Instant Booksigning

Going into a bookstore has always been a treat for me. That's one of the places where my time stands still.

But going into a bookstore crowded with kids, flitting here and there, scanning and reading books, and comparing notes, is a triple treat!

My friend Luis, a famous children's book author I look up to, and I just came from a meeting and decided to spend some time at the OMFLit Bookshop. The festive sight that greeted us was something we never expected.  

Children—grade school students of a public school—filled the place to the rafters. Their teachers, scattered around supervising them, said, "We brought them here so they could each buy a book of their choice."

I took note of some kids holding my books; they were filed toward the cash register. "Want me to sign those?" I asked tentatively.

I got a question instead of an answer, "Who are you?"

"Well, I am the author of those books," I said, summoning my sweetest smile.

"Really? Wow!" they shrieked.

Their voices reached some of their teachers' ears and not a second too long, they were beside me, posing for a groupfie.

I looked around for Luis and I saw him with another group of kids and teachers, doing exactly the same thing.

Deja vu.

It was like being at the Manila International Book Fair—my other happy place, up the same rank as a bookstore—all over again.

Authors never know what instant grace awaits them in the places where they go to.

If I didn't have another appointment, I would have stayed in that bookshop till kingdom come.


There Is No Plan B

An ex-First Lady had been photographed piously praying in churches, clutching a rosary. In fact, there were rumors that she had a collection of rosaries, one of which was made of diamonds. 

And yet, a photo of her bedroom shows an array of graven idols—representing different gods. Is she making sure she has covered all bases? That if one fails, she has other options? 

Likewise, in a number of restaurants or shops, I continue to spot different idols on shelves, usually behind the cash register: Virgin Mary side-by-side with Buddha, Krishna, and some other gods whose names escape me.

"There is something good about all religions and their gods," said an acquaintance who claims to be a liberalist (let's call him Sam), "so I give them all the benefit of the doubt."

Sam is certain that all gods have their own unique way of saving a person for "heaven." 

I am not equipped to pick a fight with Sam. He has the gift of gab, and all I have is grace to hang on to my faith—faith that was profoundly explained by our pastor in one Sunday message, synthesized in four short words and a letter:

"There is no Plan B,” he emphasized. 
“Only Jesus, Jesus only," he continued. 

I took it to mean that one has to live solely for and singularly focused on Jesus. Everything we do should be for His glory and honor alone, because salvation is His only plan for us. 

"How can we believe this? Faith," our pastor specified. "This faith is only as good as that on Whom it is placed—that He can do for us what He promises to do."  

In this light, someone had created an acronym for F-A-I-T-H, and I am borrowing it now to focus further what "No Plan B" means.

That's forsaking all other gods and trusting only in Him. Faith in Christ is not faith, until He’s all we're holding onto. Because we know, we believe, that He is able to hold us forever and never let us go—all the way through life everlasting.

“There is no Plan B.”

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 (NIV)


Numbers on Year Nine

Numbers, numbers, everything was about numbers.

In the workplace where I risked life and limb, one had to have numbers to get anything approved. Numbers showed that one’s proposal would work, no arguments needed.   

Numbers do say a lot. Politicians watch numbers carefully to see how they’re fairing in the popularity game. Then they have to have the numbers to be elected.

Allow me then to do numbers as I celebrate the ninth year anniversary of Leaves of Grace.  However, unlike in the workplace or any business where numbers mean much, mine are just benchmarks to see where I’ve been. Okay, they’re encouragement to keep me going, too.

So here they are:

Readers from all 196 countries in the world have visited my site at least twice—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. I lacked four last year to complete the total number. 

There are over 292,000 hits today or an average of 200 visits daily in the last three years. Up by 60,000 from last year’s page views.  

I have uploaded 939 posts so far; one post every 3.5 to four days. That’s 100 posts more over last year's.  

What do not appear in this site are the many letters I received and continue to receive via email and on FB Private Message, saying they read my posts regularly. Words like “healing” “uplifting” “encouraging” “nourishing” make me, more than ever, resolve to continue blogging.

There’s no way, really, anyone can stop when she's writing about grace—the gift that keeps giving, and giving, and giving.

And as I do whenever I celebrate or spend my day in gratitude for blessings, I change my header . . .

from the old . . .

to the new. 

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” 1 Chronicles 16:8 (ESV)


Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

“Diversify,” financial gurus would advise.  “Don't invest all your money in one company. Never put all your eggs in one basket.”

It makes sense, doesn't it?  

If you have all of your resources in one place, or if you put your money and future into one investment scheme, and that business nosedives, you lose everything. Big risk indeed.

There are many sad tales about people having all of their eggs in one basket (remember the  single-day US stock market crash on Sept. 29, 2008?) and they lost their shirt. That one, quick painful moment flushed out all they ever had. 

“Faith does not work that way,” our pastor stressed from the pulpit, and a sudden spate of grace lit up my mind. “You either have faith in the one true God or you don’t. You either trust Him fully or you don’t. Put all your eggs in God's basket.”

My imagination conjured a basket of eggs.

I thought, Not one egg less, everything has to be in that basket or your trust is wanting.

He pushed, “Faith is complete reliance on another to do that which you could not do for yourself. Nobody can save himself. Through Jesus alone can anybody be saved.”

In a breath, he demolished the age-old investment principle of not putting everything in one basket.  

But, then, he was not talking about material investment; he was talking about investment of the life that has been gifted us—the life that will not end on earth, but will remain perpetuo in a place so beautiful I can’t even begin to imagine it.   

