Monday, July 28, 2014

Facebook Funnies


Social media, particularly Facebook, has redefined the word “friend” for me.

Here’s why. I have 2,000 FB friends, most of whom I have never met in person.

On the other hand, only seven, or less, of my real-life friends (those who belong to my generation and with whom I hang out regularly) have email addresses and do Facebook. They are “techno-averse,” euphemism for can’t-follow-instructions.

Unlike them, and with the grace of persistence, I have been able to go through those fine prints, so now I could email, blog, google, yahoo, do Facebook and ppt all I want.

Is that why I have 2,000 friends? No.   

Someone recently requested me to add him as friend. Let’s call him Jerry to protect his reputation. I accepted, as I am wont to do with every friend request. He immediately wrote me a private message: “Thank you. Now we are friends! You married a wonderful man!” I thought of my husband and reminded myself of what I forget—yes, Tony can be wonderful.

But reading the ending of Jerry’s note, I realized he wasn’t talking about Tony but my 2nd son. “JB and I were classmates in medical school.”

He mistook me for my son’s wife!

I replied, “This is JB’s mom, not his wife. I hope you don’t unfriend me, Jerry, now that you discovered I am an old hag.”

His apologies were profuse, “Ma’am, I am so, so, so sorry . . . etc. etc. I am really glad we are friends."

So now you know. All my 2,000 friends—except for the seven, or less, who are my real-life friends—are my three sons’ friends, friends of their friends, thinking I am the wife or the sister or the cousin, someone within their age range.

Not bad, not bad at all.
 
“Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” Psalm 92:14 (NLT)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Write without Fear


There’s one quality that separates old, published writers (moi) from young, unpublished ones.  

Boldness. Plus all its derivatives and synonyms. Young wordsmiths write without fear.

Last month I was invited to a Saturday young writers’ hangout-out, where I facilitated a workshop, and therefore had a chance to interact with 10 very young writers (ages 8-14).

Their task was to write an essay about someone they like very much, without saying so, but should leave the readers knowing so.

They allowed themselves no thinking time. They grasped pencil and paper, and piled words on their writing plates like the smorgasbord was running out of food. 

Watching them, I looked back to my youth, when I was their age, so terribly in love with words. And indeed, I possessed the same derring-do (how archaic that word sounds). No hesitation, no caution, no circumspection, no fear.

Then the years strew upon one’s path an odd amalgam of rejection notes, unanswered query letters, editors’ suggestions, publishers’ marketing decisions, ho-hum book readers’ reception, moderate book sales, and bland reviews—and the writing derring-do becomes archaic, if not obsolete, like it is now in new-edition dictionaries.  

I want to believe that writing without fear is God's grace-seed planted in a word-lover's young heart. Then it grows into a tree called passion that bears fruit called steadfastness, as the once-young becomes a published writer, one who crafts words not for herself but for others to meet her Savior.

Although the fear visits like an unwanted guest now and then, especially when your hope for an "aye" from a publisher is dimmed by the possibility of a "nay," the fruit ripens.      

And so she writes . . . and writes . . . and writes. But not without fear. And never without grace.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Very, Very Goodie


My birthday cake, if all its candles were lit right now, could set a forest on fire. 
Yes, I am celebrating another nth birthday today and I am at a loss for words on how to thank the Lord for enabling me to still remember most of the people who have touched my life plus all the years behind me. There were as many hits as there were misses, but grace found its way in all.

There are zero regrets. For how can one ignore the strength and resolve that came with the misses? And how can one ignore a new set of strength and resolve that came with the hits?

Today, there is only a parade of unending thanksgiving for my many rites of passage from one life stage to another. 

A lot of my old friends and family started greeting me through text messages as early as yesterday. I had one reply for all: “Now an oldie but a goodie.”

Their text retorts were varied and had me in stitches. One sums them all up: “Very, very goodie.”

This parallels my verse of thanksgiving today, Psalm 136:1 (KJV): “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Indeed, God is good. His mercy made this oldie—this one with aged, gnarled fingers that can still work their magic on the keyboard to celebrate the 20th of July, the day she was given breath, with a change of blog headers—very, very goodie.

The old . . .

The new . . .

P.S.

