Not Where I Used to Be

“I may not be where I need to be but I thank God I am not where I used to be.”― Joyce Meyer, speaker and author

That quote finally had made an impact on me at this point of my life. Why is it so? Let me explain.

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In the past days I've been writing about my life during my third year in high school, which I've centered around my unsuccessful leadership as the elected president of the section where I was in. I've sought my journals to weave a draft day by day. As I've read through my (almost) daily accounts, recollecting sudden happenings in my life made me reflect how hard life has been at that time, and how much I learned from the year-long burden.

My eyes and heart, undergoing an ongoing "coming-of-age", were opened to many things, especially the reality of life.

"Hand to Face 1" by Tim Patrick
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Among those realities, this stands out: leading is not an easy job, especially handling a large group of people where tensions tend to regularly spring up; and at this point I am doubtingly ready to take that role again. Reading a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasized that reality further. The difference is he got through, and I've gone moribund.

Reading through my journals also made me realize my multitudes of faults and my bulk of immaturity during those times. Not only had I a novice's journey through presidency, but also a struggling entanglement with sins and selfishness. I related with people in very poor, silly ways. I dealt with problems as if I've lost my sense of thinking and humility. I've been too soft, and at the same time too callous. Even after third year I was still quietly bitter, brought by the harsh life I faced.

But praise God! I'm glad I've thrived through all of these. Though I realized the reality of life, I further knew that God continues a good work on me. I've been officially a believer since pre-grade 6, but still I failed so much. Yet going on with a walk with Christ, I have grown further in the faith, and I have learned greater things alongside it.

I realized, especially while I'm checking out of high school and gearing up for college, that I should let go of the bitterness I accumulated. I need to forgive, and by God's grace I did wholeheartedly.

Furthermore, reading the Bible frequently and memorizing verses really helped me a lot in my ongoing growth. Here's this verse I am really glad to know:
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."—John 8:36 (NIV)
And because He already has set me free from sin, through what Jesus did on the cross, then why should I still be imprisoned in sin?

I learned to look up to God, and shake off my sins—relying on His immense ability and not on my own vain effort—for I'm already free through Christ.

For real, God goes on working great things in me, such as amazing changes: a wider devotion to God's Word, an expanding commitment to prayer, a heightening longing for fellowship with other believers.

And that's how I say I'm not where I used to be. I am not a professional yet, and I still face many challenges, and I'm not perfect; but I'm thankful I'm no longer a prisoner of darkness, someone found but still lost—where I used to be.

With the faith I'm holding on, I'm going further with life with God, who has great plans for me, for all of us (Jeremiah 29:11). The best is yet to come.

"Project America - Martin Luther King Jr." by Franco Fasano
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Postscript: Change can also be done in you, dear reader. Let God drive your life, and let Him take you to where He wants you to be—a blessed, abundant life.

He loves you so much He wants you to be with Him. What Jesus did is enough. The gift of salvation is already there. What's missing? You. Your choice. Decide to have faith, accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and you have already made the most important decision of your life.

Relentless Praise

"Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done."—Psalm 9:11(NIV)
"Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us."—Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary(Matt. 18:15-20)

In a Wednesday evening the night sky encircled Araneta Coliseum. Crowds lined-up and gathered inside the dome, and soon they filled it. While I and my fellow people from the church settled on our seats in an upper box—enough to see the stage where all that happened that night would take place—people continued to group in the boxes above and the floor below.

That scene seemingly appear, as our youth pastor noted, that many Filipinos now are aflame towards God, that many Filipinos are gaining an interest in Jesus Christ. For that night was a night of moving and empowering praise to God. That night, the famous contemporary Christian music band Hillsong United came to Manila to perform their first of two shows (the next was on the following Friday), and, above all, to praise the One who made playing such good and notable sounds possible.

Before the performances started (from the planned 7:30 to around 9:00), 2 big screens near the stage showed very wonderful and artistic videos promoting Hillsong Worship’s latestannual album No Other Name; as well as Hillsong Young & Free, Hillsong church’s newest band; and also Hillsong College and this year's Hillsong conference. The people behind these videos really did a great job of showing splendid art and using fine techniques for a cause.

