10/30/2018

Aborted Plans


Nothing went as planned, but it turned out perfect just the same. 

I am referring to our vacation in the US this year. It was going to be one month for me, and one additional month for hubby. We were to fly to places unknown with cousins. Tony was scheduled to visit old buddies in other states.

But illness and a mishap got in the way. Tony got sick, then fractured his wrist. We decided to cut short his vacation and come home with me.

I say it was perfect because instead of traipsing all over America, we stayed home and spent all of our time with family—especially with Adrian, whose classes had ended for the year.

When it comes to traveling, Tony is the roamer and I am the roomer.  He loves going places while I am content staying put. With this trip, we discovered we could be both.

Tony needed the month to mend while I joyfully spent most of my time writing (over 40 blog posts scheduled till the end of November!) and dove into experiences I had not yet gone through: pop culture and sports. We watched the latest sci-fi movies and the NBA finals. In between, almost daily, we tried different restaurants in neighboring cities.  

And there were those two awesome days when Adrian’s parents went on an overnight date, leaving with us this delightful dynamo who was Tony’s solicitous caregiver. Grace overload.

The three of us went out to lunch twice—with Tony driving with one hand. This was Adrian’s version of a selfie in a Japanese Restaurant called Shomi, one of his favorite haunts.

The other was Ahipoki, offering raw Hawaiian dishes.

Alexander Graham Bell’s words rang true, “When one door closes, another opens.”


10/29/2018

10th Faceversary


Ten years ago, I did something daring: I joined Facebook.

Before making that decision, I thought about it for a long time. People of my generation grew up on snail mail and telegrams to communicate with each other. Now, what good it would do me if I ditched those and went digital, joining thousands of young people who had been there for some time?

I never got around to answering that question. On October 23, I opened my FB account. And my every day has never been the same again.

Two years earlier, I started blogging. So now, with FB, I became a legitimate and certified netizen. As unexpected bonus, I started receiving God’s daily dose of grace also from my computer screen.

I had forgotten about that habit-changing decision till I received a short video from FB reminding me of that fateful day. It’s a video made with cookie cutter (for millions of other users) but hey, it’s worth documenting it.

I took screen shots and here is the video frozen in time. Let me greet myself, then, with this new word FB invented, "faceversary." Happy 10th, Grace!     







   

10/27/2018

Cobweb Cleaner


(This tribute to our church's senior pastor is a reprint from the OMF Lit website in celebration of Pastor’s Appreciation Month.)   

No pastor has yet been cloned. They may all have the same job description in Scripture, but they are individuals with unique gifts of their own.

In like manner, church members—each with different perspectives—view their pastor differently. 

Our senior pastor, Virgilio “Ariel” Cole, who has been with us for a dozen vibrant years, is no exception. Together with his wife, Doreen, and four growing sons, he was sent by God to give us at Pilar Village Gospel Church (CAMACOP, Las Pinas) a dynamic, organic face lift, progressively morphing to spread the Gospel faster. 

Some of our members see him as a builder, a non-architect who has actually erected sanctuaries in all the churches to which he has been assigned, ours included. They credit the unprecedented improvements on our place of worship to him. 

Others see him as an innovator, introducing creative ways to enliven worship. He replaced our Wednesday  prayer meeting with a cottage ministry setup, where neighbors meet separately in their homes for prayers and Bible study any one day of the week. The attendance in these new groupings, named after the 12 tribes of Israel, exponentially increased the number of our defunct prayer gathering.

While I agree with these sincere odes to our pastor, I am most grateful for how he cleans the cobwebs in the nooks and crannies of my mind.

As an author, I am a perpetual student of The Word, but along the way, the tangles of thread—some already gathering dust and some just newly spun—in my thoughts blur my vision.

Pastor Ariel, a passionate speaker and tireless researcher, somehow untangles and sweeps them away Sunday after Sunday, as though determined to totally wipe them clean one day. Often, I feel like he has a direct access to my brain as he seems to openly admonish me. 
Hardly do I find time to tell him how much I appreciate his unique way of making God’s word accessible, ushering in epiphanies and “aha” moments.      

Let me then take this rare opportunity to thank the Lord for our pastor, for gifting me—and my faith brothers and sisters at church—a God-anointed cobweb cleaner. Thus, with Pastor Ariel helping us to deepen our understanding of The Word, we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18 NLT).

Photo credit: Curl Vincent Montero 

10/24/2018

New Dish of Old Hawaii


It was Adrian, our grandson, who introduced to Tony and me (Angkong and Amah) his favorite dish, poke salad. We have it in our country, too, but it is served by only one restaurant miles away from where we live, so we never got around to trying it.

