12/28/2020

He Gives, and Gives, and Gives


His love has no limit, His grace has no measure
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again  

That’s the chorus of He Giveth More Grace, one of my favorite hymns. Even before I was old enough to understand the lyrics, I already loved it; perhaps because my mom used to sing it aloud a lot. (Mom’s legendary generosity in life might have been inspired by this tune.) 

It’s about boundless, bottomless grace. Like a circle that has no end.   
Anyone with a relatively comfortable life could relate to the hymn. 

But the person who penned it lived the opposite of anything but comfortable. Annie J. Flint (1866–1932) knew unlimited pain. She lost both her parents when she was a child. Fortunately, she was adopted by a family that taught her the Scriptures, to read, write, and create music. 

And that planted in her heart a dream—to be a concert pianist. Alas, she developed severe rheumatoid arthritis in her early-twenties. By her 30th birthday, Anne could barely walk. Her biography reads, “Her hands were disfigured, her body was twisted, and she was rarely able to sleep because of the extreme discomfort she experienced throughout her joints.” 

It was through her agony and anguish that she became closer to God. Despite the intense pain in her deformed fingers, Annie wrote poetry, which were reflections of God’s Word and His sustained presence in her life. 

Because of her ailments, she was cooped up in a tiny room in a sanitarium, yet she rarely complained about her condition. Her friends and family described her to be always encouraging and funny. As though roles had been reversed, she penned encouraging verses and gift-books, which contained her collection of poetry, for them.  

Soon, Anne’s writings were published and widely read. People marveled that such amazing lyrics could be composed by hands burdened by unabated chronic pain. And, unlike poems of melancholia, the dominant theme of Annie’s writing was God’s goodness amidst trials and tribulations. 

One of her awe-inspiring works, born from suffering, is He Giveth More Grace. 

How can one not believe such words, coming from someone who led a life of torment and torture? 


12/24/2020

A Savior Is Born


One dark night over 2,000 years ago, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, was born in a manger. 

No fanfare, no celebrations, no fancy rites, no notable guests—just poor shepherds watching their flock. 

From that night, our dark world was lit with Hope. Anyone who accepts this Savior (who would grow up to freely give grace to you and me, and sacrifice His own life on the cross) in his heart will be saved and have eternal life.   

That is the simple but profound message of Christmas. 

We are not told of the date and details of the venue, whether it was in an open field, a barn, a cave, or a home. For what does it matter? 

But artists through the centuries have come up with this image, which we call the nativity tableau or creche, as a graphic interpretation of that lowly birth.    

 

And so on Christmas, every year, we celebrate the birth of Hope, with pomp and circumstance: glitters galore, fancy festivities, and rousing revelry. 

We might be too busy to look back to and reflect on that dark night, but the essence of Christmas remains the same. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 


12/22/2020

Art: What Is It?

 

One of the many things that fascinate me about staying home during the pandemic is the slew of creativity that I am privileged to enjoy on social media. 

My artist and writer friends post their works, and if they were all collected into a printed anthology, we’d have tons of tomes that could fill up a gym!  

A former colleague and a friend, Lorenz, posts about his art to a close circle almost daily: what he does, how he does it, why he does it, and finally the finished product. This one's titled "When You Love Someone."  

"I love it, Lorenz! May I borrow it for my blog?” I wrote on his FB wall. 

He replied, “Can you message me why this resonated with you?” 

My message: 

I see Christmas—love. 

I feel it encompasses everything that love is. There is a burst of many colors, all colors, converging and diverging. They go in all directions, yet they make a unified whole. 

Love likewise transcends every beautiful emotion, no rhyme or reason, but feels right. I can’t define it really, but as I have always believed, God is the reason we even know what love is. In laying down His life for us, He taught us everything we need to know about true lovegenerous, unending, and a burst of all colors. 

On Christmas, I am reminded of God's love for the world—undeserved and un-reciprocated.

His reply (artist’s POV): 

I wanted to draw that love goes beyond physical & external. What's inside the heart is more important.

Art is mysterious that way. 

He, the artist, painted his heart. I, the beholder, saw it with my own.  

