Sunday, December 30, 2012

HAPPY NEW DAY


We wake up tomorrow to a brand new year.

Oh yeah, we greet it with all the fireworks and enthusiasm our holiday-fired-up bodies can muster. But really, for many, "2013" will just be another number, a phantom if you will.


Consider: Many lying in hospitals or their death beds may not even see the sun rise tomorrow. One may be up and about today, feeling on top of the world, but will he be around for the roll call tomorrow?

Yesterday, today, tomorrow--- that I can grasp. Yesterday is gone but as I woke up today, yesterday was just a memory. Today is right here, right now, and this is where I have every chance to fulfill something---whatever! But tomorrow is something else---if, and that's a big if, I ever wake up.

That's why, to me, the concept of a new year is really just a blur. Nice to imagine what it holds for me, but nevertheless, iffy.

No wonder the bible tells us to consider each day, not this new year, as the day, the chance, the opportunity. Maybe the only day left to do one last good!

Psalms 118:24: "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Today is a good time as any to appreciate our blessings, our loved ones, the fact that we still have breath and the strength to do the Father's will and purpose, because tomorrow may never come.

So be thankful now, be glad now, rejoice now! Send those flowers now. Say "I love you" now. Write that book now. Pray for someone now. Be reconciled now. Give now. Repent now. Choose life now. Know Jesus now. Be ready to face Him now.

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Being hopeful about the new year is great. Planning to do this and that, or taking steps to be in a certain place or position next year is a mark of wisdom---and God has given us a good measure of that; but today is what matters---while he faithfully sends us new mornings.

Great is His faithfulness every morning: New mercy, new grace; and with these, fresh hope, fresh faith. 

Today, Jesus makes everything brand new, even our hearts. 

Ezekiel 36:26: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Hebrews 4:7)

Photo credits: 1. cloudtimes.org  2. gentleshepherdbaptist.blogspot.com                                                 3.footprintsfromthebible.blogspot.com  4. allaboutflowers.com

Saturday, December 22, 2012

FREEDOM FROM DARKNESS


Let me be a killjoy for a while. I know, it sucks, because we're in the middle of this wonderful season of partying and eating and drinking and gift-giving. 

But as I read the bible this morning, I was struck by what Jesus said in Luke 22:53: "... but this is your hour when darkness reigns." Judas had betrayed Jesus. This became the go-ahead for the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard and for the elders to take Jesus into custody.

Read today's headlines---Death Toll from Pablo Seen to Hit 1,500; Wounded Newtown Moves from Shock to Coping with the Trauma; Deadly Car Bomb Strikes Damascus; Tens of Thousands in Paris Street for Gay Marriage. All these point to a world battered, torn and dazed. In darkness.

For millions all over the world, Christ has remained in handcuffs somehow; and Christmas is an empty but frilly celebration.

But Christmas is all about Christ coming into a dark world. How is it that more than two thousand years after his coming, the world seems more dark than ever? Did we miss something here?

Because Matthew 4:16 tells us "... the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." 

In Luke 2:8, the shepherds who were going about their routine work at night were visited by an angel. They were terrified but the angel said to them, "DO NOT BE AFRAID, I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE! (emphasis and exclamation point mine)

You must have heard John 3:16 spoken like a broken record: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

"Believe" must be highlighted here. Ah, so those who believe in Jesus will not be lost? Even enjoy everlasting life?

Here's more: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved---you and your household."

You want to be saved from a world that has become darker by the day? Jesus says in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

A life full of fear and anxiety and strife is not life at all; nor is a life that's contrary to God's design for right living. 

I remember this message which has been going round and round our emails. May I summarize his message for us: We wonder why God does not show up to save us from calamities or storms or the cruelty of other men. What kind of God would allow these things to happen? And so the faith of many grows cold. But have we really invited God into our lives? Or have we turned our backs on Him?; telling Him, "I don't want to have anything to do with you," then we worship instead our god of self, money, power, silver, gold and wood.

A nation continues to shake their fists at God by disallowing Him from their public schools and offices, even as they justify abortion, same sex marriage and materialism. Elsewhere in the world, idol worship, perversion, greed and corruption rule.

More to the point: Is God allowing calamities and tragedies in greater measure today because He wants to call our attention? That we're doing it all wrong and the only way we can be saved from our fears, is to seek Him who can calm all our storms, even snatch us out of the fire and stop the bullets, real or spiritually fired---by Satan, the prince of the power of the air, who has since the beginning of time trained his destructive powers against all mankind. 

Twinkly lights may add some glitter to our homes during Christmas. But the greater light has come upon us! If you have the Light of lights, what more can you ask for?

