Category Archives: LISTS

Things I wish I learned when I was single (A guest post by Samantha Johnson)

Is singleness a blessing or a curse?

A lot of single people think of singleness as a curse. I’m not even going to pretend that the thought never crossed my mind before. Just like a lot of the single people I know, I’ve battled with loneliness, disappointment, and frustration.

But as the years have gone by, I’ve come to realize that I am really grateful, because I’ve learned that every day that I’m single is a day that I’m learning and growing in ways that are molding me into the person God created me to be: someone who will be better prepared for deeper relationships and bigger responsibilities. And I’ll be the first to admit that I could always use the help!

One of the ways that I get to learn is through the married couples around me. Take Robert and Samantha Johnson, for example. Individually, Rob and Sam are two of the kindest and coolest people you’ll ever meet. Together, their awesomeness is magnified. Both of them add so much value to every person and every experience they encounter. I also love that they’re always more than happy to open up their lives to their single friends like me!

Sam is one of the women I look up to because of many reasons, but especially because of the way she exudes joy and hope. I  get to learn a lot from her, and I thought it would be great if other people who read this blog could learn from her too! So I asked her to share her insights by listing some things she wished she learned when she was single. I’m glad that she wholeheartedly agreed! Without further ado, here’s her list:

Things I Wish I Learned When I Was Single by Sam Johnson

1) It is okay not to do what every other “looking” single people do. Don’t get me wrong. If singles want to be seen where other single people mingle, I don’t have a problem with that choice. Except I clearly knew that it wasn’t my scene then and it never will be. But I felt I had to do it because I might miss out on meeting “the one.” Result? A lot of money wasted on drinks I couldn’t stand and a lot of meaningless conversation over really loud music. Today, I realize that it is absolutely OKAY to chill and stay at home and do the things I really find joy in.

2) You can’t “force” chemistry or a genuine connection with someone. I never really got the “I can LEARN to love him” kind of deal. A meaningful relationship with someone is easy, sincere, leaves you smiling all the time, no worries on what the next move should be because, yes, it is THAT easy. And the only time I felt that kind of ease is with my husband.

3) Be intentional about pursuing your passion, no matter how busy you are. I took on jobs that did not interest me at all, and sometimes that’s okay when you are starting out. But boy, how I wish I made time for the activities that I truly enjoyed and those that nurtured my soul.

4) Celebrate the moments of “loneliness.” Trust me, when you start having a serious and committed relationship, and you begin a family and take on other things on the side — that alone time can be a luxury.

5) Physical intimacy with someone who is not your husband is overrated. People have different takes on this but to me, there is just something so beautiful about a man who loves Jesus so much that he RESPECTS and GUARDS a woman’s body because it is the Holy Spirit’s temple and he would not do anything to taint her testimony. There is something so attractive about a man who knows his place when God entrusts a woman to him. A man who has this kind of leadership says a lot on how he will guard your home and your family. It also says a lot on his faithfulness to God and to you, as his wife.

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Thanks for the wise words, Sam! If you want to read more from Sam, check out her blog here. Her recent post features an interview with a friend of ours, Ali Smith, who recently released a book called Entrusting the Key: From Serial Dating to Joyful Waiting, which I’ll also be blogging about soon!

Are you single? What are you most grateful for in this season? Are you married? What do you wish you learned when you were single?

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My simple joys

It’s funny how time and time again we get deceived into thinking that happiness is tied to wealth, success, fame, or power, and yet some of the simplest things in life that we often don’t notice can bring such joy! All throughout this trip, God has romanced me in ways that seem too simple and yet leave such an impact on me. Here are some of my simple joys (some are old and some are new!):

1) SEEING STORIES TOLD IN RANDOM PLACES – Last month, I wrote a post about the wonderful Twitter-like stories that can be found in Central Park. There’s more to be found, if you keep your eyes open!

Love the quote! Found on a bench in Golden Gate Park :)

Can you imagine what it was like when this little boy made this? Such tiny hands!

2) JUMPING – Thanks to a trip that I took a couple of years ago with my relatives, I learned the fine art of jumping for photos. In real life, these moments last for just a second, and yet the memories that come to mind when I see the photos bring a smile to my face every single time. :) Here are some of my favorite jumping pics that were taken during this trip (with a couple of my faves from that trip a couple of years ago!):

3) GOING BACK TO YOUR ROOTS Have you ever visited a home (or city) that you used to live in? I’ve visited my first home twice, and it’s always nice to come back :)

This was during my 1st trip back: my first playground in Palo Alto is still where it used to be!

