February, the heart month, ends today.
I had wanted to blog about love on the 14th, but Valentine's Day sneaked out on me while I was onto other pursuits.
These verses always leave me in agony:
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 19:21 (NIV)
The love we have for others, especially for those who have wronged us, is nothing compared to how he demonstrated His love by laying down His life for every single one who wronged Him. Would we do the same even for those whom we claim we love?
Hatred is so palpable with the advent of technology. Many cyber messages are greatly appalling—the tirades, the rants, the outbursts, the sarcasm, the curses, etc. How can hatred be on such a grand scale?
Flowers, chocolates and love notes went around this month as well. But those do not compare with the extreme sacrifice made on the cross.
So do we really know how to love? Do we really love God as we profess?
Loving others is a hard, extremely hard, climb. It takes effort to try . . . and try . . . and try.
And it is in the trying where we need grace . . . and grace . . . and grace.
My book tour in Iloilo was more daunting than I feared.
After three schools for Dump Truck in My Heart on the first day, I came face-to-face with parents and their Gen-Y and Gen-Z kids the next day to discuss my book, Present! The secret to being in the here and now.
It turned out to be a face-off: parents vs. children. Not the kind where one side is bruised and the other, fallen, but the kind where the result is more than a draw.
“I am not your ideal parent who is an authority in parenting,” I began my talk. “I was a flawed mom, too busy with my career. It was grace that took my place and made me feel like I did something right.”
The audience laughed. Now, how was I to straddle between two polar views?
Taking off from Present!, I explained why I wrote it for millennial readers after thorough research on this puzzling generation. While I was summarizing the characteristics of Gen-Y, the millennials in the audience, as well as the few Gen-Z’s, nodded their heads vigorously; their parents knitted their brows.
In the workshop, each group was tasked to have a consensus on what is the best parenting principle. And in the sharing, the line was drawn.
The young ones expressed what they thought about parenting—how it should understand the new generations because they are different from those who never had the word “digital” in their vocabulary. The parents expressed their frustration over said technological “bad” influences, to which they have no control.
We went back to Scripture, where the Lord outlined parenting principles, starting from the basic, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
To the early Israelites the Lord said, “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19
In over two hours, the close to 100 people in the seminar had a meeting of minds, bound tightly by the Word. Daunting it might have been in the process, but the result was surprisingly of a different kind. More than a draw, we collectively came out with this net take-away:
Parenting books abound today. But in the end, the only parenting book that matters is the Word—then, now, and forever.
Coming home from a book tour in Iloilo almost seven years ago, I began my blog with, “Iloilo is now a bustling metropolis, which was a pleasant surprise for me.”
I’d write these same words now and they’d still be true, and doubly so. The bustling Metropolis is even more bustling. The old airport where I arrived and departed has transformed into a modern complex—parks, buildings, restos, and art galleries. The farms that edged new buildings have morphed into hotels, boutiques, and other global enterprises one finds in Manila.
Only one thing has not changed—the people. Warm, wholehearted, welcoming—exactly the way I remember them. In every event where I was invited, I got the same uplifting treatment, doubled even.
Book tours like this are mounted by my publisher, OMF Literature. They’re junctures for me to meet my readers and for them to put a face on the words that I write. This time around, the tour was for "Dump Truck in My Heart" (kids) and Present! (Gen Y and their parents). The schedule is packed to the brim, the better to reach as many readers as possible.
OMF sent me an angel (again!) from Cebu named Lynnie, who has five heads, a dozen hands, and a heart as big as Earth to see to all the details, without missing a beat. She, too, had an angel (again!) named Christine, Iloilo-based, who brought along her adorable, four-month-old cherub, Matthew, to one of our brief breaks. What could be a better team!
My four-day trip took us to children in five schools, and to adults via a seminar, two church messages, and a women’s fellowship. All told, in nine events, I met close to two thousand new friends.
One blog post can’t begin to describe the overwhelming grace that swamped and seeped through all the places where we needed it.
A few of our first-day photos . . .
