Friday, July 14, 2017

ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

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It's fascinating that with Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, folks from all over the globe are able to seamlessly connect wherever and whenever they please.

That wasn't so in my heyday. That was when we wrote lettersdone very sparingly because postage stamps cost a fortunewhich reached the other side of the globe in weeks. Or we phoned. But that too was expensive. With my P300 salary (my first pay-check after graduationshould reveal how ancient I am), no way!  

If I went on fieldwork, I'd fall off the gridmy boss never knowing if I made lakwatsa (goofed off) or was in fact working.  

Thank God for the likes of Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, whose algorithmic minds have made real time and in-your-face connectedness such a whee-some ride. And at hardly any cost to ordinary people like us!

So today, we no longer search but Google information, or tweet them, or FB-post them; plus say "good morning" and "nitey-nite" to nanay, ate or your bestie via Facetime, Viber, Messenger or Skypeall while you're having breakfast or while you're preparing to call it a day.

And who's complaining? How convenient! What a blessing!

People we've not seen in ages have suddenly materialized. Class and family reunions are more complete because no matter how far off the grid one is, somebody's bound to be found.

Our UST Education High School class reunion FB page is alive with reports of classmates long lost but now found. You've surely heard of high school sweethearts finding each other again, rekindling the fire for another chance at love. Cheesy ba?

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But too much of a good thing can also be a curse. It's not Zuckerberg or Brin's fault. We still celebrate their algorithmic minds or anyone with a new gadget or app to make life a bit easier, especially for those with limited means or those hindered by age or disease. Technology has levelled the playing field, don't you think?

We've become overly dependent (like an addiction) on the net and social media that we've used them as substitutes for genuine social interaction. Doesn't if feel good to have face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder interaction, with some fist-bumping, back slapping, foot stomping and guffawing besides? I'd feel warm and secure if in the midst of a loss or tragedy, my loved ones and friends came to embrace me or cry with me.

I feel sorry for the US president. The more he goes on Twitter, the more his popularity takes a beating. Because leading is not a matter of writing slogans or words with shock effect, or facing TV cameras and shooting off one liners and smart-alecky comments for social media mileage or to fill primetime news.  

Managing a nation or our lives is about confronting issues, spending time with people, seeking their feedback and making decisions that build bridges rather break them.

Notice how people have made social media their megaphone for expressing feelings which they could not tell you otherwise in person.

"You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You are my life and my joy! I wouldn't know how to go on with life if you will not be here by my side." When I read this, my first impulse was, "I hope he said this too, and more, in person."

Funny and sad scenes: family members fiddling with their cellphones at dinner time; teeners burning the midnight oil, not because of their assignments, but on their smart phones; and them coming to school with none of their lessons in mind.

This teacher has seen the quality of students go downhill each year. The internet bug has so inhabited young people's minds, they're unable to analyse or even carry on  decent conversations.    

Worse, many have taken to social media to curse and cuss others for their perceived inappropriate actions, decisions or words. Filipinos bashing Jeff Horn because he was declared winner over Manny Pacquiao? Shameful, wasn't it?

With all the negativity and sub-culture of hateplus the selfie-showinessdisplayed every day, many have started to treat social media in a sort of standoffish way.

Thanks, social media, I still love you. But I've decided to limit your intrusion, and resolved instead to heed Hebrews 10:24-25:  
    
"… consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching."

Monday, June 5, 2017

ARE YOU UP TO THE CHALLENGE? ONE CHILD AT A TIME

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World Vision photo
Kiana teaches Aeta kids. Not only that, she sponsors 18 of them so they could go to school. At this stage in her life, Kiana is paying it both waysbackward and forward.

Flashback, 1991. Kiana's father, Artemio Castillo (Manong Arting), faced his most harrowing experience. Mount Pinatubo erupted, entombing whatever little dream or hope they held on to.

