3 A.M. MUSINGS

Yes, I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning and No, this is not an ode to the song by Matchbox 20, though some similarities may be seen except for the part where it says “…I must be lonely.” (just search the lyrics if doesn’t make sense)

A lot of things are keeping me awake these days – health scares, financial worries, pending projects, etc. Out of all those things, nothing is more potent than thinking about your purpose in life. “What should I be doing with my life?” I’m almost at my 40’s and I might still be considered young by most of the people I work with, but then it does not exclude me from wondering if I am doing what I am supposed to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and most of the people I work with, but then something at the back of my mind is telling me that there is more I can do. This is the main thing that makes me turn on my computer and just start typing away.

IS IT TIME TO FINISH MY STUDIES?

This is always my insecurity. I was privileged to go to college but there came a moment in my life that I had to stop and help out. It was the common route for the struggling Filipino family. The eldest would start working so that the other siblings could continue their studies. I did not hate the idea. I did not despise my parents for it. I even felt that it was the honorable thing to do and I am glad that I submitted to my parents. Somehow, I feel like I am part of my sisters’ success – An Elementary Teacher and a Medical Technologist.

The privilege of restarting my educational journey was always available but often put aside. A lot of things were considered a priority. Then I got married, given two kids, and now a full plate at work. As I look at my life and the niche God had carved out for me, there is this need of upgrading. I am grateful and still at awe that God would use a high school graduate to manage His ministry. There is no doubt that God can use anyone He wants, but then I read somewhere that GOD USES PREPARED PEOPLE. Willingness is not enough to get us there. At some point, we will need to develop and enhance a particular skill set and learn to use new tools of our chosen trade.

SHOULD I GET A NEW JOB OR START A BUSINESS?

Financial security is one of the goal we have as a family. Currently, we are undergoing debt management. A lot of wrong decisions in life have pushed us deep into debt and we are starting the long journey out.

Some of my friends of the same faith have asked me, “Shouldn’t you just build capacity and let God handle your finances?” Technically, that’s what we are starting to do. Exercising my faith in finances does not mean doing nothing and waiting for God to bless me. I believe that building capacity is also being financially literate. Being a good steward means creating good cash flow and knowing when to invest. The underlying purpose in our goal to be financially secured is not just for comfort sake but also to open possibilities of helping out people and ministries. That’s why a second job or my own business seems promising.

There is this fine line between acceptable profits and selfish gains that I don’t want to cross. I don’t want to work my ass off just for the sake of making money. I want to make it clear for myself and my family why we need the extra money. Having a clear objective makes it easier for us to lay out our petition to God. As of today, we have a lot of things lined up and we are earnestly praying for God’s timely provision. Our family has gone through a lot of tight financial situations, and every single time, God has proven himself as the great provider. So now, upon the realization of God’s overflowing provision, the motive behind getting a new job or starting a business shifts from a point of financial gain to an opportunity of influence. This is what contributes to my early morning self-reflection moments.

EXPANDING OUR INFLUENCE

I believe that our purpose will have a lasting impact that would echo even after we are gone. What legacy are we leaving behind? What kind of influence do we have with the next generation? As a father of two kids, I have to take those question seriously. There is only so much I can do with the remaining time I have, so I have to make every day count. I cannot change the world for them, but I can equip them with the right mentality and attitude needed to respond to the changing times. If there is one thing I desire, that’s making sure my babies establish a belief system that can give them hope and confidence in living their lives. As a Christian, I know that Jesus is the foundation of that belief system.

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
but lose his soul
?
Mark 8:36

My self-reflection will always come to this conclusion – Whatever I am doing, it should serve the ultimate purpose of God which is spreading the good news. Whether I would pursue my studies, get a new job, or start my own company, everything should serve the ultimate purpose. So now, the end is in mind, what’s next?

THE CREATIVE PERSPECTIVE TO MANAGEMENT

I recently took a quick left/right brain test to confirm to myself that I am a right brained person. And it did confirm that but only for 4%. I took two different test and it said that my brain have reached a level of harmony where my creativity does not overpower my ability to logically assess, and vice-versa. I guess that comes from my Phlegmatic / Melancholic personality. Still, I feel that my creative self has dominated my career path, even in operations management.

WHAT IS A CREATIVE?

Being a creative is not confined to having the ability to design. I believe that if you have the capability to come up with an idea that has the potential to solve a problem, then you are a creative! A creative is a problem solver. So don’t restrict your notion of a CREATIVE to the stereotypical artsy person. That is just one aspect of the creative. Even programmers can be considered as a creative. If you are reading, you have the potential to be one.