To all my friends on social media, I will not be able to individually thank you for your greetings, so I did what is always possible under all circumstances: I thanked God for your friendship and asked Him to please continue to rain his grace upon you.
     

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dinner by Candlelight


Not since two decades ago (or more) have I had the privilege of dining by candlelight. Glenda made it all possible again yesterday.  This time it was not only with Tony, but with two other men who abhor any concession to the artsy style of dining.

And it was not only dinner by candlelight, it was everything by candlelight at home. All four of us sat in various places in the dark from early morning to late at night, unable to do anything without electricity and phone lines, except seeing our own bent shadows. 

The howling of the wind was eerie, but the ringing in my ears, eerier.
Every so often, while killer Glenda, touted as fiercer than ferocious Typhoon Milenyo in 2006, lashed at our surroundings, we’d hear clanging (of unhinged roofs), crashing (of trees and lampposts), and other violent, breaking sounds we could not quite make out.

I’d have cowered in fear, but knowing that grace had ensconced us in safety, I prayed instead for the thousands whose homes had been displaced and whose health had been risked.

With our phone and laptop batteries spent, we were cut and shut off from the world outside. But after the passing of the night, a new, bright morning came through.  

The power came back at midnight, the wind and rains exited to some other land, and today, the sun, although still a bit shy, is shining upon us again.

There are debris to clean up, floods to drain, and damages to repair, but the day Glenda made our lives grind to a halt was something I will remember with a smile. We, the 2/3 family in our Philippine household (1/3 is in Pittsburgh), dined by candlelight—a rare, unexpected family get-together that would never have come without the prodding of Typhoon Glenda. 

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)  
A 105-year-old tree uprooted by Typhoon Glenda, PhilStar

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

National Children’s Book Day 2014


Sharing with you this fun infographic posted by Hiyas, my publisher, on its website today, in celebration of National Children’s Book Day.

How does one celebrate this special day?

For one, read a book to a young child. For another, if he can already read, give him a children’s book. Let’s help raise a generation of book-loving kids. 
 
Please check out my Hiyas children’s books on OMFLIt’s Pinterest page:

http://www.pinterest.com/omflit/childrens-books-by-grace-chong/

Saturday, July 12, 2014

When the Skies Weep


The skies are weeping again. For months, we sweltered and suffered from the oppressive heat, and now, suddenly, the rains have come.

In fact, the skies have been weeping for three consecutive days, like an inconsolable widow at her husband's wake. We likewise weep over the devastation it heaps upon us. Many areas pool into epic floods that can drown everything we ever owned and us. We wonder why we have to suffer these copious tears from the firmament.  

But it is when the skies weep that heroes are born. They reward us with stunning photos we see simultaneously on TV, the Internet, and print media—photos that otherwise don't come in dry land on normal days:

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus speaks in John 15:13. His words tell us how far love to a brother should extend, even to the laying down of our lives—the highest instance of love among men.

This emulates the love Jesus has for man, how he rains His grace on us. He came down from heaven, laid aside his royal majesty, and laid down not his riches but His life. It was no ordinary life; it was the life of the Lord of glory.  And so He suffered death on the cross, in place of sinful man—those whom he had chosen as friends.

The utmost act then, when the skies weep, is when we cast aside our mortal identity, don our superhero cape, and lay down our lives for Jesus' friends.   

PNoy photo by Michael Robertson  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happiness Is . . .


Many research studies have been conducted on what makes people happy.

One result I have read said that happiness quotient is highest in the richest countries. Another says that life satisfaction is highest among people in the upper income bracket.

Money does bring happiness because it can buy things than can make us “happy.”

But if you begin reading the book of Ecclesiastes, written by an extremely rich man and therefore had everything under the sun, you’ll find in chapter 1, verse 2 that, “'Everything is meaningless,’” says the Teacher, “‘completely meaningless!’”

He means, everything under the sun can come to ruin. Things like savings accounts, art and jewelry collection, a pool of vehicles, manors, and tracts of land cannot cause lasting satisfaction. All it takes is a falling economy or natural disasters and they lose their value.

In Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, the book concludes, “. . . Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

There is only one Someone who is not from “under the sun” and that is Christ. 

