Project Author

I sometimes meet people who so love writing, they think of nothing else. I know the feeling. Seventeen years ago, after leaving the workplace for good, I only had one thought: Write. There I was, jobless for the first time in years, and the only thing I ever wanted to do was write.

Now a published author for as long as my exit from the corporate world, I want to help writers, where I can, in being published. That's why I accept invitations to speak before writing enthusiasts in the hope of encouraging them to hasten their steps toward having a book ready for their intended readers.

The latest gathering of writers to where I got invited was Project Author—an ongoing advocacy of my friend, Ardy Roberto (a best-selling author, an award-winning entrepreneur, and sought-after motivational speaker). A few years back, he invited me to speak in one such gathering. The attendees then were business executives, some of whom already had manuscripts, but did not know how they could be published.

This time around, Project Author was billed: Ministry Edition (Writing to evangelize, equip, and inspire). “An exclusive, by invitation only, class for Christian leaders, influencers, workers, ministers, pastors who have a burden to write a book to spread the good news, equip the church, or inspire people to become closer to God,” wrote Ardy in his website. 

I had previous plans, but I felt this was top priority. So I made quick arrangements to be with faith brethren and once again, re-tell my author story.

“Being published was not on my horizon,” I began, “not while I was busy in the workplace. But I believe that the series of events [more like serendipity] that led me to where I am today was no accident.”

It was a spirited group of 35 people who never ran out of questions, even while we were running out of time.  

But the main message I wanted to leave them was, “Write. NOW. As in, right now! We can’t dilly-dally any longer. Tomorrow is no longer an option. By grace, you can.”

P.S. A few days later, Ardy blogged about my talk.     

The way he ended it warmed my heart: “By the way, remembering what Grace said to ‘just write,’ I wrote most of this blog post on my phone, using the WordPress app, while on the nice air conditioned point to point bus from Alabang to Greenbelt . . . Decided to write instead of watching the Warriors NBA game on my phone. That was the hardest part. The trip took half an hour. Just write, right?)   


The Piano

Years ago, when my family and I moved into the small house we bought with our savings (where we still are, till the Lord calls us to our real home), we combed the village for a church. We found one—a warehouse lean-to. The sign said “Gospel Church” so we decided it was going to be our spiritual home.

On our first Sunday in this small church, with no more than a dozen people (including children), my eyes were riveted to the old piano in the corner, which nobody played. We sang all the hymns a cappella.

The pastor later asked if I could play the piano; that was my first ministry in the church. 

I'd practice at home the hymns to be sung the next worship service and would play that piano Sunday after Sunday for years and years.

But change came into churches and ours was not spared.

As our building structure and membership grew, the singing switched to gospel songs. Then with the energetic youth came their guitars, drums, cymbals, beat box, and yes, an electronic keyboard—minus the piano, which has grown even older like I have.

Now, hymns would occasionally be sung, but accompanied by the musical instruments that make people clap their hands and sway their arms.

One day last month, the old piano was wrapped in a cloth, a sure sign that it will no longer be played,  ever.

Call me maudlin, but I sort of felt nostalgic. Not because I no longer played it, but because of what it symbolizes—the changes that have happened in Sunday worship. My three sons and their contemporaries may no longer remember all the hymns we used to sing, but I do.

Being a student of the Word and believer of Grace, I know that worship is not about format or musical instruments, or outside trimmings. It’s about what’s in our heart, about worshiping Him in spirit and in truth.

Yet that piano, a reminder of what once was, in its current state, somehow tugs at the heart.

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:1-3 (KJV)


Silent Treatment

One of the most frustrating responses to those on the receiving end is the silent treatment. It can make them feel powerless, invisible, insignificant, guilty, and worst, angry. It can provoke even the most patient person. 

Psychologists say that it is a method of control, punishment, manipulation (in short, a form of emotional abuse) used by individuals as a weapon to get what they want and to inflict pain upon the object of their silence.
Silent treatment, then, is not only deafening, it is lethal.   

If you've ever been the object of silent treatment, you know how devastating that feels, especially when you care a lot about that person ignoring you. Now, silent treatment can be retaliatory. I know of a lady who was so hurt by what her older brother did, she stopped talking to him.

The older brother tried hard to talk to her, ask for forgiveness, and make amends, but the offended one wouldn’t budge. Suddenly, the older brother died. At his funeral, his sister was inconsolable. If only she could turn back the time.

Do we sometimes feel like the spurned older brother when we talk to God and He does not answer? 

Habakuk felt that way (1:2 NLT), “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save.”

The Psalmist moans (22:2), “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.”

Job laments (30:20), “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.”

In reality, God wasn’t absent nor indifferent to Habakuk, David, or Job. He never left them, us, alone. It just felt that way—a warped perception when we are in the valley of tears.

He speaks to us at all hours in Scripture: through the beauty of His creation around, beneath and above us; with every breath we take, and each morning when we wake up to new grace.


Credit Grabber

It is a fact of life: credit grabbers are everywhere.
Indira Gandhi, the only female Prime Minister of India once said, “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” 

Truth is, we all belong to both groups. Some work harder than others, but we are all wont to take the credit for our accomplishments. 

“I was able to buy this due to hard work.”

“I got an award for my excellent performance.”

“I have written several books in only ten years.” 

“I have been persevering; I will reward myself with a shopping binge.” 

“Because of my idea, we got the account.”

We go on and on.