THE CREATIVE IN PROCESS

I have been working since 2002 and through-out the years, my creative side has always been a factor in building my personal routine and business processes. My thinking process is not linear where I see a hierarchy or a chain line. My mind starts at a single point (not even the starting point) and stems out from there. I see multiple possibilities in my head and then decide where to zoom in for possible fine tuning or purging. It’s an organized mess in the beginning, but once I narrow down key areas, I get my notebook and start listing them down in a particular order. Don’t ask me what order because I usually decide once I see what I have written down.

Don’t get intimidated by the messy start, it usually gets clearer once we get to the end. If I get stuck with a mess, I usually scrap everything and start at another point. A successful process is comprehensive to everyone and not just one person. We have to push for clarity at the end, because we don’t want a self-serving process. We should always aim for an inclusive and functioning process.

CONNECT WITH OTHER CREATIVES

My work involves people. I have a core team of 4 supervisors who handle a specific section, and I consider them as my co-creative. Our organizational chart may say that I am above them, but once we start meeting face-to-face or online, their input is as good as mine. I bounce my ideas with my core people and I make it a point to listen to their suggestions. My connection with them is a valuable factor that enabled us to lay down working process in our department. Each section is unique in their roles and responsibilities, yet a certain harmony and sense of unity is seen in the way they collaborate.

We function better within a community. I wholly believe that we are hardwired as social beings and our desire for connection and community is a strongpoint that should be nurtured. The right connection can bring in good results. So don’t consider charging into war alone. You will need someone to watch your back.

STRENGTHENING YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM

As a creative, I adhere to a strong belief system that generally makes up my standard in pursuing ideas. Personal preferences in designing are also influenced by my belief system. As a Christian, I adhere to the infallible Word of God as the very foundation of my core beliefs. Christianity is not a once a week occurrence. We should be living and breathing the very doctrines we are hearing every time the Word is given to us. Every aspect of our lives is part of our Christian living. The moment we have responded to the gospel and made Jesus Lord of our lives, then even our creativity is subject to the standards of Jesus!

If you are reading this and not sure on what kind of belief system you are embracing, then maybe you are destined to hear my story.

GOING FOR THE LONG HAUL

There is a stigma about creative people in management that I want to break. There is this presupposition that we are all over the place, emotional, and too involved…well, sometimes we are but that doesn’t mean we suck at managing processes and people. Just like any other professional, we have our bad days and I wholly believe that we are not defined by our failures.

As a right-brained person who was catapulted to a senior management position since 2010, I think I have gotten the hang of this thing called MANAGEMENT! I haven’t reached the peak of my career in operations management, but the learning curve is much flatter than I expected. I may have a different approach in collaborating with people and building processes, but I think I still hit my goal at the end of the day. I’m still learning and enjoying every bit of it.

If there is one thing I am confident about as a creative, that’s pushing through every project I’m involved with even if the deadline has lapsed. I’m here to see through it even if it takes me longer than planned. I’m not insinuating that deadlines don’t matter….I’m just pointing out that finishing is more important! An unfinished project does not sit well with me, and I think that every creative person has the same sentiment on different levels. Pending projects, whether forgotten or out of negligence, does not leave my system. They haunt me till they are resolved. This is my greatest motivation in developing my processes.

At the end of the day, I know that I am where God intends me to be. I believe with all my heart that my full potential is found in the middle of God’s will for me. I was blessed with a creative mind and a place to flourish. How about you?

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

THE TIPPING POINT

The pandemic is slowly getting to me and my routine. My way of doing things is starting to have a bad taste in my mouth. Working from home was a joy at first. No early morning preparation. No long commute. It sounded like a dream. Fast forward to today, working from home has become a potential hazard to our mental state. I’m about to tip over and just lose it. An imminent breakdown of massive proportion is about to happen. I had to step back.

Just the other night, while my wife and I were chatting, I began to self-assess. What am I really feeling? Am I angry? Frustrated? Sad? Discontent? Why am I being overwhelmed by so many emotions? What is the root of my current problem? I bounced everything back to my wife and was given more questions to ponder. At some level, she is also struggling to find stability in our current situation.