Happiness is . . . knowing how much grace we receive from Him. 
When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we receive the grace of forgiveness, the biggest grace of all.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why Marriages Last


If you’ve been married to the same man for as long as I have (44 years today), you’d call it a feat, or even a miracle. Those cheesy, public avowals of everlasting love on FB that are meant to make readers drool with envy would call it: undiminished ardor. 

I call it grace.

For how can two strangers, with individual egos and minds; different characters, tastes, opinions, and habits; and coming from disparate genders and genes live together? How can they continue going through alternating rough and smooth roads, turbulent and fair weather, valleys and plains in a tumultuous world?   

Man has invented these phrases, again parroted on FB: “My soul mate.” “I can’t live without you.” “The most wonderful man/woman in the world.” “You mean the world to me.” And many more mush. 

Some insist the occasion calls for it, but I won’t noisily fall into any of those platitudes, not in public anyway.  I’d rather silently fall into and fall back on . . . 

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Matthew 19:4-6 (NLT)

For me, those beautiful words spoken by Jesus are carved in stone and in one’s heart. No cloying words of love for public consumption can make it better than it already is.

Thank you, Lord, for the grace of marriages that last in this temporal world.

“. . . till death do us part." 
 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cheerio

Do you know someone blessed with a cheerful disposition? I do.

Lorelie (not her real name) always seems to be happy, wearing what I call a “toothpaste smile” under all circumstances—even after she lost her mom. Her mood is so infectious that whenever I feel low, I invite her to a cup of coffee and before the hour ends, my mood shifts to hers. Indeed, she is a smiling spout of grace! 

In contrast, there are others who seem to be chronically off-mood. They perpetually complain about people, life, and burdens in general. They, too, are infectious.

Joy is one of the gifts Jesus promised to His followers before he ascended to heaven. “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22).

When we are on the verge of being testy or grouchy, let’s seek out a Lorelie (or be a Lorelie) and remember that to reflect the joy we have in Christ, we must begin by showing a joyful demeanor and spread cheer.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cc and Bcc


It was business emails day in class—how electronic business letters can effectively be used in the workplace. My students are all familiar with how email works; they've been using it for some time.

But emails per se and effective business communications are two different animals.

One is of the wilds (the kind they know).  Just type your thoughts at random, with no regard for format or rules.

And the other is of the circus, under a tent, properly trained and tamed—it does exactly what it should do: move and make the reader react favorably (the kind they need to learn).

When I started discussing Cc and Bcc, they gave me glazed, unfocused eyes that said “hohum.”

That was when I realized that these kids were born long after carbon paper had gone extinct.

So I went through the whole song-and-dance routine. Cc, I said, stands for "carbon copy.” Those listed in the Cc: field of a message will receive a copy of that message. All other recipients will be able to see who received a copy of the message. Cc is useful when you wish to share a message with someone but are not requesting that he replies. 

Bcc, I explained, stands for "blind carbon copy." The difference between Cc and Bcc is that Bcc recipients are invisible to all of the other recipients of the message (including other Bcc recipients). It is useful when you don't wish to share your recipients' email addresses with everyone who receives your message.

They gave me eyes that pop when light comes back after a long brown out. 

Funny how I thought all along that the kids of this electronics generation should be teaching me instead of me teaching them.

Well, I have been breathing far longer than they have. The blessing of being a teacher is having the opportunity to share the grace of experience earned through eons to a wide-eyed captive audience.   
  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Baggy Pants


Just as the fashion world is into tight-hugging trousers, my roommate went in search of baggy pants.

The trouble with fashion trends is that shops carry only them and junk everything else. No clothing store—not one that Tony has doggedly trekked to in the last two months—carries baggy pants anymore.

“How can they stop making comfy pants?!” I think he might have been asking himself, loathe to wearing anything that hugs skin. “They’re the most comfortable apparel next to pajamas!”  He didn’t say those either, well, not aloud for any ear to hear.     

Then yesterday in a mall, while walking through the men’s section on our way home, he cried, “Eureka!”  Again, I actually didn't hear a peep, but that was what he might have exclaimed when he asked me, “We are in no hurry, are we?”

Next thing I knew, he asked the salesgirl for a pair in his size for fitting.

Naturally, it fitted him to a tee. The price was a bit steep, but he ordered them in all colors! Unfortunately, the shop had only two available, in similar colors. He took them both anyway and is now one very happy, two-new-baggy-pants owner.

