11/28/2011

Incomplete Rainbow

Seeing this photo, uploaded by a friend on Facebook, a thought hit me in my gut. This arc is not incomplete.  It is I who do not see the whole splendor of it. 

A rainbow is a perfect arc, with all the colors one can ever imagine. But sometimes we can't see all of it because clouds that crowd our lives block our vision.

I liken the arc to the truth, which we fail to see because we are short on faith. (I am trying hard not to sound like a theologian here because I am not; I can only speak, like I do in the books I write, from my heart.)  

Faith is not a mental or emotional delusion, it comes to us through grace. In Romans  10:17 (NLT), we read:  “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” 

Just because I have great faith today doesn’t mean I have it the same way tomorrow, or forever after.  Faith is something one has to pray for, work on, and work at having—by  reflecting on God's Word every day of one's  life. 

A.W. Tozer said, “. . . it is not enough that we believe; we must believe the right thing about the right One.”

And what is the right thing about the right One?

It is spelled out in probably the best known verse in the Bible,  “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 (NLT)

Without the Savior's grace, nothing is.  His promises hold in good and bad times. Believing in (being convinced and certain) and embracing this truth is faith.

The catch is, every day we experience disappointments and are saddled with all sorts of problems; we discover new, exciting ideas on the internet; we read new books that cite and paraphrase the Bible with beautiful reasoning that seems so right. Before long, we depart further and further away from the truth—and behold an incomplete rainbow.

How do we keep faith? How do we get to see the complete arc?  

Paul said that he "kept the faith." He did that by preaching the Word in season and out of season; his life was focused on the Gospel of Jesus to the very end.

We keep the faith when we are hearing the word of God and repeating it back to Him. Yes, as we talk about what Jesus has done for us, we keep faith.

Rom. 10: 9 (NLT), “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

May the blessing of faith enable us to see the complete rainbow.

11/23/2011

Five Years and Counting


This site is turning five tomorrow, but I am blogging about it now because I need to catch some sleep for my early flight to Iloilo for book talks.  

That's how long I have kept this blogsite.

In the beginning I thought I'd quit early in the game, but the thrill of writing one's thoughts on blogosphere, getting feedback from readers, and seeing the hit meter grow every hour kicked in. And now I want to keep slogging away. 

I took on the theme "grace" because at that time I was writing my third  "Gifts of Grace" book.  I was reflecting on, analyzing, and studying grace with such ferocious focus that, really, it was not a choice. It was my only choice.

If there is one word I can never write enough about, it is grace. It is what keeps this e-leaf evergreen.

"How very quickly you see grace in everything," my friend Tere remarked after reading one of my posts.

"Anyone can see grace very quickly—all he needs is look," I replied.

"Huh?"

For five years, I swam in the excitement of numbers.  Today, this is where I am:

- 112,050 hits from 154 countries;  
- 500 reviews; 
- 1530 comments; 
- 506 posts;
- 12 change of headers (signifying milestones);
- and 98 followers.


How much more grace does one inconsequential blogger want?

This calls for a new header!
Out with the old:     


  

11/19/2011

Spell Sphygmomanometer


My computer can't spell the word. It has the jagged red line right under it!

Well, sphygmomanometer isn't a very popular word. If you're unfamiliar with it, then you either hate using seven-syllable words or too young to have high blood pressure. 

This word is a contraption that measures one's blood pressure.  I never paid much attention to it myself, not until I was recently told by my doctor to monitor my blood pressure. So between doctor visits, I had to keep looking for someone who had one.  The search could take long—not too many people has even heard of the gizmo. 

So JB brings an idiot-proof digital one for his dad and me on his last visit.

Opening the box,  Tony and I alternately read the how-to-use leaflet. We are confident that with both our respectable IQs together, we should be able to make this never-before-seen modern gadget work.

The face of the sphygmo (nickname for this complicated word) has an initial reading of 135/85.

Connect the cable to the devise (check). Plug the same cable to the socket (check).  Put the band around your arm (check). Push the “start” button (check). 

The arm band inflates and deflates and then clicks off. Blood pressure? 135/85. A few more tries on me and then on Tony. Same reading: 135/85.

