It was the most difficult Christmas.

We stayed at home because our difficulties started on the 23rd.  Because things are not finished yet, I could not divulge the details.  There are still insights to be gained. Events to be carefully prayed for , people to be lifted up and hearts to be mended.

Life is indeed difficult for us.

Everything would remind me of the broken-ness.  My wifey changed the bedsheets and she found me crying as I ran my hands through the very clean and comfortable sheets and pillows.

I let Beans into his dog house and cried again because there are some people who were sleeping that night with much less luxury than the wooden house of my labrador.

We were having a nice and quiet (because we were containing our tears) at Serendra yet I could not fully eat what was in front of me.  Bonifacio High Street was really relaxing because it is a high-end area, yet it was all hollow.  I asked God, how can these beautiful things be hollow?

When there is no peace, even the most beautiful of things become hollow inside.

At almost midnight of Dec 25th, I was doing a conference chat with my 2 sisters ( one is in the Middle east) – and there we were pouring out our hearts as we try to understand and make some sense of what is happening.

I got an email from a yahoogroup formed for my highschool reunion.

A friend I have gotten to know – lost his almost 2-year old son on Christmas day.

Too many heartaches.

Too many tears.

Too many broken families.

Too many hurtful relationships.

I called up my friend.  While my pain was incomprehensible for me, I could only imagine his.

His baby had low blood clotting attribute and the injury he sustained during his fall last monday left no bump or bruises, but it hemorrhaged inside.

His son was taken to the Makati Medical Center and on Christmas morning, was pronounced brain dead.

My friend requested that the machines be left on until the following day.

They scheduled for the machines to be unplugged on December 26th at 9am.  From the hospital, they will proceed straight to the Crematorium.

The past 2 sentences were typed so fast…. but I could only imagine the depths of unimaginable pain that my friend is going through.

December 26th 9am: I offered a quiet prayer for the whole family .

1:30PM – we stopped at Megamall to buy a wedding gift for a very close family friend /almost a brother to us.  As we were having the gift wrapped, I got a text message informing me of the death of a batchmate who attended our highschool reunion last month!

Going through all these events, I don’t know how I still found an even keel to attend that very beautiful and inspiring wedding.  It was such a lovely occasion – but I felt so dead inside as I tried to be happy for couple.

I cannot recall at this time where I got the title of this blog article. Must be in one of my Abuse Counseling books.  There are times when we do not realize how broken we are because we have grown accustomed to what we have. Until we see those broken fragmented parts, made completely manifest in the lives of other people.

We need to see our wholeness – then we can understand the depths of our broken-ness.

And in the image of God, we see our wholeness.

And in the image of God, we understand the depths, the helplessness of our broken-ness apart from Him.

These are trying times and heart-breaking times. But these are hopeful and encouraging times as well.  These are faith-stretching times and times for quietness.  Time to be still not for stillness’ sake.  Time to be still and know that He is Lord – Psalm 46:10

Are you going through the same?

Are tears your constant companion these days?

You are not alone and you will never be.  God can simultaneously handle our broken hearts together!

He sees everyone. He hears every cries. He knows every pain and every injustice ever done to anyone at all time and throughout history.

He knows how broken we are because He has already seen how complete we shall become. – Philippians 1:6

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Turning 41

October 22, 2008

This is it.  I am deeply entrenched now into this mid-life.

I have fully entered the zone where the mid-life crisis would come.  I think it has started already years ago – until a former psychiatrist colleague told me that there is already what is called a quarter-life crisis.

I am 41 and I look at my life and I could name many deceased people I knew.  I could tell stories upon stories  and tell them with such freshness as if they just happened yesterday!

So many memories to look back on now, and yet, still so much of eternity to look forward to.

What a journey. As I started a personal new year with the Lord, I could not help but think that God has really given us such an awesome gift called life.  And this life is not supposed to be lived on empty.  Rather our lives are to be enriched by the relationships we have with people around us.

What a journey! I finally got my FIRST BIRTHDAY CAKE AT 41!  What a blessing!  Wifey baked me a caramel fondant cake without taking any baking /cake- making classes!

My life has been unalterably enriched by the precious life-gifts of so many people.

Thank you Lovey for being the best wifey in the whole world. You are God’s most wonderful blessing that is way beyond what I expected or imagined.

Thank you for the young people who allowed me to pour out my life on them.  LM and Jocer, what a thrill when I hear you guys call me Dad.

Thank you for the wonderful friends who never fail to show me God’s grace and love.

