5/29/2014

Sleeping with a Bibliobibuli


The person with whom I share my bed is a bibliobibuli.

For emphasis, I repeat: bibliobibuli. 

The word sounds gross, and seems like a crawly insect or a creepy virus, whichever is worse. But that’s what the father of my sons has morphed into in the last couple of years.

5/25/2014

Women of Faith


They came from all over Panay and Negros, mostly on public buses. Some had to scrounge around for transportation money. Some were sponsored by church mates. Some saved up for a year. But they came, bringing along zest and zeal to fellowship with and learn from each other at the national women's convention of Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines. 

“This is grassroots, Grace, not your usual corporate audience,” said one of the organizers, untiring leaders of their local churches who, I am sure, financed the logistics with gladness. “You are the only speaker.” That scared me a little, but c’est la vie.

5/21/2014

Bacolod Beckons


The last time I was in Bacolod, I said good-bye to friends at the old airport. This time around, I am welcomed at the new one.

From there, we drive on a highway surrounded by unending stretches of sugar cane fields.  This cool, refreshing place is definitely not Manila.

On second thought, it is Manila—when Tony and I were setting up our first home four decades ago. It is also my little hometown, Umingan, four decades from now.  Bacolod is beautifully in place, between urban noise and rural quietude. When we get to the commercial area, I still see the quaint old houses. People are sparse but familiar Manila sights like Jollibee and big malls now populate the place. Modernization is taking place. I hope it doesn’t go too fast and furious.

I missed my deadline for a newspaper column because there is no internet connection in the hostel where I am billeted. Well, the world can wait. I am in the midst of quiet soaking in new friendships with women of faith. I am here to listen to their grace stories and tell my own.

We will be enriched by the exchange.     

5/19/2014

Suitcase of My Heart


On my last day in Cebu last week, I blogged about packing the suitcase of my heart with a ton of memories. It would have been declared overweight at the airport.

Now here I am, back to my desktop in Manila and the memories linger like an LSS (Last Song Syndrome) . . .

Day one:

From the Cebu airport, I was whisked off by five young ladies to a cafĂ© where we were scheduled to have light snacks. What I had not counted on was their definition of light. We had the works, direct from the chef who makes every plateful of goodies seem like it was slaved over by an Italian momma—pasta, cakes, etc. It would have sufficed for dinner, but no, my lady hosts said we would have a proper dinner after my first “gig,” a talk to the youth group of the The Living Christian Church.

Youth groups in every Christian church have one thing in common: they exude the indescribable look of being with the Lord from an early age, starting with toddler’s Sunday School. They sang and played on various musical instruments praise songs with verve and gusto.

Day two:

I couldn't get over my big hotel room, too huge for one puny me. It was one floor up from the venue of “Thank God, I Am a Woman,” which gathered over a hundred ladies who gave me the best compliment a speaker can ever hope for: rapt attention.

A few volunteered to come up on stage to answer questions and share their thoughts. One lady so touched me when she said, “I found God in Cebu.” That proved what I have always believed about Cebu: it is one special place. The Living Christian Church on its 25th anniversary was generous to the core, pouring out prizes and serving a full-feast meal masquerading as snack.

Then to the southern seaside, out in a new commercial development about ten minutes away. Just-caught seafood variety and a lively conversation with new-found friends decked our table.

(In between these busy events, I had time for a quiet chat with newly-introduced friends who share my advocacy for children.)  


Day three:

Brown out, “for the first time in years.” The heat was overpowering, but the passion in worshiping God on Mother’s Day was even more so. I was asked to speak about my mommy-hood, a privilege that would not have been possible without grace. 

A luncheon with the church’s board over the famous Cebu lechon, Chinese and Cebu rice, and dinuguan (pork blood stew) capped my fellowship with my church host.

But before my flight back to Manila, I had a short respite in a beautiful home, where I wrote “Cebu Charms” and was served more snacks. 

Then I was privileged to be a part of the intimate family dinner of Pin, the lady whose signature marked the e-vite from her church group. Encounters such as this does swell the heart, and packs even more weight in the already brimming suitcase that lodges there.

A carton of goodies was the icing on my Cebu cake from Pin and her family at the airport.

(I would  name names, but I wish to respect the privacy of everyone who went out of his/her way to pack my heart’s suitcase with grace upon grace upon grace.)

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to meet people whom you have blessed with exceeding goodness. 
 

5/15/2014

Grace Is Unfair


Injustice thrives on earth. Justice does not and will not come while we are clothed in mortal bodies. Life is not fair.
 
And so is grace.  Grace. is. unfair.

Philip Yancey, in his book, What So Amazing about Grace?, says, "The free offer of grace extends not just to the undeserving but those who in fact deserve the opposite."

