Counting the Costs

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father- the Spirit of truth who goes out from the  Father- he will testify about me.” John 15:26

44 is the number of PNP SAF troopers who perished in Mamasapano in Maguinadanao, Philippines. 21 is the number of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded in Libya.  11 killed in the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in France.  I can mention a number, and probably there is a match to a group of human beings who died in some way that could have changed the way we think or live.

It is shocking to know how collectively a group of people could be wiped off from the face of the earth, and sad that what a majority could only remember is their number.

These people have names.  They have families.  Loved ones.  They had dreams. They had lives. Until somebody else decided otherwise.  And now their souls cry out with their own stories to tell.  We did not know them when they were alive, but now we know them because they are dead.

Some died because of freedom of expression, others for love of country. And lately, for love of God.

The thought of them left me to wonder. How long can I stand up for what I believe in?  How much can I sacrifice for those I love?  How far can I go amidst the raging waves of my own personal struggles?

We have only 1 God.  3 is the number of Persons in the Holy Trinity. 3 is the number of words that a martyr last uttered before he was beheaded- “Jesus help me”.  That sums up the answer to my questions.  We can withstand any suffering, endure all pain and weather any storm.  Because our Father loves us, Jesus saves us and the Holy Spirit helps us.

May we, who  are left to ponder on the countless lives lost for whatever reason, learn that the manifestation of our selflessness is the true essence of our humanity.

Please offer prayers for the souls of our brothers and sisters who died because war, violence and terrorism. May their souls rest in peace.

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the tale of two friends

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? – – `My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

i remember this story about two very close friends.  in fact, they were too close that they already treated each other as family.  one day, the other friend left and worked away from the other.  before he left, he asked his friend to take care of his mother while he was away.  he also entrusted his business and savings to him not wanting to bother his mother with finances.  on top of that, he also sent part of his earnings monthly.  his main concern was for his mother to be well taken care of.

two years after, the friend who went away came back.  only to find out that the friend he left behind betrayed his trust;  his money gone, the business went bankrupt and his mother neglected.  when he confronted his friend, this friend who betrayed him simply said he needed the money, but never asked for forgiveness nor did he show any remorse nor shame for what he had done.  he was even proud to say that he can pay him back anytime.  that was the last time they saw each other.

after some time, the friend had to leave his mother again.  but this time he made sure that he trusted the right people to care for her.  not long after, the friend who betrayed him was caught stealing from his place of work.  he was forced to resign without any benefits from his thirty years of service, or else the company would file charges against him.  he left the company empty-handed.  because of his lavish lifestyle which his salary alone could not sustain, he was also neck deep in debt with personal loans from other people which he could no longer pay.  his childred stopped going to school.  his house foreclosed by the bank.  and because he was already getting older, he started to get sick. 

it was time for vacation again for his friend.  during one of his routine visits to his doctor, he saw the friend who betrayed him in the hospital corridor, seeking treatment for his heart ailment in the charity section; pale, thin and weak.  but this then sickly friend was still hardened with pride.  he said he was supposed to pay back what he owed, but he got sick.  and yet, not a single sorry was uttered.  his friend who had long forgotten what he had done, simply said, “you know, my friend,  all our sins each have their own punishments.  maybe this is yours.”  and the friend who betrayed him, still proud and enrelenting answered back “you know what you said really hurts me.”  and the friend who betrayed him walked away, never looked back, not realizing the hurt he had caused the other.  now this friend who betrayed the other, has nothing.  no money, no family, no friend. 

when bad things happen to us, we associate it to God’s punishment for our past wrongdoings.  because i see God as a loving and gentle God, i refused to see him in this perspective especially when i was younger.  but when i grew older, i believe i also grew a bit wiser.

because by now, i know that everytime i sin, God calls my attention because he loves me and he wants me to change.   in subtle ways first.  but when i don’t listen, he jolts me.  like lightning in the middle of summer, i would be caught by surprise.  then, he gets my attention.  and i learn my lesson.  the hard way.

that does not mean that God is not a loving and gentle God.  He is.  it’s just that, i’m a stubborn sinner who needed something more than a push to make me understand. 

we can be the friend who trusts or the friend who betrays.  in which case, we can be forgiving like the other.  or really, really mean and proud, like the one who betrays him. 

the point is, when God does punishes us, let not foolish pride get in the way.  acknowledge that we had done something wrong.  ask for forgiveness.  resolve not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  or else, we would end up with nothing.  no love.  no friend.  no family.  no home.  and sadly, no soul.

things are not always what they seem

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat.  They were frightened but he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’

Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”  John 6:19-21

things are not always what they seem. 

when a husband prefers fishing on weekends, he hates to be with his family.  truth is, he just needs quiet time and a stress-reducing activity after a week of rush assignments and impossible deadlines.

when the house is in turmoil, used dishes are in the sink and the baskets are overflowing with laundry, the wife is just plain lazy.   truth is, she is too ill to get out of bed.

when a daughter forgets to text or call back, she doesn’t love her dad and mom anymore.  truth is, she is practically in a rush to get the subjects she needs to enrol for summer classes.

when a son spends more time with the computer than with people, he is anti-social.  truth is, he is just plain bored or just wanted to reach out to family and friends and stay in touch.

when we get old, it is the end.  truth is, it is the time when wisdom comes of age and the fullness of life blossoms.

when your dream house is almost within your reach and still lose it, you are such a LOSER.  truth is, you don’t really need it.

when there’s no cash in the bank, then all else is lost.  truth is, God provides us with what we need. 

when all plans don’t push through, you’re such a failure.  truth is, God has better ideas.

when you are all alone, no one really cares. truth is, God is always with us.

truth is, things are not always what they seem.

i don’t know if it was a serious case of pre-menopausal syndrome, but i’d been through a hell of a week.  i thought this, i thought that.  i feared this, i feared that. i worried about this, i worried about that.  what a waste of precious time!

the past week really started great.  we were able to watch the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration live on tv.  the message was TRUST and PEACE. and bhoy and i felt so blessed to be able to take part in spirit with this special mass commemorating the golden jubilee of the National Shrine for the Divine Mercy* and the life of  St. Maria Faustina of Kowalska. 

but as the week progressed, and the real world sucked me right back in,  i ran round and round again to look  for my happy old self from other people, places and things.  i looked for me in me.  but neither did i find me there.  i kept telling bhoy that i feel sad, and i didn’t even know why or where it all came from.  by midweek, i gave up and just let everything be. 

there was one constant though, that i failed to see because i was extremely obsessed with my self-inflicted ordeal.  and that constant is GOD.  and i failed to absorb the message of the Divine Mercy.  TO TRUST IN JESUS, THE KING OF MERCY.

like the apostles, i was frightened too.  but when i see Jesus and let him into my boat, i am sure i will find what i was looking for.  and realize that what i was looking for was always there afterall. 

to borrow the words of St. Teresa of Avila “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough.”

as another week begins, my simple life goes on as it did before.  there’s really nothing to look for afterall.  everything that i need, God provides.  people to love, things to do and blessings to share.  even trials to make me strong.  what more can i ask for?   GOD ALONE IS ENOUGH.

* for more details about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, please go to http://thedivinemercy.org

the agony in the garden

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strenthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22: 39-44

agony is defined as intense feeling of suffering;  acute mental or physical pain; extreme pain or anguish; torment; distress.  Jesus was in agony when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, because he knew what would take place to save us from eternal damnation.  he offered his life as the Father willed it for our salvation. 

now there are supporting characters in this the greatest story ever told, who played very crucial roles.  Judas Iscariot and Peter.  Judas betrayed Jesus.  Peter denied Jesus three times.  both felt deep remorse, shame and sadness after they realized what they had done.  Judas found a way out.  he hanged hmself to a tree shortly  after that infamous kiss of betrayal.  Peter also tried to find a way out too.  he ran to the tomb where Jesus was buried.  Judas became desperate.  Peter was hopeful.

we can never emphatize with Jesus’ agony in the garden.  mere mortals, in my perception, would never be able to endure what Jesus had to.  but all of us can be a Judas or a Peter.  we all commit sins and feel intense agony over what we had done, or did not do. 

but then again, like Judas, we can ignore the relevance of the Cross and live in agony for the rest of our lives, feel sorry and wallow in the throes of desperation. if we do, then Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross would be all in vain.

Jesus died because of our sins.  we already know that. yet we still commit sins over and over again.  but if we truly believe in his promise of redemption and what the Cross stand for, we should run to Him like Peter did.  because when we are truly sorry and sincere, his mercy and forgiveness is sufficient and infinite.

as Jesus prayed in the garden, let us put ourselves beside him in union with his suffering, so that His profound agony would have a deeper meaning in our lives. 

today is Holy Monday.  let us medidate on the agony of Jesus Christ  in Gethsemane.