Kung naging mababaw ang mga Pasko mo (If your Christmases have always been shallow), you need to ask Jesus to shine His light on you. It takes a very simple, but humble and heartfelt prayer of repentance:

"Jesus, I need you to be my Savior and Lord. Forgive me for my sins. Wash me and make me clean. Come into my heart. Be my Prince of Peace, my Healer, my Provider and wonderful Counselor. I take refuge in you even as I go through tribulations. Cover me with your grace. Save me! In Your name I pray."

Tragedy or no tragedy, you are secure no matter the situation. For Jesus guards your heart with peace and promises never to leave or forsake you.  

(Photo credits: 1. andrewroebert.wordpress.com. 2. mudpreacher.org  3. mobilecause.com 4. ohio.com




Friday, December 21, 2012

RESPECTER OF HEART

Are you a classifier? I bet you, you are. We all are! 

That's what makes you and I unique versus all of creation. Man can think orderly thoughts, label them a certain way and somehow stash them in "boxes" in a forever-expanding warehouse of memories---with thought retrieval accomplished in a flash.

We classify day from night, rain from shine, sowing versus harvest, left and right.

Kaya, hiwalay kung hiwalay... ang labada. (So we separate the whites from colored laundry.) 

In my primary school days eons ago, teachers assigned their "A" students in row one, with the least thinkers in fourth row. A classmate somehow lisp-pronounced the latter as poor-row, so the label stuck with him and fourth row seaters.

Economists refer to A, B, C, D classes depending on their earning capacity and ability to amass things like houses and cars.

cartoon movement.com
Then we've somehow also gotten used to referring to people as either black , white, red, brown or yellow---spawning color denominated disputes in many countries. Apartheid, prejudice, bigotry, discrimination. We thought these were things of the past, yet color coding crimes still persist. 

In some countries, men are so biased against women that brothers would go to the extent of murdering or mutilating their sisters who stray from their expected roles as docile weaklings.

Which leads one to thinking--- is God a respecter of color, creed or gender as man so qualifies? Does He place us in boxes, playing us against each other for His approval? Is he awed by your to-die-for riches, your poverty or even your direst need? 

Is he mesmerized by your tantalizing voice every time you worship Him?

I got a stinging rebuke one Sunday. The worship leader didn't lead well. The singers sang so-so. So from worship, I lapsed into complaint mode. But the Holy Spirit wouldn't let that pass. This senior Christian needed a whack somehow. And I got it, hook line and sinker:

"I don't care if anyone is off key. I look at the heart, nothing more. 

"I'm no respecter of persons or their religion or race. I will not be moved by color of skin or narrowness of one's nose or thickness of one's lips. 

"Nor will I concern myself with what's in your bank account or whether you studied in Harvard or Juan Luna Elementary School. 

"I won't even be impressed by your good works, although I would love for everyone to do good works. But I'm after your faith alone, which if genuine, births honest-to-goodness good works---and my wanting to be involved in your life."

picturesofhawaii.com
"Without faith, it is impossible to please God," reminds Hebrew 11:6.

Here's the clincher: Mark 12:33--- "To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

God is concerned with our heart alone! One look at it and He knows how judgmental, proud, lofty, or humble, gracious, forgiving we are. That's why Proverbs 4:23 cautions us to guard our heart, "for it is the wellspring of life."

Oh boy, I need to stick to classifying coloreds from whites---I mean clothes na lang!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

DON'T MUZZLE JESUS

Faucher Family Christmas Lights Extravaganza
digsdigs.com

It's that feel-good time of year again: The sights and sounds of a great festival hanging in the air. 


"Merry X-Mas!" "Season's Greetings!" Major avenues lined up with blinking lights shaped into bells, candies,stars, pointy trees, deers, teddy bears, Santa Clauses or whatever.

In most malls, Michael Jackson relentlessly reminds shoppers, "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus,"or Bing Crosby transports us State-side as he croons "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" in an endless loop.  Children fall in line for a photo-op with the bearded jolly old man---that's Santa Claus whose image dominates most department stores' shop-windows.

And for many, it's one shopaholic event after another. Thirteenth and 14th month pays, bye-bye! Delicious "sale" signs remind us to flash the card---utang muna para walang cash out (credit instead of cash).

But while we all get excited---our malls jam-packed with harried people crescendoeing their holiday shopping sprees--- have we bothered to ask ourselves, "What's all the fuss and spending about?"

Call me corny or a killjoy, but I think the material girl (or person) in us has taken us for one big fake joyride.

If Christmas is Christ's big day, how come we're being told, "Greet people, 'Happy Holidays,' instead because to greet them 'Merry Christmas' is not politically correct." 

Companies today are careful to print their Christmas cards without the "Christ" because they've been told, "it is offensive to people from different cultures."