Poke (meaning to cut crosswise into pieces) is a classic Hawaiian dish that dates—according to historians—as far back as the coming of the first Hawaiians in the island chain. In fact, many islanders claim that it existed before Captain Cook arrived. It is a raw-fish salad served as an appetizer or main course.

The dish is easy to love, since we have our own Filipino kinilaw or kilawen (recipes using either raw fish, meat, fruits, or vegetables marinated in vinegar and spices). Also available here are raw dishes of various origins—sushi and sashimi (Japan); ceviche (Peru/Spain); hwe (Korea); carpaccio (Italy); esqueixada (Catalan), koi pla (Thailand), etc.

Tony and I shared our first-ever poke salad (servings in the US are huge for small eaters like us).

Here’s what we mutually chose to go into our bowl: steamed white rice and everything raw: carrots, cucumber, minced shallots, yellow-fin tuna, squid, avocado, ginger paste, crab meat, roe, seaweeds, chopped green onions, sliced radish, and cilantro. For garnishing, we opted for: sesame seeds, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and crushed dried seaweeds.
Adrian had his wrapped in a cylindrical tortilla flour, like a burrito.        
It is a strange meal if you’re having it for the first time. But, at Adrian’s prodding, we went back days later for more.

The taste grows on you and after sometime, poke salad—in a bowl or wrapped in tortilla flour—turned our old tongues into new gourmets of Hawaiian food. Big burps capped our shared meals.

New dishes, which are otherwise overlooked in home court, are parts of the grace that follows one around when traveling. Each time we visit Adrian, he acquaints us with new things, one of which is the “new” poke salad of old Hawaii.

10/20/2018

Hospitals


I am of two minds about this place where people either die or get healed.

It was in a hospital where many of my loved ones breathed their last: my son, Adrian; mother, grandmother; in-laws (Tony’s dad, mom, sister, and brother); and friends.

Yet, it was in a hospital where Tony underwent a rushed colon cancer (stage 3) surgery 25 years ago. It was in a hospital where he had a quadruple heart bypass nine years later. It was in a hospital where I gave birth to my three precious sons—the pride of my advancing years.   

It is in hospitals where son #2 spends most of his time, doing what other physicians had done and are doing for his dad.   

And today, here I am blogging about this place in an antiseptic room with gold curtains, watching Tony as he reads the newspaper, dozing off now and then—a luxury that eluded him in the last two weeks because of breathing difficulty, caused by his weak heart given a new lease on life in another hospital room all those years ago.   
Just last month we were in a similar room on the same floor with men and women clad in white, walking briskly inside and outside our door and the adjacent doors that share one long hallway. While I do not welcome the in-and-out movements of these humans who have dedicated their lives to care for ailing patients, I am grateful for what they do.

They are a collage of grace put together by the Creator to stand watch over those feeling faint and weary—some soon going home to continue enjoying their God-given lives and some going to funeral parlors, a stopover on their way to the life they chose at the end of this mortal coil.

Inside the elevator, which I frequent to go to the canteen or the cashier, I meet people, some sporting a smile of relief and some, a grimace of dread, accompanied with quiet sobs. One of them thought aloud, looking at me, “I have not slept for three days watching over my nephew. He had a stroke at age 3.”

Oh, I am so sorry, is all you could whisper.

In hospitals, these are what encounters are made of. You have to take it all, while hanging on to the promise you keep repeating to yourself, and praying that your fellow pilgrims will discover it, so that they, too, may have peace:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)

10/16/2018

A Teacher Proud and Loud


Students graduate and commence.

After completing a program, they begin learning new things and growing in their experience. And here I am, one of their teachers, left looking proud and loud. 

Proud because those who struggled through their college years, in danger of not making it, finally march with their cap and gown. I like to think I had been an impetus to their turning points—that life changing moment when they realized college degrees  are important, too. Proud also because those who settled for nothing but excellence, march with honors, one of them delivering the valedictory address.

And loud? How can one not applaud lustily and scream "Bravo!" when each name is called? Maybe graduations are more of a teacher’s defining moment than the student’s. 

In this transnational university, where students come from many parts of the world, I sometimes get the students in their freshman year, and also in their in-between years, and finally their senior year—depending on my availability. That's why when they finally leave the campus, I turn sappy.

Every graduation is a grand milestone, but this year, it is even a grander one. My student from Papua, New Guinea flew in a planeload of kin to watch him being conferred his degree. 

