The Toga

In July every year, I don the most ill-fitting and unflattering outfit in the world—the toga. But it somehow feels right. Perfect, in fact.

At the graduation ceremony of the university where I teach, lecturers are required to wear togas with a hood and cap.  Although the black loose gown is the same for every faculty member, the hoods vary from teacher to teacher.


Answered Prayers

God answers all prayers; no single prayer remains unanswered.  

This thought was as dim as a starless night for me. But as I study the Word and continue to listen to prayer exhortations Wednesday after Wednesday in our prayer meetings, this has become my dawn, the coming of light—toward a clearer day.

Every chance we get, we who believe in prayer earnestly ask for what we want, what we think should belong to us.  We pray for whom we want healed, whom we want touched and stirred, whom we want changed. Our pryers are often about what we want.


Grace Before Meals

First, the photograph grabbed me. Then the caption grabbed me more: Grace before meals.

I echoed to myself what advertising people say when they see a great ad concept, Why didn't I think of that before?


Happy Graceday!

The remarkable thing about Facebook is, everybody remembers your birthday—as in, everyone of your FB friends who are online that day.

Hundreds remembered mine. And I am deeply grateful for having been gifted with hundreds of FB friends.

One of them, Tom, sent a two-word message that said everything I could ever express about my birthday, “Happy graceday!”

Indeed, today is a happy, rainy day of grace—hundreds, thousands, millions, trillions, gazillions of grace. How can one ever thank God enough?

Never. But one experiences so much joy in trying.

Image: birthdaychoice.net


How Should We Pray?

Outside of my home church, I have a circle of friends who don't share my faith. But when we're together, they request me to pray for the food or for someone sick.

“How you pray is something I hope I can do, too,” my friend B told me  after one prayer, “but I can't compose it the way you can.”   

“I don't know how to pray, period,” added M. “I have thoughts, but not the right words—like Grace has.”    

Uh-oh. If my friends think I have the right words and say well-composed prayers, then I have not been praying the way I should—not when I pray aloud anyway.      

I have been taught and I have always known that praying is not having the right words, phraseology, or syntax. Prayers need not be eloquent and well-composed; they should come from the heart. 

How then should we pray?

There are many answers in the Scriptures. Let me quote those that are closest to my understanding:   

 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20) 

“. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 26-27) 

We all really do not know what we ought to pray for. But the Spirit helps us, keeps our hearts and minds in tune with the will of God.

So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

When Jesus went back to heaven, He left His Spirit in every believer's heart. Therefore, praying in the spirit refers not to a particular method of praying—but to a total attitude. Prayer is not an adjunct to our lives; it's fundamental in our relationship with God’s word, God’s Spirit, God’s gift of faith.

Unlike a hotline that is used only when there's an emergency, prayer should be on 24/7, waiting to hear from God's spirit at all times. It’s an open line to God.

Praying in the Spirit is being so in touch with God that you pray what God puts in your heart. Prayer is not about getting things from the Giver; it’s about aligning ourselves with His will. So when the answer comes, whatever if may be, we are ready to accept it.

My friend Ernie said it best, “Praying in the spirit means you are so focused on God that the only thing that matters is what matters to Him.”

In Gethsemane, before He was arrested and made to suffer on the cross, Jesus pleaded to God, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

When we pray in the spirit, we don't worry about our words, our syntax, or whatever else we worry about when we lead in a group, because the Spirit will lead us if we allow Him to. And then we experience the presence of God in a powerful way.

Praying in the Spirit, in sum, is letting God lead in our prayers at all times.

Lord, by Your grace, may our every prayer be led by the Your Spirit.


2012 National Children's Book Day

I thank God for His grace of stoking our passion for children's literature. Please celebrate with me National Children's Book Day!

Highest Blog Hits

Don't fall for statistics . . . don't fall for statistics . . . don't fall for statistics . . .

This I repeat to myself whenever I post a blog. I really (really!) want to focus on why I am blogging, and not worry whether only one reads it—Tony, only because I beg him to.

Who am I kidding?

Occasionally I wonder why some blog sites can generate 54,000,000 unique visitors per  month and why mine gets only 4,000.  Then I quickly shake off the errant thought and concentrate on my blog at hand.