MY CURRENT DILEMMA

I am an idealist and also a realist. I have a lot of things in my mind that I FEEL like I have to do but are constrained to what I can REALLY do. Back in our old church, I surrendered myself to be used by God in the mission field. I can still remember the moment I stepped forward to the front and get emotional to the distinct feeling of being called to actively involve myself in mission work. I started teaching in our local church as part of training and was even part of various ministries. Years started to pass and the FEELING of being a missionary boiled down to the question – am I REALLY called by God. As of today, I still have the same feeling but then other things are also impressed in my heart like starting a business, starting a ministry, finishing my studies, and even starting a second job. All of these are currently compiled in my brain and it’s starting to bleed over my routine and affect my current roles and responsibilities.

I remember telling my wife that I wish I knew what God was preparing me for. It’s like telling me that we are leaving in 10 minutes so I better prepare but then no other information is given. Where are we going? Are we going to stay long? Should I bring food? Then my wife said the most God ordained thing that smacked my spiritual senses. For her, not knowing builds up a good kind of anticipation and reminds her of God’s sovereignty. I could only do so much, and for the other things I am not capable to do, I have to apply FAITH!

APPLYING A HOSEA MOMENT

I’m currently restarting my personal devotion and was led to the book of Hosea. I concluded, that in order for me to successfully apply FAITH, I need a stable belief system that is founded on the absolute TRUTH of God’s Word. I believe that I have been complacent with my spiritual life, thinking that once a week is enough to nourish my soul. I was starving and I had no clue. That was also the dilemma of the kingdom of Israel during the time of Hosea. That is why, the whole book is a reminder of the effect of neglecting the most important thing.

When you go to the second verse of the first chapter of Hosea, you will see the heaviness of what Hosea will be undergoing for God’s work. It says there, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness…” Now, I will not go into the whole reason behind why God ordered such thing (Because there is always a legitimate reason if it came from God) but focus on the first 4 words in God’s message – GO, TAKE TO YOURSELF.

Hosea was a prophet. Mostly, prophets go about telling people God’s message for them like how Jonah was ordered to tell the people of Nineveh of their impending doom. But then, God would always have a message for the prophet themselves. The first order of business for Hosea was for himself. A heavy task that was met with pure obedience once you get to the next verse. Why did Hosea obey? A commentary I was reading once said – It is easier to obey if you understand WHO is giving the command.

Hosea was not blindly obeying. Hosea was simply obeying out of love and reason. The logic behind this is established on a belief system where God is the ultimate foundation. That is the basis of FAITH! That’s what I need. I know the story of Hosea and how He repeatedly took his wife back into his arms even to the point of buying her back, but I am still excited to go over the story verse by verse and really soak into the grace, mercy, and compassion of God without neglecting His justice and perfect Righteousness.

BROKEN AND SPILLED OUT

I remembered Steve Green’s song BROKEN AND SPILLED OUT about the woman who broke a box of expensive oil and poured it into Jesus’ feet. The song shifted the focus on Jesus, where it says that He was also broken and spilled out for us on the Cross. Then, the last verse of the song was more of a challenge for the Christian.

In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Eventually, we would reach a tipping point where we are not able to do anything. In that point of helplessness, we can still be used by God. We are still able to move forward. I’m not saying it would be easy. It would even be painful. But then, with God, nothing is impossible.

I pray that as we move forward, especially during these trying times, that we do what we can do and trust God with what we are not able to do.

Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash

LOGO & BRANDING – Legacy Financials

This is a basic LOGO & BRANDING project of a financial agency. The client already has an idea, color scheme, and general look. This made my job a little easier. The whole idea is based on a SHIELD. The initial drawing given to me had a distinct shield shape, but as we progressed, we ended up concentrating on the letters L and F but maintained a subtle shield form. The red strip that we incorporated is to identify with the AXA company where they are accredited.

The whole render was made in Adobe Illustrator and then laid out in Adobe Photoshop. We also created a cover photo for social media posting.

BOOK COVER – Covid-19 (Chance, Accident or Judgement)

This is a very controversial book. I did not write this, I just made the cover design.

Let me just say this – Agreeing to take on this project does not mean I also agree with their stand on what the author is saying about the current global pandemic. I am also a Christian, but I do have my own stand in the current issue.

It took me around one and a half hours in conceptualization, image preparation, and actual design. This was made in Adobe Photoshop. Images used are royalty free.

DIGITAL DRAWING – Turned Yellow Application

I had the opportunity to apply for a company who illustrates people in a particular style. If you don’t know what style this is, then I don’t know how to respond to that!

I used Illustrator at first but then moved to Photoshop because the brush tool is more manageable. I could have done better, but it was 3am and I was getting light headed.

I didn’t get the job, but I did have fun. Also, there’s no reason behind the personality I used as my reference. Don’t troll me!

