Rm 203 Fernando’s Hotel ( wi-fi available in the room)

10:59 PM ( EG and Orly fast asleep as I type this in the dark…)

Lord God, it is almost a month now.  The painful saga is just about to close, but not yet.  Lord please hasten the day when all things will be back to “normal” for us.  I do not even know how normal would look like.  But I pray for your healing, for the sympathy and love that is most needed.

May we learn to forgive even if the person who have wronged us do not even acknowledge in our presence the pain that have been caused.

May we learn to forgive even if circumstances are not changed.  Rather, change our perspective Lord and teach us how to love.  The kind of love that is divine, and the love that is unconditional.  Love that is not dependent on what it can offer as change, but love that can give and nurture inspite of and despite the lack.

We can love because you have loved us.

We can forgive because you have forgiven us.

We can reached out to someone because someone has reached down on us.

Would you look at us now with your divine compassion.  Would you search our broken hearts and shed in those fragmented pieces, your love that can transcend our broken-ness.

Let me sing to You Lord, this beautiful hymn that captures my prayer in behalf of my family.  Thank you for the healing grace that is possible through You alone. Thank you for this song that so amazingly captured the words from my heart as we go through these difficulties.

Take care of my loved ones – and touch them all as we lay our heads to sleep, wherever we all may be at this time.

HEALING GRACE

Merciful God and Father

Loving us like no other

Hear our prayer

The cries of our hearts as we come to You

We acknowledge our transgressions

We confess to You our sins

Show us mercy and compassion

Touch our lives with Your healing grace again….

BRIDGE:

Release us from our past

As we seek Your face

Wash us free at last

We receive Your love

We receive Your healing grace

Praise is an act of Faith

January 12, 2009

Yesterday, my wife and I attended Crossway Church. It is one of the congregations we go to when we are not doing circuit visits.

The worship leader was Aron. I knew his style, selection of songs and overall approach. When he started leading the worship, I knew that it was going to be difficult for me. I was in too much pain to be singing fast and upbeat praise songs. I was looking forward to the sobered hymns and réflective music. I closed my eyes and tried to sing as well but no words came out.
I heard Aron encouraging us to remember the good deeds of the Lord.  I remembered the Lord’s kindness and thanked Him again and again for what He has done and continues to do.  I remembered Hebrews 1:3 – how everything is being sustained by His name.

My quiet meditation would be interrupted more by the disruptive mental images in my mind. Pictures, words, frozen moments of our continuing challenge would wrestle my attention away from my praise.

It was difficult – and in a moment, my praise turned to despair.  There I was, in the midst of a very praise-filled congregation, alone and un-reached in my desolation.

I whispered “Lord, I cannot sing…”

He gently whispered back…”focus on WHO I AM and not on what you are going through right now…”

It was a divine answer that I needed to hear again.  Focus on WHO the LORD is.  FOCUS on HIS character and not on the ongoing trials no matter how difficult it would seem.

PRAISE the LORD because of WHO HE IS and not only BECAUSE OF WHAT HE HAS DONE.  Many times when we just focus on the latter, we would eventually find ourselves focusing on what HE HASN’T DONE YET. We will also find ourselves focusing on things that are still waiting for resolution, loved ones that need to be healed, freed from their bondage, dreams that are still yet to be fulfilled.

FOCUS ON WHO CHRIST IS.  I slowly recalled the nature and character of Christ. And out of pain-wracked heart, a small praise came out of my lips that could barely open up to sing.  I was not singing like I used to, but my heart was lifted up in praise.

Praise is always an act of faith.

We know this more intuitively and subjectively when it gets to be more difficult to praise because of the hardships we go through.  But the praise of the Lord is NEVER diminished by the overwhelming odds stacked against us.  We praise GOD for WHO HE IS. WE PRAISE HIM even if the answer may be a NO or a NOT YET.  We praise HIM because of HIS NATURE and HIS CHARACTER.

Praise is always an act of faith.

Yesterday, this subjective reality, was my objective reality.

Have you ever experienced this?  Have you ever considered that when you are just about to really throw in the towel and give up, that is when something happens to lift you up?

I have read this somewhere, when I was a lot younger, that the night is at its darkest when dawn is about to break forth…

I remember waking up my boothmate (Booth 1010!) Aaron Bennis at 3 am, during my senior year, just to show him a phenomenon I had never seen before.  I woke up at 3 am (we were located in the Piney Woods of Texas!) and saw a very clear delineated line of darkness and light.  It was the one of the most spectaculars things I have ever seen. It was as if the heavens were a blank slate of black and white.  The edge of  the blackness  – was really at its darkest… or maybe it could have been inherent, or the juxtaposition of darkness and light highlighted the dramatic contrast of each.

It is similar to what we experience from time to time.

A parallel to this is when “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

When we have just given up.  When we have thrown in the towel. When we don’t want to fight anymore and just surrender everything to Him (shredded threads and all…) and suddenly, His mercy is made manifest in our lives.  The mercy and grace is made “perfect” because there is nothing left to distract us.  In our utmost dependence on Him, God’s strength becomes perfect for us.

Recall the experience of Mary crying at the sight of the opened tomb and with just the graveyard clothes left by Jesus.  Consider Mary Magdalene, just waiting for the angry stones thrown at her – just waiting for them to hit her shame-racked body.  Consider the disciples who rowed for about 8 hours through the night, tired, discouraged maybe wondering what was going to happen next – and only to be deathly afraid at the sight of Jesus walking on water.  Consider the widow and her son who prayed as they cooked their last meal and knew that there won’t be any meals afterwards and how they readied themselves to die of hunger…

When you look at the scriptural evidences… it seemed that the night is at its darkest, just when the light is about to break through.

I must admit that I do not want to sound pollyanna-ish about the whole thing. The last thing I would want is to minimize what you are going through. Some of you may have lost your homes due to the recession.  Thousands have lost their jobs and have wiped out their savings and other bank accounts.  I know of a father who lost his precious 2-year old son on Christmas day.  We hear of thousands of OFWs who are facing potential job loss because the world’s economy is running to the ground.

It is very dark right now.

But I submit to you – light is about to break forth.

Never lose hope even if your heart is tired of hoping.

Never stop praying even if every part of your body would like to deny the existence of the ONE who can make all things possible.

And in the words of a well-loved statesman… “Never, never, never quit…”

This is not a hope that is based on the theology of tomorrow – or the incantations of the superstitions.

This hope is firmly grounded on WHO Christ is.

Securely fastened in His unconditional love not just for some, not just for the righteous – but for all of us.

So stop fighting my friend.

Jim Elliot, one of the 5 missionaries killed in the jungles of South America as they tried to evangelize the Auca Indians wrote: ” I open my hands to give what I cannot keep, to gain what I may never lose…”

Open your hands to give all the pain and sorrow that you cannot keep.

Open wide your hands to receive mercy and grace that you in Christ will never lose…”

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

” 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.

Serenity Prayer

January 4, 2009

This is my first post for 2009.  The Christmas break is ending soon and it seemed like it just came and went.  Now the Christmas lantern needs to be taken down and other christmas decors need to be put away.  I had barely enjoyed the lights and now it is back to the usual grind.

Let me share with you this Serenity Prayer.

May it usher peace in your hearts during those dark and discouraging moments.  I read this again and again tonight, and the more I did, the more I realize its simplicity and its profundity.

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time:

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it:

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with you  forever in the next.

AMEN

Reinhold Niebuhr

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.

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