Thank you for Kuya Eugene for reflecting God’s faithfulness and brotherly love.

Thank you Church for challenging me to grow. For the opportunity to serve. For the memories in those years of service and many more years to come.

What a wonderful journey this has been.  With all the ups and downs, the tears(!) and the belly-laughters.

Thank you Jesus for allowing me to discover what a beautiful life my life has become – ONLY because of YOUR sustaining grace.

Thank you for not letting me go.

Thank you Jesus for knowing the plans for my life.

Thank you for not giving up on me.

Thank you for taking care of me.

Thank you for being there for me even when I questioned your presence and care in my life at times.

Thank you for your daily provision.

Thank you for your encouragement.

Thank you for your great love.

I am a year older. A year closer to being with you, my Lord.

This news item from South Korea hardly made it to the big broadcasting networks. Even the Asian subsidiaries of these giant networks did not broadcast what has been happening lately to the young people in S.Korea.

Within a span of days, two young popular celebrities have committed suicide.  These were the suicides that got the attention of many in Seoul, but one could only wonder about the many that went un-reported in weeks and in months.

The young people are killing themselves.  And the world was too busy to pay attention.

When young people kill themselves, we must pay serious attention.  We must pause from our daily grind and race and determine what is causing this phenomena in a society that seemed to have been able to rise from so many threats and challenges.

It would be very easy to theologize, pontificat even or just cite reports as to why the young people kill themselves.  But given all these, I think we need to have a fresh look into the lives of these young people.  Celebrity suicides could also give the act celebrity status for the very impressionable ones or worse, disconsolate majority.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the young people and why they are killing themselves?  Have you determined what could be some of your pre-conceived biases or judgment toward the young people?  When young people commit suicide, do you shake your head in disgust and point a blame to the society, their upbringing, their “weaknesses…” or does your heart swell with compassion to the parents and regret that the voice of that young person was not adequately heard soon enough?

Let us pray for the young people in South Korea right now.  No one is noticing that they are going through so much because the whole world is busily just trying to survive.

Every now and then I would send a “hello how are you doing these days?” offline/online message to my college best friend.  From time to time, he would also drop me a line or two.

Well recently, he immediately answered my IM and asked me to pray for his job interview on the 23rd.

“You are applying for a new job?”

“Yes, I am going to be interviewed for the position of CIO!”

Whoaaaa…. CIO ( Chief Information Officer!)

I still shake my head in amazement. Not because he cannot do the job, but how simply amazing God is and how He lovingly and quietly works in our lives.

Ron was my roommate during my freshman year.  We were exact opposites.  I was working on my second degree and really determined to do well, while he was, fresh from highschool and still figuring out what to do and how to impress the girls.

I got to know his family when he invited me over for Winter Break during our sophomore year.  I can still remember the long drive and how my stomach, mysteriously hurt like hell when we arrived in Harrisburg on our way to Buffalo.

I remember one evening after dinner, he started putting on his thick jacket and I asked “are you going out to get a movie at Blockbuster?”  “Nah, I just want to go out for a walk…maybe you should come walk with me…”

His mom then sprung into her motherly ways and started handing out 4 jackets to me to make sure i will survive the walk. “You are from the Philippines and this weather might be too extreme for you – so go ahead, wear this, wear this and this…”

We walked out and I was looking like the Michelin man with all the thick jackets.  But Ron was still quiet and I knew something was up.

” I might not be able to go back next year…”

“Go back where?”

“To college…” he answered as we were walking down this deserted road somewhere.

“My grades are terrible… and I am on probation list…”

That was the first time it hit me – that if he did not do well in school the next coming weeks, I might lose my bestfriend and that really was something I was not prepared to experience.

When we got back to school, I religously followed him up on his exams, assignments and papers. It was a small college and we had similar classes so it was relatively easy to do that. I did not want to lose my bestfriend sitting down – so we studied together and helped memorized 200 scriptures for the Fundamentals of Theology class.

I remember one night when we were struck by the realization that the answers to our questions would have to rely on FAITH.  All our what if questions about God led us to that place where only FAITH can fill up.  And for the first time (last time as well) we prayed together and placed our dependence on God.

Fast forward 3 years after Graduation and I attended Promise Keepers in Dallas with him. He just clearly obliged me since he was my host.

2002 – he paid for my ticket and I flew on my birthday to join him in Hongkong where he was stationed for 1 week. He was already working for this company that has started sending him all over the world.

We were supposed to meet in Manila early this year – but I cautioned him with his financial spending since his wife will be giving birth.  He agreed and just worked in SIngapore until his project was done.

