1/29/2015

Bitter Hatred


For me, one the most stirring books about a father-son relationship ever written in modern history is “Dear Father, Dear Son” (Two lives . . . Eight hours) by Radio/TV talk show host Larry Elder.

Without giving the content away, let me touch on the back story, which Elder shares in his interviews.

He held a bitter hatred for his father, a Marine and a tough man with a difficult, dirt-poor past. Elder feared him so much he vowed to stand up to him one day.

He did when he was 15. They fought and Elder didn't speak to him for 10 years! 

At age 25, Elder felt restless, had difficulty sleeping and eating. A friend suggested that maybe the unresolved issues with his father were causing these. So Elder sought out his dad, thinking they would talk for only five minutes—say the worst things to each other—and done.  

Instead, they sat on two stools from 2:30 until 10:30 PM. In those eight hours, the father morphed from an ill-tempered, cruel ogre to a kind, caring inspiration. This is what the mesmerizing book is all about. “I completely misread him,” Elder lamented.   

“Dear Father, Dear Son,” according to critics, is a handbook for life: a story of a son searching for what he thought was a missing father, but who has been there all along.

The Father of all is in our midst, He is not missing at all. But many people today are missing His presence, because they deny the grace offered by the Son.

But to those who believe, it is all too clear, “I am the way, the truth and the light,” he said before He went back to His rightful place in heaven. “No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)

(An excerpt from my book, Circle of Compassion, published by OMFLit)

1/25/2015

Voice Activated


When my brother Matt arrived from babysitting his grandson in the US, he regaled us with stories of his interesting domestic chores. For six months, he took care of nappies, milk, and other needs of an infant while his daughter and son-in-law worked full-time.

An American neighbor remarked, “Filipinos are so blessed. I wanted my parents to help with my baby, too, so I sent them two plane tickets. They sent them back!”

Babysitting was a role my brother relished, including working with his hands, relying on no one but himself. “I also enjoyed shoveling the snow; it kept me fit.”

This lifestyle is so different from the Philippines’ which, he said, is “voice activated.”  

You need something done? Just call out:

“Water please!”

“Pick me up at noon, okay?”

“Open the gate.”

“Bring me my briefcase.”

“Take over drying the dishes." 

Household helping hands will do your bidding.

Countries differ culturally, but, how wonderful that grace abounds in all! We can taste and see this grace by acknowledging and being grateful for it.  

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

(This is one of the 365 entries in my book "Gace@Work" published by OMFLit.)

1/21/2015

Pastor Moe


In a clear, distinct voice and impeccable diction, Pastor Moe—already an authoritative and a riveting speaker in his 20s—tackled Psalm 90, penned by his namesake, Moses. 

He had barely started when many of us in the pews wiped our eyes, not only because of his powerful message, but because of what he has become.

I am one of those who saw Pastor Moe from childhood to college, under the wings of his grandmother, a faith sister—who did a precarious balancing act of both a strict parent and a doting lola.

Reared in Sunday school, Pastor Moe was smart, with his share of adventures typical of boys his age. He was enrolled in Christian schools until high school and excelled throughout. 

It was when he went to college, where crossroads are found, that he turned truant—not caring whether he was coming or going. This caused his lola and family heartaches.

But somewhere down the road, an unseen Hand led him to a Bible school away from home. There, Moe was not exactly a saint, taking for granted the support and scholarship lavished on him by concerned parties. He squandered time and overstayed. 

His family got fed up; his scholarship and support were withheld. Coincidentally, while earnestly praying for him to someday preach behind the pulpit as a pastor, his grandma fell ill. Her mind ground to a halt, brought on by Alzheimer’s disease.

But the God of second chances worked on Moe. He opened the young slacker’s eyes and ears to what He wanted Moe to do. Now with zero finances, he had to work to survive and to continue with school. He tackled odd jobs, unheard of during his comfortable growing-up years with a protective lola.  

With new determination, and unceasing prayers of the people who love him, Moe finally graduated from Bible School, earning him the privilege of being a pastor. He has found his calling; he was soon invited to be youth pastor in a church somewhere far away. 

Last week, he flew in for a short vacation and to celebrate his birthday with his lola and family.

It was great to see him again; greater still to find out he would deliver the message during the Sunday service, his first-ever in his home church.

“I am scared,” he began, smiling impishly. Who wouldn’t? The pews were packed with the youth he grew up with and the people who watched him grow up.