Whose celebration is it anyway? If Christ is the reason for Christmas, let it be "Christmas" instead of "X-Mas,"  "Jesus" instead of "Santa."

And let's not be carried away by the trimmings and glossies some have added on through the years---the obligated gift giving, the pigging-out, the rowdy parties with their rowdy dances (am sure Oppa Gangnam Style will be a big hit this year) and non-stop drinking.  

What's the real Christmas? Christ is the celebrant. Still is! It is about God's grace given to us that first Christmas day. 

Picture the original scene: One dark dreary night, shepherds woke up to see an angel before them, and they were terrified. But the glory of the Lord shone around them. The angel said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:9-11)

The Messiah. The Savior. Great joy. Not fear or worry or lack. That's the GREAT news. And the reason for the celebration. Jesus came not only to save us from our sins but to give us eternal life; that, too, we may live abundantly! 

Without Jesus, we are dead to sin and separated forever from God. But because of Jesus, our relationship with God has been restored, along with all the blessings he has prepared for us from the beginning of time.

Could any trimming top that? Or could any attempt to muzzle the name of Christ prevent us from worshiping Him anyway, and in His way, especially during His birthday?

But it's not just about replacing the "X" with "Christ." If you truly believe in what Christ has done for you on the cross, then let's make Christ real to ourselves and our loved ones. 

"Christmas" is not a feel-good, do-good, shop-much, party-to-death season. (Do you know that this is also the time of year when a lot of people feel alone, and therefore commit suicide?)

Christmas is about acknowledging that apart from Jesus, we cannot save ourselves. So accept this gift if you haven't done so yet. 

Sincerely pray, "Jesus, thank you for coming that first Christmas day. I believe you are the Messiah, my Savior. Forgive me for my sins. Cleanse me. Come into my heart. Breathe your Holy Spirit in me that I may live free from sin. Cover me with your amazing grace. In your name I pray."

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TASTE HIS BLESSINGS

abcnews.go.com
Right this moment, families in the US sit down to thanksgiving dinner, with plump, turned-juicy turkey at the center of the table. 

Never mind typhoon Sandy's recent trail of destruction, New Yorkers have taken the chance to be thankful; with leading retailer Macy's sponsoring the city's usual thanksgiving parade to lift its residents' spirits up.


abcnew.go.com
Wikipedia says that this celebration goes back to 1621 when in the Plymouth Plantation, early settlers feasted after a successful harvest, a practice institutionalized by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a day of "Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Thanksgiving day or not, we need to be reminded that through thick or thin---and in spite of tragedies and calamities---  thankfulness is a good thing.

So many things to be thankful for:

That hubby and I woke up this morning, not yet in rigor mortis, but still kicking and strong for whatever needs to be accomplished today and in the days to come. "I'm not through with you yet,"  He says.

Considering that Jack's eye almost became blind because of a viral infection weeks ago---and is now back to normal---wow, thanking Him is the least I could do! Miracles do come even in the care of our doctors or the medicines they prescribe. Dr. Jesus surely uses human doctors to answer our prayers.

He daily provides our food---health supplements included, clothing, house (no matter how small). This place we can really call home---if Jesus is its foundation. Because in Him is safety, love, joy, peace.


nupond.com
We may in fact feast, not only on turkey or any of those expensive food, but on tuyo, saluyot or talbos ng kamote with bagoong---our mouths watering just the same! I may add  tsokolate e  (chocolate), yes Ricoa (not the imported kind), making it a treat worth its weight calories.


vegbuzz.blogspot.com
I wake up each day thanking God for my grandchildren---for their good health, that they would grow up God-fearing and parent-honoring. Yes, I thank God even now for what these little ones will become when they grow up. 

I thank God everyday for giving our children wisdom so that they strive for real riches---those that have lasting value and God-glorifying---and make their families their priority even as they make a living and strive to be prosperous.

That's thanking and praying it forward.

We also thank God for using us---though we are limited by time, space and material resources---so that we can make a difference in the lives of others. Everyday is an opportunity to bless others, however small or insignificant our effort may seem. 

And lest we forget, consider nature---the heavens, the trees, the oceans. How marvelous God's creation is! Might make us a bit conscious of being judicious with our use of water or our trash disposal, and even do our bit in lessening our carbon footprint. There's just no running out of thanks or praise for God who made everything so beautiful.

Enjoy the turkey and the party, or the thanksgiving parade and its amazing paraphernalia. But don't let the glossies blur the real meaning of thanksgiving. Or don't let just the material blessings mar the significant.

Our tables may be laden with rich and delicious things. But if we fretted and complained and sulked in the process of preparing for the party, then we really didn't enjoy thanksgiving day.

