12/28/2019

Correct Me If I Am Wrnog


I was neck deep in writing my next book—a devotional (I will withhold announcing who the target reader is at the moment, as the book will not be launched till the Manila International Book Fair in September 2020). I was particularly crafting an entry on discipline, based on Proverbs 10:17.

And as grace is wont to come anytime, even when you don’t expect it, the doorbell rang. I had a package from Cebu, a Christmas gift from my friend, Steph.

I could not wait till Christmas day to open it, so I ripped the wrapper open and got the most pleasant surprise of my life! It is a creatively printed t-shirt with the same exact verse I was reflecting on.

Except that Steph’s tee was done in a fun, young, ingenious way. “Correct me if I am wrong” (originally an idiom that means being unsure) is how the young would say it when they graciously accept discipline.
This is how Proverbs 10:17 is written in my NLT Bible:

“People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.” 

My prayer is that the youth who will chance upon this t-shirt will accept the grace of discipline so that he/she/they will be on the pathway to life.

12/25/2019

Merry Christmas!


"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

"When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

"Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

(Philippians 2:6-11 NLT)

12/22/2019

The Number 13


My late dad used to joke that his favorite number was 13. He specially said it aloud when he was around superstitious friends. He liked to boast (flex, in today’s lingo) that he was the 13th placer in the bar exam, and all the great things in his life always happened on the 13th—and often on Friday the 13th.  
I guess it was also his way of teaching us, his five children, not to believe in old wives’ tales and man-made supernatural beliefs. There was no doubt about the only One Whom we should believe. Then my mom took over actively in the details of our spiritual growth.

I speak of dad now because I just remembered that my 13th blog anniversary fell on the 24th of November, one month ago. Due to so many activities and writing deadlines that swamped my days, it totally slipped my mind and it passed by quietly.

It isn’t too late to celebrate. So today, I thank my Savior Jesus Christ for the 13 years of blogging about how He has blessed my life and guided my writing—and all other activities related to it.

My numbers?
  • 1,345 posts (from 1,211 last year); 
  • 882,000 hits (from 685,000); 
  • 20 change of headers. 
I have no idea what these all mean, but now I know that I have readers who share my views on grace.

“Let's march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!” (Psalm 95:2 MSG) 

Won’t you sing the refrain of this old hymn with me?

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free 
(Seth Sykes, 1892-1950 )

12/19/2019

When Kids Cry


Book tours are happy, grace-packed affairs. I come face to face with children who get ecstatic listening to a story read by the person who wrote it.

I had avoided telling my own stories orally, because I felt inadequate to make a story interesting. But I realized I need to, or I’d have to pack a storyteller in my suitcase to all the places I go to.

The last school in my Cebu book tour—where I told the story of The White Shoes—was hurried because I had a plane to catch. Lynnie, the book lady of OMF Lit Cebu, kept reminding me of the few minutes I had left. But I got so engrossed I forgot the time.
“Let’s go, “Lynnie nagged, “our cab is waiting!”  

That was when I noticed one of the kids crying and being comforted by her teacher. I rushed to her and asked, “What’s wrong?”

The teacher explained, “She left your book at home. She would have wanted you to sign it.”

Oooh, I gave her a tight hug and cooed, “That’s okay. Even without my signature, that book was written for you.”

But she was inconsolable. And I had to dash out. 

The image of her crying haunted me till I got home, so I told son #3 about it. He was incredulous, “Mom, you could have bought her a book from the book table, and signed it!”

Duh. Why didn’t I think of that!?

To atone for my gaffe, I messaged her teacher and asked for the kid’s name. I signed two of my books, wrapped them up, and sent them via courier to her school.

The next day, her teacher messaged me with these attachments. 


Now I know better.

12/15/2019

Disgrace and Disaster


Among all the sad news on media that day, one particularly distressed (and embarrassed) me deeply. The Philippines, one of the 76 countries surveyed in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment  (PISA), had hit rock bottom in reading comprehension.

Digesting the news further, I found that Filipino children, in general, do not read.
 

As a children’s book author since the year 2000, I poured my pain on paper, but restrained myself from uploading it because it reeked of disgrace.
Today, while reading the column of Federico D. Pascual (Philippine Star) titled “Pitfalls of our being superficial readers” I found his pain similar to mine:

“Our lack of appetite for the written word and digesting its substance can help explain why few Filipino authors venture into writing books (e.g. novels, short stories, socio-political commentaries). Not enough Filipinos are expected to read them, so why bother?”

Decision point: Why do I bother?

He said further, “Our failure to develop the reading habit among our youth [just like their elders] is a national disgrace and disaster . . . We should be embarrassed enough to do something . . . For a people who boast of being the most literate in the region, the PISA report . . . should jolt everybody, including private and public educators.”

Analysts point to poverty as the root cause of non-reading among children. Instead of spending P100 on books, for instance, their parents could buy their family’s semblance of a meal for the day.
I weep some more. Is this news about children not reading any worse than poor families not eating? This question is both a disgrace and a disaster to us as a people.   

