Tuesday, June 18, 2019

GUT ISSUE

image credit: rgbstock.com
Your gut—that's where it hurts the most, if you miss your meal, or took strong medication so that your stomach flora fails to function properly.

End result? Ulcers, rupture of your stomach lining, damaged vital organs like liver, pancreas or kidney, and iffy overall health.

I'm no health expert but I just want to use the gut as a metaphor for this thought which has percolated to boiling point in my heart.  

A very recent news: Our fishermen's boat hit by a boat from China. As neighbors should, a little help—like bailing out the 22 Pinoy fishermen and bringing them to safety—would have been the instinctive response,right? Could have been a good closure. End of story.

But it was not meant to be. No such help was offered. Per reports, a Vietnamese fishing boat came to the rescue—corroborated the Pinoy fishermen's story, by the way—along  with a Philippine navy ship.  

Was the damage small? Were the fishermen shaken? Whether it was a big or small dent, or the fishermen remained calm or not—these don't matter anymore.

What matters today is: How did our leaders treat the situation? Take note, these Pinoys were fishing in Philippine waters. And the Chinese were the intruders. 

"Maritime incident," dismissed the man from the palace. "It is best investigated. I don't issue a statement now because there's no investigation and no result. The only thing we can do is wait and give the other party the right to be heard."  (Straits Times report, June 18,2019)

The incident happened June 9; above statement was uttered June 17; what happened in between? Whose right should he be concerned with—his people or the Chinese's?

OK, he's the top honcho. Where were his orders to investigate? Did his subalterns do it? Couldn't an official inquiry have been made sooner? 

He said further, the Philippines will not escalate tensions with China by sending military ships to the South China Sea…" As a knee-jerk response, is "the need to go to war" even a justifiable statement?  

What about compassion? What about a trickle of help? What about going there yourself or sending someone to commiserate with and get the fishermen's side first-hand?

What about assuring the public that this government is on top of the situation and will not tolerate abuse within our waters because we're a sovereign nation?  

What about taking the offenders to task if they're proven guilty?

That's the stuff of statesmanship—doing right by the people or the nation who put you in power in the first place. Not to throw blame or a cold shoulder because, who knows, "they may be telling a lie." What separates noblemen from the ignoble!

Or he just doesn't want to ruffle the guy or the people next door.  They who have swarmed our shores lately in the hundreds of thousands, either as illegal workers, 'build, build, build" financiers or contractors, businessmen and entrepreneurs, drug traders and many more. The list is endless.

Unless they're blinded or calloused, our leaders must by now know that our nation has run aground.  

It is a gut issue when our fishermen could not fish in our territorial waters—something which our leaders have relegated to the back-burners even if the international courts have already ruled in our favor. Why?!!

It is a gut issue when a daily earner's wife is in debt—to cook something to sell, because her husband is unable to fish.

It's a gut issue when illegal workers render jobless our carpenters and other manual laborers; with the Malacanang resident even labelling them, "Lazy! That's why the Chinese are taking over them."

It is a gut issue when a people is divided—with lies, cursing, sexual and rape jokes, shock and awe tactics, and bullying becoming a nation's daily fare. O, pity our children who are confused about which one is the better way—the bad or the good.

It is a gut issue when well-meaning politicians, and responsible media and media practitioners, are threatened, unfairly accused and lied about.  

These are gut issues because of their spirit-quenching and economic-shattering impact. Pinoys deserve better!

All these from one man (and his minions)? President of the Republic of the Philippines! What weight that title carries. But the one who answers to that exalted salutation—does he even care?

The One in heaven cares. He listens and He acts. What seems impossible with men is possible with Him. Meanwhile, let's not be coyed from speaking truth, calling out evil as it truly is—evil. 

We desire a corrupt-free and peaceful country? It comes at a price: taking a stand for what is right, obeying the law and contributing our fair share of productivity to nation-building. All these shall come to pass.

Pray and do good! We can do no less.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

IN PRAISE OF LEMON


Pity the lemon, a word oftentimes associated with mediocrity, worthlessness or misfortune.

"A lemon of a car," for a below-par-functioning vehicle.

"When  life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, " seems okay at first blush—because a lemonade is actually quite refreshing; but it really insinuates someone getting a raw deal in life.

"So just suck it up," is your only recourse—because though sour, lemon is juicy. Mapag-titiisan (bearable). Consuelo de bobo (mock consolation).

How did lemon get such bad press?  

Per english.stacexchange.com, lemon has since the mid-19th century been used as a metaphor for something leaving a bad taste in one's mouth,"and as a colloquial term for someone with a 'tart' or acidic personality, or more significantly, for 'sucker' or 'loser' or 'dim' person."

