That’s how an encouragement feels!  It gives freshness to a tired and weary soul.

I was checking out of my hotel room when I noticed an un-read message on my pocket pc. I smiled as I read what this very encouraging friend from overseas wrote…

“I just finished reading your recent blogs for April. They are truly inspirational and i find it is worth the time reading because i am learning significant ideas on sensitivity to relationship with others.  Through reading your blogs, I am gaining strength and broght me near to the Lord by recognizing that what matters most is “who He is” than “what He can do”. Yes He is a loving God which most of the time i forget that i feel i am abandoned. I also liked the story about Peanuts. Cessna, your childhood dreams, encounter with the japanese diver, etc.  Many thanks. “

Wow. I was humbled by this friend’s email.  What a privilege to share a part of my life with you.  I pray that we will all find our way… and that together someday, we will stand in that great banquet and rejoice with our King!
Thank you my brother. Thank you my friend. May God bless you through and through. Thank you for being a part of my life.

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April 29, 2008

7:28AM

Dumaguete/ Sibulan Airport while waiting for my AIRPHILS flight to Manila

Here I am again sitting and waiting for my flight. I do not even know where to begin writing about the events that took place yesterday.

It was a difficult experience that eventually got redeemed beyond my expectations!

With the camp staff training done, I was ready to go home. It was an afternoon flight so I had plenty of time to spare in the morning to prepare for my trip.

I went to the airport and the counter of AirPhilippines was still closed. Joedan took me there early because I was just really anxious to get home. Before reaching the airport premises, I called my wife to tell her about the package that we were waiting to receive. Her voice sounded really excited to tell that it just arrived – seconds before my call. We were just really elated!

Anyways, at the queue, I chatted with two ladies from the nearby island of Siquijor. From what they told me, I took note that I need to visit Siquijor one of these days.

When it was my turn – I asked for my favorite seat ( EXIT row, WINDOW) and the man said “ Sir, did you have your ticket re-book?” I just said “No…” and he looked at me and said the most painful words an anxious husband dying to see his wife..”Sir, your ticket is dated for yesterday’s flight at 2:45PM”

I could not believe my ears! I looked at the ticket and there it was – April 27! How could I have missed it! How could I look at this ticket during the weekend and didn’t realize the date of my flight? I thought all along that what I got was a Monday flight!

I was asked to try as a chance passenger. Whooaaaa….. I have always been a CONFIRMED passenger, not a CHANCE passenger. I started to feel the tension rushing to my head as I imagined my wife getting ready or worse, already driving down the South Luzon Expressway, bearing with the traffic jams to pick up a husband who missed the flight not by a couple of minutes, but 24 HOURS!!!

I rushed to the ticketing office only to hear another bombshell:

“Sir, you need to pay P2,554 to be a chance passenger. But I need to tell you that you are going to be Priority Number 2. “

Now that sounds really funny! How can I be PRIORITY when it is all left to CHANCE?! Anyways, you know what I mean.

“If you want sir, there is a last seat available for the first flight tomorrow….”

My head was spinning. From a CONFIRMED passenger, to CHANCE passenger, to CHANCE passenger Priority Number 2 and now to the LAST Possible SEAT for the first flight the following day!

Seeing how there were a lot of passengers and CHANCE priority NUMBER 1 was really determined to be a CHANCE PASSENGER, I opted to take the last seat for the following day’s first flight. I took out my wallet – and my wallet wasn’t cooperating with me! I asked if I could use my credit card and I was told “Sir, we don’t have the swiping machine for the credit card at this time…”

So to be the LAST CONFIRMED Passenger, we rushed to find a BPI ATM…. And it seemed to me that the trycicles in Dumaguete were driving faster than Joedan (sorry bro… har har har)

Found the ATM.

Stood as the 6th in line.

My turn. The machine took my card.

Punched some numbers. Waited… and the screen showed me the amount. I did not even have the full money for it.

I lacked P100 to get the final seat on the following day’s flight. If I do not get this ticket, I will be flying on Wednesday afternoon, I was told.

Joedan gave me the P100 and I flew to the ticket counter.

“Sir, are you sure you don’t want to be CHANCE passenger NUMBER 2?”

I said calmly “I will take the last seat for tomorrow’s flight” and I saw PRIORITY NUMBER ONE stood up because they are starting to board and he needs to get ready…

(Ok we are about to board….

