Category Archives: Life

Love is a choice

We often think love is when you fall helplessly for someone. It may be at first sight. It may be after years of friendship. It just spiralled out of control, and now, you find yourself madly in love with someone.

We buy this notion a lot. When we love, it’s more than just conscious thought. The pheromones, the hormones, the nonverbal behavior, the scent, the touch, the energy—these are all at work as someone becomes dearer and dearer to us.

But the past few years have taught me that, although unseen forces sway our feelings, love is a choice.

When we love, we choose to love. It is a conscious decision to go with the unseen forces that make up our emotional, intellectual and physical systems. It can also be a conscious decision to go against it. When the situation tells you not to love, but you still do, it’s because you chose.

Love is a choice. And the ultimate manifestation of love as a choice is commitment.

Love is a commitment.

It isn’t just about what you feel at the moment.  It isn’t about the forces that surround you. It isn’t about what the circumstances call for.

You see, you can choose to love, and then the next day, you choose not to. You may have reasons. Your man cheated. Or your wife suddenly got amnesia. Your child betrayed the family.

In these cases, circumstances tell you, the cost of loving outweighs the benefits of loving. That’s when the ultimate choice to love comes in the form of commitment.

You commit. You declared it, and now you stand by it.

Whether you’re badly hurt, or your emotions run dry, when it seems so illogical and counterintuitive to stay, that’s when love manifests itself in its most profound form: a conscious choice.

When all the world pushes for equality, practicality, cynicism, independence, and justice—you see, these are not bad values and philosophies—you choose to love.

Love is a choice.

Growing up, getting serious?

As a full-time graduate student, I only have four classes a week. Apparently, I have lots and lots of free time. But it seems I don’t have enough time to do everything. What am I doing wrong?

I haven’t received my November, December and January salary yet. That’s three months in a row. Fortunately, I’ve been surviving on dad’s regular provision of money and friends’ kindness. 🙂 (Thanks for that.) However, I sometimes find my self in the brink of draining cash, like now. I only have a few hundred pesos left. What am I missing? Continue reading Growing up, getting serious?

Ashes will be my final version

When I die, cremate me.

I say this to my family and friends when conversions reach the topic of death.

However, not all of them are very open to my idea. Cremation is uncommon in the Philippines. Putting people in caskets, that’s what we usually do. It’s kind of a thing of tradition and custom. We put dead people in boxes with glasses so we could see them. Cry, mourn, stay overnight for vigils, talk, eat… some play cards, or even gamble. Then after a week or so, we put them on tombs.

Do you want your final version to be a dead body, lying inside a casket, in a tomb, in a cemetery, with other dead bodies beside you? And you rot through the years?

I wouldn’t want that.

I’ve been to a lot of wakes. A few of them with their ashes only. And I could compare the mood, the ambiance of the ceremony. With ashes, people mourn less. Of course, you wouldn’t want to jest around with a dead body in the house, would you? Creepy.

I want to be cremated because of similar reasons. First of all, I don’t want my final version, to be just me, but in a dead way. I don’t want to lie there, wearing some formal outfit, but emptied with life. Pale, without blood, with makeup, with gel, with lipstick.

I don’t want people who will see me for the last time, see me dead.

I want to transform into something else. Haha!

Some say cremation is unethical, or unbiblical. I don’t think so. It will not make my soul less worthy of heaven (for it’s faith that will lead me home, not how I died). If that’s the case, what about all the Christian martyrs burned at stake in the early Church age?

So I shrug that off.

But honestly, it’s rather philosophical: I want my life to be celebrated.

I don’t want people to come, see me dead, and say, what a waste! This guy could have lived longer. Or, you could even accomplish more! Now, I see you dead, in that barong. Sigh!

No, I don’t want that. With ashes, there’s no body to mourn. There’s no dead Jed to behold.