Okay, that’s according to me, despite the impassive demeanor he demonstrates through his long treasure-hunt sojourn. It's because I yield to fashion trends, discomfort notwithstanding; he defies them (abhors them even), comfort is everything.     

As I was leafing through the dailies this morning, muttering to myself, Baggy pants are so passe, I read in the fashion section, “Baggy pants are coming back!”

Life indeed is full of grace. 

Now, mulling over my husband’s counter-trend attitude, I wish all Christians would likewise be adamant about following world trends when it comes to their faith.

Jesus said to His disciples,  "If  you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:19 (NKJV)
 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Worst and Best Fear


A new fear or phobia, which was not even an idea in my youth, has popped up among the electronically-wired generation today. To them, our ancient fears below may now be utterly prosaic:   

Acrophobia (fear of height). Today's kids go bunjee jumping and ziplining, and are into extreme sports.

Arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Computer-generated movies now feature gigantic spiders the size of buildings and young audiences lap them up—the creepier the better.

Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Current TV food channels show exotic serpents made into delectable recipes. Reality TV feature people fondling snakes.  

Cynophobia (fear of dogs). Pets are all the rage; dog clinics, shops and salons abound; dogs sleep on their masters’ beds. 

Astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning). This century's eardrum-breaking music on ear phones are louder than claps of thunder. 

Trypanophobia (fear of injections). Tattoos, tattoos, tattoos.

‘Nuf said.

So now comes the world’s worst fear. Nine out of every 10 people aged under 30 admit to suffering this new phenomenon: Nomophobia. The fear of having No Mobile phone.

These self-confessed addicts spend four to six hours a day on their mobile phone, checking it every ten minutes, and placing it next to their bed at night (it’s the new Teddy bear). They become anxious when their phone loses reception, runs out of battery, or is misplaced.       

Have mobile phones become as addictive as shabu, cigarettes, and gambling?

On the upside, older people are in no danger of being nomophobic. Often I forget to check my phone, or bring it with me when I leave home. I don’t take it to bed nor to the bathroom. I don’t get panic attacks if it is missing. 

Up until two weeks ago, I had a dumb Nokia phone. Now that I have been persuaded into buying my new smartphone, I am struggling with the how to use it. It will take dollops of grace for me to master half of its functions. 

In contrast to this worst fear is the best fear—a fear that does not cause panic nor irrational behavior. We read about it in the Bible at least 300 times: Fear of the Lord.

Scripture is full of examples of how fearing God is a positive thing. Joseph wins his brothers' trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man . . . it was because the midwives feared God that they obeyed Him and spared the Hebrew babies from the authorities . . . Pharoah brought disaster on his nation because he did not fear God . . . Moses chose leaders who feared God and therefore wouldn't take bribes. There are many more.

In the New Testament (Matthew 10:28), Jesus states this even stronger, "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Fearing God saves us from caving into irrational fears such as nomophobia. That's why hearing someone is God-fearing actually makes us trust that person more. People who fear God become sensitive to other people’s needs because their thoughts are not centered on worldly gadgets.  

Fearing God frees us from even the worst fear in the world.

Top photo credit

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Five-star Dad


Here is a letter a father received from one of his children. He keeps this in a special place in his heart, treasuring it more than anything he ever owned.

Hi, Dad!

How do I love thee? Let me count the stars. You’re a five-star dad! Thank you for the five important stars you bequeathed to me, now shining brightly to light my way . . .   

1.    The star of priority – to love God more than anyone or anything  
2.    The star of a clean and unsullied life – to never let my guard down when temptations come 
3.    The star of courage – to make tough decisions and to stand up for what is right   
4.    The star of discernment – to choose with whom to hang out with; and what new ideas to trash or treasure   
5.    The star of fortitude – to move on despite disappointments and difficulties     
 

I thank God that you are my father. On Father’s Day, dinner’s on me in a five-star hotel, no less. Would you be free? 

Love,
Larry (not his real name)

What a blessing to have a child like this. And what a father he has!

To all dads reading this, Happy Father’s Day! 

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

(This is the last in a series of  four blogs leading to Father's Day in gratitude to our heavenly Father for the grace of dads in our midst.)

photo credit

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Salute to Single Dads


Two days from now, on Sunday, many parts of the world will celebrate Father’s Day. I wish to pay a special tribute to all single dads who see to their children’s needs all by themselves. 

