7/28/2014

Facebook Funnies


Social media, particularly Facebook, has redefined the word “friend” for me.

Here’s why. I have 2,000 FB friends, most of whom I have never met in person.

On the other hand, only seven, or less, of my real-life friends (those who belong to my generation and with whom I hang out regularly) have email addresses and do Facebook. They are “techno-averse,” euphemism for can’t-follow-instructions.

Unlike them, and with the grace of persistence, I have been able to go through those fine prints, so now I could email, blog, google, yahoo, do Facebook and ppt all I want.

Is that why I have 2,000 friends? No.   

Someone recently requested me to add him as friend. Let’s call him Jerry to protect his reputation. I accepted, as I am wont to do with every friend request.

He immediately wrote me a private message: “Thank you. Now we are friends! You married a wonderful man!”

I thought of my husband and reminded myself of what I forget—yes, Tony can be wonderful.

But reading the ending of Jerry’s note, I realized he wasn’t talking about Tony but my 2nd son. “JB and I were classmates in medical school.”

He mistook me for my son’s wife!

I replied, “This is JB’s mom, not his wife. I hope you don’t un-friend me, Jerry, now that you have discovered I am an old hag.”

His apologies were profuse, “Ma’am, I am so, so, so sorry . . . etc. etc. I am really glad we are friends."

So now you know. All my 2,000 friends—except for the seven, or less, who are my real-life friends—are my three sons’ friends, friends of their friends, thinking I am the wife or the sister or the cousin, someone within their age range.

Not bad, not bad at all.
 
“Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” Psalm 92:14 (NLT)


7/24/2014

Write without Fear


There’s one quality that separates old, published writers (moi) from young, unpublished ones.  

Boldness. Plus all its derivatives and synonyms. Young wordsmiths write without fear.

Last month I was invited to a Saturday young writers’ hangout-out, where I facilitated a workshop, and therefore had a chance to interact with 10 very young writers (ages 8-14).

Their task was to write an essay about someone they like very much, without saying so, but should leave the readers knowing so.

They allowed themselves no thinking time. They grasped pencil and paper, and piled words on their writing plates like the smorgasbord was running out of food. 

Watching them, I looked back to my youth, when I was their age, so terribly in love with words. And indeed, I possessed the same derring-do (how archaic that word sounds). No hesitation, no caution, no circumspection, no fear.

Then the years strew upon one’s path an odd amalgam of rejection notes, unanswered query letters, editors’ suggestions, publishers’ marketing decisions, ho-hum book readers’ reception, moderate book sales, and bland reviews—and the writing derring-do becomes archaic, if not obsolete, like it is now in new-edition dictionaries.  

I want to believe that writing without fear is God's grace-seed planted in a word-lover's young heart. Then it grows into a tree called passion that bears fruit called steadfastness, as the once-young becomes a published writer, one who crafts words not for herself but for others to meet her Savior.

Although the fear visits like an unwanted guest now and then, especially when your hope for an "aye" from a publisher is dimmed by the possibility of a "nay," the fruit ripens.      

And so she writes . . . and writes . . . and writes. But not without fear. And never without grace.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

7/20/2014

Very, Very Goodie


My birthday cake, if all its candles were lit right now, could set a forest on fire. 
Yes, I am celebrating another nth birthday today and I am at a loss for words on how to thank the Lord for enabling me to still remember most of the people who have touched my life plus all the years behind me. There were as many hits as there were misses, but grace found its way in all.

There are zero regrets. For how can one ignore the strength and resolve that came with the misses? And how can one ignore a new set of strength and resolve that came with the hits?

Today, there is only a parade of unending thanksgiving for my many rites of passage from one life stage to another. 

A lot of my old friends and family started greeting me through text messages as early as yesterday. I had one reply for all: “Now an oldie but a goodie.”

Their text retorts were varied and had me in stitches. One sums them all up: “Very, very goodie.”

This parallels my verse of thanksgiving today, Psalm 136:1 (KJV): “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Indeed, God is good. His mercy made this oldie—this one with aged, gnarled fingers that can still work their magic on the keyboard to celebrate the 20th of July, the day she was given breath, with a change of blog headers—very, very goodie.

The old . . .

The new . . .

P.S.

To all my friends on social media, I will not be able to individually thank you for your greetings, so I did what is always possible under all circumstances: I thanked God for your friendship and asked Him to please continue to rain his grace upon you.
     

7/17/2014

Dinner by Candlelight


Not since two decades ago (or more) have I had the privilege of dining by candlelight. Glenda made it all possible again yesterday.  This time it was not only with Tony, but with two other men who abhor any concession to the artsy style of dining.

And it was not only dinner by candlelight, it was everything by candlelight at home. All four of us sat in various places in the dark from early morning to late at night, unable to do anything without electricity and phone lines, except seeing our own bent shadows. 

The howling of the wind was eerie, but the ringing in my ears, eerier.
Every so often, while killer Glenda, touted as fiercer than ferocious Typhoon Milenyo in 2006, lashed at our surroundings, we’d hear clanging (of unhinged roofs), crashing (of trees and lampposts), and other violent, breaking sounds we could not quite make out.

I’d have cowered in fear, but knowing that grace had ensconced us in safety, I prayed instead for the thousands whose homes had been displaced and whose health had been risked.