And now, he is going to be interviewed for the position of CIO!

The same guy who almost flunked out of college is about to be the CIO of this multinational company with branches in every continent.

The same guy who in college, could not even decently use a personal computer, is now taking care of different structures, platforms, network architectures and so many more.

Many years later, I find it a blessing that two things have remained:

1. Our friendship

2. Our need for prayers from each other.

On October 23rd midnight, i will be praying again for him because that is his interview time in New York.

My boothmate in Booth 1010 during my freshman year, is about to become a Chief Information Officer!

Thank you God for what you have done in my friend’s life.  Thank you for blessing him. Thank you for the love you have given him through his parents, siblings and now his wife and children. Bless him Lord. As you use him in the corporate world, I pray that you will also gently whisper to him, that you would like him to serve you in the Church as well…

Please grant him this huge favor of becoming a CIO.  He knows that he cannot do this on his own.

Allow him to become a CIO for your divine use and purpose.

I surrender him and his dreams in your precious hands.

In Jesus Name,

AMEN

The other day, I told my wife how this blog generated a lot of hits.  I wondered if the phenomenon is quite common to all dogs.  This article would somehow end up as one of the TOP POSTS almost every week.

https://compassionateconsiderations.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/lessons-from-the-swollen-discomfort-of-sgt-beans/

The article though was not about the medical help – but the processing of thoughts after the whole experience.

I thought I would share some more helpful things now for the dog owners.

So if your dog (in my case, Sgt Beans, my black lab) is having swelling on its private parts – maybe you can consider what I have learned from my research and from what the vet had told me.

1. I did not take action right away because I thought it was just one of those things that will go away anyway.  SO WHEN YOU notice something that is not right, INSPECT. LOOK and ASK questions.

2. I did my research when the swelling was a lot greater. I could have saved Sgt Beans from more pain had I acted right away.

3. I researched through the internet – and GOT SCARED BECAUSE diagnosis is more important. I was inundated with WHAT IF questions.  One vet student mentioned a virus that could infect humans. I researched that and got afraid because it said, it is dangerous when it comes in contact with human skin.

4. Yes it is going to be costly.  But PETS like children are costly anyway.  I tell myself that is ok because “Sgt Beans won’t have to go to college anyways..”

5. If your vet is like a good friend, maybe you can work out a reasonable payment plan.

6. Sgt Beans was injected twice on that visit. Then I was told to give him antibiotics (the same antibiotics we take as people).

7. The antibiotic cream helped a lot too.

8. CARE FOR THE DOG:  Sgt Beans likes water a lot.  I just have a tub that we fill up for his needs esp when the temperature outside is really high.  MAKE SURE THAT THE WATER IS CLEAN. THROW the water after one using.  I thought I could save more by reusing it for BEANS. BUT NO.  The bacteria may have already infested that water – and do not allow your dog to lie down on the tub using the old and already dirtied water.

9.  SGT Beans would always mark certain areas (pee certain areas)… and sometimes these areas are places he considers his haven as well esp when the sun is OUT.  Under the bushes, next to a tree etc.  When the vet said that he may have been lying down on his urine, I vehemently said NO because Beans has a house and the house is somewhat elevated.  A couple of days later, I realized that there are at least 2 areas where Beans would mark most of the time. He would also lie down on those areas.  It had been raining and the mud, mixed with what used to have been dried urine, have stuck on his soft testicle skin covering. In time, the bacteria had eaten away the soft covering.

10. Maybe you could pour hot water on those areas where your dog marks the most. Lessen the bacteria from cultivating.

11. Every time Beans has his bath, or his play in the tub – I always make sure that his balls are wiped dry with a clean towel.  CLEAN TOWEL.  When it rains and he plays outside, I make sure I dry that part of his body before sending him back to his house.

12. Carefully apply the antibiotics that the vet will prescribe. Make it as pleasant as possible.

13. Give positive reinforcements before, during and after placing the medications.

14. It was easier to apply the medications when Beans are slightly pressed against the wall (on all fours)…

I hope these things are helpful.  It took less than a week for me to see major improvement on his privates.  Up to now, I still reinforce the command “raise leg…” and he would give me access to check, to wipe , inspect and to just make sure that he is okay down there.

From one hurricane to the next

September 18, 2008

We are just beginning to see the aftermath of “Ike” – and even before we could fully assess the damage and the dramatic stories of the people who survived, financial hurricanes were blowing Wall Street. Reverberations of these financial meltdowns will have its effect in markets overseas.

Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and then the AIG (my Philippine insurance company is a subsidiary of AIG!) that needed BAILOUT.

What was touted to be the MOST STABLE among them needed an $85B infusion. I could not at the top of my head count how many zeroes you write after $85 much less comprehend what it all meant.

While everything may seem to be going back to normal, ( if we could still ever go back to that one, yeah) I am beginning to wonder about all the other banks (CITIGROUP and others). It was not just the reliability of the levees that were tested. It was not just the financial powerhouses that are being tested. It seems like ANYTHING that would claim to be STRONG, RELIABLE, FORMIDABLE are being tested to its very core.

In the global economy, climate change, OFW migration, corruption that are undetected to the highest levels, dirty political campaigns, showdown of powerful countries, continued bombings in Iraq and the unchecked wars in Afghanistan… NOTHING in this world is ever sure.  The very core of our belief and foundations are being shaken.

How about you?  How is your life? How are you doing?

If your life is like a small raft sailing a raging ocean, you are not alone.

It does not need an IKE in our lives to render our foundations, morale and sure-footing in crumbles. Sometimes it takes an unexpected call. Or you were waiting for the call that never happened. Maybe you just touched the wall of your job that said DEAD END, or you see the value of your hard-earned money dwindling before your eyes as you stare at the prices at the gas pumps, or you sigh at the end of another day and wonder “when will it be over?”. Or the relationship you cherished are now being thrown back at you like a used rag. Or the nights are getting shorter and the days are getting longer as you wait for a son to come home.

You are not alone.

I wish I have some magnificent words that will act like a balm over your searing pain.

I wish I could tell you when all these will end.

One thing I do know, is that all of these will also end for you.

Just like Hurricane Ike, the stormy weather will also pass.

The sun will shine again as you mend the broken panes of your windows to the world.

Hang in there.

It will be over soon.

Update on Dad Fen

September 9, 2008

I visited DadFen last August 29th. It was my first visit since I last saw him before the summer camp.  I must admit it took awhile because after all the summer camp activities, we had to prepare for the visit of 14 people from the US for their short term missions exposure here.

But to be more honest, it was emotionally difficult to visit someone when you do not feel emotionally strong as well.  But last August 29th, I visited him because 1. It is long overdue and 2. I did not want to miss greeting him personally on his 77th birthday.

He was not expecting me as he was being dressed up.  One of the daughters was going to drive him to a nearby commercial place because he had something he wanted to get.

It was good seeing him and Mom.  The toil of cancer was very visible because he lost a lot of weight. It was a weaker Dad Fen who greeted me.  We sat down together and I tried to initiate some palliative care conversation with him.  “There is no question that my life belongs to Him.  And God could choose to heal me or He could choose not to.  But if He chooses the latter, I pray that the suffering will not be too long…”

I quietly nodded and took note of that prayer request.

DadFen was busy trying to finish his photo album of his last trip to Europe. He was busy writing the names of the people in those pictures and the reason he wanted to go to a bookstore was because he needed to get a filler so it could accommodate more pictures.

It was a simple task, but with the waning strength and accompanying pain (reduced by morphine) it could become a much heavier task than what it seemed.  I sat down with him and for the first time ( could also be my last chance) I went through each of the pictures with him.

Unhurriedly, I asked about each of the photos and the stories behind.

His face would light up as he would remember a particular detail, a person, an event, a transportation challenge among other things.  We went through all of them.  I wanted to celebrate with him those 3-month sojourn to Europe.  In a way, I wanted to affirm in a very small way, that life has been really good and those pictures were only able to capture some of those beautiful life moments.

Before leaving, I asked if I could pray with him.  Halfway through, I felt Mommy standing next to us joining in our prayers.  It reminded me of the time when I prayed for my grandmother in 1999. (Will blog about it sometime).

When it was over, I hugged him as he thanked me for the prayer. Mommy kissed me with a “Darling, thank you for the visit… and for remembering his birthday…”

I walked back to our home.  It was a little past noon and the sun was at its brightest.  I was squinting my eyes not primarily because the sunlight was too bright, but because halfway through my walk, tears were blinding my vision.

“Be very merciful Lord.  Be very gentle… thank you for holding the life of DadFen. Thank you that we can also be assured of your gentleness when we become really weak.  Thank you for your comforting provision. Thank you for the people who love him and are celebrating his life with them.  Lord, be it unto Him according to your tender mercies and kindheartedness…  give him the strength to finish his photo albums…”

In Jesus’ name,

AMEN