ACTIVE STILLNESS

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I love the song STILL by Hillsong, especially the chorus where it says “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. Father you are king over the flood. I will be still and know you are God.” My wife and I found a tagalog version of this song. It’s not translated word for word, but the thought of the song is expressed more accurately, in my personal opinion. The Tagalog version of the chorus goes like this “Suliranin man ay dumating (Even if predicaments come our way) Ikaw lamang O Diyos ang sasambahin (I will praise you alone O God) Panginoon ko sayo lamang, mananatili kalian pa man (Forever I will remain still in You o Lord).” I know, it’s not a very accurate translation, but the song is not the point.

Whenever I am confronted by verses that command me to BE STILL and get a grip of my anxious soul, I always think of just giving up. Most people would even say LET GO AND LET GOD and it always feels like a last resort. It’s like driving your car until it runs out of gas and then letting the momentum take you wherever. Subconsciously, I have equated being STILL to passively quitting. Que sera sera – whatever happens, happens. This was my mentality before I was confronted by a sermon preached in church just recently about INTENTIONAL GROWTH.

We Christians are saved by God’s grace alone. Our faith and understanding of God is also a gift that is made possible by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truths (John 16:13). We are privileged to understand spiritual things because we were permitted to understand spiritual things. When it comes to our spiritual growth, we are commanded to endure and show character in the light of hardship and persecution (Heb 12:7). Even Jesus said to love those who persecute us (Mat 5:44). So where does being STILL fit in this scenario of INTENTIONAL GROWTH?

I believe that being still is not passive in nature. Remember Jesus telling the storm to BE STILL? It required great power. Power that Jesus initially veiled as He lived His life as a human being (Phil 2:6-7). He had the power, He was just not flaunting it. In our case, we have that same power in Christ and we should recognize it. Being STILL requires an active understanding of God’s character and how He directly affects our lives. Being STILL is not giving up but pressing on and moving towards the goal that was set before us. Being STILL is a calling to pursue holiness in the midst of pain and corruption. Being STILL is our best option during times of uncertainty.

When we start to choose to be still, change is never guaranteed. Peace, on the other hand, may be attained in our STILLNESS. I love how the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi that God’s peace is beyond their comprehension and is able to guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ (Phil 4:7).

As my wife and I go through rivers of doubts during her pregnancy, I pray for God’s sustaining grace as we attempt to intentionally grow in Him and actively pursue being STILL.

HOLY WEAK

The end of the Lenten season is at hand topped off with a weeklong commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The “HOLY WEEK” is anticipated by the Filipino people, not because of any spiritual undertone, but because of the long holiday weekend. It’s a chance for the working people to experience uninterrupted days of rest. So…who’s excited for a long holiday weekend? (If you’re reading this in the far future, I’m writing this during the enhanced community quarantine where everyone has been in lockdown for more than a month because of the Covid-19 pandemic.)

Celebrating Jesus should be a default for the Christian. Apostle Paul declared it best to the believers in Philippi – “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21 NIV) The life of the Apostle Paul before his encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus was so much against God, and yet, God in His love and sovereignty pursued Paul (it was Saul back then) to live a life with a greater purpose. That is why, when the great Apostle said “For to me, to live is Christ…” it was a statement that as long as he is living, the life he is living will be in parallel to Christ. He can confidently say that, because he has nothing to lose. Even dying is gain…profit! That is why, if you only have this week to think about Christ, to honor His sacrifice, then what does that make us?

Dedicating our lives to Jesus is never easy. Even Jesus said that the world will hate us because of Him (John 15:18; Matt 10:22). We will even be persecuted because of Jesus (Matt 5:11). The Christian way of living will be hard, and the only way for us to live it out the way it should be is when we understand that our hope is in the Lord (Isa 40:31). That is why, our best shot in this world is to really stick close to Jesus. How close? Like you have “…been crucified with Christ…” (Gal 2:20). When you continue the verse, it says there that being crucified with Christ gives you a grace oriented perception that it is no longer you and I who are living, it is Christ living in us!

So let’s get to my main point.

We, who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ, draw strength from the God who pursued us. We are spiritually weak and vulnerable. And it is in our weakness where God’s power is made complete and full. That is why we should never be ashamed of our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Our capacity to comprehend the grace, mercy and compassion of Christ is all because of the power of the Holy Spirit in us who teaches us all things (John 14:26).

In conclusion, during the holiest week of the year, we have to accept the fact that we are weak. If Jesus, in all His power, decided to veil His deity and become man just to fulfill the Father’s plan (Phil 2:6-8), then we, who are spiritually weak, has no choice but to submit to God.