A Boy’s Dream

April 26, 2008

When I was in grade school, I encountered a poem that I never left me. To immortalize it, I am posting it here. The poem captured my love and my excitement whenever I am around airplanes. Well, this training  I am conducting right now took me to the city of Dumaguete, Philippines. This was also the place where I first flew a Cessna 4 years ago… (but that’s another blog…)

“When I grow up, I’d like to be

A brave strong rubber out on the sea

I’ll sail on the ocean wide

To see the big world far and wide

But then I also wish to fly

A whizzing jet plane in the sky

I’ll make a loop and zoom and dash

And come to land without a crash…

(there are some parts here that I had forgotten. But the thought of making loops and zooming in the big blue yonder never left. )

I arrived in Dumaguete and a good friend of mine is running an Aviation Flight School there. I stayed there in the office for several hours surrounded by small and lightweight planes parked outside. Well, the president was also in the city so there were some military planes and helicopters parked as well. I was like a little boy again… reminiscing the poem “but then I also wish to fly….” ( see the ABOUT page of my BLOG)

Here in the little airstrip, people would really stop to look at airplanes that land and take-off. Flight students, maintenance crews and even happy guests like me were just too eager to take out our digital cameras to capture even for a moment a plane about to soar into the sky.

Whew! The sights and sounds of these planes! What I wouldn’t do just to be able to fly one of these? It would be the most awesome of all a young boy’s dream.

(Centennial Airport : Manila, Philippines 5:30 AM)

I used to love airports. The sight of the planes taking off and landing is a very exciting thing for me. The sight of people pulling their luggages. The uniformed pilots and crew which poignantly remind me of my desire to become one of them.

Airports convey much anticipation & hope brought about by the flight about to take one to his destination. Evidenced by the cameras brought by the young people as they busily take portraits of themselves for their Friendster account, maybe. Of people dressed in their shorts, flip-flops and most comfortable shirts, indicating their tropical beach destinations [Boracay Paradise, I miss you!]

All of these things are present as I write this. But something is noticeably absent right now. All the excitements that I used to feel… (they just announced that it is our boarding time)

View from my seat

Flight 291 AirPhilippines to Dumaguete

Seat 09F – window exit

28,000 ft ( this pic I took as we were flying over Taal Volcano. I simply used what was in my hands – my HP IPAQ Rx3417 with its 1.3 meg camera. It captured the mouth of the mother Taal volcano)

are missing. I reasoned that perhaps it is because I have been traveling and speaking for the past 2 weekends. Palawan, Bacolod and now, Dumaguete. And these travels usually mean arriving early, speaking till late in the evening and flying home Monday dead-tired and usually with a hoarse voice at the end of the weekend.

Physical fatigue is one thing, weariness is another, a much more difficult thing to handle.

Maybe I am just getting weary and my tank is getting empty. seeing the airport where last week, my wife was with me hauling our luggage, made me feel empty. I suddenly missed her. The kind of missing someone that it actually hurts inside. With her GAD and depression still being managed, trips like these are difficult for both of us.

Lord, I am tired and weary. I am going to a place where the people are expecting to be trained. Fill me with your joy & your strength & allow me to minister to them refreshed & renewed by Your grace. In my weariness right now, I open myself to You as I wait for your comfort. Lord, I cannot give what I don’t have – please fill me up & renew my mind & soul with your Spirit. Let me come to You to receive Your promised rest.

I picked her up yesterday. If I could only tell her the trouble my wife and I went through to make the arrangements! We have 3 dogs (labrador, mini-pin and a mongrel) so whenever we would need to go on trips, it would take a lot of planning so that the dogs would all be taken care of in our absence. We have already nailed it to an art form, as a matter of fact….

The black lab named Beans and the mongrel named Toepy stayed at home while Peanut was taken to a friend who also used to have a mini-pin (which died early this year….). We arranged for Joseph, my nephew to house sit and dog-sit for us in our absence. Leaving a 15-year old young man house- sit is another blog in itself….

Anyways, yesterday, after dropping by at the office to sign some papers, I took Joseph home. Then I went back to the office to wait for an officemate who took care of Peanut over the weekend. She was telling me during the drive to her condo unit that Peanut hardly played with them. She displayed some moments of playfulness after she was wiped off with a moist towel. I told her that my wife would usually play with her right after Peanut’s bath.

