Saturday, April 19, 2014

Feeling Unworthy vs. Feeling Proud

Many times I have shared in this medium how I felt unworthy of the many gifts I receive from God, and feeling particularly unworthy and lacking in my job performance.

Take for instance this post, where I probably felt at my lowest in terms of my job performance. I felt like I've grown a lot since that experience.

I have a new job as a Immigrant Rights Organizer, and I really love it! Yes, the hours and pay and benefits are great, but it is more the fact that I'm doing things I hope make a difference in my community.

I love this job for the same reasons I love working as a missionary: bring people who have been neglected and forgotten some hope.

With this new job change I am confronted with a cocktail of feelings: feelings of unworthiness vs. feelings of pride.

Let me explain. I can feel proud as I sit in my office and say to myself "look at me with my desk and everything!" and then I can feel unworthy as I remind myself that this job is a gift from God and something I don't deserve.

I was always struck by the ebb and flow of these opposite emotions; a sense of entitlement and a sense of unworthiness.

Caught in this false dichotomy, as I believe many of us are, I realized those opposites are ultimately unhealthy.

I believe God doesn't want me to fill myself with pompous pride and look down on my ex-coworkers at the gas station and tell myself I'm somehow more worthy than them. And I believe God doesn't want me to feel so unworthy as to regard myself as garbage deficient of any good gifts.

There has to be a third way out of these two horns and it has to come not from pride or unworthiness but from a place of humility.

One morning, as I was seating in a boring meeting at my job (I hope my supervisor is not reading this!) I felt God nudging at my heart and saying : If I gave you this job is not because you are worthy of it or unworthy of it, but because I know you can handle it.

The words you can handle it really impacted me at that moment. I took my notepad and wrote down "It is not about deserving a gift or not, but that you can handle it".

This I believe, is the third way. In saying that God give us things when we can handle them we are affirming that every good thing is a gift from God.

We are also avoiding the pointy two horns of pride and unworthiness, as we recognize the reality that God's grace and gifts are not a matter of deserving them or not, but simply a free gift of love, a gift God gives when He knows we can handle it.

It gives me a healthy sense of confidence, as I feel God trusting me with a gift that I know I can handle receiving. It gives me the confidence to resist the darts of the enemy that tells me "you are not worthy of this", and without relying on my own pride.

Be happy and celebrate the gifts God gives us, and rest in the knowledge that if He gave you that gift, it is because He believes you can handle it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolution March Update!

It's been a while since I came and visited you at this site. I really been doing some reflections on how I can improve my consistency, and as a result, my integrity.

I have been thinking a lot about integrity, and how important a character trait that is. I will expand on this topic on another post!

March has been a rainy month! This is great since we surely need the rain in California. We are in the middle of a drought, and any drop we get from heaven at this point helps.

So, getting back to my resolutions. How has it been? So-so to be honest.

I'm getting tired of my inconsistency. And I'm getting tired of being tired of my inconsistency. I know I need to move beyond this stage and take some action. I always feel immobilized and unsure in how to move beyond this stage.

To be honest I don't know how to move beyond the "inconsistency stage". I want to, and I'm confident that I will, but at this point in time I don't know what steps are good for me to take.

Resolution #1 Calorie Count Everyday.
This I have done somewhat consistently, and to a certain extent, successfully. I know for certain that I am eating less calories. I've been trying to eat no more than 2000 calories everyday for Lent and it has been really difficult!

These past couple of weeks have been especially difficult! There has been many days where I have gone over the 2,000 calorie mark very easily!

I feel the pressure to continue doing this more consistently as Lent comes to a close!

Resolution #2 Spend 30 Minutes a Day Cleaning my Room.
I'm happy to report I have made some improvements in this area! I have decided to change my strategy slightly. Instead of spending 30 minutes I'm spending a few minutes everyday to clean my room.

This works so much better with me!

I honestly don't like cleaning, so the less time I spend cleaning, the less frustrated I feel. And I find that dividing my time into manageable bits and pieces really helps me and motivates me to keep cleaning.