Research studies have shown that single moms, wired to be caregivers and multi-taskers, have better coping mechanisms and resilience than single dads. That’s why I have always held singles dads, who do a remarkable job of both dad and mom, in high esteem.

In Oh, Mateo! (illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero)—a series of 15 books plus a one-year devotional revolving around eight-year-old Mateo—I draw attention to a single dad, Ador.

A poor farm hand, Mateo’s father lost his wife when Mateo was baby, but he slogs on, works hard, and does his best for his little boy despite dire lack of resources.

Mateo is growing up to be a responsible, happy, and adventurous boy, well-liked in the neighborhood. His father Ador has instilled in him Christian values, the blessings of life, and God’s amazing grace.
In Sunday school, Teo and his classmates are asked by their teacher to write a letter to their father on Father’s Day. Here’s Teo’s letter . . .  

Dear Tatay,

You are my superhero. And Apong Cion said that because Nanay is already with Jesus in heaven, you do a super Nanay job, too.  But it is not Mother’s Day, so this is only for F-A-T-H-E-R.       

Thank you very much for . . . 

F – Framing Nanay’s photo so I will always remember her.   

A – Adding coins to my alkansiya. It’s almost half full! 

T – Taking me to Sunday School to learn Bible stories. T is also for the Tree house you built for me.

H – Helping me and my friends make kites. Yey! H is also for my Half of the fresh fruits you bring home. 

E – Explaining why I need to always pray and always read.

R – Rushing home from work when I am sick to give me a sponge bath. R is also for Nanay’s Recipes which you teach me to cook with the secret ingredient.

Happy Father’s Day, Tatay!  Oh, I should greet God, too, right? Because He is the Father of all.  Happy Father’s Day, God!  

Love,
Teo

“The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise.” Proverbs 23:24 NLT

May God give all struggling single dads the wisdom and fortitude to raise their children in the way they should go. 

(This post is the 3rd in a series of  blogs leading to Father's Day in gratitude to our heavenly Father for the grace of dads in our midst

Translations:
Tatay
Daddy
Nanay
Mommy
Apong
honorific for an old woman
Alkansiya
piggy bank

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Many Dads


Francis (not his real name) was in his mother’s womb when his father died.

“But I grew up having so many father-figures in church,” he tells his friends or anyone he encounters. “Not once have I felt fatherless. Most important of all, I have our Heavenly Father who has been with me from inside the womb to where I am standing today.” 

On Father’s day, Francis gives about a dozen of his surrogate fathers a token gift to show his appreciation of their support and love.

Unlike Francis, some people struggle with Father's Day—especially those who only have adoptive fathers, those who may be living with stepfathers, or those whose birth fathers have died. 

Jesus’ statement to Mary after His resurrection should encourage those of us who feel fatherless, “‘Don’t cling to me,’” Jesus said, ‘for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17).

Jesus gave all of us an open relationship with our Father God.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us fathers through whom we found our Heavenly Father.

(This post is the 2nd in a series of  blogs leading to Father's Day in gratitude to our heavenly Father for the grace of dads in our midst.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dear Father


Father’s Day is as much about You as it is about my earthly father. Everything I know about You and Your grace I first learned from him.

You guided my dad as he instilled wisdom in me. Through him, I felt Your love every day while growing up. Through him, I know all about Your promise never to leave me. 
Thank You, Heavenly Father, for sending Your only Son so that my dad and I can have the gift of salvation.

On Father’s Day, I want to thank You for giving me a father from whom I have witnessed how love can be passed on.

Someday, when I become a father myself, I pray that my children will see You in me—that I am there for them as You are with me.

Signed
(Every son/would-be father who feels the same way)

(This post is the first in a series of blogs leading to Father's Day in gratitude to our heavenly Father for the grace of dads in our midst.) 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Where Are the Dinosaurs?


There are many scientific theories why the dinosaurs are gone from the face of the earth. 

Asteroid, huge volcanic activity, severe ice age, climate change, and deadly disease—all these theories present possibilities that could have altered the sun, water, and atmospheric conditions on Earth, causing the death of dinosaurs.