Great music

The performance started, as I’ve said, around 9 pm. And the great crowd surrounding the 11-piece band excitedly cheered and gradually stood as the uninterrupted concert commenced with what I consider as the track I like the most from the band’s latest album Zion“Relentless”.

As the concert went on, the audience sang together, as well as lifted their hands. And they jumped to the upbeat songs. And I didn’t expect that I would be moved as much as the crowd was.

During the praises in our church’s service on Sundays, I simply sang and clapped; then when I took charge of the visuals for the service as I grew up, I only sing quietly with a low voice. Only in the concert, however, did I raised my hands again, as well as sing my heart out (that doesn’t always mean singing in a high voice, ok?), and jumped at seemingly the “biggest dance party” that night.

The concert went on with a deeper impact and touch around the dome with fresh renditions of United’s trademark songs, from “Hosanna” to “Inside Out”; and new music from their latest album, including “Oceans(Where Feet May Fail)” (with the beautiful and wonderful voice of the only female in the band), “Aftermath”,  and “Stay and Wait”.

The presence of God was really felt as people gathered together in the Big Dome in His Name! What a great experience it was…One remarkable thing I witnessed was when one of the singers mentioned what was imprinted on each black shirt my companions and I wore that night—“If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

Of course, all in the setlist moved me that night from “Relentless” to the finale, “With Everything”, where we chanted in chorus a musical melody, like an audience in a football match, which led Hillsong United back to the stage for the encore.

In the encore, they sang some songs which were apart from the band’s discography. They were from Hillsong Young & Free, namely “Alive” and “Wake”. I also remembered singer Joel Houston saying, while the crowd asked for “more!”, “You’re all crazy…” Nevertheless, he noticed earlier in the concert that Philippines is the favorite in Asia, especially that it wasn’t expected that the audience filled the dome! The real finale that put the 2-hour praise to a close was the very well-known “One Way”.

Brilliant visuals
Not only did I appreciate the music. I also appreciated the visuals. Not only were there 2 big screens, but also a “lighted mountain” in the background of the stage, and enclosed in the “mountain” was a mountain-shaped screen.

Throughout the concert the art was impressive, as well as the effects they applied into it, from the bursts of colors to the fast clash of different camera angles. It’s just that the keyboardist wasn’t shown on the live feed (in my perception). I really waited for the keyboardist to be captured on camera, yet I haven’t seen any; but that’s just fine. I’m so much proud of the multimedia ministry that made these visuals go with the music.

Indeed, it was a blessing event, a very fresh experience of praising and worshiping God, as Filipinos gathered that night in His presence. I saw and heard a fresh treatment of modern Christian music, and I felt its amazing effect.

I hope they’ll come here again, and with that, for me to bring my friends with me. I look forward to a DVD of this concert, and for Hillsong Young & Free to perform here.

June 11, 2014—it was a night of moving, relentless praise. 


Picture credit: Some were taken by the author, but the majority were captured by his sister.

The Celebration of The Beautiful

Last year, in my final year in high school, I successfully became a part of our school paper, being a contributor. I wrote much pieces enough for the people in-charge to include or exclude. The next year, I finally had a copy of the paper in my hands, and I found my name on print on the features section. That was already a success to me.

And in this blessed day the Lord gave to me, and to my family in year 1997, let the following piece be my offering to you, dear reader. Compared to the piece on print, this is an updated edition.


S4Y#30: "Fall Back" | Factory Floor

I've known of the electronic music "post-industrial" trio Factory Floor in a music magazine called Spin. After hearing electronic patch-ups from their past releases, they finally have a self-titled album. "Fall Back" is one of their singles from the album, and it's a creative collage of sounds (though I didn't mind the vocals, because I'm more into the music) that is very post-modern as well as abstract. The composition can even fit for a traffic report, or simply a talk show's background.

