Duplicity: Selective Grace

Grace, as defined in Scripture, is unmerited favor. When Christ was on Earth, He consistently bestowed grace upon all men: whoever they were, wherever they came from or went, whatever they said or did, and whomever they associated with.

Today, that grace-for-all is still for all.

The rain waters both weeds and grass; the air gives life to criminals and saints; the sun shines for the wicked and the righteous; the Earth is home to every individual born, no matter what race.

Grace, as mortals dispense it, is selective. We choose who will and won’t receive it from us. We decide who is deserving and who is not—based on our judgment.

Selective grace. Duplicity.

This has become so pronounced during this pandemic. The highest official of our land and his cabinet, all addressed “honorable,” have brazenly chosen the people who will receive grace from them and who will not.

While we ordinary mortals are reeling from the onslaught of the corona virus, obeying laws and rules, the implementors have broken these before our eyes: wear a mask; no big gathering; no alcohol; social distancing; plus more.

How can we not be outraged when officials who recklessly violated these laws got away scot free? 

A senator, positive for the virus, accompanied his wife to a hospital where he might have infected people, including the frontliners.

An OWWA undersecretary met with a large group of OFWs who were in quarantine.

The top police officer of the NCR, General Debold Sinas, celebrated his birthday with other officials and his men—wearing no masks, imbibing alcohol, enjoying a sumptuous meal minus social distancing, and worse, blatantly uploading photos of their revelry on their online page, and lying about them after these went viral. 

Our president went on air to emphasize once again, “The law is the law is the law. The rule is the rule is the rule. When you mess up with the law, I will see to it that you go to prison for your kalokohan niyo [misbehavior]."

Mang Dodong, a fisherman, went out of his house to purchase goods he would sell to feed his family.  Because he had no travel pass, he was arrested, jailed for 12 days, and was freed only after posting P3,500 bail, donated by a kind soul.

But in the same speech, His Excellency said and I quote,  “The law is the law. Well, akin na yun (that’s mine). It’s my responsibility but I will not order his (Gen. Sinas) transfer. He stays there, until further orders . . .”

Selective grace. Duplicity.

And so the general stays, ordering people to obey the same rules he violated.

There are many, many more poor citizens arrested, jailed, tortured (some killed) for violating a quarantine rule or saying something that hurt the feelings of His Excellency.

In Mang Dodong, we see them all. 
Photo credit: (ctto) grabbed from posts of various individuals online 


Pandemic of Questions

An unknown enemy, nicknamed by WHO as Covid-19, has come to assault, endanger, and inflict untold suffering upon humanity. It lurks stealthily and furtively in crevices, the air, and all possible surfaces and spaces. As of this writing, almost 400,000 people have died.

No one is spared in the world: black, white or in-between; infants, adults, or super seniors; very poor, middle poor/rich or filthy rich.

And so we are angry and distraught, asking skeptical questions.

Many have found grace to answer these questions on various platforms: social media, blogs, editorials, articles, interviews, etc. But the questions are asked over and over again.

To this end, OMF Lit took a step to help put people’s mind at rest: a FREE, downloadable e-book. (The printed edition will be available soon.) 
I was one of nine authors tapped to answer some of the questions. The other eight are:  

Bishop Efraim M. Tendero
Joyce Piap-Go
Jun Gonzaga
Nelson T. Dy
Nomer Bernardino
Nor Aquino-Gonzales
Ronald Molmisa
Rico Villanueva

On our knees, we prayed for  discernment and wisdom in writing answers, with the hope that we could offer our readers comfort and refreshment based on the Word. 

Download a copy and may you find in the book solace and consolation, even as we now live in a world we cannot control.    


Cyber Birthday Party

Our only grandson, Adrian, was going to turn 13, a milestone by any standard. Unfortunately, the corona virus pandemic crushed all odds for a celebration outside of the home.

So we did one better—celebrate outside of the country and time zone: Manila and the US, with 15 hours time difference. His mom organized an online chat with both her family and my son’s. Two sets of families plus the celebrant’s would get together at a certain hour!