I want you guys to celebrate my life. Go ahead, laugh, joke, eat, and share memories! Relish the moments that you’ve been with me. Watch videos, listen to recordings, play my productions, compositions, perform my songs… Remember how I lived and loved. (While I stay there in a jar, somewhere in front or at the side. I wouldn’t mind.)

After all, that’s what wakes are for, right? It’s a ceremony, it’s a tradition, it’s a custom. Let’s keep it at that, less the hassle of carrying me about on a box, and walking under the heat of the sun to bring me to someplace you won’t even visit often.

Spread my ashes to some piece of land, or at sea, I wouldn’t mind. Don’t keep me, if possible.

As much as you can, don’t see me dead. When I die, remember me alive.

But there are conditions. If I die being ripped off by a chain saw or something else gruesome, then put me in an open casket. Or a pure glass coffin. (I want to mess with your head, haha!)

You’ll wish you should have upgraded me to ashes, my final version.

All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all. ~The Preacher, Ecclesiastes 3:20

The Breakup of a Successful Courtship

Everyone wants a happy ending. Filipinos are suckers for this especially in TV series and movies. I remember myself avidly following but eventually hating one tagalized Koreanovela. It turned out that the guy died in the end. And do I hate Shakespeare for what he did with Romeo and Juliet!

For us, deaths and breakups do not qualify as successes in love stories. Let’s concentrate on breakups. Breakups are as common as relationships. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationships at that. Hey, did you know that they broke up? Who? Who?

Let’s face it, we don’t think people who break up have had their share of a successful courtship. “It just didn’t work (sigh)”… It was not meant to be. Bummer. Too bad to hear. Sorry for that. A wedding ring is our idea of a successful courtship.

But did you know successful courtships can also lead to breakups? You probably haven’t thought of that, have you?

Now let’s pause for a moment and have ourselves rethink. Let’s think anew about courtship.

Courtship is the prelude to marriage. I may rightly or wrongly attribute that sentence to Joshua Harris, bestselling author of books “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Boy Meets Girl.” But anyway, courtship is by principle the time when two people—boy and girl—find out if it’s God’s will that they eventually say “I Do.”

Does a courtship always have to end up with marriage? Not necessarily. It is a platform of finding out: soul-searching. In Christian circles, suitors often replace the invitation phrase “Can I court you?” or “Could you be my girlfriend?” with “Can you pray with me?”. It sounds weird, but the essence is there. Prayer is one of the ways that we can know what God wants to happen in our life—by asking Him.

Courtship though, shouldn’t be done for the sake of being romantically involved. Simply put, it is not a free place to express what you feel and have your feelings reciprocated. It is not “an end in itself” or a dead end.

As you go along finding out, God will reveal His will in many ways. Is the person right for you? One way to find out is what James refers to as the “wisdom of God” that is “peacable” (Jas. 3:17). I’d like to see it this way—that if you are meant to be, God gives you the peace to go along through the weeks, months and even years of your courtship. He will give you that special kind of peace and joy to continue and make the romantic involvement grow. And it will deepen.

However, God can also reveal the opposite. If you are not meant to be, He will surely impress it to you, that is, if you do not play deaf to Him. It may be in your quiet time, your devotion, your prayers. It may also come as a remark from a Christian brother. It most especially will come from within: a feeling of restlessness, lack of peace and joy will haunt you if you are stubborn. The Holy Spirit from within will convict you that it’s not right to continue.

Are you asking for answers? Or you deliberately won’t listen so you wouldn’t know?

A successful courtship ends when God wants it to end. After all, everything we do is just the daily following of what God wants. Relationships are no exemption. If God wants it to go “all the way” (I mean marriage, not sexual immorality), so be it. That’s good. But if He makes it clear that you should end it, so be it. And that’s good.

Joshua Harris’ advise that romantic involvement grows only in proportion with commitment is true. “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.” Unless God impresses in our hearts that we are doing His will by staying with the person, we ought not to commit to the relationship. That way, we minimize the hurt—of course there will be—when we break up. That’s why it’s always important that we guard each other’s purity. We give the other person all the respect, the love, the care that they deserve (especially women).

