Fatigued, spent, and disoriented from the long flight and the even longer queue at the Immigration that required some picture taking, some interview, and some bio-metrics, I couldn’t describe what I felt at the crowded San Francisco Airport.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, cool and chilly—the same Sunday morning, hot and humid, we left in Manila 15 hours earlier.
At the arrival area, Adrian (who met us with his mom G) ran to hug us. Aaahhh. Then we walked some more in a huge parking area to find their car. It was another hour drive to our hotel in Cupertino, our home for the next four days, where the bed instantly sucked Tony, with his aching right knee, in.
My manong (big bother) Ped, a minister, called, saying he was half expecting us to be sitting in the pews while he delivered his sermon. He was prepared to lengthen it in case we came in late. That was the original plan, but our jet-lagged bodies refused to cooperate. He wanted to meet up with all of us at lunch; I didn’t have the heart to wake Tony up.
So only Adrian, G, and I drove to a nearby restaurant. My head was still afloat and I couldn’t put my finger on how or where I was, but hoped that lunch might make my head land atop my neck.
At Applebee’s the waitress was perky, pretty, and full of life—the opposite of where my body had dragged me down. “What would you have?” she asked.
I chose the first item my droopy eyelids could make out, “Romaine salad.”
“Perfect!” she said.
Adrian ordered teeny burgers, and she said, “Perfect!”
G’s order had the waitress saying, “Perfect!” too.
My manong arrived with his wife, all dressed-up from the church service. It was the long-awaited, wonderful reunion I had looked forward to. I wished Tony were around. Manong Ped was the reason our first stop was San Francisco—to be able re-connect with him and his family in Cupertino after many years.
Their orders made the waitress say, “Perfect!” as well.
As we lunched, chatting about then, this, and that, I felt grace embrace me, tightly, even as I tried to summon my head, still stubbornly hovering inches over my body, unable to land where it should be.
It was then that I was finally able to spell the word to describe our arrival in this foreign land that was once-upon-a-time Tony’s and my second home, p-e-r-f-e-c-t. In short, grace.
Twelve hours sitting in one place, hearing only the droning airplane, and seeing my legs swell into logs—no matter how you look at it—is a long time.
“Stand up and walk around every two hours,” advised doctor-son on the phone earlier.
Tony and I did better than that. We went to the lavatory every hour. Somehow, idly staring at nothing in particular made us hear the voice of our kidneys. In between, I tackled the plane’s four newspapers and their crossword puzzles. My seatmate took in a movie, or two.
At mealtime, my equally bored partner had his first tantrum. (He insists these episodes are no tantrums, they’re fighting for one’s rights—or giving excitement to a humdrum situation.) We were the last to be served and left with no choice but beef.
“I don’t want to eat beef,” he said. “It’s chicken, or nothing.”
The stewardess turned as white as sheet. “B-but, we only have beef left.”
“Well, turn the plane around and get me my chicken,” he countered.
The poor stewardess apologized profusely and scampered to the kitchen. In ten minutes she came back, “I have chicken for you but no more mashed potatoes, just pancit.”
“Okay,” he said, grudgingly.
I might have heard her release her breath, after maybe incanting some abracadabra to conjure up a chicken dish.
I turned to my chronological Bible, the only book I brought with me, and found solace in the book of Deuteronomy. We were not exactly battling a war (except that boredom can be as merciless as war), but this verse came as reinforcement.
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! Deuteronomy 20:1 (NLT)
Every verse is laced with grace that made a long, exceedingly long, flight seem like a wee wrinkle in time.
Two days before Tony and I flew to the US to visit our grandson, my siblings and their spouses came to our home to send us off.
Over dinner, they exchanged horror stories about scams, rackets, and ruses at the airport that have duped many unsuspecting passengers. Their collective advice: Be suspicious.
One modus operandi is, angel-looking-do-gooders, who are assigned to push wheelchairs, volunteer to take care of your luggage and assist in checking you in.