The grandma in me got to work. What does one prepare for a big milestone? Food? Lechon? Cake? Balloons? Buntings? Costumes?

Alas, no shop was open for any of these.

Again, go for the better alternative: cyberspace.

And so we had a party, 12 thousand miles apart. Neither the sound nor the Internet connection cooperated, but the warmth and joy from both ends of the world were just a screen apart. Adrian blew the candles on his birthday cake, we sang him the birthday song, and said our birthday wishes.
His fave food when he's with us; pandemic-inspired b-day cake
No celebration in the Philippines is complete without a lechon.
Birthday blessings, dear Adrian. May you grow up in the Lord’s nourishing grace.

The celebrant, his parents, pet dog, cake, and two sets of Philippine families on screen
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)


Locked at 1,000

After abandoning my daily walks three years ago due to my curling toes, I thought I’d never experience walking at dawn again. But the corona virus lockdown emboldened me.

Being at home 24/7 with zero exercise is not good for the health. So with my face mask, I ventured onto the street to walk—gingerly and slowly lest my right toes would go berserk. And what do you know? I made it to a few meters without any pain.

So I dared more meters till I felt my toes begin to complain. All told, I was able to do 1,000 steps, 10% of what I used to make before my foot malady. But hey, 10% is better than none.

My writing regimen for my new book has taken a new turn. Because I am not time bound, I have chosen to limit my words to 1,000 per day so I could do other things—reading, listening to music, doing social media, watching TV, chatting on the phone, and simply idling. Little did I know that the number 1,000 is found in the Bible a few hundred times.
One of them is found in Mathew 5:41. Christians are required to walk two miles if compelled to walk a mile. In a commentary I read, Roman “mile” was made up of 1,000  paces (mille passuum) or steps.

The things you learn in a pandemic! And the things you see!

My quiet time is no longer rushed; I nurse it like a (refreshing ade) drink and savor grace, enabling me to reflect on these verses:

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.” 
(Psalm 62:5-6 NLT)


A Day in the Life

One of the Beatles’ best songs, A Day in the Life, combines the best of Lennon and McCartney. Lennon writes about disillusionment while McCartney speaks of optimism.

On social media, people are either disillusioned or optimistic over the Covid-19 lockdown. I like to stay with optimism. The corona virus crisis is an opportunity to thank God for His extraordinary grace that we would have missed under ordinary times.

Our day in the life: or how our lives have changed. (Other posts have the details. Blogging time, after all, is unlimited.) 
Tony, our two sons who live with us, and I break bread together and converse. I mean, really converse. We also plan the menu together—what should we order outside or what can we cook inside. 

First thing in the good morning, I do my morning walk (other post).

Then I print out crossword puzzles from the internet for Tony and me. Before the virus struck, mornings in our terrace were for sipping coffee, reading newspapers and solving their crosswords, but publications don’t reach our village anymore. And because we are forbidden to go out, we soak in books.

(On Sundays, we worship via livestreamed service and greet faith brethren online.)

After lunch, through the good afternoon, both sons and I camp inside my cramped writing room to share the AC. I work on my next book (other post), son #1 does some programming, and son #3 writes his doctoral dissertation. Tony, who is averse to AC, naps in our furnace-like bedroom.

Son #1 makes us iced coffee while we each face our computers/books. We keep in touch with son #2 and family who are in the US via digital gadgets. In fact, we just celebrated our only grandson’s birthday virtually (other post).

I send and receive many online messages. At no time have I kept in touch with so many people more than now.

Snacks (an ordered pizza or rice cake). Son #1 does his afternoon walk, son # does his fitness program with his trainer online.

After supper, we retreat to our bedrooms for our quiet time and the good night’s rest.

Tomorrow is another day in the life—to thank God for the good morning, good afternoon, and good night. 

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)


Mother Lily

In a pressure cooker where I worked for two decades, Lily was the head of Personnel (Human Resource was still a mindless infant not knowing how to grow up).

An evolution happened beneath the surface: her name morphed to Mother Lily.