 *inspired by  “Peter and Judas: A Lesson of Hope and Humility”

 http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/story.php?id=35983

by Jennifer Hartline, a grateful Catholic, an Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven).  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online on topics of Catholic faith, family, Life and politics.  She is also a serious chocoholic.  Visit her at My Chocolate Heart. 

missing Daddy

“Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.” Psalm 24:4

Daddy

bhoy was packing his diapers and wipes.  we were told he needed them more than the usual pasalubong of his favorite chocolate bars and chocolate drink.

but we were a day too late.  Daddy passed away on the 21st of december 2009.  suddenly, the holiday season we were supposed to come home to and celebrate with the family, was never the same again.

Daddy was eagerly waiting for us.  i was told he was staring at each face as if he was trying to see if we finally arrived.  he wanted to stay on, but he was already too much in pain.  in fact, he was already too weak to even wait for one more day.  and as mommy left for just a minute to go to the comfort room, and ella dozed off for almost the same time, the angel of death sneaked in, and took Daddy away…forever.

no words can ever describe the overwhelming fusion of emotions.  no amount of tears can ever wash away the pain. no length of time can ever make me forget.  and not even death can take away the love we have for Daddy.

last family picture taken complete with Daddy in 2008

i know i have never said this to him, though i really wish i could have.  but i love him very much. more than he’ll ever know.  

as we take the flight back to khobar, and as the lights in the plane were turned off,  the tears rolled on my cheeks as the memories of my whole life unfold.  i realized i am me because of Daddy.  and i will never be the same again without him.

it’s going to be a lonely journey from hereon. but i believe that God knows what’s best for all of us, and that my fervent prayer will always be that by God’s grace and mercy, Daddy rests in His loving embrace free from all the pain and suffering of this world.

thank you Daddy.

for my life, for your love, and the fish flower plates…

…comes another storm

“the Lord is my shepherd; i shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and i will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:1-6

ondoy, pepeng and ramil are out.  the biopsy and bonescan results are in.  and so is another “storm” in our lives.  it’s called metastasis (local name – cancer).

prostate-biopsy
prostate biopsy

the day before that, on the CNN website, i had answered something like a quiz about how well do you know about cancer.  that was the first time i read about metastasis and briefly, what it meant.  so when my sister, ella, texted me that daddy’s prostatic tumor is malignant and that the results indicate metastatic neoplasma, i already knew.

it was no longer a surprise.  i’ve only seen a couple of photos taken of daddy.  that was in September, their 44th wedding anniversary and he had just gone out of the hospital.  it was kinda depressing to see how his health deteriorated so suddenly.  his physique was naturally lean.  so you could just imagine how really thin he’d become and how sad his eyes were, which convey the pain that he felt.  yes, that picture painted a thousand words.

there were already too many stories that were told about how cancer affects the lives of the ones afflicted and those who love them as well.  one can just imagine the suffering, the anguish, the sorrow and the hopelessness.  but when it hit close to home, the stories become real, and it feels like you’re hearing the stories for the very first time.

the first month that daddy had fallen ill and was told he may have tumor in the prostate, we were all in denial.  maybe there was some mistake.    the next phase for us was optimism.  maybe after the biopsy and the bonescan, the doctors will find that the tumor was only benign.  or perhaps, absolutely 100%  gone.  but no. it was malignant and the cancer cells had already spread. 

at this point, we’re trying to wake up from this nightmare.  but in the morning after, there should only be acceptance, because there is nothing that happens that God did not will it.  the good things and the bad.  the happy and the sad.  at the end of the day, we shall find comfort in the truth that all of us are destined, at a time that He appointed to leave this temporary abode where our physical beings dwell.

as we fight this one last battle for daddy,  we choose to see the beauty of life amidst the raging attack of cancer cells.  and while we are ready to accept daddy’s fate as an absolute surrender to the will of God, we still continue to hope and pray.

there can be miracles…if we believe.

the greatest entertainer who ever lived

“it is only bodies that are separated, but minds and hearts remain united, especially in Him, for whom the sacrifice is made of leaving all that is dearest.” – anonymous

 what an overwhelming memorial that was.  last night would forever be etched in the hearts of those whose lives Michael Jackson touched, as well as the generations to come.

mj casket

at the Staples Center, those who knew Michael Jackson as family and as friend paid tribute to this great man who will forever be remembered as the king of pop.  but then, it is an underrated title for an artist who will forever be larger than life.  definitely, he is the greatest entertainer who ever lived.  and yes, last night, i get to know the kind of man that Michael Jackson was, from those who were fortunate enough to have known him personally and lucky enough to be a part of his life.  to quote his daughter Paris “Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine.  And I just want to say that I love him so much.”  and this much i can say, he must have been such a great human being as well, to be loved and missed that much.

i knew him only from a distance; only by his songs and performances.  i didn’t have any photos, or memorabilia of him.  i didn’t have any songbook, nor any of his records.  i don’t keep news clippings or magazine write-ups, nor any scrapbook detailing his achievements as an artist. i don’t know the lyrics of some of his songs, except of course my favorites, and i don’t know much about the details of his career or personal life.  but when he passed away, i felt like someone very close like family to me had died.