“This is a lemon!” Tony exclaims. 

“JB should return it to the store!” I concur. 

“He should get a replacement!” Tony adds. 

“Or have his money refunded!” I say, reinforcing the issue.  

When JB comes home that night, we whine about the faulty sphygmomanometer.  “Both our blood pressure always came down to the same figures: 135/85!” we say in a duet.

JB unpacks the thingy, then patiently explains, making sure we both understand, “This here is a sticker, see?  First, you have to peel it off.”

What?! 135/85 is a sticker?! A sticker?! A sticker?!  I repeat in my mind.  Tony's face tells me his mind is echoing mine.  

Then our son, the doctor, who learned his ABCs from and shares his DNA with his parents, takes our blood pressure, then his.

I pay no attention to the results. I am more concerned over my new, more serious malady: Hypo-IQ.

When did it come about? How did it happen?  Why were there no symptoms? Is there a cure? Is it terminal?

This digital age is driving analog people like us nuts. Oh, that we may be granted with an intensive dose of daily digi-grace!

Now, please excuse me while I go check my blood pressure.

11/15/2011

Discomfort Zone


“You were made for the discomfort zone.  It engages you,  keeps you sharp, and makes you grow,” thus said Curt Rosengren in his article in Motto Media.

He was of course referring to young, upwardly mobile career people, not to a Methuselah like me. 

As a career person, I had no comfort zone.  Advertising kept me on my toes and the new day was just as uncomfortable as the old one. “You are only as good as your last job,” was an adage that drove us. And a new job came even before the last one could end.   

I finally found my comfort zone when I quit that job, which held me captive for years. Now, on my computer keyboard I could get lost for hours, skip meals and sleep. Comfort zone is a nice place to rest, get your footing, examine your heart, and bare your soul. I could stay there till kingdom come.

But came October—Missions month in church, to culminate in a group worship/celebration with eight other churches. The theme was local missions. Each church was tasked to perform something on its assigned ethnic group. Ours was Tausug and in the council meeting of elders, it was decided that the women's group would present a dance number: malong dance. (Malong is a tube skirt made of multi-colored cotton cloth similar to the sarong.)

Guess who had to be in it?

I had not danced in years.  The last time was a Fox Trot number six years ago in a Rotary function.  That was not too bad, I had danced  Fox Trot in my youth and all it took was chutzpah to dance it again. 

So on day one of the malong dance rehearsals, fellow Methuselahs whined every second on practically everything. There were five things to remember all at once: the steps, the counting, the music, the malong folding, and the hand  movements. A good thing our dance instructor, April, was patience personified. She smiled through it all. 

It took three rehearsals for the five-minute number. And when d-day came, I was reduced to a quivering mound of jelly—a panic attack not unlike those I went through in the ad world. “My heart went down to my toes,” I told our Pastor who laughed his hardest in years.

The long, loud applause told us it was excellent; the photos tell us a different story:
 
Yet the whole experience—discomfort zone it might have been—was a dance of grace.

We were one with our brothers and sisters in Tausug land.

May we reach them through our missionaries, strengthened by our individual and community prayers, so that this ethnic group of men and women in Mindanao (about one million of them) will discover the glory of God's grace.

11/11/2011

111,111


Since this is the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 2011, I am reminded of a friend's text message a month ago.  She gave me many facts about this date, which I vaguely remember.

The only one I could recall is, if you add your age today to the year you were born, you get 2011.

But of course.  Try doing that every year, and the sum is that same year.

She ended her message with, "Pass this on to 11 more people within 11 minutes and you will experience good fortune 11 times in the next 11 days."

Chain texts and chain letters leave me cold. They are the antithesis of my faith and what "Leaves of Grace" is all about. This I believe: all good things could only come from the Father of heavenly lights. Not from numbers, tarot cards, palms, luck, horoscope, colors, and many others that are credited for good fortune.

Everything that keeps us living a blessed life is grace.

What interested me about the message, however, was the number 11. Looking at my statistics today, this number jumped at me—111,111!

Now, that deserves a celebration, and therefore a change of header! My past header comes down:

My new header goes up:
How is it possible that a modest, ordinary blogsite that speaks of ordinary things could have 111,111 hits in less than five years?