Enough of this, don't you think? Because to a lot of women, homemakers, chefs and food lovers, lemon is a God-sent.

Love pho, a Vietnamese comfort food? Lemon, plus the scent of basil, make it oh-sooo heavenly!

Arroz caldo, porridge Pinoy-style? Perfect match with lemon or calamansi, its Pinoy version .

You a pancit-lover? Apart from lemon or calamansi, our traditional noodle dish can be pretty bland.

Even cakes can be tart-ified with some lemon zest. Refreshing!

Need to detox, lose weight or whiten your teeth. Lemon-ize it!  

It would take book volumes to sing praises to lemon—from making us healthier,  to turning our dishes divine, to functioning as a cleaning and hygiene agent.

And because it can be raised in abundance, this gem of a fruit is not priced like gold. And here in the US of A, we're blessed to have friends surprising us from time to time with these golden treasures. (Waiting for our lemon tree to fruit.)

So this is a shout-out to Reggie and Nyorly. We're feasting on your lemons! Thanks. 

"Good!" That's how God described the plants he placed in Adam and Eve's garden.

Genesis 1:12 "And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after its kind; and God saw that it was good."

Just like salt, lemon is a flavor enhancer. Jesus calls his followers salt, earth flavorers.  

Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?"  

Not on our own but by His grace—to touch others' lives for Jesus.

There's a nice ring to this too: "You are the lemons  of the earth. But if lemon loses its juiciness and zest, how can it be made juicy and zesty again?"   

Here's a tart "Never again!" to lemon slander.

Friday, May 3, 2019

DARIUS AND HIS ALLERGIES

Darius with his self-published book
"Narwhal and Squid"
A kid and his park are soon parted—at least momentarily for Darius whose one great love is playing in the park with his friends. 

A few months back, Darius joined an art competition in his school (Wolf Canton Elementary School, Chula Vista, San Diego).

Not only did his video project make it to school district level; his was the only one in its category from Wolf Canyon which moved to California state competition. 

Till today, he's more than euphoric. Who knows? National award may be next! 

I'm writing about Darius for a number of reasons. 

First: Darius is just ten years old (apart of course from the fact that his family and ours treat each other as kins). I've not met many kids this age quite serious about accomplishing tasks. 

Second: Darius wisely chose a topic he was familiar with. His entry dealt with a subject he'd experienced—allergies, which he's wrestled with since he was a baby.

(A lesson for wannabe writers! Write about things close to your heart. By the way, Darius also self-published a book, entitled Narwhal and Squid.)

Third: He poured precious time and energy to complete this project. 

Using Lego parts and a script he'd sequenced in his mind, Darius painstakingly put together those tiny interlocking bricks over and over again for the effect needed to animate them.


Resulting in one compact story: Boy eats cake, gets rashes. Dad calls 911. Ambulance arrives. Crew alight to put patient on stretcher. Ambulance drives to hospital. Staff unload patient. Medical staff attend to him. Boy gets well. 

All in three minutes, a total of more than a thousand clicks or frames, with music and sound effects for that edge-of-your-seat yet funny kiddie vibe to make you root for Lego Darius. 

Fourth: He heeded his parents' words and not the tugging of his playful self. Here's where I realize what parks and playgrounds mean to children. 

"He initially completed 400 shots, just enough for 40 seconds. And the requirement was a three to five-minute video," says Mom Elaine.

Realizing tons of work still needed to be done, Darius tried to cop out. "I miss playing in the park and being with my friends," he said, almost teary eyed. He'd been cooped up in this project for quite sometime. 

His dad Dennis asked, "Do you want to really join the competition?" 

"Yes," replied Darius. 

"Then you'll do it—because you can do it! Do a few shots a day so you can complete the story." added his dad. That meant 200 to 300 clicks—and Lego rearrangements per shot—a day! 

Two very loooong weeks of not setting foot on the park! Must have been torture! 

Fifth: This young man's patience and perseverance paid off. 

"I hope I make it to national level," confided Darius when I butted in recently as he and his Mom chatted on Messenger.

Pretty simple, huh. Accomplishing something is a step by step, click by click, one Lego-brick-at-a-time process. The image or plan simmering in your mind does not get to boiling point until you actually do it—and you stew in the process with seeming dead-ends, reworks and even disappointments.

But it's in the latter where real learning happens. And where a child realizes his parentsand those who care for himare around for their hugs and words of wisdom.

Doing things for the first time and being imposed a deadline are scary prospects for a kid. Actually, the being-afraid-part never ceases, yes, even if you're a confident career person or a senior. 

I pray that as Darius tackles life's bigger projects, he takes to heart this bible verse: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Philippians 4:13; and continue to seek his  parents' guidanceMay he lean on Jesus for wisdom, the fear of God be foremost in his heart even as he, like David, confronts more Goliaths along the way.  