With our phone and laptop batteries spent, we were cut and shut off from the world outside. But after the passing of the night, a new, bright morning came through.  

The power came back at midnight, the wind and rains exited to some other land, and today, the sun, although still a bit shy, is shining upon us again.

There are debris to clean up, floods to drain, and damages to repair, but the day Glenda made our lives grind to a halt was something I will remember with a smile. We, the 2/3 family in our Philippine household (1/3 is in Pittsburgh), dined by candlelight—a rare, unexpected family get-together that would never have come without the prodding of Typhoon Glenda. 

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)  
A 105-year-old tree uprooted by Typhoon Glenda, PhilStar

7/15/2014

National Children’s Book Day 2014


Sharing with you this fun infographic posted by Hiyas, my publisher, on its website today, in celebration of National Children’s Book Day.

How does one celebrate this special day?

For one, read a book to a young child. For another, if he can already read, give him a children’s book. Let’s help raise a generation of book-loving kids. 
 
Please check out my Hiyas children’s books on OMFLIt’s Pinterest page:

http://www.pinterest.com/omflit/childrens-books-by-grace-chong/

7/12/2014

When the Skies Weep


The skies are weeping again. For months, we sweltered and suffered from the oppressive heat, and now, suddenly, the rains have come.

In fact, the skies have been weeping for three consecutive days, like an inconsolable widow at her husband's wake. We likewise weep over the devastation it heaps upon us. Many areas pool into epic floods that can drown everything we ever owned and us. We wonder why we have to suffer these copious tears from the firmament.  

But it is when the skies weep that heroes are born. They reward us with stunning photos we see simultaneously on TV, the Internet, and print media—photos that otherwise don't come in dry land on normal days:

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus speaks in John 15:13. His words tell us how far love to a brother should extend, even to the laying down of our lives—the highest instance of love among men.

This emulates the love Jesus has for man, how he rains His grace on us. He came down from heaven, laid aside his royal majesty, and laid down not his riches but His life. It was no ordinary life; it was the life of the Lord of glory.  And so He suffered death on the cross, in place of sinful man—those whom he had chosen as friends.

The utmost act then, when the skies weep, is when we cast aside our mortal identity, don our superhero cape, and lay down our lives for Jesus' friends.   

PNoy photo by Michael Robertson  

7/08/2014

Happiness Is . . .


Many research studies have been conducted on what makes people happy.

One result I have read said that happiness quotient is highest in the richest countries. Another says that life satisfaction is highest among people in the upper income bracket.

Money does bring happiness because it can buy things than can make us “happy.”

But if you begin reading the book of Ecclesiastes, written by an extremely rich man and therefore had everything under the sun, you’ll find in chapter 1, verse 2 that, “'Everything is meaningless,’” says the Teacher, “‘completely meaningless!’”

He means, everything under the sun can come to ruin. Things like savings accounts, art and jewelry collection, a pool of vehicles, manors, and tracts of land cannot cause lasting satisfaction. All it takes is a falling economy or natural disasters and they lose their value.

In Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, the book concludes, “. . . Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

There is only one Someone who is not from “under the sun” and that is Christ. 

Happiness is . . . knowing how much grace we receive from Him. 
When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we receive the grace of forgiveness, the biggest grace of all.

7/04/2014

Why Marriages Last


If you’ve been married to the same man for as long as I have (44 years today), you’d call it a feat, or even a miracle. Those cheesy, public avowals of everlasting love on FB that are meant to make readers drool with envy would call it: undiminished ardor. 

I call it grace.

For how can two strangers, with individual egos and minds; different characters, tastes, opinions, and habits; and coming from disparate genders and genes live together? How can they continue going through alternating rough and smooth roads, turbulent and fair weather, valleys and plains in a tumultuous world?   

Man has invented these phrases, again parroted on FB: “My soul mate.” “I can’t live without you.” “The most wonderful man/woman in the world.” “You mean the world to me.” And many more mush. 

Some insist the occasion calls for it, but I won’t noisily fall into any of those platitudes, not in public anyway.  I’d rather silently fall into and fall back on . . . 

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Matthew 19:4-6 (NLT)

For me, those beautiful words spoken by Jesus are carved in stone and in one’s heart. No cloying words of love for public consumption can make it better than it already is.

Thank you, Lord, for the grace of marriages that last in this temporal world.

“. . . till death do us part." 
 

7/01/2014

Cheerio

Do you know someone blessed with a cheerful disposition? I do.

Lorelie (not her real name) always seems to be happy, wearing what I call a “toothpaste smile” under all circumstances—even after she lost her mom. Her mood is so infectious that whenever I feel low, I invite her to a cup of coffee and before the hour ends, my mood shifts to hers. Indeed, she is a smiling spout of grace! 

In contrast, there are others who seem to be chronically off-mood. They perpetually complain about people, life, and burdens in general. They, too, are infectious.

Joy is one of the gifts Jesus promised to His followers before he ascended to heaven. “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22).

When we are on the verge of being testy or grouchy, let’s seek out a Lorelie (or be a Lorelie) and remember that to reflect the joy we have in Christ, we must begin by showing a joyful demeanor and spread cheer.