We are celebrating 20 years as an institution, 18 of which I have been a part of. This latest one would have been the 18th ceremony I'd have attended were it not for that one year when I had a book talk out of town.

(Photo shows our guest speaker and the university deans ready to hand the diplomas)
Someone said that at the heart of our humanness is a calling to grow—we  are learners and growers. With each graduation, I know I have learned and grown many times over. Each is a milestone for a proud and loud teacher.

"Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning." Proverbs 9:9

10/14/2018

Afraid of Numbers?


Many people are afraid of numbers, especially superstitious ones who believe numbers bring luck or bad luck. Some buildings have no 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.

On the other hand, some schedule special occasions on a day with the number 8, known to bring in fortune.

The biggest proofs of how many people put a premium on numbers are the long queues in lotto centers, which offer the biggest pot to date: one billion pesos.

Many Bible scholars have written about numerology, the belief in placing meaning on numbers in the Bible to better understand what God may be telling us.

The number one, for instance, is absolute singleness. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “The Lord our God is One.”

As a Christian, I believe in this One God as the triune God. So here comes the number three. There are three Persons in the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each member is equally God and no less God than the others in the Trinity.

There are many more—the number seven, often mentioned in the book of Revelation: seven bowls of wrath, seven seals, seven churches, seven trumpets, and seven spirits.

One commentary I read says that the number six represents mankind since humans were created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:31), and was commanded to work for six days.

But, again, the number six is also seen as a number of imperfection. Revelation 13:18 (NLT) reads, “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.” 

This verse spooks many Bible readers, who consider 666 as a number to be feared.

As I live by faith and not by knowledge, the numbers in Scripture are far too deep for me. Which is why I was never afraid nor influenced by numbers. No one-billion-peso lotto pot can lure me into pitting luck against the Lord’s grace. 

Six or one or seven are just numbers. They can be overcome by a sovereign God whose will prevails over numbers and everything on earth.

That’s where I was coming from when I glimpsed my blog numbers this morning—666,666.
What interesting numbers that tell of the 11 years and 10 months I’ve been blogging! But they were fleeting. Just a millisecond from my taking a screen shot, the numbers changed and increased quite rapidly.

These numbers, then, ought to be celebrated, not feared.

10/12/2018

CSM’s Grand Book Launch 2018


Since I joined the roster of authors of Church Strengthening Ministry (CSM) six years ago, I have been privileged to take part in its annual Grand Book Launch at the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF).

This event happens on a Friday evening before all booths close shop for the weekend. All authors and their guests enjoy a two-hour program which includes short talks about each locally published book and video clips of books by foreign authors. 

This year, at the MIBF 2018, CSM unveiled 40 new titles, mine (NO MEANS NO: How to Drug-proof Your Child) being one of them. 

Our prayer is that these new books, focusing on various aspects of this wilderness called mortality,  will make pathways for readers toward rivers of refreshment and rest. May they encourage and inspire us to serve the Lord and be grateful, even in dry wastelands, for His abundant grace.

These photos tell only half of the blessings that I personally received and experienced that grand night. 


"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)      

10/08/2018

WORD PEOPLE (Part 3)


(This is the 3rd and last part of the message: Word People, delivered at the OMF Lit's Book Dedication event one week prior to the MIBF.) 

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit . . .”  

Thirdly, let us be deliberately more cautious in living the life modeled by our Savior, Jesus—the Living WORD.  

It is so easy to say a hurtful word, to curse, and to belittle people.  That’s why a faith sister suggested one day to ask myself this question before I do anything or utter a word, “Would it honor God?” 

It was the same faith sister who admonished me, when I was a shop-a-holic in my foolish, younger years, “Ask yourself two questions as you caress a bag on sale. ‘Do I need this?’ If the answer is yes, ask yourself the second question, ‘Do I need this NOW?’” Nobody needs anything now unless he is at death’s door. 

“Would it honor God?” then has been simple enough to ask before opening my mouth, doing something, or writing. But often, I forget and backslide big time. Even if I have memorized this verse since I was five, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 

As a WORD person today, it’s time I put it to practice: do my best to present myself to God as one approved. Meaning, I should deliberately be a role model for myself and my readers—especially for the little ones. 

The world is quickly morphing from white and black to all shades of gray—or even black is the new white, and white is the new black. It’s time we took sides: choose what The WORD says is right and pleasing to God. We need to find God-honoring ways in our wordsmithing to rebuke what is wrong and resist the temptation to stay mute, saying nothing while the world introduces new blacks in the guise of whites.  

Isaiah 5: 20-21 (TLB) “They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Woe to those who are wise and shrewd in their own eyes!”   