Art is as diverse as an individual’s perspectives. Although it originates from an artist’s imagination, ideas, and technical skill, it is appreciated for its emotional power. 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT) 

The world, as God created it, has every color, shape, size, sound, and movement that we can never fathom in our lifetime. But what we see, feel, touch, taste, and hear inspire us to replicate its splendor in art. 

Isn’t that what His holy birth is all about? 

NAIMBAG A PASKUA!    


12/19/2020

Can the Coronavirus Cancel Christmas?


Many columns, articles, and news items in today's newspapers (yes, Tony and I still buy three printed dailies every single day!) speak about Christmas being cancelled by the coronavirus. Some went as far as saying, “Death of Christmas.”  

In ancient times, the barbaric king of Judea, Herod, tried not only to cancel but to totally eliminate Christmas. He ordered the killing of all children two years old and below so that Jesus, whose exact whereabouts he did not know, would not be spared. 

Scripture tells us that savage as he was, with all the power at his command, Herod could not kill the Savior of the World. 

Alas, the various write-ups in newspapers have a different definition or representation of Christmas. 

To a believer of the birthed Christ, Christmas has nothing to do with the merry-making, feel-good and dazzling froufrous the world has invented over the years: family gatherings, homecoming, parties, blinking lights, decorated trees, bonuses, or Santa Claus.  

Nothing can cancel, steal, or kill Christmas. Nobody could stop Grace from coming. 

Misunderstanding the true meaning of the Divine Birth misleads us to think that the Covid-19 quarantine, which prevents people from having all these ostentatious trimmings, can take Christmas away.   

Herod tried, but failed. Since then, there have been wars, massacres, epidemics, disasters, and other catastrophes severely battering mankind. 

But Christmas remains the way it was planned—Light for a dark, dark world. 

“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.” John 1:9-10 (NLT)  

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 


12/16/2020

When Youth is Gone


It’s that time of the year when organizations or groups plan and organize Christmas parties. 

One of these groups emailed me, asking for my baby picture to be used in a game during the gathering.

Baby picture?! That was sooo long ago I couldn’t remember where they might be! Or do I even have one?  

I ransacked an old chest where I store things I do not need every day. And there they were! Three old albums that my mother bequeathed to me when I got married, “You may show this to your future grandchildren.” 

Many years later, I have only one grandchild, Adrian, and he is in the US, so there is no chance for me to show him my old photos—or would he even be interested? 

After wiping the thick dust off the albums, I leafed through their yellowing and fragile pages, careful not to damage them further. All photos have faded! I chose two which are still recognizable and asked an artist friend to please make them clearer. 

This was taken when I was a few months old. I remember my mom telling me that the studio photographer waited a long time for that half smile.

      

Another one (again shot in a studio) was taken when I was three years old. I had to look twice, thrice, to make sure it was me. I looked in the mirror and . . . well, no resemblance whatsoever.                                              

I excitedly showed Tony my rare finds.

“Who are those cute babies?” he asked, beaming.  

“Me!” I proudly cried. 

He went back to the book he was reading, and asked, “What happened?” 

Aaaargh! He’s lucky the divorce law will never pass in the Philippines. 

But because it’s almost Christmas, I tried to regain my composure and muster kindness to reply in a brave voice, “Youth is gone.” Then I added silently, It left while I was not looking, and it will never come back. 

“Youth? What youth?” he asked absentmindedly. 

I looked in the mirror again, and I saw . . . wisdom. 

“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Job 12:12 (ESV)

Gloria in excelsis deo! 


12/12/2020

14th Year Slips Away


My 14th blog anniversary has come and gone. Ooops, it slipped away unnoticed. 

I just realized I missed the date: November 24, which I commemorate annually with a post. 

The coronavirus lockdown, now on its 9th month, has made the passing of days a blur for me. 

“What day is today?” 

That’s usually the question I ask Tony or my sons. Except for Sunday, which stands out because I look forward to attending our virtual worship service and listening to God’s message, every day seems the same. Unvaried, unhurried.  

Back to my blog anniversary . . . if you had given birth to a kid on November 24 fourteen years ago, he would perhaps be in junior high today. 

That’s how long I have been blogging. Hah! And some friends thought I could not sustain the rhythm.

I have; I blog every four days or less, without miss. That calls for a celebration, doesn’t it? 

