Monday, January 2, 2017

REDEEMING GRACE

image credit: http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com
"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

Image credit: http://www.drodd.com/images11/
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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

Image result for south pole
image credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com
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.
image credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

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. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

TRIBULATION CENTER

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch, 1893
Life sucks. Even my Pastor says so.

As a senior, I find myself staring at sickness more often. It's worse for those with cancer and other deadly diseases.

Treat people kindly; some fire back with venom.

We expect our new leader to inspire or at least be a role model; but what do we get? A buffet of curses every suppertime. Makes you wonder if the art of cursing, war-mongering and bullying should instead be taught in school in lieu of good manners and right conduct.

When you read about kids being abused or used by adults for their own ends, you drown in a sea of sadness, anger and guilt because you could not do much about it.

Jesus himself warned that life will never be a bed of roses. Earth is tribulation center! We're all in a problematic place. God has never hidden this truth from us:

Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…"

2 Cor. 4:4 "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

That's why Jesus came that in spite of our disappointments and struggles, and in spite of Satan continuously harassing us, our lives can be productive and purpose-driven.  

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

If He has overcome, so can we. If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He will teach us to:

·   Continue doing good

Plant goodness and your barn will be stacked with everything good. That's His promise! Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
·       
     Pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances

Especially for our loved ones even our enemies. Pray for your boss, for our president and other government leaders. God has given every believer the authority to pray, in Jesus' name, to bring down strongholds and demonic powers, especially in government and those who enslave others through any form of evil.  

Jesus changes lives. He even changes hearts no matter how deep they are in the pit of addiction, either to substances, lust, power or money.
·        
     Help those in need

"The poor you will always have with you," Jesus says, Matthew 26:11. We can't do anything for poor people in Timbuktu, can't we? unless of course you're Warren Buffet or Henry Sy  but you can give to those who ask for help, or donate to  organizations which organize help for those who lack or need aid because of disasters. 

Operation Blessing, World Vision, and Metro World Child are trustworthy NGOs which channel your kindness to children and communities.

·   Experience His peace which passes all understanding

Peace is elusive apart from Him who saves us from eternal death and gives us abundant life. Isaiah 9:6a prophesied of Jesus:  "… He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." No wonder I can sleep soundly at night despite everyday concerns.


This verse also promised, "… the government will be on his shoulders." 

No matter how perplexed we are about what's happening around us, take heart, Jesus has our back.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

LIGHT BEARER

(Sharing my testimony, published in the Philippine Campus for Christ website)
"I am the master of my destiny.” Or so I thought. Until Cyd.
Earlier in my career, a former colleague called me to rejoin her in the company we both served.
“I’m happy where I am now,” I told her — sure that I was beyond convincing. In our back-and-forth, she offered me a salary I could not resist; so I went back to this former employer — convinced that I was smokin’ hot.
Never did I realize that God was brewing His own recipe, not buttering my ego.
It was in this company where I met the former Cyd Latunio, a Corporate Planning analyst.
Our offices were neighbors, so Cyd and I managed to chat between work. To my surprise, I felt at ease around her, even if I was initially intimidated by her — she seemed really smart.
Yet there was something about her. Cyd was friendly and easily laughed at the slightest provocation. Yet she never told off-color jokes, nor spoke ill of others.
“I want whatever she has,” I thought. It felt good to be around her. In contrast, I complained a lot and easily found fault in others — that was low-self-esteemed-me masquerading as intolerant-high-and-mighty-me.
It did not take long for me to discover that Cyd was a believer, and with the Campus Crusade for Christ. The more she spoke about Jesus, the more I gravitated to her.
But it was not just her words. She demonstrated Jesus.
Cyd invited me one day to a balikbayan’s gospel concert in a hotel. I didn’t need convincing. At this point, she had me — hook, line and sinker.
Here I was plagued with insecurity, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness and fear — one faced with tsunami-like issues; and I was drowning in them.
That night, a different sort of flood engulfed me: “God loves me, unconditionally!” I never knew that. “It’s by faith and grace, not works.” “Repent.” “Confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord.” Who could refuse that? I asked Jesus into my heart.
That night I slept like a baby, for the first time in many years. So this was what being born again meant.
Change? Too many to mention here. Miracles? Likewise. My story is not finished yet. All my days are in Jesus’ hands.
Cyd may may have gone to heaven ahead of us (She succumbed to kidney failure sometime after she married and bore her son.); but many of those she discipled still bear her light.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

WORD WAR JUAN (Pilipino)

"Salita! Salita! Salita! Araw-araw salita; mula sa kanya, ngayon sa 'yo! Yan lang ba ang magagawa nyong mga perwisyo?"

'Yan ang isina-tagalog na awit ni Eliza, ginanap ng paborito kong aktres na si Audrey Hepburn, sa Broadway movie musical na "My Fair Lady."

Ganyan din bang sick-and-tired na pakiramdam ang nadarama mo pag nagbubukas ka ng Facebook? Maaasim na salita na parang tsunami ang dating. Minsan gusto mo na lang i-X ang mga ganyang post para makapagkape ka nang mahinahon.