But curiosity always gets the better of me and I click on “stats” today.  What it reveals about my all-time top-five blog posts baffles me.

No. 1: “Prayer as a Lifestyle,” October, 2009

No. 2: “Man and Woman,” May 2012

No. 3:  “Shelf Life,” May 2011  

No. 4: “Upside-down Umbrella,” January 2010

No. 5: “Why Leaves of Grace?” my very first blog post, November, 2006

“Why Leaves of Grace?” I like to think that my new visitors want to know why I named my blog Leaves of Grace.

“Upside-down Umbrellas” is literally that. It features the marvelous interior design masterpiece of my friend L using upside-down umbrellas. Maybe people google it because upside-down umbrellas are good omen to the superstitious?

“Shelf Life” introduces one of the many concepts on retirement—a book I have recently finished writing—that explains our dread over the expiry date of our usefulness. Maybe people click it for information on perishable items?  

“Man and Woman” is a very recent post but it climbed up to the No. 2 spot in my hit chart pretty quickly, dislodging many much older posts. It discusses the differences between genders and nurturing them.  Maybe people google the three words for different reasons, and my post is a beneficiary? 

“Prayer as a Lifestyle” is by far the top blog on my hit chart. It's a very old post but still gets over a dozen hits a day. Maybe people are searching for answers and have turned to prayer? Or maybe, like me, they want to deeply understand and live the multi-dimensional essence of prayer?  

For whatever reasons, I am grateful to my blog guests for dropping by to read about the amazing grace that comes to us in our big and small daily chores.

We stand in awe of the God who untiringly dispenses this grace, from sunrise to sunrise.


Jungle on Facebook

To say that Facebook is like a jungle may be accurate. In one reading, as you scroll down “Home,” you get  snapshots of all forms of inhabitants.

In a page, you read messages that reflect people's varied characters, traits, politics, dispositions, spirituality or the lack of it, activities, and status (this is the most volatile of all). 

They represent the depth and breadth of the animal kingdom—from the tamest to the wildest—and all types in between: gentle and ferocious; loving and angry; mushy and gritty; optimistic and pessimistic; orderly and messy; intelligent and dense; profound and inane; sweet and bitter; inspiring and disparaging; generous and greedy; fair and prejudiced; enthusiastic and sarcastic; deep and shallow; spiritual and profane; etc, etc.
As I read the posts, I am alternately inspired and disappointed. And I ask myself these four questions: 

1) Why do we choose to be nasty when it is better to be kind?
2) Why do we choose to be angry when there is so much to be thankful for?
3) Why do we choose to destroy when it is more productive to build?  
4) If we can't write anything good, why write at all?  

These are the same questions I ask myself when I read the dailies. 

Then I turn introspective and go back to our Biblical history: From “The Fall,” the day God sent Adam and Eve out of the peaceful Garden of Eden, everything has been a like a jungle, where vultures and victims co-exist. 

So as not to fall prey to the dangers of ravenous beasts (or becoming like them), and losing ourselves, we need to be armed every day. Ammo can only come from a God who gives us His grace of protection through our conscience and discernment, if we humble ourselves and seek Him out.   

“ . . . whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Images: http://slodive.com/inspiration/funny-pictures-of-animals/


Don't Smoke, Please?

Knowing I teach Advertising/Marketing, a friend emailed me a link to images of vintage cigarette ads. 

I did a few ads for a cigarette company in my time (shoot me), and I experimented with smoking in college (shoot me again), but these old ads smack of . . . um, uh . . .

Babies as endorsers?

Doctors/Nurses encouraging smoking?

Santa Claus puffing and huffing?
Women becoming more attractive through cigarettes?

We've come a long way. Today, ad claims are regulated and cigarette advertising is banned in most countries, including the Philippines. Many buildings now prohibit smoking and in many offices, there are limited areas for smokers.

Our own Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has gone into an aggressive anti-smoking campaign. It recently unveiled a mobile smoking cessation clinic: a converted bus deployed in many areas to counsel and suggest lifestyle change to smokers.

At the launching of this bus, a survivor of throat cancer gave a moving testimony about how he lost his voice to smoking.

