Sense of Urgency

One of the non-traits of millennials that I have observed in my encounters with them is: sense of urgency. They take their own sweet time with class assignments. If they don’t make the deadline, so what?

In contrast, motorcycle drivers are so in a hurry, they break all traffic rules. They drive as though there’s a race to their destination.

Both behaviors are puzzling, making one wonder if there is a middle ground.

Perhaps these are two graphic examples of the contrasting speed with which human beings make life decisions: too slow or too rash. Both are based on the clock and the calendar—inventions of man. On earth, we are time bound.

And yet, both are relative.

Sometimes there are difficult circumstances when we wish things would move along more quickly so they’ll be over as soon as possible. Other times, there are impending dangers that we wish we could hold back for as long as we could.  And yet other times, we stand in a long wait—but the reward for our hard work does not come.

Our timing is flawed, which is why when making decisions that have lifelong consequences, we need grace.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5 (NLT)

“I rushed into marriage at 15 because I was pregnant,” said one of my friends. “Look where it got me.”

She has since separated from her husband and her three children are under the care of her parents because she is not earning enough to support them.

“It was a dream job. But I didn’t want to make a mistake so I did some sort of SWOT analysis before I took it,” another friend told me. She laughs at this incident now but it broke her heart then. “When I finally got all the pros and cons down pat and decided to take it, the employer said they had already hired someone else.”

I personally believe that we all need some sense of urgency in everything we do to get things done and make things right. Especially at this time of chaos.

Matthew 3:2 says it succinctly, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

It’s nearer than we think.


The Magic of V Day

Most of the boys in my class of 20 on V Day (Valentine’s not Veterans) were missing. One hour later, they came trooping in like a gaggle of geese—honking “Happy V Day!” and giving out roses to the girls.

I got one, too, over which I exclaimed, “This doesn’t excuse you all from being late!”

They guffawed, as though it was the funniest joke they’ve ever heard. That’s how festive V Day was in my Business Environment class. Everyone had this silly grin on his/her face, half listening to the lessons.

Just before the class ended, one of the girls came and whispered to me, “Ms., is it okay if we performed a Valentine’s number?”

Enough of this foolishness, I almost spat out. But I thought twice; I was young once, and although I can no longer remember, I was probably just as foolish.

About a dozen went in front, unabashedly sang in harmony a song unfamiliar to me but had the lyrics, “You are beautiful.” They also danced with gay abandon, peak performance level. Then at the end of the number, one of the guys presented—with flourish—a rose to . . . the shyest, most quiet
girl in class.      

I did not realize she was the only one who did not receive a rose earlier!

The expression on her face was priceless. She stood up and gave everyone a hug.

It was magic. And stunning grace for me. I teared up and castigated myself, They’re not as foolish as you thought.

Outside the classroom, the performers were still lolling about. I whispered, That was a very nice gesture.

Someone exclaimed, “It was my idea!”

“No, it was mine!” another one retorted.

“Mine!” “Mine!”

The magic went poof. But the grace remained. Oh, to be young again . . . 

Addendum: In the faculty room, I gave my rose to one of my peers—single, and had recently broken up with her boyfriend. She messaged me later, “Hi, Ms. Chong! Thank you so much for the rose. I can feel God's love through you. Love is stronger than anything, for as long as it's true.” 


Promises and Covenants

Three to six months.

That was the timeframe then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised the Filipino people  to rid the country of corruption, drugs, and criminality. He premised this promise with, “if elected president.”

He was quoted in newspapers as adding spice to that already spectacular promise, “If I fail in three months, better leave the country or I will step down and give the presidency to Bongbong [Marcos].”

I took those to be his covenant with the electorate.

It has been eight months since he became president, and we are still reeling from the scourge of these three social problems. Corruption in all levels of government is as active as before, drugs and criminality are as rampant as they have always been.

And there is no resignation.

“Promises are made to be broken,” is a saying that originated in the 1500s that still resonates today because nine out of 10 (more or less) it’s true.

That’s probably why when God makes a covenant with human beings, it is unilateral. He always fulfills his side of the bargain, and as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, we don’t fulfill ours.

God’s promises populate the Bible. Let me quote two from NLT:

“Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.”  Deuteronomy 7:9

“No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said.” Psalm 89:34

We stand on God's promises. Every one of them is grace carved in stone. They cannot be broken. 



I was completely floored.

One of the kindest, nicest, wisest, most helpful, most generous, most caring, and most cheerful men I have ever met (let’s call him Marcus)—who, according to his wife, is a romantic, thoughtful husband; has only good things to say about anyone; stays behind the scenes to let other people shine; and is loved by all—does not believe in God.

My eyes popped the day these words came out of his mouth, “I don’t believe in God.”

Irony indeed. His resume reads like a dream record of successes: educated in some of the best schools abroad, held high positions in prestigious companies, and had toured the world. He also went to a theological school at some point in his life, desiring to be a catholic priest.

A voracious reader, Marcus could engage anyone in conversations about any book, ideology, and current issue.

After his shocking pronouncement, I asked him journalism’s five “w’s” and one “h” in rapid succession.

He laughed. Then he expounded some arguments so intellectual he lost me. I decided that no matter how I tried to understand his reasons, I couldn’t.

