2/28/2021

All You Need Is Love

 

“What did Uncle Bruno give you on Valentine’s day?” Little Lannie asked. 

“Love,” her Aunt Joan replied. 

“No flowers?” Lannie insisted. 

“Love,” Aunt Joan repeated, laughing. 

“Not even chocolates?” Lannie was incredulous.

“Dearie, why do husbands have to give their wives flowers and chocolates? 

“Because it’s Valentine’s Day. They say it’s the day of love!” 

“Say that last word again, dearie.” 

“. . . Love?” Lannie was confused. 

Special days created by marketing men naturally require consumers to buy goods. And on Valentine’s day, flowers and chocolates should sell. “Say it with flowers” is one such slogan that has created demand for what now seems to be the “symbols” of Valentine’s day. 

The Bible does not say anything about a husband giving his wife flowers or chocolates to show he loves her. We read something more important. 

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NLT) says that husbands must love their wives “. . . just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”                             

Scripture further tells us (v. 33) that "each man must love his wife as he loves himself . . .” 

After God created Eve from Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:23-24), He brought her to Adam, who exclaimed, “At Last! This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!’” The Lord called her woman because she was taken from man. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 

Aunt Joan explained, “Between a husband and wife, all we need is love. When you are older, Lannie, you will understand what that means.”  

Reflect and pray: 

Since I am not obliged to give (or receive) flowers on Valentine’s day, how can I make the “day of love” significant between me and my spouse?  

ooo 

2/24/2021

Peace Lily


A plant mom I am not, so I don’t qualify as a plantita. This post is only about one plant, which caught my eye while staying home all hours of the day and night, 11 months now, and counting.   

“Wow, what stunning white flowers!” I exclaimed when I saw them blooming, contrasting with their dark green foliage, from about five flower pots.      

“We had one pot that bloomed now and then for the longest time,” Tony retorted. 

We did? I thought. I never noticed it. 

“How come there are so many of them?” I asked. 

Mother Teresa (a true-blue plantita), who was pruning the tree nearby replied, “I planted the new sprouts in several pots and now they are all blooming!” 

“What’s it called?” I asked, feeling like an alien that just landed on earth.  

“Peace Lily,” she said. 

Peace Lily! I’ve always loved and captured on canvas Calla Lilly. I didn’t know there was another lily that is just as interesting! I ran to my laptop and looked it up.  

There are several legends on how the name came about, but here are those that make the most sense to me. Peace comes from the Greek words spath (spoon) and phyl (leaves). 

It is known as a bringer of peace. The white spath represents a white flag which is internationally known as a truce signal. 

Peace Lily reminded me of God’s promise to Israel, when the nation had turned to worshiping idols, “I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. It will blossom like the lily . . .” (Hosea 14:5 NIV) 

This is equally promised to us who have been showered with grace in Christ. For He chose us from the pit of sin so we could be saved, redeemed, glorified in Him.

We will blossom like the lily and shall have eternal peace!   


2/20/2021

Bruised and Blemished

 

Piles of news, blogs, articles, and posts have been written about Ravi Zacharias: how he lived a predator's life of lies and duplicity, and how he caused indignation among Christians.  

I wept, gravely wept, when I read the 12-page report—commissioned by the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) board after his death—of his sexual misconduct.  

I grieved not for him, because in life he had it all: money and power. He basked in the glory of being  hailed as the smartest apologist, lionized by followers worldwide, esteemed by famed theologians and heads of state, and adored by a staff that thought of him as lily white. In death, he will have his day in God’s court. 

My heart broke over the trail of hundreds of helpless women, whose naked  photos he collected and hid, and whom he abused during massages (with some allegations of rape), leaving their body and soul bruised and blemished. 

He beguiled them with ministry funds (some for housing, schooling, and monthly support) and spiritual conversations that began or ended with prayers. 

Miller & Martin attorneys Lynsey Barron and William Eiselstein investigated, interviewed people, examined phones Ravi used, and reported, “We uncovered sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct.” 

Nobody came to the rescue of these abused women, because Ravi concealed his slimy misbehavior from family, friends, colleagues, and donors. On rumors, Ravi machinated the public into thinking he was innocent, while invoking God’s name.   

