Christ Bound – A reflection on SFC NZ Natcon 2016

Romans 12:2 says

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This was the theme for this year’s SFC New Zealand National Conference, as well as all the other National and Regional Conferences for SFC around the world. Now, for those of you that know me, you know that usually, I’m excited to attend, can’t wait to go, but for some reason, this year, I “wasn’t feeling it”. To put things into perspective, I’ve been a member of the CFC Family Ministries community since 2003. I came in through YFC, and transitioned through into SFC, with not much of a break. I had the odd inactive period here and there, but nothing major. And usually for more interesting reasons.

Over the last year, especially having transitioned from being Head of Music Min and handling a Household to now being Unit Head, things changed. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed with the duties I had to do, there was a lot to worry about, plan, a heck of a lot more admin, plus more meetings that I was used to, in addition to trying to balance work, social life, relationships, family, all of the above. Plus the feeling really hit home during the Covenant Orientation Weekend we had earlier this year when I stood there thinking to myself, “well, here we are again”. Not that it mattered when it came to the actual doing, I would still throw myself head first into whatever opportunity to serve came up because that’s what I would do, and part of it was because I felt like that’s what people expected of me. In my own mind, I began thinking that people saw me as “Kuya Carl”, the Leader, the reliable one, the one who would do anything asked of him. And I soon realized I was getting tired, not because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore, but because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

Everything about this Natcon was different, and admittedly, part of my own thinking was, “well that’s not how we would have done it if we were the hosts”, but I had to let that part go. And I was happy that I did, because everything about the weekend was pleasantly surprising. Leading up to Natcon, I remember we were asked to be the band for the Club Praise Evening, and also playing for one Worship, which I absolutely loved because it reconnected me with one of the things I enjoyed about service in the first place, Music Ministry. But the thing that I wasn’t expecting was being asked to be a sharer for Session 1. However, from the usual meeting new friends, reflecting on my sharing about spaghetti cans (you had to be there), I think a lot of what this conference did for me was remind me of the reasons why I do things. A call back to the commitment of “I want to serve” rather than “I have to serve”. A part of what this conference did was connect me with what I had not really forgotten, but put to the side, the one who I serve. A year ago, had you asked me why, I would tell you, “I say yes because God is asking. Because what He has done for me, I want to give to others also”. Leading up to Natcon, “…yeah I said yes, I guess I have to, but yeah, just want to rest. I feel like people are expecting me to, so I probably should do it. I’m a leader, I have to”. And that was the difference, “I want to” vs “I have to”. In essence, I allowed myself to be shaped by a worldly view, in this case, a position, a title. “Unit Head”, and because of it, I struggled, was tired, and began to feel burned out. Being in Christchurch, I remembered again, especially in one of the biggest areas – relationships.

Now I’m not only talking of romantic relationships here, but the relationships you have with people around you. This was the main focus of Session 3, and it was what stood out to me the most. Because I found myself remembering what it was that drew me in all those years ago. The relationships I built with the people I have been called to serve, why. because, as we were reminded over the weekend, we are called to see Christ in all those we serve and in all those around us. One of the best parts of the weekend was the reflection on St Theresa of Calcutta and how she always chose to see Christ in everyone, and it was there where I was reminded the answer to the question. why do I keep saying yes to service, because I see Christ in these people, and I want to give back what He has given me.

In addition to this mini realization of mine, I was also blessed enough to hear the stories of others, stories of their victories, their struggles and ultimately, where they saw God in all of this. And the encouragement to seek God in all we do, especially with the content covered during session 1, seeking God in career, lifestyle, relationships and service. And to be honest, this was the first conference which really challenged me to consider my career thanks to Session 2. Session 3, as I mentioned above, really hit home with centering relationships on Christ and seeing Christ in all that I do, where as Session 4 was the challenge to remain true to our destination on this journey we call life. One of the most refreshing things, surprisingly, was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, I heard a Priest speak on the actual effects of Sin, and the realities of Hell. Something we sometimes tend to shy away from, but as Christians, we must also realize that this is a very big part of our mission as members of the Church, to save souls and to bring and be Christ to others.

We all go to these conferences for many different reasons, but what I can at least share is that, God will always speak to you some how, there’s always something He wants you to hear. And while I may have felt a little lost for a while, I have been reminded to no longer be shaped by the world, but to seek God’s will in what I do. I have been reminded that, I no longer have to seek the approval of others views of my service, but I choose to serve because I see Christ in them, and because I also love them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been reminded that in this journey we call life, the greatest thing for all of us to do is to choose to be Christ Bound. A big thank you again to SFC Christchurch. Praise. For your service and an amazing conference! Shout out to our hosts, Einx and Iktong, love you both! 

May God Be Praised!