There is one reason that laymen toy around with: Dinosaurs were too big to fit in Noah’s ark. So they were left behind and died in the flood.

They were humongous all right, but in God’s infinite wisdom, He could have easily commanded Noah to have baby dinosaurs or dinosaur eggs to get in there.

Speculations are always rife about what happened and what did not happen in Bible times. That’s why interpretations of all kinds exist today. Scientists also continue to look for concrete proofs of many theories. 

The only antidote to endless speculations is faith. No human mind can ever fathom the depth of God’s wisdom.

Prophet Isaiah explained it in Chapter 55, verse 9: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Note to self: never rely on man’s wisdom about the Lord’s works.

May God’s grace strengthen our faith so we will continue to believe that His words are enough.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fellowship in Suffering


Six of my close friends are battling cancer, in various stages, at the moment. And so are many of my friends' friends and loved ones. To some, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and medication are options. To the rest, none is left.

But they are walking on a common road, treading on the anguish of physical, financial, and psychological pain every day. 

So we suffer with them, spending much of our prayer time on their distress. In our prayer groups, we reach out with compassion and have entered into the fellowship of their suffering.

While this is right, Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians (1:24 NLT), “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.”  Meaning, we should try not to become consumed by our own hurts, and the hurts of our suffering loved ones; we need to find time to think and share in Christ's suffering. 

When I was in Bacolod last week, my new friend, Glenda, shared with me her “secret” to inner peace: “Each time my mind is in turmoil and my heart is in pain, I meditate on 1 Peter 4:13 (NLT), 'Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.'”

In suffering, we are actually in fellowship with Christ, who suffered so much more for our sake.

There are so many Christian books dealing with human hurts (depression, fear, rejection, crumbling of marriage, loneliness, single-parenting, etc.), helping us how to cope. Yet so little is written about sharing in the sufferings of the Lord.

As human beings, we need all the help we can get, but we desperately need to pray with Paul and Peter that we may understand Christ's sufferings.

“May His grace help us get our eyes off ourselves and our own hurts, and remember that when we suffer, we fellowship with our Savior,” Glenda reminded me.

Amen.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sleeping with a Bibliobibuli


The person with whom I share my bed is a bibliobibuli.

For emphasis, I repeat: bibliobibuli. 

The word sounds gross, and seems like a crawly insect or a creepy virus, whichever is worse. But that’s what the father of my sons has morphed into in the last couple of years.

I didn’t know what to call his new being up until my friend, Cherry, posted a similar photo (below) on her FB wall, and I cried, “Bingo! That’s the exact, precise, perfect word.” 

Just to make sure I have finally pegged my bedmate right at this late stage in our lives (meaning, wisdom years), I looked up the word—not in dictionaries accepted by the halls of academe, but in free-for-all electronic lexicons that have invaded our placid lives in recent years. This definition is by Kelli Christiansen:

Bibliobibuli is a mixture of Greek (“biblio,” meaning books) and Latin ("bibulous" from "bibere," meaning to drink), and can be loosely translated as being drunk on books. The word was coined in 1957 by H. L. Mencken who said: “. . . I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing."

Once a bibliobibuli, always a bibliobibuli, I think. My children’s dad confesses that once upon a time, long ago, he already was. But earthly concerns such as running a business and being a father crowded his hours. So now that he has been blessed with the luxury of time, he has slid back to what he was. 

I confess to being a chronic bibliobibuli, too, but I am not always “in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing." In between reading, I write. In between reading, my bedmate reads. 

In fact, when he is not in his office, with his clients, friends, and Rotary, you’ll find him in only two places—a bookstore, reading what he wants to read next, and a coffee shop where he is, yeah, “in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing," devouring two books a week. 

Noticing him deeply asleep one night, I suddenly had my own definition of bibliobibuli: The sort of people dunked in grace—not drunk on books. It’s sleeping in peace after a troubled day with no hangover the morning after.    

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Women of Faith


They came from all over Panay and Negros, mostly on public buses. Some had to scrounge around for transportation money. Some were sponsored by church mates. Some saved up for a year. But they came, bringing along zest and zeal to fellowship with and learn from each other at the national women's convention of Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines. 