I turn to what Scripture says about poverty in James 2:5 (NIV), “. . . Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” 

Photo Credit (top)
Photo credit (bottom) 

12/11/2019

Thanksgiving Sunday in Cebu


“You will speak before young adults on any topic of your choice,” Lynnie, the book lady of OMF Lit Cebu, wrote me. 
“I scrounged around for a topic that might interest young adults. After research and consultations with the OMF Lit editorial staff, I finally zeroed in on Grace Online and Offline.  That done, I finalized my slides and manuscript. 

But the day before my trip to Cebu, Lynnie messaged me again, “The event with the young adults has been canceled. The pastor is requesting you to deliver the message on Thanksgiving Sunday.”  

“That’s tomorrow,” I replied, my pulse suddenly skipping.  

“Yes, and your topic is Overcoming Grumbling with Gratitude.” 

What!? 

The temptation to grumble was so intense, I had to pray for a smorgasbord of grace. But a sense of overwhelming gratitude eventually took over. I began to view this as an opportunity to share about the things I am grateful for—and hopefully encourage even at least one in the pews to have an attitude of gratitude.  

As I worked on my message, the problem was not what to say, but what to leave out from the glut of things I had written down. 

Remember the ancient Jews who were saved from slavery in Egypt? They didn't know how to handle such a huge blessing, and so they grumbled. This behavior forestalled their reaching the Promised Land for 40 years in the wilderness.    

I spent the rest of the day and night on my manuscript and slides, remembering not to grumble. Early the next morning, on my way to the airport, I had both packed in my luggage. 

There were about 200 people in church, decked with piles of farm harvests—the way the ancient Jews practiced thanksgiving. And then my name was called.    
In our hectic, fast-paced lives—ruled by gadgets and selfies on cyberspace—we tend to see the opposite of gratitude: grumbling.   
But if we focus on the good things we already have, they will appreciate and grow. In the same manner, if we focus on our problems . . . they too, will increase.   

Focusing on what we HAVE appreciate. These things—like plants that are nourished by sun and rain—grow.   
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1Thessalonians 5:18  

Like everything else on the path to mastery, gratitude is a choice. We can choose to grumble while waiting for something pleasant to arise and then be grateful.   


Or, we can choose to be grateful at all times, no matter how dire the circumstances, and enjoy how God assists us in everything we do.    

12/07/2019

Imelda


This is not about that notoriously infamous Imelda, whose name often appears in crossword puzzles with clues such as: Ostentatious Philippine first lady;  or, Philippine first lady with 2,000 pairs of shoes; or, Flamboyant wife of ousted Philippine dictator. 

Not that Imelda.

This is about one of the hundreds of unimportant Imeldas who were born and named after that Imelda who beguiled the land with her beauty, wardrobe, opulence, and power that spawned epic events.

This less than inconsequential Imelda is my masseuse, whom I visit once or twice a month.

Since I was disabled by my grasping toes that restrict me to inert activities, this Imelda has been one from whom I seek help. She works at Vibes Massage in the mall. It is not your spa-spiffy, dimly-lit kind of place. It is small, spartan, with no fancy amenities. And all the masseurs and masseuses are blind.

(VIBES stands for Visually Impaired's Brotherhood for Excellent Service.)

This Imelda, who hides her eyes behind huge shades, has healing hands. In the absence of sight, she is a master of touch.
She can feel which part of my spine and right foot ache; she has an uncanny talent for releasing knots. After an hour, my aching toes get a reprieve.   

During the hour, we have sporadic chats.

“We are poor,” she said. “My pay helps with our household expenses . . . we had no resources to continue with my schooling.” 

“I am a book author,” I replied when asked what I do. 

“Oh, wow! I wish I could read your books, but . . .”

“I know,” I whispered, hiding the catch in my throat.

“My mother named me Imelda because the first Lady had everything, and we had nothing. So maybe, if we had the same name, I might . . .” she laughed.

The rates at Vibes Massage are loose change compared to what you pay in a luxurious spa. But the rub down is therapeutic. More than enough reason to leave a well-deserved tip that far exceeds the official rate. 

The name Imelda has ceased to conjure, for me, unsavory thoughts. It now evokes all synonyms of honest living and grace.

12/03/2019

A Different Birthday Celebration


This year I spent my birthday with about 50 grade school teachers from various private schools in Las Pinas.

No, I didn't throw a party, neither did they throw me one. We had a serious, although peppered with fun and laughter, seminar that I'd rather call learning session—both  for me and them.

I was tasked to speak on Effective Communication (verbal, non-verbal, and tacit). As an ice breaker whenever I get invited to speak, I asked questions and gave away some of my books as prices for the brave souls who came forward with witty answers.

What's great about having teachers as your audience is that they practice what they preach to their own students—listen and take down notes.

Their questions were challenging, the better for me to hone my own communication skills. And there were unexpected boons—like birthday grace suddenly dropped from above—about  why they enjoyed and learned from the talk.

In my excitement, I forgot to take photos of the affair. Thanks to Facebook, some of the attendees’ posts tagged me. 

Is there a better way to celebrate a milestone?