Because it's not what's on the table that counts. In Exodus, the Jews had been set free from Egypt and thus became a nation. In the wilderness, God daily provided them with manna and quail and water. Their clothing and footwear never wore out. Yet they kept on complaining and so missed their joy; more importantly, a whole generation failed to reach the promised land.  

Jesus gave it all up so that we can enjoy life. "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Another version says, "My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."

And it's not something ethereal, it's for real! Psalm 34:8:  "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."

So savor that turkey! More, savor His love and faithfulness. Savor the love of your family. Thanksgiving is not really thanksgiving if we don't get to taste the blessing and direct our thanks to the real blesser. 

Oh Jesus, you really are the God of more than enough!

   

Friday, November 16, 2012

CRACKED

image: contestmob.com
Hack, a verb: to "chop, whack, mangle," per Webster's Thesaurus.

"You've been hacked!" This message, expressed in varying degrees of concern, filled my FB and email inboxes, as well as my cellphone, after friends and relations received a supposed message from me---that I was in London, trapped in some sort of predicament and needed money desperately, so could they please send some immediately. 

A few even called our landline to check if I was OK. Was I really in London or in Manila or in the US? 

Majority said they immediately dismissed the message as a hoax since we'd been in touch regularly through email and Facebook so they knew exactly where I was---in the comfort of home sweet home, probably ZZZzzzing my jetlag away.

"I was worried for some time, wondering what really happened to you," my sister-in-law Carmen said. 

Everyone's outpouring of concern---plus advice received as to how to remedy the situation---was quite heartwarming; and I thank God for all of you.

In techie parlance, "hacked" refers to one's website, address or computer system being broken into---its security safeguards compromised, so much like someone breaking into your home, ransacking and even stealing valuables from it. 

(Although wiki.answers.com says that the right term to use is "crack," so in my case, I should say, "My Yahoo account has been cracked.")

But for all the stress I went through---to change all of my internet passwords, assure everyone that I was OK, and experience migraine because of it---plus the worrying this "cracking" caused some loved ones (especially those who are not familiar with techie stuff), "hacked" could very well have been the word.

We've all, in a manner of speaking, been chopped, whacked and mangled. So what else is new? Our everyday teems with all sorts of cracking and hacking but we hardly even notice.

Flying home from the US, I found my hubby sick, needing medical attention and unable to work for sometime. Crack!

Another crack: Nowadays, I find myself waking up to no-purpose though activity-filled days. While I'd been busy in recent months---finished writing my third book, became expat Lola to new granddaughter Natalie and did seminars and ministry work besides---I now hover between thumb-tweedling and pining for my usual routine, which probably won't come any time soon. 

I suppose Jesus allows us some blah days to let us know that whether days be bland or blazing, He remains in control.

source: megamartyblogspot
Everyday, television ushers in more discouraging news into our bedroom or living room---crime, politics, corruption, poverty, war. A world of instability and dysfunction. 

The apostle Paul says (Ephesians 6:12), "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Hacking may appear to be just a security glitz. Yes. But it is what evil-intentioned people---prompted by the  rulers of this dark age---use not only to steal our money but to put our lives in disarray and assault our joy, and thus shake our faith in God. Otherwise, why did it cause loved ones to worry, and me to fret so that I had migraine headache as a result?

Imagine an unseen parallel world where spirits hover, working double time to chop, whack and mangle us with all sorts of sensory experiences: The bad news. Our sorry state. Our dwindling finances. Our failing health and aching bodies. Etc. That's not fantasy. It's reality. 

If you're the if-I-can't-see-and-touch-it-I-won't-believe-it" kind of guy, open your eyes. 
source:freebiblestudyguides.org

2 Kings 6 recounts the story of Israel surrounded by a conquering army. The prophet Elisha's servant expressed awe of this army's might. But Elisha said, "Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (v.16)

Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (v.17) And the assaulting army was struck with blindness.

Take Psalm 34:7 to heart: "The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." The Lord fights our battles but as "soldiers" in His army, He wants us to "put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).

Be self-controlled and alert because, "...Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). 

The Word of God, our only weapon against hackers. Confess it. Believe it. Pray it. Live it. 

But it all starts and ends with Jesus. Have you received Him as your Savior and Lord? If so, then you have eternal warranty against pesky hackers. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

PINOY AT THE OVAL OFFICE

Ferdie used to call the Oval Office his turf.
I seem to have been caught in a fog recently---unable to blog as I used to; but hopefully I'm back.

Even with my jet lag from an excruciating return flight (20 hours more or less including layovers) from the US, my eyes still continued to be riveted to things and events stateside.

Because, frankly, with my son's family in the US, I've taken interest in everything affecting his and his family's future. 

