Thursday, March 6, 2014
Since when did pink become ridiculous?
Since last week, when I bought this pair of walking shoes.
With no offense to pink, it is a beautiful color. It is the color of many lovely flowers, butterflies, and other wonders of creation. But when someone my age wears it, well . . . you may finish that sentence.
I wore it the next day and my walk was, pun intended, in the pink of health! I walked more briskly, with more vigor. As I was wearing my camouflage—a hat and loose sweat shirt—nobody even looked twice, not the sleepy kids inside school buses, not their newly- awaken drivers, not the newspaper man in a bike, nor the early fellow walkers whose mind were still in dreamland.
(The thought that my age and my taste in colors are unmatched is called ageism. Have a turned into an ageist?)
Colors perk me up. Our greatest art Master created all the colors of the rainbow and painted nature with them. I like gardens, homes, and surroundings with gay profusion of colors.
This cascades down to my walking shoes. My first pair was a daring red. When it fell apart from overuse, I bought a new pair in the same color. But that was twelve years ago, long before I became a senior. I have had in-between decent pairs (a black and a white) for those rainy days when I have to hurdle water pools or when I join a group walk.
But for my individual walk, I bought a yellow pair three years ago (which by then had become outrageous for one like me), and recently, this new buy—a continuing lunacy. I am thinking of buying a screaming orange next. Or maybe a screeching chartreuse.
Try walking with the brightest of colors on early mornings. The grace of dawn will brighten your step.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
If I were in Coldwater, Michigan, I’d have received three calls from heaven—from my dad, mom, and son Adrian, in that order. They would have said what people living in Jesus’ home would say, “We are happy.”
In Mitch Albom’s latest novel, “The First Phone Call from Heaven,” which happens in a fictitious place called Coldwater, telephones ring—and each of those calls come from heaven with this joyous message, “Everything is good here.”
This phenomenon turns the small town into a circus, where people from out of town swarm like insects, hoping to also get calls from their loved ones. The media likewise scramble to cover the story that has riveted the whole country.
This book is different from all of Albom’s books. The pacing is fast and it is almost like a thriller, but his faith, which sparkles in all of his six books, continues to illumine readers. His belief in heaven—that things do not end in this life—is clear, and that the book ends just as the life of Christians will end—happily ever after.
Then his last paragraph almost parallels my thinking about writing: “Finally—and firstly—anything created by my heart or hand is from God, by God, through God, and with God. We may not know the truth about phones and heaven, but we do know this: in time, He answers all calls, and He answered mine.”
I say almost because I know the truth about heaven (the glorious place where believers will go), but I am not sure about what I’d say if I ever received a phone call from mom, dad, and Adrian. When the heart overflows with joy, it has no space for words.
(Mitch Albom was in the Philippines to visit the Yolanda victims and also to promote this book. But those are not the reasons why I bought my copy. I have all of his books and I personally endorse writers who stoke readers' hope in a bigger life and stir their dormant faith.)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
My mother used to sing “It Is Well with My Soul” while doing house chores. I asked her once why she loved the hymn so much. She told me this story:
“It was written by Horatio Spafford in the 1800s after a series of misfortunes in his life. His property was gutted in a fire, his business was affected by the country’s economy, and all his four children perished at sea when their ship sunk. He wrote these words near the spot at sea where his daughters had died.”
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll—
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
What beautiful words of faith! How can anyone say “It is well with my soul” at the toughest of time of his life? Only by grace. Sola gracia.
Thank You for coming to my rescue during tough times, Lord. Give me peace like a river. Amen.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Saturday, February 22, 2014
If you want to hear God’s voice, listen to the wind . . .
I hear it especially when I am hurting, when I need His grace of comfort. As I take my early morning walks and talk to Him, the breeze surrounds me. It is so refreshing it’s like being embraced by God.
These words come to me unbidden, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalms 55:22 NLT)
A friend recently wrote on FB that she was diagnosed with cancer. I posted this message: Listen to the wind. God’s comforting voice resides there.
Her response days later was so beautiful and spoke to me in a special way:
Yesterday I sat under a bamboo tree . . . suddenly, the tree swayed and there was a gentle wind. God was there present and I remember what you told me before mastectomy: listen to the wind. Birds started to fly overhead—there were so many of them! They started singing in different pitches, rhythms, and tones. I was so delighted I recorded it on video. God is awesome, He comforted me!
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The silence stretched too long so I said, “You don’t have to answer the question now. As you ponder it at your own time, try to answer this follow-up question. On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the way you show your love?”
Try and try and try is all we can do.
We can never reach a perfect 10 in showing our love for our Savior. He gave up His life to show His love for us, but what have we given up to show our love for Him?