Singularly-focused on Moses’ song, Pastor Moe stressed why God is our Dwelling Place. The audience was hushed, awestruck by God’s words.  
Listening with rapt attention, we understood how the Lord's grace redeems, restores, and refines people—admonishing us to never give up on any of His children, because He, our Dwelling Place, does not.

Photo grabbed from Pastor Moe's FB wall

1/17/2015

Adultery and Idolatry


These are two words that spell, all caps, DANGER. 

They have been our staple in our Sunday School class in church over the last few weeks.

In blatant terms, adultery is cohabiting with anyone or anything other than God. Idolatry is worshiping anyone and anything other than God.

Said in those straightforward definitions, they sure are scary, forbidden territories.

But in this modern world that embraces all ideologies, is kind to all aberrations, and has erased hell as a destination, being scared is no longer in fashion.

The pursuit of happiness is hip; the pursuit of holiness is, at best, meh, and at worst, ridiculous.

What happened?

Money happened.

In many societies, the mad-rush for money is on. Money can buy you anything that awes mortal beings: power, position, popularity, possessions, privileges, pleasures, and in this country, politics, where (if we read the reports of dailies on corruption) money begets more money.

In Randy Alcorn’s “Money, Possessions, and Eternity,” readers are challenged to rethink our attitudes toward material wealth. He presents thought-provoking arguments on materialism, stewardship, prosperity theology, debt, and more.

Money is a touchy subject. With this blog, I know I am impinging on raw nerves—mine most of all. But there is no other way to talk about money than to face it head-on.

A wealthy friend of mine, who generously funds feeding programs for the poor, once said, “This is my ticket to heaven.” The rich can certainly buy their way to anywhere, but not to heaven.

“When I was earning oodles of money,” said another friend now retired, “I had no need for God. But now, on a meager pension, I realize I can’t live another day without Him.” 

Money draws us away from God, just as an alluring mistress or a paramour does, the Bible tells us.   “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." 1Timothy 6:10 (NLT)

And in the altar of materialism where money is worshiped, God is forgotten. “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24   

To save us from the danger of adultery and idolatry, we need to rely on God’s grace, not on our money.   


1/13/2015

First Three Days of the Year


January 1 started with a bang—from a bottle of laxative.

It was the first step in the preps for my scheduled virtual colonoscopy (or CT colonography) two days later.

It turns out that all those first three days of 2015 have surged to the top of the chart of my life peaks, or days I’d rather forget.    

Flashback a little: just before Christmas, I had an aborted colonoscopy due to problems too unsavory to discuss. This prompted my doctor to make me go through another try—this time, the virtual colonoscopy. I thought all preps would be virtual, too, because unlike the first, this procedure required no hospital confinement nor anesthesia.

Was I wrong.

After that bottle of laxative on New Year’s Day, I am plunged into a clear liquid diet for the next 36 hours, and as though those aren’t torture enough, I take a second bombs-away bottle. On the 3rd day, the 20-minute drive to the hospital seems like 20 years.

Then just as you are about to collapse from hunger and hysteria, the CT-Scan technician takes you into the cold, Antarctic-like room where your tush is pumped with gallons of air till you’re ready to burst, but too weak to complain.

With your sanity now running on empty, the attending doctors around you say, “Just ten more pumps.”

Your exhausted inner self whispers, Lord, into Your hands I commend my spirit.
Somewhere between panic and desperation, grace enfolds you. It comes through a doctor-friend who hovers nearby, and never leaves, her voice assuring you, "You'll be okay." 

Whrrrr. Some tiny red lights blink above as you, flat on your back, are slid through a white, gleaming, surreal circle. A robotic machine voice commands, “Breathe in. Release. Hold.” Then after a minute says, “Breathe.”

Another whrrrr. Now lying prone on bloated tummy, pain everywhere, you are again slid through that icy circle. “Breathe in. Release. Hold . . . now, breath. We’re done.”

You open your eyes, not to oblivion, but to the same world from whence you came. The angel hands you wads of tissue paper, with which you wipe your wet eyes, nose, and mouth.

Then like a tire having a slow flat tire, you try, but fail, to discreetly release the pumped air while the technician, your new best friend, smiles, “Results tomorrow.”

Tomorrow is a hallelujah moment.

No mass. No polyps. Just some humor of nature, or age: a tangled-up colon somewhere in the middle. Inoperable. So your gastroenterologist scrawls on a prescription sheet, outlining what foods to avoid and what medications to take whenever discomforts above and below set it—the rest of your life.

You could say, my new year began auspiciously. With a bang, that is.