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond – No Spoilers

Having been a huge geek for a long time, I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, yes even the bad movies, and even the one with the whales (Nuclear Wessels anyone?). So when JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek back in 2009 with the original crew and new cast members, I was excited and nervous to see how characters I’d loved for so long would be portrayed by a new cast. In short, I enjoyed the first two “reboot” movies, but they never quite felt like old school Star Trek. Something was always a little different to the Trek movies I had watched in the past. And I’ve watched all of them, First Contact is still my favorite of the TNG movies, and of course, Wrath of Kahn for the Original Crew. Watching Star Trek Beyond, I actually felt like I was watching an old Star Trek movie again, with all the fun from the first two Abrams movies.

Starting out with a Captain’s Log entry was great. If I recall correctly, the other two movies didn’t start that way. Spoilers, in the 2009 movie, we’re shown the destruction of the USS Kelvin, and in Star Trek into Darkness, we’ve got that random volcano sequence. Here, after a brief little adventure and a nod to Kirk always having his shirts ripped, we’re straight into a Captain’s Log, and a montage of the crew of the Enterprise. Soon, we’re at the Yorktown Space Station for a bit of down time, until some stuff happens which sets our plot in motion.

The cast does quite well, I really enjoyed Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto’s moments as Bones and Spock together on screen, and as for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, I really did enjoy his performance which makes the news of his death earlier this year very sad. The rest of the crew function as they normally would. My personal biggest complaint is the whole Spock and Uhura relationship that has been going on throughout the reboot movies, because it’s the only thing that doesn’t seem Spock like when I compare them to the original cast. Everything else feels fine. The main villain’s introduction is cool, but you’re really left hanging until right near the end to see what exactly his main motivation is. It’s good motivation, but I do wish it had been fleshed out a little more. New addition to our team of protagonists, Jaylah is, for me, a very fun character. Again, wish we’d had a little bit more back story, but what we’re given is enough for you to figure it out. And without spoiling too much, the fact that the Beastie Boys are referenced as “classical music” during one scene definitely did put a smile on my face.

Overall, very enjoyable, and a good addition to the list of Star Trek movies that I’ll want to revisit again and again.

Album Review – “Liveloud: In Gloria Dei” by Ablaze Music

Because we’re here in New Zealand, I can only really rely on videos and photos from friends back home whenever Liveloud decides to hold a concert. So you can only imagine my initial state of shock when I was browsing through my Google Play Music and saw that Ablaze Music had released a new album, Liveloud: In Gloria Dei. I own both Liveloud 2013 and Liveloud: One in the Lord on CD, bought them when I was back in Manila. I was expecting to have to wait to go back to Manila before getting my hands on this, but thank you Google Play Music! I can stream it for free! On to the review!

The Album follows the latest Liveloud 2016 event, which I wish I got to attend, and has 8 tracks, which are as follows:

  1. Shout
  2. Take Me
  3. No One Like You
  4. With You
  5. Forever Be With You
  6. You Have Chosen Me
  7. You Alone
  8. King (Remix)

 

Tracks 1 and 3, Shout, and No One Like You, were tracks that I had been waiting for. Shout, I first heard during the SFC Oceania ReCon 2015, and No One Like You, during ICON 2016. Both of which, I really liked, and was so happy that I now had a clean recording of to play along to. This is especially important for those of us who are usually serving in Music Ministry. The other tracks which I’m still trying to get to know are Take Me, and You Alone. Both sound great! But, as with all new worship songs to learn, there’s that little lag in familiarity, but I could see them being used a lot! Seeing as it’s only been a few days since I’ve been listening to this, nothing has jumped out yet in the same way that Reaching did on Liveloud: One in the Lord.

Having said that, overall, the quality of what’s on the CD is pretty good. The one that did take me by surprise was the King Remix. Odd choice to be put onto a CD when compared to the previous 2, but a fun little edition. Though part of me does wish that another new song had been included in its place. I’m a bit bias toward a song one of the members in my Unit Household wrote, but aren’t all household leaders bias to their members? Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of With You, which took me straight back to my YFC days. I hadn’t heard the song for such a long time, yet there I was singing along straight away with no trouble at all.

Overall, good album to add to the collection. When I’m next in Manila, I will definitely be picking up a physical copy so I’m not streaming anymore (legally streaming though, Google Play Music). YFC, SFC, and CFC, I’d definitely recommend this.

Ablaze Music can be found on Google Play by clicking here and Liveloud: In Gloria Dei can also be found on iTunes here

God bless!!