If we become so romantically involved and emotionally attached to the person, a danger looms. When God wants you to let go, you have to.

Being obedient has its own reward. We are not in the position to assert what we want. Obeying His will save us from hurt or pain beyond what’s necessary. Think of it—letting go would have saved you from a lifetime stuck with the wrong person in an unfortunate married life. Pathetic boyfriends make pathetic husbands. But if you want things your own way, go ahead. Be my guest. But remember, obedience will prevent us from unnecessary consequences. God forbid, like violating the other person in your confusion.

After all, courtship is the time of finding out. If it’s a yes or a no, it’s not our business. Our business is to do the right thing based on the right information at the right time.

A breakup is as good as a courtship that leads to marriage. That is, if it’s the will of God. Both are successes.

It also follows that a courtship that leads to marriage is not always a successful one. Even a courtship that continues after it should have ended.

People who desperately hold on to people are in trouble. They ought to understand this: No human relationship can ever satisfy. We only find completeness, peace and joy in God alone.

If this is not understood, relationships will be a mess. It will not do its job—to lead us to the right person prepared for us. By refusing to break up, we deny blessings from pouring in.

One is growth. Elisabeth Elliot writes in her book “Passion and Purity” about this:

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul.

“It is easy to make a mistake here. “If God gave it to me,” we say, “it’s mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go–if we want to find our true selves, if we want real Life, if our hearts are set on glory.”

Looking back, I could just be thankful of my breakup experience. Did it hurt? Yes. Would have I wanted to have her back? Yes, but that was years ago. *wink. Did I have a hard time moving on? Like who wouldn’t? But would I want to prevent it from happening if I could go back in time? No.

I could only look back and reflect on my immaturity and shortsightedness back then. The breakup gave me the opportunity to grow. When I look at how far God has brought me, I thank Him. I wouldn’t want to go back to the past and change anything.

When we refuse to let go of the wrong person, we also withhold ourselves the coming of the right person. We cannot put water in a glass that is full. Who would want that?

Therefore, take the time of courtship to find out what God wants. As you go along, seriously ask questions. Don’t shun answers because you don’t like to hear them:

Am I learning to love the right way (see 1 Corinthians 13)? Is the relationship helping me grow? Or is it stunting my spiritual life? Is it sucking up the joy that I find in Christ? Am I depending too much on the person? Remember God wants first place in our lives.

Do I have peace? Do I see the qualities I want of a Christian husband or wife in the person? Does he/she share the same vision and appetite for the ministry?

Does he/she share the same faith as mine in the first place?

And how about this: Does this person love God first, before me?

Take note of misguided priorities, wrong notions of love, and unwillingness to listen to God’s will.

And lastly lemme ask, how do you view God? Is He someone who is kill-joy, who doesn’t want you to be happy? What do you know about His faithfulness and promises? If we know God as the Author of love and romance, we would trust that His Will will always lead to successful courtships. Breakup or not.

Know and love your God first.

“A messed up theology leads to a messed up life.” —Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep

Breakups Don’t Kill

Breakups don't kill. Only blindness to immaturity will.

A high school boy was crying. Face down in a lawn by the sea, he whined, cried, pounding his fists. Beside him was his girlfriend. She was trying to break up. He was avoiding it. He cried. He acted like a child. His emotions even choked him literally.

He has a medical condition. It chokes him, gives him allergies. It gives him a hard time breathing. He used this as his ace. You couldn’t leave me with this. Haha!

The boy was resolved he’d die if she left her. But she did. They made the breakup official.

A few years later, the boy grew up.

The boy looked back and thought. What made me think I’d die?

He wasn’t really being a hopeless romantic then. He was sweet. He was passionate. He’d make up poems, dream about what will be, what house to build, how many children to have. And (chills—this is too much for a high school boy, huh?) even what vows to say at the altar.

She was the “simple” type of girl. No fuss. She dresses okay. She wasn’t idealistic. She doesn’t really dream (literally, non-REM). She was caring though. She cared for him enough. To some point, she was realistic.