Saturday, April 27, 2019

EVIDENCE, YOUR HONOR


All those who believe in Jesus, raise your hands. 

I hope you did.

Yet, let's probe further. Have you entrusted your life to Jesus?

Your "yes" signifies that to you, Jesus is not just a religious icon or tradition; but someone you know and trust. For real! as my grandkid Natalie would say to prove a point.      

That's what faith in Jesus is all about. God didn't send His Son to bully us into submission. He wants us to get to that place where Jesus reigns as YOUR way, truth and life.      

It's not blind faith at all. Our trust in Jesus is backed by evidence.

Evidence 1: The empty tomb.

Third day after Jesus' crucifixion: the heavily-guarded tomb—with its huge stone covering—was empty.  

Instead, an angel sat there, saying, "Do not be afraid, I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay." (Matthew 28: 5-6)

JUST AS HE SAID. Yes, Jesus told His disciples beforehand!

"This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day…" Luke 24:46—foretold centuries ago by Moses, the prophets and the Psalms!

Evidence 2:  The risen Christ interacted with His followers.

Matthew 28: 8-10: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. "Greetings," He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

They did see Him. Not only that, Jesus appeared to the eleven and other followers a few more times. He asked doubting Thomas to touch His nail-scarred hands.

Too, historical accounts testify of Jesus appearing to hundreds of people in numerous places for almost seven weeks after His resurrection, writes Paul Strand, CBN News.   

Evidence 3: Changed lives

"Something huge did happen to suddenly and forever turn all the cowering, cowardly disciples into bold believers, proclaiming a risen Messiah they were willing to be tortured and die for, " added Strand.

One can't dispute the evidence of changed lives. Who would risk ridicule, alienation and persecution for a lie?

And how can one explain the millions around the world, with our once off-track lives, foolishness and sky high egos, detouring toward God-righteousness?  

What would take for us to believe?

Thomas—who heard Jesus' life-changing messages and witnessed His miracles—doubted His resurrection!

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe,” Jesus told Thomas (John 20:27).

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” verse 29.

The evidence is clear. Jesus—Son of God paying the perfect sacrifice for our sins—defeated death then went back up to heaven to intercede for us. Not surprisingly, heaven responds through no other name but His.   

Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

WHOSE POINT OF VIEW?

Image credit: https://pixabay.com
We all have our own points of view—paradigm, I heard a Human Resource manager say while explaining varying world-views on morality.  

Because these perspectives are nurtured through time, we own them—or they own us—eventually. The closer they are to our convictions, the more we tightly guard them.

"I'll bring these beliefs to the grave with me!" I've heard this countless times, especially when talk comes to religion.

Discussing topics like faith, truth, integrity or honesty is like opening a can of worms. Debate about it some more and you're game-on for a word war; worse, your friend unfriends you.  

Our Creator, knowing us so well—our propensity to follow life's dark alleys—certainly didn't want us mired in a battle of wits and minds.

With these warring perspectives about key life issues—or simply what's right or wrong—the truth must lie somewhere, right?

Well, God didn't leave us clueless. He's provided us a template—the Bible! Just like an appliance manufacturer giving you a manual to operate your gadget properly.  

And if that's not enough, He sent His own Son, the consummate teacher—one who listened to and embodied His Father's instructions. Genesis described Him as the Word, Creator of the universe. At one  point in human history, He came down from heaven; lived among us; and taught us heaven's perspective.

John 1:14 reads: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…" (John 14:16), Jesus claimed; and proved it.  There's no losing your way on Truth Street!

When Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32) He's telling us even today: "Get my drift! Then filter your other so-called truths through that. Let's see which gives you genuine change."

But one does not need to die yet to prove that Jesus' words ring true. Proof of following after Christ or having his perspective and obeying them (having the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16)?

Changed lives! Who can argue with that? The bible has proven itself to be not just a book; it is the book of life!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

By all means explore life's different philosophies, faiths, ideologies. You owe yourself that—to acquire knowledge, understand and develop your point of view; then decide for yourself which way points to life. Real life.   

I once believed Darwin's theory of evolution; but the more I learned about God, the more I realized how foolish we've all been for believing a lie. Oh, the falsehoods we need to examine and let go!

What do you believe in?   


Believe in Jesus. Obey Him. And enjoy heaven's perspective. 






Tuesday, April 9, 2019

THE JUDAS IN US

Image credit: https://www.elmcreekchurch.org

There will always be someone—in a family, team or organization—pursuing his own dubious agenda.

Take Judas. Yes, that Judas. Called by Jesus to His team yet sold Him off for 30 pieces of silver.