Pero bakit nga Juan versus Juan ang mga pananalita natin? Baha na ang internet ng  tone-toneladang pagmumura at salitang galit. Tuloy, marami nang nag-unfriend ng mga kaibigan nila sa Facebook. May mga tuluyan nang nagsarado ng FB accounts nila.

Hindi na ba talaga pwedeng mag-komento ang isang tao hinggil sa state of affairs ng bansa natin, o tungkol sa hindi magandang asal ng mga opisyal? Bakit aatakihin ka ng iba dahil dito? At bakit kailangang ipagtanggol ang isang masamang nagawa? 

Bakit kailangang sirain ang isang komento hinggil dito?
At bakit kailangang mang-alipusta o magmura? Sa totoo lang, parehong panigpro o con manay  guilty.

Subalit ito ang tunay na nakakainis: ang pagbaha ng sangkatutak na kasinungalingan, gawa ng mga tinatawag na trolls. Misyon ng mga trolls na palabuin ang katotohanan. Sa sama nang pagkakasulat ng mga inimbento nilang balita, kung iintindihin mo, madidiskubre mong ang mga ito ay kasinungalingan.  

Ito ang isa sa mga itinuro sa atin sa eskwela: na sa isang demokrasyang bansa, kung maglalahad ka ng opinyon, hindi ka dapat matakot na may pumula sa 'yo.

Sa kasalukuyan, napaka-hati ng ating bayan. Masyado tayong natali sa pagka-kanya-kanya o pagka-kampo-kampo, na hindi na bukas ang utak natin sa ibang pananaw. Walang turuan! 

Lahat tayo'y naging mapanghusga at  makitid ang isipan.

Bakit hindi na lang natin tingnan ang mga situwasyon ayon sa pananaw ng Panginoon?

Lahat tayo ay nagkasala, walang matuwid, Romans 3:23! Kaya walang makapagsasabing may isang taong puro tama ang gawa; kaya hindi dapat ipagtanggol kung ang isang tao ay mali na ang ginagawalalo kung ito'y malinaw na mali. Kahit pa siya ang presidente!

Kahanga-hanga ang president natin. Mahal niya ang bayan natin at hangad niyang mapabuti ang buhay ng mahihirap. Dapat tularan ang marubdob niyang pagnanasa na ibuwal ang lawless elements. Subalit walang isa manpresidente man siya o pulisang makapaghuhusga sa isang nagkamali maliban sa proseso ng due process at ng batas.

Hustisya at rule of law ang dapat masunod. Kung hindi, maraming inosente ang madadawit. Concern ito ng mga human rights groups. Subalit mas dapat tayong mabahala sa sinasabi ng Panginoon.

Makapangyarihan ang mga salita. Nagsalita ang Diyos at nalalang ang lahat. Kaya sabi ng biblia, "Ang buhay at kamatayan ay nasa pwersa ng dila," Proverbs 18:21. Ang mga salita ay nakaka-buhay o nakakasira.

Kaya bilang mananampalataya, hindi ako matahimik pag naririnig ko ang president natin na nagmumura, o nagsasalita nang pabalang at walang respeto sa iba. Napapanood natin siya araw-araw sa primetime TV. Pinapakinggan siya ng kabataan. Buong mundo ay nanonood!

Natutuhan ko sa paaralan na importate ang respeto para magtagumpay sa buhay. Ako ay isang guro, at halos araw-araw, ipinapaalala ko sa aking mga estudyante, "Maging magalang kayo," lalo na kung may nakikita akong nang-bu-bully.

Kaya umaasa din ako na maging magalang din ang ating president. Dapat makita ito ng mga kabataan sa kanya; kasi kung hindi, bakit pa natin ituturo ito? At saka, ang paggalang ay umaani rin ng paggalang ng iba. Kung ano ang itinanim, ito rin ang aanihin.

Gusto nating irespeto ng lahat hindi lang ang ating president kundi lahat ng Pilipino na nagsisikap  magtagumpay, nasa Manila, New York o Singapore man siya.

Ayaw nating umalis ang mga investors dito sa Pilipinas. Masyado silang nababahala pag ang lider ng bansang kinaroroonan nila ay astang champion ng "you and me against the world" na kaisipan.

Kasama tayo sa family of nations kaya kailangan nating matutong makipag-isa sa ibang bansa.    

"Sinumang na-ko-kontrol ng salita niya ay marunong, at siya na may mapagtimping ugali ay nakakaintindi," Proverbs 17:27.

Ephesians 4:29Huwag bayaang lumabas sa inyong mga bibig ang corrupt na salita, kundi yun lamang mabuti para sa ikatataas ng iba, ayon sa okasyon, upang ito ay magbigay-grasya sa mga nakikinig.

Patuloy nating ipagdasalhindi lamang para malaya tayong makapaglahad ng opinyon, kundi upang tayong mga Pilipino ay hindi makaramdam ng takot pag tayo'y nagsalita. Mas malaking dalangin natin: na hindi ipagbunyi sa bansang ito ang mali, at magsaya tayo sa mga tamang gawa.


Pilipino ako, taas-noong Pilipino. At patuloy kong ipagdarasal ang ating presidente at bansa.