This was the statement of a 12-year old boy whose father died last January.  I did not know his Dad and his Mom very well because I only met them once at a Couples’ Dinner  hosted by a local church.

This pastor and his wife were the hosts for the whole evening and they entertained the couples by singing some very romantic Filipino love songs.

When I visited our congregation in Antipolo last sunday, I was informed that this pastor had passed recently.

At the funeral, his eldest child, uttered the statement that I quoted above. “Please pray for me – so that I can be a pastor someday like my dad…”

I drove home thinking about that grieving family.  They lost their father at a very young age.  And the grieving wife will still go through the grief work in the coming months.

Everything after his death will be processed primitively according to this:

1. When he was still alive

2. After his death.

Please pray for this very young family who just lost a husband, a father and a pastor.

May God tenderly wrap them in His embrace when the tears come and the sadness surround them.

Thank you Lord for the beautiful life and what this pastor shared with the flock.  Please take care of his loved ones.  They are very special in your sight. She is now a widow and the children are now father-less.

Not even death could separate us from your love.

Please surround them with your loving grace.

I surrender them in your hands, where they are most loved and most taken care of.

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

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

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.

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

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