I've said this before in this blog. What is the major problem with this? Consistency...

Resolution #3 Update my Blog Twice a Week.
Um...okay, wait until I finish eating this hearty crow.

As you can clearly see, I haven't updated this blog in 3 weeks! Goodness gracious!

I really feel God is putting writing more and more in my heart and I truly desire to write more. My expectations are for things to get better for April!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Solitude Retreats

So I was overdue for my quarterly retreat.


The small cabin I stayed in.

As missionaries of InnerCHANGE, we have to take 4 solitude retreat to rest, refocus and discern. I usually enjoy my solitude retreats, and I was looking forward to this one.

What I usually like doing in my solitude retreats is read, pray, exercise, and read some more.

I went to this beautiful place in Scotts Valley called Fasting Prayer Mountain. The place is decorated witth countless tree trunks that serve as seating, with countless gardens around you and majestic redwood trees.

I was tired. I'm tired with feeling anger towards my church and how legalism and rules often get in the way of loving people.

Stairway to one of the trails.
I'm tired of avoiding my past wounds and avoiding my inner child to get out and finally heal from all the wounds to tell him "it is okay you felt that way and it wasn't your fault".

I'm tired, and God gave me rest.

Solitude retreats aren't always easy. It is easy to go back to old habits of just being. You want to avoid the feeling of loneliness. You want to avoid the voices that spring up inside of you as noise of people and cars and civilization are minimized.

Amphitheater at Prayer Fasting Mountain.
I usually enjoy my first day. By the second day I start to miss family and friends, and almost always feel tempted to just go back. I had to fight the urges to get in my car and just leave home on the second night, but I felt the gentle whisper of God saying "stay", and I did.

Solitude retreats can be difficult, as coming to a sudden halt and rest can bring up many feelings and issues we rather leave untouched. We can become bored. We can become lonely.

As this retreat was drawing to a close I felt God calling me to take "mini-solitude retreats" to listen to Him and to myself as a way to deal with loneliness.  More on this on a future post!

What if we took some time everyday to be by ourselves, to quiet ourselves, and listen to ourselves? How will our lives change?

Why wait till we make the time to retreat into the woods and reflect?  We can have times of solitude everyday, where we make it a point to quiet ourselves to better hear ourselves, and in the process, hear God who is always calling in the silence of our hearts.


Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolution February Update!

Hello friends! Spring is in the air! This is my favorite time of the year!

It's that time of the month again, where I get to divulge once again about my progress in my 2014 resolutions!

So without further ado, let's dive into them...

Resolution #1: Calorie Count Everyday.

Calorie counting can be tedious work, but I'm happy to report that it's getting progressively easier, as it is being ingrained as a habit!

Okay, okay, I haven't counted calories everyday since 2014 started, but I have counted calories most days.

Unfortunately I didn't lose weight in February. I lost 3 pounds in January and I was able to maintain my weight for February. The reason for this is because I was able to keep  my allowed calorie intake for some days, and then on some other days...

Resolution #2: Spend 30 Minutes a Week Cleaning my Room.

Time to eat crow!

I have to confess, I don't remember any time where I actually cleaned my room. It's pretty horrible. Next...

Actually, no, let's think about this for a minute. Why haven't I done this?

I said that I'd clean my room on Saturday afternoons, but I'm usually never home on Saturday afternoons. In fact, I'm not in my room a good chunk of my week.

Thing is, I don't like being in my room!

Maybe if I spent more time cleaning it I'd actually like being in my room.

Resolution #3: Update my Blog Twice a Week.

February has been a slow month. The same difficulties that I explained in January were still true for February.

I have been updating my blog more frequently this month however, and it is my intention to keep at it!

Discipline, discipline, discipline. It's something I need to work on.What suggestions do you have for improving your discipline? What has helped you the most?

See you next month!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Resolutions for Lent 2014!

Oh Goodness gracious!!!

As If I didn't have enough resolutions already...

So, good people of Israel, let's make some Lent Resolutions for 2014!

I have been thinking about what to give up for lent, because you know, you cannot be a good christian unless you make vane resolutions that you'll probably give up after a couple of days.

