11/28/2014

Can You Explain Explain?


One of the most difficult words to explain is: explain.

Even a teacher in communications, like I am, can't find the simplest, most understandable words to explain it well so it may be understood.

Mr. Webster defines explain thus, "To tell someone something in a way that helps them understand it better." Mr. Roget gives these synonyms: illustrate, interpret, elucidate (words that don’t make explaining any easier). 

The learning outcomes (UK-based) prescribed in my class writing requirement were pretty simple: identify and explain

What I got from one of my students was a jumble of many words identifying facts and figures, quotations from reliable sources of more facts and figures, but no explanation.  

I showed him his work, and said, "You did not explain what you identified.” 

"I did."

"Where is your explanation?"

He pointed to the facts and figures and all the words he wrote that occupied two precious pages, totaling 500 words.

"But you did not explain them. What do these facts and figures mean? I borrowed Mr. Webster’s words, "Tell me in words that will help me understand these better." 

He looked at me with such incredulity I felt like my IQ dropped to 12.  

"You don’t understand these?" he asked.

The earth beneath me caved in. Only grace made me survive the moment, grasping words, “Oh, I do, but the instruction says, you have to explain. And if you don’t, you only get half a grade. You identified really well, but you did not explain.”

Mouth agape, he stared at me. Mouth pursed, I stared back.    

He blinked, “Do I have to re-do my paper?”

“Well, not if you don’t want to. But if you want to get the other half of your grade . . ."

“I will re-do it,” he mumbled. 

I released the breath held in my lungs too long. 

“Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2 (NLT)


11/24/2014

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe:

Eight years today! 

What’s an eight-year-old like? 

He is in third grade. If he loves to read, he should be on his fifth adventure book; if he attends Sunday School, he should have memorized two dozen verses; if he is into sports, he should be spending his free time enjoying them; if he has been trained to work with his hands, he should be doing his assigned home chores on his own. He now contributes to making decisions in the family.

That eight-year-old was born at the same time as Leaves of Grace. How he has grown!

Yup, I complete my eight years of blogging today. So how have I grown?

In content, I have not strayed from the reason I said “uncle” after being out-argued by my sons, pushing me into creating this site.

Grace.

It so overwhelms I can’t write enough about it.

In November 2006, I was not yet a grandma—now I am, a very proud one, eight years wiser and eight years happier (I am still working on being more patient).

In faith, I have evolved from the size of a mustard seed. With every blog, I try to get to know the great Author of life better. With every sunrise, I try to hone my chops to write more incisively. With every change of a calendar year, I try to reflect on what was, with thanksgiving. With every phrase, I try to look at words as God-given pearls so that I could, as my friend Yna would encourage authors, string them into a precious necklace that honors Him.

In numbers, I now have cyber friends from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, a total of 193 countries (four short of all countries in the world).                    
I have over 234,000 hits and about 20,000 comments and reviews. My posts have come up to 839, and as I review post one, I realize this: 

No matter how old one gets, she is still a work-in-progress. Perfection can only come on the day Christ returns. What an awe-inspiring, mind-boggling moment that would be! 

Old header down:

New header up: 
 
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)


11/22/2014

Vanilla Ice Cream


My doctor’s squiggles, all two pages of orders on how I should be admitted/treated in the hospital, are difficult to read. I don’t even attempt to decipher the hieroglyphics. But three words leap out of the pages: vanilla ice cream.  I dismiss them as eye trick. After all, I have never been a big fan of vanilla ice cream. 

So I get settled in what could be a nice room had it not been in a hospital, with a nurse who immediately barks orders for me to gulp half a bottle of laxative! “The next half should be taken after an hour. One more bottle after that.”

(The medical procedures in the morning require a super clean tummy and colon.)

“No solid food for 12 hours,” she adds.

“What?!” I panic. But I am hungry.

“Except vanilla ice cream,” her lips break into a smile.  

No thanks. I realize the three words I read are not an eye trick; my doctor really means vanilla ice cream! Of all the ice-cream flavors in the world, he has to choose the one I dislike.

But after ten thousand trips to the bathroom, my tummy begs for food. So Tony promptly goes out to buy me vanilla ice cream, his excuse to leave a whining, groaning bundle of nerves.