We are a work in progress, just as our answers to those questions are. On good days, we take a step forward. On bad days, we go three steps backward. We just have to keep trying--and praying that grace continues to show up despite our poor showing.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” James 4:8 (NLT)
Friday, February 14, 2014
Posts on FB by friends at noon today reminded me it is Valentine’s Day. Not one in my family remembered, not even my one and only, not even Ate Vi (who usually remembers days such as Piolo’s birthday)—not even, or specially, me.
Today is my self-imposed deadline for my new book, a devotional for the workplace, which took all of my waking (and sleeping) hours in the last few months. And so, on d-day, I had been working furiously from 4 AM on my last two entries that, ironically, took much, much longer to write than any of the 363 others.
Now the first draft is finished! F.i.n.i.s.h.e.d.
Not many writers are happy with first drafts. Neither am I, but I am h.a.p.p.y. that the initial big step is over. This is one occasion, which falls on the day of hearts, that calls for a change of heart (from busy to lazy) and header.
The old . . .
And the new . . .
And the singing, at the top of my voice, of Psalm 100 (my own tune):
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
Worship the LORD with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
The heart of the Lord is so big it spills over with grace.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Stuck in traffic, we were behind a van with this sticker:
What would Jesus do? The van demonstrated what He would NOT do. More than the sticker on our car, our behavior shows who we really are.
Believers in Jesus must show by their acts the grace of the Lord, especially if their car stickers bear His name.
In Acts 4:20, Peter and John told the powers that be who prohibited them from preaching about Jesus, “. . . Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
These two people, not very highly educated, boldly proclaimed the goodness of Jesus to the amazement of everyone. They had no cars, much less stickers; their words and actions said it all.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
A story is told that a man wanted to cross a river where a piranha lived. (A piranha is a ferocious killer fish with sharp teeth and thirsts for blood.)
Taking this tale to the workplace, Claro (not his real name), an advertising man I worked with, devised his “Piranha Theory” in dealing with ferocious clients. We had a few of them who had the subconscious habit of abasing the ability of people instead of the work.
During presentation day for an ad, Claro would advise us to bring “raw meat,” an idea other than our recommendation.
“Let client tear it apart!” he’d say. “After he has had his fill of negatives, present the great idea—the one you want produced.” Nine out of ten, we would get our recommendation approved.
Sometimes we, too, act like piranhas, making mincemeat out of others—not necessarily to their face, but on social media. Often we do it on the sly like throwing “raw meat” to keep us safe.
The Bible warns us against such cruelty and deception, "But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:15 NLT)
May we heed such warning and be an instrument in making our workplaces a river of goodwill and grace.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Netizens are familiar with the word selfie, a photograph that one has taken of oneself with his own smartphone or webcam and uploaded to social media.
Selfie was Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year 2013 because, according to Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director, " . . . we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as Word of the Year.”
This leads us to ask, have we become lovers of self? If so, are we in the last days?
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT), Paul says, "You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred."
This can only mean that loving oneself more than loving God can lead to disastrous results. That's why it is important for those who believe in the saving grace of Jesus to focus on whom to love first of all—the Messiah, who will free us from this self-loving world.
Lord, teach me to love less of me, and more of you. Amen.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I greeted you on January 1. But being married to someone of Chinese descent, let me greet you again: Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin)!
Chinese New Year begins on January 31, 2014 this year.
A Chinese year, as we know it, is counted with a lunar calendar, which is the movement of the moon, as opposed to the movement of the sun. Each month begins on the darkest day through the full moon, which happens on the 15th of the month, till the moon becomes dark again.
New Year festivities start on day one of the lunar month and continues until the fifteenth. In China, many people take many days, or weeks, off from work to prepare for the celebration of New Year.
In my family, what we associate most with the Chinese New Year is the tikoy (Nian Gao, sometimes translated as year cake). That yummy, sticky, and sweetish delicacy that comes in a red box and given away to friends, business associates, and loved ones before, during and right after the New Year festivities.
Traditionally, we receive dozens of boxes every New Year, which of course we couldn’t finish even if we feasted on it every day, morning noon and night. So we give most of them away to friends.
Unlike last year, when we had French cuisine, we went back to tradition and feasted on exotic Chinese dishes, the names of which escape me.
This is one celebration where prosperity seems to out-voice all themes. People seek out fortune tellers/seers/and psychics for clues to the future.
May we not be distracted and seek only our loving God who created all nationalities. May we cast away all forms of superstition and look to God as the only Giver of grace.
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31 (ESV)
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
I cried oceans reading this book by Karen Kingsbury.
My heart breaks when a child suffers from and gets caught in circumstances not of his doing but of adults’. Kingsbury makes each character so real they seem to be within patting distance. You can almost feel their heartbeat or lack of it.