The US sorely needed a change in leadership to turn its ship of state around. President Barack Obama has been given a second chance. 

Let's pray his bluster is matched with lustrous solid performance this time around; because honestly, the entire world's power cords are plugged into the US main frame---economically, militarily and in a lot more areas than we could ever imagine.

But if I may downshift, while we're still on things "White House..."

Did you know that a Pinoy used to call the Oval Office his turf?

Meet Ferdie Garcia, currently US Navy Master Chief, then President George W. Bush's personal valet during his entire eight years at the White House. He likewise served Bill Clinton eight months prior to the Bush presidency and Barack Obama six months after he occupied the Oval Office.

"I was excited and eagerly looked forward to working everyday," Ferdie refers to his stint with George Bush, whom he fondly refers to as "Tatang." The latter always called him "Son."

In Ferdie's sanctum sanctorum or man cave, his house basement, White House mementos abound. One photo shows him in action with a flyswatter, in the oval office (with President Bush at the background), with the President's note attached: "Fine form but you missed, (signed) George Bush."
 
Another photo with GB: President and Senior Chief in boxers' cloaks and gloves---in a sparring pose.


With our hosts Ferdie and Cora (center)
His photo albums reveal a close bond between the President and the First Lady and their children, and Ferdie and his wife Cora and kids, with photos upon photos to prove the relationship. 

Some personally scribbled notes from George and Laura Bush:

"Dear Ferdie, thanks for the lovely tie. I will wear it with pride. GB."

"Thank you for the fine looking tie and shorts. You were kind to remember me on my 60th birthday. I am grateful for your dedicated service at the White House and am proud  to call you friend. Best wishes. Sincerely, G.W. Bush."

"To Ferdie, with thanks and love. Laura; the President." 

Of her character, he says, "Very motherly, hindi mataas (not haughty)."

A page in his album detailed his Commander in Chief's last appraisal of Ferdie's outstanding performance: "... will be an outstanding senior chief. He should be promoted now. GB."

And to complete what I dubbed as our White House treat, Ferdie and Cora gave us a garden tour of the White House south lawn, with Carlo, Opal and our granddaughter Natalie; and my new-found friends Bessie and Horst Friedrich.

On that fine fall morning, The White House looked glorious. 

But one wonders, does the glory of God still rest here? Do its residents still bow down to the sovereignty of God in their lives? Or are they listening more to the voice of the multitude, like lobbyists fighting for legalizing abortion, gay marriage, and banning God altogether from public places? 

We need to continue to pray for America, as well as leaders of nations and nations elsewhere. We need to pray for the Philippines and our leaders! 

Proverbs 29:2: 

"When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan." (New International Version)

"When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan." (English Standard Version)





Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CHRIST-QUEST

(sunshinechurch.org.)
What do women engage in most when they gather? Make chika (small talk), naturally---and then some.

Our some recently proved awesome.

Women members of the Filipino Christian Center (MD, USA; yes, am still here and raring to go back to Manila soon to escape the bristling cold weather as fall descends) met recently for a retreat.

We probably easily maxed our daily quota of 50,000 words per pax for the amount of words---repentant, praying, worshipping, praising, thanking---that went up to heaven on behalf of loved ones, the church, our neighbors and the nation.

That we did as we studied 2 Chronicles 7:14, precept upon precept, key word upon key word, and discovered that praying is not just about babbling out words and expecting God to respond like 911 or the fireman would, once we twit them heavenward.

"If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

God will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land IF! A big if.

And it's no accident that as we did that, Christian churches all over the United States have called for  40 days of prayers to ask God to intervene as election day nears.
I had the privilege of facilitating this ladies' retreat. In recent weeks, I'd been clueless about what was going on in life, for some reason. But when I was asked to do this assignment, "Standing in the Gap" and 2 Chronicles 7:14 immediately came to mind.
I never realized that this theme and verse would be the Christian churches' rallying point as gap-dwellers for their nation. They see America as a nation in crisis, ready to implode if God does not intervene.
Author Joel Rosenberg puts it this way:
"... let's be clear: While our nation needs a fresh infusion of wise leaders, we need far more than that. We need Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to lead us. We need a game-changing Third Great Awakening in which God in His sovereignty chooses to pour out His Holy Spirit and revive and awaken the Church and draw the lost to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
"We need a wholesale return to the Bible -- to studying it, meditating on it, and then living by it. We need to get down on our knees and plead with the Lord to give us revival. Nothing less will do.
"Is there hope? Yes, there is. Christ is our hope. But we need to turn to Him now. At the moment, I'm in the midst of 40 days of prayer and pleading for revival in America. I've joined with pastors and ministry leaders all over the country to call people to prayer and fasting, as well."
Why do we need to pray for America?
America still exerts the greatest influence on the world. But morally, it is decaying. It faces a $1.1 trillion budget deficit---a fiscal cliff, according to Washington leaders.
As we've always talked about in school, "When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold."  
But Christians---no matter where we are in the world---should be praying more as the day of Christ's coming draws near. Filipinos need to pray for President Noynoy and our government officials, and for the reign of righteousness, brokenness of spirit and repentance in our nation.
We need to pray for Israel, that they too would come to God's saving grace in Christ.
We need to pray for the gospel to be preached to the uttermost parts of the globe.
We need to pray!
"There will be terrible times in the last days," says Mark 3:1---that's why we need to pray.
Christian gap-dwellers, if we must have a gab-fest, let it be a Christ-quest.
Jesus who saved us, now sits at the right hand of God the Father---interceding for us, ready to respond with His yeses and amens to our pleas.
So ladies, if we must meet for chikahan, chika less and pray more. Chika is fine. But Christ opening the windows of heaven because of our cries is finer. 
 