S4Y#29: "Within" | Daft Punk feat. Chilly Gonzales

In Daft Punk's latest album, there's a track where the duo collaborates with Giorgio Moroder, then it is followed by a chord progression made by pianist Chilly Gonzales in transition to a slow and soft flow of melodies. It's a bit jazzy in the transition, then it finally reaches the melancholic point, where "Within" begins.

"A deep vocoder sings about not understanding the world, being lost and not even remembering his own name," writes critic Nick Stevenson. Another coming-of-age feeling, it seems, though it can be felt by anyone.

This reminds me of something: in understanding the world, and being found from being lost, God can help, for He does show the world in His perspective, and He shows the Way for the lost.

S4Y#28: "Instant Crush" | Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas

We have instant coffee, instant noodles, instant cash...and now "instant crush", at the least for a song.

One of the first tracks I've heard from their latest album Random Access Memories. And here, is a brilliant mix of electronic and rock, of acoustic and synthetic (with the help of The Strokes' lead Julian Casablancas).

Isn't it a thing with adolescence: having crushes instantly...and perhaps instantly fading away as well?

S4Y#27: "In My Remains" | Linkin Park

I am fond of most of the songs in Linkin Park's album Living Things, which I deem is one of their greatest compilations.

The first time I heard this, I was amazed. This is a fresh treatment of their unique rock style, piecing together elements from their albums before Living Things.

Military-like, yes it really is, with a good interweaving of moody electronic sounds, and really alternative rock riffs.

I do like that "army" bridge. It makes the song whole, and much more felt and not just heard.

S4Y#26: "Crystal Ball" | Keane

"...I remember sitting on the bus, and I was trying to write a song and I realized that I didn't have anything to say at all, and I didn't have any feelings about anything...That was a really scary for me, because I've always had lots to say, and lots of opinions whether right or wrong...and it came out of that that we were all feeling this sense of numbness, this feeling of kinda fading away as people. And I just tried to write about that, and it ended up becoming Crystal Ball."—Tim Rice-Oxley, lead of Keane

The alternative rock band Keane was first featured on Dispatch on 101 Songs of My Third Year. And they are featured here again.

I saw the music video of this song, from their album Under The Iron Sea (what a great title!), on cable television, and it appealed to me. It tells of a story of a man with almost everything he can be thankful for, and suddenly was robbed of these things. He was turned upside down, and so it goes.

That's how this video, and the song of course, appealed to me.

Easily felt, easily understood. Truly real.

Musing Around Manila

“The Philippines needed a modern cultural center for operas, concerts, and plays, and [I] planned to achieve a monumental one through its dimensions, elevations, and splendid decorations, and through its harmonious liens it would symbolize an organ or a cathedral.”—Juan Arellano, architect 
"Then out came a woman to meet him
    dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
 (She is unruly and defiant,
    her feet never stay at home;
 now in the street, now in the squares,
    at every corner she lurks.)"
—Proverbs 7:10-12, New International Version

For five times I've gone to the University of Santo Tomas (for I am to attend there in my first college year), and so I've been further oriented into Metro Manila. My eyes have been opened to the surfaces and sights of the wide city during those visits.

I've started to gain observations I have to get used to, as well as be familiar with, being not only a college student but also a regular commuter. From the reality of being packaged like a can of sardines while riding the Light Rail Transit (LRT) train; to the clear contrast between the living salaryman and the dying bystander; to the threatening vulnerability of people like me to be victimized by criminals.

For my fifth visit to the Metro, however, I have explicitly seen 2 realities I am going to share to you, dear reader. One is something I've seen since my second visit, and the other is spotted during my latest visit.

S4Y#25: "Out of My League" | Fitz and The Tantrums

I actually knew this before fourth year, hearing it often on alternative music station Jam 88.3. It turned out that I heard it again often while Jam is my background while doing schoolwork.

Fitz and The Tantrums is one of those current bands I like. They also sort of taking us "back in time", since most of their music sound like Motown music, and 80's music.