For the boy was dreamy, she couldn’t live up to his expectations. He wanted her to be always there. He wanted constant attention. He wanted to be the center of her universe! She knows she can’t do that.

And as high school relationships often go—petty fights. A lot of sulking, tampo, little arguments, passing on angry notes even in class, and silent “cold war” treatment even when they’re together. They were even facing the beautiful sunset! But they do not see it.

Until the time the relationship was, by then, beyond repair. No choice left but to end it.

“I was so immature back then,” said the boy. “I look back and cringe at all that I’ve done.”

“Because I was immature, I wasn’t able to treat her well. I just went after what pleased me. I didn’t realize my demands choked her. I even demanded her to change!”

Everybody has a Pygmalion within. Remember this sculptor in Greek mythology? He wasn’t really “interested in women”. In his own studio, he sculpted his ideal woman in ivory.

And so did the boy. He had an ideal woman in mind. He sculpted her to what he wanted.

“I grew up with principles I believed was right. I wanted her to change, no, demanded was the right term. That is wrong, so she must change that. This, this and that. Almost everything about her must be stripped down and changed the way I wanted to. I was like that back then,” he recalled.

But real love isn’t like that. Much of his frustration grew because he didn’t get what he wanted.

And so the conflict set in. And again, it came to that point. Breakup.

“Looking back, I really thought—more appropriately, wished—I would die. But I didn’t!”

“To be honest, that breakup was the right thing to do. I woke up and saw how immature I was! I am a boy, not a man. I didn’t really love. Love isn’t like this. In the larger picture of my life, that breakup was a small, emotional interference. But that small, emotional interference taught me much. I grew. It taught me life lessons I thought I’ve already learned.

“Now I know I can love and care way better than before.

“It also taught me a lot about faith. My immaturity showed me I had so little of it. I forgot how God orders the good and bad in our lives to bring us closer to Him. I didn’t acknowledge that. I was even resolved to take my life if she left. This life came from God. I was willing to have it cut short. I renounced the existence of a Master Plan, where blessings would pour in to and through me. Life was all about myself. And it wasn’t a life lived out in faith for His glory.

I smile as I listen to the boy think. Would I wish that girl didn’t break up with this boy? No! The insight he now has years after is priceless.

“And I thank her. If she didn’t break up with me, she would have withheld all the life lessons I would learn now. She would have prevented me from growing. I would have missed the opportunity to learn more about love, life and faith. I knew God more in pain than in the times I thought was “good”.

“It didn’t kill me. What made me think it will? Breakups don’t kill. Only blindness to self-immaturity will.

To the girls, do you have boyfriends like this boy? I hope you don’t withhold him the opportunity to grow up. Do what needs to be done.

To the boys, are you like that boy? Please…wake up! You won’t die. Be ashamed of yourself. Challenge yourself and grow up. Be a man. The world is short of men who are noble, loving and caring. Men who could give women the love, respect and care that they deserve.

Do you want to know who that boy was?

It’s me.

Defining victory

When does a Christian say that he is victorious? Some, in shortsightedness, think that because they are happy, and they have fulfilled selfish desires—they’ve won. However, God has a different way of defining what victories are.

When Lucifer rebelled against God, he lost his identity as an angel and he became the Devil, Satan. He started a war. This war has stretched from the beginning of time till the end of it. It will finish in a grand battle between good and evil. The Bible says he will be defeated and cast into the lake of fire.

There is always a spiritual battle taking place around us, though we cannot see. If you’re a Christian and you’re reading this, you understand what I mean. Our daily ordeal is a part of that battle—whether we do right or wrong is part of it.

I think we all should be aware of this. Sometimes, we base our Epic Wins or Epic fails by earthly standards. We win when we get what we want, we fail when we don’t.

However, God sees things differently. We win when we obey Him, we lose when we don’t.