Some would volunteer to watch your bag for you while you go inside the ladies’ room cubicle.
Their innocent demeanor gives you wonderful thoughts, "Oh, what kind souls!”
In your naiveté, half of the contents of your luggage is gone, or your boarding pass goes missing.
We’ve all heard of the “tanim-bala” (planting a bullet in your bag). You get apprehended and to quickly get out of the fix, you pay grease money for the authorities to let you go, instead of waiting for a lengthy investigation that would delay your trip.
“Be suspicious” is not how I want to live. I have always believed that in every human being is an innate goodness, being a creation of a good God.
Yet, naiveté has become a curse. Beneath many angelic smiles lurk a dark intent. Times are such that more and more people, who appear like angels, are actually devils in disguise.
Came our day of departure. With three big bags in tow, Tony and I slowly did our best to help ourselves at the airport, sizing up and refusing assistance from those who came forward to help.
Maybe some of them were pure in heart, but we remembered to “Be suspicious.”
As judgment day nears, we who live for the risen Lord, can only be covered by grace.
"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)
I heard my usually unperturbed husband exclaim on the phone. From his tone of voice, I knew right away it was bad news. Or was it?
Our travel agent called at noon saying that our flight to the US that night had been cancelled, and moved to the next day.
Prior to that fateful call, my stress level was almost at breaking point—getting things in order, leaving instructions to about six people, trying to meet a deadline set by my editor, fitting the kitchen sink into one luggage, making phone calls, checking papers, and everything else I wanted to finish before we left.
Tony was visibly disappointed, so was I. But another way of looking at a delayed flight is, you suddenly get extra time you never thought you had.
And that I had.
It all goes back to what I wrote in one of my books:
“There are always two sides to everything. Like a glass half-full or half-empty, we all see midnight through different eyes. Some see it as the end of day, some see it as the beginning.
“The blessing of being a writer is you teeter somewhere in between. God in his infinite wisdom allows you to take a peek at both, chronicling them without having to render judgment on anyone’s choices—and discovering how layered life can be.”
So I teetered somewhere between bonus and minus.
In there was grace.
Two of our church friends, a young couple, were shot at close range.
Hit by one bullet each, the wife died on the spot; the husband had some breath left.
Instantly, kith and kin went on their knees to pray for God to save his life. He never woke up.
They left behind three children—the youngest of whom is only five years old. What breaks our heart to pieces is, in less than 24 hours, the life of these kids made a sharp turn. That morning these innocent ones had both parents. In the evening they had caskets.
For whatever reason, nothing is grave enough to give anybody the right to snuff out lives.
Life does not come cheap. It is a precious grace from the One who created it. Every fiber of our being had been carefully knitted together from nothing into something wonderful by God.
Can we ever explain such dastardly barbaric crime?
Those who brazenly pulled the trigger can fabricate all the excuses for such an act, but they will not get past the great Judge on Judgement Day, which might come sooner than we think.
“Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.” Daniel 12:2
We live in a cruel world where flowers and weeds co-exist. Both get the same grace of rain and sunshine to grow.
But then the weeds crowd out the flowers, till the beauty is gone and the pesky, unwanted weeds reign supreme.
I use the weeds-and-flowers metaphor now because bullets remind me of weeds. Unless we pluck them out, they will continue to hide or kill the beauty of flowers. But who does the plucking? Certainly not earthlings like us who live in a fallen world.
We can only make a choice—to preserve the warmth and beauty of life or join those who pull the trigger of coldblooded guns.
The assurance of those who live for Christ is . . . if ever one bullet at close range killed our body, it could not kill our soul.
We continue to pray for the three children’s comfort and beg God to make them grow up in His light and that the people who surround them become their surrogate parents in every way possible.
I deal with many 18-year-olds every week of my life as a part-time college teacher. These are millennials who grew up in the digital age, where everything is as quick as a flick of a finger—and as short as a phrase uploaded to social media.
