Stranger in Heaven

We were in the US when the shooting in a Texas high school happened (two months ago). Nine students and one teacher were murdered by a 17-year-old boy.

It was chilling, but no longer surprising. The newspapers reported, “It is the 22nd US school shooting since the beginning of the year, and the third instance in eight days in which a gunman was on a school campus.” This made me ponder how easily life is lost.

I am afraid for my grandson, Adrian, who goes to school in America. If only I could do something to protect him. 

His mom narrated a similar incident in Adrian's school that left everyone frozen in fear: Two teenagers were seen walking on campus. The guard tired to shoo them away but they wouldn’t budge. So the school authorities decided to padlock all the students inside the school for their safety, while investigation was conducted.

Inside the classrooms, the kids were terrified. They were in various stages of panic. Many were crying, one of whom was Adrian. He would explain to a friend later why he cried.

“I knew we were going to die, and I was worried that I didn’t know anyone in heaven!” he said, realizing that his parents would be left behind on earth and he’d be a stranger there. He didn't assume his classmates would be there, too. 
This anecdote made me heave a sigh of relief, laugh, and grateful. Young as he is at age 11, he knows, without any doubt, where he’s going when he leaves Earth. As a believer in the saving grace of Jesus, he is positive he will be in heaven. 

What an assurance to an anxious grandparent!

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God . . .” John 1:12 (ESV)


Between Black and White

From the Orange County Airport (a.k.a. John Wayne Airport), Tony and I took an Uber to his cousin’s place, where we’d be visiting for four days.

Along the way, the driver—a big, white man with a basso voice—sang President Trump praises. In the same breath, he said, “Obama will go to jail, just you wait and see.” Then he went on and on about how bad the black president was, and how the white president is doing everything he can for America.

When you come across people who are obsessively passionate about their beliefs and which side they are on, it'd be better to keep your mouth shut or you'd be flogged, or killed. 

All we could mutter were, “Really?” “Is that right?” “What do you know?” “Oh, dear.” And all the safe, non-committal phrases the lexicon ever invented.

In a two-party system like America's, people are either black or white (especially after the tenure of its first and only black president).
What baffles me now is, in our country—with a multi-party system—people are divided right down the middle, too. You are either pro-Duterte (our current president) or against. No matter what happens or what issues prop up, people stick to their guns, resolute in their opinion that he is the best-ever, or worst-ever president. 

My prayer is that believers would be able to discern the differences between black and white, and not to blindly take sides. I pray for grace to enlighten us in evaluating the issues, for or against, and their consequences to the country and our people.

The good Book is clear on which way we should go.

While believers are enjoined to pray for and follow authority, we must not condone what is wrong. We should speak up and do something, where he can, when something goes against God's Word, because that is our mandate.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)


Mother's Day 2018

By this time, almost a week in California, I still had not conquered jet lag. Age?

At 3 AM (6 PM in the Philippines, a day after Mother’s Day), I was staring at the ceiling, my eyes unwilling to close. So I visited the Net to check my messages. Most of the posts were how the day was celebrated, complete with photos of ecstatic mommies being treated out and cuddling their presents.

My FB timeline yielded this photo (left) from son #1, which caused me to laugh so loud Tony woke up alarmed. I hardly recognized me. When I did, it brought back beautiful memories of times past when I was a young mom enjoying my first son (shortly after this photo was taken, we were blessed with son #2).
The photo on the right was son #3’s version of the traditional roses. Mother’s Day celebration had begun.

Before breakfast, son #2 presented me with boxes of blank gift cards, which are my favorite gifts of all—next to books, of course. Why? Any writing surface is heaven-sent. 

Grandson #1, and only one, presented his mom with roses.

Then off to church, where mothers were rhapsodized and prayed over. 

At the church's foyer were photo booths set up specially for moms. Beloved grandson, Adrian, suggested that son #2 and I would have our photos taken together, while he did the same with his mom.

Here you go:
Lunch, fun, and bonding—with the part of our family we see only once a year—followed in an Italian restaurant. 

In all, it was indeed mom’s day, but it was also dad’s, children’s, and grand children’s day.

Like all the days of our lives, it was a special grace day. 


Borderless Grace

Mother’s Day this year arrived while Tony and I were away—in California visiting son #2 and family.

No big deal really. As I’ve written often enough, my family does not often communally celebrate national or international events on the day they happen. Sometimes we celebrate it a week before or after. If we forget, we do it one day in the year, if at all.

Celebration for me, for us, is praise and gratitude to God for a milestone or other, and this can take place in one’s heart, minus the bells and whistles. We must be simple folks.

In California this year, the women’s group of my son’s home church had a special gathering on the eve of Mother's Day.  My daughter-in-law, G, an active member of the group, invited me to attend. I was ready to be pleasantly surprised.

And I was.

We were the only Filipinos in the crowd of about 140, but around our table were two American ladies who resided and went to school in the Philippines while their father served as a missionary there. Small world. One of the Christian writers (an American), with whom I share a publisher, is their close family friend.

Special prizes for games, trivia questions, and other stuff got us all laughing. Then the emcee asked, “We have a prize for someone who came from the farthest place.”

Someone raised her hand, “Arizona.”

G nudged me, “Mommy, stand up!”

The emcee asked, “Where are you from?”

“Philippines.” Guess who got the applause and prize? 
We had quiche, croissant, cheese, fruits, and some other western staples. A gift for each one was a paper teapot with tea bags in it. And as I met new friends, I thought of my own women’s group in my church back home, probably sharing pancit, lumpia and kakanin, an all-Filipino fare.  

These all-American mothers in California and the all-Filipino mothers in the place where I live mount events differently. But we have one thing in common: faith in one God, whose borderless grace crosses all barriers of race, language, and coastline.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Acts 17:26 (NIV)