILING LOVE.
So I should live everyday with His unfailing love in my heart.
Always remembering all the deeds, all the wonderful things
the Lord has done in my life. How He saved me. How He
pulled me out of the pit. How He keeps me. How He hears
me. How He takes care of me. How He put me through college.
How He has shown the work of His hands in my family.


How do I number my days aright?

By Living in His Love.

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