So being the good (and apparently humble) christian that I am, I'm making some lent resolutions!

Keeping with the dietary adventure theme of last year's resolution (I was a vegetarian for lent) I am making a diet resolution!

So here it is, my little and probably painful lent resolution: limit my calorie budget to 2,000 calories!

Wait what?! That seems like a lot of calories right?

In a way yes, but given how tall and big I seem to be, in order to maintain my current weight I'd have to inhale 2,900 calories a day! Now that is a lot of calories.

It is unfortunately, what I'm used to. And a little more.

I am embarrassed to admit what I have written here before: I'm addicted to food! Especially bacon. And maybe sausages. Okay definitely bacon and sausages.

In all honesty I don't want to be addicted anymore. I don't like being addicted. I don't like being overweight. And I'm tired of putting up goals I never fulfill.

This is a great opportunity for me to (once again) tackle this head on.

I'm usually consistent with my lent resolutions, if strangely enough more so than my New Year's Resolutions, so this little and probably painful lent resolution should be interesting!

What are you giving up for lent? Do you make resolutions? Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent MEME!

This LENT MEME is very easy to follow. 

RULES

1   Copy paste this post on your Blog.

2   Contact as many other Bloggers as you like and leave them this comment: "You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog".

3   And now the difficult bit: Do someone a good deed. Anyone. Relative, friend or stranger. Any good deed. Saying a prayer for someone in need. Helping an old person with shopping, transport, gardening. Visiting a sick person. Giving some money to charity.

Just use your imagination and do any good deed.

If you are greedy you can do more than one good deed. To more than one person. You can do a good deed every day of Lent if you wish. The minimum is just one good deed.

4   That's it. I can't think of any other rules.

5   Thanx. God bless.

Thanks to Victor S E Moubarak for tagging me for this meme. He is a Catholic English author and you can find his reflections on his blog here.

God bless you!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Living in the Moment

So much has been written about living in the moment that I feel naturally hesitant in adding more to the noise.

Living in the moment is such an ubiquitous phrase that is easily ignored, at least for me.

I didn't even know what the heck it meant to live in the moment. I'm not even sure I do now.

I remember reading that one can only get anxious about two things: the past and the future. Do you want to not be anxious? Live in the present, and your anxiety levels will go down.

"Okay, got it, now how in the world do I that? Isn't it ontologically impossible to live anywhere but the present?" I thought to myself.

One Tuesday morning I was walking through the streets of East Oakland, headphones in ear, as you would usually find me on the streets.

"This is it!" said someone named T. Harv Eker (a motivational speaker on wealth, I learned later. While simplicity is my desire, not wealth, he did teach me something that morning) on a podcast on men's growth, as he explained his favorite quote. This is it, there is no past or tomorrow you can live in so don't keep telling yourself "If only I get this or that in the future then I'll be happy, content, at peace...etc"

Those words, for some strange reason, sunk in for perhaps the first time in my life.

It identified an internal dialogue in my head, one so subtle and persistent that I hardly noticed it before: if I get this in the future, if God gives me this answer to prayer, then I'll be more content, peaceful and even happy..."

The problem with this kind of dialogue is twofold:

1. You contentment in life is persistently contingent on the future, which is never present and ever coming.

2. This creates a habit so that no matter what you get in life, the dialogue will keep reiterating itself with new unfulfilled goals and ambitions, and so that future never comes.

This toxic dialogue in the end hides a lie: it tries to make a reality of what it can never be, namely, the evasive dream of "the finished self".

Now what the heck do I mean by the "finished self"?!

It is important to realize that many of us, dare I say even all of us, have a desire for things, for life, and for ourselves, to get better, or perfect, or "complete".

This evasive perfection, however, is unattainable.

The "once I do this or that or once I accomplished this or that then I'll be ____" can only be followed by the same type of thinking once we get what we like or hoped for.

"We are works in progress" we often hear. But what is ever rarely said, I believe, is that the work progressed in us will not be finished.

