Taking God Seriously

Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if I took God more seriously.

Would I still be doing what I’m doing? Would I still be here?

I ponder on this because I think it is really easy to get distracted or to get side tracked by the trivialities of life. It’s really easy to get stuck in our culture that tells us to consume, consume, consume, and to obsess on what we have and don’t have. Industries have built and have spent billions of dollars to convince us of what we must have (i.e. titles, promotions, gadgets, travel excursions, experiences). Friends, families, co-workers, movie stars influence us to the point of envy when we see picture perfect memories immortalized in Instagram.

I write because I see this envy poking out its head in my life…and when envy exists, I find myself becoming more self-absorbed, becoming more self-conscious, which a lot of the time leaves me with no time to think about the welfare of others. It’s easy to get stuck in my own bubble, in my own little world.

But our God is a God of love. It’s in his character, in his nature (Trinity), and we’ve been given the greatest privilege to bear his image. Therefore when I am not loving my neighbor, I am going against God’s very nature and image. I am breaking away from what I was created to be and insulting God’s image.

To love is to be other-oriented. To love is to get involved in all the messiness and pains of the world. To love is to leave the comfort of Heaven and to come down to Earth and die so that all may be saved.

In a sermon, Tim Keller said that when you encounter Jesus you either come out angry or giving up your whole life to Jesus. There’s no in between.

If Jesus is who He says He is and we believe it to be true, then our lives should be wholly devoted to Him. Not just our Sundays, not just our Bible-reading mornings, but all our days — both good and bad, at work, at the gym, wherever we go. We’re talking about eternal life, life and death, not a religion we add into our lives for behavioral modification. If Jesus, however, is not who He says He is, then we should be angry because he’s nothing but a madman who claimed and fooled millions of people that he is God. Keller said that if you haven’t come out either believing in Jesus or angry at Jesus, then you haven’t yet met the real Jesus.

Christianity in many ways is countercultural. It was countercultural then, and it is countercultural now. Yet, in spite of the changes in culture, it thrives even in the midst of different cultures or time around the world. I marvel at how God has allowed this to happen. But (I digress) all of this is to say that our culture now teaches us that life is about me, myself, and I, it’s about consuming, putting as many titles in my name, and finding happiness in collecting sea shells.

My question is, is this really a life worth living? Am I making my life count? Am I making a difference in the world with all this self-absorption? At the end of the day, if I don’t take God seriously, do I actually believe in Him? Or am I merely just a Pharisee who talks the talk and walks the walk?

Jesus is King over all and Lord over all. He is King over my work, over my spending, over my eating, over my decision making, over everything. It’s very easy to forget this in the midst of all the noise, so let’s continue, beloved, to listen to His Word and to run the race He has set before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

– P

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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

 

How to Travel to the Philippines

In only a couple of days, Walter and I will be traveling to the Philippines to visit my family and friends. This post is for two kinds of people: 1) Walter, who has never changed time zones, and 2) For anyone who’s interested in going to the Philippines one day.

I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life, then I went to the US to go to Penn State for college and stayed when I got a job. I’ve gone back and forth from the US and the Philippines too many times to know the routine. I’ve also made many mistakes along the way to have known what missing flights are like. I am not kidding you when I say I’ve seen my plane take off without me because I missed the final call (I may have cried out of frustration). I know what it’s like to get a cancelled flight and get stranded in a different country on Christmas Day. I know what it’s like to wait in incredibly long lines in airports (much to Walter’s despair). I’ve had so many plane horror stories that my sisters are a little bit iffy when it comes to traveling with me.

To avoid all this, here are a couple of things you could do to make traveling a little less stressful:

  1. Set the expectation that things will never go as smoothly as you would hope. When you’re traveling, it is not uncommon to get flights delayed. This is a major problem if you have a connecting flight that you need to get to at another city. My sister, Trina, and I have experienced running through airports at final boarding calls when we just landed from our connecting flights. I remember my sister saying that the crowd opened up in front of her like the Red Sea as she was lugging her bags with her at a run. With that being said…
  2. Take the least number of connecting flights to your final destination. I do know that this could be a more expensive ticket, which is why I recommend buying tickets at least 6 months in advance. If you’re able to travel when it’s not a major holiday, go for it! Tickets are way cheaper then. An easy way to look at how much tickets cost is by going to Google Flights. The cheapest tickets I could see now from Philadelphia to Manila are around October, November, January, and February where tickets are as low as $692 USD (which is obviously why we’re going in June 😉 ).
  3. If you want to get an even cheaper plane ticket, consider flying out of a major city. Philadelphia is not that far away from New York. If I make the same search on Google Flights for New York to Manila for the months of October, November, January, and February, tickets could be as low as $564 USD. Walter and I will be taking the 2 hour bus ride going to New York and it would only cost us $11 USD each. Not bad.
  4. Travel light as much as possible. Traveling will make you hate your stuff. Don’t fill up every compartment of your suitcase. It’s really not worth it. You will be carrying your bag and pulling it everywhere you go. If you can stick to just having one bag, do it. If you want to bring shampoo and soap, I say just buy it in the Philippines (they’re likely to be cheaper for the same brand). For carry-on bags, only bring the necessities like: toothbrush, toothpaste, extra set of clothes, phone, phone charger, and a book. If you have more electronics, please bring ones you know you’ll actually use. If I can avoid bringing my laptop, I will. I also recommend an extra set of clothes (underwear and a shirt) because there are chances that you’ll get stranded without your checked-in bag and you’ll thank your past self later.
  5. If you’re traveling to the Philippines, get rid of all your long sleeves, coats or jackets. The Philippines is hot and humid (get ready to sweat). Even when it’s raining outside, you’ll be fine even though you’re in shorts. It may be slightly colder, but still comfortable enough to not wear a jacket. One thing I like about the Philippines is that the weather is so predictable. I never used a weather app until I went to the US.
  6. When they say come 3 hours before your actual flight, go 3 hours before your flight. Lines get long pretty fast if you delay going to the airport. Once you have your plane ticket and checked in your bags, find your gate first before wandering off to stores nearby. I once missed my flight because I was too busy eating Chipotle at a different terminal. When it was about time to board, I started looking for my gate. It was only then that I realized that I was in a different terminal and had to take a shuttle to the correct one only to find out that the plane had already left without me. I learned my lesson.
  7. Bring something that could pass the time. You do a lot of waiting in airports. If you do end up going 3 hours before your flight and have zoomed your way to the gate, you may find yourself with an hour left to spare. Read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a podcast. This will also serve to entertain you during the plane ride. There’s around 18 hours of flying time in total if you take the least number of connecting flights possible. My trips are usually separated to a 13 hour flight then a 5 hour flight.**Sometimes, I avoid sleeping the night before for two reasons: 1) Adjusting my body clock to the 12 hour time change that’s about to take place; and 2) To tire myself out so that I can sleep like a baby in the 13 hour flight. I try to pass off the most time through sleep. Sitting down for 13 hours is enough to drive anyone crazy, so I’d rather not be awake through it.
  8. Don’t drink a lot of coffee. This is for you Walter. Once you drink coffee, you’ll be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes. If you’re in the window seat, this will be really inconvenient because you would have to excuse yourself in order to walk out of the aisle. If you have an aisle seat, by all means, go as much as you need to.
  9. Be aware of the socket voltages. In the Philippines, 220 volts are used. If you bring a hairdryer that’s only good for 110 volts (which is the standard voltage in the U.S.), and use it in the Philippines, your hairdryer is likely going to break (or explode).
  10. Have fun! In spite of all of these things, I still love to travel because of all the exciting things you could see, eat, smell, and touch. For me, however, going to the Philippines is going home, and that is exciting all in itself.

I hope these tips were helpful!

– P

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 The Happy Exiles?

Hello!

Walter and I are so excited to be starting this blog together. It took us a couple of tries before we ended up with The Happy Exiles. We threw words around like: grace, joy, redeemed, and tried to find ways to turn it into a title without it being too cheesy or too Christian-y. We ended up with a ridiculous amount of two-to-three word expressions that were all okay, but sounded silly in some way.

Walter really liked the word “exiles,” which in my opinion, holds such a negative connotation; however, it does hold some truth about who we are as people who are not yet “home”.

Before we start typing away, we would like to explain why we called ourselves The Happy Exiles.

An exile is someone who is far away from home. It’s easy for me to feel this way because I am not a Philly native. I was born and raised in the Philippines and left for the US when  I went away for college. After graduating, I landed a job at a health insurance company in Wayne, PA where I still currently work.

Walter has lived in Philly all his life, but he is as much of an exile as I am. You see, Walter and I are not “home,” in the truest sense of the word. We believe that no one is home. Not really. We may love the place we live with our whole heart (and trust me, we love Philadelphia), but at the end of the day, we were designed for a different place.

In Christianity, we believe that we were created to be with God in heaven. However, because man chose sin over God, we disrupted our relationship with our holy and perfect Father and were exiled from Heaven. Since the fall, every man, woman and child has been subjected to a broken world, filled with pain, hurt and suffering. All of this to say that although we love this Earth, we are not home yet. As a result, we travel light, remembering that where we are is temporary, but where we are headed is eternal.

Therefore, here we are now – living as exiles. Why are we happy, you ask?

As most of you know, exiles are typically unhappy. When you first think of an exile, you imagine a person who has been unwillingly removed from their home, and since home is where the heart is, they have been removed from the things that they know and love. But this is where the analogy starts to fall apart for us. Most importantly, we are happy because despite our exile status, we have been redeemed. We have an unshakable hope that we will one day call heaven home. We are happy because we may be exiles, but the time we spend away from home has a purpose, we truly are here for a reason. God has called us to participate in his redeeming work in the here and now, and he has created an entire world for us to work and keep. Although we are sojourners away from our eternal “forever home,” we still put down roots where we are at. We are happy because there is so much to see, experience, and love by God’s grace here on this Earth.

We hope that as we share our sights and experiences with you, that you might read and be inspired. We hope that through this blog, we might be able to point you to Jesus in the day-to-day. Even if religion isn’t really your thing, we still hope that you can read our blog and be encouraged that we are two people who strive to love the world and its people. These words are a gift from us to you.

Thank you so much for reading! We can’t wait to journey through life with you.

– P + W