But nothing and no one can destroy God’s church, not even “the gates of hell [Matthew 16:18]." 

The now downsized RZIM board gives hope to Christians feeling guilty over their loyalty to one man and turning a blind eye to his indiscretions:    

“We are seeking the Lord’s will regarding the future of this ministry … We will be spending focused time praying and fasting as we discern how God is leading us.”

RZIM’s steps forward*:   

Repentance:  

“We are committed to the ongoing process of repentance . . . for what Ravi did and for all of the ways that we have fallen short, we are so sorry. We have no right to forgiveness and that even if forgiveness is possible, it may take time.”

Restitution: 

“ . . .We will help the victims of Ravi’s abuse, and we want to thoroughly understand what has taken place . . . so that we can do everything we can to make sure nothing like this happens again. 

“ . . . victim-advocate Rachael Denhollander will serve as a confidential liaison with survivors and to help guide the process of care, justice, and restitution for those who have been victimized." 

Commitment:

“ . . . Guidepost Solutions, a management/compliance consulting firm will conduct  a thorough evaluation of RZIM, including its structures, culture, policies, processes, finances, and practices. 

“ . . . writing this statement has made us profoundly aware that even what we say now is vastly insufficient and merely a starting point for all that needs to be . . . done.  

“Jesus . . . our only Savior worthy of ultimate trust and worship . . . is fully committed to truth and to justice, and he unqualifiedly stands with the victims." 

Amen. 

I believe in my heart that the healing grace of Jesus is upon those whom Ravi bruised and blemished. 

*https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/ravi-zacharias-rzim-investigation-sexual-abuse-sexting-rape.html

Photo credits: black and white photos, borrowed from the Net 

2/17/2021

The Colors of Quarantine


In mid March 2020, when the lockdown was imposed due to Covid-19, I felt exactly that—locked down. Quickly, however, I realized that there is no such thing as lockdown. My mind was free, has always been free, to roam wherever I took it. 

Technology has even made the mind-roaming quicker. After learning a few additional digital “skills” from young gurus (in-house and online), I am now a wider wanderer:  

With eyes that have grown bigger. 

I now see, actually see, my surroundings, particularly our garden and our terrace, where Tony and I spend most of our time.  I look down, up, around, and I behold all colors. 

Bees are swarming over flowers . . . the branches of trees are swaying with the breeze and birds . . . the grass is damp in the morning . . . weeds are peeping between pebbles strewn under flower pots . . . the clouds waltz or bop . . . the stars twinkle at night . . . our dogs, Fiscal and Attorney, put their heads on our lap so we could pet them, then they run around like crazy and bark when they hear sounds outside the walls . . . our cat, Fiscal, waits for son #3 to carry her for a tour inside the house a few times during the day . . . the rain, sometimes harsh and sometimes gentle, leave their droplets on the garden set . . . plus many more. 

This palette of grace around our home has always been there. It took a quarantine for me to see all the hues, shades, tinges, tones, and tints.  

"O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions—" (Psalm 104:24 NKJV)     


2/15/2021

This Must Be a Wow: 1,111,111

 

Before I take down this header, let me upload a screenshot of that lovely day this month when my blog site clocked the same number one, seven times! 


Surely (for me, at least), one million one hundred eleven thousand and one hundred eleven page hits in almost 15 years, coming from a page hit of only one (mine), is a wow.  

While I am delighted that I can document same-number page hits, I know that the next one (2,222,222) will no longer happen in my lifetime, unless there will come a sudden surge of traffic, which is unlikely.  That would be asking too much from the Giver of breath, Who has been extremely generous to underserving me. 

What 1,111,111 means is that I never found grace wanting. It comes with every post: the thought that sparked it, the words that put it together, and the strength to click on the keyboard with joy, joy, joy. 

It may be ironic to rejoice as our country is reeling from the worst economic downturn since 1947; still negotiating with pharmaceuticals for anti-Covid-19 vaccine while other countries have gone full-blast; trying to curtail our freedom through an impending anti-terrorism law; and experiencing widespread hunger and unemployment, fomented by abusive people in power.  

But I choose to keep the faith. 

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (ESV)  


2/12/2021

Is Accountability Dead?