Let me say it again (for the 111,111th time), sola gracia.  

11/10/2011

Two Sets of Laughter


Dateline: HongKong

In a multi-racial conference, such as the Publishing Forum 2011 of Media Associates International (MAI), which I am attending, there are always two sets of laughter.   

The first set comes from one part of the room immediately after a speaker has made a funny remark. The second set comes from the rest of the room only after the interpreter has translated what he said.

“The Tower of Babel is to be blamed for this,” I joke Aleks, seated beside me.  

“The Tower of Babel is to be praised for this,” he jokes back, snickering. He, too, is as  fascinated as I am with this double soundtrack, akin to delayed telecasts.   

(A quick Bible background: At one time, all the people of the world spoke the same language, but when they began to build a great city with a tower that tried to reach the sky to make them famous, the Lord made the people speak different languages so they won't be able to understand each other and therefore can't do more than they were doing.)

Genesis 1:8-9 (NLT) says, “In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. 

Speaking in different tongues in one conference hall seems difficult for everyone to understand each other. But when you share the same faith and all believe in the saving grace of Jesus, there is understanding deeper than what our ears could hear. Our heart would  feel what our mouths could barely say.

Breaking bread and praying with fellow believers for four consecutive days now, have been grace beyond comprehension. And hearing two sets of laughter each time, well, that's grace overwhelming.

Despite the sudden dip in temperature (freezing cold wind has assaulted us!), the warmth of fellowship remains.
 


11/07/2011

Economics of the Poor


Am now in HongKong where I will facilitate a workshop for editors and writers in the Publishing Forum 2011 of Media Associates International (MAI), an organization that "helps local Christians create life-giving literature in the world’s hard places."

Participants are from Myanmar, China, HongKong, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia,  Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, India, UK, and the Philippines.

HongKong, as we all know, is a shopper's paradise. There are just too many whatchamacallits that seduce, “Take me.” Well, I am keeping my eyes off them.

When I was packing my bag two days ago, Tony was handing me two $100 bills. “You might need these."

The urge to grab the greenbacks came and went too briefly. “Thank you, but if I take those, I will be tempted to shop and spend them all.”

He readily put the tempters back in his wallet.

“Economics of the poor—in cash, not in spirit,” I told him. “You have nothing to spend, you don't spend.” For the first time in my life I budgeted only $100 as pocket money for a six-day stay in HK.

He argued no further.

In the old days, when I was in the corporate world, HK was a weekend destination on a whim with friends, or an all-expense-paid conference site for the company.

“Simplify,” has been my credo since I left that place where I was paid handsomely and given generous fringe benefits for traveling in style. 

Today, I try to singly focus on writing and activities that support it. It's a no-frills job, which I love and enjoy, and I can't let old habits and excesses distract me.

By no means am I living a monastic life. I rather call it basic lifestyle. With basic needs daily given by grace, one should be at peace.

A Rolex and a Seiko, I discovered, tell the same accurate time. A bag bought from a designer boutique and a bag bought from a roadside booth, can carry the same things one needs while on the road. 

Do I miss the frills of old?

No. What I miss is the thrill of accepting an extra $200 to spend as I please.  

Could it be age?

My friend M, who is six years my senior, has a roomful of bling-bling, and the thrill of buying the next one is palpable a mile away. She once told me, “Items in HK are so cheap! After I had bought all I wanted, I still had $500 left!”

“You can entrust your $500 to me and I will give it to MAI.”

She slapped my arm and tittered, “Grace, you're so funny!”

11/04/2011

Splurging on "Like"


If the “like” on FB had a price tag, I'd be spending a lot of money daily on the one page that keeps me riveted (“addicted,” my friend Boyp calls this new phenomenon) and sufficiently awed: “Come Visit My Philippines” (CVMP) 

There are just too many breathtaking photos of our country that lure your fingers into clicking “like” practically every second.  

What started "Come Visit My Philippines?"

An idea.

But an idea so big the page has grown in just a month to over 25,000 members, who have posted almost 7,000 stunning photos of and about the Philippines!