I live on faith. He lives on logic. One is oil and the other is water.

Still, the fact that he has all the qualities I desire to have to model my faith, puzzles me. How could goodness and non-belief go together? How could he not see the blessings in his life, the grace in who he is?

Perhaps this is one of life ironies that believers are made to face to deepen their faith. What seems safe isn't, and vice-versa. From that day of our conversation, I added Marcus’ name to my list of prayer concerns.


I Am a Pusher

Lest I get locked up by the President’s men implementing his ruthless, relentless anti-drug campaign, let me explain.

In my various circles, I take my roles seriously—sometimes (okay, often) too seriously I expect everyone to have the same passion.

What Confucius said thousands of years ago still rings true today: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential . . . these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

As a college lecturer, I push my students to their limits. Five out of 20 catch on, march to my beat, and appreciate the pushing. But millennials, as we all know, are distracted by technology, and therefore the rest do not think excelling is a big thing; passing is good enough.

As a writer, I likewise push—myself first of all. After a first draft, I rewrite and revise, reading my manuscript from the point of view of both an editor and a reader. So I consult my readers, informally through FB’s Messenger or through an FGD. It takes forever to get a reply, and to get people together. Then I badger my editor, sending her questions and following up.

As a Sunday School (SS) teacher, I study my lessons two weeks in advance. But there are Sundays when I have only two “students” or none at all. I push, “I missed you in SS last Sunday.” “Will I see you at SS next time?” “Hey, our SS lesson next week is interesting; be there.”

As adviser to our university newspaper, I exact commitment from the editorial staff. One time, as I lectured on the value of hard-work, one of them was reduced to tears.

Pushing can hurt those who see it as nagging. On the other hand, it is fulfilling for me—a gift of grace—especially when things get done well. Yet sometimes I muse: should I just chill, let things flow, and not worry about results?

I go back to Scripture to keep me on track—and to view pushing from the right perspective. 
“. . . whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)



Start Them Young

Next to childbirth, probably the hardest thing to do is to organize a family reunion. It’s like birthing a million ideas to keep 160 people of all life stages occupied and delighted.

But it can be done.

In our last family reunion, I was chairman. My first act was to appoint my youngest brother in my place, and catapulted myself to chairman emeritus. Another grace thrown down my lap was the 26 brilliant minds in my branch of the family: in-laws, nieces, nephews, brothers, and only sister. I didn’t have to lift a finger.

(Ooops, I nagged a little.)

I am in awe of the young ones who conceived activities and labored to make them happen.One was: Corners.

There was a corner for oldies: those who couldn’t join active events anymore. Old albums, scrapbooks, newsletters, souvenirs, and looped videos kept the 50s and above quietly occupied.

There was a corner for clowning—the photo booth.

There was a corner for street food, where people lined up to have their fill of squid balls, fish balls, etc.

There was an outdoor corner for varied sports; and an indoor corner for varied games.

There was a corner for prizes, with drop boxes specifying the kind of prize one wanted to win.

And—this one’s my favorite—there was a corner for kiddies. Toys galore, table activities, games, play doughs, art contests, and books (Hiyas-published storybooks). I loved this corner because I saw kids either reading alone, reading to each other, or being read to by an adult.

All of 16 years now, I have been an advocate for reading. In my encounters with my college students, I am disheartened by the fact that, because of technology and the internet, not many read anymore.

My hope for this tragic trend to be reversed are the little ones. If adults could interest them in books even before they could read, then I know they will grow up to be readers.

To support this hope, we decided to give all the kids ages six and below free books during the reunion’s closing ceremonies. As the kids’ names were called, their parents carried or led them to the stage to get their books.
It was an encouraging sight: little ones, their face aglow, excited to get a copy of a book!

Who said authors are not paid enough? This photo fills my cup to overflowing. 


Downsizing Love

This we know, yet we do it: use the word “love” so lightly it has become banal. Anyone can say it to anyone, without meaning it.  

Downsizing the big word “love” might have begun in the 15th century when the ideograph heart (the graphic heart we use today to symbolize heart and therefore, love) was created.

This ideograph is now even found in Facebook as one of the emoticons you tick off if you like a post.

Even worse, the word “love” has a new Filipino translation: lab, which is also the shortened form for Labrador or laboratory. I’ve received messages from girl friends who end their sentence with “lab u!

I plead guilty to saying, “I loved that book” or “I loved the food” or I loved her dress.”

Our careless speech today, especially because one-liners and sound bites on social media are the norm, makes it hard to discern what we mean when we say we “love” this or that. We have trivialized the word. 

When I turned the page of my calendar to February four days ago, my eyes were riveted to the ideograph printed on day 14: Valentine’s Day. This made me ponder the word “love,” and shocked myself to realizing what it has been reduced to. 

At church, we say or sing, “I love you Lord.” What do we actually mean? Is this in the same vein as “lab u?”

The Bible is not careless with the word “love.”

John 3:16 (KJV), the foundation of my faith, says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

In John 15:12, Jesus also said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

In Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

There are many, many more.

As we celebrate the love month (there goes the word again!), may God’s grace teach us to live and demonstrate the real meaning of "love" in our relationships—with people and especially with the Lord.  

“Love” is a big word. I pray we keep it that way, and not follow the trend of downsizing it further.