” Would I Be Enough?”

January 7, 2009

Driving home late one evening, about 2 weeks before Christmas 2008, I felt a stirring within me.  I was having a quiet driving conversation with the Lord and I was telling the Lord how Christmas has become a season for self-centeredness and consumerism.

How it was easy to lose the real reason of the season when the preparation of the heart involves looking at physical gifts, expensive gadgets and awesome parties, to name a few.

Since I was talking with the Lord, I asked the Lord what gift He would give me.

I started naming those gadgets I had been salivating for quite some time now:

Xperia – yes Lord, that is such a nice phone and wow all the features are really good.

OMNIA – wow Lord that is also nice..

iPhone – that one too… wow just one of those cool nifty gadgets and I knew it would be a real awesome break!

But then I felt the Lord asking me a question:  ” If I were to come wrapped in a present, WOULD I BE ENOUGH AS A GIFT?”

There was a pause.  “Am I Enough?”

The following morning, I shared this conversation with Wifey over breakfast. It was a very powerful reminder that the real reason for the season is not those cool laptops, cellphones, parties etc… the real reason is JESUS HIMSELF.  He is the gift.

Little did I know that when the Lord asked me that question, He was already preparing me or giving me what I would need as we experienced what I have called “the bleakest period” of my life in recent years.

The huge problem is still not over.  I can already begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was asked by a friend how I was doing and that simple question became such a profound question that it literally hurt inside as I tried to answer the simple question.

On the eve of Christmas day, I found myself staring at the horrors of pride and un-forgiveness.  Pride does hurt and makes the righteous fall. Unforgiveness makes one sink deeper than what is imaginable.

I remember driving home with Wifey a little past midnight… with tears literally blinding my eyes.  And as I drove, I heard the question “Am I Enough? Am I enough?” being asked of me.  It was not asked in a condemnatory way but I knew that answering that question would give me the strength to make it through the deepest valleys.

As each day slowly progressed, as each painful moment was slowly played out – I found myself answering “Yes, you are enough!  Yes, you are enough!

I didn’t want anything else. I didn’t long for the parties and the sumptious dinners.  No I did not want anything else – not even the solution to our dilemma. I only wanted Christ.

On Christmas day, like a bruised reed, I got up from bed and with no schedule for the day, just watched FOX news as they showed the Christmas sermon of Ptr. Rick Warren.  I briefly smiled when he started using Hebrews 11:6, a passage I had used for one of the retreats I had conducted recently.

But what really struck me was when he said ” Do not exert too much energy focusing on the solutions to your problems… focus on WHO HE IS. FOCUS on CHRIST alone…”

It was definitely a message for me.  I was too weak and too hurt to find any solution – and that was the perfect state to just seek Christ alone.  Lord, yes you are enough. You are more than enough!

We are almost there, but not quite.  The other night I felt like I went through an extensive open heart surgery.  It was clearly needed – and the heart can only be healed through such an extensive heart operation.  I even praised God for allowing it to happen.  The “heart stitches” have been done – and in its most fragile state, utmost tenderness must be done to ensure its proper healing in the days to come.

Yes… our healing is on its way.

Yesterday as Wifey and I went to the mall to get some of our groceries, I was very surprised to hear the Christmas songs still being played in the mall.  I missed Christmas.  It all just came and went.  It was a long vacation here in this country – made longer in our anticipation to see the end of what we were going through.

I found myself humming the songs “O Holy Night…”, ‘Come All ye Faithful…”

I was singing again.  My wounded heart is able to sing again – and it was my wife who quietly pointed it out to me when she said “Hubby is singing again…”

I smiled quietly.

Yes Lord… thank you.. You are the only Christmas gift I would ever want in this lifetime.

Lord, you are more than enough.

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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

3lbs. 13oz

October 25, 2008

That was how much I weighed when I was born.  I am not making this up. I am looking at my official Certificate of Live Birth document from the NSO.  I needed to renew my passport and my license to solemnize marriages and both documents required a certified NSO Certificate of Live Birth.  This is going to be my 5th passport and please don’t ask me why I still need to produce a Live Birth Certificate.