We should not then have as a goal what I call "the finished self". There is no such thing, in this lifetime, as the finished self!

I believe until we get rid of this notion that our goal is to be the perfect finished self then we will never be content with who we are!

I say content, not complacent, which are two very different things.

Contentment says "I'm okay with being a work in progress NOW" and complacent says "I'm okay if nothing will change".

This is the key, I believe, with living in the moment: be content with always being a work in progress because, truth be told, you will not be anything in this life than a work in progress.

Our goal is, therefore, to keep being works in progress, not the evasive "finished self".

The "finished self" will come, as a fulfillment of all our desires, when we see Him who IS face to face, and are purified by His radiant light.

Until then, let us be content with who we are, works in progress in God's hands. If that's what you are, then you have already reached your goal to be content now.


Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolution January Update!

Oh boy, here we come again. At this time of the month I feel the temptation to dismiss resolutions as completely useless and energy draining.

This hasn't been the case for me, however.

Having concrete and simple resolutions for 2014 (as opposed to the vague ones in 2013) has really helped me in paying attention to them.

OK, enough of that. Let's start with this update!

Resolution #1: Calorie count everyday.

There are days I really don't like counting calories (i.e. days when I overeat) but I have been somewhat consistent in this! I have counted calories more days than I have not.

In fact, for the month of January, there have been only a handful of days where I didn't count calories. I know, there is room for improvement but I can't help but to be happy over this improvement!

As a side effect of this, I'm happy to report that I've lost 3 pounds!

Resolution #2: Spend 30 minutes a week cleaning my room.

This is another area where I've seen huge improvements!

For the most part, I have been doing my room cleaning! I don't always do 30 minutes (this week for example, I did close to 20 minutes) but my room is much more cleaner as a result of this!

I have also put it in my schedule when to clean my room. It is on Mondays afternoons.

Resolution #3: Update my blog twice a week.

OK, in retrospect, I should have written ONCE a week! What was I thinking?...

Anyways, It's been really difficult to update my blog twice a week. That is my ideal, as I really believe it will help me and this blog (and perhaps, dare I say, other people who might read it?).

Updating my blog can be challenging. I don't have internet at my house, and it means getting out to a coffee shop to connect on the internet.

I'm not going to update my blog over my phone so don't even think about it...

I'm a missionary with a part time job and a part time student, and so incredibly busy!

We will see, maybe I'll find creative ways to update my blog twice a week.

That's it for this month, see you next!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Still Struggling with Loneliness...

Back in October I wrote a post about my struggles with loneliness and how God was calling me into a time of solitude.

I felt that maybe I found the solution to an issue that's been haunting me ever since I've moved to Oakland: Loneliness.

I wish I can come and tell you how I never feel lonely anymore, how I got it all figured it out. But that would be a lie.

This is the current state of things: I still feel lonely and yet I have found ways to get used to that loneliness.

Yes, I still have solitude time.

Yes, it is still uncomfortable, but somehow manageable.

The question that I keep asking myself is this: is this sense of loneliness a sign of my lack of maturity or is it a sign that God created me to be in community?

I had the chance in December to live in a friend's house who was out in vacation for a couple of weeks. A friend of mine was still living in my friend's house, and so I was hardly alone.

Needless to say the old sense of loneliness left me, and the thought of coming back home from work gave me joy instead of the old familiar dread.

I realized also how it was more about simply accompaniment than anything else. I didn't even need to talk to my friend. Just to know he was physically there it was all that was needed.

I usually retreated to my old stuff: reading, relaxing, watching a movie. Many times we talked and hanged out, many times we retreated to do our own.

But I never felt lonely.

I had lots of solitude time, but usually not a lot of times where I felt lonely.

I still don't know what to make of this experience. I won't lie, I'm hoping and praying my living situation changes soon.

Something invaluable I have gained from this experience however, is the sense of connectedness, empathy and understanding I have with my immigrants sisters and brothers. I now know and understand the sense of loneliness that haunts them as they come alone into this country.

Perhaps this is one of the lessons I need to learn.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Feeling Discouraged...