Our pastor’s message last Sunday reminded us that we cannot take credit for anything. All our noteworthy traits that make things happen and make us successful come from a Source. “We can do absolutely nothing without grace. Everything is God’s, from God, and by God.”

Many famous people in history have been credited with discovering this and that, pioneering this and that, leading this and that, revolutionizing this and that, winning this and that, and championing this and that.

“Where did their courage, wisdom, guts, strength, and all other attributes come from?” he asked.

Our Bible heroes’ stories ended up the way they did because of God’s intervention. Every single story has been woven together in intricate patterns to show us an awesome tapestry with the splendor of GOD.

He Who tells the rain to fall, the sun to shine, the winds to blow, and the nose to breathe must get the credit.

“When we take credit for something, we glorify ourselves. The only One Who should be glorified is El Shaddai, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah Rapha, Elohim, El Olam, etc.—our God of power and might."  
May we resolve to thank Him for all that we have and what we could do.

"I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior." Isaiah 43:11 (NLT)


NO to Death Penalty

Voting 216 to 54 (with one abstention), Philippine Congress overwhelmingly approved last week the re-imposition of capital punishment (death by hanging, firing squad, and lethal injection) for serious drug-related cases. 

This watered-down version originally included heinous crimes like rape, kidnap-for-ransom, and plunder. Now it is singularly focused on drugs.

The Death Penalty was abolished 10 years ago, but it has been a top priority for President Duterte, who was elected on promises to end drug abuse in three to six months after assuming power.

Eight months after the president took his oath of office, 8,000 people have been killed, mostly drug users shot by mysterious gunmen.

The draft will now go to the Senate and, if passed, will become a law.

I say NO to death penalty.
For four reasons:

1. There is no proof anywhere in the world that death penalty deters crimes.

2. Our graft-ridden justice system is still working its way to perfection. What if the wrong person is sentenced to die? What if the right person bribes his way to freedom?

3. Drug abuse is not any worse than rape, kidnap-for-ransom, and plunder.

4. My faith in God, Jesus. He came to earth, suffer and die, to give us life, not destroy it. This is fully illustrated in John 10 about the Shepherd and His sheep. Verse 10 (NLT) summarizes it, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Although Jesus was not talking about earthly life, His purpose has been to save lives for eternity—His gift of grace for all men, including drug offenders (if their lives are not snuffed out prematurely). Only He has the right to take back what He has given.   

We have a government, which all Christians are duty-bound to follow. But to vote “yes” to include  killing fellow beings in the laws of our land (while we still have voices and the chance to oppose it)?!  Mine is but one small voice, but a voice nonetheless.

Yes, my unequivocal stand is NO.


You’ve Got a Friend

People have defined friend in countless ways—all of them good.

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” Arnold H. Glasow

“Friendship . . . is born at the moment when one man says to another 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'” C.S. Lewis

“A true friend encourages us, comforts us, supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” Elbert Hubbard

Likewise, countless songs have been written about friends—all of them encouraging, enabling. One of my favorites is James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

When you're down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

A friend is a treasure on earth.

Now, imagine being a friend of God in heaven!   

We read in the book of James (2:23 NLT), “And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.”

This special relationship between man and God would be echoed in John 15:14-15 by Jesus, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

Friend with God then, according to CH Spurgeon is “within reach; Jesus Himself invites us to live and act, and be His friends.” Like us, He had lived on this cruel earth, He knows how it is to go down. He knows all about us.

He therefore gives us not a scanty measure of grace, but all of Himself, which encompasses all the definitions of and songs about a friend—so that we may live more abundantly.

James Taylor’s song parallels this old hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven in 1855:

Have we trials and temptations? 
Is there there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Indeed, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”


Created and Crated Memories

How can one create memories?

Science says it is an extremely complex process that happens in our brain.  Our 100 billion specialized cells called neurons send signals to each other. And each neuron can have up to 10,000 connections with other neurons. These points of connection are called synapses . . . Oh, you wouldn’t want to know all that, do you?

I like to think that memories are grace that comes to make us remember the peak moments of our lives—those times when we smiled and felt good about the world and ourselves. And when they come, we smile and feel good all over again.

One of the memories that came to me one day was when I got a message from someone (her name is Richelle) I have never met. She said she wanted me to sign 100 copies of “No Lipstick for Mother.”

Mere mention of this book always makes me smile and feel good for many reasons: the idea was inspired by a dear friend who drives a tricycle; the manuscript was adjudged first prize in the Palanca Awards; the book was cited in a university textbook as a good example of women empowerment. I also cite the book when I am invited to talk on gender equality. 

Now, can these memories be crated? Yes, they can.  

Simply ask Richelle. She owns Crated Memories, “a subscription-based monthly themed product that is aimed to build memorable moments between parents and kids through creative activities.” Inside a box to be crated to subscribers are: the book of the month, around which various arts and crafts activities, interactive games, quizzes and exercises for vocabulary building revolve. All these are all planned by a childhood educator.   

“In most activities, we provide words/phrases related to the story for the kids’ language growth,” explained Richelle.

I found the concept refreshing, considering how gadgets have taken over baby-sitting in this digital age. Crated Memories goes against the grain—it a big, brave effort in encouraging parents to bond and interact with their kids in a warm, fun, and close encounter, minus electronics. 
Through Crated Memories, may parents find the grace of good ol’ bonding once more, then smile and feel good about the wonderful world of families created by our Abba Father.