We Visited the Philippines!

From June 9th-18th, Patsy and I went off the grid and spent time visiting her family and vacationing in the Philippines! It was such a fruitful trip, full of laughs and even fuller with great food.

Upon arriving in Manila, one of our first priorities was to rub shoulders with some of Patsy’s family. While doing so, we got to meet the newest canine member of her family, Bull, a doberman import from Chile!

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Bull is a majestic dog, and he shows it in his model strut. Not pictured: Bull peeing, not 30 seconds after this picture was taken

After getting some face time in, Patsy, her parents, one of her sisters and I traveled to Batangas to stay for a few days at Pico Sands Hotel. We would get to know this place well over the next few days, everything from its beaches, pools, and country club to the restaurant on site at the hotel. Here is Patsy enjoying her first meal at Pico de Loro!

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The food here was great, but they did have a ten-second sound clip running on loop!

After gorging ourselves for lunch, the next thing on the list was to hit the beach! Contentment came pretty easy as we relaxed and soaked up the early evening sun.

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See that suntan lotion next to the chair? That was my best friend throughout the entire trip! Thanks to Patsy’s father for taking this photo!
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Patsy took this amazing shot as the sun went down over Pico de Loro

Day 2 of Pico de Loro was also filled with water and food! After eating breakfast, we hung out at the hotel’s pool area (lots of sunblock was applied). Little did we know of the feast that was awaiting us for lunch. Patsy’s mom had a craving for seafood, and I’m so glad she did because we got to experience a Filipino tradition called a boodle fight! In a nutshell, a boodle fight is an enormous amount of seafood served over rice that is laid on top of banana leaves. The twist is, everyone aggressively eats with their hands in order to get a taste of all the best food before it’s all gone. To top it all off, we got to experience this right at the edge of the beautiful beach we were relaxing on!

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I had no idea what was ahead of me.

After lunch/dinner/food for the rest of my life, we all needed a rest so we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours. Once our food bellies decreased a little, we returned to the beach. Many things awaited us, including a surprise jellyfish warning. We didn’t actually see any, but we steered clear of the water just in case (and also because we were distracted playing frisbee).

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Warning: Do not kick jellyfish in the face.
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Patsy and I enjoy long walks on the beach

After returning to Manila, the next big item on the agenda was Patsy’s sister getting married! It was such a beautiful day and ceremony, but the bride and groom far overshadowed the weather. I also got to meet even more of Patsy’s relatives!

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Patsy’s oldest sister and her new brother-in-law

 

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It was really cool to spend time with the people that know and love Patsy the most!

Overall, it was an unforgettable experience that one blog post could never fully summarize. For every meal and event detailed here, there’s ten more that were left out. A huge shout-out goes to Patsy’s parents who served as our tour guides, schedule builders and of course hosts for the entire week. Everything we did (including many of the photos featured in this post) was made possible by them!

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Many thanks for everything!

Much love,

– W

 

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The Effort of Pursuing Holiness

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges exhorts Christians to a life of complete holiness – moral blamelessness. Without compromising on the idea that our holiness before God depends entirely on Christ’s work on our behalf, he declares each Christian to be personally responsible for its pursuit. In the forward to the book, he uses the analogy of a farmer waiting for a harvest. He writes,

“A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates – all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.

Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his own responsibilities.

Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.”

Although this metaphor is certainly not perfect or exhaustive, it makes the point that in order for holiness (or anything for that matter) to grow, active participation is required. We will not grow by accident, we must be intentional about cultivating holiness.

However, anyone who has tried to cultivate holiness knows the challenge one faces when things start to get tough. Bridges comforts Christians who have experienced that the struggle is real. He writes that the same grace of God that saves us, gives us the desire to pursue holiness. That if gave the Holy Spirit in us, the spirit of Holiness, then He will be faithful to lead us in the pursuit. What God requires of us, he also provides for us. There is no pursuit that God calls us to, that he also hasn’t empowered us to. Even conviction of our sin serves as a means to stimulate our desire for holiness. It is only by seeing the dark backdrop of our sin that the gospel of grace (God’s completely unmerited favor) shines like a diamond.

I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’m sure there’s much more nuggets of wisdom and truth to mine from Bridges’s writing, but I’m thankful for what I have read so far. It has been a helpful reminder that following Christ does mean pursuing after holiness, striving after moral blamelessness with everything we have, by the grace of God alone.

– W

 

My Struggle With Impatience

I hate lines. Lines at the Post Office, the DMV, literally anywhere on Black Friday are all places you will never ever see me. I will go to great lengths to avoid waiting in lines, even putting back clothes I really like because the line is just a little too long. Unfortunately, I will be forced to wait in a line next week at the airport as I fly from to NYC the Philippines, and I already know my patience will be tested, and I’m dreading it.