“This is grassroots, Grace, not your usual corporate audience,” said one of the organizers, untiring leaders of their local churches who, I am sure, financed the logistics with gladness. “You are the only speaker.” That scared me a little, but c’est la vie.

We were all billeted in a modest hostel with air-conditioned Spartan rooms and a bare function room that had the basics, plus a screen for my slides. It was the ideal setting for what we were in Bacolod City to discuss and reflect on:

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12 (NKJV)

It was an unexpected blessing to be invited to speak before these women of faith. Here I saw the most beautiful Bibles in the world: well-worn, thumb-through by gnarled, working hands probably a few times during the day.

They took down notes, read my slides with an eagle eye, and listened with so much intensity I knew I couldn’t be careless with my words, nor facetiously joke with silly abandon.

In our mini workshops, they did as told with childlike enthusiasm and bared their soul. Their stories were infinitely better than mine. They helped nourish my own faith, the size of a mustard seed, to the size of an avocado seed in three days. Their written reflections on the talks were eye-openers, poignant and eloquent all at once. 

As I continue to ponder those stories in the days to come, my faith will—by grace—grow bigger to a size that will come close to theirs, finding along the way that precious treasure Apostle Paul had learned: contentment.
 
PS

A delightful bonus to my three days was a talk before a joint youth group, vibrant and spirited. What a crisp and cool ending to an unforgettable travel to Bacolod City! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bacolod Beckons


The last time I was in Bacolod, I said good-bye to friends at the old airport. This time around, I am welcomed at the new one.

From there, we drive on a highway surrounded by unending stretches of sugar cane fields.  This cool, refreshing place is definitely not Manila.

On second thought, it is Manila—when Tony and I were setting up our first home four decades ago. It is also my little hometown, Umingan, four decades from now.  Bacolod is beautifully in place, between urban noise and rural quietude. When we get to the commercial area, I still see the quaint old houses. People are sparse but familiar Manila sights like Jollibee and big malls now populate the place. Modernization is taking place. I hope it doesn’t go too fast and furious.

I missed my deadline for a newspaper column because there is no internet connection in the hostel where I am billeted. Well, the world can wait. I am in the midst of quiet soaking in new friendships with women of faith. I am here to listen to their grace stories and tell my own.

We will be enriched by the exchange.     

Monday, May 19, 2014

Suitcase of My Heart


On my last day in Cebu last week, I blogged about packing the suitcase of my heart with a ton of memories. It would have been declared overweight at the airport.

Now here I am, back to my desktop in Manila and the memories linger like an LSS (Last Song Syndrome) . . .

Day one:

From the Cebu airport, I was whisked off by five young ladies to a cafĂ© where we were scheduled to have light snacks. What I had not counted on was their definition of light. We had the works, direct from the chef who makes every plateful of goodies seem like it was slaved over by an Italian momma—pasta, cakes, etc. It would have sufficed for dinner, but no, my lady hosts said we would have a proper dinner after my first “gig,” a talk to the youth group of the The Living Christian Church.

Youth groups in every Christian church have one thing in common: they exude the indescribable look of being with the Lord from an early age, starting with toddler’s Sunday School. They sang and played on various musical instruments praise songs with verve and gusto.

Day two:

I couldn't get over my big hotel room, too huge for one puny me. It was one floor up from the venue of “Thank God, I Am a Woman,” which gathered over a hundred ladies who gave me the best compliment a speaker can ever hope for: rapt attention.

A few volunteered to come up on stage to answer questions and share their thoughts. One lady so touched me when she said, “I found God in Cebu.” That proved what I have always believed about Cebu: it is one special place. The Living Christian Church on its 25th anniversary was generous to the core, pouring out prizes and serving a full-feast meal masquerading as snack.

Then to the southern seaside, out in a new commercial development about ten minutes away. Just-caught seafood variety and a lively conversation with new-found friends decked our table.

(In between these busy events, I had time for a quiet chat with newly-introduced friends who share my advocacy for children.)  


Day three:

Brown out, “for the first time in years.” The heat was overpowering, but the passion in worshiping God on Mother’s Day was even more so. I was asked to speak about my mommy-hood, a privilege that would not have been possible without grace. 

A luncheon with the church’s board over the famous Cebu lechon, Chinese and Cebu rice, and dinuguan (pork blood stew) capped my fellowship with my church host.