When she opened the door, Peanut scurried away and rounded the table. I squatted down and called her name. She did not eagerly come but made her way slowly to my hand. Once she smelled me and heard my voice and recognized me, she went (as my young people, back in the day would say,) BALLISTIC! She was all over me. Jumping and asking to be carried. Once I carried her, she was still all over me… she could not contain herself…

My friend and her sister was really amused to see this going on. It is as if our Peanut came alive! I carried her to the car where she patiently waited for us to leave. She could hardly wait to come home. It took awhile for her to find her most comfortable spot.

After an hour of driving, we finally reached our village. She woke up and sensed the familiar location. And once she was home, she displayed the same BALLISTIC behaviors, especially when she saw my wife. Mini-pins are notoriously known as a one-person dog. And to her, the most important person is my wife. I think I come in second.

While Peanut was asleep on our way home, these thoughts came to my mind:

Wouldn’t it be funny and stupid, if Peanut acted to gather all her materials and showed them to me to tell me how much they are worth?

And wouldn’t it be foolish for her to say “hey, dont forget my blankie, my toys, my things… as I carried her to the car?

When she saw me – her happiness was simply un-bridled. She was the happiest mini-pin at the moment. She could care less for her bed, her blankie, her toys…. they were all nothing. What mattered to her was that I was there… and she was coming with me no matter what.

I guess it would also look stupid if I acted differently should my Lord and Master come to pick me up. It would look foolish for me to show him all the toys I had gathered in my lifetime. To show him all the places i visited and all the important things I had achieve in this lifetime. It would be very foolish of me to get more excited about the things and the place where I was left for awhile than the arrival of my Master.

I pray that I would also be in a state of un-bridled joy every time I encounter Jesus. That He will be the only one I would care for at that moment. That all things would be dwarfed into nothingness as I could hardly wait to go where He is.

I pray that I will be very excited to be in His heavenly presence than to stay here on earth where I was left off for awhile… Peanut, no matter how comfortable the place where we left her off, knew that she does not belong there.

I pray that I will always remember that lesson. No matter how comfortable it gets here… I belong to where He is. That I will never forget where and to whom I belong…

I am deeply humbled. . .

April 16, 2008

My wife baked her first chocolate cake. She sent me mms of the cake while i was away. It simply said “thank you” – and I knew what it was for. This couple who was very kind to us and sent two guys to have a part of our front yard cemented. It was a surplus from a house project they were worked on. It was very humbling to be receiving such generosity from people who were just there to give without any strings attached.

While we were enjoying the cake and the brewed coffee over at this couple-friends house, I got an invitation through sms from a pastor inviting me to speak at their Sunday service. He stated the dates (3 months from now..) and the time of the 2 worship services where I was invited to speak on a topic which really humbled me. ‘Would I consider giving a message on ______ ________?” and before I could send my reply, it was followed by “would you consider it in prayer?”

I am humbled that I was asked to address this church.

I am humbled because they could ask more seasoned pastors to preach on that subject.

I am humbled that even though there are times I feel that I have nothing to give, God would show me that through Him, there could be more to give.

I am humbled by the relationships I’ve had the privilege to share and enjoy.

I am humbled by the love I experience from people both near and far.

I am humbled by the prayers of people who would out of the blue, ask me , “I would like to pray for you today. Is there any specific thing you would like me to pray about?”

I am humbled when I am called “Son” by an older preacher whose faithfulness to God is something I intend to follow.

I am humbled by friends who would email me and tell me that they appreciate what I am doing.

I am humbled when people remember the things I have done and things I have said to encourage them in the past.

I am humbled by the generosity of friends and new found brothers in the faith.

I am humbled by the love my wife showers me with everyday.

The meeting ended at 11PM. I guess I was trying my best to “make up” for the many months that I was not able to visit. My last church visit was Dec 2006, and now it is April 2008. 2006 and 2008. It is easy to just say 2 years…. and so in our meetings, I would always refer to “it has been two years since my last visit…”

I got back in my lonely hotel room and turned on the TV. I was grateful that there was CNN and other regular cable channels like NatGeo and Discovery. Even though I was too tired, my mind was too alert to just sleep. After taking a hot shower, I looked at my cell phone to set the alarm. I was looking forward to sleeping more than 8 hours and just maximize my stay until my flight home at 5:45PM.