He comes back with two cones. Without missing a beat, I prepare to tackle one. At that point I was prepared to eat dust.
"Just the vanilla, skip the chocolate chips and nuts!" Tony takes the side of the nurse.

Grudgingly, I say good-bye to what could make the vanilla ice cream bearable, and bring the white stuff inside my mouth.

And I hear violins . . . heavenly sounds that match the heavenly taste of the yummiest thing that has ever landed on my tongue. 

The melodious strings are joined by a full orchestra and angel voices as I wolf down the second cone. Ahhh . . . 

I am back home now, thanking God for holding my hand during the whole ordeal. I am still groggy from the anesthesia and lack of proper sleep. The results are not exactly excellent, but non-life-threatening. Through the 24-hour harrowing experience, there is one blissful thought: vanilla ice cream.

I’ve always known that grace comes to us in various forms. But I didn’t know it comes in cones, too. Now I do.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

 

11/21/2014

TGIF


While working people may be sighing, exclaiming, or whispering "TGIF" today, I am packing my suitcase for a destination nobody would wish upon his worst enemy: the hospital. My tummy doctor said I should check in for some tummy work-up tomorrow.

I am not looking forward to it.  Okay, I loathe it. Medical procedures are the opposite of a relaxing soak in a Jacuzzi. It’s similar to the prospect of balancing on a high wire without a safety net.

I exaggerate.

I want to humor that part of myself that can still smile, no matter what the circumstances. That’s the part of me that stubbornly writes about grace despite wars, massacres, corruption, bigotry, hatred, betrayal, and all sorts of trouble and turbulence in this mad-crazed world.  

Admonition to self: Nothing, not even a medical procedure, nor its results, should benumbed the Strength yoked upon the heavy-laden heart of one who believes in a God who promised, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NLT)

Indeed, thank God it’s Friday!

photo credit

11/18/2014

Cyber Persona


Blogging and joining social networking sites are a no-no to many people. Reason? "I don't want to bare my soul in public."

Some netizens argue that one can bare only what he wants to bare. "Many of what one reads or sees in cyber photos are people's public persona, meant to impress, making them bigger than they really are. Their private lives are just a fraction of what they project, and sometimes totally different."  

One active fashion blogger is actually an old grandma who looks nothing like the fashion plate her writings and photos reveal.

"It's my stress buster," she says, laughing. She gets a kick out of the comments of her conned readers.

The persona of Jesus yesterday, today, and tomorrow had, has been and will always be the same. What our forefathers read in their Bibles is exactly the same as what we are reading today.

Readers may change, but Bible truths (whether in printed or e-book form) remain the same.

In the same manner, God’s grace draws no line. What was bestowed to our forefathers is the same grace offered to both non-netizens with a private persona and for netizens who weave an awesome public persona.   

"But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

11/14/2014

The Boy without a Smile


Sometime ago I wrote a book entitled Ragamuffin Kid: The Boy without a Smile.  It was one of four stories in art published by Ayala Museum. 

The hero is Bulan, a mute orphan boy, who kept walking and walking because he had no place to go.  Sometimes, kind people would give him leftover food or old clothing, but always, he slept on the sidewalk at night. 

After a very long walk, he saw a family in the park who were so happy they seemed to have a perpetual smile. In fact, when they saw him, they smiled!  Not only did they smile, they offered him a home.

It didn’t take long before the mute boy found his voice, then started smiling. And he never stopped smiling ever again.

Why do some people never smile?

My niece had this answer. “Only animals do not smile, so if someone doesn’t like to smile, maybe he is not human,” she said this with a big smile, followed by more smiles.

The late Mother Teresa, an awardee of Nobel Peace Prize, once said, “Peace begins with a smile.” 

Indeed, after hurting someone and you smile at him/her, saying you’re sorry, the odds are, he/she will smile back and the enmity is diffused.

People who like to smile say a lot of good things about why we should smile. Santosh Kalwar, a poet and an author, wrote, “I was smiling yesterday, I am smiling today, and I will smile tomorrow. Simply because life is too short to cry for anything.” 

The Boy without a Smile, a historical fiction set 100 years ago, was inspired by Juan Luna’s painting entitled Ragamuffin Kid (cover of the book). It is available at the Ayala Museum Art Shop.

If you can grab a copy, it may just cause you to remember all the grace around you and . . .  smile.

