PSALMS 100: FREEDOM FROM THE TOXIC CULTURE OF SELF-LOVE BY LOVING GOD AND HIS WORD
MEET JOYCE, OUR 354TH LEGACY INKER
Hi, I’m Joyce, 43 years old, a Christ believer and follower from Pampanga, Philippines. I keep my romantic life private, but I am very vocal about my personal relationship with Jesus. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian Protestant family and environment. I love coffee, and it boosts my writing. By profession, I’m a visual artist and a serial entrepreneur. My love for writing was honed, especially when I was a Fine Arts student majoring in painting at the UPCFA ( University of the Philippines, Diliman). Would you imagine? I thought it was just a fun artsy class, but I never thought writing was a huge part of my learning? We were trained to translate our art ideas into the text to document what we were “working on” ( approaches and methods) and what we were “ working for?” (significance of the work). We were expected to answer these questions too: “ So what?”, “Who cares?” and “What about it?”. These were the favorite inquiries of my thesis adviser, the late Prof. Leo Abaya, that are now my guide questions when I write or when I create my artwork. According to all my professors back then, they were teaching us to become thinking artists. So, upon learning how it was in Fine Arts, I thought, should I quit because I thought I couldn’t do all the course requirements? But God did not allow me to shoot my foot despite the challenges I met in terms of my skills and other demands in the university. I was already 27 when I was studying Fine Arts. Yet little did I know that the Lord will eventually use all of my training in this book that I have just written.
I have loved reading the word of God since I was a little girl. One of my favorite books in the Bible is Psalms. Maybe perhaps because the verses were so familiar, and perhaps the reason was that I have sung these in some hymns before or some Christian Gospel songs that have touched my spirit. I love worshiping the Lord with songs too..
When I was younger in faith, I only read the Bible according to how the Holy Spirit led me or that I would only cherry-pick the verses that I liked during my private devotionals or quiet time. But the idea of deliberately studying it in a “scholarly way” only came later in 2016. Although I tried to enroll in a Bible School in the 90s, it was truncated because of the natural disaster in 1995, which was the aftermath of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption lahar flow. Well, that was one of the detours I experienced while being already enrolled in UP San Fernando as a Psychology student at that time. My life was full of detours and twists. It was crazy. Well, we’re speaking about a perplexed young adult me who was finding ways and means to find her destiny. Along the way, I also have attended some church-based theology classes, yet my passion for studying the word before was not as passionate as today. The turning point was when I was so broken and had just been restored from a sin I committed that shattered my heart into pieces. It was a love /situations relationship issue– an ungodly one. Reading and meditating on the word of God while praying and worshiping Him has helped me get healed and made whole again. God’s word is really powerful, and it restores the soul. So I said to myself, “this is really good”, I should not keep it to myself. Come on, self, we can’t be selfish on this. I knew back then that there were many people out there who were going through the same experience as I had. Perhaps, I may be able to encourage them to read the word of God and know who God is and what He has done for us.
In 2017 my personal Bible study and research became more intentional, and the desire to share the Gospel with a broader audience became more deliberate. I have been sharing the Gospel in church or Christian community settings or through one-on-one with friends, but I have never thought of creating a platform for it. I guess as I grow in my spiritual life, the urge to reach more people to know about the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ intensifies. So, in 2018 Daily Drop Message was formally created on my social media platforms.
As I was posting the devotionals or my journals online every day, one esteemed poet and author sent me a direct message to encourage me to write poetry. That’s Danny Gallardo, who is now my book editor. He said he is fond of my Daily Drop posts and gets encouraged. And so the light bulb moment happened. Ting! Then I prayed about it, and when I got the go-signal from the Lord, I started to collate my writings.
The Lord led me to write a book that echoes truths about the Word of God to serve as the thesis to the fear-filled and self-centered narratives buzzing in the tri-media and social media nowadays. Psalms 100 is a book of my essays, poems, visual arts, and letters that centers on the theme of “ freedom from the toxic culture of self-love by loving God and His word.” The description may come off-putting, especially to the ones who practice New Age philosophies or to the Christian influencers who promote and practice self-love, which with the latter, I don’t get because it contradicts what the word of God says about denying yourself and taking up the cross of Jesus while sharing in His suffering. He also calls us to take His yoke, for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16: 24-26. “ For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30. So I tried to research why this self-love movement has been a fad, especially among the millennials, and why it has infiltrated many Christian churches. I found out that man or woman by nature always puts himself or herself first before others. That’s why Jesus in the Gospel used this illustration when He was teaching the disciples about the two greatest commandments: Love God with you all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” and “ Love your neighbor as yourself.” However, the context in Matthew 12: 31 was never about the practice of self-love, nor did Jesus encourage it to be practiced. It was just an illustration of a comparison that Jesus used to make a point of how we must love our fellows.