"What happened to this disciple who supposedly left everything to follow Jesus?" asked Pastor Robert Hern (Victory San Diego) in last Sunday's preaching.  

"He knew Jesus. Moved in the power of God. Experienced His miracles first-hand. Listened day-in, day-out to His life-changing teachings. Laid hands on the sick and they got healed."   

Judas lived in the corridors of God's power! Yet he sold His Master off.

Was he really that evil? But didn't the other disciples betray or disappoint Jesus too?

Peter disowned Jesus not once but thrice.

Thomas always doubted Jesus. When the others reported that Jesus came back to life, Thomas replied, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe," John 19:25.

Just like most of us. To-see-is-to-believe types. Unbelief is betrayal too, isn't it?

James and John behaved arrogantly. Imagine demanding, nay, commanding Jesus, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”   

So the big question remains: Why Judas? Why not Peter or James or John or Thomas?

Indeed, why not you or me? If we lived in that generation, it could have been a toss-up between you and me. Or someone we know. Anyone and everyone qualifies! Anyone could have stepped up to the plate. 

Because all of us, along with Judas, are sinners. It was not just Judas' betrayal but our sin which brought Jesus to the cross. Everyone fits the role to a T! 

Romans 3:23—"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

While Peter et al repented, Judas did not. After he betrayed Jesus, Peter was not only remorseful but completely trusted and obeyed Jesus to the point of persecution and death.

Judas experienced remorse—so he tried to return the money paid him; but never crossed over to repentance; then hanged himself. Why this tragic ending for a Jesus disciple?

Recall the scene when Mary anointed Jesus' feet with perfume:  "Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he used to take from what was put into it.…" (John 12:5-6)

Judas loved money more than Jesus. He followed Jesus for the loot.

Interestingly, the name Judas in Hebrew means "Praise Yahweh".  

Heart check: Is there anyone or anything we love more than the Lord? Idols are not just the wood or stone which we put on our altars but even those which sit prominently—money, power, fame—on the throne of our hearts.

It boils down to choice, says Pastor Robert. 

Joshua 24:15—"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”     


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

TALE OF TWO GARDENS

Did a forbidden fruit like this cause Adam and Eve's expulsion
from the garden? Or was it pride? (My pastel painting, 2014) 
What images come to mind at the mention of "garden"?

Petals in full bloom. A rainbow of colors. Fruit trees and palm trees and neatly trimmed hedges. A bubbling brook maybe. A veggie section definitely. Ah, glorious scents! Make mine lavender!

Indeed, who wouldn't want to spend infinity livin' la villa bella (beautiful life) in a garden? 

Adam and Eve and kids could have spent their forever in what could have been the coolest place on earth.

Genesis 2:8-9 "Now the Lord God had planted a garden...; and there He put the man He had formed... made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground―trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food."

Yet they blew it! The cost of their disobedience? Adam and Eve estranged from God and the perks that came along with it.

Sorry, Adam and Eve grandkids to the nth degree, we'd been bumped off from Eden.  

Let's visit another garden―Gethsemane.

Pastor Robert Hern (Victory Church San Diego) compared these two gardens in his recent preaching:

"The first garden symbolized man's failure to submit to God's will. The second Adam―Jesus―in the second garden, welcomed God's will and turned our defeat to victory."

Recalling Jesus' week "surging from victory (Palm Sunday) to a grief fest" at the garden of Gethsemane, Pastor Robert noted how Jesus and His disciples must have felt at home in that garden. It was their go-to place for prayers, fellowships and teach-ins. A cool place!

Yet that night, the garden turned gruesomely black.

Jesus bared His agonizing heart to His friends; then to His Fatherabout what awaited Him at the cross.  

As He prayed, his sweat turned to blood. Luke 22:44 "And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood..."

Doctors call it "hematidrosis", when blood vessels cause sweat glands to rupture due to emotional or physical distressusually associated with man's fight or flight response to awful situations.

JesusSon of God who forsook heaven and became manto save us, struggled with completing His mission? Indeed! Jesus felt it allsorrow, joy, anger. And why not now when He knew the cross awaited Him?   

But it wasn't just the cross that haunted him. It was the prospect of all our sins and God's indignation being heaped upon Him!

Ultimately, obedience trumped sorrow. "Father, if you are willing, remove his cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done," Luke 22:42.

"...Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation," (Luke 22:46) He told His disciples whom he found sleeping afterwards.

But at this point, the battle had been won. Jesus would finish the fight in exchange for our salvation. 

There in the garden, at the crossroads of His reason for being, Jesus yielded to the perfect will of His heavenly Father.

The first garden ushered in man's break from God. The second assured us of salvation through the blood of Jesus.

It's really about choice, isn't it? Jesus chose to obey. So could we. And complete the race He's laid out for us.