"Ayaw ko nang balikan ang ala-alang 'yun," he testified in the recent World Vision (WV) appreciation event for its sponsors. "Kapapanganak pa lang ng asawa ko. Napakahirap umalis. Unahan (ang mga naiwan) sa pagkuha ng kabaong. Dating nang dating ang mga patay." (I want to forget it ever happened. My wife just gave birth. It was hard to leave. (People were) jostling for coffins. The dead just kept coming.)

Manong Arting's Aeta community became World Vision's special project. Not only were the children provided education. More than 150 Aeta families from Iba, Zambales, were relocated to a place they called "Lupang Pangako" (Land of Promise). Manong Arting today pastors his Aeta congregation, constantly reminding them of God's great love and faithfulness.

"Inspiring" was this event's recurring tonewhen WV Vision recognized the role of child sponsors, sought more sponsors to commit, and demonstrated that lives can indeed be changed if people cared.

You may on the surface think that WV is all about sending underprivileged kids to school. Look further and you'll realize that for each child that you send to school, families are likewise engaged, through livelihood, health and spiritual programsall to empower communities towards productivity in all areas of their lives.
WV's 15-year sponsors with
WV chairman Liwayway Vinzons-Chato

"It takes a village to raise a child"an African proverb. 

Note that many among the five year loyal donors are millennials! A shout-out to my students! :) 

Many of these sponsors (some of them 15 and 20-year sponsors) support not just one but many children. The World Vision staff, management and board membersheaded by former BIR Commissioner Liwayway Vinzons-Chatothemselves have their own personally-supported kids. That's walking the talk!

Jack and I continued the sponsorship of our daughter Carmela (whose family now lives overseas) who at a young age deemed it proper to extend help in a disciplined way. Our sponsored child, Leah Melcah, is now a high school student. Her recent letter to us: "Thank you for all the advice nyo sa akin. Makakaasa po kayo na panghahawakan ko ang inyong bigay na mga salita ng Diyos. Ganon din po kayo…patuloy na kumapit sa Diyos at 'wag kaligtaan na mag-pray sa kanya…" (Trust that I will hold on to the Word of God which you gave me. May you too hold on to God and not neglect to pray.)

When Jack and I retired and started to depend on our SSS pensions for our daily provisions, the temptation to stop helping charities bugged us. But how could we when God is our provider? When has He ever failed us? True, nowadays, we give sacrificiallyespecially since our maths still would not add up. But what's P750 a month if it means a child (without the means to make it because of extreme poverty) will have a chance to become a doctor or a scientist or a soldier?

Giving up six Starbucks lattesor a pair of jeansa month in exchange for a child being freed from scarcity? That's a no brainer!

One of the event's guest performers, contemporary artist, Quest (his real name Jose Villanueva III, himself a child sponsor) summed up the WV challenge via his "Sige Lang" song's chorus:

Walang imposible sige lang nang sige
Abot mo ang mundo
Malapit o malayo sama sama tayo (sama sama tayo)
Hanggang sa dulo ano man ang pagsubok
Hindi susuko, alam kong kaya mo
Sige lang sige! Sige lang sige!
Walang imposible!

People helping people. That's what it's all about! I pray you will be up to the challenge.

Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

To get in touch with World Vision: Email wv_phil@wvi.org. Donor hotline  +632372777.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

SUFFER NOT THE CHILDREN

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Nakakagigil! Aw, precious! Gorgeous! Lovely! Cutie-pie! Words we use to describe babies and little children because indeed they are.

And we want to forever lock them in our protective embrace if we could; but we know that at some point we need to let go, and let them go, so they won't turn spineless and insecure.

What's sad is, many kids today grow up devoid of not only precious parental nurturing, but the basic education they need so they can survive their increasingly complex environment.

In a lot of sitios in the Philippines, parents struggle to give their children education due to poverty. We may rant and complain about inutile and corrupt governance, or misguided parenting, but meanwhile, the children await:

That they may know A from Ba, Ka, Da, E, Ga, Ha, I, La, Ma, Na, etc., and put them together. 

Engage in mathletics. 

Practice good manners and right conduct. 

Learn basic skills like carpentry, baking, sewing. Most of all, discover that they could rise above their dire straits. 