I have three categories as target readers. Group 1: The book is specially designed for men and women who are preadult enough, perhaps 18 years old and above, who are seeking identity, worth, security, and love yet do not know where to get the information of the truth from. Group 2: It is for anyone who has the desire to understand what it means to be grounded and founded in the word of God so that they are not easily tossed by teachings, beliefs, practices, and information circulating in mass media and social media such as the “ self-love culture .”These are the people who want to deepen their walk in faith with God by being intentional in loving Him and His word. Group 3: Mothers and fathers in the faith who are mentoring young people in spirit who need tools on how to present the Gospel to them in a relatable way. The book is designed to be “user-friendly” for those who lead Bible study groups, life groups, or small groups as well.
It is maybe the first time for a Filipino Christian writer to create a half literary smorgasbord book, half journal, half teaching, half devotional, and half artsy. That's over one whole fraction, right? It's a fiesta of words and images! Just kidding! I tried to present the ideas of the theme in a relatable way by using common words or everyday words without watering down the scholarly and theological foundation of Biblical teachings. However, there are terms that I cannot tone down. Yet by the grace of God, I tried to create topics for each chapter and illustrations that even five years old could understand. The book is divided into essays, poems, visual art (the juxtaposition of Bible verse and art work), and open letters to specific audiences.But these are not labeled categorically in the book. The book's arrangement is from Psalm 1 as chapter 1 up to Psalm 100 as chapter 100.
Every chapter has a specific verse from which I extracted a topic I coined as "One Word," which is not a single word sometimes. Most of the chapters have a takeaway question, inquiry, or instruction that I fondly labeled "Just Curious. “This is an approach that I systematically discovered as I collated my prior writings. But the central theme is coherent in all chapters as I tried to address why self-love is cultivated in our postmodern era. That man has the fear to lose his essence for living or the fear of being unloved, or the worries of being insignificant. This fear is taken advantage of by the mass media and social media, generally speaking, in my opinion— not all but most information or values that these offers. So, I used some familiar terms and issues that one could see on their favorite social media platforms and mass media outlets while utilizing the power of His word as the thesis or solution. Perhaps what differentiates it from the existing books in the market is that I was able to knit some topics of the timely current issues on health and geopolitics since 2020, and I used the scriptures from the Bible on how individuals must respond.
I could not save my original manuscript from Psalm 1 up to Psalm 70-something. If my memory serves me right because, in 2020, the big tech companies deleted my first and second set of social media platforms because of my conservative religious and political posts that they disagreed with. At that time, I directly wrote on the wall of my social media platforms and did not save a file on my computer or notebook. Well, I did not know that God would lead me to write a book this early eventually. The dream was there, but it's supposed to be for a future project. So I wrote the first chapters or rewrote the ideas in 2021. At least most of it. But I asked God for fresh rhema or illumination of the word and specific verse for each chapter in the said year.. I have mentioned that Danny Gallardo was instrumental in pushing me to accomplish this project. Still, actually, it was you, sis Ayo who inspired me to finish a book because of your talks and webinars on literary writing. However, the original person whom God used to send me confirmation that I'm called to write a book was Dr. Jolynne Whittaker when she sent me a personal email in 2016. It's something personal that I cannot share the content wholly here. Also, her prophetic preachings in her platform have led me to get confirmations regarding my artful ways.
There were times that I was at a loss with words at how powerful God's word has been, and truth of the matter, I couldn't translate it into text or words. That's why I used visual art to represent thought or a topic. But I know the art still falls short, but I cannot leave a blank page, isn't it? Besides, with the limited output from my part, the Holy Spirit is the one witnessing — who will be witnessing to the reader. My only role is to let the scripture ( the solution ) be accessible and be seen. I echo it. Well, with regards to why I utilized poetry? I think that is wisdom from God because basically, Psalms is a book of poetry. It's just right to express an exhortation through it.
If I sum it up, the writing took me almost a year, with five days a week and 2-3 hours a day of production. Sometimes half a day because that included research and reading related literature and reading materials. I divided my day like a pizza to accommodate my other businesses, art projects, and one passion project: citizen journalism while helping in household chores. I have a typical home-based entrepreneur routine. It was not easy to juggle all the tasks, and it was exhausting both mentally and physically; therefore, I always took time to rest for a few days before going back to writing. My devotional time or private worship is greatly valued because I get my inspiration and spiritual strength. Being a newbie author is a huge challenge and a big step of faith. So I needed the empowerment of God. Besides, I love to worship God in my privacy. I'd be battery dead if I didn't do that. In light of my worship, I always had a notebook beside me because since my spirit was sensitive to the impressions God sent me regarding His word, I always had to jot it down right away otherwise, I'd lose it. So the majority of the ideas written in the book are impressions from the Lord based on the Scriptures.