 

This is my first installment in my personal reflection regarding the importance of knowing who Jesus is. I hope and pray, that as we progress in our walk with God, that our ultimate understanding of His nature would radically change the direction of our goals and aspiration in life. 

PASSING OVER

The exodus account is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Seeing the faithfulness of God all through-out the narrative is a depiction of unfailing grace and renewed mercy. The temporary uprooting of Jacob and his family was pre-planned by God in eternity past so that the lineage of Christ will be preserved. It gives you a glimpse of God’s love towards His beloved. Then, the time came for the Israelites to return.

When you read the first chapter of exodus starting at verse 8, you would see that the suffering of the Israelites started when a new Pharaoh came into power without being oriented to the history and origin of Joseph’s people. Fear was somehow instilled in the mind of this new leader. A major detail to the story of the Passover.

I will not be tackling the whole story. I expect that you have come here with a basic knowledge of the Exodus story, or even the Disney adaptation – Prince of Egypt. Now, let’s fast forward to the very last plague that would be the key to the Israelite’s release.

Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exo 11:1 NIV)

Let’s pause. You might be thinking – “Why didn’t God just jump to this plague right here? Why go through all the trouble of sending nine plagues?” Well, it’s a very valid question. I asked myself that years ago, and I came across this study on how all the plagues God sent may have been a direct contradiction to one or two specific gods of the Egyptians. Just like how the last plague hits the ultimate power of Egypt – Pharaoh! The Egyptians worshipped Pharaoh. They even believe that he is the actual son of Ra – the sun god. So, when you think about it, the nine plagues before the final one is a precursor to the ultimate knockout move God has planned out. Now that God has the attention of both the Israelites and the Egyptians, it’s time to show grace and judgment in one pass.

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:4-7 NIV)

There’s the knock-out punch! I love how Moses wrote the last part of verse 7 – “Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. God has drawn the line and made sure that the world will know the difference between those He has chosen and those whose heart has hardened from the mere revelation of His character. Let’s move on.

The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exo 11:9 & 10)

TIME OUT! That’s not fair! Pharaoh was bound to lose in the first place! Let’s clarify. First of all, God will always judge fairly (Psa 9:8). If we understand the nature of God, it’s common knowledge for the believer (It should be) that everything God has willed and purposed is and will be good (Rom 8:28) – final and beneficial. Secondly, God is also a God of mercy, compassion, and grace (Lam 3:23). Never will God contradict His essence just to prove a point. His characteristics operate simultaneously without any contradiction. Remember what I said? GRACE AND JUDGEMENT IN ONE PASS! Now, let’s go back to my first question – Why did it take 10 plagues when it could have been finished in one? What if, it’s also a show of grace to Pharaoh to acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty over everything? I love how an article in The Gospel Coalition explained that for the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. It was not until the end of the sixth plague (Exo 9:12) that it mentioned the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Then, then the article said this:

Well how did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? God simply revealed himself. He revealed his power, supremacy, love for his people, hatred of sin, etc.. Through the signs and wonders of the plagues. It was this revelation of God that hardened his heart.

Even before the plagues happened, in the first verse we read, the information Pharaoh decided to believe was the foundation of his heart being hardened. He did not know who Joseph was, therefore the existence of the Israelites became a threat.

We have come to the part of the story where God gave the Israelites the whole day to prepare for His visit. This part amazes me because of the way God has included specific instructions for the people to follow. The details include what meal to eat, how to prepare the meal, how to eat the meal and even what to wear during the meal. The most interesting part is when Moses said this:

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exo 12:24-28)

This was an event worth remembering. This was an event that future generations needed to hear about. It’s like God telling the Israelites – Don’t you forget that I chose you! And when I come passing through your homes, remember that I showed you grace! Grace to the Israelites. Judgment to the Egyptians. All in one passing.

So how does this story help us?

Well, dearly beloved, if you are a follower of Christ, then we should not forget that God chose us. Before the foundation of the world, we have been purposed to be In Christ. Spiritual death passed over us the moment we were reconciled in Christ. Grace pursued us the moment we were born to this fallen world. The elaborate story of the Exodus was given for us to deeply appreciate the extent of God’s faithfulness towards us. Even during the times when we fail and complain, just like what the Israelites will do after they are freed, God continued to show grace.

Now, hold on to these principles. Live life with a better perspective. Look at your circumstances through the lens of grace. Remember this fact – that through Christ’s loving mercy, He called onto death to pass over His beloved and offered Himself in our stead. The passing over of death is in itself an act of grace.