They don't linger to analyze an issue. After all, these are available on the Internet. They want to move to the next one, looking for something new, something more exciting than the last. They can only take ten minutes of lecture, and if you want their attention after that, you'd have to sing and dance, or stand on your head.
If you are a parent of a millennial, you know whereof I speak. It is a constant challenge to engage them. They seem to be elsewhere all the time, made possible by their smart phone nailed to their palm. It is even more challenging to pass on to them the values we grew up with.
But ah, when one speaks of time, 18 is an awesome number.
I was invited to the coming-out party of one of my students and it was literally a ball from beginning to end.
With Hollywood as the motif, her classmates and friends were dolled up in designer formal outfits, fit for sashaying on the red carpet.
Watching the guests all through the party, I saw enthusiasm. Why, they were engaged every step of the way!
It was at that party where I realized that at an 18th birthday celebration, the millennials lap up every scene. They hang on to every word. They tap their feet to the music. They take selfies, tons of them.
It was also at that party that I realized why older people yawn all through the rituals and dread being invited to one.
There is this gaping hole between our eras. What they like—unstructured spontaneity, dead air, unprepared speeches—are what we abhor. They swoon over what we groan at. And vice-versa.
It seemed like my coming-out party, too—grace that came to me on red carpet. There I discovered that millennials' newfangled ways can never be mine.
Rudyard Kipling foresaw this in 1889 when he wrote:
East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet.
But reading further, we should see likewise that everything is not for naught; there will come a happy ending, and it will be ever after:
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
What has digital messaging done to spelling?
Massacred it, leaving only carcass that looks so grossly mangled, it is nothing like the original, complete form—not even close.
I got a bizarre text message today that went this way:
My head throbbed with a dull ache for close to an hour, trying to decipher what it meant. I read it aloud countless times, tried a myriad of permutations, but either I have lost my synapses, or my brain has shriveled up due to aging.
I replied, “What did you mean?”
She wrote back, “Is it okay if I ask you a question?” (Her first message was a combined form of Filipino and English slang terms.)
Now why would anyone, in this age of modern communication, want to garble spelling?
Having to deal with homophones (same sound but with a different spelling/meaning) is hard enough—so having to decode fancy-sounding spelling is like reading hieroglyphics.
Take these six words that have exactly the same sound but each with a totally different meaning
Air: Breathable gas
Err: Make a mistake
Aire: A tune (as in, Londonderry Aire)
Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters
Ere: poetic and old form of “before”
These one-syllable words are difficult enough to differentiate from one another, so why do we complicate spelling further?
This is especially heart-breaking for me because I teach Business Communications.
But I guess I will not get an answer before I turn to dust.
I now beg for grace, maybe a smorgasbord of grace, to understand hieroglyphics such as what I received today—and hope not to receive at all.
Three crosses cast a shadow upon Calvary over 2,000 years ago.
The middle cross was Christ's. On each side were two robbers. One thief chose to be with Jesus and went to Paradise; the other spurned Jesus and went to the fires of hell.
What a simple equation that helps us sort out the way we want to end—or never end—our life!
The robber who went to Paradise was a sinner, but died a saved sinner, ending his mortal life cleansed, in peace, and with a new heart because he was eternally forgiven.
The other robber, on the other hand, died with all his sins still in him, ending his mortal life with a heart full of anger and bitterness because he asked not for forgiveness.
In Jesus, there is no middle road on the highway to heaven. It's all or nothing. One either receives the free gift of salvation or rejects it.
We read in Matthew 27:38, “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.”
The two crosses on either side of Jesus’ represent how humanity is divided by Christ. The cross on the right held the saved; the left held the lost.
But all three crosses represent God's grace. In the middle, Christ died for both the sinners. The same grace was offered to both—they had the same opportunity, but Jesus let them make a choice.
This month, as we approach the Holy Week that happily ends with the resurrection on Easter, I pray we make our choice for Christ.
To celebrate the triumph of Jesus' cross, I am changing my header. From this . . .