4) PLAYING SILLY SIMPLE GAMES – In the Kids Church team that I belong to, I’m known as the go-to person when it comes to games. My fellow teachers rely on me to come up with crazy fun games for the kids (it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!). Outside of Kids Church though, I don’t have the same amount of props or manpower to work with, but I do have some games in my arsenal that always work wonders when there are kids around. And they’re all free too! The first one is 20 questions (but I let them go past 20), the second is what I like to call the “Alphabet Game“, where each player takes turns thinking of something from the given category (we usually use animals, food, or places) that starts with each letter of the alphabet (so the first player gets the letter A, the second gets B, and so on and so forth), and the third isn’t really much of a game, but it’s fun to do. I usually ask a question that starts with the phrase “Would you rather have…”. For instance, “Would you rather have four noses on your face or just one nose but you’ll have to sneeze every 15 seconds for the rest of your life?” It’s HILARIOUS. (I think I’d still rather have one nose, by the way.) The reason I share these is because I’ve had the most wonderful bonding times with my loved ones (kids and adults included) thanks to these games. Apart from the laughs, we get to find out cool stuff about each other–like how some people would rather go to Disneyland than take a trip to the moon!

5) READING A GOOD BOOK – There are so many great books out there, sometimes I wish I could just hand out multiple copies of my favorite ones for free to people. I’ve read around five books during this trip and every time I finish one, I think, “Oooh, I should buy [insert friend or relative here] a copy of this!” If I ran with that thought every single time I would be deep in debt by now. I haven’t tried an e-reader, but I imagine it would be awesome. I would love to be able to have multiple books and a Bible with me all the time without actually having to haul around all the real stuff! But books are wonderful. No list of simple joys of mine will be complete without bringing books up. :) I’ll be doing more book reviews in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned!

How about you, what are the simple joys that made you smile lately?

My Summer Soundtrack

Most friends who know me well know that I love film soundtracks. Actually, I prefer film scores–those instrumental tracks that tend to tug at your heart strings–but that’s just a random fact that has nothing to do with my post today. :)

I’m currently on the tail end of what I like to call a “faith journey” around the US, and of course, this journey wouldn’t have been complete without a soundtrack to go with it. :) In no particular order, here are the songs from my summer:

1) Get Back Up – tobyMac
2) Inhabit the Praise – Vicky Beeching
3) Skeleton Bones – John Mark McMillan
4) One Thing – Jonny Diaz
5) Listen – Josh Wilson
6) Divine Romance – Phil Wickham
7) Next Thing You Know – Matthew West
8) Thank You – 33 Miles
9) Something Beautiful (Live) – Newsboys
10) Everyone Needs A Little – Kari Jobe
11) Moving Forward – Israel Houghton
12) Endlessly – New Life Worship

Got any recommendations for me? :)

Best books I read in 2009

What can I say, I love reading books! Last year, I did a list of the best books that I read in 2008, so I figured I’d do it again. And this year, I’ll add something extra…I’ll be giving away one book to one lucky winner! Find out how to join at the end of this post. So without further ado, here’s my list for 2009!

ONE MONTH TO LIVE by Kerry & Chris Shook

Why it’s on my list: At Victory churches all over the Philippines, we kicked off the year with a “One Life to Live” campaign based on this book. It’s always a good time to ask yourself if you’re making the most out of your life today.

Notable quote: “Performing to keep up an image and impress people requires tremendous energy and effort. It drains you of your true passion, diverts you from your God-given purpose, and robs you of personal peace. Frequently people suffer regret at the end of their lives because they know they have not lived consistently with their values and with the way God made them. They learn too late that the secret to passion is to being true to God’s design for them.”

Who should read it: Everyone who will die one day.  So that means…everyone. :)

FIND YOUR STRONGEST LIFE by Marcus Buckingham

Why it’s on my list: I’ve seen Marcus Buckingham speak (not live, but on DVD), and I’m a big fan. Apart from the fact that he’s very funny and entertaining, he’s a huge proponent (if not the biggest) of strengths-based leadership. When I found out he had a book specifically for women, I knew I had to get my hands on it, and I’m glad I did. I’d like to think it’s helping me live more purposefully and passionately, instead of just letting the days fly by and beat me down.