 

Reflections: God is Enough

NOTE: Had a phone malfunction so some of my text got deleted. Here is what I was able to reconstruct after the edit🙂

Hello all! Just wanted to share something Father gave me at Confession this morning. This is a poem by St Teresa de Avila called Nada te Turbe:

Let nothing frighten you (Nada te turbe)

Let nothing disturb you (Nada te espante)

All things are passing (Todo se pasa)

God cannot be moved (Dios no se muda)

Patient endurance attains all things (La paciencia todo lo alcanza)

He who has God lacks nothing (Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta)

God is enough (Solo Dios basta)

As I sat there speaking with Father, he reminded me that as we journey towards God, we will always encounter challenges because those who oppose God journey in the opposite direction. So we will always come head to head with those who choose to oppose God, and the forces of Satan himself. Trials, temptations, they all mean that the enemies of the Lord are hard at work.

Every now and then we will hit the tipping point where will feel like we are completely out of control. Where all seems lost and we feel like we’re falling down. But that’s when we need to be reminded that we are never in control, God is in control. The challenge Father gave me was this, whenever I feel myself on the edge of falling down, remember the prayer St Teresa prayed.

“May nothing disturb you, may nothing astonish you. Everything passes. God does not go away. Patience can attain anything. He who has God within does not lack anything. God is everything”

God bless!!

Comic Review: DC Universe Rebirth #1 – SPOILERS

First things first, it’s hard to talk about this without spoilers. So this is a full spoiler warning right now. If you are planning to read DC Universe Rebirth #1 and do not want it spoiled – bookmark this post, and then come back.

Review begins now…

DC Universe Rebirth #1 has me wanting to read comics again. For the first time in years, I’m actually excited about what’s to come next. When DC introduced the New 52, part of me was excited. A new taken on classic heroes, new stories, free from years of continuity, it sounded great on paper. Crisis On Infinite Earths, where everything was almost a clean slate (almost). Instead the New 52 was, well it wasn’t my favorite thing in the world. And my biggest complaints were what they had done to Superman, and that, for some reason, they wanted to keep all of the Green Lantern history in continuity, but everyone else gets a reset. Same thing with Batman. He had all the Robins there, except now one was not really a “Robin” and was instead “Red Robin”. Tim Drake fully got screwed over in the New 52 by the way. As much as I find Damien Wayne interesting, Tim Drake needed a bit more love. But no one got it worse than Wally West. The original Kid Flash, and for most of my comic reading life (I was born post Crisis on Infinite Earths), he was The Flash.

For me, the New 52 didn’t take any inspiration from what came before, instead it tried to be “dark and gritty”, thanks to the popularity of Nolan’s Batman films, DC also became “dark and gritty”, and it didn’t work. It turned me off reading comics. In short, my DC Universe growing up was the Post Crisis, pre Flashpoint/New 52 Universe which spanned from the 1980s til the 2000s. The continuity which inspired shows such as Batman The Animated Series, Superman The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and my personal favorite, Young Justice. So to my surprise, the issue is told mostly from the point of view of Wally West. Not the New 52 Wally West, but the original Wally West. My favorite version of The Flash. Seeing him on the page immediately thrust me back into a world that I had forgotten about.

To be perfectly clear, DC Universe Rebirth isn’t a reboot. Everything isn’t being set back to zero. It’s not going back to the nice clean original status quo that everyone knew. Instead, it’s a great starting off point. We only saw flashes (pun so 100% intended) of what is to come, but the biggest overall theme which came to me when reading the issue was, there is hope and love again in the DC Universe. It’s only one issue, but it’s as if DC was saying, “Ok, we get it, we got too dark, we got too gritty, here smile and love life again! Be hopeful!” and nothing summed that up better than the page where Barry Allen, the Flash, suddenly remembered who Wally West is and pulled him out of the Speed Force and into the main DC Universe. Best panel ever! Read the issue, I won’t spoil that for you here, but it really did bring a tear to my eye.

Other things that were touched on, briefly, Dick Grayson returning as Nightwing, the older Pre Flashpoint Superman taking over as the New 52 Superman in continuity after the events of Superman #52 (not spoiling that for you either), the mystery of the Joker(s) and what it means for Batman, Ryan Choi’s Atom coming back and looking for Ray Palmer, Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes together, Aqualad from Young Justice, and the return of a lot of the classic relationships. Aquaman and Mera, Green Arrow and Black Canary, and the older Clark Kent/Superman being married to the Pre Flashpoint Lois Lane (under the disguise of the White Family), raising their son Jonathan, who will become the new Superboy.

The biggest reveal had to be at the end, when Wally West and Barry Allen were talking. Wally telling Barry he wasn’t responsible for the New 52, that someone had taken years from their history and robbed the DC Universe of all the relationships and bonds that had made the heroes strong. That the years taken stole the love from the universe (that’s actually the thing he said, I’m not making that up). The next panel then showing Batman holding The Comedian’s pin from The Watchmen, basically implying The Watchmen, are in the DC Universe now, and that Doctor Manhattan used the Flashpoint event to alter the DC Universe and create what we know as the New 52. How this plays out in the future, we’ll have to see, but the fact that there is now a possibility to see Superman taken on Doctor Manhattan, that should have anyone excited.

