11/30/2020

Worst-case Scenario


In business, defining the worst-case scenario—a risk management concept where the direst of outcome is projected so that plans could be put in place to avert its impact—is the most horrifying stage in a planning session. 

But that is a pin prick if we look at the savage events in our history. 

The Great Chinese Famine from 1958 to 1962 killed at least 45 million people. 

The Khmer Rouge (Communist Party of Kampuchea), from 1975 to 1979 completely destroyed Cambodia. The death toll of this regime cannot be accurately calculated, because records were under wraps. Still, the most reliable estimate is 2.5 to 3 million murdered, which constituted 21% of the country’s population. 

World War I was vicious, killing five million, military and civilian. If we include deaths from the Spanish influenza which was a direct result of the War, the estimate would jump to 65 million. 

The gruesome World War II had been replayed for us by our uncles who served in the army. About 71 million people died. Rome, Paris, Moscow, Leningrad, and London were devastated. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Stalingrad, and Manila were obliterated. 

Its most infamous aspect is the Holocaust. Six million European Jews (men, women, and children) were tortured and murdered by poisonous gas. Recent estimates tell us that five million non-Jews were also murdered by the Nazis.

And here we are today battling the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Can anything be worse than these? 

Yes. The Tribulation. It will be the worst-case scenario for man. 

Jesus said there would be a period of great tribulation before His second coming. In Matthew 24, he extensively explains what will occur during the end times. There would be religious deception, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (verses 4-7). 

In the book of Revelation, the worst-case scenario before Jesus returns is graphically painted by Apostle John in metaphors, similes, and symbols. 

“Tribulation” is from the Greek word thlipsis, which means, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, and dire straits. In layman’s terms: the most terrible adversities that mankind could ever experience.  

The popular narrative shown in images is a collapsed civilization and a melted world. The planet is a wasteland of crumbled structures and vehicles. Millions of dead bodies are scattered about. Media is hushed. The power grid is gone. No sign of life.  

When we picture this worst-case scenario, we forget that God is sovereign over the earth. Nothing happens to us outside of His permission. When evil reigns, seemingly unchecked by Him, we despair. But we must always remember that His grace prevails. 

Although the events we read about in the Bible are horrifying, our faith reminds us that we are eternal beings—this earthy life is not the end. 

Has the Tribulation Period started with today’s chaotic world being battered by the Covid-19 virus?  

We don’t know for sure. What we know is that the signs are increasing, and it is one day closer today than it was yesterday.

"Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36 NIV)


11/26/2020

From Senior to Teenior


After I had learned a few digital tricks, and became quite confident doing them on my own, I started calling myself a teenior. Neat, huh? I was now proudly a tech-savvy senior, in the same league as a teen. 

I thought I invented the term to describe me, until I realized—while Googling free and away—that Teenior is a registered name of a company in New Mexico.  Its website defines teeniors as: Tech Savvy Teens Empowering Senior. 

Its homepage explains that teens and young adults help seniors learn technology through one-on-one, personal coaching. “Whether it's a smartphone, computer or software, our goal is to empower you to connect with your loved ones, engage with your community (and the world) through technology, while providing paid, meaningful jobs for youth.” 

I am the opposite of a teenior! But I am claiming the term because I feel it describes me. So there is no copyright infringement, is there? 

I was born in a generation that never had any inkling—or never went thinking beyond what we had—that someday, technology would turn our guts, insides, and innards upside down.  

The coronavirus pandemic made our lot even worse. If you are clueless about technology, you are a non-entity. Only grace and Bible verses on God’s unfailing love had made me feel I still count. 

One of these is, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NLT)

So I tried to cope and cope up, inch by inch. I hired a young techie to help me with my online speaking activities and whenever my boys are around, I ask them questions, never mind if they reply or stay mute. 

This much I learned through eight months of isolation from the outside world: if you want to keep in touch with the world outside, you have to embrace the consequences of learning. 

And I am learning? At this stage, although I call myself a teenior, I have not gotten to a point where I can call me a techie. But I will get there; just watch me. 

(That last statement is said with the grit of a minute mouse.) 


11/22/2020

The Big Picture


For two days in a row, this heartwarming photo (cropping mine) of a man—a most unlikely kind to love reading—went viral online.             

                                                          

Shirtless, sun toasted, and barefooted, he sat on the floor of a bookstore with his face mask on and was snapped reading intently, unmindful of his surroundings. According to the person who uploaded the photo, the man stayed there for some time, simply enjoying the printed word. 

To the credit of the store employees, they let the man be.  They neither shooed him out nor told him off. 

I looked at the photo with my heart’s eye, as it passed my homepage countless times. 

It was on the third day when I was sent the same photo by a friend. “Lookie! Your book is on the shelf!” 

And sure enough, “No Means No” (encircled in red) was displayed there. I was too focused on the detail and neglected the big picture, literally. I messaged my friend back with a matching laughing emoji, “I must be highly myopic to see the big picture!”  