But my phone registered several sms from this young couple I married off several years ago. They wanted to make sure that I was up and about by 8AM so they could take me on a city tour. I almost said “I am really tired… but thanks…” but there was something about what they said…”we want to take you around because you have been coming here yet you still have not seen the familiar tourist attractions…”

That was really true. I go on travels – and conducts meetings from Fridays – Sundays. Usually I am back taking my flight home on Monday mornings. But this trip was somewhat different, the booking was so tight that the flight I got was at 5:45PM.

I was out of the hotel by 8:30AM and off we went. They knew that I needed coffee first so we went to the place where I could get good coffee in an instant. Dunkin Donuts. With that done, off we went to pick up 4 teachers who were also serving as Sport Officials for softball at the Palarong Pambansa (National Games)…

The first step was the crocodile farm. I even managed to get some pictures taken with a baby crocodile with its snout securely tied. 3 shots and it was getting to be uncomfortable for the me and the animal.

They took me to Mitra’s house overlooking Honda Bay. it was beautiful. I missed my wife as I looked at the overpowering horizons. The sea on one side and the mountains slightly covered by rain clouds on the other.

Then we were taken to a bee farm…. it was a very interesting place. I actually got more information. A drone (male bee) once it did its purpose (mate with the queen) dies because its genitals are cut off… hmmmm….

There were more places and this young couple just explained, pointed, told anecdotes all the way. Lunch was at a place called “Gulay Bar” a vegetarian resto where I ordered something that smelled Teriyaki tofu with mushrooms. I should post the pics tomorrow – but I just wanted to get these thoughts done.

It started to rain… the couple noticed how sleepy I was and asked “would you like coffee? we could hang out as we wait or kill time before we take you off to the airport…”

And that’s what we did. I ordered Kape Negro (black coffee) and just talked about life. Talked about our challenges in the church. Health concerns. They just listened. Oh, btw, the other night? we ate in this street stall and then bought fish which we fried and we ate again, this time at the house of the in-laws while I sipped his home-made honey wine. It actually tasted good. I rode the motorbike with him to my hotel at past 11 PM.

Anyways, this young couple then took me to the airport. And as I hugged them, it dawned on me that they as a couple, never miss taking me to the airport everytime I leave. It has always been them. They have always been the couple that I always hug because they were the ones who would take a leave from their work just to see me off. The husband picked me up at the airport.

The small church in the area used to be their home church. But they stopped attending there. In Dec 2006, I tried to patch the relationship -but I guess relationships cannot really be forced on anyone.

Sitting at the airport while waiting for my flight made me think more about what had transpired over the weekend. This couple really took care of me. They would send sms and asked me “how are you doing?” even if they knew I was conducting a meeting. They would ask “do you have any dinner plans?” because they wanted to make sure that my needs are taken care of.

Their brother, even wanted to invite me to attend a youth service where he choreographed a dance for the youth worship. I was so sorry I could not come because I also scheduled a meeting that night.

This young couple would introduce me as their older brother… and then would be quick to add “Our pastor… immediately followed with “He was the one who officiated at our wedding…”

They were really sensitive to my needs. The wife even noticed that I have not been drinking water and promptly asked “do you want us to buy bottled water? You have not been drinking the whole day..”

What was going on here? I asked myself. And two things came to mind.

ROLE BASED vs. RELATIONSHIP Based.

For this young couple, they did not look at me as someone with just a ROLE or a position in the denomination. Rather they looked at me, as someone whom they have gotten to know through the years. We would recall stories together. Inquire about the people they have not met for awhile… I was not an Area Superintendent to them…. rather, I was an older brother, a mentor, a friend… and it felt beautiful.

Many times, if we are not careful, the people in our lives are categorized according to their roles and their positions. Or like this blog, if people are not duly noted, they would be uncategorized, just one among the many. But when we are able to slowly invest our lives in the lives of others, we begin to share “tags, and categories”, memories, thoughts and even dreams….

How about you? Are you having a role-based relationships with the people around you? Or are your relationships based on “friendships?”

How about our relationship with God? Is is based on what He can do for us? Or is it based on who He is? Simply a loving Father? These were my thoughts as I boarded my AirPhil flight to Manila at 6PM…

Upon arriving the Manila airport, I got another sms “drive safely and tell us when you are already in the loving embrace of your wife!”

Role based relationships may make our lives more organized. But relationship-based living would definitely make our lives more meaningful.

View of Honda Bay at the back

Thank you Gully and Rachel. You guys make visiting Palawan worth it everytime. God bless you both.