Friday, September 21, 2012

A PROMDI IN NEW YORK

   This is me, promding-promdi (provincial, rustic) first-timer in New York! 

My first bite of the Big Apple, courtesy of my long lost nephew Charlie who took me on a "hop on-hop off" tour of the city on double-deck buses,
as their tour guides updated us on the city's finer as well as sleaze points. 

Tingala nang tingala. I could not help but always look up. Couldn't, shouldn't miss New York's eclectic architecture, a blend of vintage (a lot of them art deco style like the Empire State, Chrysler and Rockefeller Center buildings) and 21st century skyscrapers.

Our tour started right in front of the Empire State building, circling the entire Manhattan area, a two-and-a-half-mile-wide metropolis with its more than one million residents, ballooning to five million plus each day with its out of town workers and visitors.

New York's sidewalks literally crawl---a cadence all its own---with people of all colors, shapes, sizes, attires and footwear (love those fashionista stilletos, but argh!, so impractical in this motorized city) pounding its streets 24/7.
 
I seem to have finally caught Frank Sinatra's real groove about "this city that doesn't sleep."
 
Times Square is like no other! With its perennial lights, giant screens and billboards promoting the hottest celebrities, products, TV and Broadway productions.

I could have lined up for a Broadway show but the lines were just tooooo long-winded and we didn't have the time.(Translation: What, tickets for $115!?---that's cheapest, with the most expensive at $260. No way!)


Move over Christina Aguilera!
I was just thrilled (Mababaw ang kaligayahan ko! I'm easy to please)---my budget considering---to enter the portals of the Rockefeller Plaza where the "Today" show airs daily. At the NBC TV souvenir shop, Charlie shot me as "judge" of "The Voice," placing me in the same league as Christina Aguilera!

I would just have been too happy to purchase a little pasalubong (souvenirs), but Charlie came to the rescue, insisting I get more, including an NBC bird for my granddaughter Natalie.

Phew, Philippine peso in tact! I stopped converting $ to P from then on.


With long lost nephew Jojo
Lunch was with another long lost nephew Jojo in a Japanese restaurant. Saw him when he was just a lanky little boy. Now as hefty and tall as an American, he exuded Manhattan confidence--- having worked his way up to VP position in that swank Manhattan address.

It was exciting to see iconic structures "in person---" those which I marvelled at only in Hollywood movies like Godzilla, such as the Brooklyn bridge and flat iron building. Add to that list the new twin towers rising like the phoenix from the ashes of 9/11.

Reminds one of  Demi Lovato's line, "Go on and try to tear me down. I will be rising from the ground. Like a skyscraper! Like a skyscraper!"

Notwithstanding the 9/11 tragedy and its aftermath, New York maintans its glitter and appeal. We viewed her that night from Jersey City across the Hudson River with our hosts Ate Dory and Ate Genia.

It looked glorious with its bright lights, dominated by a sheer satiny white light shooting up to space from ground zero.

But I was pleasantly surprised to see the other face of New York. 

My gracious hosts, Charlie from Upstate New York,
and Ate Genia and Ate Dory (second from right
 and extreme right, respectively) from Jersey City
Charlie (Remember my recent blog---the doctor who accompanied Ninoy Aquino for his heart bypass operation in the US?), ever the perfect host, welcomed Ate Genia and me to his home in Upstate New York.

Dr. Carlos Dator mirrors the laid back, other-neighborly and more down to earth side of this side of New York seldom experienced by many.
 
Charlie came to these parts after his Ninoy episode, established his medical practice in Syracuse, then finally settled with his family in Oswego City, bordered by Lake Ontario to the north. 