But before my flight back to Manila, I had a short respite in a beautiful home, where I wrote “Cebu Charms” and was served more snacks. 

Then I was privileged to be a part of the intimate family dinner of Pin, the lady whose signature marked the e-vite from her church group. Encounters such as this does swell the heart, and packs even more weight in the already brimming suitcase that lodges there.

A carton of goodies was the icing on my Cebu cake from Pin and her family at the airport.

(I would  name names, but I wish to respect the privacy of everyone who went out of his/her way to pack my heart’s suitcase with grace upon grace upon grace.)

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to meet people whom you have blessed with exceeding goodness. 
 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Grace Is Unfair


Injustice thrives on earth. Justice does not and will not come while we are clothed in mortal bodies. Life is not fair.
 
And so is grace.  Grace. is. unfair.

Philip Yancey, in his book, What So Amazing about Grace?, says, "The free offer of grace extends not just to the undeserving but those who in fact deserve the opposite."

The criminal beside Jesus on the cross was immediately given the grace of forgiveness, his past sins all wiped clean. All he did was believe.

Grace makes no exception. It comes to everyone—scam lords and scam victims, faithless and faithful, rich and poor, corrupt and honest, sinners and saints. All we need is to recognize and seize it. And believe.  

Likewise, Apostle Paul, who spent half of his life preaching about the saving grace of Jesus, received the grace of being content, of knowing that in his weakness, he is made stronger. 

We are prone to whine, grumble, and complain, "Life is not fair!" But praise God that grace is not fair—it comes even to whiners like us.

"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Photo credit

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cebu Charms


I am in Cebu, the city that charms me over and over again. I have been relishing my stay here for the last three days.

By midnight, if my flight doesn’t get delayed, I should be back home in Metro Manila.

It has been a three-day adventure, which I spoke of in my regular column for the Freeman, “Big Little People.”

“Thank God, I'm a Woman!” was why I got invited to fly to Cebu.

But this was just the beginning grace, like a scrumptious aperitif in a full-course meal.

I will go home with the suitcase of my heart packed with so much grace it will tip the scales to a ton—overweight by airline standards.  

What a generous God we serve!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tattoo


To tattoo or not to tattoo? 

This was a question Sophia (not her real name), who had always wanted one, asked herself.

A Christian, she had read Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord."

But in context, she thought, this specifically referred to the pagan religious rituals then. God only prohibited His chosen people from heathen worship and witchcraft so they will not be led away from Him.
 
After having resolved the issue in her mind, Sophia had her wrist tattooed with the letter “S” surrounded with flowers.

A few weeks later, however, her father fell gravely ill and needed blood transfusion immediately. Sophia’s blood type was a perfect match. Unfortunately, the doctor turned her away because she just had a tattoo. 

Sophia wept bitterly, feeling profusely guilty for her act.

To tattoo or not to tattoo?

This is a personal choice. But a question we may ask ourselves before we decide is, “Will my decision give glory to God?”

(Based on an entry in my book, Grace@Work, a devotional for the workplace,  to be launched in September.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Last Three Minutes


Our one and only grandchild, Adrian, celebrates his seventh birthday today somewhere in another world people call the US of A. 

Obviously we can’t be there because oceans and air miles separate us. But I remember him fondly now as I look back to the last time he was with us late last year.

His parents left him with us for three days and in those treasure-filled hours, we relished indulging his pleas for “last three minutes.”

A well-disciplined kid, he knew he had to live with some parental rules. But we are no longer parents, Tony and I, we have morphed into guiltless doters. So when Adrian had gone beyond scheduled meals or naps, enjoying whatever activity he fancied, we would say “Enough.”

He would counter with a syrupy, heart-melting smile, “Last three minutes, please.”

We relent—too quickly. Our last three minutes is not absolute. It is a grace moment; it goes beyond the ticking of the clock; it purrs to the little one's bidding. 

And this perceptive, smart boy knew it. (Ooops, and now his parents know it, too!) 

On his birthday today, our wish is that he remembers and will come back to revel in  those last three minutes outpoured by his doters somewhere out in a world doddering seniors like us call home.  

Happy birthday, Adrian! May you grow up knowing and loving our God, the One who gives us the chance to experience the joy of granting you the last three minutes.