The characters push and pull you in different directions—hating them, loving them, pitying them, and embracing them, like you would a universe created by God to be good but turned bad because of sin.
“Love comes when forgiveness happens” is the through line that repeats itself many times till you get the drift.
Oceans Apart is about second chances, of being tempted into sin, drowning—then being forgiven so you could come up for grace, and swim again.
The book was lent to me by my friend Yay, who borrowed it from our mutual friend, Gracia. “Before I return the book to Gracia,” Yay offered, “you might want to read it.”
I did—in just one long sitting. And now I will return it, with gratitude, to Yay, who will return it, with double gratitude, to Gracia.
The story of our faith began in the Garden of Eden, where sin tossed us far away from God. We became oceans apart—till Jesus came to bridge the oceans by offering Himself as surrogate sin.
When we accept the grace of forgiveness from our Messiah, no ocean can ever separate us from God again.
". . . nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love." Romans 8:38
Friday, January 24, 2014
Why do we cling to our loved ones—playing blind to their suffering? Do we really want a long life spent in bed, with every faculty and sense gone, except pain?
Does this story sound familiar?
The old lady, 98, had been ailing in bed for years. But one of her daughters, Mila, who was the full-time caregiver, kept crying out, “Mom, don’t go, don’t leave me!”
“Do you want Mom to be immortal just for you?” he replied, teasing her.
Sometimes, when we have ailing loved ones, we focus on ourselves not on them—especially if healing does not happen. May we learn to entrust their condition to God, and concentrate on how we can give them all the comfort to ease their pain.
When Jesus comes again, we need not worry about sickness and pain. “He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere.” Philippians 3:21
Lord I pray for my loved ones who are ailing. Please ease their pain; comfort their caregivers as well. Make them feel you are there for them. Amen.
Monday, January 20, 2014
After an exceptionally busy and productive week, we usually want to reward ourselves for a job well done.
When I was still in the workplace, after a difficult project had been completed, my colleagues and I would head to the beauty salon or go shopping or spend a leisurely time in the spa where we would enjoy a relaxing soak in the jacuzzi and a good massage.
Indeed, emerging from a big accomplishment, I had always felt a reward was in order.
God's grace works differently.
We deserve nothing yet God provides everything. What He does for us is never a reward for good behavior, for we can never reach His glorious standard—it’s pure grace.
Jesus died for us when we were yet sinners and deserved nothing less than severe punishment. He said in Luke 5:32, "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent."
Photo credit: Alliance Abroad Group
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
By end of December, I should have finished two chapters. The deadline for my new book isn't till end of February so I declared, "I have enough time."
Then, bang! My trusty computer, Blackie, zonked out on Christmas Day. I lost two days.
My new computer wouldn’t connect to the internet. I lost another day.
Then an event was scheduled from out of the bluest blue. One other day gone.
A few more calls I didn’t expect took two more days.
And now I am cramming on a computer (meet Pinky) that's running on an unfamiliar Windows 8; yet I am blogging.
Maybe I should stop here and see to my deadly deadline. Grace, I need extra grace, Lord.
Friday, January 10, 2014
“Peripatetic” is the most apt word I could find to describe the big C. It goes everywhere, it is always there.
It was there in my dad’s last four years; it was in my late friends’ death beds—Mila, Sonia, Brenda, Amar, etc.; it was with Tony 20 years ago; it was with my friend Lucy and others before they went into remission; it is there, right now, in many others’ lives.
And now it is with my friend Dolly, who just went through her third set of chemo. It is our ardent collective prayer that the peripatetic unwanted guest leave her soon.
To keep the big C away, patients need loads and loads of money for medical expenses.
This prompted a concerned friend of Dolly’s to post this message and photo on FB:
“I am helping a friend in her expensive fight against the big C. Join me—order some of her baked, yummy goodies. Bulk orders can be arranged for delivery. You can call or text my friend directly . . .”
Kith and kin, other friends who love Dolly, and FB netizens responded and ordered sweets for Christmas from one of the sweetest friends I have ever known.
May God’s healing grace be upon those afflicted with this dreaded disease.
Get well soon, sweet Dolly.
Monday, January 6, 2014
This school year, private schools were granted permission to raise tuition fees. The prices of goods and services are going up, too. And there is nothing we can do about it. Parents just have to bite the bullet.
As “parents” to Maika and Nikka for their education, we do need to grin and bear it. It isn't easy—not for two seniors who are way past their prime earning years.
Well, there's always public school, which will reduce the cost drastically. After all, 95% of Filipino children go to public schools.