That they can create, invent, write books, be a doctor or an architect, even jet to Mars, because they've discovered this  "I am an awesome creation. God has a great plan and purpose for my life!"

Image may contain: 42 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoorWorld Vision, you're a God-send! Founded 67 years ago, it exists solely to ensure that children experience life in all its fullness where poverty and injustice exist.

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full," says Jesus (John10:10b) World Vision's marching order.

I'm privileged to have met WV Philippines' fundraising team, courtesy of my new-found sister in the Lord, Angelica Piolino; and I praise God for instilling in them the value of "faithfulness with little".  

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoorA professional bunch, they give donors timely and regular feedback on receipt of donations and the status of the children and their families. They even encourage the children to write you. Some messages I've received from my sponsored child have greatly inspired me.   

The first half of John 10:10 reads: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." Satan knows that his grip on this world will soon be over, so he's closing in on the future generation.

Internet sources share these statistics: per year 56 million abortions worldwide (2010-2014); 58 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973; 610 thousand abortions in the Philippines alone in 2012.

Child abuse in the Philippines continues to rise, with sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment and sexual exploitation as leading cases. The images are as grim in Syria, many African nations, and other countries besieged by war and dictatorial or terrorist regimes.

Jesus commands in Matthew 19:14, "Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

May our prayer and response be, "Here I am, send me." One child at a time.

If you wish to partner with World Vision, please call 372-77-77.



Monday, January 2, 2017

REDEEMING GRACE

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"Many have prophesied that 2017 will be a great year; but it's not so much the prophesying but the yielding to God which will bring you blessings," Pastor Paul Chase reminded us at the close of 2016.

And this, he said, is what the Lord requires: to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord, Micah 6:8.

I'm pretty sure that Steven and Steph (not their real names, including the ones mentioned here) are two of those who will receive God's abundant blessingseven miraclesin the days to come. 

Their love story itself is a miracle, and one for the books. If this were a theatre production, you'd be watching three acts.

Act 1: Until recently, Steph had consigned herself to a life of single-blessedness. She and Steven were schoolmates and were quite an item for seven years. They said temporary goodbyes when Steph left for the US many years back, with Steven promising to follow after two years. But the two years stretched to ten so Steph bid her merrily-ever-after-dream goodbye. She was moving on. Her sister Chai lived with her; so they made the most of their American dream.

Act 2: Fast forward to 2015. Steph and Chai step on Philippine soil again, but this time to a woeful scene. 

Their younger brother, Arvin, died under tragic circumstances, leaving behind two sons: Jace, four years old, and Nathan, one. Their mom never showed up and was never heard from againfor whatever reason. So their aging grandfather, now a widower, was left to care for the boys when Steph and Chai went back to the US. Though employed full time in the US, the sisters took turns to visit and stay a bit longer, playing surrogate mothers to their nephews.

Act 3, seventeen years after Steph and Steven said their goodbyes:

Steven, now a very mature Christian, was by himself in a mall when he espied a young boy. "He looks familiar, parang kamukha ni Arvin," he mused; then followed the boy as he strolled back to another familiar faceSteph's dad!

The next time Steph came home, guess who handed her a bunch of flowers? This time, she allowed herself to be swept off her feet again.

Steph and Steven tied the knot recently in a quiet but beautiful wedding ceremony conducted by the latter's brother/pastor.

Things are looking up that they could now quicken the process to adopt the kids and prepare for them a home in the US.

Amazing story, huh, about how God "closes a door then opens a window," borrowing a phrase from the musical play "Joseph the Dreamer". 

I've always wondered why the writer of that song used the word "window" instead of "another door"? This time I understood.

God allowed Steph and Steven to clearly see His design, a purpose bigger than one's self. It's about sacrificial love and relationships, "acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with the Lord."

That's what Christ showed us on the cross.

It will still be an uphill climb for this new couple to finally become official mom and dad to the boys. Parenting is challenging enough yet they're already deep into it.

We've witnessed a miracle. What's another miracle to Him who promised to work things out for the good of those who love Him?