There is no historical record of how that came to be, but I have two hypothesis. One, “Mother” was the groovy way to call a boss. Two, there was an infamous Mother Lily in the movie industry.

What does it matter?

Anyone in all the world who checks attendance, calls you out for infraction, and reads to you the riot act is both feared and reviled. Mother Lily bore those onuses on her shoulders. Yet, again, beneath the surface, she was loved.

Outside of the office, she valued personal relationships and knew everyone—past and present—by name, even after the company closed and we all went our separate ways.

And then, social  media happened. It gathered many of the separated staff once more.  Somehow, we know how most of us are doing, and occasionally we schedule small face-to-face encounters.

Cocooned in our homes for almost two moths now because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have time for things that are important, among which is the renewal of vows of friendship.

One of our former art directors, Ggie, messaged all those in her list of contacts, “This is for Mother Lily’s birthday. Please take a photo of yourself holding a blank sheet of paper to your chest. I need it now!”

Ggie posted this on the celebrant’s wall—a group photo of  grace: a touching reunion of separated friends.
To Mother Lily and all my dear friends in that happy land far away, once long ago . . .


Joint Celebration

“Nobody is exempt from _____________.”

I asked our group in adult Sunday school to fill in the blank with one word. Our answers were similar in mood: Sorrow. Trials. Problems. Fear. Sickness.

Timothy J. Keller (American theologian and author) seems to explain these answers with this quote, “Nobody is exempt from trials and tribulations. In fact this is what often happens to people God loves very much, for it is part of God’s often mysterious and good plan for turning us into something great.”

Starting with the fall of man, every person has had his share of grief. In Scripture—aside  from the book of Job and Lamentations—verses about grieving abound. On the flip side, we’ve all had our share of joy.

Grief and joy. They come together like a pair of scissors. One can’t work without the other. They're  back-to-back grace.
Golda Meir, past prime minister of Israel said, “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.” 

Centuries earlier, Paul called us to a life of both sorrow and happiness—not just inside of our cocoon, but outside. In Romans 12:15, he wrote, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” 

By grieving with others, we would see the panorama of the Lord’s love for all. He accomplishes His purposes in us—and through others. Mourning only for our own loses is dwelling in self-pity, unable to comfort those who are also hurting.

God gives us the opportunity (an opportunity so pronounced in this Covid-19 pandemic) to enter other people’s lives so we could grieve with them and experience how the Lord leads us to a joint celebration.


Hello, Shorty!

The first in line—that’s where I belonged in school while everyone was growing up except me.

From elementary grade to college, and definitely in graduate school (because by then I was in the US straining my neck up to Americans), I was dwarfed by humanity. At that time, height shaming was not a crime, so those close to me would tease, “Hello, shorty!”

Before we reached our maximum height, my cousin Minna, with whom I saw eye-to-eye, and I would jump the highest during our family reunion on New Year’s Day; we believed what people said that if you did that, you’d grow taller.

They lied.

We both got vertically pegged at 5 feet (or barely). 

“Big things come in small packages,” my mom and Minna’s mom would say to make us feel better.  They added, “Think Cleopatra, or Queen Victoria, or Deng Xiaoping, or Jose Rizal.”   

To the rescue came clogs, then stiletto heels, then wedgies, then clunky mules, and then platform shoes. And there was that era when we seemed stretched because of the beehive hairdo. Indeed, we were way below the required height-line for many jobs (such as a stewardess or a beauty pageant contestant).

By grace, I married a tall man, with whom I have three tall sons, by my standards. That sealed my shorty stature, a fate I resigned to.     

But one glorious day, my grandson, Adrian, was born. He inherited my “shortest in the family” title and I reveled in my new position in the area of elevation. 

Till he came home for a vacation last year.

Now 12 years old, he has outgrown me by an inch or so. I say “or so” because when we hugged, I was wearing my cork espadrilles, yet, I had to tilt my head up to say, “Hello!” 
Well-mannered, respectful, and affectionate, Adrian did not gloat nor say, “Hello, shorty!”