That’s what I am reminded of Sunday after Sunday by our pastor during our virtual worship service. We have become too focused on what we are suffering during this pandemic (When will this end? How am I going to survive? This is too much!) that we have become disheartened and despondent, totally forgetting the big picture. 

This will not last. It may seem like a long (eight months now) torment, but all this will end. The Bible reminds us that to those who believe, our suffering on earth is just a minuscule part of our forever life.  

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10 NIV) 

We are being prepared for the big picture. 


11/18/2020

It’s Here! Memories of Grace


This devotional for seniors, written all through 2019 until February 2020, finally saw print and will be launched at the online MIBF (Manila International Book Fair) happening from November 24-30.  

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which stumped the world, its original launching date was postponed indefinitely. Institutions, including book publishing, have been totally immobilized. 

In the Preface, I wrote in part: 

For months, I had focused on it, pausing only to celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas. I couldn’t write fast enough—memories of grace are unlimited; they multiplied as I talked to people of my generation. Everyone seemed to have an endless lake from which marvelous memories spring. 

But March came and time stopped. Many businesses and working people actually retired due to force majeure. 

This devotional had to be reevaluated. Yna Reyes, Publishing and Communications Director of OMF Literature Inc., explained that we have to be relevant to the times. I couldn’t agree more. Many of the entries had to go. To help provide solace for fellow seniors caged in their homes, I had to stay current by writing about how we are today. 

Like a second wind, memories of grace came rushing in even faster, obscuring the anxiety caused by the unseen enemy. 

Memories of Grace (devotions for your golden years) is finally here. 

It was written in times of smiles, and also in times of tears. Someone  said that “smiles will fade and the tears will dry,” but memories of God’s amazing grace—especially because the elderly have so much to look back to—are treasures that will endure till the Lord comes again or says, “Come home.”  

Let us then remember the days we mourned, the days we danced, the days we got lost, the days we charted new roads, the days we loved, the days we hated, and the days of this pandemic. His grace was never a second or a breath away.  

May we etch in our hearts what Jesus said to His disciples (and to us who believe) before He left for heaven. He empowered all to speak of His grace and promised, “. . . I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). 

 ooo

Get hold of  a copy to give as a present to a senior this Christmas. If you are a senior, you might want to remember all the grace heaped upon you by the Lord through the years. It is priced at P250, but will be sold at 20% off during the online bookfair (November 24-30). 


11/14/2020

Online Book Tours


Around this time, I should be resting from several book tours out of town—in time for the Manila International Book Fair. Alas, the Covid-19 pandemic settled them all for me: stay home. 

From my working nook at home, I did more book tours than all past book tours put together.  

CSM, my publisher for “Twin Blessings,” a devo-series for children, made me record a three-part reading of three devos, with a brief explanation of what the book is about. The media staff enhanced the recording with music and captions, then aired it. 

The video gathered over a thousand viewers (adults and kids alike) from as far as the US, Canada, HK, and all parts of the country. Several of the viewers sent me photos while they watched the recording. 

As a follow-up to that online book tour, CSM had me host a one-hour webinar entitled “Teaching Our Kids to Do Devotions.” This time, the audience (mostly parents) was even bigger!  

More: 

On our church’s 45th anniversary, I was asked to do a storytelling of “Gone?” a storybook on love for reading (published by Hiyas of OMF Lit and illustrated by Koi Carreon).    

The choice is relevant to today’s growing problem on kids’ disinterest in reading books due to digital gadgets. Kids who love reading will definitely want to read the awe-inspiring stories in the greatest book ever written: the Bible. 

This was uploaded to our church’s website page and again, the hits were way, way beyond what we could have gathered in a face-to-face storytelling session. 

How can these “online book tours” not be (let me use unusual superlatives) collosal and exponential grace? 

Although I rue not being able to talk to my readers up close, the number of people reached more than makes up for this loss. The ministry harvest—like the five loaves and two fish—has been multiplied a thousand fold! 

“. . . he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Mattew 14:19-21 NIV) 


11/10/2020

Ice Cream? No, Thanks!


Ice cream is America’s favorite dessert and I am guessing that it is also some other countries’ most-loved afters in many parts of the world. I never met a person who doesn’t love ice cream, especially in the summer. 

In a poll conducted in the US for people to choose a favorite dessert, ice cream was the obvious winner—and twice as popular as its closest competitor, cake.

I was not one of those people. I didn’t exactly hate ice cream, but I could live without it. 

Being cloistered at home during the pandemic must have altered my body chemistry. I suddenly took to liking and craving for a certain locally manufactured ice cream flavor: Dan Eric’s Coffee Mocha.  

Ask me how it happened. 

Vaguely, I might have tasted it during one of our church’s social gatherings. Someone offered me a cone and I was surprised to have enjoyed it. It was like drinking iced coffee. 