I recently watched Steven playing with now two year old Nathan and my heart was assured: all will be well!


Lord, we lift up to you Steph and Steven. You know who they are and their situation. We pray that your abundant grace will enable them to persevere in their new-found status, and You will intervene so that theywith the boyscould now build their home. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

IN DARKNESS NO MORE

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(A reflection on the spirit of the seasonshared recently with my friends in the Christian Writers' Fellowship at OMF Literature. Edited for this blogsite.)


Isaiah 9:2 "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned."

Have you experienced being in an unfamiliar dark room, where all you can do is grope? Where the only steps you could take are so tiny because big ones might make you stumble big-time? Then your ears become so acutely sensitive like a dog's; your hair bristles in fright; and your blood tsunamies to the point of cardiac arrest.  

Darkness withina life apart from Christis scarier! Way frightening!

When did Christ come to your own dark room? Were you just walking in darkness or were you in deep darkness?  

How is it to be in deep darkness? Ask me, I know!

When my life was just about me, myself and moi, bitterness, anger, resentment and unforgiveness were my daily grindon top of teeth grinding in my sleep. I spiralled into periods of despair and hopelessness (without anyone ever noticing because I was a great pretender). It was utter darkness, where the only way out seemed to be to escape it all.

But just in time, Jesus came, changed my life of angst and drama into one joyful and peaceful. Ah, pwede palang matulog nang mahimbing sa gabi! And my midnight snack could be about God's goodness instead of my fearsof death, sickness, failure, financial lackad nauseam!

And so this is Christmas! A simple but powerful and life-changing message (in Hillsong's "Here I Am to Worship" lyrics):

"Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see…
King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above  
Humbly You came to the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor."

That's the reason Christian writers write. That's the reason we sing and live as Christ didfor blind eyes to sparkle again through the little lights that we've become.

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven," Matthew 5:16.

Lights flood homes and malls and a lot of public places every Christmastime. OK din naman yun, di ba, para makulay ang selebrasyon. Para hindi natin makalimutang mag-shop para sa inaanak o sa anak.

But the greater (and real) light must not be snuffed out by the insignificant kumukuti-kutitap lights around us. Jesus in us should so shine through our lives and our writings that people would crave what we have. "Iba ka, bakit ka ganyan? Ganyan ba talaga ang born against?"   

What is your story? The story of your ascent from pitch darkness to light? The earth will become darker, we all know that from prophecy. Statistics tell us that suicides are at their highest at Christmastimeand becoming higher especially among millennials.

This is our story: Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

That's why we write what we write, so that those who read our books would experience Christ every day of their lives, in their place of work, at home, and in spite of challenges.


Lord, may I not miss the real essence of Christmas. Help me to rise above the clutter of partying and materialism and indulge instead in your loveyour free gift of grace for all those who would confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Usher me into your kingdom of light, where peace and joy abound because of Him who reigns there, forever. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

BIPOLAR FAITH

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It feels a lot like Christmas, doesn't it?

Well, it's not just about the increased foot traffic in malls, especially because many have already received their 13th month pay.

But the air is cooler, more pleasant and more conducive to wearing more layers of clothing. Rejoice my fashionista friends!

Our weathermen credit Arctic (North pole) winds for our cool breeze, which hopefully lingers.

How utterly different the Arctic and the Antarctic (South) poles are. The North Pole, it seems is kinder to humans (Remember Sarah Palin, the most popular Alaska resident?) with its minus 34 degree celsius temperature; versus the Antarctic's minus 49 degrees.

The South pole is simply uninhabitable, except by penguins, and humans who visit during summer for weather tracking.

Guess what, polar bears live only in the North, according to listverse.com, which reports that the lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was minus 89 degrees celsius, at the Vostok Base, near the geomagnetic South.                                                            

I wonder if "bipolar" has its roots from the North-South pole juxtaposition: the earth's opposite hemispheres looking seemingly similar (for their icy nature), yet very dissimilar.

Recent news have reported of popular bipolar personalities. 