First stop: Iloilo Integrated School (IIS)
Second stop: Precious Gems Christian Academy (PGCA)
Third stop: Central Philippine University (CPU)
The photo below capped our long but wondrous day with some of the most affectionate children of Iloilo. Book lovers all!
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)
Just when I am agonizing over a recent malady that stopped my walking exercise at dawn, I read this post by my dear friend Manny on my FB wall. Oh, those foolish, wondrous “that’s nice” days!
“No one but no one could hold a candle to the shopping duo of Grace and Amor*! Those two would tag-team amid a flutter of classy English, the un-pretentious kolehiya kind and I witnessed this somewhat weird ballet, this mad dash from the clothes racks to the fitting rooms & back again, first hand during a lull at a TVC shoot. The production house told us to leave for a while as the next set up would take at least three hours.
“’I could think of a million things to do in three hours," said Amor. "Me too! Manny come with us,’ Grace piped in.
“We arrived at Rustan's and I could see their eyes twinkling as they imagined the possibilities. Inside Amor would be her critique about which scarf goes with which blouse, while Grace, with her patented "that's nice," would quickly agree at Amor's choice.
“It really depended on how Grace said this two-syllable phrase. If she said "that's nice" with her eyes opening wider than usual, coupled with a bigger than usual smile, then buy the darn thing.
“As usual I would be sitting on a couch. Unlike today, shops then cared about tired, unwilling husbands chained by the wrists, taken as prisoners and made to wait as Lady Godiva attacks the marketplace with nothing on but her wit and uncanny ability to mix n' match clothing!
"Which of course I wasn't like those husbands. I enjoyed watching them—in fact, their thought and selection process—that before you knew it we had been there for over five hours and they were far from finished with their shopping!
“Good thing in those days, before cellphones and iPads. I brought a paperback novel, the 300+ pages kind.”
Ahhh, the many seasons of grace!
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven . . . God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 11 (NLT)
In all of 17 years, since I walked away from the paid workforce, I turned to free walking in and around our neighborhood at dawn. It was an exercise prescribed by my cardiologist to solve some health issues.
I called it my walk of grace, spending the hour counting my blessings and thanking the Giver for them.
I took this daily hour seriously—every day in the first 10 years, then every other day in the last seven. I was still enjoying these morning walks till August last year, when I was disabled by a throat infection that kept me in bed for a week. I waited another two weeks to get my energy back before walking again.
But then, while walking, something strange happened.
The toes of my right foot curled involuntarily, causing me pain and making me stop. (Try digging your toes into your shoes and walk—you’ll know what I mean.)
I blamed it on the dull pain across my right hip, lessened by physical therapy (PT) sessions two years ago, but which came back while I recuperated from the debilitating throat infection.
Not one to give up easily, I tried walking again the next day—this time in the mall where I don’t notice my strides while gaping at merchandise. But ouch, I couldn’t ignore the pain caused by my curling toes.
That did it. I stopped all kinds of walking and consulted the rehab doctor.
She made me go through eight excruciating PT sessions, which lessened the pain. Yet the curling toes (they look normal when not in use) have been stubborn.
Her verdict: “Your toes are compensating for some weakness in your hip somewhere. Have six more PT sessions then if you still feel pain, go through an MRI so we could pinpoint the cause.”
My six additional PT sessions are almost over, and the pain in my hip is totally gone. But my curling toes, extremely stubborn, want me to wave walking goodbye.
Fast facts about chocolates from several sites on the Net:
Approximately one billion people in the world eat chocolate every day.
Nine out of ten people love chocolate.
Fifty percent of people in the globe cannot live without chocolate.
Those facts make me odd. I am not a fan of chocolate.
Although I eat chocolate, I don’t go out of my way to buy it, because I can live without this global favorite. What I love though—with a passion—is white chocolate, which is not chocolate.
So why is it called chocolate?
It doesn’t look like chocolate or smell like chocolate, and it doesn’t even taste like chocolate. It contains no chocolate solids. It is usually made from a blend of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar, milk fat and lecithin—a fatty emulsifier that holds it all together.