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)

  

1/09/2015

Seventy and Counting


About this time every year, I write about the annual reunion where I say “Goodbye” to the old year and “Hello” to the new one.  Kinda predictable you might say. In a way it is.

But there is always something new about it. This time we celebrated our 70th year—a milestone any way you look at it. Our forebears who started it all are now all gone, two generations of them, but the tradition continues.

One other thing that never happened before was that it rained non-stop. All the outdoor activities had to be cancelled and the kids were most disappointed over the water polo that never was.

It was unbelievably cold, which rarely (or never) happens in Metro Manila. We were kept warm, however, by the grace of relationship that we try to nurture through distance and time.

In numbers, one fourth is gone and a big chunk is abroad. Of the 140 who were able to make it, 20% are seniors, the third generation to which I belong. Whether this gathering can still be stretched for more years is no longer in our hands but in the younger generations’ (4th, 5th, and 6th).

(photo by Danny Digan)
There are other families/clans around the world who have been doing reunions far longer than we have, but ours is probably the only clan that has been doing it for three days and two nights in a row, without miss, seven decades now! 

What makes this gathering so successful every time and an occasion to look forward to every year?

You name it, we have it:  games, competitive sports; a band; a talent show with spectacular, professional performances; a lionized celebrity (nephew); awards and prizes; a council meeting where issues and finances are discussed; well-planned meals; a three-day program that includes toddlers and dodderers; an instant rendition of the Lutkin Benediction in four voices; and most of all, a solemn thanksgiving and memorial service, where we honor God and thank Him for the lives of all clan members (past and present). 

During our service, themed “Light and Darkness,” our young pastor (a nephew) emphasized letting one’s light shine. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 (NKJV)   

May the younger generations, then, who come after us always remember: Reunions aren’t only about shining within the family; it is about being light in the Lord and walking as children of light for others.       

First day gear
Second day garb (photo by Darlene Digan)

1/05/2015

The Truth Will Set You Free


Some people are not aware that this statement comes from the Bible, and said by Jesus Himself.
Which is why we often hear different individuals from different quarters mouthing this statement in varied contexts to suit their purposes. It has been mangled beyond recognition.

It is used in the context of: not lying, baring one’s soul, revealing a guarded secret.

It is used in the halls of justice; in making someone own up to a crime, a fault, or an addition.

It is used to promote academic freedom, the power of learning—freeing one from ignorance. 

Jesus’ statement has nothing to do with any of those. I am neither a preacher nor a theologian, just an ordinary student of the Word, yet no matter how many times I read these verses, they speak to me in the most literal sense. There is no hidden or figurative meaning: John 8:31-36 . . .    

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus provides the simplest commentary for His own statement. Being a slave to sin is the greatest bondage. And only He, through His grace of forgiveness, can free us from this bondage.

In ancient times, slaves had no permanent place in a family, but a son belongs to His family forever. Nothing could be more explicit than what He said in John 14:6, “. . . ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Only believing in Jesus, the Truth, and becoming His child, will set us free.


1/01/2015

Year 2015:

From Thanksgiving to Thanksliving 

One new coined word that still has to make it to the dictionary is thanksliving. Before it could, reams of pages have already been written about it.

I’d like to add a page more. 

Thanksliving is one notch above thanksgiving; it is thanksgiving in action—wherever we go, whenever we turn, whatever we do, and whomever we meet.

When we were brainstorming ideas for our church’s 36th anniversary theme, we focused on gratitude, nothing less, nothing more. For how can a very small bodega transform into a community church with faithful members who exhort each other come rain or come shine? How can a make-shift lean-to grow into a structure that now houses a school with students numbering close to 200?

More than the building, however, we know that God’s ministry is kept alive in this church, not by ourselves, but by grace.

We came up with the theme “Endless Gratefulness,” the essence of a servant's reverence toward a  living God.

That anniversary Sunday, we sang, at the top of our voices, hymns of thanksgiving.
Our speaker gave life to our theme through the word thanksliving. He spoke of how we must live gratefulness: how it should be a way of life, and how it should affect and infect others outside of ourselves. He repeatedly said, “If we're truly grateful, it really ought to show in our lives.”

In 1Thessalonians 5:18, Paul was explicit, “… give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had been able to be grateful even if he faced enormous problems, because he knew that God was good all the time. And a good God would allow difficult circumstances that would eventually result in something good.

As we usher in the year 2015, may we turn our thanksgiving into thanksliving. Despite tragedies, problems, and frustrations that may befall us and our land, His grace will allow us to rise above them all.