The term describes someone with manic depressive tendencies characterized by serious and significant mood swings or alternating highs and lows, per John M. Grohol, Psy.D, psychcentral.com.

Would some of us be diagnosed as bipolar too in our faith-walk?

Our faith goes on high-mode when we read about God's promises; yet this same faith gets deflated, as if infected by dementia, when confronted by disappointments.

"Such a person is double-minded and unstable…" James 1:8. "When we ask, we must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." (James 1:6-7)

I've at many times been a bipolar Christian. When I was new in my faith, I learned to pray, and pray earnestly. Yet, when the answers came, I dismissed them as pure coincidence. Double-faced na, bipolar pa!

I recently prayed with a young couple for a house of their own. Could God be waiting for them to step out in faith (in spite of their parents' objections), since it is His perfect will for man and woman to cleave as one and be separate from their parents' household?

Jonah, perfect example of a bipolar believer: Called by God to preach repentance to the Ninevites, he instead ran away because, in his heart of hearts, he wanted Nineveh destroyed. Yet, Jonah was God's prophet!

Allowing our more carnal selves get the better of us that's when we become bipolar believers.

Only by His grace and His Holy Spirit can we obey. So we need to rely daily on Jesus for our strength.  That's why 1Peter 1:10 encourages us to "make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble."

Want to be rid of bipolar faith? Let the mind of Christ inhabit yours.


Monday, October 24, 2016

BATTLING THE KILLER Q'S

Quotients. You either love or hate them.

We idolize Einstein types for their superb intelligent quotient or IQ, and swoon over people with  exceptional emotional intelligence (EQ).

Admirable too if you've got these CQ's: change quotient (ability to manage change), or creative quotient for giftedness in the arts.
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Two CQ's though are better thrown in the trash bin.

Forgive me, Jesus, I've lately been afflicted with these CQ's. 

I thought they'd easily pass away like the common cold, but theycomplaint quotient and criticism quotient persisted.

I'm not sure exactly when  they started bugging me; but they must have encroached round about the recent presidential election. Facebook and television teemed with vitriol about which camp was lying or telling the truth. These viruses gained their foothold as I had FB for breakfast, watched network news, or chatted about them over coffee with like-minded friends.

This CQ infection has become a phenomenon. One FB friend termed it witchcraftbecause how could friends fight over something or someone they didn't even personally know?

Initially, I thought I could just be an observer, and just pray. But the bugs persisted, and my spiritual immune system snapped.

I had the best intention: share biblical insights about what's happeningbecause God's words can cause people to relent.

Hebrews 4:12  "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Afterall, troll-initiated lies and online bullying shouldn't be allowed to persist, right? That's what we should do as responsible citizens, right? And we should speak out as concerned and peace-loving people, right? 

Didn't God send Ezekiel  (34:1-8) to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel because they've "scattered the flock, and with force and severity dominated them?"

The problem though with engaging in word wars is: once in, you wouldn't know when to back out. Initially, you just want to share appropriate biblical truths to shed light on the country's situations, plus give your own little comment. I admit, some of my comments have been a bit tart. And those invited tart remarks too from others.

Tart for tart equals tartness (taray) glorified—not God.  The anatomy of word wars.  

We've seen relationships break as friends or family members defended or criticized our new president. This is unprecendented! Tama na!

So, I'm done criticizing, done complaining. Bugs eradicated.

I humbled myself before you and you gave me a firm place to stand. Thank you, Jesus!

Thanks to my husband and my friends who continue to remind me that everything is in God's hands. We needn't be afraid because He is still seated on the throne.

That doesn't mean though that I'll stop praying and sharing the Word. Jesus is the only hope of our nation. He promised: the government will be on His shoulder!

Thank you Lord for reminding us that whatever is happening in our country, could not be won through barbed words but through your Word and your Spiritbecause our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and strongholds in the high places.  We bind these forces up, in Jesus' name! And lift up to You our president. That  he may acknowledge You as Savior and Lord; and obey you wholeheartedlyfor the glory of Your name.