My numbers speak for themselves: 

  • 1,447 blog posts (from 1345 last year)
  • 1,077,00 blog hits (from 882,000 last year) 
My blog birthday cake candles have been lit and I am about to blow them with a wish.  

May I always be grateful for the grace that lights my way all through the week, whether it’s a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday, and yes, a Sunday!


12/08/2020

Zoom in and to Indonesia


This was my post on my FB wall a few days back:  

“I will be in Indonesia tomorrow to talk to school children about the importance of reading during one school's book week. The pandemic makes travelling so easy. One click of a button, or two, and there you are!”  

This message was accompanied by this photo: 

Next came a slew of replies, more than 300 congratulatory notes and emojis, but many were apprehensive:

“Stay safe.” “Wear your mask and shield.” “Take a side trip to Bali if it’s safe.” “Is anyone assisting  you?” “You must be a VIP being allowed to travel during the pandemic.”  “I wish I could join the Indonesian children to hear you talk.” 

Plus more.   

And I thought my post and the event poster were explicit about being virtual on Zoom. I had to reply to each one saying it’s all online. 

Tony has this theory, “People read social media messages perfunctorily. Try reading reading some posts selling goods properly priced. The replies?  ‘How much?’” 

"Oh, yeah." 

He added, "When people post about death anniversaries of loved ones long gone, replies are usually 'Sorry for your loss.' 'Hugs.' 'Condolences.'" 

He's right. As of today—six days after I posted the message—'heart' and 'like' reactions continue to come."  

Well, as scheduled, I zoomed in and to Indonesia! 

"Read and you will find." 

"If you want to be writer, read." 

My trip was a bit bumpy. I could not get there on time due to technical glitches. My slides, sent a week earlier, could not be found immediately. There were times I couldn’t hear my hosts and they could not hear me. 

My technophobia, which came about when the pandemic began, attacked me big time. 

But grace always comes in time to save the day. My task to read to the kids the story of “Gone?” to encourage love of reading sailed through. I had wished to interact more with my young audience but then, again, technology and time restrained us. 

I thank the Lord for introducing me to new friends—amiable teachers who made the online meet-up possible and fun. I pray that the school kids have learned something from those two short talks about reading and writing. 

To my friends who worried about my taking the trip to Indonesia, thank you for your concern—I am back, although a bit shaken, intact and fit to continue my marathon writing.  

***

Addendum: I visited Indonesia once in my past life (with a special trip to Bali) and it was an experience of a lifetime! 


12/04/2020

Gender Reveal


Blogger Jenna Myers Karvunidis, who loves celebrating, started the gender reveal idea in 2008, while she was expecting her first child. “It’s important to mark moments of joy,” she said and planned a party for her family—to get them excited about her baby. She then created a novel and theatrical way of revealing her baby’s sex: she baked a cake with pink and blue icing.  Girl or boy? 

She got them guessing and excited, exactly the way she wanted it.  

Everyone shrieked with delight upon discovering that Jenna’s first baby would be a girl! She blogged about it and her post was picked up by several publications. Her gender-reveal party became a trend.  

Trends naturally reach our shores and as we are inclined to copy anything western, today we see many posts online about grand parties announcing the sex of babies still unborn.    

Since that first gender-reveal party however, Jenna has regretted starting it. Just recently, 12 years later, she said that the joy people experience during the party has been at the expense of non-binary and trans people.” She does not want to cause others pain. 

She is speaking of course of another trend that has polarized the world: LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Q for Questioning [still exploring one's sexuality] or Queer), society's five additional classifications of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Gender has gone beyond male or female.  If we want to be politically correct, and not offend people, we should not limit gender identity to boy or girl. 

This is the polar opposite of what is being revealed to us from the pulpit during our virtual worship services by our pastors. As they delve deeper into Revelation, the last book of the Bible (on which my personal faith is based), it has become crystal clear to me that in the end, man only has two choices: 

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” (Matthew 12:30 NLT)   

Put even simply, either I believe the Bible or I don’t. Either I live or die. Either I choose wellness or illness; eternal life or endless punishment.      

There are still many details or "God Reveal" in Revelation that baffle my limited mind —the varied allegories, symbols, and other figures of speech—but the indelible grace that God has written in my heart since the day I first believed is enough to make me trust and obey.