My disdain for lines is just one way that the impatience deep in my heart plays out externally. I’m so used to having things come quickly, easily, and comfortably that when I have to wait even ten minutes or so in a line, my patience runs low and I either get frustrated or give up on whatever I was doing. For me, instant gratification or instant annoyance are the only options.

The impatience in my heart is starkly contrasted by the patience that Christ shows for me. He never gives up on me, regardless of how many times I fail him. He is incredibly slow to anger, when I am instantly angry. When I am reluctant to change or recognize Him for who He is, He is gentle in bringing me back to himself. When I reflect on my impatience, it only leads me to greater praise for the One who is infinitely patient toward me! I am thankful that my God is so unlike me, His ways and thoughts are higher, praise His name!

– W

Why I’m Thankful for my College Church

It has been about a month since my college career has come to a close. Is it too early to feel nostalgic about my college days yet? As I look back at the four years I spent in Happy Valley, I grow more and more thankful for the church I attended there, Alliance Christian Fellowship. It was a place where I was called to a deeper relationship with the God of the bible, and a greater love for people (the church and also the world). ACF was so many things for me, a safe haven, a home, a community, and this message exists to say thank you to the institution and the people who God used to shape me into the image of Christ. ACF kept me under care, gave me a family, and empowered me to serve, and I’m eternally grateful for that. So why am I  thankful for my college church?

It was a church, so I was under care

As a college student, it’s really easy for a young Christian to leave the institution of the church to pursue spirituality in a broader and “free-er” sense. However, every Christian knows that it is impossible to walk the Christian life alone. This reality is why Christians are commanded to join churches, to be a contributing member of a local manifestation of the body of Christ. I was part of a church, served by a pastor and in covenant with other believers. In that way, I was under the spiritual care of the people around me. Being part of a church gave me an accountability to stay tethered to the Vine that is Christ in a way that is unique. I was interdependent with the people around me. College can be a dangerous time for the Christian, and I’m grateful that when I was not strong, I had people around me who were willing to pick me up when I fell down. I’m thankful that I was surrounded by people who were as committed to my sanctification as I was. I was able to take communion alongside my brothers and sisters at Penn State, as a reminder of Christ’s finished work for us. I was also able to celebrate the baptisms of those who came to know the Lord, sacraments that are unique to churches. I’m thankful to have been connected to a church because it reminded me that the world is a lot bigger than I am. Being part of a network of churches allowed me to remember the world does not revolve around Happy Valley, USA, and that God’s Kingdom is growing all around the world.

It was a family, so I was unconditionally loved

Let’s face it, in a church full of college students, there will certainly be strong opinions, large egos, and not a whole lot of wisdom to go around. The beauty of the young man’s courage, zeal and fervor can very quickly turn into misguided stubbornness. But I was forgiven, even when I died on the wrong hills. This was because I was welcomed into a family. On my best days and my worst days, I knew that I had a home, a group of people who loved me and wanted to see me grow in knowing the Lord. Being a part of a family means we forgive. It means that we don’t give up on one another when life gets tough, but we do speak truth to one another when the struggle is real. My church is where I learned to relate to one another the way God relates to us, by His grace. I learned that my problems with others are just a shadow of the problems I had with God, and he chose to forgive. How much more then, should I forgive those who sin against me?

It was student led, so I learned how to serve

As well as being a church, ACF is a place for college students to learn how to serve the church and the world. Almost every bible study, small group or other ministry (outside of the Sunday morning preaching of the Word) is led by students, for students. Many college students spend their entire university career being spiritually fed by staff members, but I am so thankful that I was called to serve. College students leading ministries definitely comes with its own host of problems, but God’s power is made perfect in the weakness of these imperfect teachers. In college, I made lots of ministry mistakes. I often emphasized the wrong things and didn’t accurately portray God at all times. I undoubtedly misinterpreted scripture and fell short of the call to preach the whole counsel of God. I also learned that age or anything else does not qualify a person for priesthood, that having the Spirit does. I learned that ministry isn’t just for the “professionals” who had degrees and their lives together. The students at my college church minister the Word of God to one another, and I could not be more thankful for the experience I gained during my four years there. I’m thankful for the examples I had walking before me, and I’m thankful that God used my imperfect, immature efforts to help build His Kingdom on the campus of Penn State.

My time at college was certainly not all highs and no lows. During our weekly small groups, there were often as many “Waahs” as there were “Wins”. I was never a perfect church member, and I was really never a perfect church leader. There were seasons of discouragement and seasons of fruit, and praise God that he uses both to grow our love for Him. Throughout the good and the bad, I am thankful for the community God placed me in at Penn State. Praise God for ACF, and churches like it who encourage and equip young people to do the work of ministry in the United States and all around the world!

– W