Notable quote: “A strong life is the opposite of juggling. Juggling requires you to keep everything at bay, up in the air, and away from you. The secret to living a strong life lies in knowing how to draw a few things in toward you. It asks you to be discriminating, selective, intentional. You can find energizing moments in each aspect of your life, but to do so you must learn how to catch them, hold on to them, feel the pull of their weight, and allow yourself to follow where they lead.”

Who should read it: All the ladies!

A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS by Donald Miller

Why it’s on my list: There are a lot of reasons why I loved this book. You can read my review on it here.

Notable quotes: “You don’t know a story is happening to you when you’re in it.” • “Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust rather than a master storyteller.”

Who should read it: If you want your life to be a good story, read this. If you’re a fan of wit, you’ll especially like Donald Miller’s writing style. I’m a big fan. (If you haven’t read it yet, do read his bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz. It was on my Best Books list last year!)

ALMOST EVERY ANSWER FOR PRACTICALLY EVERY TEACHER edited by Bruce Wilkinson

Why it’s on my list: As a teacher, it’s important for me to keep learning. This book is an excellent collection of articles about teaching from excellent educators, pastors, and speakers.

Notable quote: “Lead the march of learning! Transform your classroom into a busy life laboratory. Get your students thinking and discovering for themselves; make them students of life.” – Carl Shafer

Who should read it: Every teacher!

IN THE MEANTIME by Rob Brendle

Why it’s on my list: A book on waiting? I needed to read that. I am not a fan of waiting, and often times, I’m not very good at it, either. This book helped change my perspective on waiting by seeing it another way, through the life of King David.

Notable quote: “God’s idea is proactive waiting: trusting, seeking, and looking to him for the dream’s fulfillment while we seek to grow, stretch, and forge usable tools for the future from the raw iron of life’s unalterable seasons. As we do the stuff of life with the same vigor with which we cling to the dream God has given us, we’ll find ourselves growing ever more useful to him.”

Who should read it: Every person who is waiting for something–a breakthrough, a job, a spouse, financial abundance, etc.

IN A PIT WITH A LION ON A SNOWY DAY by Mark Batterson

Why it’s on my list: This was a book recommended to me by my friend, Ro. Lots of notable quotes in this one! The title refers to an incident in the Bible in the book of 2 Samuel 23, which tells of Benaiah’s courageous acts, like facing a lion in a pit in a snowy day. As it says on the cover, this is a book about surviving and thriving when opportunity roars. Clever. :)

Notable quote: “The genealogy of success always traces back to mustard seed opportunities. Make the most of them. For what it’s worth, I think many of us fail to seize the small opportunities because we’re looking for the big opportunities. But scripture says, ‘Do not despise these small beginnings.'”

Who should read it: Those who are tired of letting fears rule their lives.

LOVE AND RESPECT by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Why it’s on my list: Read my book review over here!

Notable quote: “Showing respectful behavior when we don’t ‘feel respectful’ is evidence of maturity, not hypocrisy.”

Who should read it: Married couples. If you’re still single but you intend to get married one day, reading this will be a blessing, because it’ll prepare you for what’s up ahead.

ONLY YOU CAN BE YOU by Erik Rees

Why it’s on my list: Last year, Erik Rees’ book S.H.A.P.E. was on my list. Only You Can Be You is like an updated version of S.H.A.P.E. that comes with a lot of online tools that complement the book.

Notable quote: “One of the coolest benefits of giving God the center place in our lives is his daily guidance. When God is truly the pilot of our lives, he grants us the guidance for living. This guidance comes in the form of perspective. Situations in life that never made sense, we now begin to understand.”

Who should read it: Anyone who is confused about their purpose and direction.

TOO BUSY NOT TO PRAY by Bill Hybels

Why it’s on my list: If there was a better way for me to make the most of my time with God, I’d want to know about it. This book helped address a lot of my questions. 

Notable quote: “The archenemy of spiritual authenticity is busyness.”

Who should read it: If you’re looking to get started on having quiet times with God or you’re looking to take your quiet times to a deeper level, this is an excellent book to read.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WOMEN WALK IN FAITH by Lisa Terkeurst

Why it’s on my list: Apart from the fact that I loved the cover art (haha), this book spoke to me on several levels. I remember shaking my head and sighing a lot, thinking, “Yup, that’s where I’m at!”

Notable quote: “I’m convinced breakthroughs come during this famine phase, not when we’re striving to make them happen. Breakthroughs happen when we get about the business of honoring God moment by moment, step-by-step, day by day by what we do and, more importantly, with the thoughts we think while we do.”

Who should read it: Every woman!