During the Christmas season, many people said that Christmas is dead because of the pandemic. 

My past posts reflected on this: Christmas is alive, and long after this crisis is solved, and the world shall come upon another crisis, Christmas is.

What seems to have died—many times over—in this country during the pandemic is accountability. And it was not caused by the virus. It was caused by arrogance, and the evil thought of “I can get away with it.”  

In 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive order No. 226 that institutionalized “command responsibility” in all government offices, particularly at all levels of command in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies.  

Parts of the document read: “WHEREAS, a supervisor/commander is duty-bound and, as such, is expected to closely monitor, supervise, direct, coordinate, and control the overall activities of his subordinates within his area of jurisdiction, and can be held administratively accountable for neglect of duty in taking appropriate action to discipline his men . . . 

“SECTION 1.  Any government official . . . or officer of the Philippine National Police or that of any other law enforcement agency shall be held accountable for “Neglect of Duty” under the doctrine of “command responsibility” if he has knowledge that a crime or offense shall be committed, is being committed, or has been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his area of responsibility and, despite such knowledge, he did not take preventive or corrective action either before, during, or immediately after its commission . . .” 

The uniformed men of the Honorable General Debold Sinas, then Metro Manila PNP chief, blatantly threw him a birthday party (mananita), without masks and without social distancing. They imbibed prohibited alcoholic drinks. Beyond this, there are many cases of unresolved killings hounding him. 

Under the Executive Order above, he should be held accountable, right?  He was promoted instead. He is now the PNP chief.  

Recurring death? 

For years, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) had been trying to modernize toll collection on the expressways, but the system was never perfected. When toll collectors caught the new coronavirus, the DOTr shifted to electronic toll collection mandatory starting Dec. 1, even though the tollway operators did not have fail-proof systems.

Result: horrendous traffic stand-still on the expressways as RFID tags and sensors failed to work. 

The DOTr secretary, the Honorable Arthur Tugade, blamed and berated the toll operators, and washed his hands off the issue. Can accountability be delegated? 

And then there’s Honorable Francisco Duque, Secretary of Health, accused of “dropping the ball” . . . and Honorable Gen. Ricardo C. Morales, Chief of Philheath, accused of pocketing P15 billion . . . Honorable Senator Koko Pimental violating protocol . . . and Honorable Allan Peter Cayetano, accused of unliquidated P2 billion SEA games fund . . . and Honorable Brig. Gen. Jesus P. Durante III using smuggled vaccines for his men . . . and . . .

The names of honorables thinking, I can get away with it is endless. Let me end the list here, or my veins would burst while grieving over accountability.          

Management books tell us that leadership defines culture, and if a leader wants to create a culture of accountability, then it starts with him by modeling behaviors that he wants in an organization, because he is accountable for its failures and successes.  

Will accountability resurrect at another time? This has been my prayer before God's throne of Grace. 

“How long, O LORD, must I call for help?” (Habakkuk 1:2 NLT) 

 

2/08/2021

Virtual Book Launch (Part 2):

Memories of Grace


Review of Memories of Grace by Nor Gonzales on 27 November 2020.

There are three things that I like about the book. 

(continued from last post

Second, the emotions, the empathy, the excitement that each of the 180 devotional pieces evokes.  Grace has a gift of feelings.  On some pages, I felt vulnerable - I felt lonely, depressed, anxious, confused, angry, exhausted.  But there are more pages where I felt energized, entertained, hopeful, happy, thrilled, thankful, jubilant and joyful.  Sometimes the verses and the stories cited are cries for help -- a lament, while some verses are prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Reading through these made me feel that God sees through my heart and that all feelings are known to our God who has known us even while we were in our mother’s womb.  And I don’t have to mask these with anything. 

Third, the relevance to the times.  Covid 19 tops that list and she said it from the first page of her book. Perhaps, years from now, Memories of Grace could pass off as a “history book” that accurately portrays and documents the feelings that accompanied the invasion of Covid 19.  For through the stories and the reflections, one could feel the effects of Covid 19 on our psyche and emotions.  The book is also one that touches on political and social realities.  May sundot sa injustices, sa abuses, sa corruption, sa inefficiencies, how the poor and the marginalized may have felt throughout this pandemic.  She even tried to reflect on development issues, like poverty, functional illiteracy, and economic growth. How did she do it? Go and figure out for yourselves. Buy the book.