I have grieved over a dozen close friends who died of lung cancer in the past five years. Four of them were non-smokers, but they were in the company of heavy smokers in their home or place of work. That's why I am thankful that many forms of anti-smoking crusades have sprouted today.   

And yet, the death toll and economic losses from cigarette remain alarming. Ten Filipinos die every hour from illnesses caused by smoking, while the country loses nearly P500 billion annually from healthcare costs and productivity losses, according to an anti-tobacco group.

Fortunately, cigarette advertising has evolved through the years, and these powerful ads today may yet save a friend's life. Grief, without grace, is a bottomless pit.

May we remember the Scriptures' admonition for us to keep our bodies free of toxins (tar and nicotine are but two of these) that snuff out our precious God-given lives.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) 

Don't smoke, please?

Photo credits: thechive.com


Quiet Celebration

Yesterday was a quiet day, a wordless day, in fact. If you've been cleaved unto your husband for over four decades (more like forever) like I have, words need not be said.

I think he might have murmured an obligatory "Happy anniversary" upon waking up, and I might have slurred back, "Same to you" in a still sleepy yawn. Other than that, it was all, for me, a quietly intense thanksgiving to the God Who blesses us with the grace of forever marriages that stand the test of life-threatening diseases and mind-altering crises.    

I received many email and text greetings plus shout outs on FB, mostly from younger friends and much younger couples—proof that the younger generation celebrate and look out for a lasting relationship.

To commemorate the occasion (meaning, so I don't forget!) I uploaded yesterday on this site images of hearts, which in many cultures, including ours, represent undying love. I exaggerate—it is symbolic of love, not necessarily undying.

I also changed my header  . . .

to something that reminded me of the huge, pale yellow, long-stemmed roses I used to receive before the undying (forgive me, I'll use this adjective liberally as I please today) love was sealed on  paper.

They don't come anymore (Barbara Streisand sings, "You don't bring me flowers anymore”) simply because they were sold in Chicago where the undying love began and bloomed. 

Yes, after the passing of time, what remains are not necessarily words that are formed with a string of letters, but a life that is marked by peace that passeth our mortal understanding.

Years teach us that undying love cannot be defined. It can be shown through flowers, sweet nothings, surprises, or other feel-good gestures planned and splurged on (oh, those were the days of yore), but most significantly, through the wordless act of believing that marriages are, as God meant them to be, "for as long as we both shall live."

Mark 10:9: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”



Point of View

My husband, first son and I were to dine in a pricey place, courtesy of second son and daughter-in-law who reside abroad. It was a Father's Day gift, which dad graciously extended to JC and me.

The restaurant was empty (sign of the economic downtrend?), except for a white-haired, bent old lady in a wheel chair and a young man. They were midway through their meal. Grandma and grandson, I thought.

While surveying the array of food, I overheard the conversation between lola and apo. It wasn't much of a dialogue; it was more of a monologue.

The young man was very solicitous, “This is really good, try it.”  “I am sure you'll enjoy this other dish, it's the restaurant's specialty.” “Taste it, they're, delicious, right?” “Have some more.” “Let me scoop some for you.”  

What a fine, young man! I gushed silently, a hint of tears fogging my eyeglasses. To husband and first son I verbalized my thoughts, “I wish my own sons and grandson would be half as good to me when I am that old.” 

Reply of husband: “He just wants to extract some money from the old woman.”

Reply of first son: “The old lady forced him to escort her here.”

Two pails of cold water doused my spirit.

I am sure that if there were one other person with us, he would present a different perspective, too.

Points of view are like that; they are as varied as people, with individual hypothesis and conclusion.

My boss in the workplace used to say, “Try to reduce your meetings to just one client. If there were 12 clients in a room, you'd get 12 different points of view. And then you'd have an ad going in 12 different directions.” 

Now, as for the grandmother and grandson, one of us might have been correct—or maybe not. But in this instance, I wish husband and first son were wrong. 

As my contemporaries and I continue to advance in years (this is discussed at length in my new book, What, Me Retire? to be launched in September),  I wish young people were as kind as the young man in the restaurant to their elders.

I wish they'd heed the words of the good Book, found in 1 Peter 5:5: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”

When we left the place, the young man was wheeling the old lady toward a shiny limo where a uniformed driver was opening the passenger door.

Image: http://home.netcom.com/~swansont/