Quickly I summarized in my little notebook his point: Faith is absolute. Believe in Him for everything, every time, everywhere. That is the soundest investment of all. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)



Three days in a row, every ATM machine that I went to had this haphazardly written sign, “Offline.”  

Funny how one word can spawn a school of negative subtexts:

Go away!
No money here.
I have your money, he-he. 
Try some other ATM.
Leave me alone.
Don’t bother me.
Can't you see I'm resting?
Take it or leave it.
End of argument. 
Plus many more

So you postpone buying and paying for life’s essentials till the ATM is online again.

In this digital age, we are at the mercy of machines. When they conk out, we cave in.

“Machines can never replace people,” we like to say. But people conk out, too.

Imagine driving through horrific traffic to have something urgent signed by someone someplace, only to be told that the person you need to see is out to lunch.

“But I called before coming! He promised he’d be here!”

So you wait, only to be jolted again by a message that the person fell ill and decided to go home. He has a message for you: “Could you please come back some other time?”

You wonder and worry when that “some other time” will come again. Meanwhile, you will miss a crucial deadline.

Machines, people—they can both be offline. Just as you would feel offline, too, fearful and dreadful after such frustrating tries and re-tries.

What a contrast to what we read in Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV), “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Let me paraphrase this in the context of the above frustrations: Don’t conk out nor cave in; I am always online.

Whenever I come to the edge of my wits over machines and people, I reach out for calming grace. It readily comes through verses upon verses in the Bible. This is just one of them.


The Greatest Play Ever Written (8)

I can go on and on with the non-star cast of the Bible, character after character, and I will always be amazed at how the Playwright threads them all together for the happy ending—Jesus.

My blog series on Bible characters ends with this post—focusing on what stage plays usually tag as “The crowd.” This comprises unnamed groups in the cast, without whose roles the play would not be complete.
These groups have people who have no names and do not seem to count for anything.  And there are many of them!

The hypocrites, the wise men of the east, the man with two sons, the rich fool, the snobbish Pharisees, the Centurion and his servant, the four thousand men (Matthew 15:38), the soldiers who stripped Jesus, the saints who were raised (Matthew 27:52), the maniac of the tombs, the seventy disciples (Luke 10:1), the ten lepers, the Greeks (John 12:20), etc. etc. etc.

The Bible is silent on their identity.

We praise famous men and women in the Bible, we study them in our Sunday school classes, but what about those who passed through chapters and verses like a wisp of wind?

Space prevents me from listing all of these unnamed men and women of God’s book.

I think this is God’s way of telling us that although we may be unknown in our work for Him, or we think that “I do not count for anything,” we matter. We may be hidden from people’s eyes, but not from God’s.

For ourselves, it is sufficient to know that, whether our names are in neon or simply listed in the playbill as “the crowd,” they are written upon God’s palms and in His home, every child of His is to have a new name.

We are in God’s cast of characters and we didn’t even have to audition for the role. That’s grace in this life and the life beyond.   

Note: This is the 8th and the last in a series of posts on "The Greatest Play Ever Written."


Children Who Read

One of the sights that make my heart go into somersault is when I see children reading books other than their textbooks. 

Of course you’d expect that statement from an author of children’s books. But even if I didn’t write for children, I’d still feel the same.

In my many encounters with kids, I found that those who love to read have a richer vocabulary and can actually converse well with an adult on various topics.

Studies and science on reading have proven this to be true. It has been found by the Institute of Education (UK) that children who read at an early age do significantly better at school than their peers. These little people made more progress in math, vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read.

It was also noted that reading for pleasure had the strongest effect on children's vocabulary development—and they are able to absorb and understand new information quickly in all subjects.

Adrian, my grandchild, reads. And how! I took this photo of him when he visited us three months ago.

I was not surprised when his mom posted this on FB:   

Caption: A messy pile of books is always near Adrian's bed. Cannot complain about it now after he was recognized today in the school assembly for his awesome reading. Target was 10 reading points for 1 trimester. His current score (and the trimester far from over) = 95.

My granny heart naturally went into a most spirited somersault.

My husband thinks it’s in the genes, because in our family, we all love to read. Our home is littered with books. And now that he is retired, Tony reads one book a week—he brings one with him wherever he goes.

I never believed that love for reading has anything to do with genes. Neither does it have to do with discipline. You can’t order a child to read and expect him to love it.

It has everything to do with role modelling. If a child sees his parents/family reading a lot, he will likely grow up to be a reader, too.

There are of course new studies supporting Tony’s claim that love of reading is genetic, and nothing to support mine, but whenever I see kids reaching out for a book first, instead of a toy or a game console, my mind speaks, Their parents must be readers, too.

Here are photos of kids who, in my opinion, have bookworms for parents.  
(Photo by Teacher Teacher Mars)  
If, by grace, my aging heart remains sturdy, I wish to feel countless somersaults in more years to come.


Gifts for the Soul

From close friends and family, I always get the gifts that I want, and not necessarily need. This special set of people, for whom I need not wear make-up nor dress-up, know exactly what they are!

Two gifts that hit bulls-eye were from third son, his wife, and their son on their last visit to the country.

Their first gift is this bag designed with nothing but books, books, books—the reasons for my happy and busy days.

Inside this bag was the second gift—a painting kit (acrylic, my medium), complete with a tiny easel and a canvas, the reasons for my happy and restful days.  

I put the bag to use by packing it with my teaching ammo and my chronological Bible (gift from first son), which is what I read in my in-between hours—between waiting for and finally consulting with my doctor; between one class and the next; between appointments; between whatever.

I put the painting kit to work and came up with this:   

The gifts that I want are what I call gifts for the soul, or, as I had already written in three volumes, Gifts of Grace. 

"We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)