LEADING ON EMPTY by Wayne Cordeiro

Why it’s on my list: I’m a huge Wayne Cordeiro fan! He’s the senior pastor of New Hope Oahu church in Hawaii, and he’s an excellent speaker. If you get to hear him speak, you’d love him too. This book is mostly about experiencing burnout and how to deal with it. If you haven’t experienced it yet, this book helps you pace your everyday life so that you can prevent that big bad wolf called burnout from leaving you empty somewhere down the road of your life.

Notable quote: “Choose to live. Living well must become intentional.”

Who should read it: Every person who is prone to burnout and/or depression. Although the book is primarily for church leaders, the insights of Cordeiro on how to recognize and deal with burnout and depression are priceless.

THE BIBLE (New Living Translation)

Why it’s on my list: Last year, I wrapped up my list with the most important book of my life, and it’s only fitting that I end my 2009 list with this one as well. :) I like reading different versions of the Bible once I’m finished with one so I could have a extra fresh reading experience. A couple of months ago, I started reading the New Living Translation. I don’t have a preference; I love all the versions I’ve read (NIV, TNIV, The Message) for different reasons, so this one’s no exception. The Bible is the Bible, and it’s always beautiful. :)

Notable quote: Here’s one of my life verses for the year – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

Who should read it: The Bible is food for the soul…I hope everyone gets to read it!

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Whew, that took some time to write! I want to hear from you, too! What were the best books that you read this year? Leave a comment and I’ll choose one at random, so don’t feel pressured to write a long or detailed list…although you’re welcome to write one if you’d like! If you’re the lucky winner, I’ll let you know and send you a copy of one of the books on this list (sorry, no requests though). You have until December 23, 12 noon to post your comment. By the way, this contest is open to Metro Manila residents only. :) But hey, even if you’re not from the area, please leave a comment too…I’d love to read your book recommendations!

I’m hoping I’ll still get to write some more blog posts before this year ends, but in case I forget, I’ll say it already: have a blessed holiday season! :)

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Four websites to read through

If you’re looking for new places to visit on the Web, here are some sites that I’d recommend. Why only 4? Because I couldn’t come up with 5. :D

1) MICHAEL HYATT’S BLOG

I’ve been a Michael Hyatt fan since I’ve started reading his blog 2 months ago. He’s smart and witty, his writing is simple, informative, and straight-to-the-point, and he’s the CEO of one of my favorite publishing houses, Thomas Nelson Publishing (the company that gave us the books by Billy Graham, John Eldredge, Stasi Eldredge, Max Lucado, John Maxwell, and more). They’ve got good taste!

His site is a goldmine of great articles and references for writers, speakers, communicators, and leaders, in general. And he’s really generous when it comes to sharing his resources and tips! I’ve learned a lot from him and I’ve bookmarked dozens of his posts. Check out two of his latest posts: The One Thing You Need to Create WOW Experiences and 6 Steps to More Courage.

2) SPOT.PH

Spot.ph has been around for a while, but the editorial direction was recently taken over by my friend and one of my publishing mentors, Myrza Sison. I like their “50 Things to Do in Manila” list. Gave me new ideas! Lots of good stuff in there, especially if you’re looking for good restaurants to check out.

3) SETH GODIN’S BLOG

Just started reading this today. Seth Godin is a marketing expert and author of the best-selling books Tribes, Purple Cow, and Permission Marketing, among others. For those who haven’t read his books (like me), reading his blog is a good start. :)

4) PRESENTATION ZEN

A great resource site for speakers and presenters….

…which I really need to browse through right now as I prepare for a couple of upcoming talks. :) Happy browsing!

My 4 great reasons to start running!

As I said in my last post, I am in need of physical exercise. When I was younger, I was a volleyball fanatic. My neighbors would attest to the fact that I always found a way to gravitate towards a volleyball. But once I got diagnosed with rotator cuff tendinitis while playing volleyball in my sophomore year of college, I just finished up the season, and traded in my uniform for a cozy seat on the bench as the team manager. And I never really got into a sport again…which is really sad, because I know I need some exercise! So I tried badminton, I tried golf (driving, at least), I tried going to the gym, but I never really fell in love with any of those things. This month, I’ve started getting into running. This is actually quite a struggle for me, because my least favorite part of volleyball training was running. But hey, I need my cardio exercise, and I’ve found my 4 good reasons to start running, which I will share with you today!