Now is the time for us WORD people in this room to be so prepared for the Manila International Book Fair. Jointly, we will minister to a huge crowd of various demographics and market our ONE commodity we labored over for many months:   The WORD and the Living WORD, through our titles.  

We will encourage everyone who visits Aisle I to read our books about The WORD, the One and only commodity that is our life—patterned after the life of Jesus, the Living WORD.  

Tough. But doable.  

WORD people, let’s turn to The WORD.  

Photos taken at the event:  
 


10/05/2018

WORD PEOPLE (Part 2)


(Continued from the previous post . . . this is Part 2 of the message: Word People, delivered at the Book Dedication event of OMF Lit)
It is a must to also read what older and wiser authors of the past and present have written. Commentaries enrich our narrative. We consult several Bible translations to imbibe what we read. Many times, I get confused, but I must struggle or even hemorrhage to get it right. 

When reading The Word, flash bulbs appear and epiphany moments come like surprise guests.  

John 16:13 (ESV) bears me out, "… when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” 

Second, let’s deliberately pray MORE for the Holy Spirit to help us in understanding The WORD. 

I don’t know about the other writers in this room, but praying is not easy for me. I relish writing several books and blogs at the same time. My prayers are eclectic. They jump from thanksgiving to asking for forgiveness, to begging for blessings, etc. I need to hogtie myself to concentrate in prayer.   

But we do need to spend more time for prayer if we are to soak in The WORD. 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” May I add, no matter how eclectic the format of our prayer is.   

Writers must uncover unique but believable demonstrations of topics already probed by others, so that we could write about our own personal encounters in fresh new ways that may heal, encourage, and make readers feel as though our words are their own, and therefore feel God’s presence in their own heart and mind.  

We live in this day—many pastors call it the last days—when many groups are pushing for their rights: civil rights, racial rights, women’s rights, consumer rights, gay rights, children’s rights, etc. 

More than ever, we need to hear these reminders again and again: Only the Holy Spirit can gift us with discernment to write what we should and skip what we should not.  Only the Holy Spirit can provide us with discernment to hear what we should and play deaf to what we shouldn’t. Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to discern and rightfully internalize Romans 9:1-5, beginning with this verse: 

(To be continued next post: Part 3)

Photos taken at the Book Dedication event of OMF Lit: 
 

10/02/2018

WORD PEOPLE (Part 1)


One week before the opening of the 2018 Manila International Book fair (MIBF), OMF Lit hosted a Book Dedication event that gathered all of its staff, writers, and illustrators, to offer to God all its published books. It was to be a time of oneness, of praying and encouraging one another in our chosen ministry: Christian literature. 

OMF Lit’s theme this year encapsulates the company’s essence:  “Turn to the Word.”

I was tasked to deliver the message. Let me share with you the excerpted version of what the Lord led me to talk about.
As a former creative writer in an advertising agency, I have always been an exacting word person, a wordsmith. I counted words that would sell a brand in 30 seconds. 

Words were all I knew. I ate them for breakfast, lunch, and supper. I breathed words every hour. 

But one day, by divine intervention, I suddenly had a paradigm shift. I swerved and faced words of a different kind—The WORD. I left writing words for a living; from that day forward, I started writing about how grace found me. My view of ordinary things, as though by magic, turned extraordinary. 

I am sure all of you in this room are just like me. We may have come from different wombs, different experiences, and different eras, but we are all WORD people—you and I. Everyone involved in Christian publishing produces and markets one product: The WORD. 

Like a manufacturing firm, we all painstakingly develop this product and market it to as many demographics as possible. To reach them, the staff, writers, and illustrators of OMF Lit have to work closely together. 

Our raw materials for the only product we produce and sell come from only one Supplier—the Supplier of the Truth, which is The WORD. And that ever loyal supplier is also the God we serve, and for whom we market the product through our OMF lit titles. 

This commodity, therefore, must be an authentic representation of The WORD. 

Our mandate in producing this authentic product of truth is manifold. But let me lump them all into three. In advertising, words are few and simple, they are distilled and cut into bite-sized pieces.  The key word is deliberate. We must . . .

1. Deliberately understand the Word more.    
2. Deliberately pray more for the Holy Spirit to guide us in this quest for understanding. 
3. Deliberately be more cautious in living a life modeled by the Living word,  JESUS.

First, in crafting words in our own distinct voices, we need to seek the depth of The WORD so we don't pervert the truth. This takes thorough and relentless study of Scripture—in all our waking and sleeping hours. 

(To be continued next post, part 2)