Oswego felt and smelled iddylic and rustic, with its old low-rise buildings, small cafes and shops, acres and acres of agricultural lands, and folks greeting each other by name.  And mind you, an almost zero crime rate!

And this is New York!?
 
Says Charlie: "I used to tell my children (Cherub, Chucky and Mariel who have become chef, doctor and lawyer respectively. Strictly speaking, they're my grandkids a few times removed.), 'Behave!' because we'd know soon enough what happened."

Oswego is a tightly-knit community. Besides, many of the cityfolk are his patients and could telegraph information to him faster than an email could.
With Dr. Carlos Dator in the idyllic city of Oswego
(bordering Ontario river), Upstate New York

Like doctors of yore, Charlie prefers personalized care. He asks his patients to list their questions beforehand so that their concerns get clarified during consultations, which of course take longer than usual.

He even refuses and thinks it rude to input data into the computer while attending to a patient. This he does afterwards even if he sees 25 patients a day.  

Someone even pinch-hit for Charlie to make sure his visitors felt at home during our few-days stay in Oswego. His former work associate and mother-figure/confidante Joanne Geers treated us to lunch at a homey bistro. A charming and witty 75-er, she embodied the graciousness of one who valued family, relationships, selflessness, loyalty and faithfulness---the America I knew.   

And this is where again? New York. The other side.
 
I'd thought New York stood for fast, slick, dangerous, anxiety.
 
The Big Apple may be good for a few bites. But after the euphoria and the dizzying pace, heights, colors and rides, you'd want to just shake it all off. And go slow, raise your feet, and be assured, "All is well. I can sleep soundly tonight." 
 
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters" (Psalm 23:2). Yes, even in New York!    
 
 



















Monday, September 10, 2012

YUMMY DESSERT







Grandparenting: Happiness and Hard Work!
With foreword by Dr. Harold Sala
"Without you, I would not have relished this wonderful dessert called grandparenthood."
Those words are for my grandkids Paolo Joaquin, Charlize Nicole and Natalie Grace---to whom I dedicated my latest book, "Grandparenting: Happiness and Hard Work!" 

Why this book?

I had initially thought of focusing on the fun and joy part of grandparenting; but after brainstorming with the editorial and marketing experts of OMF---Yna Reyes, Lindy Hope and  Gladys Doronila, I needed to backtrack and open my eyes to the meatier aspects of grandparenting, Pinoy style, but still using the Scripture as the ultimate lens.

Let me quote from the book's introduction:

"Our lives as grandparents intertwine with our children and their children and our entire households; they draw from the lives of our ancestors and have influence forward for generations still to come.

"The legacy of our great grandparents and even the ones before them, affect our
Our first and second grandkids Joaqui and Charlize with their Mom Lucci,
Lolo Jack and Lola Yay 
lives in a major way today. Blessings — and unfortunately too, curses — run through generations. So this book is about relationships and the extent of God’s grace working in the lives of our loved ones."

That means God's grace operating in our lives in spite of situations like:
Grandparents solely caring for their OFW (overseas Filipino workers) children's kids. Single mothers. Special needs kids. Rebellious children and grandchildren. 
"But this book is mostly about hope and our need to depend on our God who still sits on the throne---mighty, awesome and still able to calm the storms of our lives. It’s all about His grace to heal, enable, strengthen and make things to work for the good of those who put their trust in Him.

"But I have not left out the joy part. Because that’s still the heart of grandparenting. Grandparenting by itself is a gift from God. It gives us additional sparkle and stamina especially in our waning years.

Natalie, third apo
"It brings back laughter and chuckles and silliness. Between you and your grandkid, it can be pure unadulterated joy. And that joy, which comes from God alone, strengthens us — enabling us to dance and sing with them just when we were thinking we were too tired to continue."

Get yourself, your parent, grandparent, or any upcoming grandparent a copy (have it as your Christmas gift too!) at the OMF Literature booth at the Manila International Book Fair (SMX, Mall of Asia, Sept. 12-16). Copies will soon be available in popular bookstores and all OMF and PCBS stores nationwide.
(This is my third book after "Sorry to Burst Your Bubble: Life Leadership Lessons from the Greatest Dreamer" by Newday Publishers, and "Going Up?" also by OMF.)










Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NINOY AND CORY: A BRUSH WITH GREATNESS


       Dr. Carlos Dator (left) with his colleagues
at St. Joseph Hospital in Syracuse
Picture this young doctor.

One morning, his superior asks, "Would you like to go to the US?"

"Of course, yes!" He eagerly replies.

"But you'll need to fly tonight!" His boss clarifies.

"What?! I don't even have a passport or a visa."

"Your passport, visa and ticket will be waiting for you at the airport. Just have your passport picture taken, go home and prepare for your departure."