I also created a system and method upon learning from my mistakes of not documenting my writings on a physical writing pad or electronic apps. I organized the essays and poems using an app and created spreadsheets like an inventory. I also created a Gantt chart to track my production and be a meter for progress and self-imposed deadlines. I tracked which chapters were good to go or ready for submission to my editor, which needed tweaking, or which one needed visual illustration. I was always open whenever the Lord would impress in my heart to scrap an essay or poem or change a "Focus Verse ."Focus verse is the main topic's scriptural foundation of discussion.
Finally, in November of 2021, I finished all chapters of the manuscript with minor back and forth tweaking of some parts of it. However, during the last leg of my writing, I have started to plan the marketing and the business side of it. That's when I contacted Ayo and asked GMA for support. But I'm not financially capable of self-publishing and doing all the marketing solely. Besides, I cannot produce all the technical aspects of the book, such as layout or graphic design; although I may be able to do all, I guess, it will take much time and effort. I only have two hands. So I just prayed for a team who would collaborate with me. Other mentors were also guiding me in writing and business. If I desire a wider circulation, the business technical aspect is inevitable. The Lord answered me. It was a huge surprise! He blessed me by giving me a generous team and friends who gave, and still are giving their time, effort, energy, and money to fulfill the Psalms 100 project. January marked the start of the advertising, although I have been dripping teasers since August of 2021.
My heart’s desire is for them to realize that self-love is a destructive culture wrapped in glitter foil and the only answer is to remove the focus on the self, also for them to start to focus on Jesus and the principles of His word. Self-love is not just always about being the “best” but there is also the other side of the spectrum of it which is self-destruction or self-absorption. I hope for the believers to be equipped with the word of God and to be empowered with knowledge and to be more focused on Jesus. Ultimately, I want everyone who hasn't surrendered their lives to Jesus, to receive Him as their personal Lord and Savior and for everyone to be closer to the Father and to experience His love, love Him back more and His word. Psalms 100 book for every household worldwide translated in various languages with every reader impacted in a positive light. I will continue to improve the Psalms 100 book project campaign by producing podcasts and video content through my social media platforms and other apps. Also an audiobook of it is already planned out. I will also be holding collaborative events with Christian churches and groups by doing book readings and talks. While doing this, I will be creating some merch products based on the book that may create happiness for supporters and readers. That’s the business side. I do this because I want to raise funds that will help me produce a passion project for the community, which is a secret for now. I am currently preparing and researching for the next book called “ Proverb-ly” based on the book of Proverbs which was also a campaign I did at Daily Drop Message, my gospel-based community. Danny encouraged me again to write a second one last year. Also, I have been compiling my poems and unfinished short stories, which I wrote way back in my college days. So I might release it this year as well. I think my hunger for writing is unstoppable now. I also have started plotting a light novel inspired by Japanese manga and Korean webtoon. It is still in the skeletal stage. I like my projects because I get to incorporate my visual artworks, so I thank God for that opportunity. Nothing is wasted in our learnings and training. Yet, I don’t want to lean on my understanding and effort. These might be just personal desires, so I always pause and rest to inquire of the Lord. Whatever God wants me to write or do in this season, I will obey and do it.
Since 2020, I have been working on an art series for an exhibition from which some works were used as visuals in Psalm 100. I have no specific date for this solo exhibit yet.
I have some projects in my art brand and businesses, such as Joia by Joyce, my franchise at Toktok, and my enterprise at Manulife, that are in the works already, so I’m stewarding my TEEM ( time, energy, effort, money) by the grace of God. I want to glorify God with the abilities that He gifted me with and to advance His kingdom. While doing it, I pray to grow more in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. About my personal life? Well, hopefully soon, God will bless me with marriage. My longtime dream and prayer!
Friends, I will shamelessly ask you to purchase my first book, Psalms 100, in print and ebook in February. It will be available on Amazon and other apps, soon to be announced. You may also contact GMGA publishing for it. You may join my e-mailing list and receive a personal notification when this book is about to launch!
Register here: https://bit.ly/preorderpsalms100https://bit.ly/preorderpsalms100 Let us stay connected through my platforms at Daily Drop Message on Facebook, @dailydropmsg on Instagram, Daily Drop Message with Joyce on YouTube. You may also catch me on my other YouTube channel Elevation TV PH and @joyce_cervera_mallari on Instagram for content on art, culture and entrepreneurship. I will list down below my links where you can find my updates and digital creations regarding this book project. Thank you so much and God bless you!