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.

More than 2 Fridays ago, I was able to visit our small Church in Infanta, Quezon.  I did not expect what I was going to see because it had been months since my last visit there.  The Church planter who took care of this small church or mostly women, is not in the country anymore, but still tending the flock somewhere in the Middle East.

It was more than 4 hours away so we took off early.

When we finally got to visit them, I was blown away by what I saw.  They already have their small church hall from a converted small shack that used to house the rice drying equipment.

They showed me behind the curtain another rundown building which they said “is very  nice for our church building extension…”

It was very encouraging.  The drive to Infanta was very refreshing with the view of the forest, the mountain and once in Quezon, the calm blue waters.  Several years back, Infanta and its nearby towns saw the most tragic flashfloods that ever happened in recent history when in just 2 hours, rain that was equivalent to about 27 days of usual rain was dumped one afternoon.  The water rose and came flashing down the mountains bringing the mud with cut lumber (illegal loggers were very much involved) raged through their towns.

We gathered in a small circle and I asked them to share their stories. They started sharing one by one how God sustained them in recent months. How the small chapel was a reminder to them of the goodness and graciousness of our Father.

One of the sisters suffered a stroke and it was quite a challenge to understand when she spoke.  But one can clearly hear her say “Praise the Lord…”

The women were changing. After their services on sundays, they would visit other members who were not able to attend. They have started praying for each other as well. I noticed how they care for one another now.  The husbands (3 of them) were starting to attend.  One sister who used to be so shy, immediately led in the singing of praise songs a cappella while directing them to a white cheesecloth were the words of the songs were plaintively written.

Smiles after the sharing time.

Smiles after the sharing time.

The snacks served were my favorite.  “Bilo-bilo” with langka served to perfection.  They also gave me a buko juice ( young fresh coconut) and when I reached for it, it was quite cold.

We drove away after about 4 hours feeling very refreshed.  I did not expect a vibrant community of believers.  I was ready to meet a group of women who were discouraged, downtrodden and were just about ready to quit on their faith. But I encountered exactly the opposite.

Posing with the Infanta members before our 4-hour drive back

Posing with the Infanta members before our 4-hour drive back

I thanked God for the many men and women He had used to raise up this small faith community.

Thank you God.  Your faithfulness is truly amazing.

The feeding of the lies…

August 21, 2008

I must have been suffering from a blogger’s block.  After writing the 100th post last week, it just sat there waiting to be followed by another blog this week.  Somehow I could not bring myself to write anything until a couple of minutes ago.

I noticed that the blog on YOU ARE MY HEALER has been getting a lot of hits recently, especially since yesterday.  A lot of people must be getting encouraged by the testimony of Mike Guglielmucci.

Until news articles confirmed that his cancer claims for the past two years have been false.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24216087-1246,00.html

That even his family members were really shocked at the unfolding events.

Needless to say, I am very baffled. Why a pastor needs to lie about his medical condition – and deceive the whole world?

While the message of the song IS STILL TRUE, I am afraid that the credibility of his witness would suffer for quite a long time.

Here are some of the lies that have really baffled me in recent months:

1. The photographer who took shots of what was supposed to be a “lost” tribe in Latin America, where there was a man covered in red ink in a warlike stance as the picture was taken.  Later on, this turned out to be a fraud.

2. Bigfoot fur remains – when thawed revealed that the whole BIGFOOT mystery was a FAKE. The fur was made of rubber materials.  Mystery is solved for all of us though.

3. Senator Edwards was also involved in an extramarital affair and it forever changed the image of him being an almost perfect husband and father.

4. Athletes caught in doping incidents even at the Olympics and other worldwide sporting events.

5. Gasoline companies declaring before the media that they are not earning enough and kept on jacking up the prices.  Well the price of crude oil is down to $114, yet the price of gasoline in this country has remained unbelievably high when it should have been lowered by more than P20 per liter at this time.