"Always be joyful; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 15:16  (NLT)


11/10/2014

Casual Cyberparade


The days when people were discreet about their relationships are gone forever. Except for those in their seniors years, nobody remembers or pines for those times anymore. 

What we are treated to on social media is a parade of what goes on in people's private lives. Reading "In a relationship" and "It's complicated" is as casual and as frequent as OMG (Oh My God!).
 
Intimate love letters to one’s spouse or significant other are now public documents for everyone to “like” and gush over in “comment.”

(Strangers whom I've never met in my life call me "Mommy" so casually, I try hard to remember if I actually birthed them.)

Yes, times have changed—we are in what many call the age of casualness, when formality is passé and rules are relaxed.

It is not uncommon to see old people wobbly clinging to backs of bus seats while able-bodied males are so casual they can't even stand up to offer their seats. 

May we never be so casual to use the name of God irreverently. Humans dependent on grace can never be on a par with the almighty Grace Himself. The Creator and His creation are not on the same level. Not in the way that we call our pals "Bro" or "'Pre." 

The Bible is clear on this, "You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” Deuteronomy 5:11(NLT)

Lord, Your name is above all names. Guide us to never misuse it. Amen.

(This post is a page from my latest book, Grace@Work, published by OMF Literature, and launched at the 2014 Manila International Book Fair.) 

11/06/2014

Can't Buy Me Peace


Millions of fans wailed and sobbed when Michael Jackson, Pop/Rock star, died at age 50. 
TV networks, newspapers, radio, the Net—every medium known to man—went on a frenzy outdoing each other with the most detailed and graphic update. 

Almost three years later, his personal physician was found guilty for injecting Michael with surgical anesthetic powerful enough to put him to sleep. That, plus the other drugs in the singer’s system, caused his death. In his defense, the physician told the court that the singer begged him, “Just make me sleep; it doesn’t matter what happens.”

Regularly over the years, according to news items, Michael took sedatives and other drugs to make him sleep. In his interview with Oprah, he said he had a very lonely childhood; he couldn't play outside with other kids because he was stuck inside either rehearsing, recording or performing. 

Tons of articles have been written about how he spent a remarkable amount of time avoiding people, wearing disguises, breaking off relationships, and changing telephone numbers; people still pursued him. He tried being different by altering his looks, but he couldn't change the person that he was. 

Talent, fame, power, and money came into one man. But when things went wrong or in his moments of emptiness, not one—nor all—could buy him peace.

Those of us who believe in the God of grace and peace, know that peace can only come, for free, to anyone who accepts Him as his Savior in his heart.

"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." John 14:27 (NLT)

(This is an excerpt from my book, Circle of Compassion, published by OMF Literature in 2013.)

Photo credit:

11/02/2014

All of My Days


College students often interview me about creative writing as part of their class project. I make time for these interviews because, not only do I learn more about the young, I also learn more about myself.

My last interview was by someone called Raff. He had the usual questions: "Where do you get your ideas?" "How long have you been writing?" "What is your advice to beginning writers?"

But one question that made me stutter with the answer I thought had, but not really, was this: "Aside from writing, reading, teaching, and, as a break from the three, solving crossword puzzles, what else do you do?"

Aren't those enough? were the words I halted in my mind.

His was a legitimate question, usually from young people. To them, writing is a breeze, reading takes only a fraction of one's time, and teaching is a cinch (students tune off in class anyway, so hours of preparation do not count).

"I do nothing else," I finally answer Raff. "These three tasks take all of my time, all of my soul, all of me. In fact, I wish there were more than 24 hours in one day so I could do more of the same."

My reply made Raff stutter, too, confused about what to say next. The words he halted in his mind must have been, That's all you do?! What a boring life!

My answer would have been, That's all I do and it is a charmed life.

Then I’d hum the praise song, All of my days, I will speak of Your goodness. All of my days I will speak of Your grace.  And while humming, I’d change the lyrics: All of my days I will write, read, and teach of your goodness. All of my days I will write, read, and teach of you grace.

Why? Raff would then ask.  

The actual interview ended five paragraphs ago. Yet I continue to play the hypothetical Q and A in my mind because when I contemplate God's grace, I see no ending. But my life on earth will someday end, so all of my days . . .
Because there is unwritable, unreadable, and unteachable joy in God’s presence. 

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11 (NIV)