Nonetheless, I love this chocolate impostor.
I got a windfall, and what a windfall, of white chocolates last Christmas. My brother who resides in Australia came home for a vacation and in his bags were oodles of Australian chocolates. He gave my sons, who adore the stuff, enough to last them months. So I asked if he happened to have white chocolates.
He did. And I got them all (or most of them anyway).
What’s so good about white chocolate? Let me ask back that question, “What’s so good about chocolate?”
My mind tells me this is a perfect illustration of that well-known adage (first recorded in 1576) that has become an English idiom, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”
And it is exactly what’s happening in our country today. Many Filipinos think that President Duterte is the best-ever head of the land; others think he is the worst ever. One side can never convince the other, so the status quo remains: a nation gravely divided.
Now what of this? “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” Luke 11:17-18 (NIV)
Despite our taste differences—chocolate vs. white chocolate—may we never tire in praying for God’s grace to enlighten our minds about what is right according to His precepts.
In many official forms today, people are given gender choices: Mister, Miss, Mrs., Ms. plus that ambiguous word “Other,” about which I have always wondered. I know it to be a gender-neutral honorific but who actually ticks it off?
I need never wonder again.
According to Merriam-Webster, "Other" refers to those who do not identify themselves as belonging to a particular gender—or those who don’t want to be identified by gender.
Can you guess what this world-famous dictionary did to acknowledge "Other?" While we weren’t looking, it added an honorific just for him/her/whomever.
While the word isn’t used as an official title globally yet, it is already recognized and adopted in the UK and soon other parts of the world may follow suit. Men and women can then freely use it.
And men and women will completely be mixed up. No more shall there be bad and good, rude and polite, correct and incorrect, man and woman, black and white—just all shades in between.
2018 will be cluttered and mixed-up with new words and new identities, reminiscent of our famous Filipino dessert called “halo-halo” (transliterated as mix-mix).
In one tall glass are many kinds of fruits and some vegetables in various colors and shapes with bits and pieces of native cakes thrown it, plus milk and sugar mixed in crushed ice and ice-cream.
More and more people will demand for ways to acknowledge themselves, their individuality, their me-ness.
This is not at all surprising; it is not going to get better. Apostle Paul warned Timothy, “. . . that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.” 1Timothy 3:1-2 (NLT)
By grace, we can keep the faith.
People often say to me, "You don’t look your age." I don't quite know how to react—smile or smirk. I am sure they mean well and want to make me feel good, but somehow, there's a disconnect somewhere.
I feel my age. Every single year of it. I feel it in my bones, in my muscles, in my eyes, in my ears, in my gums, on my scalp and on my skin—in every place of me.
Does that mean my body parts have aged before my looks?
Sheila Nevins (aged 78), an American television producer and the President of HBO Documentary Films, calls this "compliment" to women of a certain age as fairy tale. In fact, she wrote a satirical and hilarious book about women in this late life stage. She titled it: "You Don't Look Your Age and Other Fairy Tales."
When (or if) I get to be her age and still writing or training young writers in workshops and seminars, I will probably be hearing more "You don't look your age."
Our late househelp Manang Vi, whose oral bluntness was unrivaled, had doused my delight, "When people say that to you, they're wrong."
I replied, "You mean, they're lying?"
She said, "No. They just don't know what they're saying."
God bless her soul.
There's a statement that I wish people would say instead, "You're aging with grace." But there’s a stigma attached to the word "aging." You don't dare speak it to other people's lined face, unless you are a physician specializing in geriatrics.
The word grace does not come naturally in conversations, either—unless you are in Sunday school or a prayer meeting.
But since “You don’t look your age” seems to be the “in” thing to say to people whose looks have obviously transformed from a fresh plum to a dried prune through the years, I should be grateful.
Whatever changes my body (or mind) has gone and will go through, the only One that matters remains unchanged.
"I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you." I Isaiah 46:4 (NLT)