6. I don’t know who is lying when the Philippine government would report that the economy has gotten a lot better since the current President took office.  But millions of Filipinos are going hungry – and those who can still afford to buy food are now mostly eating noodles for viand along with their very cheap rice.  How can the economy be better when the inflation rate has been measured at 12.07% last June?

7. System generation loss of the electric companies. These people need to start being honest and not charge all these to the people who are the poor hapless consumers.  It is not the people who are causing the generation loss – but their faulty equipment, cables and other infrastracture.

8. Who is telling the truth in Mindanao?  When days after the ARMM elections, war broke out and these cruel and savage things are not even reported by the Philippine media? People are being killed and institutions are being burned yet it is not reaching the news channels in the cities.

9.  In the Georgian conflict, lies are being told in the worldwide body right there in the UN Security Council.  Russia has punished the “aggressor” but why is it taking too long for Russia to move out of Georgia? They are acting like the real aggressor with powerful words like “crush” the Georgian military.

We are surrounded by so many lies.  And unfortunately, if we are not careful, we may begin believing some of these as well:

Here are some of them:

1. Religious lies about the exclusivity of certain faith systems/church/denominations – where family members not following their strict religious codes are considered “polluted.”

2. Lies that make us feel and think that we are not worthy to be loved by God.

3. Lies that tell us that we can never be forgiven.

4. That we are not and will never be good enough.

5. Lies that measure our lives according to how much we have accumulated in our lives.

6. That happiness depends on our socio-economic status.

7. When sexual abusers deceive themselves into thinking that they are not responsible for the crimes they have committed.

8. The powerful lie that for the sake of the family’s financial well-being, sexual abuse victims should just remain silent.

9. Lies that tell us, that the Father is never pleased with us, and that He is some distant God who just watches us, uninvolved in our pains and miseries.

How about you? What are some of the lies that may have shaped or may have influenced you?  Sometimes, we do not want to accept the truth because the lie has become so deeply embedded in our thought process that it has become our “reality.”

John 8:32 states that we shall know the truth. And the TRUTH shall set us free.

May the loving Father of the truth gently reveals to us the lies in our lives that we may be set free into the absolute and objective reality of HIS TRUTH.

There was nothing spectacular about this but my classmate wanted to show it to me since I was already in Beverly Hills, Lahug, Cebu.

It was a short drive from VICTO where we had our pastoral conference. I must admit, I just wanted to talk with Carrie ( my highschool classmate) because the last time I saw her was 25 years ago at our highschool graduation.

Well we briefly toured the place and then climbed some more stairs. I am not into Chinese art and temples but the view was good. My eagerness to see the place was shattered when I heard a rude, cutting shout aimed at one of my friends who was with us. He was about to take a picture of some of the “saints” at the top chapel. My friend did not see the “NO PICTURE TAKING of the SAINTS ALLOWED” and embarrassed, wondered why he was being shouted at.

We noticed the sign and just gave the man a look. A few moments later, another friend, this time a lady, made the same mistake. We heard again the same rude shout, this time a little louder. Our friend just raised her hand to say she was sorry and walked away. But I was fuming mad and told my classmate…”Is it really necessary to rudely shout at guests? And to think, the person shouting is also a Filipino, shouting at a young lady when he could just say it in CEBUANO?” I was getting upset about the whole thing.

A Chinese temple in a Filipino land and a FILIPINO is rudely shouting at another FILIPINO for not seeing the NO PICTURE TAKING OF THE SAINTS ALLOWED…. there’s got to be a better way than this. I don’t understand this at all.

It created a distaste in my mouth and my classmate said something that affirmed my observation. It was time to go. We chatted on our way back to the gate where we met a Korean couple trying to get a nice picture of the temple. I volunteered to take their picture and then told them that a Korean teen just won gold at the Swimming event in Olympics. They got excited and thought I was from South Korea too. They liked the framing and the guy handed the camera to me again…. for another shot. Done.