The criminal beside Jesus on the cross was immediately given the grace of forgiveness, his past sins all wiped clean. All he did was believe.

Grace makes no exception. It comes to everyone—scam lords and scam victims, faithless and faithful, rich and poor, corrupt and honest, sinners and saints. All we need is to recognize and seize it. And believe.  

Likewise, Apostle Paul, who spent half of his life preaching about the saving grace of Jesus, received the grace of being content, of knowing that in his weakness, he is made stronger. 

We are prone to whine, grumble, and complain, "Life is not fair!" But praise God that grace is not fair—it comes even to whiners like us.

"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Photo credit

5/11/2014

Cebu Charms


I am in Cebu, the city that charms me over and over again. I have been relishing my stay here for the last three days.

By midnight, if my flight doesn’t get delayed, I should be back home in Metro Manila.

It has been a three-day adventure, which I spoke of in my regular column for the Freeman, “Big Little People.”

“Thank God, I'm a Woman!” was why I got invited to fly to Cebu.

But this was just the beginning grace, like a scrumptious aperitif in a full-course meal.

I will go home with the suitcase of my heart packed with so much grace it will tip the scales to a ton—overweight by airline standards.  

What a generous God we serve!

5/08/2014

Tattoo


To tattoo or not to tattoo? 

This was a question Sophia (not her real name), who had always wanted one, asked herself.

A Christian, she had read Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord."

But in context, she thought, this specifically referred to the pagan religious rituals then. God only prohibited His chosen people from heathen worship and witchcraft so they will not be led away from Him.
 
After having resolved the issue in her mind, Sophia had her wrist tattooed with the letter “S” surrounded with flowers.

A few weeks later, however, her father fell gravely ill and needed blood transfusion immediately. Sophia’s blood type was a perfect match. Unfortunately, the doctor turned her away because she just had a tattoo. 

Sophia wept bitterly, feeling profusely guilty for her act.

To tattoo or not to tattoo?

This is a personal choice. But a question we may ask ourselves before we decide is, “Will my decision give glory to God?”

(Based on an entry in my book, Grace@Work, a devotional for the workplace,  to be launched in September.)

5/05/2014

Last Three Minutes


Our one and only grandchild, Adrian, celebrates his seventh birthday today somewhere in another world people call the US of A. 

Obviously we can’t be there because oceans and air miles separate us. But I remember him fondly now as I look back to the last time he was with us late last year.

His parents left him with us for three days and in those treasure-filled hours, we relished indulging his pleas for “last three minutes.”

A well-disciplined kid, he knew he had to live with some parental rules. But we are no longer parents, Tony and I, we have morphed into guiltless doters. So when Adrian had gone beyond scheduled meals or naps, enjoying whatever activity he fancied, we would say “Enough.”

He would counter with a syrupy, heart-melting smile, “Last three minutes, please.”

We relent—too quickly. Our last three minutes is not absolute. It is a grace moment; it goes beyond the ticking of the clock; it purrs to the little one's bidding. 

And this perceptive, smart boy knew it. (Ooops, and now his parents know it, too!) 

On his birthday today, our wish is that he remembers and will come back to revel in  those last three minutes outpoured by his doters somewhere out in a world doddering seniors like us call home.  

Happy birthday, Adrian! May you grow up knowing and loving our God, the One who gives us the chance to experience the joy of granting you the last three minutes.




 

5/02/2014

Sale


This four-letter word has pushed me into a quagmire (and all its synonyms) again and again over the years. But I keep falling for it.

Discount: 50% to 70% today only. Buy-one-take-one.  Closing-out sale. Buy any three for only P1,000. Additional 10% discount to Visa card holder.   
Do you find these irresistible?  I do, said in a coy whisper. 

I also get weak-kneed on all their derivatives. So in an act of rare courage, I now say to myself: I am a disgrace.   

I’m on my teaching summer break and in between books; I try to catch up on what I have not caught up on—my cabinets and drawers.

I discover these clothes still with price tags and I try them on. Not one fits. It is either too loose, too long, too tight, too short, too-anything.

What are they doing in my closet?! 

They were on sale—ON SALE—and came only in those sizes and conditions. I had in mind, at the time of ecstatic-frenetic buying, to alter them (I was a seamstress in my other life, and a seamstress in my future life), but that thought remained a thought.  An author’s brain has two doors: one is a freezer and that’s where those on-sale-thingies-to-be-altered got stored. 

I vow to work on them so they would finally fit my non-haute-couture size before classes begin in June, and during brief gaps in my writing and speaking blitzes these two months. Whether I will be successful is another story. 

Well, hope—like grace—springs eternal.

I would have ended this blog with that resolute statement, but a friend just called and gushed, “There is a sale at Alabang Town Center!”  

Dot, dot, dot.