I woke up early one morning, when the sun was barely making its warm presence known, with a heavy feeling of urgency and anxiety.

My heart was beating fast. My breathing hard and elaborate.

Along with this awful feeling I felt a sense of discouragement, almost as if a voice kept repeating itself my past mistakes; the areas I always come short, bringing a kind reminder that felt true: no matter how many times you try, you never seem to change.

Lacking lucidity of mind at that early hour, I was unable to fight off the thoughts and the anxiety it produced.

It felt true, and this feeling didn't leave me for quite a few days.

I started to feel hopeless.

I know now that I was exaggerating. I know that my anxiety had a lot to do with this.

I know and recognize that God has made me grow a lot in the past couple of years. But looking ahead, to that ideal horizon, I quickly feel hopeless at the seemingly endless track there is yet to traverse.

The most discouraging thing about all of this, however, is that the voice I heard that morning isn't 100% wrong. There is a grain of truth to it.

I lack discipline, consistency and persistence.

There are countless projects I always start and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I don't finish almost all of them.

It is not for my lack of trying, for I wouldn't start any project without the slightest hope of finishing it.

I try and try, and I get distracted and sidetracked.

There are many things I want to grow in this year, but there is still an overwhelming sense of hopelessness in me.

That voice is still reminding me how undisciplined, inconsistent and impersistent I am.

Do you really think this time it will be different? How many times have you tried and failed? Sure you keep at it for a couple of weeks, maybe some months, and then it dies. Don't go on fooling yourself!

There is a grain of truth in this, and it is wise to remember this.

But it's only a grain of truth.

It is true that I usually leave many projects unfinished, but it is also true than in my trying and trying there is true growth, and the trying and trying is persistence in itself.

There is reason to be concerned and to pay attention to the things that sidetrack us and distract us, but there is reason to rejoice as well!

I look behind and see how far I've come, and while I'm sure there are many more embarrassing tripping and falling ahead of me, I am a more mature person now than I was a year ago.

What this voice is neglecting to say to me, and to all of us when we hear it, is that Christ is truly, uniquely and resolutely for us, and none of His creatures are a hopeless case.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's Resolutions December Update with 2014 Resolutions!

It's been a whole year. Finally. In this post I will look back on this whole year within the context of my resolutions and reflect and learn from the successes (few) and mistakes (lots) I made in my resolutions from 2013.

So wait, what were they again? Okay, here were my 3 resolutions for 2013:

Resolution #1 Achieve my ideal weight.

Obviously, this didn't happen. If anything it was a bad year for weight loss. It was more like a scary roller coaster ride, with lots of ups and down.

I think I know part of the mistake I made in this resolution. "Achieving your ideal weight" is too vague and not specific enough to be pursued.

The better question to be asked is not what I want, which is achieve my ideal weight, but rather what must I do to do that, which I will answer in my resolutions for 2014!

Resolution #2 Keep my room clean, year long.

Another area where I failed miserably and I think the same mistake applies as above. Too vague and not specific enough.

Yes, I do want my room clean, but what steps do I need to take in order to keep it clean?

Resolution #3 Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

I did much better on this resolution. It is no surprise now that part of the reason of why I did so well was because it was a specific resolution.

There is something to be learned here.

Resolutions for 2014!

2013 is gone and many lessons were learned. With that in mind I'm ready to share my resolutions for 2014!

Resolution #1 Calorie count everyday: I want to lose weight, but calorie counting can be a powerful tool I can use for weight loss. So instead of having the big bright and ideal goal of achieving my ideal weight, dividing that goal into little pieces and focusing on them can be immensely helpful!

Resolution #2 Spend 30 minutes a week cleaning my room: The same logic as above applies here. If I can manage on cleaning my room for 30 minutes a week then I can probably achieve the ideal goal of keeping my room clean.

Resolution #3 Update my blog twice a week: don't fix what isn't broken. This resolution helped me a lot in keeping this blog somewhat updated. Here is hoping I do even better this year.

What are your New Year's Resolutions? Do you even make resolutions? Why or why not?