In doing so, I believe that Grace, as a Christian trying to live and love like Christ, has also exercised her prophetic role by using these daily reflections to denounce what is evil—all in the light of a world needing bountiful grace.  For to be a Christian does not mean waiting for the world to end because we are assured of a place in heaven. As a Christian, we are to bring heaven to where we are. That was a challenge to me, as a reader -- how to bring Shalom? Surely, that needs a lot of grace. 

And so I would like to end this review by quoting a part of the Prologue: 

“God’s mighty works through our once colorful life are memories of grace. Only by remembering can we move forward and realize: There need not be despair, because His grace has never left nor failed us- not then, not now.”  

Congratulations to Grace Chong, Jon de Vera, book cover designer and Marianne Ventura, page designer. 

Pahabol (P.S. in English): There is just one thing that I thought was missing. The book, with all 180 daily devotions seems to be bitin. It is good for only half a year, so perhaps, this should pave the way for a Part 2 of the devotional. 

* * * 

It is humbling to hear such praise from someone so accomplished in communications; thank you, Nor, for your kind words. I am grateful to OMF Lit for making this virtual book launch possible against all odds. 

I wrote a total of 365 devotions, but because of costs and circumstances caused by the pandemic, the Editorial Board reduced it to 180. The remaining unpublished devos will be uploaded here from time to time. 

For the success of this online event, I give back all the glory to God and God alone.  

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1 NIV). 


2/04/2021

Virtual Book Launch (Part 1):

Memories of Grace 


My book launches were either held in a private venue or at the open-to-the public Manila International Book Fair. In both places, I had been privileged to chat with readers, hug them or shake their hands, sign their books, and pose in hundreds of photos with their mobile phones.   

Those images would later populate many walls on Facebook.

The pandemic stole those treasures away. My one and only book launch in 2020 was done virtually.  One other book launching was canceled due to unforeseen kinks.  

And so Memories of Grace (Devotions for your golden years), was virtually launched on 27 November. What replaced all of the precious moments above was a book review, which to me was a tribute, not so much to the author, but to the Source of all wisdom. 

That was unexpected grace.  

God sent this grace through someone steeped in communications: Nor Gonzales. OMF Lit's Yna Reyes  described Nor as both a reader and a writer, a communications professional on development issues and programs. She was a senior communications officer at the World Bank, and now teaches a graduate course in communications at the UP. 

Let me share with you her uplifting and heartwarming review, which affirms my resolve to keep writing till the sun sets on me.  

It is my great honor to give a review of the latest book of Grace Chong, one who has been truly using her retirement years to productive use.  With 60 published books, 6 Palanca awards, Gawad Balagtas Award, Samsung Kids Time Award, National Book awards, and Catholic Mass Media Awards, she has truly redefined the word “retirement”.  Based on her achievements, it seems that retirement now means more influence, more territories to cover, more work but of course, more fun! 

I am not sure what has made me earn the honor, except perhaps, that I belong to the target age group of her latest book.  

While I fit the profile of a potential reader of this devotional book, let me say outright that this devotional book is not for senior citizens only.  If you are a son, a daughter, a grandchild, a nephew or niece, an in-law, a student, or just a friend, you will find that many of the stories embedded in the devotionals are also about you as you relate to your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, teacher, neighbor, or friend of your parents or grandparents.  Well, if you have not been relating to anyone of them, then I think, YOU of all people, should read this book. 

There are three things that I like about the book.  

First, each page is short and sweet. The Bible verses are light, easy to read and easily connected to the story of the day.  Thanks to Grace’s flair for writing, everything is 300 words or less per page.  That must not be easy. Striving to be a writer myself, I know how it is to agonize to trim down your thoughts from a long draft to a few words. But Grace is like an excellent cook, she can put all the ingredients in one pot, in the right proportion, and make sure that nothing spills, even when the mix boils.  So off to the pot is the relevant story, the Word – sometimes embedded in the story or sometimes in a distinct paragraph, and then the reflection and prayer. 

(to be continued next post)