Then one steamy day in July, one of my sons came home with a quart of ice cream and offered me some. It was a so-so experience, but seeing how much the boys enjoyed and lapped it up, I decided to order more—and perhaps partake of it in a family group activity. 

I called up my friend who owns an ice-cream parlor, “Sallie, do you have a flavor with coffee in it?” 

She sent a gallon of Coffee Mocha. That was the day I got hooked. 

Hooked is not a very good word, especially for someone who writes about grace. So let me change that to . . . fan. I became a fan, an avid one. Now, there is not a day that I don’t eat a cup (usually after lunch when the sun is at its hottest). 

You have turned silly and shallow, I whispered to myself when I started writing this blog about ice cream.

But, hey, ice cream is an $11 billion industry and coffee is at $250 billion in the world today! Those numbers are neither silly nor shallow. 


11/06/2020

Level Up


Faith, in the dictionary, is defined as "Trusting or believing something or someone, without having to see physical evidence." 

The Bible defines it thus:  

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) It is not just a "gut instinct;" it's a tangible truth accepted by the body—feelings that have the confidence and certainty to accept everything that comes from God. 

Faith, however, comes in sizes. The Bible speaks of faith as small as a mustard seed, which is 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter or the size of a pinhead. It is minuscule! 

Yet, Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 “. . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

So why, then, do many of us, who believe 100% in a powerful and all-knowing God, still forget that God is working in our lives today, even as the pandemic shakes our core? 

I, for one, believe that God can do anything He wants because He created the universe and me. I claim to have faith bigger than a mustard seed. But why am I fearful about the still unseen consequences of this crisis?  

"Level up!" our pastor stressed one Sunday in his virtual message. He seemed to be telling me to make my faith grow.  

Indeed, Jesus used the teeny-weeny mustard seed to illustrate the kind of faith we need, because it has the potential to grow into something much, much bigger. 

Our faith is meant to level up.  

How? We need to ask for faith in constant prayers. Then grace will enable us to watch how God does what we think is impossible. 

Our initial introduction to the concept of faith is small. It is a faith that comes from hearing and believing the Word of God. After that, however, our faith has to level up, because it cannot stay small. We need to bury it in the soil of God’s Word so it can take root and grow. 

“Level up” is a phrasal verb—popularized by gaming—that has become a part of our daily lingo. It is advancing from one level to the next, until one achieves the highest level. 

In the same manner, we need to level up in our faith, thinking less of ourselves and more of God, leaving everything at His feet. 

It’s the level of belief that no matter what happens, we are certain we are in good hands.  

11/02/2020

What's with White?


My grandmother used to say (in Ilocano), “No make-up can hide kayumanggi skin for long. As soon as you wash off your make-up, your natural brown skin shows. People should be happy with the skin color God blessed them with.” 

My Lola went to glory over 50 years ago. But if she were around today, she’d say the same thing about the “white sand” (crushed dolomite) dumped on a 500-meter stretch of Manila Bay’s shoreline in September—six months into the pandemic. 

        
Her words were exactly my beginning thoughts when I heard of this rehabilitation project. My additional thoughts, when I learned that it has a whooping budget of P386, were: 

This is so ill-timed.

People are starving and the last thing they need is a white beach.  

Many netizens thought the same way and expressed their anger on social media. Some even pointed out the health problems posed by the dolomite shipped from Alcoy, Cebu. 

But President Duterte, who has an approval rating of 91%, lauded Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for his initiative and praised the project, “People now are really enjoying the reclaimed area with the white sand.”  

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said he was “stunned by the beauty and vast possibility for tourism.” He called the white sand “pure genius.” 

In response to the flak they received on social media, government apologists insist that this is good for people’s mental health, especially the poor’s. In their suffering, they need to see something beautiful to enjoy.  

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta told reporters, after touring the white sand with Sec. Cimatu, “I am satisfied because the water is clean.” 

Why this obsession with a white beach? Why not simply clean Manila bay without changing the color of its sand? Why cover a “kayumanggi” beach with make-up. It would just be washed away! 

Sure enough, when it started raining (especially with the onslaught of typhoon Quinta), the white sand is slowly being washed away. In its place are the garbage swept to the shores by the waves. What is there to enjoy now? 

Sec. Cimatu insists the cost is only P28 million, not P386 as alleged. 

But P28 million is not peanuts. We can think of 28 million ways to rehabilitate (not beautify) Manila Bay. 

This parallels many people going to great lengths to have fair skin. They buy expensive whitening products and shade themselves with an umbrella or wear long sleeves to avoid the tanning rays of the sun. The skin whitening industry is big and booming in many countries. 

That’s where the world is going as the end times near.  By God’s protective grace, we will always be grateful for what we have, and not be swept by the tide. 

1 Peter 3:3-4 reminds us, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

ooo
Going . . . going . . . (Nov. 14, after typhoon Ulysses)

Photos: all borrowed from FB posts