Nothing's terribly wrong with public schools. Except that today, Maika and Nikka will have to contend with a packed classroom of 50 to 60 students, and lack of facilities such as a library with enough books and computers. Teachers also have to spread themselves thin with classroom crowds in all levels.
For the twins, pubic school will mean good-bye to Bible stories, memory verses, prayers and studying the Word daily.
On the other hand, they have had four years of Biblical precepts in a Christian school, which I never had. I am a public school thoroughbred from grade school to college, so did many of my friends who now hold key posts in various Christian communities.
Do schools really make a difference?
In Romans, the apostle Paul uses the word know or knowing eleven times. What are we to know? God’s Word. When we acquire spiritual knowledge and apply it to our lives, we serve the Lord in spirit and truth.
Romans 6:12-13 (NLT), "Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God."
From our knowledge of God stems every other area of understanding.
Do schools really make a difference?
We pray that with grace, which came to us through our twins in the last four years, our double delight will doubly delight us in year 5 and beyond.
(Note: I had just written this post when I got a call from a kind soul who said he will take on the twins next school year. Words fail me. Thank you, Lord.)
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Growing big and growing old seem to go hand-in-hand.
I can say this with authority as I continue to traverse the road toward numerical maturity. I can't speak for the rest of the baby boomers of my generation, but I have certainly grown bigger in many dimensions with every calendar page thrown away.
For one, I receive a year worth of grace more than a person one year my junior. Therefore I have the advantage of enjoying that grace ahead of the game.
After the ticking of thousands of hours, my sight is set toward new directions:
1. Planning big.
2. Saving big.
3. Dreaming big.
Planning for tomorrow (as in the day after tonight) has become far bigger than planning for the next ten years. As a friend said in a party I attended recently, “What is, is; what ain't, ain't.” What will happen in the next two years is too far out; the biggie is now.
A verse in the Bible (ESV) captures this exactly, Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Saving for the future, like stashing money in the bank and investing in stock market, seem so miniscule compared to what I can spend for the things I enjoy today. P1,000 is mega bucks and having more than that on payday is like winning first prize in lottery.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
Dreaming big is . . . seeing the latest photo of Adrian; catching the boys for a weekend getaway; trying out a new exotic restaurant; preparing for my next lesson in Sunday School; chatting with my siblings and friends; having fellowship over potluck lunch with my faith family in church; shopping for snacks at a nearby mall; then to cap my day, writing and reading.
Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Three little words seem to aptly summarize growing-big-and-growing-old: growing in grace.
My 2013 was a year of big blessings of both grief and joy, failures and successes.
Cyber friends, may you be favored with big blessings in 2014! Happy new year!
Monday, December 30, 2013
Of all days, my computer died on me on Christmas day. It's the worst thing that can happen to a writer whose lifework is in it—and who has a deadline to meet.
It started ailing on Christmas eve, but my son JC worked his magic and it was healthy again.
"It's living on borrowed time, mom," he warned while saving the files he could retrieve in an external drive.
Well, it didn't languish much longer. At 2:00 AM, just after the family dinner and exchange of gifts, the borrowed time ended.
|In memoriam: Goodbye Blackie, it had been a good four years|
After downing the pizza and some time to psyche myself up that I had lost some files, I thought deeply about borrowed time.
Like my computer, we are all living on borrowed time. As sinners, we ought to be spiritually dead. But the God of grace came on Christmas so we can have a chance to live, if we choose to believe in Him.
As for physical death, it can happen anytime. Some may have time to save their files—those who linger on their sick beds—but others don't. A road accident, a massive heart attack, or a natural disaster and pffft.
Where to next?
Jesus assures us where to go. He became our surrogate selves and took all sins in our behalf. By accepting him as our Savior, we will know exactly what will happen when our borrowed time on earth is up.
New life forever with Jesus—that's where to.
"Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life." 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NLT)
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Scenes of the Christmas season that make me uneasy are uniformed guards in private subdivisions brandishing or jiggling a Christmas gift box with a huge slit.
Their thought balloon, It's Christmas, this is where you put your cash gift.
Beside their security post is a huge gift-wrapped box with an open top.
Their thought balloon, It is Christmas, this is where you put your gifts in kind.
On my way to and from work, I pass through about five villages. So I see the same disturbing scenes ten times every day—I assume they will be there till the end of the season.
The idea of “Christmas giving” has been rammed down our throats by marketers and now it runs in our blood stream.
The first Christmas was pure grace and indeed “giving” of the highest order. Jesus was born as a Gift to man so that by inviting Him into our heart, we receive the gift of everlasting life.
But over the years, we have interpreted “Christmas giving” our own way to excite and delight no one but us. I pray that we focus on the One who gave His all and therefore demonstrated the true essence of “giving.”