Real? Yes, in the Philippines. This happened at the Philippine Heart Center. 

Dr. Carlos Dator, budding  cardiologist and one of the hospital's senior fellows, was informed early morning of  May 8, 1980, that he was to accompany then senator Ninoy Aquino, Jr., to the United States of America. Ninoy apparently suffered his second heart attack after seven years of detention, mostly in solitary confinement.

Ninoy was one of  then President Ferdinand Marcos' fiercest opponents. He was imprisoned with many more "dissidents" when martial rule was declared September 1972. 

Marcos considered Ninoy as one of the biggest threats to his hold on power even as his wife Imelda managed to strengthen her position as the most likely successor should this ailing president die.
Two reasons emerged as to why Ninoy could not have his operation in the Philippines: That the Aquinos didn't trust the doctors assigned to him; or that the doctors themselves didn't want to because of the possible backlash if the procedure failed.

The only option left was for Ninoy to be flown ASAP to the US.  

For Charlie---young doctor---this thorny situation was something he never aspired for. The assignment fell on his lap and he just had to do it as any committed physician would. 

He was never even given a chance to say goodbye to his parents in Quezon. All they got was a letter he asked his cousin Dondon to send through the BLTB bus headed for their town (Sampaloc).

Sans valid papers, he was barred entry from the airport until someone came with his passport, visa and ticket and introduced him to Ninoy and his family: Cory, 16 year old Noynoy, Ballsy, Pinky and Viel (Kris was then vacationing in Hong Kong). 


Ninoy exercising with heart surgeon Dr.
Rolando Solis after his operation
"From then on, inalalayan ko na sya (I propped him up)," says Charlie, "because he was very weak and frequently complained of chest pains."

He adds, "Cory was very kind but initially seemed to maintain her distance---maybe because she thought I was a Marcos person."

She and Ninoy were in the first class section while Charlie and the Aquino children sat in economy.

"Afterwards, Cory came and exchanged seats with me because Senator Aquino complained more of his chest pains."

"Kung me mangyari sa akin, ikaw na ang bahala sa pamilya ko (If something happens to me, please take care of my family)," the Senator said in the thick of their conversation.

Charlie was dumbfounded and didn't know how to react. They hardly even knew him. What if something really happened?

But from that time on, Charlie knew he was rubbing elbows with greatness---but a greatness which was willing to be vulnerable, to trust and let go.

"He was so down-to-earth, kind, insightful and thoughtful," he adds. Ninoy even regaled him with stories of his being a correspondent during the Korean war, his stint as a CIA agent once---showing off his special watch to prove it.

Hordes of reporters waited for the Aquinos on their arrival in San Francisco.

Charlie cautioned against entertaining any interviews because of Ninoy's worsening condition. Besides, Ninoy needed to rest for another flight the following day to Dallas, Texas. At Dallas' Baylor University Medical Center, Charlie endorsed Ninoy to Dr. Rolando Solis and promised to visit him after the operation. 

The next time young doctor and famous patient saw each other, Ninoy was already on his feet. Charlie had earlier visited his fiance---then working as a nurse in Texas--- then asked Ninoy to be one of their wedding sponsors.

"It would be an honor," he readily responded, then promised that since he could not be physically present, his mother Aurora would instead take his place.

Dr. Dator went back to the Philippines soon after, settled down with his new bride, but later made his home in the US---earning his fellowship in interventional cardiology at St. Joseph Hospital, Syracuse. 

"Did you ever have a chance to visit Cory (She would later return to the Philippines and become president after the Marcoses' escape from Malacanang---fueled by "people power" after Ninoy's assasination upon his return to the country in September 1983.) or current president Noynoy since then?" I ask.

"I intended to, whenever I visited the Philippines, but never got around to doing it," he says.  



Charlie with our childhood friend Ate Genia (right) and me, with Niagara Falls as backdrop
  But Charlie waited for Mrs. Aquino when he happened to be at the Philippine embassy after her well-applauded speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 1986.

"Uy, me bigote ka na!" She kidded, then they exchanged plesantries. Another tete-a-tete with greatness.

In both of these encounters, "greatness" didn't try to overpower or attempt to boast or make one feel suffocated or uncomfortable. Nor was there any sense of arrogance. 

No wonder many of our countrymen regard Ninoy Aquino and Cory Aquino as heroes. They were true to their cause but never lost their humanity and simplicity.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12).

 (Charlie is my nephew from my mother's side of the family. I write this blog today from his home in Upstate New York where he continues his successful practice as a cardiologist. I'm on a one-week break from my apostolic [caring for apo or grandchild] mission to bond with relatives and friends, some of whom I never met, or saw last when I was yet a scrawny seven year old.)