So I applied for it last week.  The application was a breeze.  The following day, I went inside this huge “oven” for a covered area where the whole town showed up to get their NSO documents as well.  It was like a huge human processing plant. I submissively fell in line like a meek goat about to be slaughtered.  My receipt indicated Window 9.  I did not know what a blessing it was to be sent direct to Window 9 because it meant that my document was already for pick-up.

I found the last person at the end of the Window 9 line.  I did not let go of her because it was as if the whole place was a scenario of slowly gyrating mass of faceless people, all trying to fan themselves while their eyes were fixed on the window of their deliverance….  I wanted to take a picture of the place – because it was incredible.  It has always been like this and, and NSO lines have always been synonymous with chaos.

When I finally got it – it was like a very precious document.  I got 2 copies and headed out of the “oven” and I noticed the looks of envy thrown my way by those who were still lining up through different windows according to the difficulty and complexity of their records.

Once out of the building, I had to find my way through the maze of vendors littered all over the small sidewalk so I could cross the street where I parked the car.  Government ID cases, fake silver jewelries (P10! for a bracelet,  ballpens, fruits, banana-Q, chinese glass breakables…. it was amazing…. no wonder it was difficult to get in and out of the NSO complex.

So now, I am looking at the NSO Document.

3lbs. 13oz… I remember my mom telling me that I was born 2 months premature.  And when people hear that.. I was called “pitong gatang…”( reference to 7 cupfuls of rice.. and then others would nod their head as if finally realizing why I am like this!  Ha!

I remember my mom telling me that I was placed inside an incubator for the whole month. Hmmm… no wonder I still do not like bright lights and how my eyes even to this day, could not take the bright lights inside the malls, particularly SM malls.

I wondered how I must have looked then. 3.13lbs! whoaaa… no wonder the doctor cautioned my Mom that I may not survive because I was too tiny.  Remember this was 1967.

Looking at this document made me more realize how precious this life is. Life may have started precariously back in 1967 – but definitely, God looks after all the babies being born everywhere!

Now that 3.13lbs baby is now 41!

Thanks Dr. Josefina Macaraeg for doing the C-section on my Mom so I was born at 12:30 noontime on October 20th, 1967.

Thanks Nurse Rosita C. Opiana for attending to my mom and preparing my document on October 25th, 1967.

Thanks Dad.

Thanks Mom for giving me life. Sorry you had to go through a C-section when months previous to that you went through an appendectomy.

Thank you God for seeing me before I was born, for sustaining me through the days inside the incubator, and for the many years after that.

I know I will see you when I cross over.

I am ready to spend eternity with you.

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.

I was speechless while watching CNN yesterday morning during one of their reports on deaths caused by natural calamities.

It was staggering to realize that in Dec 2004 when the great tsunami hit and claimed approx 225,000 lives – that the total recorded deaths of the first half of 2008 surpassed had already exceeded that.  The tally for the 1st months of 2008 has reached 229,000 deaths.

2008 is not yet over and I wonder how many more precious lives would be claimed.

Earthquakes in China and in other parts, massive flooding in India, Bangladesh and Caribbean and United States…. and still many more people are unreached without any help from the flood victims of Myanmar whose government is too proud to receive help.  And people are still dying and the resources are dwindling and the world economies are melting along with the polar ice-caps.

These are indeed sobering times.

It is difficult to look and watch for any interesting and encouraging news item on any broadcasting channels worldwide.  It seems as if the whole world is just being tossed and fro from one bad news to the next and it seems that there is no respite in sight.

The whole world is in agony right now.

And our only hope in this very discouraging times is Christ alone.

May we know you more in these times of trouble and difficulties.

May we put our confidence and trust in you alone despite what we see and hear.

May our eyes see how you are going to redeem these painful circumstances that we are all going through.

May our eyes be ever fixed on Jesus who is the Alpha and the Omega.

In your precious name,

AMEN

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

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.