Overall, DC Universe Rebirth #1 was a very pleasant surprise. It made me want to read the next few issues again. So much so, that I now need to start budgeting for monthly comics, because there are certain titles I will want to follow again. I recommend any comic fan picks this up, allow yourself to experience DC as it should have been during the New 52. DC Universe, welcome home!

 

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse – No Spoilers

The latest from Fox’s X-Men franchise has hit. How was it? It was ok. This is effectively the concluding chapter of the  semi-reboot of the X-Men series which started during X-Men First Class, and as usual, the third one in the series isn’t quite as good as the rest. That’s not to say that it’s a bad movie. I enjoyed it over all, but for me, Days of Future Past is a little bit better.

A few minor complaints – Apocalypse needed to be BIGGER! The moment he shows up with all Four Horsemen should have been a WTH moment…but instead, I laughed a bit because he looked like he was the shortest. And there were a few too many characters to introduce, so it did suffer a bit from too many things going on.

Things I liked – Nightcrawler was awesome. As was Quicksilver. I won’t say much else because that would be spoiling things. Cyclops worked, but Jean Grey…I’ll say no more. And right near the end, it really felt like classic X-Men. This image from Empire Magazine really summed it up nicely though:

There was also one cameo in the movie which was incredible. It was slightly spoiled in the trailers, but I won’t say much else. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.

Overall, a good time, enjoyable, but just falls short of the previous entry.

Movie Review: “Captain America: Civil War” – NO SPOILERS

Before the review begins, let me just put this out there – as much as I enjoyed Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, and it has been said that Tobey Maguire was the better Peter Parker, while Andrew Garfield captured Spider-Man’s wittiness and sarcasm, after both of those attempts at Spider-Man, this was the time I felt like I was seeing a Spidey that had honestly just stepped out of the comic book and came to life.

Captain America: Civil War, the latest in a long line of movies from Marvel Studios, for me is probably a very close second to my favorite MCU Movie, which is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers have done it again. It was such a wild ride, and honestly right in the feels. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think, this was a better Avengers movie that Age of Ultron was. And while at times, I did feel like they were spending too much time with the other characters, at the end of the day, it really was a Captain America movie.

Without giving too much away, the way in which you see friends become enemies really does hit you deep down inside. These are people who have stood by each other, fought by each other’s sides and defended the world together, but are now torn down the middle due to the Sokovia Accords. I, like many people were firmly Team Captain America going in, but what was great was that you couldn’t help but sympathize with Team Iron Man as well. Both sides made sense, and that’s what made it great.

A few other minor bits and pieces to hopefully entice you to watch:

Captain America and Iron Man – I think what was great was the fact that they showed that, while they did respect each other, both showed that they weren’t willing to back down from their points of view. When watched in context of the other MCU movies leading up to this, both of their positions make sense. With Cap, from The First Avenger to The Winter Solider, he’s grown a bit less trusting of the established governments and would rather fight for what is right just for the sake of doing the right thing, and not have to give up that independent decision to make those choices. While Iron Man, from Iron Man 1-3 and Age of Ultron, seeing his every attempt to make the world safer backfire and cause more damage, culminating in the creation of Ultron, it makes sense that he wants a check put in place that is overseeing him, and that he would prefer that all heroes and enhanced individuals be held accountable for their actions. I’m seriously looking forward to seeing where they go with their characters after this movie.

The relationship between Falcon and Bucky is hilarious. There was unexpected banter between the two which made for good laughs. Also they both seemed, in my opinion, slightly jealous of the other. Falcon being Steve’s best friend in modern times, Bucky being Steve’s childhood friend and his last connection to the 40s. The rest of Team Cap is great, and in all honesty, Scarlet Witch, Wanda, her power set is amazing! But definitely for Team Cap, Ant Man definitely steals the show. I won’t say why, but it’s amazing. Within Team Iron Man, the constant bromance between Stark and Rhodes will definitely also get you right in the feels. Most have seen trailers already, but I won’t spoil the conclusion of those scenes. Vision, great development from Age of Ultron, still learning things like social interaction. But as with Team Cap, Team Iron Man has a bug based star, Spider-Man really steals every scene he’s in, and he is absolutely hilarious when he does so. Minor spoiler for Spider-Man – NO ORIGIN STORY!! Wooohoo!!  Black Panther comes in second place for awesomeness in Team Iron Man. He has his own character arch throughout the movie, which is actually one of the best story lines in the film.

Overall, Captain America: Civil War is a great addition to the MCU. Much like The Winter Solider, it completely changes the face of the MCU. Overall, it’s a 9/10 for me. Would definitely watch again!