Mon Jimenez, our new Tourism Secretary, said upon accepting his new role, “Tourism is the people’s business . . . so if you believe that as I do, help me achieve that.”  He likewise exhorted all Filipinos, “Believe in the beauty of your country. You deserve a visit from the world.” 

Hearing Mon, friends Bessie Padilla and Alex Baguio (both photography buffs) started uploading their photos on their individual walls. They wanted to show the world that they “believe in the beauty of their country.” 

The overwhelming response was unprecedented.  Promptly, another friend, Francois Medina, joined the two to start an FB page for Filipinos who share their pride of country. 

Thus, “Come Visit My Philippines” was born. The guidelines are simple: post a photo (anything Pinoy); briefly describe it; and punctuate it with the tagline, “Come Visit My Philippines.”

Because of the exponential growth of membership, more friends have been invited to help as administrators.

I have not posted one photo yet, because each time I prepare do so, I gawk at the mind-blowing masterpieces of others, and I spend an inordinate amount of time imagining the places where they were shot—taking all attention away from mine.

Here are a few which I randomly chose from thousands of spectacular photos on the page. These cut-and-paste collages are not as fascinating as the original ones, so please go to the FB-CVMP page and marvel at the individual photos as posted by the owners.

But oh, if you aren't a member yet, ask a friend who is. Adding your name will take only a second. I must warn you, though, you will be splurging on “like!”  

P.S.
Let me thank my wandering friend, Boyp, who travels around the country as often as he blinks, for inviting me to enjoy the magnificent vista of grace bestowed upon the Philippines on CVMP!

11/01/2011

A Father Remembers


Today, as a tradition in our country, most Filipinos will trek to the cemetery to visit the graves of their loved ones.  Many of them may already be there since the break of dawn. 

I will not be one of them.

My reasons are neither the traffic nor the hassle to stay under the heat of the sun in a memorial park packed with the whole of humanity. 

When my newly born son, Adriano, was buried by my husband, a couple of relatives, and a pastor-friend at the cemetery, while I stayed in my hospital bed nursing my grief, I knew that my little boy would never be lying in dirt six feet under the ground, he would always be in my heart. 

I went to visit his grave a few times, albeit perfunctorily, with my husband and three other sons as a rite of remembering.  But those were just a part of another lovely family outing. 

I kept the attitude when years later, my dad then my mom were laid to rest in my hometown in a plot they bought years earlier. On November 1, every year, my siblings trek to that plot while I stay home in Manila pondering the grace I continue to receive through memories of them, in black and white.

The only way I know how to deal with death is write about it.

All of Tony's family also passed away one after the other (dad, mom, brother and sister) and again, I chose to swim in memories by writing about them—in my books, blog, journal, and diary.    

There are many other loved ones—close aunts, uncles, friends, kith and kin—to whom I said good-bye as they were interred in their graves, but never visited again.

Tony is of a different mind.  He has his own way of remembering.

Every year, sensing perhaps that I do not share his thoughts, goes alone to visit the tomb of our son—two days before November 1.  I request him to take a shot of the tomb, for reasons I can't explain. He humors me. While there, he also takes photos of our close friends' tombs.

Not one of these photos ever shows a flower or a candle—traditional gifts to the departed.  So in a way, he is different from others, too.

Once a year, on a different date, Tony also makes time to visit his family—all four of them—in one crypt in a Chinese Temple.  He tells me he does paypay,  a common Chinese practice of lighting a few sticks of incense and swaying them like a fan with both hands.  He doesn't understand what it means, but he does it anyway.  

People differ in how they view this day. While many feel the need to go to the cemetery, some stay home.   

Two quotes come to me now as I imagine all the people in all cemeteries nationwide honoring their dead. One is the poem, “Do not stand at my grave and cry,” attributed to several authors.  Here are the first two and last two lines:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

And the other was coincidentally quoted by my friend, Cherry, on her Facebook wall.  It was what a mother, who lay dying, said to her son, St. Augustine: "Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.”

My thoughts of my own son today: I do not need to go to your graveside to remember, you're in my middle and there I visit you all the time.

But Tony, despite his busy schedule, travels the far distance to visit our Adrian's grave. Perhaps it's a father thing, a father's way of grieving—and healing.

(Photo by the graveyard maintenance man)