Jesus claimed the victory when He obeyed the Father—He came to earth and died for us. He claimed victory over death and sin. It was because of this victory that people can now go to heaven. Trusting Him and his victorious work at Calvary is the way to be saved.

Living a life of victory requires that you trust Christ as Savior. When you do, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and helps you to become victorious. When you let the Holy Spirit fill your life, He will help you in doing things that God sees as wins, not fails.

How do you define victory? Is it all about yourself? Check your heart.

The world sees things so differently. Others will see your obedience to God as worldly failures, and your disobedience as worldly wins. But who has the right to say you won or you failed? Only God.

So this is my challenge: win for God. Live a victorious life everyday.

 

Sincerity

Girls often ask (or try) guys a lot in the aspect of sincerity. The Filipino way of starting romantic relationships is through courtship. More often than not, men who ask out girls are often plagued by women’s questions on whether they are sincere or not.

What do they really mean when they ask about sincerity? One definition goes this way, “Sincerity is generally understood to be truth in word and act.” This means whatever is in a person’s mind and heart, that is what he speaks about and how he acts out.

I can’t really go on discussing about what the word is, but I definitely know what it is not. Over time, I have come through misconceptions about the word. People seem to equate it to things that it is not. Here are some:

  • Sincerity is not necessarily doing the right thing. You can be sincere but sincerely wrong. Case in point: religious cults. A more contextualized case in point: relationships that God forbids, but still people go on coz they’re ‘sincere’…the feeling is real.
  • Sincerity is not necessarily being too outspoken or emotional. There are people who are not so open about relationships but are sincere. There are also people who fill Facebook with their romantic shoutouts but are not really true about what they feel. What I know is this: no matter how outspoken or not a person is, as long as what he feels and thinks is consistent with what he expresses, that’s sincerity. The person may have reasons for not (excessively) shouting it out to the world. However, anything that fills the heart will overflow to words and actions. Eventually, it will.
  • Sincerity is not necessarily determined by your track record. For people who have played around before, others might not trust them, no matter how sincere they are this time. They will think that the ‘sincerity’ is an isolated case. And be careful with goody-two-shoes. They also have a tendency to be insincere this time. It’s really difficult to determine which is which. Though it’s not really about your track record, there is something to be said about your lifestyle. What have you used to doing? People who are insincere and want to change usually find it difficult to get their act together.

There are many questions and misconceptions about the word. (I think I’d be ending prematurely here, but anyway…) Sincerity is a virtue. No matter what we think it is, it is still important when we start, nurture and maintain relationships with people, especially with romantic ones.

But for me, sincerity in relationships is something like this: It is knowing that what you feel is true, that the feelings are founded on what you believe is right, and that your expression of what is right and true is appropriate, that the expression is seen appropriately by others, and that the expression that you know others see is completely consistent with what you think and feel in the first place.

That’s quite long. Let’s just stick with the first definition: “Sincerity is generally understood to be truth in word and act.”

Our High School Graduation Song

Download: [PDF] [MP3]

[audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4436605/MP3/Together%20One%20Last%20Time.MP3]

Together One Last Time
Words and Music by Jed Asaph Cortes

Feels like a happy ending
But my heart’s burning sore
Pleading heaven’s gates
If I could ask more

But this is all I have
And this is all we can take
Cherish everything
That this moment can make

Now here we are
Setting on a journey
One more precious moment
Endearing emotionally

I know our lives must change
But I keep your hopes dear to mine
Now I long for your sweet embrace
Together one last time

I know this won’t be easy
Going on sep’rate ways
But you will stay in my heart
For the rest of all days

And here we are
Setting on a journey
One more precious moment
Endearing emotionally

I know our lives must change
But I keep your hopes dear to mine
Now I long for your sweet embrace
Together one last time

As we go on, we remember
All the times we had together
And as our lives change, come whatever
We will still be friends forever

And here we are
Setting on a journey
One more precious moment
Endearing emotionally

I know our lives must change
But I keep your hopes dear to mine
Now I long for your sweet embrace
Together one last time