Feeling grateful,, they nodded their heads in appreciation. And the lady mustered enough of her English and said “Thanks, You are cute!”

Hmmm…..

Note to my countrymen: Let us not forget to extend courtesy to one another even as we start bending over backward in showing courtesy to other people. ( or temples!)

You Are My Healer

July 28, 2008

I came across a very powerful song composed by Mike Guglielmucci and is about to be released by Hillsong (This Is Our God cd.) Powerful testimony of how God just gave him the words as he started to worship God after coming from a routine medical exam, where he was later on informed that he has a progressive cancer.

Powerful song. From one moment “how long Lord? How long Lord? to a declaration of “You are faithful, you are faithful….” I loved what his friend Joel Houston said “I saw Jesus in that declaration…”

I was just going to check my email. It turned out to be a time of private worship with the Lord. He definitely holds every moment…

Testimony portions:

Mike Guglielmucci singing in the midst of his pain….

Song: Healer

Words & Music: Mike Guglielmucci

Verse1
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You
I trust in You

Chorus
I believe You’re my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my Portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus You’re all I need

Bridge
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

May the words and the song minister to you as you ask the Lord for the healing you need in your life.

Thank you Lord for the healing that you promised.

Heal our afflictions.

Heal our unbelief.

Heal our fears.

Heal our broken relationships.

Heal our insensitivities to the suffering of others.

Heal our painful memories.

Heal our past.

Heal our broken dreams.

Heal our finances.

Heal our thoughts.

Heal our pain.

Heal our broken-ness.

Heal everything in our lives, that we may be to You, what we are not, and cannot do for ourselves.

Thank You Jesus.

Through the power of the blood that was poured out by the stripes You bore for us.

AMEN.

A young friend took off for the United States today. His flight left at 10:30 AM today. I did not get to see him anymore the past couple of days as he was also busy getting his things prepared, being with his family and all the myriad things an overseas worker would need to consider.

I was really glad that he was able to come over and spend the night with us last month. He even cooked dinner at home. After dinner, we drove to a nearby Seattle’s Best for our one-on one, brother to brother talk. When he first got home, I was able to join him and other friends for a dinner. Well he privately sought me out because he needed to get something off his chest. And there at the Seattle’s Best, was our one and only opportunity to have that talk.

It lasted up to almost midnight. The coffee shop was already about to close, but the manager sensed the earnest private conversation taking place and was very careful not to interrupt.

He shared about the all too familiar difficulties of being away from home. Of going through homesickness and feelings of isolation. Of working so hard and wondering if in the end, it was all going to be worth it. We talked about his faith, his challenges, his misguided perception of God’s love for him, his plan to get married next year… it was a great time being with him. I took note of his need to read letters from home when he is far from the signals of any telecommunication networks.

He asked me a question that evening which stayed with me, and perhaps will be one of those questions that will stay for a long time. But this time, I knew the answer to his question. I suspect deep down, he knew the answer as well. But the circumstances in his life distracted him for the most part, in believing the answer to that. The answer to his question while easy to give, is quite challenging to live out. It takes faith. It takes dependence and it takes surrender for one to really experience the deepest grace from the question he asked.

Lord, take care of my younger brother as he set sail for another chapter in his life overseas. The challenges are many and the temptation to get distracted from his relationship with you would be constant. Embrace Him Lord and never let Him go. Remind him that He is your son and that You are fond of him. Protect him Lord from any accidents, any accusations or any untoward incidents that will negatively impact his work and his dreams. Bring my younger brother safely back to us next year. Bless the work of his hands. Thank you for his life. Thank you for his strong sense of responsibility which is becoming un-common among the younger generation. He is trying to live a selfless life for his mom and siblings and niece and nephew. People are counting and relying on him for their financial well-being. Bless his family through him.

Thank you for J.D. I am proud to be one of his mentors and older brothers. I look forward to his return. I entrust his safety and well-being in the hands of Jesus, who loves him more than any of us could.


In the precious name of Your Son,

AMEN