#1: The new iPod Shuffle


I’ve been wanting an iPod Shuffle for the longest time because I cannot run without music. Thank God for untouched rewards points, because I was finally able to get the shuffle, and I think it rocks (I just wish they had colors to choose from, though, but that’s just me, being a girl. Haha)! You can put playlists, and it has a voice that tells you what playlists you have in your shuffle and the name of the song/podcast that’s currently playing. Plus it’s so tiny, I just want to bring it everywhere!

#2: My “Cardio Praise” playlist

Like I said, I can’t run without music. When I used to go to the gym, I had a “Cardio Workout” playlist that would have enough BPM (beats per minute) to motivate me to run. But nothing lifts my spirit like praise music, so I figured I would make a “Cardio Praise” playlist. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a new concept for Christian runners, but the reason why I bring this is up is because I wanted to share the songs that I put in my list. I chose them out of all the praise songs because they had the right pattern of beats that would get me moving and running with joy in my heart!

What’s currently on the list:

His Love” – Hillsong, God He Reigns
“Take it All” – Hillsong United, United We Stand
“The Time Has Come” – Hillsong United, United We Stand
“We Shine” – Fee, Passion: God of This City
“You Are Good” – Israel & New Breed
“Let God Arise” – Chris Tomlin, See the Morning
“Sing, Sing, Sing” – Chris Tomlin, Passion: God of This City
“King of Majesty” – Hillsong London, Shout God’s Fame
“My Savior Lives” – New Life Worship, My Savior Lives
“Lift My Praise Up” – Citipointe Live, Anthem of Our Heart
“Tell the World” – Hillsong United, Look to You
“Break Free” – Hillsong United, With Hearts As One
“The Freedom We Know” – Hillsong, Mighty to Save
“Solution” – Hillsong United, With Hearts As One
“I Am Free” – Desperation Band, Rooftops
“My God” – Hillsong London, Shout God’s Fame
“Alive” – Hillsong Kids, Jesus is my Superhero (okay, Camille pointed out that this sounds like an Aqua song, but I’m a Kids Church teacher and we use this for Praise Dance, so I have a special love for this song…it makes me happy!)

I’d love to hear any other suggestions! :)

#3: RUNNR

I really have no excuse not to run now, because my family has officially been bitten by the running bug. This is also my way of showing my support for my brother, because they’re finally opening his new brainchild, RUNNR, a running specialty store in Bonifacio High Street. It’s on that row near TGIFriday’s and Starbucks. Because I’m really ignorant when it comes to all the terms, just read this press release!

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Best books I read in 2008

This year, I’m so grateful that God gave me more time to read, and He also kept providing for me so that I can keep reading new books (hooray!) :) I’ve been blessed by what I’ve read in these books, so I decided to share a list of some of the books that I really enjoyed this year. Here they are in no particular order:

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A WOMAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART by Elizabeth George

Why it’s on my list: I was reading this during Prayer & Fasting this year. It was the best book for me to read at the start of the year, and it really got me all excited for 2008. I remember that I prayed that I really want to become a woman after God’s own heart!
Notable quote: “God is responsible for presenting the opportunities but we are responsible for cooperating with His efforts to prepare us.”


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JUST LIKE JESUS by Max Lucado

Why it’s on my list: Hmmm. It’s been a while since I read this (it was the 2nd book I read this year), but I remember it being a really good book! Lots of notable quotes.
Notable quote: “Life is tough enough as it is. It’s even tougher when we’re heading in the wrong direction.”


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25 WAYS TO WIN WITH PEOPLE by John Maxwell and Les Parrott

Why it’s on my list: It’s the first John Maxwell book I ever read, and I’m glad I read it or else I probably wouldn’t be where I am today (i.e. being certified as a Maxwell trainer). It’s an excellent book for those who want to improve their relational skills.
Notable quotes:
“It takes quantity time to find quality time.”
“Be kind…everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”


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DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER by David Gregory

Why it’s on my list: I read this on the plane ride back from the US early this year. I was traveling by myself and was going through a trying season, and I was hit really hard by this book. It’s a great book to read for those who feel like they need to have a relationship (or a better relationship) with Jesus.
Notable quote: “You’re bored, Nick. You were made for more than this. You’re worried about God stealing your fun, but you’ve got it backward. You’re like a kid who doesn’t want to leave for Disney World because he’s having fun making mud pies by the curb. He doesn’t realize that what’s being offered is so much better.”


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YOUR ROAD MAP FOR SUCCESS by John Maxwell

Why it’s on my list: It totally changed my perspective on success. I quote Maxwell on this all the time.
Notable quote: “Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds to benefit others.”

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