12418_check-out-these-shot-of-michael-jackson-over-the-years

Michael was like part of our family.  he was there in our house even before I went to school.  he was there when I started venturing into a bigger world outside our home.  he was there when I first fell in love.  he was there when I went to college and found a job.  he was here now that i have a family of my own.  he was in my life all this time.  And only in his death did i realize that.

his music is his presence.  and now that he’s gone, i tried so hard to hold on to whatever i could.  because like those who have gone before him, i thought he’d be here forever.  now i have his greatest hits in my mobile phone, to stand as a symbol of how he’d been such a part of my life.  to immerse myself into the genius of his creativity which i should have done long before.  oh if i could only…

michael-jackson-300x299

as i watch the memorial last night, i realized it was not only me who had this unexplainable connection with Michael.  his person, his passion, his music.  he has such a powerful hold on all of us.  and like what Smokey Robinson had said, i am also glad to have lived in his era.  needless to say, i praise God for lending us Michael who have torn down barriers so that color, race, religion and nationalities no longer matter.  in his music, the world became one.  praise God for this wonderful soul, and this extraordinary human being. 

“if he is not with us, then who is against us.”  to all who have judged Michael harshly in the past, may you realize that one who has evoked such goodness in our hearts did not deserve to have been treated that way.  Michael Jackson deserved only the best.

so the Lord blessed him.  you are now free Michael.  where you have gone, no cameras can follow. they won’t bother you now.  from now on, there will only be peace and love in our Father’s embrace.  oh how i just wished you had seen how much you are loved.  and how much you will be missed.

michael's kidswhich reminds us to never! never! never! take anybody for granted.  let us all do as much good as we can, when we still have chance.  be it for a friend or foe, family or stranger.  even so, let us surpass the goodness.  let us give more. or better yet,  let us be the best for everyone.  we may not be the greatest entertainer who ever lived, but we can be the best human being that we can ever be.  AND THAT WOULD MAKE MICHAEL —S M I L E.

mj memorial

it began as a flicker

“You are the light of the world…your light must shine before man so that they may see the goodness in your acts and give praise to your Heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:14-16

when I was kid, my mom had that habit to pick out what she’d seen as my really bad traits and to smack them right into angry-womanmy face like a tennis ball.  it hurt really, really bad.  other than that, she also made it a point to find someone to compare me to.  and that someone, in her eyes, would always be better. that hurt even more.  but i always thought it might just be her way to shake out from me what could have been my best.  maybe she was forced to do that out of  love.  and for my own good.  if her intentions were just that, maybe she got what she wanted because somehow i made some remarkable achievements in school.  even though she never really showed she was proud of me at all, i think she really was. 

as i ventured into the real world, the manifestations of my emotional bruises caused by those constant ‘put downs’ became more evident.  i grew timid and self-conscious. i  felt comfortable only with those very close to me. to sum it all, my self-esteem was low, low, low.   indeed, those factors hampered the natural course of my growth as a person.  instead, i tried to stay in my cocoon, and restrained myself from growing my wings and fly. 

butterfly

but time has a way of transforming me.  it gave me the opportunity to meet people who somehow served as mirrors from whom i saw myself in a different light.  it took  me to places where i felt needed and useful.  it allowed me to gather valuable  experiences which became seeds of my self-worth that started to grow and bloom.  most of all, time slowly but surely became witness to the grand plan that my Maker destined for me to fulfill.

yellow-2lips1

now that i am older,  i have come to realize that my birth was never an accident.  and for whatever reason i am here where i am now, the Lord meant it to be.  the same can be said for all.  we are all of great value, no matter what our circumstances in life.  unless we give ourselves that DEFINITION which is true to how the Lord perceive us, only then shall we find our life’s  MEANING.  on hindsight, it’s not for me to judge what my mom did.  whether it was good or bad.  but it did gave my metamorphosis a deeper meaning in more vivd colors at that.

pinktulips1

it is never too late to find our own star within us.  and it is never too hard either.  we just need to  focus our eyes on the Lord, and our own individual light would start to shine.  so that others may also see the beauty that He bestowed on each of us.

sunlight